Fred W. Field NNHS Class of 1945 


My Newport News High School graduation ceremony was on June 7, 1945, This was also my birthday - I had finally
turned 17 right at the end of my senior year. Back then we only got 11 years of school and were then pushed out the
door. However, times were changing and the class just entered in Feb. 1945 were put on a 12 year track and termed
eighth graders
. We crusty upper classmen named them "mice" and continued to refer to the freshmen as rats.  

Those in our class who were about to turn 18 knew they were going to get drafted. Indeed, a few who had the misfortune
to reach 18 in the spring were actually snatched out of school before graduation (although most were given their
diplomas anyway). We who had just reached 17 had about a year of grace before the draft board would come calling.  

As graduation approached, the war in Europe abruptly ended. Germany surrendered in early May 1945 and VE-Day
was celebrated on May 8. No one had any idea what it would take to bring the war in the Pacific to a close. The track
record of the Japanese Military implied that there would be a fiercely fought campaign with great casualties resulting.
Therefore, on graduation night there was a certain solemn undertone in the ceremony. And a few of the speeches
touched on what might be in prospect for these graduates.  

The kids destined for college were immediately hustled off (presuming that their families could afford the tuition).
Wartime schedules had imposed year-round classes so my lucky college-bound friends were on board trains within
a week after graduating.

So - graduation over and what to do? At that time the Navy would take enlistees at age 17 - but only with parental
consent. Some of my friends went that route as a sure way to stay out of the Army. I kicked the idea around for a few
days but my mother made up my mind for me. There would be no parental signature! 

Like many of my classmates I headed off to the Shipyard Employment Office where getting a wartime job was quick
and easy. I was fortunate to get some choice in selection and ended up as an electrician helper on a crew which was
rebuilding the wooden piers.  

I soon heard some of the older men - typically in their late forties - talking about being in the "Guard." They responded
to my interest by inviting me to a regular weekly meeting at the Armory on Huntington Avenue. By meeting night I had
discussed the Guard with my friend Billy Davis and he was anxious to go with me.  

At the meeting, an officer explained to us that the Virginia State Guard was an old militia service that took over local
duties after the National Guard was mobilized for World War II. Teenaged boys were welcome to join. We saw exciting
things like Guardsmen drilling, working on military vehicles, and receiving rifle instruction on an indoor range. We stayed
the whole evening and when we went home we had the necessary enlistment papers, all filled out and ready for signatures.  

At home I put immediate pressure on my parents to sign me up. My mother was still resistant, but my father took charge
and said that he would accompany me next week and make the decision at the Armory. 

My father took Billy and me to the next meeting. Billy was already 18, so he signed his own enlistment. Fortunately, my
father immediately recognized many of the senior Guardsmen as old comrades from his own National Guard service
in the early 1920s. Thus inspired, he quickly signed his consent. Billy and I were issued uniforms which were identical
to those of the U.S. Army except for the Virginia State Guard patches sewn on the shoulder and on the cap. I wore my
uniform home and my father proudly informed my mother that their son was now a boy soldier

We experienced great adventures in the Guard. Drilling was actually fun. We made several Sunday trips to Fort Eustis
where we trained on the target range using our old bolt action Enfield rifles (leftovers from WW-I). And one glorious
meeting night we did a practice riot control in the 500 block of 33rd Street. Anyone seeing the big water-cooled machine
guns on tripods, and all the fixed bayonets, would not dream of causing trouble. 

The war news was ominous in July. The Japanese were mounting furious Kamikaze attacks and the forthcoming invasion
of Japan promised to be a bloody campaign with many lives lost. Then on Monday August 6 the news came about the
dropping of a powerful new bomb on Hiroshima. Immediate speculation was that this action alone might end the war. But
there was no response to the Allies' demand for surrender. On Thursday a second bomb was dropped upon Nagasaki
Then inquiries about terms of surrender began to be received from the Japanese government.  

Beginning Monday, August 13 unconfirmed reports were being announced on radio that Japan had finally accepted an unconditional surrender. However, these reports turned out to be premature. The official word came during the day
of Tuesday August 14 that the Emperor had agreed to the terms. Although the U.S. government did not immediately
proclaim VJ Day, all the news reports were so naming the event.  

On arriving home from work I was informed that someone from the Armory had called and all Guardsmen were to report
for duty as soon as possible. On arrival at the Armory we were informed that orders were to stand by until official word
came from Richmond. 

After about an hour, one of the officers came before the assembly and told us that we were dismissed and free to go.
Billy's car was parked on 30th Street near the high school and while we were walking toward it we heard loud noises
coming from the direction of Washington Avenue. We decided to go up there and see what was happening. 

On Washington Avenue there was a huge crowd of people singing and shouting. In front of Epes' Stationery Store a
streetcar had been stopped by someone pulling the trolley pole off the wire. The frantic motorman was shouting for all
the passengers to exit. Then we saw a crowd of men gathering around the rear of the car. They began to make the car
bounce and it was clear that it would soon be off the tracks. We watched with great interest. 

At this point Billy and I were approached by a pair of military policemen. An Army MP and a Navy SP sternly inquired
why we were not following military orders to report to base. We showed them our VSG ID Cards and our insignia patches.
They had no idea what all this meant and escorted us to a patrol wagon where we were ordered to wait for an officer
to come.  

In about five minutes a weary looking Army officer arrived and we repeated our ID and patch routine. He told us to just
please go and return to wherever we were stationed. We told him the Armory was locked up by now. At that point he told
us to either go straight home or be "taken in." We made the safe choice and scooted back down 30th Street to the car. 

The next morning we read about the Washington Avenue VJ-Day celebrations in the Daily Press. Unfortunately there was
no mention of the two boy soldiers and the unique role that they played.  


Fred is a retired electronic engineer living

in Fullerton, Orange Co., CA 


Dates are for U.S. Time Zones

Hiroshima Mon Aug. 6 

Nagasaki Thu. Aug. 9 

VJ Day Tue. Aug. 14  

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