Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL) hosted retired U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Allen and the USS New Jersey Veterans Association for a memorial service and banquet on August 11.
That morning Allen and the battleship veterans watched boot camp graduation at Recruit Training Command's USS Midway Drill Hall, where Allen met Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Steven Giordano.
Afterward, the veterans conducted a memorial, consisting of a luncheon then a small service honoring veterans of the USS New Jersey who had died in the last year.
Allen attended the ceremony, and as a veteran of the USS New Jersey, he shared stories with other veterans and NSGL Sailors.
“I graduated boot camp here 72 years ago, in 1945,” said Allen. “Shortly after graduating, they gave me a commission and sent me to be a Navy aviator. I trained at Dartmouth College, Princeton University, and quite a few other places. However, when the war [WWII] ended, they said they didn’t need me as an officer anymore, and told me I had a color correction problem. So they sent me to boot camp here at Great Lakes, then I went to the fleet as a Seaman First.”
After his abnormal start in the Navy, Allen went on to serve at what was called the Pacific Air Command out of San Diego, Calif.
“I didn’t like it,” said Allen. “So I wrote the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP), saying that the Navy had trained me to be an officer, so I want to be an officer!”
Within three weeks, Allen had his reply.
“The CNP told me OK. And all I had to do past that point was pass a physical,” said Allen. “Then they made me an ensign in the supply corps, due to a manning shortage after the war. I then reported aboard the Battleship USS New Jersey, at the age of 19.”
“I served for 28 years, retiring in 1971,” said Allen. “And one thing that has always stuck with me is that to get ahead in any endeavor, which the Navy is no exception, you have to seek further education to have performance. I encourage anyone coming out of boot camp to apply for schools, get that extra education, and to be obedient to the commands that are given to you. The Navy will make a man or a woman out of you, there is no doubt about that.”