Very few times in life are you afforded the opportunity to meet special people. Such was my pleasure a couple of weeks ago, when I finished a show for the residents at Keystone Place in Buzzards Bay. After my program I had the most delightful conversation with Ed Mayer and his lovely wife, Caroline. One thing led to another. My interview with Mr. Mayer (a World War II veteran) was coordinated by activities director Cathy Smolinski. My heart was warmed from being in the presence of two wonderful people as I sat with them in their beautiful apartment.
Born in the Bronx, New York, Mr. Mayer attended Evander Childs High School. He met Caroline when she was 16 and he was 17. In 1942, at age 20, Mr. Mayer enlisted in the US Navy (he would go on to serve until 1945). After basic training at Great Lakes in Chicago he was assigned to duty in Newport, Rhode Island, then to San Francisco, where he was shipped to New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Mr. Mayer was assigned to the attack transport USS President Adams (APA-19). His first assignment was to the Solomon Islands, where the overall mission was to take the islands and get closer to Japan for the invasion.
Mr. Mayer described his first holiday overseas: “I wrote a few notes. My feeling was of home and all that was there.” Ms. Mayer also commented on how difficult it was to stay connected overseas. “They used v-mail back then. It used to come in shreds. The sensors would cut them out for security. I never knew where my husband was.”
Mr. Mayer was a quartermaster on his ship. His responsibilities included taking care of the charts and jotting down information, working with the officer of the day and overseeing the his ship’s zig-zag pattern. The responsibility was immense and the duty crucial in spotting enemy submarines.
Mr. Mayer recalled the abundance of landings his ship trained for, especially in Guadalcanal and Bougainvillea, as crew members looked to develop airports for planes to fly closer to Japan for bombing missions. Mr. Mayer recalled that “we didn’t have many problems with enemy aircraft. Our boys in the air gave us great cover. There were times I was a little concerned, but we knew the Air Force had our backs.”
When his ship needed supplies it headed for New Zealand. Mr. Mayer described the country as “very nice, pristine clean. They gave you a great steak and eggs,” he recalled with a chuckle.
Mr. Mayer had a few buddies but one that sticks out was a guy from Texas. “We just really liked doing things together. Really enjoyed each other’s company,” he remembered.
Mr. Mayer said he really liked two initiatives that came out of the war; the Marshall Plan and the GI Bill. He would go on to graduate from Syracuse University with a degree in civil engineering. He and Caroline, his wife of 74 years, would go on to live in Houston, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Maine and Boston.
When asked for his thoughts on his military service, Mr. Mayer (who was honorably discharged with the rank of quartermaster second class) said humbly, “I’m very proud of my service to the country and to helping contribute to the invasion of Japan.”
Mr. Mayer will celebrate a pretty big milestone—his 97th birthday—in another week (Caroline is 96). They have two beautiful daughters and four grandchildren. I have met many people, but few have made an impression on me like Mr. and Mrs. Mayer.
Quartermaster Second Class Ed Mayer, thank you for your service to our great country.