Charles Glenn Petersen

1956 - Air Force Years


We went to Spencer to the recruitment office, took an application multiple-choice test. Just as a point of interest, I'll brag a little, I got 50 out of 50 questions correct on the test. We signed up and, within a few days, we were on a bus to Omaha, where we were given an aptitude test, and were sworn in on June 20, 1956. I scored 100 out of 100 on that test and got to choose my career field of electronics. My brother scored well in electronics as well. The next day we were on an airplane, my first in a commercial aircraft, headed for Parks Air Force Base in California for Basic Training. Parks AFB is located about 25 miles southwest of Oakland, California.

Basic training in the Air Force was pretty simple compared to what we had heard about Basic Training from other branches of the service. Yes, there was marching, berating, and spit and polish, but it wasn't physically all that tough. The really eye opening part of basic training was that of our Flight of 55 guys, half were white guys from the Midwest and the other half were intercity black kids from Detroit and the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. I had never had any close contacts with blacks before and I found this group to be street-wise far beyond anything I had ever imagined. They were none of the stereotypes we had seen in the movies. It was an interesting introduction to interracial living in the military. Harry Truman's directive in 1947 forced the military to integrate for the first time in our history. Fortunately, we had not grown up to disrespect blacks so it was no problem for us in any way.