The Second World War: Joining the Navy

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By Capper's Staff | Jul 30, 2012

When we were thrown into an unexpected war by the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, I knew almost immediately that I would be inducted into one of the branches of the military, probably the Army. I had always leaned toward joining the Navy if I was to enlist, so I enlisted for the term of four years as a reservist, and in January of 1942 reported for active duty at the age of 25.

I was immediately given the rate of Yeoman 3rd class, the reason being that I was qualified for office work, although I had very little office experience. I detested the confinement of office work. I am an outdoor person.

I was disappointed that I wasn’t given a rating as motor machinist mate or something of that caliber. However, I discovered the reason for the yeoman rating. I was a fast typist – 85 to 90 words a minute – and capable of 150 words a minute in shorthand. I found myself in one of the most interesting of occupations, court martial reporting. My advancement up the ranks to chief yeoman was very fast, taking less than two years.

Working as a court reporter at the Naval Air Station, Trinidad, British West Indies, was fascinating. I also worked with the judge advocate preparing cases, such as researching, drawing up charges and specifications, etc. As a court reporter, I was required to take all the testimony in shorthand and transcribe it that evening so it could be read back at the start of court the next day. Many a night I worked until midnight.

As a court-martial reporter in the Navy I was privy to most every type of crime, ranging from AWOL to desertion, embezzlement of ships service funds, murder, dereliction of duty, sleeping on watch and of course many minor incidents. After my four-year enlistment I had no desire to make a career of court reporting, mostly because I would have had to learn machine shorthand. I also found court reporting to be rather stressful.

Francis E. Hager 
Sun City, Arizona

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.

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