My dad, like many people of his generation, lived a very interesting life. I've always found one era of his life in particular to be special.
For many Texas boys of that time, due to the still-raging Great Depression, there weren't many career choices after high school outside of farming, and my dad had no intention of becoming a farmer. Instead he became a soldier.
At only 17 my dad had to get his parents permission before he could enlist in the Army. After his basic training he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. Today the 1st Cavalry Division arrives in battle by helicopters or in tanks or humvees. In the late 1930's they arrived in battle on horseback.
No joke, my dad was a horse soldier. They still had horse-drawn chuck wagons and caissons. Mechanization was just being introduced into the US Army and therefore horses were still in use. As weapons of war they were probably pretty useless, but they still existed. He served under soon-to-be famous commanders such as George S. Patton (dad said he was one mean SOB). They went on maneuvers all over the Southwest....once he rode a horse from San Antonio to El Paso (about 550 miles).
After dad's horse was "requisitioned" by a Colonel to be his new polo mount dad was transferred to Troop Headquarters for a more agreeable job. When his enlistment was almost up dad's commanding officer approached him and said he had received orders to go overseas on a new assignment. He wanted his staff, including dad, to re-enlist and go with him to this exotic new post.
Dad, while tempted, had other plans. He wanted to go back home and marry his sweetheart, my mom. He reluctantly told his commanding officer he was mustering out of the army, thanks anyway.
Turns out that exotic overseas assignment was the Philippines, and the commanding officer was Colonel Jonathan M. Wainwright. The same Jonathan M. Wainwright who eventually surrendered American forces to the Japanese at Corregidor after the three-month-long Battle of Bataan.
The few survivors of that siege were sent on a horrific 80 mile forced march known as the Bataan Death March to a prison camp, and even fewer of them survived to see the Allies victorious in WWII.
I'm lucky to be here. Thanks, dad, for your fateful decision. I'm REALLY glad you got to be my dad. Happy Father's Day. :)
Tomorrow I'll say a bit more about dad's involvement in WWII.