This is my father, Bainbridge, MD 1944. Daddy was drafted, as he was working as a machinist and deferred for a long time. He was tooling dies for the war effort and was married with one child. They wanted him for the Marines. He told me once he put up a fight as he had wanted to join the Navy and demanded he be put into the USN. As you can see, he won that fight with the draft board.
I’m telling you this story so you will know why the men and women that served during WWII are called the Greatest Generation. Most American have no clue as to what this generation had lived through to defeat evil. Some even think the atrocities of WWII never happened. Shame on them!
My father carried a heavy burden of guilt until he died. He never felt that he done enough for the war effort. He felt guilty that his time in the service was spent state side. When my father told me this, there were tears in his eyes. He never felt worthy of any awards or metals because he didn’t leave the country.
Then he started telling me about the training he gave to the many men that came through the three bases where he was stationed. Men that were afraid of the water and had never swam a day in their lives learned to swim under my father’s directions. They also learned how to survive in open seas if their ships had sunk.
He told me how in the winter time at Great Lakes, IL they would go early in the mornings to break up the ice on the top of the pool so morning swim classes could start. The only heat source in the big pool building was several iron pot-bellied stoves. The would stoke the fires so the rooms would warm up a bit before classes. The same heat was used in the barracks. Wooden slat buildings with no insulation.
Their names still engraved into his memory, daddy told me about many men and their stories. Men of all colors, from all over the country. I remember one story to this day. A story of a young black man from Tennessee. Had almost drown as a child and was terrified of the water. Daddy would get him in the pool and the man would sink to the bottom. Not a good thing for a man about to serve on a ship. Daddy said he worked one on one in the evening with the man. By the end of boot camp they young man could swim.
One day, a couple of years before daddy died, we were talking about his service again. Still that guilt stayed with him. It has been fifty-two years. I told him he should never feel guilty for not being on a ship or serving overseas. I asked him if he had ever thought of the many men he might have saved by teaching them to swim or survive in open seas. In his humble way, he said he had always hoped he had helped them but he would never know.
This is another reason I believe this was the Greatest Generation. They gave their all and then wanted to give more. They gave for honor and the fight against evil, not for fame or glory. They faced evil straight in the eye and pressed on.
I will not bore you with my political opinions or how I feel about Americans today. I can say, we have come a long way in the wrong direction from what Americans were just a short fifty years ago. I miss those Americans.