The 1940 graduating class of Etna High School was sent into a deeply troubled world where economies were shattered and nations struggled to climb out of the economic morass confronting them. Ancient animosities resurfaced and Europe, for the second time in the century, was embroiled in war.
Our nation still suffered the effects of the Great Depression, triggered by the crash of 1929. Many were unemployed, living on the dole, or getting assistance from friends or relatives. The minimum wage, if one could get it, was twenty-five cents an hour.
I lived in Etna, a small mill town in western Pennsylvania, and was a member of the 1940 graduating class. The future did not look encouraging, and jobs were scarce. I found one at the Wildwood Country Club as an assistant to the club pro, but it lasted only until October, when the course closed for the winter. Without employable skills or experience, I was unable to get another job.
The war in Europe continued to heat up, and most Americans felt we soon would be in it. Congress passed a draft law and, along with the efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was hurriedly bolstering our armed forces. Our military forces were advertising the benefits of their training programs, and their pitches sounded attractive.
I decided to enlist. On February 7, 1941, ten months to the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.
My early days in the air corps were enjoyable, although I suffered a setback in my plans. I wanted to be an airplane mechanic and fly.