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D.R. Bushnell, Jr.

D.R. Bushnell, Jr. was born on August 11, 1925. Growing up on a ranch in Johnson City, TX, Bushnell rarely traveled more than 20 miles beyond his hometown before he was drafted into the US Navy in 1943 at the age of 18. However, he soon found himself traveling by train from San Antonio to San Diego, CA for boot camp, and later to San Clemente Island for radar training before serving on an escort aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. In this interview segment, Bushnell describes the fear he experienced leaving his small hometown for the first time.

Transcript Excerpt

This segment comes from the edited transcript of Bushnell’s interview, pgs. 1-6.

BUSHNELL: I was born in Johnson City on August 11th, 1925 in a house that was on Avenue C and… I can’t think of the… but it was on Avenue C here in Johnson City.


BUSHNELL: And I don’t know how long we lived there but after I was born we moved out on a place… what they called… on quarter ranches. Out there right over on the other side of Flat Creek.


BUSHNELL: My uh, I think it was… my mother inherited 246 acres of land. And we built, they built a house on it in 19 - I remember ’31 because that’s the year I started school. Uh, I lived at the time with my grandmother and my - in Johnson City. But we went… I attended Johnson City school.


BUSHNELL: And we had to walk probably half a mile every day.

DICKMEYER: Okay. And, um, when and where did you enter the Navy? How did you get involved with that?

BUSHNELL: They drafted me.

DICKMEYER: [laughs] Oh okay, yeah.

BUSHNELL: I graduated from high school when I was eighteen. Of course I had a draft notice waiting in the mail for me.


BUSHNELL: And I went to San Antonio for examine - to be examined and they passed me. And I don’t know, I got about two weeks off and had to go back down there and they - I don’t remember just what day but they assigned me to the Navy.

DICKMEYER: Yeah. And what year was this? Sorry.


DICKMEYER: What year was this?

BUSHNELL: This was in ’43.


BUSHNELL: And then they got home - I got to come back home for a few… but I don’t know how long then had to go back to San Antonio and then they put us on a troop train. Our train to go to San Diego.


BUSHNELL: Scared to death.


BUSHNELL: Let me tell you a little story.


BUSHNELL: I hadn’t hardly ever been out of Johnson City in that eighteen years. Oh I might go to play basketball or something but as far as - we didn’t have an automobile.


BUSHNELL: And I got down there in San Antonio and they had a bunch of - a bunch of us ready to go to San Diego and this guy… one of the men yelled, “Bushnell!” Went over there and he handed me a list of people. He said, “You’re in charge of this draft in San Diego.” I said, “I don’t know a thing about… doing anything like that.” I said - He said, “Well just don’t worry about it…” he said, “Try to get most of ‘em on the train.” But he said, “We’ll get the rest of ‘em up if they don’t show up.” Sure enough, there were a few of them that didn’t show up but I had pretty good luck.


BUSHNELL: Went to San Diego, [cough] went through boot camp…


BUSHNELL: …and, uh, after I got through boot camp I went to Santa Clemente. And there I went to radar training school.

DICKMEYER: You said you went to where again, San…?

BUSHNELL: San Clemente Island.

DICKMEYER: Oh, Clemente. Oh I’ve been there, yes.

BUSHNELL: Yeah. Went to radar school there. After I got out of radar early, sent me back to Balboa Park in San Diego, which was a receiving station. Until we had got assigned to a ship. Then after we got assigned to the ship - it was, uh, what they called… well we called it a Kaiser coffin. It was made in Astoria, Oregon. So we got on the trip - the ship, uh, on the train. Went to Astoria. Well, went to Brimington first.


BUSHNELL: Our ship wasn’t ready, we stayed in Brimington a few weeks until our ship was ready to go. And then from Brimington we went to Astoria, Oregon. There we got on a ship. I’d say three-fourths of the ship - people - men on the ship was maybe my age.


BUSHNELL: And we sailed down to Long Beach, California. This was sometime in the early part of ’44.


BUSHNELL: We loaded up with planes and supplies headed for the South Pacific. We stopped in the Marshall Islands and got rid of some of the equipment and supplies. We land at Guadalcanal - which was still active down there and got rid of the rest of it. We came back to, uh, to Honolulu or somewhere about in there. And then when we came on back to John- to San Diego or Long Beach and got more planes and more supplies and…

DICKMEYER: So you said this is your first time out of Johnson City. What was it like to go to all these new places out in California and then the Pacific?

BUSHNELL: Well I was scared to death. [laughs]

DICKMEYER: [laughs]

BUSHNELL: You don’t know how it is. You know, times were so much different then.


BUSHNELL: But without a car or - you know, I probably - like I told some of ‘em, I said, “I probably wasn’t in the Marble Falls, which is 20 miles…


BUSHNELL: “…over two or three times.”


BUSHNELL: Same with Fredericksburg.


BUSHNELL: And we went to Blanco once in a while with somebody. I don’t know really, I don’t remember all of it but… my dad had a Model T when the Depression started.


BUSHNELL: And I never will forget, he says, “You know,” he said, “I’m gonna sell this thing.” He said, “We can’t afford the gas for it.”


BUSHNELL: So we sold it and we went - we had saddled horses and we had a wagon and team and that’s how we travelled. And I think about the time that going to school up here there was wagons, and buggies, and horses…


BUSHNELL: …like there are cars today parked up there. But, uh, it was all just scary. I was scared when I got outside. I mean, I didn’t know what to think when, you know, I got on that ship. Never been on a - never even thought about a ship. ‘Course they told us that - some of those old timers said, “Well,” he says, “it’s not much of a ship.” He says, “it’s no Kaiser coffin.” It was a cargo ship with a flat - with a flat deck and a…


BUSHNELL: …a hangar deck made into an aircraft carrier. That’s really what it was.

DR Busnell sitting in a chair

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