After resigning from the Army’s radar training program (Pt. 1), Red did his homework. He learned about the Navy’s V-7, College Graduates’ Naval Reserve Officers Training Program. It was designed to prepare large numbers of junior deck officers for action with the rapidly growing Pacific Fleet. Perhaps Red saw the poster below, which was widely posted at recruiting sites nationwide.
Red reported for duty in early 1943 at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. After 90 days he graduated a proverbial “Ninety Day Wonder.” Next he reported to the introductory amphibious training program at Little Creek VA and later to the advanced training program at Ft. Pierce FL. Those programs were focused, deadly-serious efforts to make warriors of Red Toon, high school science teacher from Pleasant Plains IL, and all his buddies. When he finally went to sea in March, 1944, he was Assistant Boat Group Commander under one Joseph B. McDevitt.
I believe the best way to understand the training those men received is to read letters they wrote home. Fortunately the Toon collection has a set of those letters. We have selected and will share a few of them here. They are especially informative, though we feel a bit intrusive reading Red’s correspondence with Norma Kathleen, the sweetheart of his life. But the letters tell us about the kind of man he was and about the work that young amphibians put in before going to war.
Early 1943 Ithaca NY
I hardly know how and what to write to my sweetheart. I got the telegram last night about eleven o’clock & I could hardly sleep all night. I know I didn’t drop off to sleep until nearly time to get up this morning. In spite of that I walked on air all day & am not tired yet. I had quite a time last night after I got the telegram, most of the fellows were in bed but I woke everyone on the deck & we really raised the roof here until about twelve. You would really be surprised to know how interested everyone here was in the great event!
Several fellows here have babies of their own well part theirs anyway & I wish I could remember all the advice and tales I heard last night. Needless to say I’ve been “Pop” Toon ever since. I like it. Have sure taken a lot of kidding about the big grin I’ve been carrying all day. Even the instructors noticed it!
Had two exams today, weren’t bad at all, have two tomorrow. I started packing up today.
The funniest thing I’ve seen happen around here was pulled this morning at first formation at six o’clock. The company commander had called us all to attention & was receiving reports from the section. The section leader in each case steps forward & says “Section ___ is formed, Sir” as he salutes. The last section had just reported & Ensign “Happy” Azaragian stepped forward saluted very smartly & said “There’s been a new addition to the Toon clan Sir.” Everyone froze for a minute then roared with laughter & “hurrahs”. The O.O.W. smiled and let it go. A month ago we’d all have landed in the guardhouse. You just don’t laugh while in formation at attention.
Everyone here is quite pleased with the name though I’ll admit most of the favor is for Kathleen & when I told them that was her mother’s name also they are doubly pleased. The Irish definitely have the upper hand here.
I know this sounds silly but they really are a swell bunch of guys and are serious I know in what they say.
Janice Kathleen must be a pretty big girl! Aren’t you awfully proud of yourself?
There are of course a million questions I’d like to ask you but you couldn’t answer them now & we’ll have time to talk this over soon.
All My Love
After my first reading of this letter, I was struck with the clear respect the men in his unit displayed for Red. If the Navy was looking for leaders, they’d found one in Ithaca NY.
Not long after writing this letter, Red realized his dream. He graduated from the College Graduates’ Naval Reserve Officers Training Program and was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve. We believe he received a short leave and travelled home to see his wife and first child, Janice Kathleen Toon.
Next stop: Little Creek VA.
Toon Family Collection
Naval History and Heritage Command