Paul Yadlosky, like so many other patriotic citizens during our WWII era, realized at an early age that it was a solemn duty to serve our country in any capacity necessary to help protect America’s freedom. He was bound and determined to do just that.
Paul was born May 18, 1922 in the small mining town of Ely, Minnesota and he became a man growing up there.
He graduated from Memorial High School in 1940 and afterwards he attended Ely Junior College, but dropped out to join America’s war effort.
Paul and three buddies traveled to Burbank, California to work for Lockheed Aircraft which was cranking out P-38 Fighter Planes and Ventura Bombers hand-over-fist.
Paul became a tool maker machinist learning his trade by on the job training, but one year later he received Uncle Sam’s famous “greeting letter.”
Paul’s interest was learning to pilot airplanes and so, at age 20, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps October 14, 1942 moving out to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Basic Training.
Afterwards, he was ordered to attend Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska for a six month course in pilot training, navigation and cloud identification. Soon he was in preliminary flying classes and attending basic flying school.
When Paul’s flight instructor stated, “you’re trying to fly your airplane into the ground,” Paul was most disheartened realizing that he had just washed out of pilot school.
Rosie the Riveters
It was February 1944 when Paul was ordered to Gunnery School in Harlingen, Texas, but two months later he was discharged from the Army because his machinist skills were needed back at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank.
Paul was greatly disappointed losing his chance to become a pilot, but by then there he was working amongst a crew of Rosie the Riveters.
Things could have been far worse.
I’m sure Paul wasn’t thinking about an old Confucius quote, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change,” when he was summoned to Lockheed’s headquarters in June 1944.
Paul was astounded as he learned that his Army discharge was a mistake. Yet, he still felt pride knowing he had continued serving his country working for the war effort while at Lockheed.
He was still serving his country. He was ordered to report to the Presidio at San Francisco where he joined 20 other washed out pilots who were soon shipped out overseas via train to the east coast.
Fortunately, while on the way, Paul received a 10-day leave of absence and was able to spend time in Ely, Minnesota with his family.
Afterwards, he traveled on to Virginia where he shipped out on a troop ship to an air base near Cerignola, Italy arriving August 1944.
Due to Paul’s machinist skills, he was assigned to aircraft maintenance where he performed B-24 Bomber engine repairs for the remainder of WWII.
While there he saw many B-24’s all shot up and limping back home, barely making it back from their bombing runs.
On one occasion, a crippled B-24 came in to land but one of its bombs had not released during its mission.
As the bomber set down, it blew up right before their eyes leaving a giant crater in the runway.
The explosion and destruction of the bomber was the saddest thing Paul ever saw.
As WWII officially ended with Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945 following Adolph Hitler’s suicide and Japan’s surrender August 15, 1945, U.S. troops began shipping home.
And it was a glorious time, but Paul and his unit were reassigned to fly wounded soldiers and officers back home.
Paul remembers happily going from living in tents to living in fine hotel rooms at Casablanca, Morocco.
He was assigned as a flight steward on flights covering Karachi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dakar, and across the Atlantic to Natal, Brazil.
Other flight crews transported the soldiers from there to the USA.
You would have thought exceptional cuisine would be available for those long flights, but no…. Paul’s primary duty was serving K-Rations.
Love and Medals
Paul was Honorably Discharged February 11, 1946 at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.
His military awards include The Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Service Ribbon and European-African-Middle Eastern Service Ribbon.
Paul returned to his hometown Ely, Minnesota to live with his parents while finishing his college education on the G.I. Bill.
There he met the love of his life, Shirley Mae Johnson, during college and they were married August 30, 1947 right there in Ely.
The couple had three daughters and one son.
Right after Paul and Shirley married, they moved to Stout, Wisconsin so Paul could attend teaching school at Stout Institute for two years.
Working as a house painter to make ends meet and upon completion of his studies, Paul was hired by the Ypsilanti, Michigan School District as a high school machine shop instructor.
After two years, he was laid off so Paul then went to work in tool maintenance for General Motors in Detroit.
But, remembering Southern California’s fine climate and tiring of harsh winters, Paul packed up his family and they moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1954.
Entrenched in Southern California, Paul worked for various aerospace firms and retired from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corporation at age 62 in 1983.
The majority of Paul’s retirement years he and Shirley lived in Desert Hot Springs but, sadly, on June 19, 2015 Shirley passed away.
Earlier this year, Paul’s son Mike wanted his father close by so the family moved him to Pacifica Senior Living right here in Santa Clarita.
Prior to moving, Paul largely spent his time gardening and growing vegetables.
Paul has proud memories of his WWII experiences. Displaying his fine memorabilia collection of photos, letters, maps, and his old flight records book, Paul lingers over the memories of what made him the person he is today.
Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ‘67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division
and director of veterans affairs for The Signal.