One of the most delightful (and somewhat frustrating) things about Grandpa is that it seems nobody in the family has a complete idea of his military service.
Here’s what I know:
- Grandpa lied about his age to join the reserves at 16.
- The records were destroyed in a fire, so he doesn’t get credit for those lied-about years.
- Grandpa fought in the Pacific in WWII.
- He flew planes when the Air Force was part of the Army.
- Grandpa created (or modified) the three-letter airport code system still in use today. (The way he tells it, he was tired of saying the full names and said that they should abbreviate it. So then he sat there and brainstormed three-letter codes for various bases. Somewhere in the basement there’s a certificate of this accomplishment.)
- Grandpa was stationed in Japan and did not directly fight in Korea. (I had this wrong—I thought he had.)
- Grandpa did not fight because he had too many “secrets” in his head. The primary knowledge he had was that of radar and where various militaries (American and to an extent British) were with the use of it.
- Grandpa has been stationed in Guam, Japan, and the Philippines, as well as multiple domestic stations.
- Grandpa and his buddy flew over a mountain they were specifically told not to fly over and Muslim militants in the Philippines shot at their plane. When they got back to the base, they couldn’t lie about what they’d done because of…radar.
- Grandpa applied to be in the Mercury program but was denied. They said it was his age, but he thinks it’s because he didn’t have any college degree.
- One of my aunts was born while they lived in Japan. While they were in Japan, they’d often follow maps and find that the roads ended. They’d find the sole person in the village who spoke English, who would then say, “Yes, your bombs destroyed the road.”
- Grandpa flew goats to Guam during the Korean War. A lot of families were moving to Guam and they needed a food source.
- Grandpa helped write the armistice that paused the Korean War.
When Grandpa got to that last point, I stopped him.
“Wait, Grandpa, how come when I Google ‘Korean Armistice,’ I don’t see a darn thing about Michael S?”
“Well, I was in Japan and helped write the original papers, the idea and the framework. But it wasn’t my job to present it.”
“So you helped do the work but get none of the glory?”
“Well,” he laughed, “it was part of my job!”