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World War II Veteran: Darwin “Dar” F. Reber

posted on November 7, 2007 at 11:14 AM

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Darwin Reber
Dubuque, Iowa

The doctors told Dar Reber that he did not have enough sight to be accepted into the Air Force. That was not acceptable to Dar, so he insisted, asking to be let in at limited service. He wanted to do that because he came from a town that did not have any minorities whatsoever. He wanted an education to learn how other races live. He worked in the message center at the headquarters group in Hawaii and later in Orlando, Florida. Dar’s time in the service was a big experience for him.

Reber: …started when I was just got out of college, my first year of college I got a draft notice in St. George to go to the draft board in Salt Lake City, Fort Douglas.  When I got there they gave us a little orientation and said it’s time for your physical.  So, I went and I went to about five or six stations before I finally got to the eye doctor.  And he says, I’m sorry, but you just don’t have enough sight that we can let you in the Air Force.  And then when I got to the desk to leave I said, wouldn’t it be possible for me to get into the Air Force?  He says, you really want to get in don’t you?  I said, yes I do, I can’t go back to St. George forever when we only have about eighteen, nineteen young men there.  So, he says, go back and see the eye doctor, maybe he can get you in.  So, I went back and talked to him again and he examined the eyes and he said, well, I’ll let you go in at limited service.  I said, that’s great, thank you very much.  So, that’s how I got into the Air Force.

Why did you want to do that?  Tell me more about why that was important to you besides the fact that the town was so small.

Well, I wanted to do this because I came from a town that had no minorities whatsoever and I thought if I could get in the service I’d be connected with different types of minorities and have an education to learn how different races lived.  And I found out that we’re all the same when I got in the Air Force, that you get along with all of them whether they’re Mexican, whether they’re Negro, whether they’re whatever.  So, I think that was the best experience I had was getting mixed in with different minorities.  And then I was in the message center, which we kept information letters going to the four squadrons, I was in the headquarters group and then I was running the teletype machines and also the switchboard.  I had experience in both of them so that’s where I wound up, in the message center.  And I was transferred after I had my basic training in Fresno, California.  From there I was transferred to Buckley Field, Colorado then I was transferred down to Signal Hill, Orlando, Florida where I joined the headquarters group and then from there we went to Bruning, Nebraska and from Bruning, Nebraska I went to Fort Laughton, Washington.  There I boarded the ship and ended up in Oahu, Hawaiian Islands for a year. 

How did you like Oahu?

Oh, I probably wouldn’t recognize it now.  Waikiki Beach was beautiful then, there wasn’t anything but white sand and beaches and we’d ride on the boat, on a sailboat and then I’d get on the tow line and just go around the ocean on that.  It was really enjoyable.  I really enjoyed Hawaii for the one year I was there and I was in three different AF bases there.  And so I moved around Oahu quite a bit.

Tell me about one of your favorite stories.  When you think about your memories what’s one of the stories you like to tell?

Well, let me think.  I guess it’s when I was down in Orlando, Florida.  I met a young man who was from Kentucky and he could not read so I felt I’ll write his letter.  He couldn’t write, well he could write, but he couldn’t read.  So, I decided I’d be a friend of his and write a letter to whomever he wanted me to write.  And therefore I’d become a very good friend to him and him a good friend to me.  So, I think that was the most outstanding thing in that sense because I was never in danger of being in the war itself, I mean, the shooting.

You talked earlier about meeting people from other nationalities, other cultures, other minorities.  Tell me about some of those folks that you met.

Well, I met a young, Spanish young man and I was in a beer garden in Honolulu and I got talking to him and we just reminisced how much we liked the Air Force and what we were doing.  And we became very good friends.  One time somebody started picking on me, a fight, and I was just a little guy, about 160 pounds and he says, don’t worry Dar, I take care of him for you.  And he was my protector you might say.  Anything that came up where I was in trouble he was there to help me out.  So, I found out that even the minorities who I never had any interest with were just like anybody else in the world.  So, that’s one thing I liked about it.  And there was a black boy, black man the same way, we just fell together.  We were in the same barrack for a while and I just got talking with him, found out where he was from.  I think he was from somewhere in Alabama and he turned out to be another good friend for me.  And then when I left we had a squadron picture of all of our communications men and I didn’t follow through.  I had all their names and addresses where they were from and I never did follow through and I’ve been sorry ever since. 

Tell us about, if you can, some of the messages that went through your center.  I’m sure you had some interesting and fascinating experience reading some of those and passing them along.

Reber: It was a long time ago, I don’t remember them, I’m sorry.  But I did have – we had four squadrons under it and we had that and also communications to alert them that they had to be at a certain air field and fly that night or whatever.  And it was quite exciting.  It was nothing spectacular but I enjoyed it.

Did you work with any codes?

Reber: No, no I didn’t.

Tell me more about some of the guys that you served with. 

Reber: Well, there was a sergeant from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was my crew chief, I mean, he was in charge of the crew in the communications center.  And he could sit and talk with you and explain things that I didn’t really understand and I worked with him for a year in Hawaii and got to the point that maybe I should stay in the Air Force.  But I was so happy to get out after three years that I did not.  But he took me in hand and taught me the ups and downs, the rights of the people in the different sections, the intelligence area, the operations area and the communications area.  So, I learned a lot in that sense and I also learned that this was one of the best educations I had while being in the service, meeting these different types of people, traveling the way I did, being transferred from place to place that I would have never seen.  I had never been out of St. George except twice I went to Salt Lake City and that’s the furthest I’d been out of my hometown.  So, it was a big experience for me in that sense. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?  If you were going to talk about your experience I the war, say to your grandkids who don’t know anything about it, how would you explain to them what it was like?

I’d just say if you can get into the service go for it because it’s a good thing.  All the benefits that you get out of it is worthwhile.  I got my college education through the GI bill, I got my first home through the GI bill and I have insurance from the GI bill which I still carried.  And those things I would never have had if I wouldn’t have been in the service and taken advantage of it.  And I think that is the most important, the benefits that you can reap after you’re out of the service unless you want to make a career of it.  Making a career of it wouldn’t be a bad situation today.  I know when I went in my pay was $50 a month and I think now it’s up the $200’s for a private.  So, if you want to stay in the service it’s a good career for anybody.


Tags: education Florida Hawaii Iowa military veterans World War II