A glorious month at home, then the return to military duty. My orders were to report to Miami Beach, Florida for re-assignment. Archer from Corinth, had the same orders, therefore we made arrangements to travel together in Dad’s Caddy. Dad was in an essential business, hardwood lumber mill, and therefore received a good allotment of gas stamps. He was able to save a few from each allowance, and also talked the rationing board out of stamps for me to use to return to duty.
Prior to leaving Fulton I learned that one of my life long friends, Wayne Palmer, a Marine veteran of some of the Pacific’s worst battles had returned to the states and was now stationed at a navel base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just North of Miami Beach. This was going to be a reunion – an ex-POW and Wayne, as a Marine Scout, had survived Iwo Jima. He was one of the two marines scouts to survive this battle.
Archer and I departed Fulton for a leisurely trip to Miami Beach. We were in good spirits since we had been assured that barring most dire circumstances our combat days were behind us. Out tour in Miami Beach would be to soak up sunshine, R&R, while awaiting our new tour of duty. This was war at its very best.
When we drove up to one of Miami’s plushiest hotels, GIs started snapping to attention. That big black Caddy would draw attention. Out steps two Staff Sergeants. Archer didn’t increase our popularity when with a casual wave of his hand, he said, “As you were men, carry on”.
Due to our assignments Archer and I saw very little of each other while in Miami. The duty here was beautiful, just R&R, report in every 24 or 48 hours.
It was on to Fort Lauderdale to the Naval Air Station where Wayne was a duty sergeant with the Air Station Guards. Again, when I drove up to the gate, the guards started “popping to.” I couldn’t help but grin when one of the Marine guards said, “Hell, Sarge, we thought you would be a bird or above.”
An inquiry was made about my buddy, Wayne. The guards quickly responded as to his whereabouts, and gave his barracks’ number. Driving straight to his barracks, I found him asleep. One of the men commented that the sergeant had a hard night.
“Wake up you good off.” Shaking Wayne hard he rolled over, grunted, then squinted at me.
“Gibbs is that you?”
After jumping all over each other for a few minutes, I inquired as to his duty status for the next few days. Wayne, being a decorated Pacific Veteran, said, no problem, he would clear it with the old men, these odd balls can cover for me. We drove over to see his CO, a nice guy who quickly gave his approval for Wayne to take off as often as his health would permit. Only be sure to report in every 24 hours. The CO was kidding about his health, yet after he had seen the car we would be cruising the beach in, he knew that we would be keeping late hours.
For the next week or ten days Wayne and I were together morning, noon, and nights. We were in GI heaven. We actually had little darling whistle us at every stop sign. Here were two military sergeants having the time of their lives. Girls, girls, and more girls. We got really choosey.
Then it happened. August 6, 1945, the headlines screamed, an American plane had dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. This bomb was more powerful than 20.000 tons of nitro. Unbelievable, yet three days later on August 9, 1945, another similar bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The war was soon over. On August 14, 1945 the Japanese accepted the unconditional surrender terms. World War II ended, officially on September 2, 1945, with the signing aboard the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
When the surrender was announced, Wayne and I pulled into a station for gas when an attendant ran out saying they didn’t have to accept those damn stamps for gas. He seemed to be more elated over this than the war’s end. From the station we hurried to a spirits station. Re-fueling our supply of spirits, we ran downtown, picked up two friends and headed for mid-town Miami where a celebration was getting under way. The city had gone wild! If you were in uniform some female, old, middle age, or young was going to crawl all over you and shower you with kisses and squeezes. What a way to end a war!
While in the middle of some of the cuddling two sailors shot by us, one grabbing a bottle from under my arm. Wayne cut him off as I caught up. The sailor handed me back my bottle and I threw him a kidney punch that turned his face green – gagging he said something like, “Well, you had two.” Wayne gave the sailor a good cussing, reminding him we were in a jovial mood, otherwise we would have to hurt him. That was quite a night. Wayne and I would separate the next day. He made a career in the Marines and it was many years before our paths would cross again.
With the wars end the hurry up and wait period seemed to speed up a bit. Within a few days of Japan’s surrender I was ordered to report to headquarters of the outfit I was attached to at the beach. The conversation went something like this,
“Sergeant, any particular air base near your home that you would prefer assignment?”
That sounded strange, being asked where I wanted to be assigned. It made me wonder what the “kicker” could be in such a question. Regardless, my comment was,
“Yes indeed, Colombus Air Force Base, Columbus, Mississippi.
This base was about 70 miles from Fulton, yet knowing it was a training base for fighter pilots there was no chance for me to be assigned to such a base. To my surprise, orders were quickly cut to report to Columbus Air Force Base. The military moves in strange and often mysterious ways.
Farewells were given, then northward for me. Just after leaving Miami Beach I picked up a hitch-hiking sailor. I asked him if he could drive – “you bet”. The sailor drove out a full tank of gas while I caught up on sleep. The sailor dropped off around the Georgia line, I kept pushing through straight to Fulton.
A couple of days at home, then a leisurely drive down to Columbus Air Force Base. Again the guards “popping” to at the gate only to grin when they saw a staff sergeant at the wheel. In the six or seven weeks of my career at CAFB the guards would wave me through from any distance.
Reporting to headquarters at CAFB, for all practical purposes, no one knew what to do with me. Somehow it was determined that I had worked in a theatre. So I was made non-com in charge of Special Services. What duty! The theater, NCO club, and bowling lanes were under my supervision. These strenuous duties also included a private room in the barracks and extra pay. I was being paid extra for living like a king. If I ever met the officer in charge of this arrangement I have forgotten his name or rank. My room was kept neat and clean by a private, my laundry was cared for and other similar benefits. The big one was to go to the NCO club and get a good steak and beer, day or night. The NCO in charge of the club was under my jurisdiction, yet I can never recall lifting a finger that interfered with whatever he did or did not do. I do recall that this sergeant had a beer gut that lapped over.
My sister, Bonnie Ruth, attended school in Columbus. The school was Mississippi State College for Women, affectionately known as the “W”. Bonnie Ruth often would ask me about dating some of her friends and my response was “they are too young.” There was ample activity outside the college kids.
The duty at CAFB was unreal. Reflecting the service people, officers and non-coms, in charge of supply and special services had a beautiful (probably profitable) war. Their mortality rate was zero.
At last, the big day arrived. Report to Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama for your honorable discharge from services in the United States Air Force. On October 14, 1945 I was given an honorable discharge from the service. Dad had told me to serve my country well and with pride. I tried to do that from September 23, 1942 until October 14, 1945.