Celebrating James R Dean @ 100

3 Military

Militarily speaking, JRD’s dream was to be a fighter pilot (what else), but bad eyesight made that impossible – pilots were required to have 20-20 vision.  He joined the National Guard in 1936 and learned to drive an ambulance.  At the beginning of WWII he was working at Douglas Aircraft, helping to build war-bound airplanes, deferring his being drafted until near the end of the war.  When finally called, his draft board suggested he take the Electronics test, which landed him in the Navy. 

After Basic Training in San Diego, he served as a medical guinea pig in the development of antibiotics, penicillin specifically, in the treatment of a life-threatening sinus infection.  Since he survived, after 5-6 weeks in the hospital, the Navy sent him to schools, first in Chicago (at Wilbur Wright Jr College), then to Monterey (at the Hotel Del Monte, now part of the Naval Postgraduate School), training him to be an electronics technician. He said he and his fellow sailors were on the train to school in Chicago when the war ended (Aug 14, 1945), and were treated as returning war heroes.  They took full advantage.

After one year and seven days, he and the Navy parted company.  He said he was only on one ship in his entire Naval career – a ferryboat in Oakland where he waited for a train to Del Monte on the way there from Chicago.  I think he said they served coffee and doughnuts on the boat.