Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale
AMC 2nd Class - NASFL Wing Shop
In 1942, Jack Cawley left his small town of Whitinsville, Massachussetts to join the Navy. Jack went into training as an Aviation Metalsmith at Newport, Rhode Island, and later transferred to NAS Oklahoma. Then in 1943, about 100 Metal-smiths were sent from Oklahoma (Jack among them) to work at the Wing Shop of the newly constructed NAS Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Upon arrival Jack remembered seeing about 32 planes that couldn't fly, and some 102 airplane wings strewn all over the fields. They had plenty of work repairing Avenger aircraft from the first day on. On his free time, Jack enjoyed sports and participated in the NASFL softball team.
Jack went on to marry his high school sweetheart Marilyn Flagg on Good Friday, 7 April 1944, in a private ceremony in Washington DC. On December of that same year, Jack took a train to San Francisco to board the USS General O.H. Ernst (AP-133), as part of a 100 Ship Convoy to the Philippines. On their 3rd day out, a Japanese submarine began an attack of the convoy, and the ships separated in different directions. It took 2 and a half days to get the ships back together. His ship made stops in New Hebrides, New Caledonia, New Guinea, and when they arrived at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, he witnessed the busy preparation maneuvers for the Battle of Okinawa. As he remembers: "I've never seen so many ships in my life." Upon arrival, Jack and a group of sailors were placed on an open barge, with a 5 gallon drum of hot water (from being in the sun), and rations of canned food. They were to remain on the barge for two days, until they were assigned to a new location. Finally, they were taken to Samar Island, and his team got busy fixing airplanes, until the end of the war. Jack came back to the US from the Pacific aboard the "Magic Carpet" USS Bunker Hill and was discharged in December of 1945.
He remembers the excitement and commotion of all the sailors returning home: "When we arrived, we then had to find our Sailor's bag among a mountain made of thousands of bags. I was lucky. I found mine right away. Others weren't so lucky." He then took the train to New York to meet his wife at Central Station. When he arrived, he had her name announced through the loudspeaker. At last, they could start a normal life. Jack & Marilyn began civilian life in January of 1946. They soon had a daughter and Jack found work at the Ford Garage in Washington, D.C. where he worked for about a year, before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He built his own home in Wilton Manors and their daughter Kathe was born in 1949. In January of 1955, Jack and Marilyn opened their own Garage "Northwest Auto Repair" that they operated for about eight years. Through the years he also worked at a Chevrolet dealer in Fort Lauderdale, William Lehman Buick in North Miami Beach and City Bumper in Fort Lauderdale doing body work.
Jack retired in 1994 and enjoyed his hobby of making latch hook rugs. He completed 125 rugs, which he gave as gifts, including friends as far away as Russia and India. Each rug took him 6 to 10 weeks to complete. When not working on rugs he enjoyed bingo and watching sports on TV such as golf, women’s basketball, baseball, Hockey and, of course, football. Until recently, he enjoyed playing golf in Milwaukee and was a long time member of the now closed Oaktree Golf Club where he and Marilyn were members for many years. Jack shared his time between South Florida and Wisconsin, where his daughter and two of his grandchildren live. Mr. Jack Cawley, 90, passed away peacefully with family at his side, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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