• Search
Columbia College Logo
Columbia College website search

Campus Alert!

Allen Shrode

Allen Shrode

My WWII Service as an Airplane Armorer 911

The worst thing that happened in Okinawa was a typhoon that hit the island on November 22, 1945. Our camp consisted of a bunch of tents, which were flattened by the typhoon. We had to look for shelter. Initially, we took cover in a quonset hut, but then that blew away. Finally we moved into a tomb, which had numerous skulls staring at us. We knew that we were entering a tomb and were respectful of the remains that were there.

— Allen Shrode

Movie-star-Vivian-Edwards-Shrode-fix

Vivian Edwards, Allen’s mother

Raised by a Former Movie Star

I was born in Los Angeles in October 1924. My parents were Clyde Allen Shrode and Vivian Eileen (Edwards) Shrode.  My mother was a movie star in the silent movies, and starred with Charlie Chaplin, among other notable stars. Our family stayed in touch with some of the Hollywood people she knew. In particular, I remember that we used to visit the home of one of her directors, so I could swim in his huge pool. One time I left my Timex watch there and he mailed it back to me. That must have been after we moved out of the Los Angeles area.

Allen's-mom-Vivian-Edwards-with-Charlie-Chaplin-fix

Allen’s mom with Charlie Chaplin

My father worked for an oil company as a driller. When the Depression hit, he applied for work with Standard Oil in Colombia, South America. After a year there, Dad could have his family visit him.  In 1929, my mother and I visited for a year in Colombia. I remember our home was constructed on stilts to keep snakes, army ants and other animals out. I grew up as an only child.

House-in-Alameda-where-Allen-grew-up-fix

Childhood home in Alameda

When it was time for me to attend kindergarten, my family moved back to California, this time settling in Long Beach. Before I was in second grade, my father went to work for a different company, so we moved to Alameda in Northern California. I attended schools there from second grade through high school, graduating from Alameda High School in January, 1943. The home we lived in now bears a plaque as a historical building. I remember helping my dad reconstruct the front steps leading to the front door, and the garage where I learned to park the family car.

War Fervor

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, some friends and I went to Alameda City Hall to fight the Japanese. We were sent home because we needed to graduate from high school first. A few years later I did sign up for the Army Air Corp but had to wait until after I graduated.

Allen's father, Clyde Allen Shrode

Allen’s father, Clyde Allen Shrode

I had other motivation to enlist too. My father fought in WWI and then was commissioned in WWII as a Coast Guard Lieutenant petroleum inspector. His example further encouraged my participation in the war.

In high school I was part of the AWS, Air Watch Service, for the US Army Air Corps. I was the youngest member of that home defense league. We watched the skies for Japanese aircraft, because it was feared that the Japanese would try to attack the West Coast after their successful attack at Pearl Harbor.

Allen's high school graduation photo

Allen’s high school graduation photo

After my high school graduation in January of 1943, I received my orders to report for induction at the Monterey Presidio on February 26, 1943. We recruits had to wait for a full train before leaving Monterey. We were sent from there to Los Angeles where we stayed just long enough to eat breakfast.

Boot Camp

From Los Angeles I was sent to Shepherd Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I spent the next six weeks to two months for basic training, learning how to march, salute and obey orders. I also learned how to shoot a rifle there.

Allen in February 1943

Allen in February 1943

Specialty Training

From Texas I was transferred to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the College Training Detachment (CTD). I signed up for aeronautics because I wanted to fly. I had ten hours of flying dual control in a Piper Cub J3. While there I played softball until I was hit in the calf with a ball and was hospitalized in the Spartan School of Aeronautics hospital for a couple of weeks. My legs were kept elevated so the swelling would go down. Because of the hospitalization I missed graduating with my class, and had to wait for the next class to graduate on October 7, 1943. During the time that I was in class, I logged in three more hours of flying time to make up the time I spent in the hospital. I was in Tulsa for five to six months.

Next I was sent to San Antonio, Texas to attend the San Antonio Aeronautics Cadet Center. I washed out of the cadets’ six month condensed program of college education due to calculus and other difficult courses. I changed programs to train as a gunner on a bomber, but when I was placed in a pressure chamber for the simulated elevation test at 3000’ my blood pressure rose to a dangerous level. I was grounded. I couldn’t fly an airplane nor could I be a gunner aboard any aircraft. My previous flying experience had been in a Piper Cub below 3000’ elevation. Since I couldn’t fly high enough for bombers, I washed out of the cadet schooling, I had to wait in San Antonio until it was decided what I could do. While I waited, I had my wisdom teeth pulled, and passed several physicals across the street from the academy. I was in San Antonio for two to three months.

My next transfer was to Buckley Field in Colorado, where I learned how to be an armorer. I learned how to disassemble and reassemble machine guns blindfolded.  I passed the carbine sharpshooter course on February 18, 1944.

From Colorado I went to my last stateside assignment, which was in Casper, Wyoming. That is where I learned how to load bombs, and how to service the turrets on B-24’s. After all of this specialty training, I was classified as an Airplane Armorer 911. I must have been in Colorado, and then Wyoming, about six months each, because I did not leave the United States until early 1945.

Allen-Oct1944

Allen in October 1944

Deployment

From Casper, I was transferred to Camp Stoneman, which was in the hills behind Pittsburgh, California. From there I took a ferry to the wharf in San Francisco to board a ship bound for New Guinea. I was deployed on January 16, 1945.

The reason we had to go to New Guinea on the way to the Philippines was because there were many army personnel finished with their tour of duty waiting there for a ship back to the States. I do not remember the name of the ship, but there seemed to be bunks stacked five high, as I recall. One of my friends aboard ship was Carl Honnert from Ohio. He became so sick that he lost 40 pounds. When we landed in Papua, New Guinea, he immediately felt better and gained back the lost weight.

I remember another friend that I met aboard ship, Everett Timmer from San Francisco. Because both of us had lived in the Bay Area, we were used to boats and did not become seasick. When we arrived in New Guinea we could not immediately fly to the Philippines, because the ground was extremely muddy. The planes could not take off. We were literally stuck there about two weeks.

War damage in Manila

War damage in Manila

Philippines

From New Guinea we were flown to the Philippines, stopping briefly in Biack. While there, we built a 30-hole outhouse for the troops, by blasting it out of the coral. Finally we moved on to our duty station in Lingayen Gulf on the island of Luzon, where we were to be stationed.

Upon arrival on February 16th, 1945, I discovered I would be loading Boeing B-25’s instead of the B-24’s on which I had been trained. I had to adjust what I had learned to the newer aircraft. My job was to load large bombs and firebombs into the racks of the aircraft. I also had to service .50 caliber machine guns and load them into the aircraft.

While stationed in the Lingayen Gulf, I contracted jungle fever, and was unable to eat for two to three weeks. While in the infirmary, the doctor ordered a shot of bourbon to stimulate my appetite.

Allen in front of a B-29 that bombed Japan

Allen in front of a B-29 that bombed Japan

During my early recovery, I was given priority in the chow line after my shot of bourbon. The only “action,” so to speak, that I saw during my time in the Philippines was that I saw one Japanese plane fly over.

I was able to see some sights during my R&R leaves. We could hop a flight to Manila, where our 38th Bomb Group had rented a large multi-story home. I toured the city and gathered commercial photos of the notable sites.

Some of the photos show the Japanese bombing damage. We also went down to Corregidor and saw where the Bataan Death March had begun. That visit was very sobering. I was stationed in Lingayen for eight months.

Allen-on-Okinawa-fix

Allen in Okinawa

Okinawa             

From the Philippines our 822 Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group, was transferred to Okinawa by means of a LST (Landing Ship, Tank). The war ended while we were there. We did see a formation of Japanese airplanes flying over once, but they took no action against us.

The worst thing that happened in Okinawa was a typhoon that hit the island on November 22, 1945. Our camp consisted of a bunch of tents, which were flattened by the typhoon. We had to look for shelter. Initially, we took cover in a quonset hut, but then that blew away. Finally we moved into a tomb, which had numerous skulls staring at us. We knew that we were entering a tomb and were respectful of the remains that were there.

We were able to salvage the airplanes by loading sandbags on the wings and pointing them toward the wind, with the engines powered up fully. While in Okinawa we were able to visit the bigger aircraft – Boeing B-29 bombers that were used in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

Okinawa

Okinawa

Okinawa

Okinawa

Japan

After two months we were transported in another LST to Sasebo, on the southern tip of Japan. We were supposed to land in the Fukuoka, Kyushu harbor, but the harbor had not been swept for bombs. We stayed on the LST for what seemed like three weeks while they refitted a Japanese seaplane factory into housing, supply rooms, and offices for our troops. We stayed for a couple of months until more permanent occupation troops landed. One ironic thing that happened was that our forces received newer aircraft—the Douglas A-26 Invader, which was a twin engine bomber. The war was over and the new aircraft were never used.

Discharge

I returned to the United States on February 13, 1946, and was discharged at Camp Beale on February 14, 1946. From there, I took a bus to my mother’s apartment in San Francisco.

Civilian Life

Soon after my return home, I discovered that a friend from high school, Don Nelson, was working up in Yosemite in a warehouse. Another friend from school, Bob Kirkland, thought we should join Don. I bought a 1935 Dodge so we could drive to Yosemite to look for temporary work, until we could find more permanent employment. At first we worked for Don who was the manager of the warehouse. Then shortly after, we were hired at the fast food restaurant that was across the street from the Daganas property, near the chapel in the park. The YPC (Yosemite Park and Curry) company employed all the staff in various positions.

Mary Jane and Allen

Mary Jane and Allen

While there, I met a certain young woman, Mary Jane Howard, who was also an employee of YPC. We met in the cafeteria line and she later told me that she had told herself that she was going to marry that guy (meaning me). We courted during the spring, and decided to marry in June. We knew that we would need a place to live in Yosemite after we married, so we were able to buy a 17-foot trailer from the YPC credit union. We had it set up in the employee campground.

I took Mary Jane home to meet my parents in El Cerrito on June 10th, 1946. The engine blew out of my 1935 Dodge shortly after leaving Yosemite, so we had to stop in a town where the piston and parts could be replaced. Then we could continue on our way.

My parents met Mary Jane the night before our wedding. They put her up on the couch in the living room and assigned me to a cot on the porch.

Allen's-1935-Dodge-fix

The next day we drove to San Francisco to a Dodge dealership for more repairs on the car. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into Sonoma.

First we went to the courthouse, to get married by the justice of the peace, but he said it had been a long time since he had performed any weddings and referred us to a nearby preacher, who did perform the ceremony. His family served as the witnesses that were needed. Finally, we could return to our little trailer-home in Yosemite.

Moving On to New Jobs

When the tourist season was over in 1946, we left Yosemite with our trailer. We stored it in a metal building at my father’s oil refinery business in the East Bay. Mary worked for my dad, so it was very convenient for us to live there for a short while.

I worked at the Standard Oil Refinery in Richmond as an operator. I worked there for two years, doing shift work in an office tracking the gauges for the crude oil stills. After we had sufficient money saved, we rented a war-housing unit.

With the G.I. Bill loan, we were able to buy our first home in El Sobrante for $6,000. It was a two-bedroom, 1-bath home. Our first child, Terry Allen, was born while we were living there. Later we we sold that house and bought a larger home in another part of El Sobrante. It had three bedrooms. Our second child, Michael Robert, was born while we lived there.

There was trouble at the refinery. The workers went out on strike. Because I was not a member of the union, I was asked to go to work anyway. But my sympathies were with the strikers, so I would not cross the picket line.

I was able to apply for unemployment benefits and found work at Virginia Cleaners in Berkeley as a driver. At first I was given the Oakland route. I stayed in that position for eight years. Then the Piedmont route became available and I was allowed to take it. I worked that route for four years, at a nice pay raise.

Changing Professions

I started working for the automotive industry, first selling cars at East Bay Chevrolet in Albany. But I left after three years due to low commissions, finding that I wasn’t a good car salesman.

Next I took over a Richfield gas station in Richmond. I was able to attend tune-up and brake schools through General Motors in Fremont, sponsored by the Richfield Company.

Both my sons ended up working at my station as young teenagers.

I sold my station after a year and a half, and with the money, we were able to travel to Canada. My older son did most of the driving. When we headed south again, we went through Bozeman and Missoula, Montana where Mary Jane’s family lived.

Upon returning home, I went back to work at East Bay Chevrolet again, but this time as a service writer, not as a salesman. That job only lasted a year and a half because the pay wasn’t good. My wife had to go back to work selling shoes.

Another Profession

I knew I needed better-earning employment. I thought I might try UPS in Emeryville but I was told when I applied there that the only way a job opening happened was when someone died or retired. When I left the UPS office, across the street was Tip Top Foods. I worked there for 15 years as a step van driver throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley up to Sacramento. I drove 900 miles a week. I retired from Tip Top at age 56.

Retirement

After retirement we sold our last home, in Richmond, where we had lived for 20 years, only a short distance from our El Sobrante homes, and invested the money. Mary and I traveled in a 28’ trailer for five years throughout Canada and Alaska during the summers and then Mexico during the winters.

Tiring of traveling, we looked for a more permanent home. We looked throughout the foothills of the Sierra and then settled in Sonora in 1961. At first we lived in our trailer in a campground in Columbia. Then we found a mobile home in a reputable mobile home park and finally settled down.

I haven’t moved since then. At first we did freelance work for our daughter-in-law for six or seven years, delivering advertisement for products in various stores. We were paid for time and mileage, so that was pretty lucrative.

We stopped our freelance work when my wife became ill with cancer in her spine. She had chemotherapy, which affected her mobility. She was sent to therapy to help her walk but then cancer was discovered at the other end of her spine. She refused to go through another round of chemotherapy. She passed away January 1st, 2001 at Sonora Community Hospital.

Since my wife’s passing, I have become involved at the Senior Center. That all began when I visited the health fair about ten years ago. There were people there that talked about exercise classes at the center. I progressed in my abilities and now I help teach and lead those classes.

Shrode-honorable-discharge

Reflections on My Life, Military and Otherwise

While I was stationed in many different places, both stateside and overseas, during my military career, I was able to stay in touch with my family through letters. Yes, some of them were censored.

We were fed well. We only had to eat K-rations while we were on the move, but at the camps in the Philippines, for example, we ate in the mess hall. The food was flown in from the ships that were docked in Manila Bay. The food was good. We had ample supplies of armament, transportation, and gas too.

There was no need for a good luck charm, because I never experienced stress. My overseas deployment was more of an adventure than anything else. I was only 18-20 years old at the time and felt invincible.

During my time off, I went to the movies and visited with a Filipino family that kind of adopted me. I corresponded with the oldest daughter’s father in a few letters after I went home.

There were no USO shows in the Lingayen Gulf, Okinawa, or Japan. While I was stationed in Texas, I did go a dance at the USO club.

The funniest, most surprising thing that happened to me in the service was when our truck became stuck in a river hauling bamboo poles to build the nipa hut (house on stilts) for our quarters when we first arrived in Lingayen Gulf. We finally dried out the engine with our tee-shirts and were able to get going again.

The only buddy from my service days that I visited was Al Timmer in San Francisco and that was only once. I have not attended any reunions except those for my high school.

I am an inactive member of the American Legion Post 58 here in Sonora. Mary Jane and I attended several breakfasts at the Veterans Memorial Hall, but that was it.

I used the G.I. Bill benefits to buy my first home in El Sobrante. I have recently received compensation for my hearing loss, which I suffered from hearing .30 caliber machine guns being fired inside a building in Buckley Field, Colorado.

his-jacket

I kept no military diary, so this memoir is written from just my memories.

The military service gave me mechanical training that I used on and off during my civilian work career.

To sum up my life, I would have to say my early years were a bit unusual with my mother having been a movie star and being able to socialize with some Hollywood people, and then living for a year abroad in Colombia, South America. After our move to Alameda, my upbringing became more normal. After high school, the military adventures began, equipping me for my civilian work career. My marriage was blessed with two sons and hard work.

In retirement I have found fun, friends and good health, thanks to my involvement in the Senior Center. I am proud that at almost 90 years of age I am able to instruct a fitness class there. All in all, I think I’ve had a pretty good life!

Photo Gallery

Clyde, Vivian and Allen Shrode

Clyde, Vivian and Allen Shrode

Aircraft-Warning-Service-Certilficate-copy

822-Enlisted-Men's-Club-Card

Enlisted-Men's-Club-Card-38th-bomb-crew

Ship-meal-ticket-at-bottom

OU Campus Login