Commander of a Company

William Aycock describes how his participation in the optional third and fourth years of ROTC at NC State, along with some unusual luck, led to him almost immediately finding himself in command of a company after being called into the U.S. Army in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Interview on 2011-08-23

Transcript

00:00:00.000 At State everybody took
00:00:04.525 ROTC mandatory the first two years
00:00:09.524 and then you had no further obligation.
00:00:13.384 But those who finished two years, who wanted it, could take the third and fourth year.
00:00:20.258 You couldn't do it just because you wanted to;
00:00:26.264 you had to want to do it and then you had to be selected.
00:00:31.656 It was no doubt that they were likely to pick the president of the student body
00:00:40.997 as one of the ones to do the third and fourth year of ROTC.
00:00:47.563 Of course you know a lot of people.
00:00:53.791 So that happened and as soon as I graduated I became entitled to
00:01:04.864 a reserve officer as a lieutenant in the infantry.
00:01:08.842 So that set me up when they bombed Pearl Harbor
00:01:16.070 that I was immediately called and in a week or two I was at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
00:01:24.634 So it was a period of four years until my division that I served in [went] overseas,
00:01:40.942 in the last year of the war.
00:01:44.145 I trained troops at Fort McClellan, Alabama for three years
00:01:49.357 and there they recognized my interest. So I went in as a lieutenant
00:01:57.990 and was to be second in command.
00:02:03.001 The number two in the battalion, which at that time was four companies,
00:02:11.011 got in an automobile wreck
00:02:15.087 and the fellow that was supposed to be my captain
00:02:21.673 was told to take his place,
00:02:24.519 so before I ever saw any troops-they had to come there-
00:02:27.721 I was a commander of a company! [Laughs]