From the interview with Benedict O. Williamson of Louisville, KY conducted by phone on May 27, 2004 by Patience Rogge from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Williamson served in the U.S. Army at Fort Worden in 1951. He had enlisted at Minton Harbor, MI and did his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO before being sent to Fort Worden, where his secret was uncovered:
“As soon as I saw Fort Worden I knew it was too pretty to be an Army camp. There wasn’t anybody there from the part of the country that I was from. I was from Kentucky and I’d gone to Michigan to try to find work and I joined the Army there. So I went in with a bunch of people who were from the east instead of the south. They all kind of laughed about my accent, because I had an accent from the south and nobody else did.
I was a Jeep driver and I had to report to the motor pool. I was standing down there one morning and they were talking about this boy who was 15 years old, this soldier who was 15 years old. They were going to put him out of the service. I acted very surprised like I didn’t know who they were talking about, but I knew it was me. I drove a Captain around and passed some troops in an area I wasn’t supposed to. Colonel Stack, the post commander, saw the Jeep and wanted to know who was driving it. He took my driver’s license away from me. The Captain said I’d done nothing wrong and that he’d get my license back if I wanted, but I never did get it back. I guess I got discharged too soon…
When I got to Fort Worden I was 15, but a few days later I had a birthday. I enjoyed being there, but I was a little bit homesick, just being 16. My brother John, who was in the Army, wrote and told Captain Buckley how old I was. Captain Buckley called me into his office and said, ‘I hear you just had a birthday.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I just turned 18.’ He said, ‘Well, your brother John says you just turned 16.’ So I had to laugh. I knew I was caught.
Captain Buckley said, ‘But I tell you what. I came into the Army when I was too young and I’m going to give you a choice. If you want to stay, you can stay, if you want to go, you can go.’ I think that under the circumstances I was homesick anyway, so I took the discharge.
…When I turned 17 and a half, I went back in and went to Indiantown Gap, PA. I didn’t have to take basic training over.”
Note: Mr. Williamson was sent to Korea where he served in the 25th Infantry Division. He was a tank recovery chief and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.