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Remembrances: McConnell

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the summer of 1941 and found myself stationed at the main Navy recruiting station in Omaha, Neb., as a yeoman 3rd class. While there, I received orders to report to Norfolk for duties as the yeoman for the first Navy battalion of construction workers called the Seabees. My skipper in Omaha had those orders canceled.

I made yeoman 2nd class and was transferred to Valentine, Neb., to open a Navy recruiting substation under a retired chief gunner's mate who had been called back to active duty.

In addition to working with the young men and women who resided in that part of Nebraska, I also worked a part of South Dakota that was inhabited primarily by members of the Sioux American Indian tribe of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. The Sioux language was not generally spoken except by members of that nation, and the Navy soon learned to use the enlisted Sioux men as "talkers" because our enemies did not know the language. This was in 1942.

In February 1943, I received orders to report to Navy facilities in Seattle to begin my training as a naval aviator. I received my commission as an ensign and my Navy wings in September 1944 with orders to report to the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., for operational flight training in preparation for transfer to combat zones.

Upon completion of the three months of operational training, I was retained at the air station as a flight instructor teaching other new Navy pilots the techniques needed to fly the Navy's primary seaplane - the Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat - under combat conditions. My duties included not only work as an instructor, but also flights up and down the East Coast searching for German submarines.

At the end of World War II, I stayed in the Naval Reserve and joined VP-741, a patrol bomber squadron at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville. That squadron became the first reserve military component of any branch of the U.S. services to take its two weeks active-duty training outside the continental limits of the United States.

I remained in the squadron until 1964, when I transferred to naval intelligence. I remained active in that part of the Naval Reserve until I retired in 1971 as a lieutenant commander, and I proudly carry the title of a "Mustang Officer" who came up through the enlisted ranks.

WARREN H. McCONNELL
Springfield