World War II veteran Joe Patronik recalls his days of being a member of the U.S. Navy Seabees.
He reveals, “This group was a construction battalion that built airstrips, hospitals, offices, barracks and all kinds of things. Normally, it’s civilians that have contracts to build them, but during the war, they had to use military people in order to go overseas .... Somebody from every state in the union belonged to my battalion.”
The Sunman resident explains why he joined the military: “My number was coming up (to be drafted), so I more or less volunteered” at age 19. “It was a different kind of war than they have today. Everyone was hepped and ready to go.”
He joined March 30, 1943, at Chicago, and in April of that year, he was transferred to Camp Perry, Va., for basic military training, consisting of familiarization with small arms weapons, which was conducted by the U.S. Marines. Later he was assigned to Davisville, R.I., for advanced military training and then transferred to Lido Beach, N.Y., awaiting further assignment. In December, he sailed from Norfolk, Va., through the Panama Canal, arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jan. 10, 1944. While there, he helped construct a military hospital that was used to treat the wounded that returned from fighting in the Pacific.
In September 1944, he went to Guam. “It wasn’t totally secure because the Japanese were still living in caves there,” the 90-year-old recalls.
While on the island, his unit was responsible for building facilities used to launch B-29s. These were the aircraft that conducted bombing raids over Japan. He mostly worked with the line crews as an electrician.
“We ordinarily worked seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day. We were allowed to go to church on Sunday.”
A few months after Japan surrendered in 1945, Patronik left Guam and arrived in San Francisco. He was then transferred to the Navy Pier, Chicago, and remained there until he was discharged at Great Lakes, Ill., June 22, 1946.