By Jennifer Martin - email
"Well, my military career actually began when I was 14 years-old. Everyone around here at the time belonged to a national guard unit in Tylertown, and so I was big for my age. So they forged my age and I actually joined the national guard," said Dorman Howell.
After Howell he graduated from high school, he decided to join the Air Forece. It was 1960.
"The air force recruiter was not in, he was out to lunch and the navy recruiter was there so he got me," Howell said. "The whole thing was an adventure. I had never ridden a train before."
He rode the train to Great Lakes for his basic training.
"They sent me directly to the fleet. So I went to Boston. USS Boston, big heavy cruiser. It was just a beautiful ship," Howell added. "They were a progressive ship. What they did, they said 'alright, we gonna give you an opportunity to experience all the jobs, then you can determine which one you would like to do."
An officer invited him to join Fox division, also known as fire control.
"Naturally, you know I was going to be real smart. I said 'well I've always wanted to be a fireman.' And he started laughing. And he said 'fire control has nothing to do with fire,' It's the radar and all that controls the guns and the missiles and all that stuff," Howell added.
Howell would see the world aboard the U.S.S. Boston from Italy to France, Beruit to the Mediterrean.
"We went on tour and we went to Ennisburg, Austria. And we were on the train. It was zero degrees, it was cold. The train stopped at the border and the guards came on board with submachine guns. See Austria is not a member of NATO. So the only people in Austria that could wear uniform was their people. So we had to pull all our patches off. That was like something out of a movie, you know," Howell recalled.
"While we were in Munich, you would go in a restaurant or a bar and you couldn't pay for a drink," Howell said. "They would see you in uniform. Americans were really well thought of. It was really something. The thing that strikes me when we went to the Mediterranean.
Every port, we went in, we did something humanitarian, for the people. Every small port or large port, we would entertain the orphans. We would go to hospitals they would repair equipment. The Navy didn't publicize that. But that was goodwill there. It made you feel good, it really did," Howell added.
He was in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but says they never had any trouble. He stayed in the Navy for four years.
When he returned to Mississippi, he got a job in a shipyard and used the GI Bill to go back to school.
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