Serial # 39208115: Hanson, Robert J. – Radio Operator.
Robert J ‘Bob’ Hanson was born on May 25th 1920 in Helena, Montana. With three sons and a daughter, Bob’s father was a construction worker so that when the Depression hit, he began chasing what few jobs there were available.
His parents split up, and Bob Hanson along with brothers Cecil and Harold and sister Violet were all brought up by his uncle, Ford MacDaniel of Garfield, Washington, staying there until his enlisted in Seattle. That itself got him in to trouble. It all came about because a recruiting sergeant tipped him off about a neat little way to get more pay out of the Army. A buck private in the Army received $21 a month. The recruiting sergeant tipped him off to a way he could up that to $30.
‘In May of 1941 I knew I would be going off to war so I decided I’d volunteer, so I could choose the branch of service I wanted. But when I went to the recruiting sergeant and told him I wanted to enlist he said, ‘You’re crazy. First, let them draft you. Then turn around and re-enlist. That way, you’ll get $30 a month’.
A few months later he was drafted, was sent to Camp Murray, outside Tacoma, Washington. Three days later he followed the sergeant’s advice and re-enlisted, choosing the Air Force. So he was discharged, drawing $2.10 as his pay for his three days of military service, and was sent to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, for basic training.
On the first day, a drill sergeant lined them up to begin the whole ritual. He shouted, ‘Men with previous service, step out’. ‘I stepped out’ said Hanson.
While the other buck privates were out there marching and sweating, Hanson was back in the barracks, loafing, eating, sleeping, having the good life.
The trouble started when, after basic training was over, the men went out on a parade and one of the sergeants shouted to Hanson, ‘Hey, Hanson, take charge of the squad’. That was when all was revealed. After seeing how his new ‘leader’ made it clear he hadn’t the slightest idea of how to lead a squad of men, the sergeant blew his top. The brass decided he had used a trick to avoid basic training and threatened him with a court-martial. When Hanson told his story, they decided maybe a court-martial would be wrong. But punishment he would have to take. How about kitchen police? It meant the potato peeling routine, six days a week, week after week. With basic training in between.
But then another twist of fate relieved him of that. On his second day of kitchen police, orders came through transferring him and his group to radio school at Scott Field, Illinois. “So I never did get my basic training,” he said.
At Scott Field he was in trouble again. This time because the routine was too easy and he became bored. ‘I already knew how to type, so when they put the trainees in a classroom with typewriters, taking Morse code messages, was easy. I could type 30 words a minute and they were sending code at a rate of five or six words a minute. It was so easy I could read a newspaper while taking the code, so I started taking newspapers to class with me and reading them.
One day the instructor saw what I was doing, but instead of shouting across the room, he began sending me a message through the earphones: ‘Hanson, stop reading the newspaper. Hanson, stop reading the newspaper,’
The funny thing is, I didn’t read his message. I was so absorbed in my newspaper. What got my attention was when all the typewriters in the room stopped and everybody was looking at me’.
After completing radio training at Scott Field, Hanson went to MacDill Field and had his first taste of flying. He was cleared for combat duty as a Radio Operator and Air Gunner on May 16 1942. When the Group was transferred to Walla Walla, Washington, in June 1942, he went with it.
What Hanson did not know was that the air base at Walla Walla was not complete, with concrete still being poured on the runways and that his father, the construction man, was pouring some of that concrete!
His father heard of the arrival of the group from Florida and even found out which plane his son was on. Thus, when that certain plane touched down, here came a truck roaring up. Right behind it several Jeeps loaded with MPs who quickly surrounded the pick-up, took its driver into custody and hustled him away.
It was my Dad but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t even get to see him – at least not that day. The war was on and everybody was security-conscious. Unauthorized civilians were not allowed to come barging up to a bomber that way but they never told Dad. He just wanted to see his son’.