John Copeland was an 18 year old high school junior, who in 1943, felt the call of the wild and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
As all newcomers to the navy he was sent to boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. On completion he was given the option of choosing what he wanted to do and he said for some reason he chose submarines.
Individuals who were choosing their future careers were given an opportunity to experience what that career might look like.
John was introduced to a submarine
As he boarded he was able to observe what other people were doing, the size of the boat, the distance between the deck below and the deck above and decided this is not for me. John backed out of submarines and then he was sent for training as crew on an aircraft.
In his case, this was a C54. The C 54 was a four engine military cargo aircraft used by the United States Navy. John’s official title on board was flight orderly. He said, “I kept the plane clean; made sure the tanks were full of gas and whatever else the captain wanted me to do.”
His job was to be one of the one of the crew necessary for the smooth functioning of the aircraft. He said after flight training school he was sent to Hawaii at the Naval Station Pearl Harbor, attached to Hickam Field, the airfield attacked that brought about the U. S. entry into WWII.
The mission of the C54 was to deliver cargo and mail to the troops who were on the front line going from Hawaii to the Marshals, to the Philippines, to Eniwetok and even to Johnson Island, an island specifically enlarged for purposes of landing larger aircraft. Before the expansion, Copeland remembers seeing a B-24 off the end of the runway, underwater, because it had run out of space to land.
The C 54 delivered materials and mail as the United States forces advanced from island to island. Copeland’s unit ferried necessary supplies all the way from the United States ultimately to Japan.
Upon discharge from the Navy, Copeland returned to Lebanon and the farm to assist his father until he took a job with the Shumate Printing Company which printed business forms and medical books.
Copeland was a compositor and his responsibility was to set the type by hand. It was quite the job considering the medical books had “foreign” terminology and everything that that he saw was in the “stick” in his hand, upside down and backwards.
Copeland had the experience of hand setting type and was introduced to machine setting type with a linotype. He, in effect, made the jump from the 15th century into the early part of the 20th century in printing technology. Before he left the job in the 1990’s, he was looking at phototypesetting where the type was machine set and you looked at it on a CRT screen. This was quite a change in one lifetime. Printing was a job that Copeland held for 40 years.
After retirement he thought, “now what am I gonna do”?
Then he met the individual who owned the building occupied by the IGA grocery store. He started to work there after a 40 year career as a printer, the navy, high school and some farm work. By then he was in his late 60’s.
Now, John Copeland has been working for Railler’s IGA in Lebanon for 25 years. He is a member of the, “greatest generation.” At 93, ask him about retirement and he responds, “not for another seven years.” And then ask him what he’ll do and he says, “I don’t have a clue.”
John Copeland, WWII veteran United States Navy, working strong.
Photo Above: John Copeland. Photo By Joe Bierce.