Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

I remember one trip we went to this Lake Atwood in August. And, of course, we were high enough we had to go through snow banks on the trail, snow still three or four feet deep. So that was really one of the fun things we did while the war was on and there were all of these restrictions. There was booze rationing, gas rationing, shoe rationing, well, everything. As a result of my activities, the town booming, a lot of people there on construction and then having one child, I was able to get a deferment from going into the service until March of ‘45, not having any idea that the war was going to be over right away. So, they finally drafted me. I had to check out of the station.

Getting back to the idea of having that deferment as long as I did, I mentioned the number of construction people, the activity that was going on in town, and that was because the Government had decided to build Geneva Steel. They wanted a big steel plant inland that wouldn’t be as subject to bombing as the ones that were on the coast. This construction at Geneva really made Provo boom. It was fantastic. That was part of the reason I could stay out as long as I did.

But when I was drafted, we moved back (Helen and Ann moved back) to Ogden with her parents, with Grandma and Grandpa. We stored our furniture in Ogden. I, in the meantime, had passed a test, the Eddy test, which made me eligible to go into the Navy. An electronic technician mate was the ultimate goal, getting into electronics. Everybody else, nearly everybody else, was just taken into the Infantry because they figured that this was going to be getting a group together to invade Japan. It was going to cost lots of people, lots of lives. But I was lucky enough, having had a lot of math in school, that I passed this test. When I reported with the draft at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake, a company was, at least as I recall, about sixty guys, and there were five of us out of the whole state that had passed this Eddy test. When we came up to get sworn in, they said “Any special orders?” and we did have as we came up and they honored them and we were sent. We got out of going into the Army and the Infantry and we were sent to San Diego and in the boot camp there at the Naval Training Station in San Diego.

Of course, everything was in a hurry then. Incidentally by then, Germany had surrendered. They were putting all the effort into getting the Japs under control. So we went through about six weeks of boot camp as compared with the normal twelve. There was nothing spectacular there. I was twenty-nine years old, working out with a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds. But I got along real fine. And my age made it easy, as you get older, you get smarter. I know how to wangle things around. I never really did any work in the Navy. I was always the head of a group, the M.A., Master at Arms. If we had a gang that cleaned up the …… or had to sweep, I would be the boss of the kids and it worked out real good.

There was one exception to that and I didn’t skip, oh what the hell, mess duty, helping in the mess hall.

Q: KP?

KP, yeah that’s the word. And the reason I did not was because immediately I found out that if you were on KP duty you would get special privileges for food and you got acquainted with the cooks and so I never turned that down. I would go in there and do a duty. I would have bacon and eggs for breakfast, eggs over easy, and just everything just the way you wanted it cooked. And then in the evening meals, you could have your choice steaks. So that was the one thing. But I really didn’t have too rough a time in boot camp, and that was the one thing I do remember.

Then, after this six weeks, they sent me to Wright Junior College in Chicago for a real intense beginner on this electronic technician mate school. It was a Junior college, as I said, in Chicago and, of course, the bunks were set up in the gymnasium. Three tier bunks and no air conditioning and this was by then August, July or August, when we got there. I have forgotten, I think we were there for four weeks. But, anyway, it was hot, during the worst part of the season. Anyway, I passed; I made it, it was pretty rough but got back into my math. I passed there and then they sent us back to Del Monte, CA. There were three big hotel buildings there. It was a recreation area by Monterey in the Del Monte Bay area there; it was a real classy. At this point we were adapting our technical training to actual making and dealing with electronic materials and building with radios and doing all that. So, it had to be August, that I came back, because that is when they bombed Japan with the atomic bomb, 19th of August. I was on a train coming from Chicago. We were stuck in a town, Rock Island, Illinois, when it was all announced and I was on a Pullman that had locked windows. You couldn’t get them opened. Some of the Pullmans on this same train, the windows could be opened. All the people were out on the dock at the dock train station. There were a lot of people, raising heck, having a big time, getting drunk and here we were locked in this car, this group. Some of the windows, some of the places they could get the windows up and they were passing the beer in. The boys were having a big time. But, I do remember that was….

Read the other Oral Histories