By Shira Furman
When my grandfather, Joseph M. Furman, was working for a naval department in Boston as an electrical engineering student, the war was just beginning. This was around the end of 1941, and Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. After a few years of working in the department, my grandfather decided to volunteer for the navy. He took the initiative and decided to do something to help his country.
Reasons why Joe joined the Navy:
Introduction to the Navy:
When Joseph joined the service in 1941 there were no commissions available, so he was sent to The Eddy Program, where he learned the workings of radar and sonar in depth. Following his time spent at The Eddy Program, Joe was shipped off to boot camp where the men found out more about the navy. He was there for only a short number of weeks, but they were not pleasant at all. At boot camp, he was required to pass a one month course at Indiana, and if he failed he would be requested on an LST (Landing Ship Tank), a landing craft that was used for invasions. Luckily, Joseph passed the course, and was invited to continue working on radar.
The Challenges of Enlistment:
Next, Joseph was assigned to Grill City College near Eerie, Pennsylvania. There he studied advanced mathematics and elementary radar in addition to calculus (the theory of radar is based entirely on calculus). His serious girlfriend, Ann, was living in Boston awaiting their marriage upon his return. Joe took every opportunity to get back to Massachusetts to see Ann and his family, but it wasn't easy. He had to hitch a ride to Eerie, and catch a train to Boston every time he wanted to get home, and he would have to leave 5 or so hours after he arrived. Luckily, Joe was only a student at Grill City College for 3 months. Following his time at school, Joseph was sent off to a naval research lab in Washington D.C., where he was taught how to troubleshoot radar. He became an expert at fixing radar when something went wrong at this lab in Washington.
Example of how sonar looked on the machines that technicians used during the war
At the research lab, Joe had to aim to complete an obstacle course that involved activities on land and in the water. The men had to complete these activities in less than 5 minutes. The reward for finishing it in the allotted amount of time was a 3-day pass to go home. My grandfather wanted to see his girlfriend so badly that he paid another man to teach him how to swim so he could get the pass!
At the end of 1942, Joe was moved to Tacoma, Washington. When he got there, the carrier he was assigned to was about a month away from commissioning and all supplies had to be loaded. All of the radar equipment was taken to the Tacoma shipyard where it was then loaded onto the ship. His crew was required to take a trip up and down the west coast to make sure nothing was wrong with the ship and that it was ready for departure. The ship qualified, and Joseph headed out to the Pacific with the crew, sailing to Honolulu, Hawaii. At Honolulu, the ship was stocked with more supplies and oil. The carrier he worked on was on the smaller side, and it was able to move in close to land before anchoring, whereas bigger ships would have to stop much farther off the coast of the land. During this time when they were stationary in Hawaii, planes would fly out to sea to make their attacks, and the ones who survived would return to the boat before departure.
An Aircraft Carrier out at sea during the war, similar to the ship that Joe worked on
How did the planes leave and return to the carriers?
How did the radar systems on the ships work?
A photograph of men in the Navy working with radar during World War II
Following Hawaii, Joseph's ship headed for Shanghai, China, fully loaded with supplies. But they didn't get quite that far. Halfway there, an order came in for the ship to report back to Hawaii. No one on the ship, including Joe, knew anything about the negotiations to end the war in the Pacific, but before they could get back to Honolulu they received the news that the war in the Pacific was not yet over. Along with this news, the crew also got another order to return back to the west coast. The war in the Pacific however, did come to a sudden close after the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Japan signed its formal surrender on September 2, 1945.
Life after the Pacific:
The aircraft carrier pulled into a port in northern California, and Joe resumed a new regular schedule. Every Monday morning he was to take a crew of 30 pilots and planes out to the Pacific to fly. After a year or so of this, Joe invited Ann over to California to live with him. Soon after, right at theend of the war, Joseph and his fiancée flew across country to Boston to be married. Upon their return to California, Ann discovered a cyst in her stomach. She had to go home again to Massachusetts to have the operation done. Unwilling to leave his wife in her time of need, Joe appealed to the executive of his ship to go home with Ann, but was immediately turned down. Finally, he went to the Red Cross for help, and they intervened. He got leave for 32 days! After Ann's surgery in early 1945, Joe got a call from an officer granting him release permanently, just as he was about to go back to his base in California.
Resuming Normal Life:
Now, over 50 years after World War II finally came to a sudden halt, Joseph M. Furman is now living a calm and relaxed life with his wife Ann. Residing half of each year in Massachusetts, Joe and Ann flee to Florida for the cold winter months every year. Joe often looks back on his experiences during the war, and enjoys telling his children and grandchildren his story.When finishing the interview with me, my grandfather said, "I told this story to all of your older cousins. I've told it to your dad, to your aunt and to your uncle. Now I finally got to share it with you."
1.) Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropaedia "ready reference" #12, Encyclopedia
Britannica, inc. 2002.
2.) Joseph M. Furman, December 16, 2002.
3.) "The Carriers", by The U.S. Navy
4.) "The Carriers part 2", by The U.S. Navy
5.) "Herp's Photo Collection", by Florida State University
6.) The United States in World War II, volume 1, Russell Buchanan, 1964.
7.) "World War 2" http://www.worldwar-2.net/
8.) "World War 2- The Chain Low Home Radar", by Howard Toon
9.) "Herp's Photo Collection", by Florida State University