Bob Young took his dad's advice and joined the Navy in WWII
Summerfield resident has been in 'high tech' fields his whole life
Bob Young graduated from one of the most intensive schools for Navy enlisted men during World War II to become a radio/radar technician, and he credits his education at Benson High School in Portland for getting him in the door and giving him the right background to excel.
Born and raised in Portland, Bob graduated from the all-boys Benson in June 1942, which he wryly noted, "was not a particularly good time to graduate."
"You could join the service, and a third of my class did that right out of high school," said Bob, who went to work in the Kaiser shipyards in Portland building tankers, where he was required to join the union.
"Normally it takes five to 10 years to become a journeyman ship fitter, but I did it in 30 days," said Bob, who built railings for ships. However, in November, a plank fell on his foot and broke it.
"In the emergency room, my first question to the doctor was, 'Will I be able to ski again?'" Bob said. "The doctor was a fellow skier and fixed me up - I've never had any problems with that foot.
"After the surgery, I had a cast on my leg and couldn't work, so I decided to go to college. I was in rehab for three months and started at a small college in downtown Portland in January 1943. Then I went back to work in the shipyards working the graveyard shift. I earned the highest wage - $1.37 an hour."
But Bob, who had turned 18 in October 1942, decided to join the service and heeded the advice of his father:
"My dad was in the Marines in WWI and sat me down to say, 'Marines dig holes and get wet. Think about the Navy - the food is better.'"
Bob chose the Navy, signing up in late July 1943. He was sent to Camp Farragut in northern Idaho, which was a very large training base where tens of thousands of people were prepared for duty. "My evaluation tests carried very good scores - likely due to excellent Benson High School - and I was selected - happily - for radio technician school," Bob said.
Phase one was pre-radio; phase two was three months of primary training; and phase three was advanced training.
In mid-September, Bob finished boot camp and was sent for primary training to Michigan City, Ind.
"While there, I became very sick with rheumatic fever and spent four months at Great Lakes Naval Hospital north of Chicago," he said. "There were three wards with 60 men to a ward. There was an epidemic, and a lot of people died. The remedy was 64 pills a day, and I followed every instruction and made it."
Following his recovery in January '44, Bob went back to Michigan City, completed his primary training and was then assigned to Logan, Utah, home of Utah Agricultural College, for three months of secondary training.
"Logan was ideal," he said. "We had classes eight hours a day with homework, but being on a campus with a vast majority of coeds was very good duty."
After completing secondary training, Bob was sent to Treasure Island, Calif., for six months of advanced training.
"The course work was very advanced and included surface and air radar, underwater sound (SONAR), fire control radar, receiver and transmitter maintenance and LORAN navigation gear," he said. "It was fascinating. I was always interested in technology. There were exams every two weeks, and one-quarter of the class left. I felt very proud to graduate and to receive my 'Crow' petty officer 3rd class promotion in December 1944."
Bob was assigned to the combat destroyer U.S.S. Cassin (DD372) and was transported on a troop ship from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, noting, "I got very seasick."
He added, "We were three levels down, and the bunks were four high. It was an eight-day cruise, and I never left the bunk or ate for a week. But one of the crew was a friend from Benson High, and when he found me sick, he took very good care of me."
At Pearl Harbor, there was two weeks of special training at Marine Camp Catlan before boarding a sister ship of the Cassin for Guam. However, while the ship was on its way, the Japanese invaded Iwo Jima, and the Cassin-bound sailors had to wait at an airbase on Guam.
"I was given a cot and carried it through the jungle to a tent," Bob said. "That's where I learned about bugs - big bugs. And we were warned there were still some Japanese on Guam.
"Iwo Jima is 6 miles long, and the southern half was held by the Marines, and the northern half was held by the Japanese. We flew by Marine C46 transport to Iwo Jima on March 5, 1945, landing on an airfield not held by the Japanese on the 12th day after the invasion. We saw puffs of white smoke - they were shooting at us. The other 20 guys with me were hauled off, and I was left alone. A Jeep roared up, and the driver said, 'Where are you going, sailor?' and took me to the beach master."
Bob bunked with the beach master in his tent, "and all night long, you could hear gunfire," he said. "But I knew the Cassin would come back for mail."
Bob finally reported aboard the Cassin, which was one of seven destroyers in Destroyer Division 7 supporting B29 air strikes over Japan by doing air-sea rescues from north of Iwo Jima to within 100 nautical miles of Japan.
The ship rescued 48 air crewmen from March to Sepember 1945, which was an impressive number, but Bob added, "Of course, there were some we could not find and pick up."
The ship also survived two very bad typhoons, shelled a Japanese-occupied island, and experienced a "dead-in-the-water" situation for four hours during a rescue mission 1 mile off Chichi Jima, a heavily fortified Japanese radio station. The Cassin also intercepted and searched a Japanese hospital ship, but there was no contraband aboard.
"When you're a young kid, you want to be where the action is, and we were where the action was," said Bob, who started as a radio technician 3rd class and was promoted to 2nd class petty officer (electronics technician) while aboard.
Bob well remembers Aug. 6, 1945, when the American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped the world's first atom bomb over the city of Hiroshima.
"I was in my bunk and heard it on the squawk box," Bob said." You can't imagine the euphoria aboard the ship."
Japan surrendered Sept. 7, 1945, and at the war's end, Division 7 was relieved and the Cassin picked up 200 troops before heading back to Long Beach. Bob had an aunt, uncle and cousin there, and they treated him royally during his five days of leave.
The Cassin then transversed the Panama Canal, making port at Jacksonville, Fla., for "Navy Day" on Oct. 20, where the sailors got a day of liberty every other day for 10 days.
(Bob had always wanted to fly and logged five hours of beginning flight training there in a Piper J3, later qualifying for a private pilot's license in April 1948).
The Cassin made port in December 1945 in Norfolk, Va., where it was decommissioned. Bob took a train to Washington, D.C., and then on to Portland. "I got home for Christmas," he said.
After leaving the service, Bob went to Oregon State College for two years; after his first year, he signed up to work for the summer for the National Park Service and chose Mount Rainier National Park, where he met his future wife Dar Phelps, who was working as a waitress. They met again in the summers of 1948 and 1949, exchanging letters in between.
After two years at OSC, Bob moved back to Portland and enrolled at Lewis and Clark College, noting, "The G.I. Bill of Rights was one of the best things this country has ever done besides winning wars."
While in college, Bob also joined the naval reserves; in June 1950, three weeks after graduating from Lewis and Clark with a degree in business "so I could do something practical," Bob was called up as an enlisted person along with many others because of the start of the Korean War.
Bob and Dar had become engaged in June and planned to marry in October, but the imminence of recall led them to speed up their plans. Bob and Dar were married in late July 1950 at Lewis and Clark College by President Morgan Odell. However, a week later, Bob was sworn in as a commissioned officer, canceling his enlisted recall.
Bob, who served in the reserves for 10 years as a lieutenant jg, spent his career in business working for Remington Rand selling punch card machines; Remington Rand, which later purchased a large computer company, Univac Machines, eventually became Sperry Rand.
Bob also taught night classes at Portland Community College and in addition was part of a group that started a computer service bureau in Portland. At PCC, Bob became acting registrar and set up a computer system for records while teaching a full load; after four years, he joined the Portland State University staff as an assistant professor managing an initial computer center there.
The last 10 years of his career, Bob worked at Tektronix doing sales training and product support, noting, "I loved the sales training - I was the old guy who had actually sold things. I should have gone to Tek right out of college."
On the home front, Bob and Dar, who lived in Lake Oswego 49 years, raised two daughters, and Bob loved sailing on the lake and building boats.
After their daughters were grown, Dar went back to school and became a registered nurse, working more than a dozen years before retiring. She also has volunteered for the American Red Cross, helping out after disasters, and the couple hosted foreign exchange students for 12 years.
Fifty-six years after Bob went through the Panama Canal on the Cassin following WWII, he went through it again with Dar on a Holland America cruise ship.
Today the couple, who moved to Summerfield in late 2004, enjoy spending time with their five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In the decades since WWII, Bob has had time to reflect on that period of time in history, and how the country and world have changed since then.
"In World War II, our country had the energy and opportunity to recruit, evaluate and empower millions of people, not only for the military but also shipyards and other industries," Bob said. "The training was broken down into small tasks, and needed skills were identified and developed. I would like to think we could develop an education system like that again.
"We have a great country here and great talent. What we lack is a sense of camaraderie and purpose."