My Dad: AF Williamson, Jr. 1925 - 1967

AF Williamson, Jr. at 1 year old

The Life of AF Williamson, Jr.

Arlin Franklin Williamson, Jr. was born on September 14, 1925 in Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama. He was called "Junior" by his family for his entire life. He was the oldest of three children born into a modest home. Beginning life as the Great Depression set in was not an easy undertaking for many Americans. He had two younger sisters. His father had been a Deputy Sheriff, a Foundry Foreman and later would own a pest control business with clients all over northeastern Alabama. His mother was deeply religious her entire life. Junior grew up about as normal as a child could for the times as they were -- a Great Depression, a World War, the beginning of an Atomic Age.

Anniston High School in 1949

Attending School

The picture on the right is of the Noble Street School where he and his sisters all attended grades 1 through 6. Junior would attend Anniston High School later but he did not plan to graduate once WWII started. He planned to join the Navy as soon as he turned 17. This desire came about for many reasons. The Anniston area is very connected to the military in many ways and patriotism runs deep. Fort McClellan was just north of Anniston and many of the citizens of Anniston had ties to the base for employment in one way or another. There was also the Anniston Army Depot which was a supply depot. So on September 14, 1942 Junior followed through on his plan to join the Navy and promptly broke his sisters' and mother's hearts in the process. Though they hated for him to leave, not knowing if they would ever see him again, they knew he was doing his part for his country. After the paperwork and the goodbyes, he boarded a train at the station at 4th & Noble headed for Corpus Christi, Texas and boot camp.

Happy 17th Birthday! Join the Navy!

Junior spent his first several weeks in the Navy at NAS Corpus Christi enduring boot camp and basic training beginning on September 15, 1942. About a year later on October 13, 1943 he went to Norman, Oklahoma to attend Aviation Ordnanceman school aboard the NATTC - Naval Aviation Technical Training Center. February 12, 1944 he had completed his training in Oklahoma and was transferred to NAS Grosse Ile, Michigan. From there he went to NAS Wildwood, NJ where he probably was first introduced to the functions of a CASU -- Carrier Aircraft Support Unit. These units gave the carrier back the primary function of flight ops. Space, time, and equipment to do repairs on planes was always at a premium on the hangar decks. The CASU gave the carrier another option for dealing with those limitations. After passing through NAS Atlanta, Georgia it was off to CASU 7. This is a big unknown to me as to where that duty was. I cannot find out what air group or ship the CASU 7 was associated with. He went to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington next. From there he went to a receiving station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This led to his assignment with CASU 2 which was associated with the USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Barbers Point. A strange assignment followed that with the "Navy No. 939" which had a designation of "outside the continental limits of the United States" as its description. This coincided with the dropping of the atomic bombs that brought the war to an end. Maybe it was related, but who knows? His final duty station was the Fighting Squadron 35 and maybe because hostilities were pretty much ending, it was the only one that I have pictures from.

Navy Duty Stations

1. NAS Corpus Christi, TX NAS Corpus ChristiReported aboard on September 15, 1942. Basic Training is very intense and the fact that it was in Corpus Christi probably made it even worse. The winters are very cold and the wind off the Gulf of Mexico doesn't help.

2. NATTC Norman, OK Aviation Ordnanceman InsigniaReported aboard on October 13, 1943. Aviation Ordnanceman is a 10-week course of study. Other rates were also trained at NATTC and close-quarter combat training was given to the Marines at this site. The NATTC Serviceman's Booklet that belonged to Junior is available for your reading pleasure.

3. NAS Grosse Ile, MI Reported aboard on February 12, 1944. Grosse Ile was the home of a U.S. Navy base for forty years. The Grosse Ile U.S. Naval Air Station opened in 1929 after three years of construction of seaplane and dirigible facilities. During World War II, the naval base developed into an important center for military flight training. The base was expanded considerably to accommodate large numbers of American and British fliers who trained on the island. Former President George H. W. Bush was stationed at the base for training during 1945 for about two months.

4. NAS Wildwood, NJ (CASU 24) CASU LogoReported aboard on May 4, 1944. This duty station was an introduction to the CASU concept. CASU stood for Carrier Aircraft Support Unit. Their existence made a huge difference in how aircraft were maintained, refurbished and repaired during the latter parts of WWII. It off-loaded some of the extra work and need for equipment to the land instead the carrier itself.

5. NAS Atlanta, GA NAS Atlanta This was sort of a "passing through" station. It was also convenient that Junior's hometown of Anniston is only a couple of hours away. NAS Atlanta became Peachtree-Dekalb Airport.

6. CASU 7 Reported aboard on December 9, 1944. Not so sure where or to what ship this unit was attached. It is possible that this could have been on Okinawa.

7. PSNY Bremerton, WA Reported aboard on January 5, 1945. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was a major force in getting the ships built, refurbished and repaired after being damaged in battle.

8. CASU 2 Reported aboard on February 14, 1945.CASU 2 was affiliated with USS Enterprise (CV-6), the most decorated ship in WWII. CASU 2 was located on Barbers Point, Hawaii. Not much is known about my Dad being at this duty station.

9. Navy No. 939 (Orote, Guam, Marianas Islands) Northern GuamTransferred to this assignment on August 7, 1945. This duty station is probably the island of Guam because the Navy FPO desigantion for Guam is 939. There is a note in his service record stating that this location is outside the continental limits of the United States. Reported aboard on August 28, 1945. Why the long delay between the orders to transfer and the actual arrival? Maybe he was on a ship that was travelling from Hawaii to Guam.

10. Fighting Squadron 35 VT-35: the "Grim Reapers"Reported aboard on September 20, 1945. The "Grim Reapers" were affiliated with the USS Chenango (CVE-28), a carrier escort that started life as an oiler. It was reshaped into a carrier and given work in both the Atlantic and Pacific during WWII. For part of the two months Junior was with this unit, he was on Saipan.

Hobbies after the Navy

Model Airplane Club, Junior is first on left standingJunior continued to fly after leaving the Navy, but these were model airplanes that he flew as part of a model airplane club. It was through this that he began developing his model building skills. Later he would join an HO Gauge model railroad club in Florida where he would create intricate train landscapes. He also became a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America in October 1946. It was shortly after this that he was diagnosed with diabetes, a very little-understood disease for that time. He would need an insulin injection daily for the rest of his life. After being re-enlisted for a short time and admitted to US Naval Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, he became a Disabled American Veteran. He didn't let that stop him, though. He kept going in spite of his diabetes and got married in 1951. He completed a course in Junior Accounting through the Anniston Business College in 1953. In 1954, his only son was born. Concerned about the cold Alabama winters and their continued effect on his health the decision was made to move to Florida in 1955.

Everybody goes to Florida to retire!

Palm Crest Hotel in Haines City, Florida, still standing todayThe ridge that ran along the center of the state from north to south was the most appealing place to settle. More specifically, the Haines City area in Polk County was the place where the Williamson's would live for the first few months in Florida renting a place before buying a house in Davenport, a few miles north. One of Haines City's best-known icons was the Palm Crest Hotel (photo on right). The warmer weather allowed for Junior to work part-time in a couple of different fields: as an electrician and for a pest control company owned by C. Miller. Now he began to fish, mostly at night or using trot lines, and would bring home some gigantic catfish. Watching baseball was another favorite passtime. Model railroading gave Junior quite a bit of satisfaction. He built a layout that was about 8 ft x 10 ft in the early 60's. Unfortunately, there is no picture of this endeavor.

©2008 by Bill Williamson