Monday, February 7, 2011

70 Years Ago: From High School to Boot Camp

My dad, Frank Dolan, graduated early from San Diego High School in California on this date 70 years ago. Just 7 days later, he was a “boot” at the United States Naval Training Center, "a Valentine gift to the Navy," as he once wrote. The pay in boot camp was $21.00 a month. Next was service school where he learned the fundamentals of welding, shipfitting, pipe work, and foundrywork. He put in his “chit” for the weld shop and became a “striker.”

In August 1941, Dad passed his exams for service school as a metalsmith, and on September 10, went aboard the repair ship, USS Vestal, at San Pedro, California. He was a Seaman, 2nd Class as he took his first tour of the deck force and his new assignment, the welding shop.

Like many other Americans, he could see that the country was being pulled into war, although most eyes were drawn east toward Europe. But 3 months after service school, while on board the Vestal at Pearl Harbor, my 18-year old father would be a witness to the surprise attack from the West, and with it, America's entrance into WWII.

To my shame, as a boy I was not always a good listener when Dad wanted to talk about his experiences. But over time I have tried to rectify that by writing out his account of the war, collecting items he wrote or recorded, and together with other research I've been able to do, write out a more comprehensive account of his years in the service. Dad is no longer with us, but in this 70th year since the start of the war, I plan to honor his contribution to the effort, provide his insight where he offered it,  and commemorate the events he witnessed from 1941-1946.