I didn’t know that my father, Robert William Bergeson, was in the Reserve Officer Training Program until I inherited his high school yearbook, the “Schurzone of Star Spangled Rhythm” (Carl Schurz High School/Chicago, IL) after he died. I don’t know whether he was in the program for all three years, but he definitely was in his senior year. Bob was a 1st Lieutenant in the Picked Platoon.
After graduating in June 1943, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. During his service he had two postings. The first was Randoph Field near San Antonio, Texas for basic training and the second was at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama. He was trained in ground operations as an engine mechanic and worked on AT-6 Texan aircraft. The AT-6 was used primarily as a training aircraft for pilots who would eventually fly single-engine planes.
My uncle, Harold Parke Bergeson, served in the United States Army as part of the occupation of Japan following the end of World War II. He enlisted in mid-1946 following the spring semester at St. Olaf College.
He was in the 25th Infantry Division which had a storied role in the Pacific Theater during the war. The 25th was based in Hawai’i, although I don’t know if that’s where Hal did his basic training. The division still exists in the Army today! Its nickname is “Tropic Lightning”. Being in Japan during the post-war occupation couldn’t have been an easy assignment, but baseball was a prominent part of the story from what I’ve read and Hal played on the 25th ID baseball team, the “Stags”.
Recently, I came across a website called “Chevrons and Diamonds” that focuses on baseball activity in the US military (who knew it was a thing to study?) and found an article about the Stags from the 25th when it was in Japan. The linked article below was written in 2019 and highlights a signed baseball from the 1949 Stags that the author owns. Hal was a civilian again by 1949 and back at St. Olaf College, but I bet he knew some of the guys on the team. Ironically, 1949 was year that St. Olaf won the MIAC Conference Championship in baseball due in no small part to Hal’s incredible talent.
My Dad passed in 2006 at the age of 81. Hal died in January of this year just a month shy of his 92nd birthday. I wish that I’d asked them more about their experiences in the service, but I hope this is enough to show their good work!