As I remember, Pete, my oldest brother, volunteered for the Army just a month or two after Pearl Harbor. So in September of 1942, I joined the Navy. This meant a train trip to San Diego and a short shuttle boat to North Island, just a couple of miles from San Diego. Here we received our boot camp training, about three weeks, and from there we went to San Francisco. We were on transfer status for a few days. We then went on a troop carrier that took us to Oahu, Hawaii.
Along with 10 others, I was enrolled in a radio operator program, learning Morse Code and basics of radio communications. Along with this was a course in identifying our airplanes, as well as those of the enemy. After six weeks, we became part of the crew in a patrol squadron of PBY-5 seaplanes. On-the-job training for the next two weeks was me watching the radioman at his job. Then I was placed on the regular crew.
This was my job for the next 15 months, at which time I was grounded to run the radio store of radio receivers and transmitters. I made two patrol flights a month as a relief for the regular radiomen. Along with this, I was asked to help with the censoring of the mail written in Spanish. I believe there were 100 men who wrote home in Spanish.
We were all admonished to keep from telling in our letters where we were, what we did and where we were going. We were instructed to cut out any statement with any information that might pose of risk to us if the enemy learned about it.
Our jobs were limited to patrolling and returning to base. We were to be on alert. If we saw any enemy aircraft, we were to return quickly, before we were discovered.
Although our planes were armed with three .50-caliber machine guns, we were not allowed to fire them. My job was to send the information as dictated by our pilot and that was it. My job as head of the radio receivers and transmitters was quite dull and it lasted more than a year.
But as if to compensate for it, I made friends with the censor office head, a Lt. Winchester, who was instrumental in getting me to complete my high school education through the Armed Forces Institute. He offered to write me a letter of recommendation if I decided to go back to school.
He was the one who could see the problems for the average individual discharged from the service trying to enter college, at a time when many thousands were making applications. I didnít realize until much later what a good deed this was. Another officer helped me by offering to write a letter of recommendation to enable me to enter college.
My last job was under Lt. Robinson, who was given the job to dismantle old PBY-5s, then fly them to a graveyard near Lawson, Okla.
Patrol duty was dull with nothing to help us from boredom. So, it was natural for the men to find a way to have a little fun. This is what landed me in the water on arriving at the bay. The crew brought out a trailer-like vehicle which was attached to the seaplane. Then they pulled a ramp onto the ground. To help keep the plane from wandering, one of us went up on the wing, usually the right one. With our weight on the tip of the wing, they lowered the wing into the water. I was called to do this and for fun the pilot revved the engine on the right, throwing me into the bay. Everyone laughed but me.
After three years and three months, I was given an honorable discharge from the Navy.
Editorís note: Dr. Gonzalez practiced medicine for almost 50 years. He graduated in 1956 from Kansas City (Kan.) College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was an intern at Wentzel Hospitals and Clinics in Clinton from 1956 to 1957. He served there as a staff member until 1960.
He then joined Dr. John L. Watson at the Cole Camp Clinic, where he practiced for 34 years. After retiring from general practice in 1994, he started nursing home care as a medical adviser for the Good Samaritan Nursing Home and the Golden Age Nursing Home in Stover.
He joined Dr. Vejay Mangunta at the Salvation Army building in 1998. They provided care for the uninsured and underinsured, especially for the rapidly growing Hispanic population, at the Community Free Clinic.