By Mary O’KEEFE
“Oh yeah, did I show you this? It’s Eleanor Roosevelt.”
That statement, simply said, as if it happened yesterday and the woman standing in the photograph with a World War II squadron was just another woman.
Retired Air Force Major George Haney stood in front of the Crescenta Valley High School’s JROTC cadets and shared some memories of World War II. As with most members of this era, titled the “Greatest Generation,” his stories of bravery were understated.
At 95 years old, Haney still reminisced about his days in the service and the camaraderie between the men and women.
“Everyone was so nice. They all supported each other,” he said.
Haney was in the Air Transport Command. He joined the Air Force just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Pacific during World War II.
“It was bad in the Pacific. The Japanese had hundreds of ships,” he recounted.
He witnessed Kamikaze attacks. Kamikazes were Japanese pilots that would use their entire plane as a weapon and dive into their enemies.
Haney shared a story of a time when he and his crew ditched their plane into the Pacific after they had run out of gas.
“We hit the water. Our plane broke into two pieces,” he said.
In WWII a lot of equipment was being used for the first time. Haney was happy to find that the inflatable raft that was part of the emergency equipment on the plane opened without fail.
“We got into the raft. There were so many sharks around us. We were afraid they were going to rip our raft,” Haney said. “Then there were swells.”
The ocean was rough and the waves tossed the crew. They saw planes fly low over them. Haney said they wondered why they didn’t stop for them but they flew on toward Pearl Harbor. After about 12 to 14 hours a B-17 appeared just as it got dark and rescued them.
As Haney climbed out of the raft to the safety of the transport he said his back hurt a little but he was just happy to be rescued. He was transported to a hospital.
“They asked me to walk around my bed. It hurt but I walked. Then they took tests and came back and said ‘Don’t move.’”
Doctors told him he had broken his back. He was going to have three months leave but that didn’t quite work out.
“A [superior officer] asked me if I would go back [to service]. He said they needed co-pilots for something big they had planned,” he said. “I went back.”
The something big was Midway.
Haney said that he attends many of the ceremonies that the JROTC serve as color guard.
“It makes me so proud to see you in your uniform,” he said, adding praise to their conduct and show of respect.
To put everything in perspective for the teens he told them how America was when he returned.
“You know there was no where to live when we got back. Nothing had been built during the war,” he said. “I went to Santa Fe State and graduated in 1969. There were three [semesters] that cost $9 each. So I went to school for $27 a year.”
The cadets all groaned at this memory.
“And milk shakes were 10 cents,” he added.
He then shared some photos of World War II. One was with his squadron when Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit.
“She asked where the gun range was and went shooting,” he said with a laugh.
Ben Marchman said he liked having veterans like Haney come to his class.
“Its rare to get someone from World War II to [come to talk]. There are only a few [veterans] around,” Marchman said. “Its amazing how much he remembers.”
When Haney got home he moved to the Glendale area. His three kids went to Lincoln Elementary, then moved down into Glendale. For years he was a plumber and had Haney and Sons Plumbing.