9th AVRS - Ward Colbree

You must have a lot of guts or a lot of time to ask a bunch of us old guys to write our bios, but if you have the time, I will try to oblige.

I graduated from high school on the 15th of June 1951. On the 17th I was on the train to Sampson Air Force Base in Geneva, N.Y.. I was 17 years old. First time, really, away from home. Once there we went through the regular 12wks training. When I enlisted they asked what we wanted to do in the service. That was a joke. I wanted to fly; always did, grew up in the town that built the F4U Corsair and started Sikorsky Aircraft. Loved watching them test fly, and would go up any chance I had. I didn't have a driver's license until I was 21yrs old, so I knew more about aircraft than cars. Well, after basic I was told I was going to be a motor mechanic, so off to Longview, Texas for school. 8 weeks there, great weeks too. It was run by LeTourneau Earth Moving Corp. I never saw such huge equipment. Then I was shipped to Francis E. Warren to wait for 4 weeks to see what they wanted to do with me. Well, then came the word that I was going overseas, the Far East. Oh goodie. Well, at least I finally got to go home and there I started to go out with the girl I would marry. At the end of December of 1951 we boarded the good ship William B. Mitchell. What a rust bucket it was. Enlisted men's bunks were four high. I knew that some of these guys were going to be sea sick, so I grabbed the top bunk and wouldn't let go - thank God. During the trip over we encountered what we were told was a Typhoon, I say hurricane, I guess no never mind what it's called, it wasn't fun. We arrive at Okinawa about two weeks later, and as Lou stated there were a lot of battered boats around from WW2. I thought , "What have I gotten myself into?"

Well, we ended at Kadena and met a bunch of great people there. As you all know, the Quonset huts were a little of a surprise. I never saw anything like them before, but settled into one of the smaller ones.
top

Thank God for mosquito nets and D.D.T that we picked up at the C.Q.

I was assigned to the GMC repair building and stayed there most of my tour. I was glad to find out that we did not have to do K.P. or any of those other chores. I was one of the guys that didn't mind guard duty. As a matter of fact I would hire myself out and take other guys duty for $10.00.

I loved those 29's. I examined every inch of them and befriended a few crews while in the villages, trying to go on missions but never succeeded. It bothered me a lot when one didn't return.

I made friends with a native girl and toured the island with her several times. She would bring me to great swimming areas where we would spear fish for anything we could find then bring it to her home where it would be prepared. I don't say cooked, because I don't think it was. I would eat anything then.

The old sarge, from the Bataan march would take me to the firing range once in a while and try the bigger stuff, until I was real good with the 50 cal. As a kid my father would take me to the Remington Arms range and I would fire all day. So I was already good with guns.

After the two year tour was up I was shipped home, on the same ship by golly, then to Granfield Air Base, which was a municipal airport, outside Kansas City, Mo. Real great duty, all new barracks and equipment. The people were great to us, not like at Francis E. Warren, that was in Cheyenne, Wy. I got discharged from Mo. on June 17th 1955. Then home, married, four kids, a great job as a Street Cop in a city of 165,000 for the next 30yrs.

Best job in the world!

[Back to the 9th AVRS Gallery]


2007 Kichigai-noWebDesign P.O. Box 6245, Great Falls, MT 59406