Another excerpt from "Defining Moments"
As Christmas 1950 approached, the war in Korea was not going well. The usual notification that the training schools would close between Christmas and New Years and Leaves given the students was delayed. We were issued the new blue winter uniforms and continued classes. Finally the word came that we would have Leave. The late notice did not allow the transportation services enough time to schedule resources to handle the hundreds of students wanting to travel. What to do? Not a commercial seat or rental car was available. Five of us Minnesotans were without wheels and 1500 miles from home. Not to be denied, we flagged down a cab. Would you believe, the cabby said he had a cousin in Minnesota that he hadn't seen for a long while and he agreed to take us home and back for railroad coach fare. Pinch me - we're going home for Christmas! Five airmen in our new winter Blues and the cabby in a ‘49 Mercury and the trunk crammed full of duffel bags. We took turns driving and went straight thru (2 lane roads all the way). We hit snow at the Wisconsin state line - the first our cabby had ever seen. We pulled over and pelted him with snowballs. First stop - Winona, then New Ulm and finally Wilmar, where the last airman and the cabbies cousin lived. I was in for a bit of a shock when Mom told me her mother needed care and was occupying ‘my' room. While it was great to be home for the holidays, I could sense that nothing would ever be the same again.
Those of us who finished Fundamentals with good grades were offered the opportunity to move on to Radar Maintenance. Nubbs and I, still together, were assigned to long-range ground-based radars. We studied all the aspects of transmission, reception and display of reflected electrical
energy and were suitably impressed.
As spring, 1951 approached, I realized how much I would miss that wonderful season in Minnesota. Where would we be assigned after graduation? Texas and Mississippi did not impress me. Would we be shuffled off to some similar place? As much as I enjoyed my newly acquired technical knowledge, I was very homesick. Nubbs nosed me out for top grade in our class. That was all right, I knew he had worked harder in high school than I had. Another of life's lessons learned.
To say we anxiously awaited our duty station assignments is a gross understatement. Finally they were posted. Were we seeing things? “Minneapolis Naval Air Station for further assignment” Unbelievable! “For further assignment” - what did that mean? I didn't care - I was going back to Minnesota. We found out very shortly that a line of radar sites were being built along our northern border. Our group would be assigned sites in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. Nubbs and I, still together, were assigned to a site near Minot, ND. I bought a tired ‘41 Pontiac, took on a full load of airmen and headed out. What an adventure! I knew ND had a reputation for being cold but I also knew there was good hunting. The site was out in the country on a windy hilltop and was not yet operating in the net. In fact, I was the 25th airman to sign in of a total complement of about 100. The Commanding Officer and First Sergeant seemed to be as pleased to be there as I was.
The site had a lot of construction debris lying around, and in general looked very unmilitary. This of course, had to be addressed. I was a willing and enthusiastic worker at these tasks and that did not go unnoticed by the First Sergeant. Very shortly I was promoted to Airman Second Class, in charge of assigning cleanup duties to the new arrivals. I'm on a roll, an unbelievable roll!
Our Recreation Officer made arrangements with various institutions in Minot for nursing students, sorority girls, etc. to come out to our little base for chaperoned dances in our Day room. The first moments were hilarious with much posturing and eye-balling across the room until some brave soul broke the ice. I met a very pretty dark-haired girl who was reluctant to give me her phone number. She finally admitted she was attending a Catholic school for Nuns. Well, you can't win'em all.