Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 8: Studying And Night Guard Duty In Cleveland, Ohio

Friday, January 25, 2019 - by Dr. C. Wayne Shearer
Dr. Wayne Shearer and dog, Daisy
Dr. Wayne Shearer and dog, Daisy

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from memory and a few records he still possesses his recollections of going through Army Air Corps pilot training at several bases in the United States during World War II. A lifelong writer, he wanted to pen them as he remembered them happening at the time. He also recreates now-lost letters as best as he recalls writing them and references newspaper articles he collected at the time and still possesses. This is the eighth in a series of regular excerpts from it.)


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Setting: At the College Training Detachment in Cleveland, Ohio


May 24, 1943

My trombone arrived today by Railway Express.

I am anxious to start practicing and building my lip up. We’ll be playing the usual Sousa marches and practicing as a marching unit, while the other A/S’s are likewise shaping up. We will be in a large July 4 parade in downtown Cleveland.


Most of us are 18 or 19 years of age. I don’t think I’ve ever been with as intelligent a group. They’re a good group of fellows. I’m having to study hard to keep up with them. The classes bring out their sharpness.


Our quarantine period will be over on Friday, May 30. We’ve been entertained by a performance of  “Letters to Lucerne” last Saturday at Eldred Theater on campus. It was enjoyable. A few days earlier, we had refreshments and a sing-out at several Interfraternity Council houses with attractive Mather’s Inter-Sorority Council girls, who were hostesses. This has helped us get past the quarantine.


We still have daily room inspections. There is no KP as at basic training, but guard duty has been added at night. A duty roster will be posted once a week to guard our quarters. Two of us per door from “Taps” to “Reveille” are alternating sitting one hour and standing one hour. We will be issued World War I rifles, no ammunition, at time of duty. The guards for the night form up as a small flight marching in twos to the doors. The campus has its own security police. Don’t know if we’re guarding to prevent anyone from leaving or a Nazi or Japanese spy from entering. We are too tired to go off campus anyway. It might make more sense to guard the quarters of those cute girls we earlier met!


Letter home:

May 25, 1943

Dear Mother and Dad,

Thanks for sending my trombone. I’ve started practicing with the marching band flight. Our entire detachment will be in the July 4 parade in downtown Cleveland. The first days at “Retreat,” only a few civilians were present for the Drum and Bugle Corps’ lowering of the flag. Now, there is a good-sized crowd of civilians honoring the flag as spectators. Ohio is a patriotic state.

Your loving son, Wayne


The Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 31, 1943, said: “AMERICAN B-17s BOMB NAPLES.” Our B-17s continue to hit Naples and other targets in Italy to create future troop landing areas for Gen. George Patton’s men.


Another headline from that day’s paper mentioned: “ATTU ISLAND NOW UNDER COMPLETE AMERICAN CONTROL.”


May 31, 1943

This time last year I was graduating from high school. A lot has happened since then. The class of 1942 graduated into the furnace of war; most of us are still in training. Five of us are in the Army Air Corps aviation cadet program and one is training to be a Navy pilot.


We’re still lusty in singing our marching songs, such as “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder,” etc. Even when we’re marching in the rain with our leaking raincoats, it makes us feel better. We march to meals, classes and everywhere we go. The civilian students and others clap as we march past them.


Today, we recognized Memorial Day with a ceremony at the flagstaff and small reviewing bleachers for the dignitaries. Our marching band led our detachment to the proceedings to give a short parade revue due to space limitations on the campus. Our TAC officers and sergeants were in charge of our three squadrons plus a small band unit with the cadet officers.


We’re still in winter uniforms until tomorrow, and the sun was hot. We were called to “attention” for the speeches. We were expecting that once the speaker started that we would be placed on “parade rest,” but we weren’t. I think our first lieutenant TAC officer forgot about us. When you stand at attention, your knees are locked but you must constantly flex them. Well, suddenly, first one and then a second A/S passed out. Finally, “parade rest” came, with our sergeants helping revive the two men and helping them back to the dormitory. We’re hoping they don’t get “washed out” for letting this happen to them.


After the speakers finished, we were called to “attention” again to march around several of the Western Reserve University streets to the enjoyment of the campus area citizens. I think our band did fine!


The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on June 2, 1943, announced: “OPERATORS REJECT PROPOSAL OF MINERS; ICKES TELLS LEWIS TO ORDER MEN BACK TO WORK.” This stoppage is termed a strike against our wartime government. A dimout over the U.S. is threatened. Secretary Perkins opposes an anti-strike bill.


Another headline from that day’s paper said: “IN THE AIR.” One hundred Flying Fortresses smash at Foggia airdrome in Southern Italy for the third time in four days without a loss. RAF fighter planes carry out raids over France. (Thanks to one of my fellow A/S’s for sharing his hometown newsstand paper with me).


Letter home:

June 3, 1943

Dear Mother and Dad,

Things are going OK. I can still toot the trombone and was part of the marching band on Memorial Day. They had a nice service at the college campus and our detachment was a part of it. The folks here support the military. I miss seeing all of you, especially my little sister.

Your loving son, Wayne


The Cleveland News on June 8, 1943, announced: “INVASION IS NEAR, CHURCHILL SAYS.” Prime Minister Churchill told the House of Commons today that a large-scale invasion of Europe was approaching, that the Allies were determined to destroy the Axis by increased bombings and other means.


Shortly after this announcement, the Rome radio broadcast an Italian communiqué reporting British troops had attempted a landing on Lampedusa Island, which is an outpost guarding the toe of Italy against the Allied armies.


Another headline from that day’s paper said: “CITY SETS DEFENSE AGAINST MOCK RAID TOMORROW NIGHT.” About 30,000 members of the Greater Cleveland Citizens Defense Corps today were being mobilized for an “attack” tomorrow night by 21 imaginary Nazi bombers.


Another headline added: “YANKS DOWN 19 JAP ZEROS.” U.S. Navy fighter planes shot down 19 Japanese zero fighters in the Solomon Islands air battle. Four U.S. pilots were killed in the fight.


June 10, 1943

The two fellows that passed out are still with us and only embarrassed. I’m glad they did not wash out; but a member of their flight said they got chewed out by their lieutenant pretty good. He yelled that “both of you fainted like a damn pansy!”


It’s been a busy Thursday and another week is winding down. Physics and math keep us busy. We’re all taking the same subjects and it makes it easier to study together as roommates.


As I mentioned, we have been asked to be in Cleveland’s July 4 celebration. Since the 4th is on a Sunday, the parade will be on Saturday. Our TAC officer told us that the Aviation/Student detachment from Case Institute of John Carroll University will be in the parade. We must have the sharpest looking unit. The marching band will lead our detachment.


Letter home:

June 12, 1943

Dear Mother and Dad,

Our usual Saturday inspection of the room, as well as “parade rest” in uniform, went well. I like the regimentation of this Army Air Corps life. They’re feeding us good, with cute coeds working their way through college dishing out the food cafeteria style to us. In another two weeks or so, those South Georgia cantaloupes and watermelons will be ripening. Write soon.

Your loving son, Wayne


The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday morning, June 13, 1943, said: “LAMPEDUSA OCCUPATION COMPLETED.” The Italian island fort surrenders to the Allies after a 24-hour siege. A lone English pilot was forced down on the airfield and is the first to receive the foes’ white flag in their frantic capitulation.


Another headline from that day’s paper added: “NAVY REPORTS 2 U.S. SUBS, 120 MEN LOST.” The United States submarines, Amberjack and Grampus, of the Pacific Fleet have failed to return from patrol operations and must be presumed to be lost. They are two of our underseas hunters that have taken a heavy toll of Japanese merchant and war ships.


June 13, 1943:

For several weeks now, we’ve been allowed open post on Saturday and Sunday. We can leave our college dorm from 2 p.m. (after Saturday inspection) to midnight, and Sunday from 2 until 10 (while also being allowed to attend campus chapel services). Those who have received gigs (demerits) must walk them off (one gig per hour) on Saturday afternoons.


Most of us were back from open post and in bed by 10 p.m. Unfortunately last night, those of us who had gone to bed were jarred awake by yelling and the sound of fists hitting someone in the next room. There were calls for guards and the sergeant of guards to come quickly. Everyone in my room ran out into the hall to see what was happening, noting it was midnight.


By the time everyone arrived, the fighting between the two late arrivals had stopped; both were embarrassed and had enjoyed several beers too many. It seemed that they had argued over beer money, and it escalated into a fight in the dorm. They shook hands.


One of the roommates said he woke up when the fight started as Jerry was knocked into his double bunk top bed, almost turning the beds over. After the exciting escapade, we all went back to our rooms, knowing that demerits on the two will occur. They need to be fearful of “washing out.” This is not the way a future “officer and gentleman” should act.


The Detroit Free Press on Tuesday, June 22, 1943, ran this headline and accompanying article: “ONE CALM VOICE APPEALS FOR TOLERANCE IN MONDAY’S KILLING AND VIOLENCE. Cars were overturned and burned; Negroes were beaten by a rioting crowd on Woodward. Many automobiles were burned. Streetcars were stopped in many sections by both white and Negro mobs.


The rioting began about 10:45 p.m. Sunday, apparently with a fight between a Negro and a white man on Bella Isle Bridge, where large crowds were leaving the island. The afternoon shifts in Detroit plants engaged in war production were decimated by workers afraid to come to work. Mobs run loose as racial feeling flares in murder. Martial law is declared.”


Another article at the bottom of this page was sad news for a family with a son in the military. It read that “the 2nd lieutenant’s body will arrive home Tuesday from Randolph Field, Texas, where he met death Saturday in an airplane crash. The lieutenant received his wings just a few weeks ago at Luke Field, Arizona. He was undergoing further training at Randolph to be a flying instructor. Details of the crash are not known.”


June 23, 1943

Today’s news is better concerning the mob riots in Detroit. Ohio’s governor is seriously considering invoking martial law if the rioting were to spread from Michigan.


The citizens of Cleveland have welcomed us with open arms into their community. We take the Euclid Avenue streetcar downtown and walk around. Seldom are any of us charged for a meal or the streetcar ride.


We also have opportunities to go to the Cleveland Indians baseball games at their Lakeshore Stadium on Lake Erie for free, and I recently went to my first one. I can now say I’ve seen my first major league baseball game! What a thrill it was! The pitching, batting and running are a lot faster than the games I’ve seen in the Georgia-Florida League. Cordele, the team I watched growing up, is a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds organization.


Letter home:

June 27, 1943

Dear Mother and Dad,

I’ve attended a Cleveland Indians baseball game since I last wrote to you. We’re allowed into games complimentary. They’re nice folks in Ohio. We’re kept on a busy schedule every day except Saturday afternoons and Sundays. I’ve found that Sundays, like today, are a good time to write. The academics are not easy but I’m holding my own.


I thought you’d like to see our schedule. The only change will be when we start our 10 hours of flight training. The reveille bugle call is at 6 a.m. After using the latrine down the hall and getting ready for the day, we march to breakfast at 7 a.m. You return to the dorm on your own and make up you bed, policing the area. Monday through Friday, there are academic classes until lunch at noon. We march in formation to lunch and you return to the dormitory on your own. We form up at 1 p.m. to march to afternoon classes. Classes are over at 3 p.m. and then we march to the gym for various exercises. At 4:45 we march to the flag for retreat at 5 p.m., and then march to the evening meal. Return to the dorm on your own for an evening of study. Saturday mornings are devoted to the inspection of your room. Saturday afternoon is open post until midnight. Sunday is open post until 10 p.m. Tell Norma to write me.

Your loving son, Wayne

P.S. I am looking forward to our detachment marching in the Independence Day parade in downtown Cleveland.


The Cleveland News on Friday, July 2, 1943, said: “YANKS BLAST MUNDA IN NEW PACIFIC DRIVE.” The Navy said today that American dive bombers assaulted Japanese defense positions in the Munda area of the Central Solomons, as the twin pronged offensive in the Solomons and the New Guinea area continued.


Another headline in that paper mentioned: “NAZI INDUSTRY IS LOSING PRODUCTION RACE FOR VICTORY AS RAIDS TAKE TOLL.” Strained by nearly four years of total war and hammered day and night by Allied air power, German industry is losing the production race essential to winning a war.


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To see the previous entry in this series, read here.



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Dr. Shearer can be contacted at docshearer@epbfi.com.

Western Reserve University library in Cleveland circa World War II
Western Reserve University library in Cleveland circa World War II

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