Lowell McCarty want to be a fly boy.
“I tried to enlist in the Air Corps when I was 17. I passed the written exam with no problems, but when I took the physical exam they found out I was color blind and they told me, ‘We don’t want you!'” the 84-year-old Port Charlotte man said more than six decades later.
“Then I tried to join the Navy. But I found out the Navy didn’t want color blind people either,” McCarty said. “Since my draft number was coming up the day I got out of high school I joined the Army.”
He signed up on August 6, 1945. That was the day Col. Paul Tibbets dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.
After graduating from boot camp at Camp Croft, SC, McCarty sailed for Europe aboard the aircraft carrier USS Randolph, converted to a troop transport.
“They put 19,000 bunks on the hanger deck and sailed from New York City to Naples, Italy in four days with us aboard the carrier,” he recalled. “After sailing into Naples I went to work for an engineering battalion. From early December until the following May McCarty worked as a clerk in a big supply dept.
“It was a 2,000 acre depot with every kind of equipment you could think of to build something with. We had everything from a bulldozer to hammers and nails,” he said.
“In May an order came down that anyone who had less than a year’s service was going to be sent to the 88th Infantry Division. That’s where I went and I finally ended up in the 339th Artillery Battalion attached to the 88th Infantry,” McCarty said.
“Shortly after I arrived at my new artillery battalion I was made a truck driver with the rank of corporal. I drove a 2 1/2 ton Army truck the last year or so I served,” he said. “I recall that right outside our base in Italy were some mountains along the border with Yugoslavia. On the side of the mountains in 150-foot-tall letters was the name: “TITO” spelled out.
He was the commander of the Yugoslav Partisans that fought the Germans during World War II. Josip Tito and his Communist partisans sided with the Russians that were trying to take over all of Europe at war’s end.
“I didn’t know much about driving an Army truck. I took my first trip when the whole artillery battalion went up into the Italian Alps for a little R&R. We went to Cortina d’Ampezzo, where they held the Winter Olympics in 1956. I spent much of the week-long R&R in the mountains grinding the truck’s gears going and coming.”
Late in the year McCarty served in Europe he and a buddy went on leave to Switzerland. They spent their 10-day pass seeing much of the country by rail. Shortly after returning from visiting Switzerland he received orders to return to the United States.
“After only 20 months in the Army I was being discharged. My Honorable Discharge says I was discharged ‘At the convenience of the service,'” McCarty explained. “I returned to the Sates aboard the troop transport Gen. Taylor. It took us 14 days to sail from Italy to New York.”
He was released from the Army at Fort Dix, N.J. on Jan. 19, 1947.
“I went back to my grandfather’s 400 acre farm in southern Ohio and started farming again. I also started chasing the girls and got married. My new wife didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife. She convinced me to go to college.
“I began checking colleges and found out Ohio State, University of Kentucky and the University of Cincinnati all had long waiting lists. All the G.I.s had come home from World War II and they all wanted to go to college,” McCarty said. “I took the G.I. Bill and was able to get into Indiana Institute of Technology at Fort Wayne, Ind. and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering.”
He went to work as an engineer for Standard Oil of Ohio in Cleveland for 13 years. In 1963 McCarty decided to found his own engineering firm. By the time he retired and his son took over the firm in the 1980s, he had 30 people working for the company.
He and his second wife, Elizabeth, moved to Port Charlotte in the 1980s. The house the couple now lives in was built after Hurricane Charley ravaged Charlotte County in August 2004. The couple has six children both from first marriages and 14 grandchildren.
This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, July 27, 2011. It is republished with permission.
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