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"I decided I could get myself drafted…" (Video interview, 3:19)

   Samuel T. Harmon
Collection image
Samuel Harmon at time of interview.
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy; Navy
Service Location: Treasure Island, California; Yokosuka, Japan; Norfolk, Virginia; Great Lakes, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; Pacific Theater; also: Japan
Rank: Chief Electronics Technician
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Born in 1929, Chief Electronics Technician Samuel T. Harmon’s enthusiasm for aviation was so great that he decided to quit school at the tender age of 15, and convince his local draft board that he was old enough to be called up for World War II. Fascinated by the stories of Tuskegee Airmen, he wanted to be a pilot, and had financed flying lessons by parachute jumping with an air circus. The Navy had other ideas about the best job for him: he wound up being trained in electronics. Serving in Japan during the occupation, and then during the Korean War, he found he enjoyed the prestige of being an electronics technician, the mathematics involved in it, and working with the relatively new technologies of radar and sonar; after his military service, he pursued a career in engineering.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (124 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Joining Civil Air Patrol; serving as a plane spotter; taking flying lessons; wanting to join Tuskegee Airmen; too young to volunteer; walking into the local draft board and lying about his birthdate. (03:10) Assigned to the Navy; sent to Great Lakes; abruptly sent to electronics school; dealt only with institutionalized racism; did not experience one-on-one tension. (02:55) Liking work in electronics; developing a reputation as an expert; learning radar and sonar; learning the test equipment; being asked to write a manual for an echo box; deciding to take a class in algebra. (06:40)
Stationed on Okinawa at the end of the war; ducking a bullet shot by a Japanese sniper. (03:20) Sent to Japan at the end of the war; interactions with the Japanese. (04:26) Learning after end of his service that his race had been changed on his service records. (04:04)

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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