LISTEN to George W. “Bill” DuBois on Hometown Heroes
90-year-old George W. Bill DuBois of Carmel, CA appears on episode #330 of Hometown Heroes, debuting August 30, 2014. You’ll hear DuBois remember his childhood in Visalia, CA, how he recalls hearing about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and what happened to his Japanese-American friends in the aftermath. He also shares his memories of planes flying overhead, from the Army Air Corps’ Sequoia Field. DuBois considered joining the Army Air Corps, but his father dissuaded him.
While studying at Visalia College (now College of the Sequoias), DuBois received his draft notice, and ended up in anti-aircraft artillery training at Camp Haan in Riverside. There he trained on a 90mm gun crew. One of his tasks as a private in this pre-radar era was to operate an optical heightfinder, also known as a coincidence rangefinder.
“It was about ten feet long and weighed a ton,” DuBois remembers. “Took about six guys to carry it around. I was one of the very few that had eyesight good enough. You had to have stereoscopic vision.” That stint at Camp Haan came to an end when DuBois was accepted for the
Army Specialized Training Program at Indiana University, which afforded him the opportunity to study engineering, something he had wanted to do for a while. In what would become a pattern, expectations did not match the eventual outcome. An urgent need for troops overseas brought the ASTP to an end, and DuBois was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to train with the 20th Armored Division. The men of the 20th (including Peanuts creator Charles Schulz) would arrive in Europe in February, 1945, but George DuBois was not with them, because he had volunteered for what many would consider more dangerous duty: he had decided to become a paratrooper. Listen to Hometown Heroes to hear DuBois remember highlights from his parachute infantry training. When the 17th Airborne was shipped to Europe, George was left behind in the U.S. because of a technicality. His basic training had been with an artillery emphasis as opposed to infantry. He ended up heading to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and upon finishing OCS in a group of five, he saw the other four sent to Europe with either the 82nd or 101st Airborne. “I couldn’t get into combat no matter what I did,” he laments.
This time he was assigned to the parachute school at Fort Benning, where he oversaw the physical training of would-be paratroopers. On one of his leaves, he had returned home to Visalia and been encouraged to go dancing with the young lady he remembered as “little Judy Dwight,” three years his junior. She made a strong enough impression that when he received news of the Japanese surrender, he knew exactly what to do. “The war’s over, so now I can get married. I’m not gonna get killed.” He went back home and married Judy, expecting to ride out the rest of his time in the service at Fort Benning. Upon arriving back to Georgia, he was surprised to find orders sending him to Germany for occupation duty with the 82nd Airborne.
Volunteers were needed to supervise prisoner of war camps, and DuBois decided to throw his hat in the ring. For the next nine months, he oversaw approximately 1400 German prisoners at two camps, one in Munich, the other in Straubing. Listen to the program to hear the interesting location of his office, what happened with one prisoner who escaped, and why Russian interrogators removed some of the prisoners from his control. You’ll also hear about his experience attending the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Returning home, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley, studying Soil Science. The knowledge he acquired there came in handy when he launched a long career in farming by purchasing 120 acres of land considered agriculturally worthless because of its alkaline soil. “The other farmers would come by and say, ‘Look at old George out there, he’s putting salt on top of salt. He must be crazy!” DuBois remembers from his time applying gypsum to balance the land’s pH levels. Cotton and alfalfa would be followed by acres and acres of almonds, and George’s hunch and hard work combined to provide a comfortable retirement on the California coast.
Four children, two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren later, Mr. & Mrs. DuBois are thankful things unfolded just the way they did, even if George’s military adventures never went according to plan. “You have to stand back and appreciate all that the guys did to win that war,” he says. “I wish I could’ve helped them a little more, but I’ve got lots of respect for those guys.”
He never got to experience combat, but George DuBois was always ready and willing to serve.
Listen to Hometown Heroes to hear more of the story, including what Judy has to say about her husband. If you run into Mr. DuBois at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, make sure you thank him for serving our country, and ask him how old he was when he notched his first hole-in-one.