WWII Snapshots by Tad Remy - 2008


William Stamey, Army Air Force, and Rae Stamey, Home Front

Growing up in a blue collar neighborhood, Bill Stamey always knew that he wanted to have a job where he was required to wear a shirt and tie. When he was called to active duty in the Army Air Force in 1943, an opportunity arose that would allow him to do that.

Born in Chicago in 1922, Stamey and his family moved to Denver, Colo. when he was very young. He attended school in the Denver area and, upon graduation, enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado. In 1942, Stamey enlisted in the Army Reserve. In 1943, he was called into active duty in the U.S. Army Air Force. Originally, he wanted to become a pilot, but after failing the eye exam, he looked for a different path.

The Army Air Force needed meteorologists to make forecasts for bombing missions. Stamey jumped at the opportunity because he wanted to do something that was more exciting than just being an ordinary infantryman. He also noted that this was a much safer alternative than being a regular soldier.

Upon being accepted into the meteorology program, Stamey was assigned to Brown University in Providence, R.I. to complete courses in calculus, physics, geography and pre-meteorology. Pre-meteorology included intense training in weather forecasting and analyzing weather maps.

"Although I was always in the top one or two in my class, at Brown I was surrounded by the most intelligent people I had ever been around, and was never able to get above the middle," he said.

Daily life at Brown was similar to normal college life. He said that he couldn't complain about his experience. They lived in dorm rooms and ate dorm food, which according to Stamey, was pretty standard. He said that he wasn't a picky eater, which served him well.

He awoke at 6 a.m., got dressed in his uniform, which he always had to wear, went to reveille, ate a cafeteria breakfast, and then went to class. Classes began at 8 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. At Brown, the cadets marched to every class and were required to always be in uniform. Stamey said they weren't even allowed to have civilian clothes.

The people of Providence, which is located on the Atlantic coast, were accustomed to sailors, Stamey said. Because Stamey and his fellow cadets weren't sailors, people in Providence, especially girls, treated them like heroes.

"We were actually just school boys in uniforms," Stamey said.

In downtown Providence, servicemen hung out at a recreational center, where they played ping pong, ate or drank sodas. At the center, Stamey met a girl. He said they were never more than friends, but it was fun to walk around with his friend and be noticed.

Upon completion of his training from Brown, Stamey was assigned to Chanute Field in Illinois for eight months to complete officer and meteorology training. This training was also intense, but did not cover as wide a curriculum as Brown. When he arrived at Chanute Field, Stamey had the rank of private; when he completed training, he was promoted to the rank of aviation cadet.

"The only difference was that I got to wear a different uniform, and I got paid a little more money," he said.

Stamey graduated from Chanute Field on June 4, 1944. Esler Field in Louisiana was the next stop in his military career. Esler Field was one of five military bases located in central Louisiana. Stamey analyzed weather maps and made forecasts for trial flights. The pilots then reported to him to give feedback on his forecast. Stamey said that he was very glad that he applied for the position.

While there, he went with a friend on a blind date to the meteorologist´┐Żs picnic in March 1945. There, he met Rae Wilson, who almost didn't go, but went as a favor to a friend. Stamey and Wilson had a good time, and started dating immediately. They began talk of marriage and agreed to get married before Stamey was shipped overseas.

On June 22, Stamey got the orders that he was to report to Salt Lake City, Utah. He was told to be there by July 6. Given the newly received orders, Stamey and Wilson married on June 23. The Army ordered that only military personnel report to Utah, so Rae stayed in Louisiana. Stamey said that he wished he would have brought her with him, because he said the Army was his boss, not hers. What made things worse was that the order to ship could have come any day, but it took between four and five weeks for his unit to be deployed.

After being deployed from Salt Lake City, Stamey and his unit were sent to Seattle. He said that one day before going to Seattle, he woke up and grabbed a newspaper, whose headline read: "U.S. drops Atomic Bomb." Initially he knew what the atom bomb was, and he hoped that it would end the war and allow him to go back to his wife. Stamey boarded a train bound for Seattle. On the train, he and his unit listened to the a report of Japan's formal surrender on the radio. He said that there was no great rejoicing among the men because they knew they were still going overseas. He did say that he was happy, but did not celebrate. Stamey said that he had a tremendous sense of relief and satisfaction.

His initial time in Pacific was highlighted by a series of brief stops in Honolulu, and Saipan in the Mariana Islands. After leaving Honolulu, he was sent to Guam. Before going to Guam, Stamey and his men were issued combat and survival gear. Stamey never needed to use his equipment, except for one time. When he arrived on Guam, Stamey and his unit were transported by truck to a base. When they got there, the base was abandoned. The unit wondered if anyone knew where they were. They spent the night outside, using their bayonets to crack coconuts.

It wasn't as easy as it looked in the video [film]," he said.

The next day they were picked up, and were taken to a weather base to perform their duties as forecasters. Stamey said he was very bored at this base because it was overrun with forecasters. He said he never analyzed a weather map and never made a forecast. He said about all he did was build sidewalks.

The rest of his time in the Pacific was spent between Guam and Manila in the Philippines. After higher-ranking officers were sent home, Stamey rose to become a weather communication officer. Eventually he became Chief Weather Communication Officer. By May 1946, he had advanced to the position of Weather Communicator for the entire Pacific.

In a series of letters from Stamey to his wife, Stamey recounted his final days on Guam. In the first letter, dated July 6, 1946, Stamey reported that he was tired of the rain, and couldn't stand being away from his wife any longer. He said that his commanding officer was really putting the pressure on to try to get him to stay. In the second letter, written on July 11, Stamey told his wife he had received orders to be shipped back to the Unites States. Even though it was raining very hard outside, he said that it was the most beautiful day he had seen while on Guam.

Stamey left the service as a 1st lieutenant. He went back to Northern Colorado, where he finished his bachelor's degree in mathematics. He received his master's and PhD in mathematics from the University of Missouri. He later joined the faculty at Kansas State University, where he served 34 years. He was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for 18 of those years.

The Stamey have three children, Robert, Janet, and the late Thomas Stamey, five grandsons and one great-grandson. Stamey still has a keen interest in the University, and still provides service as a tutor.

The Stameys recently moved across town to a retirement community. Rae Stamey said that her husband talked more about his military experience the last few weeks than he has told her in 60-plus years of marriage.


Rae (left) and Bill Stamey



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