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Sounds like he was “almost a sailor” for 20 or so years.

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I’m not a veteran this is my uncle’s story. (Picture of my uncle John)


My uncle graduated from high school in 1947. He had the options of going into the family business, a dairy farm and a chicken hatchery business or doing something else. He had a cousin who was in the US Navy in WW2 he served on an escort carrier and hunted U-Boats in the North Atlantic, and listening to his stories of flight operations, rough seas, and the drama of hunting U-Boats it sounded pretty neat (to me). So uncle John (who was actually my grandfathers nephew but my grandfather raised him), decided to give the Navy a chance.

John borrowed $5 for a bus ticket from a friend and went to Cincinnati OH to enlist. He shipped out to Chicago and the Great Lakes training base. Here’s where the story gets interesting; when he got there the petty officer had them all assembled in ranks and asked if anyone could type. John raised his hand he took typing in high school, because there were lots of girls in the class. So he spent the day typing the processing cards for all the recruits in his company, he was a fast typist, he knocked them all out error free that day and reported back with all the completed paperwork for his petty officer. Well his petty officer was ecstatic it seems that he was supposed to do that work and had pawned it off on a recruit to make his life easier, he had expected that to take a couple days but here’s this typing prodigy that finished it free of errors in a day, so he passed John off to a friend who also needed help typing.

Soon enough John is typing everything for this training company, certifications that recruits have completed this and that training, even cards certifying he himself was trained even though he had not left the office in weeks. So at graduation he gets put in the middle of the company so no one can tell he doesn’t march as well as the rest of the class.

He gets assigned to the Cruiser USS Columbus in Norfolk VA. His Drill Instructor gave him a handwritten letter to give the chief of the boat. John got curious as to what the letter said and on the train opened the letter, it said: “Seaman John Pyles has no skills or qualifications, but he’s the best clerk typist I’ve ever seen.” So upon arrival at his ship John became a Yeoman. He spent the next 20 years as a clerk/typist/secretary in the navy. He worked in NATO headquarters, the Pentagon, and Pearl Harbor, and an assortment of ships. He had every security clearance the navy gave enlisted sailors, he once was transferred overnight from England to Norfolk VA because British intelligence officers thought that a strange man who contacted John’s wife (who was English) was a Soviet spy. John’s last job in the navy was on a survey ship mapping the coast of south east Asia Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. After retirement he worked in the office of a manufacturing company in our hometown in the quality control department.

Now I know his boot camp story sounds like the Andy Griffith movie “No Time for Sargents,” but he always told the story just that way, even though it might be a bit of a “sea story”.

John was a great guy, he’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He gave me a suitcase when he went into the nursing home that had his dress blue uniform in it, he told me to keep his medals and give the uniform to the funeral director to dress him in when the time came. He was a great guy, he fixed coffee with a pinch of salt in it and loved to tell jokes and he was a great listener when ever I came by to visit. I loved that old man.

John at a school Veterans Day event,

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Most of the "worked for a living" in the services normally gave the "Office Pogues" a ration for sitting in the office while we went out and got dirty, but we all knew that they were actually indispensable in handling the administrative duties that we wouldn't even know where to begin to do.   

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I was issued that hat in boot camp at Great Lakes Training Center.

I think they were trying to get rid of them and issued them us.

I still have it.

Coyote Kid

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