Joining the 31st Bomb Squadron (H)

            Marion Shepherd came from the nation’s heartland. A native of Kansas, Shepherd found work during the Thirties in the Civilian Conservation Corps. “After getting out of the CCC, jobs were hard to get,” he recalled. “I remember applying for a dishwasher job for 25 cents an hour, and I didn’t get the job because I wasn’t experienced! The war in Europe was on, so Dad and I and the family had a discussion and we thought, ‘Well, the time to get in is now because we’ll probably be in the war and maybe I can get some job where it won’t be combative.’ The Army Air Corps was a branch of the Army at that time. I went to the Army recruiter and he said, ‘Oh, we’re building up the Air Corps over in the Hawaiian Islands, and we need men.’ Of course, he told about the fine chances they had over in Hawaii. They were going to defend the country over there and they probably wouldn’t even be in any war! It sounded like an adventure!” - - Marion Shepherd, 31st Bomb Squadron (H)

            Joseph “Joe” Hubka also hailed from Kansas, graduating from Wilson High School in 1938. “There was no future in Wilson for a young fellow,” said Hubka. “I wanted to get out of Wilson read bad – the dust storms, the drought and the grasshoppers made everything miserable. During high school I had a job in the summertime. I worked six days a week and long hours and my pay was 50 cents a week; that’s less than a penny an hour! After I graduated and got a regular job, I earned $5 a week, and then I got a job in a grocery store for $20 a month. That was big money! My parents had been farm folks but they lost the farm and had to move to town. This poor ragged kid used to see all the rich people get off the train and go to the Midland Hotel for dinner before boarding the train again. I thought they all must be millionaires to afford to travel and eat like that. A friend of mine joined the Air Corps. I was under age and I finally talked my parents into signing for me. I was at Fort Riley, Kansas, and they posted openings of places. When Hawaii came up, I decided to take it. I got to Hawaii March 3, 1940. When we docked there, I couldn’t believe it was so beautiful! The palm trees and people walking around carefree and happy and the weather was so warm. It was like dying and going to heaven after miserable Kansas in the Thirties!” - - Joe Hubka, 31st Bomb Squadron

            Henry Heim was the son of a Pennsylvania coal miner. After high school, Henry, too, went to work in the mines. “I worked in the coal mine until the day it caved in on me,” Heim recalled. His father dug him out. “When he got me outside, he said, ‘Son, you’ve worked your last day in a coal mine. Go into the service. Make something of yourself. I don’t want you to grow up like me.’ You see, there were no other jobs then.” Heim didn’t think the United States would be involved in the war which already raged in Europe. “When I enlisted, I didn’t really think we were going to get into this. July 2, 1940, I enlisted. They said, ‘Do you want to go overseas?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure!’ They said, ‘Philippines?’ and then they said, ‘Hawaiian Islands?’ and that sounded kind of romantic and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go to Hawaii!’ I wanted to see those hula girls, and then I got over there and I was so damn bashful I was afraid to even look at ‘em!” - - Henry Heim, 31st Bomb Squadron

            “I was raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” Julian “Jim” Karstein explained. “When I got out of high school I had an uncle who said, ‘When you get ready to go to college, I’ll pay for it.’ When I graduated from high school, I went to college for a year and he died! This was in the 30s and the 30s were financially very bad. I had seen a picture with Ruby Keeler’s husband [Al Jolson]. It was one of those rousing pseudo-military things and they had a song, ‘Over the seas, let’s go, men…’ I thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I go overseas? I’ll go to Hawaii!’ So I put in for it and I was sent to Hawaii. I was 18.” - - Jim Karstein, 31st Bomb Squadron (H)