Dale Norman Schlichting beat the draft board by enlisting in the Navy the day after his seventeenth birthday on August 15, 1933. Since the chief recruiting office thought he would be a good fit as an electrical maintenance technician, he went to his favorite high school teacher and asked him how he could prepare to take the Eddy Test. Beginning in 1950, his training included Aviation Airmen Prep School in Memphis in addition to learning to become a cook. Throughout his time in training, he decided he wanted to become a radiomen or tail-gunner, but the military ended this program because too many troops were getting killed. After his first leave during Christmas after sixteen months of training, he spent the rest of his time in Florida with the long-lived and much respected VA-35 Attack Squadron AD (A-1) as an electronic technician. This was the only propeller aircraft still being used during the Vietnam War. As the Korean War was coming to a “close,” the military decided to cut everyone’s enlist time by two months even though he was set to be discharged the day before his 21st birthday.
Enlisting as a 17 Year Old
Dale Schlichting chose to join the Navy the day after he turned 17 years old. He prepared and studied for the Eddie Test for electronics with help from his favorite high school teacher. Dlae Schlichting chose the Navy since everyone in his neighborhood was active in this branch and he also wanted to follow after his relatives in the Navy.
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Training, Training, and More Training!
Dale Schlichting didn't know that he could get a guarantee to go to ET (Electrical Training) School so that he could get into aviation by spending 8 weeks there. Then he went to mess cooking for 5 school. After that, he went 29 weeks Aviation Electrician Technician School and he wanted to be a tailgunner, but that job was closed.
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After 16 months of training, Dale Schlichting was sent to Florida to join Attack Squadron 35. The only propeller aircraft that was still being used in the Korean and Vietnam War was worked on by Dale and this made his so proud. He was supposed to be dismissed from the military two months early, but he wanted to stay with his squadron to travel the world. If was left behind with 13 of this squad mates because Squadron 35 wouldn't be back to their base by the time Dale Schlichting would have to leave.
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Role of an Electronics Technician During Korean War
Dale Schlichting was an electronics technician during the Korean War with Attack Squadron 35. The AD (carried 22,000 pounds of supplies), Corsair, and P52 Army aircraft were his favorite planes to work on for the Army and Air Force. He had to crawl under the planes to work on and inside, and he loved it since it was very hot in the Florida heat on the tarmac.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
D: My name is Dale Schlichting, Dale Norman Schlichting. And you wanted my name, my age. I was born August 15, 1933. So, I’m 81 right now. And let’s see. Was that everything? Okay.
I: Where were you born?
D: Oh, where?
I: Um hm.
D: Madison, Wisconsin, East, I think it was East Hospital. I can’t remember. I wasn’t reading well those days.
I: What did
your parents do?
D: Well, my mother was a housewife, and my dad worked, I believe, as a bookkeeper, I think. I’m not real sure. He died in a car accident when I was two. So, I have no memories of him at all. But uh, I think he was a bookkeeper. And at the time I died, or at the time he died, I didn’t, he owned and had owned for about two weeks a tavern in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.
From what I know of my father, I think he was probably pretty good at it.
I: So, when you went into the military, were you drafted, or did you enlist?
D: No, I beat the Draft Board. In fact, I never even saw a Draft Board until I’d been in the Navy for three years, eight months and 24 days. I turned 17 on August 15 in 1950. I enlisted on August 16.
Kind of interesting because the chief that was recruiting me, I actually went in, I recruited him. But anyway, the officer, you know, a bunch of guys sitting at their desks and whatnot, and he asked me my age and you’re 17 and he says when’s your birthday, yesterday. And some of the guys said 17, right? Yeah. There were a lot of snickering and laughing.
Ah, school’s ready to start next month. Then he asked me how far I got in school, and I said I graduated in June and oop, that broke the end of laughter. Then they gave me the universal dumbbell test, and I aced it with no problem. I didn’t have a problem with those. And they began to take me seriously about that time. And I wound up, they wanted me to take the Eddy test which is for electronics.
And I went ahead, and I said ok, I’ll take it. And he said well, we’ll schedule you in. We’ll call you and tell you. So, I went home and waited and all of a sudden, the phone rang one day, and, it wasn’t too long later, and they told me to come in on a certain date, whatever it was. I don’t know. And I went to my old high school physics teacher, Old Doc Raisin, the best teacher I ever had in high school. And he gave me a couple of books to think about,
And a couple of them recommend from the library. So, I went and studied and came back, took the Eddy test, and then he said well, we’ll call you when we’re ready for you. So, I said well alright. I want to go in, but I don’t know what’s gonna happen. So, I took off and left, and oh, it must have been about, well, September 20 I think, the phone rang and come in tomorrow morning.
And take the train to Great Lakes. And this was, let’s see, it was a Wednesday, yeah. So, that must have been September 20. And the 21st was a Thursday, and that was the day I went in the Navy. And that in a nutshell is the story of my life up to that point.
I: So, why did you choose the Navy?
D: Because I grew up in a neighborhood, World War II where everybody around me that went in the military went in the Navy. So, I just kind of took it for granted.
The Navy’s where you go. So, I went in the Navy. And the fact that the Korean War had begun back on June 20th or 25th, 24th, I can’t remember the exact date. But you know, it went miles over my head. Okay, so there’s a War. Big deal. And that was it. I just went in because the Navy’s where people in my neighborhood were expected to go.
I: When you were enlisting, you didn’t necessarily think like oh, I might get stationed where there’s a war or what?
didn’t cross my mind to worry about it. I figured if there’s a war, there’s a war. I mean, I grew up in that environment. So, war was only five years behind me. And I just, I never really thought that much about it. Seventeen, you know, big mature 17 years and one day old, you don’t think that far. So, I just went where I thought I was expected to go, and I had an uncle that had served in the Navy on an LST, and well, the Navy must be the right place.
So, that’s where I went.
I: So then after training, where were you stationed?
D: Beg your pardon?
I: After training, then where were you stationed?
D: Oh. Well, training lasted quite a while as it turned out. They were taking all the warm bodies they could get and shipping them out to sea. And 120 men in the company, there were only three of us who weren’t guaranteed, I didn’t know anything about this guaranteed stuff. But I could have a guarantee to go on to ET school. I just, there were three of us that managed to get into
school. I was one of them. And I wanted to go into aviation, and they sent me down to the Airmen Prep School in Memphis, eight weeks there. Then I spent another five weeks in Mess cooking. And from Mess cooking, they sent me to ET school, Aviation Electronics Technician. And I went there for 29 weeks I think it was. It was 28 weeks. But I had one week when I had to have a little
minor surgery. But it threw me off by a week. So, 29 weeks later, I finished with that and went from there. They ranked us in class. I wanted to be a radioman, you know, a gunner. Well, I didn’t realize that a tail gunner is a mobile target. The first thing, if there is such a thing as a gunner, the first thing you’re, whoever it is wants to get you,
First thing they look for is get rid of the singer in the back. So, it was an invitation on you that says hey, here’s the (INAUDIBLE) in my head cause that’s what you want to hit. Well, they were wiping out the radiomen school. So, they, those of us who went through there, wanted to be radiomen, go for radiomen. But nobody was getting any radios. So, I got out of there. And from there, they sent me to
Norfolk. And they had the final six weeks of school at Norfolk. It happened to fall over Christmas. So, I got my first leave in (INAUDIBLE), 16 months. After I went in the Navy, I got my first leave, so I went home for Christmas, came back on New Years’ Eve and finished off that. And they sent me from there to Florida. And I think I was the only man in the
class that did not request to go to Sanford, Florida. Guess where I went? Sanford, Florida. I wound up in Attack Squadron 35 which was AEDs. Guys who had been around the Naval Aviation know what the AED is. Most other people won’t know, or they’ll know from the Viet Nam War. The only propeller aircraft that was still being used in
the Viet Nam War because it was such a good aircraft, and it was. It was a sweetheart. I loved working on that. Made a med cruise, came back, and I was all set to make around the world cruise, and the government decided well, the Viet Nam or the Korean War is ending. We don’t really need all these people in uniform. We’re gonna cut two months off everybody’s enlistment. And I was scheduled to be discharged
the day before I turned 21, August 14, 1954. So, they backed me up to June 14, 1954. And um, my squadron is going to be for nine months all told, and they’re going around the world the hard way. They’re doing it through the Suez Canal and down and coming down through the, what do you call, the Panama Canal? Well, they told me I couldn’t go because
I wasn’t due back until August, I think it was 8th, which would have been oh, with a week to spare, wonderful. No. You gotta take it. You let go two months early. That’s what it says here in the (INAUDIBLE) whatever. So, I went in and argued as much as little, at that time three class, can’t argue much with a Lieutenant JG. And he said nope. The only way you can
make this cruise with us is you gotta extend. I said well, I don’t mind. I’ll put in the regular two months. I’ll just do my original enlistment. No, we have to extend you from your original date. When would I get out? You’d get out August 14, 1955. I said hold it, hold it. I’ve got me a wife to be waiting. We’ve got the church all set up at St. Pat’s. And I’m nuts about this little girl. And no, no, can’t do it.
Well, they wound up, Lieutenant JG carried a whole lot more weight than a third-class Petty Officer. So, he got his way, and I was left behind. I, and I think there were 13 or 14 of us that were left behind. We were due to be discharged earlier than we planned on. So, the end result was I got married to my little honey, lasted 52 years, and then she decided she’d leave me, and she died.
So, anyways, that was pretty much my whole naval career. The best thing I can say for it aside from the fact that I loved the Navy was that I found my sweetheart. There was a squadron party, and they were having a beach party. And my buddy Nick was dating a local girl in Jacksonville. And she had a girlfriend that came and visited her once in a while from Gainesville
where she was going to school, University of Florida. Well, here she was gonna show up on this Saturday, and they had no date for her. And I didn’t have a date. I didn’t need one. So, he started working on me. Hey, how bout just this one time? Well, nah, I don’t want to. I’ve got a girlfriend back in Milwaukee. So, what do I care. Well, he kept working on me and working on me. Finally, I said oh, the heck with it. I’ll go ahead and I’ll date her. Bring her on.
And he brought her on, and five minutes after I started talking to her on the beach, well once I found out which one she was, we got to the beach, and the only way I could recognize her when she came out of the women’s bathhouse was I gave her my blanket and my portable radio. And I looked on the beach, I couldn’t even remember exactly what she looked like. So, I looked for my blanket which had my name in a corner. And yeah, that’s my blanket, and
that’s my radio. This must be the famous ever popular Rachel that everybody’s trying to date off. So, I settled down and said hi. Five minutes later, I went fanny over tea kettle, and I never got over her. It was the nicest thing the Navy ever did for me was get me this blind date. Anyhow, that’s the story of my Navy career.
I: Where were you stationed?
D: Well, when I first went to the squadron, it was in Sanford, Florida. That was on January 17 of 1952. And Sanford was having (INAUDIBLE) for a Navy enlisted man. We could wear civvies on and off the base which was quite unusual at the time. I found a woman, well I hitchhiked over to Daytona Beach with a man and wife.
And they had a daughter living in town, and she had a son about my age who was graduating from high school. I graduated so darn young, 16, that he could still be there a year and a half later. And I was still floating around in my youth. So, anyhow she introduced me to her daughter Derwood, their family and friends. The next thing I know, I was running with a high school crowd.
Big old 18 ½ year old mature sailor. But anyhow, I got settled in with them, made friends with Derwood and just enjoyed life. It was a dream location. Sanford, Florida at that time was not near the town it is now. It was much smaller. But they had a little zoo and a lake.
And they were the celery capital of the world. Whoopee. And I liked life there very much. Liked it real well. Well, we left August 15 for a Med cruise. I spent six months in Europe at the government’s expense. And I had a good time at that. Enjoyed myself again immensely. I had a wonderful experience on Christmas Eve.
They let us go to midnight mass on shore. So, I said well sure, I’ll take that. So, I went ashore, and it was when I turned my life around because I was so impressed with the fact that here I was with all these French people in a church, no pews. But it was in Marseilles which is one of the sin capitals of the world. I didn’t know that at the time. Being young and silly, I didn’t know a lot of things. And here I was standing in this
church which was cold. And we were having the exact same mass there in Latin that I’d had back home. And that’s when I really turned me around. Gee whiz, all these people, we got this in common, so common that we’re standing here freezing for the love of Christ, you know. I’m not what you would call, um, I’m not sure what you’d call me.
But anyhow, I wasn’t a holy, you know, I was very impressed with gosh. We have this in common. We’re all sharing this. And I’ve carried that feeling with me to this day as a matter of fact. And it moved me. I came back from there, and we were stationed at, what is the name of the field, I can’t remember the name of the field anymore, on the west edge of Jacksonville. It was now in the city, but it’s a civilian
airstrip. But anyhow, we were stationed there. And that’s where we got the word that we were gonna cut enlistments two months. And then I argued with people at several levels for whatever it was worth. But that’s where I spent the Korean War was in the Atlantic and on the East coast of Florida in Jacksonville, and I married my honey December 5, ’53. And six months later, June
14, I was discharged. End of the history.
I: What kind of duties did you perform that were like support roles for the War?
D: Okay. I was an electronics technician working on the AED. I was a Attack Squadron 35, VA 35. It doesn’t exist anymore. They wiped them out. The AED was a lot of fun to talk about because these Army people weren’t sure. They thought the only aircraft
involved in the War were the Corsair, which aircraft they really loved and B51. B51, I loved. But it was an Army aircraft, so you know. But the, once I explained which one the AED was, it was the big gliding, slow, ugly but war load. It would
carry, we bragged up on it. One of them had officially carried 22,000 lbs. of payload. One aircraft, one engine. But for normal use, it was rated I think at 9 or 10,000 lbs. But it was real good. It lasted clear into the Viet Nam War. And they were still using, the Air Force calls it the A1. And we had, the Navy’s weren’t allowed to use the AED, the Attack aircraft
D for Douglas. It was the same aircraft. And the Air Force found it wonderful for loitering. You send the troops in there, and the troops want some air support, boom, send in some AED’s, and it would just loiter slowly. It could typically loiter for about eight to ten hours. So, you got a lot of service out of them. And it was the last recover aircraft as a conventional piston engine aircraft. Last one
to make it all the way through to the 1970’s. Anyhow, it was a nice aircraft to work on. It was foul to work on in that your only access, you know, electronics was to crawl under the plane, look up. You had a flat bottom. You had a hell hole with a couple Zeus buttons. What were Zeus buttons? Pop open and climb up in, and there you were inside it which a Florida flight line was real pleasant.
Sun beating down, and you got a dark blue aircraft body. And here you are, up in there working. But anyways, that, it was good for loitering missions, ground support and, Corsair was the aircraft that most of these Army people liked. Well, it’s, Corsair was a beautiful aircraft. It looked beautiful. Hell to work on. But it was beautiful to look at. And I found out
today from one of the Army people that, I was one of the few people that seemed to know why it was built with that funny inverted gull wing cause if you built it without the gull wing, you’d fire up the engine, and the propeller would scrape the ground. So, the only purpose for the inverted gull wing was to get the axis of the, well, I’m an engineer. Anyhow, to get the propeller
up a little bit higher so it wouldn’t quite touch the flight deck. But that’s what I worked on.
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