Warfare History Network, Charles T. Sehe
An amazing tale.
In early December 1941, the Nevada was moored to Quay Fox 8, just astern of the battleship USS Arizona. On the Friday afternoon before that fateful Sunday, I went aboard the Arizona to visit a hometown friend. He invited me to come over on Saturday night after liberty, but I had duty watch on Sunday so I declined his offer. He would be among the 1,177 who perished aboard the Arizona the next day.
I am of Polish, Irish, and American Indian descent and grew up in the small (population 3,800) northern Illinois town of Geneva. After graduating from high school at age 17 (the only one of six siblings in my family to do so), several of us 17- and 18-year-old kids went down to the recruiting substation in Aurora, Illinois, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. It was Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1940—almost a full year before Pearl Harbor.
Applicants had to have been United States citizens between the ages of 17 and 31 and needed to meet the Navy’s physical standards. Since some of us were not 18 years old, parents had to sign for us with their approval. This Depression-era kid stood at five feet, six inches tall and weighed a skinny 127 pounds.
We were allowed to return home for the Thanksgiving dinner weekend. Then, early Monday morning, December 2, a bus drove us from Aurora to the Great Lakes U.S. Naval Training Center near North Chicago, a distance of 60-plus miles.
Once there, we joined another group of recruits to form a company of 110 individuals––Company 122––to be billeted in large wooden barracks where a chief petty officer and two lower ranked petty officers processed us, read us some of the Navy regulations, and assigned us to lockers and bunks. Written and manual exams and physical fitness were also scheduled to determine our qualifications to enter advanced trade schools.
Then we were sent through a processing line where we were issued a complete set of naval clothing: underwear, dungarees, shoes, white jumpers and pants, white caps, etc. Another set of Navy dress blues, caps, and peacoats was issued for winter wear.
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