Veterans Voices: The Air Force Desk

Veteran Tom White

In 1930 I was born in Ft. Worth, TX and raised in Austin.  I was the oldest of five kids.  My dad was great at developing and building things so I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

I was 7 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Our family was scared about what might happen to us and our country.  We kept glued to the radio for several years.

When the Korean War came I was 19 years old.  Other fellows my age were being drafted left and right.

I went to the draft board and they said that my name was coming up within a few days.

The Recruiting Stations were in the same building so I turned to the Air Force desk.  After a few mental and physical tests they said, “OK” and I was in.

The following day was Christmas.  On the next day after, I was on a bus to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonia for boot camp.

During that time I decided I wanted to be a pilot and learn to fly.

They gave me some physical tests and we learned I was color-blind in some shades that are used in maps.

That ended my flying ambitions.  I then became a clerk.

They kept me at Randolph for several more months to assist in the reenlistment of recalled World War II Air Force Veterans.

Soon thereafter, I was shipped to Tripoli, Libya, North Africa, where I became the clerk of the post commander. In my free time I wrote a lot of personal letters to my family describing my activities.  I was enjoying myself both on and off the base.

When I returned home and was discharged, many of my friends asked what I did in the Air Force.

I told them then and then told many others that over the course of a lot of years that I flew on of those God-awful, time-consuming things called … a desk.

Soon after I became a civilian I decided to move to Los Angeles where opportunities and jobs were more plentiful.  I started work as a draftsman at a company that made material conveyors of various types.

Then I went to work for JT Thorpe Inc. designers and builders of high temperature industrial furnaces again as a draftsman. Here I spent the rest of my working life.  I wrote specifications for suppliers, builders, installers and was project engineer and manager in the field in various parts of the world.  In the meantime I was involved in the sales of many of these furnaces.

I met and married my daughter’s mother, Barbara, which didn’t last long because I was away too much.  I became a playboy and browsed the night spots.  Then I met Fran and after dating three years, we married and I settled down.  In 2003 I became a member of the Seal Beach American Legion Post 857 where I was Commander from 2003 to 2005.  During that time I inaugurated the Ladies Auxiliary for which Fran became the first president.

I remember times when Paul Pudenz and I would sit at a recruiting table whenever Seal Beach had a special event and as people walked by or up to our table we would say “Are you a veteran?”

Now that we live in Seal Beach we will probably spend the rest of our lives here.

Bill Thomas of Rossmoor is a Veteran of World War II, and Past Commander of VFW Post 4048,and American Legion Post 857. Contact Bill at Meetings of the Seal Beach American Legion Post 857, and the S.B.Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4048 are held in Building 6 of the Naval Weapons Station on Seal Beach Boulevard. They both have a Social Hour at 6 p.m. The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m.

The American Legion meets on the third Tuesday. The Veterans of Foreign Wars meet on the fourth Tuesday. A gate pass is required. For more information, Contact Bill Thomas at (562) 431-7795, or at