John L. Thorndike ’45

Thorndike '45

John L. Thorndike '45

(1926–    )
Army/USAAF, Private

My time in uniform during WWII was probably the shortest of anyone else’s among PA graduates. My 18th birthday was in October of my senior year. To accommodate many in this predicament the school established a “Plan A” whereby students could come to Summer School and take the first term’s courses, followed by the second term in the fall and the final term during the winter, receiving a Diploma in late February. The Draft Board in my hometown of Newton, Mass., agreed to defer me until graduation in February, so I signed up for the Army Air Corp’s air cadet program. I graduated on a Friday and the following Monday I was inducted at the former Fuller Cadillac showroom, which building is now owned by Boston University on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. Our group was immediately sent to Camp Devens in Ayer, Mass. After a couple of weeks of elementary training we boarded a troop train for we knew not where. We ended up in Biloxi, Miss., where we were given about 3 months of Basic Training at Keesler Field. April came, and we were horrified to hear of our President’s death and in May were thrilled to learn of the German surrender.

With the increasing control of the air by the Allied Forces and the small losses of U.S. planes, there was little need for more flight crews, so the air cadet group became assigned to training as ground crews. My group was sent in May to Smyrna Field in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to change spark plugs on B35s, then in June to Chanute Field in Rantoul, Ill., to attend sheet metal school. I drew “the graveyard shift” from 11pm to 7am. VJ Day came in September, and in November General Arnold decided we young former Air Cadets should be discharged to return home in order to go to college, which I did in February for the spring semester.

A lot of battle weary veterans were not happy that our group got off so easily, but I have often justified my short service sheepishly by responding, “We did everything they asked of us!”

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Filed under The Home Front

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