Dr. Billy Clyde Michal was born in April 1936 in Alexandria, Louisiana and lived nearby in Zimmerman which was a major sawmill town in the state. He lived there until he completed LSU Dental School in 1957. He lost his father in Hurricane Audrey just before he completed dental school. It was a tough time. He spent four years in New Orleans at Loyola and then entered the Air Force. He was in Turkey during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He returned and attended pedodontic school at the University of Tennessee and then practiced in Baton Rouge from 1966 to 1998. He has taught at LSU and Loyola. Hurricane Katrina significantly impacted his work and facilities. Michal's grandfather and father worked at the sawmill in Zimmerman. The mill was closed in the 1930s due to the Depression. It forced his father to move back to his native state, Texas. When his father returned to Zimmerman, he met Michal's mother and they married. The Louisiana Maneuvers occurred nearby prior to the start of the war and Michal has some recollection of that. He remembers the smoke and the noise of simulated battles. The soldiers provided fruit to Michal and his sister. A camp was set up in the field near their house. Prisoners were kept in the school yard. The forces were defined as Red versus Blue. The headquarters for Eisenhower and Patton [Annotator's Note: future US Army General Dwight Eisenhower and Lieutenant General George S. Patton] was in a hotel in Alexandria. Radio was an important item in Michal's home. Michal was impressed with some of the stories he heard on the wartime radio shows.
Billy Michal was educated in a small town country school. He remembers scrap drives as being an important aspect of his youth. The students were very successful at gathering scrap and won a contest. Michal won a contest for excelling in collecting scrap and that enabled him to participate in a ship christening and subsequent side launch event in January 1943 at Delta Shipyard. He rode a train to New Orleans for the celebration. He fed seals at the Audubon Zoo. He rode a jeep through the city. The other major memory from the war years involved seeing a picture of the atomic bomb explosion. The family enjoyed going to Alexandria to take in the latest war movies that were produced. Michal's father was in his late 20s at the time of the war but had a deferment as an essential worker in the lumber business. The lumber mill closed when Michal completed dental school [Annotator's Note: in 1957] after 60 years of deforesting.
Billy Michal's paternal grandfather worked his way up the ladder in the local lumber business [Annotator's Note: in Zimmerman, Louisiana]. His father worked there until his untimely death in Hurricane Audrey. His maternal grandfather died in a lumber accident early in his life. Michal worked there for awhile but decided to become a dentist. He did a stint in the Air Force in the midst of his dental training. Some of his friends had gone to Korea during that war. While he was studying, he assisted a dentist who had heart problems. In doing so, he was enabled to go to England when he went into the service. Ultimately, that billet was changed to Turkey. He left the country for the first time after his training. He was a second lieutenant because he was a dentist. When he arrived in England, he was given a lift by a two star general [Annotator's Note: major general]. When he arrived in Turkey, there was no one to meet him and he had not been given specific instructions on his next move. He took a taxi to town. It was a NATO [Annotator's Note: North Atlantic Treaty Organization] center but there was no base. Michal went to the hospital but they did not anticipate his arrival. He went to a local hotel and remained there for three or four months without pay. No one knew he was there. We he was finally paid, it was half in Turkish currency. He received a grocery bag full of cash. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russia was looking right down the barrel at them in Turkey. He was discharged from the Air Force and started school in Memphis in 1963.
Billy Michal enlisted during the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis while many of his friends were drafted. Some fellow officers wanted to go to Vietnam as it ramped up. They sought the transfer as a means to experience combat and aid in their chance for promotion. One doctor that Michal knew denigrated military service. Michal said he was lucky that he was in during peacetime. In an earlier time, he might have been drafted and ended up dead on the beaches of Normandy. Michal said the ungrateful officer was very lucky to be where he was. The man's attitude bothered him.
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