When Serving Was Worth Risking The Brig

In my recent article Stepping Into a History Book: A US Navy Destroyer Reunion, I wrote about 4 sailors I met at the Balch-Porterfield  reunion.

Warren Seward,  Sam Thomas, Gene Beckstrom and Jack Spradlin were all underage at 16 when they joined up during World War II. You can read a bit of their stories in my article.

Well, a couple of days ago I’m at the VA Hospital in New Haven and picked up the latest issue of VFW Magazine. In there is an article WWII When Serving Was Worth Risking The Brig. If you get a chance, pick up a copy and read the article.

In it you will read about George W. Holle, Jr. 12 years old, Calvin Leon Graham, 12 years old and Jacklyn Lucas, 14 years old, and a Medal of Honer winner at age 17 at Iwo Jima. Others featured in the article: William S. TRERO, 13, Clifford Warren, 16, Phillip R. Schnelderman, 15, Bruce Cottenton, 16 and Dale Schaffer, 15.

Then there were three brothers; Charles, Frank and Larry Smith, 14 and 15, who were living in the Philippines at the time of the Japanese invasion, and became guerrilla fighters in their own back yard.

As I write this I’m looking at my 15 year old grandson Scott … and thinking.

Don Johnson – November 2013


4 responses to “When Serving Was Worth Risking The Brig

  1. Don,

    I joined the California Army National Guard at 16. (Lied. Said my birth certificate was burned in a fire.) Teenagers were more mature then. That was before Dr Spock, the internet, and cell phones. Most of us had part time jobs and were either self supporting or helping support our families. Different times! Your Friend, Ron

  2. Don: I too was 16 when I entered the USN. My dad was a Taos NM City police officer and was tired and probably ashamed of having to arrest me several times as a teenager. I coerced him into falsifying my enrollment paperwork. I believe the Navy saved me from a life of crime and imprisonment. So glad my father was willing to let me enlist. He was an Army Drill Sergeant during WWII. May God bless you and Donna. Keep writing my friend.

    Ernesto (Ernie) Gomez Former TM3 USS Porterfield

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