Blair graduated from high school at age 16. Too young to join the military, he spent one semester at Graceland University before heading to Des Moines to enlist in the Navy.

Joining the military

Blair graduated from high school at age 16. Too young to join the military, he spent one semester at Graceland University before heading to Des Moines to enlist in the Navy. He tested to go to officer school but was found to be color blind, which officers could not be. So, Blair was off to boot camp like most others. Blair spent a five weeks at boot camp followed by five months of Radio Service School. He was then sent to San Diego to help with patrolling the west coast shoreline for enemy ships. He was soon sent to a new ship, the USS Aventinus, an aviation repair vessel he would stay with until the end of his enlistment. He served as a radioman.

A memorable moment

Blair’s was not a fighting ship, but still he saw Tinian, Saipan and Okinawa, doing repair work on ships and planes that were damaged in battle and waiting to be sent home. Most were dismantled and either sent home in pieces or placed on a barge and sunk in the sea.

Once, during a storm that knocked out the radios, Blair was told to climb up the mast and fix it. He climbed up, plugged the cables back in and climbed back down. He laughs – at 19, you do whatever you’re told, but he sure wouldn’t do it today.

While in Okinawa, Blair’s ship was hit by a series of three typhoons, which seriously damaged the huts and the ships. Eighty-five Navy ships were sunk (mostly LCSs) with dozens of lives lost. The winds were 185 mph during a typhoon named Little Lulu. Although most ships were sent out to sea to escape the typhoon, Blair saw one ship pushed up 100 yards on shore and many of the huts being blown away. He recalls one LCI with 22 men aboard was blown over and all men perished. 

After the war

After his work on Okinawa was completed, he was sent to Guam for a rest camp. By day, the men were able to walk around and swim in the sea, but by night the Marines confined them to their quarters because the Japanese still in the woods were not aware of the war’s end and kept shooting. In May 1946, Blair was finally sent home and discharged as Radioman 3rd Class.
Blair used the GI Bill to go back to school. He received a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree in 1950 and a master of science in engineering in 1976.

He married his college sweetheart in his last year of college. After graduation, they moved to Independence, where he worked for two engineering companies until 1957. He then took a position with the Air Force as a civilian engineer. His last job with the Air Force was designing and overseeing construction of the NORAD site inside the Cheyenne Mountains. In 1963, Blair took a job in Washington, D.C., to help set up a research and engineering department within the postal service.

He retired in 1986 and came back to Independence. For the next 10 years, he ran four Merle Harmon Sportswear stores with his wife.

About Wildermuth

YEARS SERVED: 1943-1946

FAMILY: His wife of 63 years, Marion, one son, one daughter, two grandchildren and one great-granddaughter