I really do not remember much from my last year in school at Yale, I suppose I was preparing for my senior year and as seemed to be appropriate, staying tuned to the news as it was possible I might be called to serve as so many of the older guys I had known; now, they were in the service around the world. Then, came the news that would change my life. Actually answer my prayers about the future. Where would I be? What would I do? I realized I was not going on to college as there was no money in our family to support me.
The Congress had approved what became known as the "G.I. Bill of Rights" available to all service members serving in World War II. Eventually, I would understand that the end of World War II had been designated as December 31, 1946. That meant that since I would be celebrating my 17th birthday on August 28th of that year, I would be eligible.
Of course, my Mother would have to sign for me and she agreed. So, a few days after I had entered high school for my senior year, I left Yale, my school, my friends, the only family I had ever known until then and my life began to change. The actual enlistment lasted a few minutes and then I was put on a bus headed for the train station. That took me to Chicago where I learned I would be transferring to another train headed for the Great Lakes Naval Station, north of the city. Now, I was alone, really alone, for the first time in my life. Apparently, it was obvious as two other guys, my age, asked if I was also going to Great Lakes and learned they were from Indiana. Now, the three of us wondered what we could do for the six hours we had to wait. A couple standing nearby overheard us and the gentleman asked if we were headed for service in the Navy. "No sir, we're going the Army Air Corps." That's even better, my son is in the Air Corps in Europe and I know he would want you to have these tickets. He gave us four suggesting we might find another guy to go with us. Looking at the tickets, we discovered we were heading for what turned out to be, the greatest fight most people will ever see - Zale vs. Graziano, "Oh, how my Grand Dad would love to be here," I thought. He loved boxing. And what a fight it was.
Sitting behind us were two Naval officers and they overheard our concerns about getting back on the right train and leaned forward to tell us, they were headed in the same direction. We could ride in their car. Wow! Life was good!
Or so I thought at the time. We found the way to the enlisted barracks and finally got to bed a little after One in the morning. At 4 AM, we were suddenly awakened by a loud speaker telling us that we needed to "Fall out, roll call in ten minutes." Then, came the shocker. When they came to my name, they called out, "McRae, S.B." and before I could answer, someone in the back shouted, "He sure ... is!" I could not believe it, I had never heard of a S.B. until I realized he was saying, "son of a b....". Then, the others were yelling at me telling me to answer roll call.
Later, we were assigned to our barracks and told that we would be shipping out the next day. They were almost right. All of the others were going. I did not. I went to the office and was told it was a common mistake, that I would be leaving in a couple of days. A couple of days came and went and I got the same answer. By this time, I was getting scared. I wanted to go home. I wanted a hug from my "Nan." Leaving the Mess hall after lunch the next day, I noticed a Chapel and so I went in and found my way to the altar. "Please, God, help me. Tell me what to do," I pleaded. Then I heard words that will echo in my ears forever, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you,:" I was no Bible student. I had no idea those words were in the Bible.
But the next day it seemed to me that God had answered my prayers. I was called to join in with guys headed for Fort Lewis in the State of Washington. Those guys had joined the Engineering Corps. What? I was supposed to be in the Air Corps! Another screw up, but two days later, there was another new bunch in "my" barracks and WE were all headed for San Antonio.
We made it and after learning what barracks I would be assigned to, I headed for the office where they administered GED tests. I had to pass it or they would cancel my enlistment and send me home - at my expense. That wasn't true, but it sure scared me. I took the text and I was no sooner back to my barracks when I heard the loud speaker, "McRae, report to the office immediately." There I learned that I had passed the test and I needed to get back to my barracks, immediately. I was beginning to get used to how the military operated, daily. Go here, go there, do this, do that, NOW!
I would soon learn that IF I passed the recruit training, I would be reporting the Radar school in Boca Raton, FL. I liked the sound of that. Basic training was a breeze. I was in good shape and had no problem with all of the marching, running, jumping, climbing regimens and even was recorded as an Expert rifleman. I was ready for Radar school. Only, I wsan't going. World War II was over and they no longer needed more Radar technicians. What they really needed were more raw recruits in the Philippines.