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The handwriting was on the wall when I graduated from Watertown High School, Watertown, S. Dak. It was just a matter of time before we became involved in the war that had been raging in Europe for almost two years. The armed forces were beefing up, our local National Guard unit had been mobilized. The Army Air Corp had a program whereby if you enlisted you could choose your school. I had been interested in photography in school and wanted to make a career of it. Being a product of the Great Depression, there was no money for advanced education. The Air Corp had an excellent photography school at Lowry Field in Denver.

Aug. 29, 1941 I enlisted in the Air Corp at Fort Crook, later to become Offutt Air Base and Hdqts. for S.A.C, in Omaha. Went to the recruiting station the Fri. b/4 Labor Day, with the intention of spending the weekend with Sis and leaving on Mon. The Air Corp had other ideas, I found myself on a train headed for Ft. Leavenworth with nothing with me but my camera. Had seven days of orientation and tests, including the General Classification Test, I.Q. test, (scored 141 on it). Was issued uniforms, etc. and stood roll calls in the mornings. The evenings I spent mostly at the U.S.O. club playing ping pong. Had one bad evening of homesickness, went to the chapel, spent a little time, got over it - never experienced another minute of homesickness.


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Train Station at Jefferson Barracks, Mo.


After about 7 days we boarded a train and headed for Jefferson Barracks, Mo., outside St. Louis. There we supposedly got our basic training, which proved to be a bit of a joke. Some close-order drilling and lectures, and K.P. duty. Did get into town on weekend passes two or three times. Saw my first major league baseball game at old Sportsman Park, the Cards and if my memory serves me right the Brooklyn Dodgers. Another time we went to the Keil auditorium to see a horse show at which Sammy Kayes orchestra was playing. In mid Oct. there were no openings at the school at Lowry and I was assigned to the Hdqt. Sq., 3rd Bombardment Group (Light) at Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga.


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Sportsmans Park in St. Louis at a Cardinal, Brooklyn Dodger ball game. This was Jack's
first major league ball game, and he had been a Cardinal fan since about 11 years old.


A two day train trip thru the Southland brought me to my destination. It was my first time getting any distance from home, and that train ride was an eye-opener. We went thru some pretty poverty-stricken area in those hills and hollers. Upon my arrival at the Base, I was informed I was scheduled to attend the photography school in Jan. 1942. In the mean time, having some typing skills I was assigned to Gp. Operations as a clerk typist. The office was on the hangar line and for a raw recruit it was very interesting.

The Gp. consisted of 5 tactical Sqs., Hqs., 8th, 13th, 89th, and 90th. They were all equipped with the Douglas A-20 light bomber except the 8th Sq., and they had the A-24 the Army version of the Navy Douglas Dauntless dive bomber. Most of my off time, evenings and weekends were spent in the Sq. Day Room playing pool or ping pong, or at the U.S.O. club. I only got into Savannah a couple times and wasn't that impressed with the place. In Dec. they started Christmas furloughs, since I didn't have much time, I was only given a 7 day furlough and had to take it early.


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Jack Heyn, an 18 yr. old recruit fresh out of basic training assigned to
Hq. Sq. 3rd Bomb. Gp. (L), Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga.


That was not enough time to get to Watertown and back, but my sister, Shirley, was working in Wash. D.C., and my old boyhood friend, Erv Von Wald and family were living there. On Dec 6, 1941 I rode a bus to D.C., Shirley and Erv met me and I stayed out at Von Walds. We were eating Sunday dinner on Dec. 7, and Erv and I had walked up to the local drug store to get ice cream when we heard the news bulletin on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbour. That nite I received a telegram to report back to the base immediately. There were no buses out until Mon. nite, so Erv gave me a whirlwind tour of our Nations Capitol that day, and we were standing outside the Capitol Bldg. taking photographs when Pres. Roosevelt was giving his famous "Day of Infamy" speech. That nite I boarded a bus back to the base.


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Capitol Building on the morning of Dec. 8, 1941 at the time Roosevelt was
making his "Day of Infamy" speech and declaring war on the Japanese Empire.


Dec. 7, 1941 had a profound effect on a lot of lives, not the least of which was mine. The next shot I would have at the photography school would be 3-1/2 years later when I was offered an instructors job and a T/Sgt. rating. The first couple weeks after Pearl Harbour were ones of confusion. Then we started packing our equipment for a move. The one thing that sticks out in my mind about packing was that when we packed the parachutes in boxes, we had to pull the rip cord on them Never did know why.

Jan. 19, '42 we boarded a troop train and headed west. We left all our top brass and some high ranking enlisted men and our airplanes in Savannah. The men to form a new Group and the planes to pull sub patrol along the Atlantic Coast. 1st Lt. Strickland was our Gp. Commander. It took us five days to cross the country and arrive in Oakland, Ca. At St. Louis we had a slight delay and there was a phone nearby, so tried to call Shirley. Couldn't connect with her. Near McCook, Nebr. we had a three hour delay due to a train wreck ahead of us. We pulled into Denver in the evening and had another delay in the train yards. Just happened to be phone on a post near our car. This time I tried for my parents and got Mom. Told her we were on our way, didn't know where to, but we were on our way. That was the last time I talked to any of my family for a little over 3 years. On the 24th we pulled into Oakland and were taken out to a huge new warehouse bldg., big enough to hold the whole Gp. As I recall the cots were already up and each Sq. was assigned an area.

The next seven days were a waiting and wondering time. We were able to get short passes and got into town a time or two, and pulled details down at the docks. Other than that it was dullsville. Did have one very unpleasant event. One afternoon as we were hanging around our cots killing time, we heard a 'pop' at the other end of the bldg. Didn't think anything of it until they carried this young guy out on a stretcher. Guess he had been cleaning his 45 and it went off and killed him. His war ended before it started. Can't recall which Sq. he was in but it wasn't Hq.Sq. In the wee small hours of Jan. 31, 1942 we Boarded the U.S.S. Ancon.


Jack Heyn in the South West Pacific during WW2 - The Full story



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This page first produced 1 January 2001

This page last updated 08 December 2017