A no-holds-barred account of Army Air Corps service in WWII and the year immediately afterwards.
There are many detailed recollections of Army and civilian wartime people, and the places and situations involving them, that portray life in this crucial period. The emphasis generally is on how those dealing with all the terrible trials of war attempted to cope with it all. Army regulations; airplane, V-1 or V-2 bombings; German jet fighters (and an underground factory that produced them); severe food shortages in Europe; the Nuremberg court trials of Nazis; Hitler’s “redoubt” (“secret” mountain-top retreat); postwar occupation of German; Russian postwar occupation of other countries; and many other major or minor events are examined.
The book opens with the author’s enlistment as a cadet in Air Corps officer-training programs, with tales of success or near-success in the ways cadets tried to survive by “bucking the system”. Further schooling (at Yale, Harvard, and M.I.T.) led to his servicing as a radar officer in a combat unit in France, a year in the forces occupying Germany, and return to the U.S. in 1946.
There are many surprising and often amusing accounts of daily life, including a strange trip into Russian-occupied Czechoslovakia, where some of the skills learned as a “system –bucking” cadet proved just as effective in that rather risky environment.
There is a final note of anguish over all the “fear, suffering, misery, horror, terror, torture, unbelievable pain and death . . . of soldiers and civilians . . . in WWII”, followed by the hope that the “mentality that says, ‘Make my day by getting in front of my gun’ is something that we have enough brains and understanding to avoid.”
Ulrich began his WWII Army Air Corps service right after his college (math major) graduation, first as a cadet and then later as a radar officer (with training at Yale, Harvard, and M.I.T.). He served in a combat unit in France from early 1945 as the ware there drew to a close, and spent a year in occupied Germany, although there were occasions when he was in Belgium, Austria, Italy and Czechoslovakia, until his discharge in the late summer of 1946.
After the war he returned to college (under the GI Bill of Rights), but switched to music study, eventually earning the M.Mus. and Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music. He was a professor of music in Oklahoma for 38 years (1949 – 1987). After retirement he returned to the small town in extreme southern Illinois where he was born, and began setting down his wartime recollections.