9th AVRS - Harold Smith
I joined the Air Force on 8-2-1951. They sent me to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I was there about ten days to get uniforms and shots. I was then sent to Sheppard AFB in Texas for basic training. Columbus, Ohio was my next stop where I went to the Ohio School of Trades. This was a civilian school that taught auto mechanics. We lived in the Knights of Columbus Hotel downtown. I left there in December of 1951 for Chanute AFB [Illinois] to get processed to go to the "Far East" - destination unknown.
I came home for two weeks leave and then traveled to Camp Stoneman in California where I got those wonderful shots and waited for the ship, USS GENERAL MITCHELL. I boarded and on the way over we ran into a strong typhoon. Now, this ship was going completely under water and the propellers would come out of the water on the back end and shake the whole ship. This went on for three days! After it was over they told us a seam had broken and flooded one of the storage compartments, so they shut the door to it. It was full of cars and furniture, etc. for the officers and their family. I will tell this now while I am on the subject - When I came home twenty three months later on the same ship we asked the crew if the ship had been fixed. The answer was "No"! The compartment was still sealed off. The morning we arrived there we could see land for about an hour before we got to it. We still didn't know where we were going. Everyone just knew it was going to be Korea. As the ship was pulling up to this one lonely dock they called about fifty of us to get our duffel bags and get ready to disembark. When I got back on deck the ship was there, only one dock, no buildings, and only a couple of tents with several trucks. We got off and were loaded into the trucks. Everyone just knew we were in Korea. What we didn't understand was that just a few of us got off. Someone asked the truck driver where we were and he said to be quiet or we would get shot. Well, that scared the hell out of all of us. We rode on an old dirt road for about fifteen minutes and then slowed and went through a base gate. We looked as we went on and the sign said "Kadena Air Force Base." The Master Sergeant started laughing and said, "Boys, we are lucky! This is not Korea. We are in Okinawa," an island off the coast of Korea. I was assigned to the 9th Air Vehicle Repair Squadron.
We took care of all of the vehicles and tow motors that the Flight Line used. I drove a wrecker truck most of the time there. The rest of the time I worked in the Special Equipment Shop. I was there from January, 1952 until December, 1953 (23 months). I arrived back in San Francisco on New Years Day, 1954. I had a 30-day leave at home then I was to report to the 728 Air Craft and Warning Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When I arrived I was informed that there were only a few people there to take care of a radar sight near the jump zone of the 82nd Airborne. I was told that I would have to go to Donaldson AFB in Greenville, South Carolina.|
I got there and they gave me the job of charging batteries. The batteries were in a small shed about one hundred feet from the garage. The Charger was a giant piece of equipment. The Sarge said to make sure to get the batteries hooked in series right because if you don't they will blow up. I assured him that I had done it before. This thing would charge twenty four batteries at one time. I had been working a couple of days when the Sarge came back by to see if I was okay. I had charged about all of them and was hooking the last ones up. I got them hooked up and he looked them over and said. "You are doing great." He said, "Come on, you can ride with me to lunch. He turned the charger on and away we went. When we got back he turned the corner and stopped real quick. I looked over and there was no building left at all. Plywood was all over the place, and everyone was just standing there looking at it. One guy said, "Boy, I am glad to see you! I didn't know if you were in there or not." What happened was that the old charger blew up and not the batteries.
A few days later the Sergeant asked me if I would like to go to People AFB because he needed someone to replace a man that was getting discharged. I would be taking care of diesel power units that run a radar site. These engines run 24/7 and you rotate shifts to keep them going but you get a long weekend every 3rd week. That was like getting a three day pass every 3rd week so I took that job. They found out that I had a license to drive just about every vehicle, even a tractor trailer. From then until I got my discharge I never knew what was next. The Sergeant was nice enough to give me 45 days to clear the base for discharge. I was discharged on 8/1/1955 at 728th A C & W Squadron at Donaldson AFB, Greenville, South Carolina.
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