Prewar Life

Postwar Life

Basic Training to War's End


Walter Atwood was born Lebanon, Kansas in February 1922. He grew up on a farm. He had to milk cows before and after school. There were five boys and three girls. They had a one room schoolhouse for his first eight years. He walked five miles to his high school his first year and rode a horse the second year. He worked with the CCC [Annotator's Note: Civilian Conservation Corps] in 1939 after high school. In January 1940, he went to Worland, Wyoming on his first train ride. It was 55 degrees below zero when he arrived. He worked in the courthouse as a clerk and typist. Typing was the best course he took in high school; it has gone with him his whole life. He stayed in a camp at night. He did not smoke. Every Saturday morning they had to police the area and pick up cigarettes. He saw "Gone with the Wind" [Annotator's Note: American film, 1939] while there. They were paid monthly and most of the check went to his parents. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks Atwood if he was there when he heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941.] Atwood was in the CCC in 1940. He went to Lowell Kooskia, Idaho. He had a vacation and went to Oregon to visit relatives. That was his first time seeing the ocean [Annotator's Note: Pacific Ocean]. He worked as a clerk there and was also a forest firefighter. He returned home and worked for a little while in the Youth Administration at KU [Annotator's Note: University of Kansas] in Lawrence, Kansas. He got a job driving a couple in the Ozarks [Annotator's Note: Ozark Mountains]. He attended a sheet metal school in Wichita [Annotator's Note: Wichita, Kansas] then went to work for Boeing [Annotator's Note: The Boeing Company].


Walter Atwood took a Liberty ship [Annotator's Note: a class of quickly produced cargo ship] home. One night, the workers decided to cook some steaks for themselves. The Navy saw that, took the steaks, and threw them overboard. They got into some storms going into Portland, Oregon and had to stop in Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Mariana Islands] for repairs to the ship. He was discharged in Denver [Annotator's Note: Denver, Colorado] in February 1946. He stayed in the Reserve and went home to Kansas. He did not want to be a farmer. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to Business School in Wichita [Annotator's Note: Wichita State Barton School, Wichita, Kansas] and took accounting. Because he had worked at Boeing [Annotator's Note: The Boeing Company] he got to go back there. He later got hired as a policeman and did that for three or four years. He went to college part time at Wichita State College. He and some friends tested for the Secret Service [Annotator's Note: United States Secret Service]. He was not hired because he did not have his college degree. He went to polygraph school in Chicago [Annotator's Note: Keeler Polygraph School, Chicago, Illinois] for six weeks. He got a call from Washington D.C. to work for the Department of Defense. His buddies in the Secret Service were GS-7s [Annotator's Note: government pay grade ranking] and Atwood was hired as a GS-12 as a polygraph examiner. He did that for ten years. He had his own office in the Pentagon as director of the polygraph business for 15 years. He traveled the world in that job. The General in charge was a former prisoner of war of the Japanese. He retired on 30 June 1975 as a GS-14. He opened his own polygraph business and did that for 25 years. He formed The American Polygraph Association. He did a lot of traveling. He set up a polygraph school in Saudi Arabia with Raymond Weir [Annotator's Note: Raymond J. Weir, Jr.; first African-American polygrapher]. A few years later he was hired by another country where he taught the police academies. In 2001 he had 50 years' service and retired to Columbia, South Carolina. [Annotator's Note: He last lived in Jacksonville, Florida where he died in 2020.]


Walter Atwood worked for Boeing [Annotator's Note: The Boeing Company] for a couple of years and got deferments [Annotator's Note: postponement of military service] while building B-17s [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] and B-29s [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber]. Rosie the Riveter [Annotator's Note: allegorical cultural icon representing women factory and shipyard workers] took the jobs and Atwood was drafted into the Army Air Force. He did basic training in Amarillo, Texas in January 1943. He was promoted to assistant drill sergeant due to his experience in the CCC [Annotator’s Note: Civilian Conservation Corps]. He went to North Carolina then he was sent to Louisville, Kentucky for fighter pilot training. He saw some crashes and changed his mind. He got orders to Syracuse, New York where a squadron [Annotator's Note: 2nd Combat Cargo Group] was being made to go to Japan. He was assigned as a clerk. They were training pilots for C-47s [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft] and then changed to C-46s [Annotator's Note: Curtiss C-46 Commando cargo aircraft]. The squadron was sent to the Pacific. They took planes from San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] to Hawaii and then several islands. They ended up in Townsend, Australia for a few days. He went for training at Biak Island [Annotator's Note: Biak, Papua New Guinea]. They flew supplies and personnel all over the islands. He lived four people to one tent. They had a good time. He went to Leyte, Philippines. They were preparing to move to Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan] for the invasion [Annotator's Note: invasion of Japan] when they dropped the bomb [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945]. They went to Okinawa when the worst hurricane in history hit [Annotator's Note: Typhoon Louise, 9 October 1945]. They went into Yokota, Japan [Annotator's Note: September 1945]. His unit was the first to take American prisoners of war out. Atwood was made First Sergeant there. He got to go to Tokyo [Annotator's Note: Tokyo, Japan] a couple of times.

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