William C. Callender
U.S. Navy, Aerial Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class
World War Two (1946-1949)
Award for Good Conduct and Marksmanship
Though William Callender was born in Sacramento, he grew up in Lake Tahoe, where his parents ran a small bar and restaurant in Homewood, Lake Tahoe. Due to the fact that his father served in World War I and was a “real patriot”, and because he has relatives who served in the Civil and Revolutionary War his family was proud of his decision to enlist.
Concerning his feelings towards the war before enlisting, what Mr. Callender made clear was that this country was – maybe for the only time – united in its efforts for the war. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everyone was working and doing everything they could to help the war effort. During World War II, approximately five million American men and women were serving in the military.
After graduating from Lowell High School in San Francisco, Mr. Callender began his freshman year at the University of California in Berkeley at sixteen. Once he completed his freshman year, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at seventeen. Prior to enlisting, Mr. Callender worked in Safeway stores part time, as well as helping his parents run the restaurant and the bar.
During World War II, the Government had what was called the G.I. Bill, which gave money to people in the military that allowed them to go to college. It paid for enrollment fees, books and gave them seventy-five dollars a month.
Mr. Callender chose the Navy because, though he wanted to serve his country, he did not want to be in the fighting. He was required to go to boot camp in San Diego for twelve weeks, where they “shake you up,” and was watched over by a very strict and attentive chief. They woke up early in the morning, marched, learned how to tie knots and did drills with the guns. Boot camp was where he learned to be a soldier, and was taught how to act in the Navy – it was where he was taught discipline and Mr. Callender firmly believes that his efforts and training were being taken seriously by his superiors. The entire experience was made better due to his physical condition, young age, and the enthusiasm he had for the work he partook in.
Before being sent on his first assignment, Mr. Callender was given leave for two weeks, in which he returned home to see his family. Seeing them, he felt proud for having done well at boot camp and was ready to move on in the Navy.
For his first assignment, Mr. Callender was sent to Jacksonville, Florida, where he prepared for being a Naval Aviator Photographer’s mate. When he first arrived, he felt excited to begin. They lived in double bunk barracks that held about a hundred. The food was fine, and they usually ended the days tired. On their first day there, it was armistice day, and they were required to march three miles in the parade holding their guns. During his assignment, he received the rank of seaman, 1st class. His fellow men were great, and they got along well, and the two men he was closest to are still in contact with him today. In addition, he wrote letters to his family. On his leave, he went with two or three of his closest friends to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Florida. Though he didn’t experience any combat, Mr. Callender felt prepared to be an effective part of the U.S. Navy as an aerial photographer, should the need arise.
During his service, Mr. Callender received a medal for good conduct, as well as one for good marksmanship, in addition to the World War II Victory Medal.
After completing his first assignment, Mr. Callender had to attend gunnery school to become an aviation gunner at Yellow Water, Florida in the middle of the everglades. Following this, he went to Pensacola, Florida, where he became an Aerial Photographer’s Mate. He was then sent to Inyokern, California in the desert to Ridgecrest Naval Ordinance Test Station. There, they took pictures of the Navy Air Force shooting rockets and guns and testing new planes.
Once he was released from the Navy, Mr. Callender felt ready to go. He’d completed his first year at Cal and now wanted to resume and finish his studies, which were paid for by the military. After he graduated from Cal, he became a ski instructor for three years, and then went to San Francisco and became a stock broker, which was his profession for forty-five years.
When Mr. Callender was seventeen he was mentally capable for the Navy, but not emotionally capable. Those three years in the Navy taught him discipline, how to act, and ultimately, enabled him to grow up. Mr. Callender wants people today to recognize the “tremendous effort by the American people and support of the American people in this particular war effort. Everybody volunteered, there was no question about getting people to be in the service.”
Mr. Callender believes that after men and women graduate from high school, it should be compulsory that they serve a couple years in the military, “I think it would teach them discipline, get them away from home, teach them how to conduct themselves, teach them maturity.”
Ultimately, his experience was a good one, and Mr. Callender would commend it for young men and women today.
Interviewed by Kayla Beckman on July 13, 2011