Signing Up for the Air Force and Navy, 1942

In 1942, while a student at Brooklyn College, Phil, (along with some of his friends from the corner) decides to enlist. (4 mins)

Audio Transcript

At the age of 19 and a half, I believe, on December 4th, 1942, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I had finished three years at Brooklyn College and the war was raging then and a couple of my colleagues and friends from my corner and my neighborhood went to Brooklyn College with me, one of whom was the father of our present Attorney General of New York.

His name was Irwin Schneiderman, and our nickname for him was Shanty – our nickname for him was “Shanty.” “Shanty” was pinned on him because when we tried to play ball in our school yard he had flat feet and he was a very slow runner. Shanty Hogan was a catcher in the major leagues who was known to be among the slowest runners in baseball so we called Irwin, “Shanty.”

Well, Shanty went to Brooklyn College and my lifelong friend who eventually became my law partner Monty Mandell – we all were in Brooklyn College, and about the same age. And they decided to join the Navy V-something program during which they sent you to Dartmouth or one of the colleges and you become an ensign when you graduated. They said “Come on, you join also” and I said “No, I don’t want to be in the Navy”, so I enlisted in the Air Force and they enlisted in that Navy program.

I thought I would be excellent material to be a pilot. I was then about five feet, eight inches tall, I weighed about a hundred and fifty pounds and I was very well-built and athletic and I said, “It seems to me this is the proper size for a fighter pilot.” So I enlisted in the Air Force.

Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, it turned out that I’m color blind, and they said “No, you cannot be a pilot.”

During basic training at one point they said to me “Well, you might go to field artillery officer’s candidate school.” I said “No, I enlisted in the Air Force.” They said “Well, there are not openings in OCS in the Air Force now, and you can’t be a pilot.” I said “Okay, I won’t be an officer, I’ll just stay in the Air Force.” And that was my original entry.

Photo: Multiple propeller plane, WWII, photo courtesy of Phil Schneider

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