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