U.S. Navy, Quartermaster 3rd Class
World War II (1943 – 1945)
David Wilson was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1926. Growing up in La Grange, Wilson’s father fought in the Army during WWI. Serving in the Navy, Wilson enlisted to avoid being inducted into the armed forces. He recalls his parents’ reaction to his enlistment: “My family didn’t react to anything very much, but they accepted the fact that my enlistment was the sensible thing for me to do, because if I hadn’t enlisted, I would have been drafted.”
Wilson learned self-discipline in basic training, and easily preformed the tasks required of him. His incredible work ethic allowed for him to go on to Quartermaster training where he learned the basics to chart maintenance, navigation, taking care of clocks and other equipment. He viewed his extra training as skill training rather than any kind of discipline training. When he first went on board for his first assignment he was a Seaman First Class. He spent a long time on the bridge, steering and keeping logs. He learned the duties of a Quartermaster in action as opposed to those who attend Quartermaster school. He describes his spirit on his first mission as “exhilarated”, a “baby” at only eighteen.
Living aboard a small ship, Wilson remembers the conditions as “overcrowded”. He slept in a hammock, draped above a walkway. He and his friends, for entertainment, talked aboard the ship. He had a fond enough impression of his shipmates, and his officers. Before leaving the ship, he was promoted to Quartermaster Third Class.
This ideally behaved eighteen year old was not all self-discipline and work. After the war ended, Wilson was sent to San Diego. He recalls fondly his era of mischievousness: “A lot of waiting was done in San Diego. [It was] decided that the thing to do was to put us in training. Well, you can imagine the war was over, and nobody knew what was going on, and we were hanging around, and we were not too eager to be trained. So, we sat and skipped school. There were a whole bunch of us, sitting around and just skipping school, so I was sent to get cigarettes for everybody, and when I came back they were all gone. However, the police were there. The rest of them escaped, but I spent about a week in a working prison. It was so silly. I was delivered aboard my ship under arms, and you can imagine how impressed my shipmates were to find a criminal being brought aboard to be part of the crew. We all laughed about it, later.”
David Wilson believes the war matured him, teaching him about responsibility while also allowing him to see the world. Remembering fondly the food of a small restaurant in Boston, it appears as though Wilson’s experience was a pleasant one, full of great anecdotes and pointers for those who are considering service in the Navy.
Interview by Kiersten Hoise on July 19, 2011.