Once upon a time...long ago, a
young boy wanted to be a soldier.
didn't know exactly what a soldier was,
really, because he was just a young
boy, but his mom had told him that
soldiers fight for freedom and truth and for
what is right and fair. His mom had told
him that soldiers fight to keep the United
States of America free.
young boy was exactly nine months old on December 7th when
Pearl Harbor was attacked. One of his
earliest--and fondest--memories of his father
was the night his dad came home on leave from
U. S. Army Air Corps pilot training and
brought his parachute along with his duffle
bag. The parachute
was required for all flights and pilots kept
them most of the time. Parachutes were to play
a very large part in the boy's life.
boy grew older he often played mock war games
and built tunnels and underground forts with
his friends. He often designed and built
tall towers of trees and ropes. The idea of
shooting at people with mock guns wasn't
really fun for him. That was fake. What was
most enjoyable to him was the engineering and
logistical aspects of warfare. The
engineering, building and logistics were
real...the fighting was
boy had four uncles who served in combat
during World War II and one uncle who served
during the Korean Conflict as a submariner. He
often remembered his mother pointing out the
four stars in the window of the row home in
West Philadelphia where his mother's family
lived. Each star represented a family member
who was away at war. He never saw another
house with a banner displaying four stars and
he never heard of any other house that had as
many stars hanging proudly in the window.
of his uncles were Army men. One served in
Italy; one served in the infantry as a radio
operator during the Battle of the Bulge; and
one was in the Army Air Corps. The fourth star
in the family window was for the uncle who
served as a second mate on merchant marine
tankers which carried high octane aviation
fuel to Europe while dodging German U-boats in
the North Atlantic.
his tenth birthday, the boy's father gave him
a short wave radio.
The radio was a multi-band Hallicrafters
S-38B. The boy set up an old table next to his
bed and put the shortwave radio nearby so he
could listen. He climbed a tree in the pasture
behind his house and strung a long wire from
tree to the house for an antenna. His dad gave
him an old pair of radio headphones which he
plugged into the radio. With the radio next to
his bed and wearing the headphones could tune
around and listen to the world without his
folks knowing he was listening.
the boy wasn't listening to shortwave stations
from around the world he was reading.
His favorite books were science fiction,
military escape and evasion and parachuting
behind enemy lines spy novels which he
read beneath the bedcovers with a
boy spent more time listening to the shortwave
radio he began to listen to stations from all
over the world. He listened to the BBC mostly
to hear Big Ben.
He listened to Radio Moscow, Voice of America
and various missionary station. A missionary
station, with the call HCJB,
from Quito, Ecuador, was the first one from
which he got confirmation of his reception.
The card read: "HCJB: Sending the good news
began to log all the stations he heard so he
could report the reception to the radio
station. After a year of listening and sending
reports to stations he received dozens of QSL
cards from shortwave stations around the
world. QSL cards, which are confirmation of a
contact or reception, began to cover the wall
near his radio table. Listening was fun but
having a license and being able to transmit
was what he really wanted to do.
uncle who was the radio operator showed him
that it was possible to turn the squealing
dots and dashes of Morse
code into letters and words. The boy
was fascinated as he watched letters appear
beneath his uncle's fast-moving pencil point.
It seemed like magic to see the dots and
dashes of the code signal turned into
he was eleven he started taking Morse code
lessons at a radio club in the town where he
lived. He bought a book called "The
Fundamentals of Radio and How They are
Applied" and taught himself radio theory. He
spent many hours listening to Morse code and
many, many more studying radio theory from "The Radio Amateur's Handbook."
quite a bit of study and practice copying code
he got a Novice Class amateur radio license.
After increasing his Morse code copying skill
to 23 words per
minute and learning advanced radio theory, he
passed the General Class amateur radio exam.
Shortly after getting he General license he
also received an Federal Communications
Commission commercial operator's license.
through junior and senior high school he
continued building equipment and erecting
antennas for his radio hobby. Building
antennas was one of his favorite parts of the
hobby. In addition, he quickly became
well-known in local radio circles for his
operating ability. Copying Morse code was a
particular thrill for him.
many hours every night listening for code
signals from amateur radio stations in
Antarctica, Greenland, Nepal, Pitcairn Island
and other places not quite so exotic...like
Chicago and Denver.
the most thrilling times on the radio was the
night he copied the Morse signals from the
Russian space satellite known as
Sputnik. Another high-point of his radio
operating was the night Soviet Tanks rolled
into Budapest, Hungary. During the
invasion by the Soviets, the boy copied
a message from an operator in Budapest who
tapped out in Morse the words "...God bless you and your
those words tapped out in Morse code and
reaching him through the night static had a
much more dramatic effect on the boy than any
radio or TV coverage could have. He knew the
moment he copied those words that he wanted to
be a radio operator and to be trained to
parachute jump behind enemy lines.
warm summer night, during his eighteenth year,
the boy was walking arm in arm with his
girlfriend through a display area at a local
county fair. They stopped at an Army
recruiting table. On the table lay a stack of
recruiting pamphlets. One pamphlet displayed a
picture of a huge, green parachute with
a paratrooper hanging beneath.
Across the top of the pamphlet in glaring
color were the words "Special Forces".
picked up one of the pamphlets. The parachute
jumper was dressed in camouflage. Equipment
and ammunition hung around the jumpers body.
The boy stared at picture. He was there. He was
hanging under that parachute and he was
dressed in camo and hand grenades and
ammunition. He stared at the pamphlet for a
very long time.
girlfriend jabbed him in the ribs with her
elbow and said, "Hey, parachute dreamer, don't
you thinks it's time we headed back home?"
boy laughed as he came back to the reality
with the realization that he was experiencing
one of the defining moments of his life.
His mom had told him that he would
have those kinds of days.