John Schaus goes back to high school
Now here’s a story! Two weeks ago, on November 7, Veterans Air Express DC-3 pilot John Schaus goes back to Ramsey High School in New Jersey. He is there by invitation to talk to students about his WWII experience along with six other Veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
John explains his high school “assignment” to me over the phone — with great delight. They asked him to share his war experiences at two separate gatherings of students.
But why John? Because during his senior year at Ramsey High, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps believing that he would not be called to active duty before graduation. But the sequence of events played out differently – for both John and one of his classmates, George Halik.
From bombs in the B-25 to lobsters in a DC-3
John gets called up early, leaves high school in February 1944, and becomes a B-25 pilot before he turns 20. We know John because after the war, he flies lobsters from Maine in our DC-3s. (Now there’s a dramatic “mission” transition!)
Not John’s B-25…this gorgeous restoration belongs to the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum
Her name is Maid in the Shade. And when she flew into Santa Fe as part of the Arizona Commemorative Air Force summer “Flying Legends of Victory” Tour, I went and took these photos for John. According to the Museum’s website, this aircraft is among only 34 still flying of the nearly 10,000 B-25’s produced. “Built in 1944, the B-25 “Maid in the Shade” was developed by North American Aviation and used mainly as a low altitude strafe and skip bomber.”
Now back to school and an unexpected tribute for…Honorary Graduate John Schaus
The rest of John’s story is an even bigger heart warmer. Following all seven talks by the invited Veterans, the Ramsey High School Board of Education presents an Honorary Graduate certificate to John Schaus and George Halik. That’s when the President of the Class of 2019 also invites both men to participate in Ramsey High’s June graduation ceremony.
Cool? You bet!
Here is how Ramsey High came to coordinate this event.
After WWII, now Air Force Major Schaus tells about an unnamed airman…
My commanding officer [during Korea] comes to me one day asking for help with an airman whose disciplinary problem was about to earn him time in the stockade. The young man is bright, able, and scores extremely high on all testing. I surmise that this young Chicagoan’s unacceptable attitude is fueled by the prejudice he faces daily. And I fear that time in the stockade, with guards no better than the prisoners, was not the answer. The service couldn’t get away with it today, but this was back then.
John then reveals to his high school audience that the airman was African American. And John is pretty sure he was chosen to help the airman out of trouble because he was known not only for high morale among his men, but for his equal treatment of and belief in them.
The choice. And decision.
The choice…stockade or fresh start. The decision…fly out with Major Schaus to his Georgia air base and follow the Major’s strong “recommendation” to sign up for paratrooper school. Good decision. He is graduated with the highest grade — and three stripes!
A number of years later, John is invited to and attends the wedding and reception of by-then-Sgt. X.
OK…this story is very awkwardly written because I don’t know what to “call” this airman other than Sgt. X. John does not remember his name all these years later. And, unfortunately, most of John’s records and memorabilia from that period in his life no longer exist. John thinks of him often and wishes they had stayed in touch. I promise John that, if he ever remembers this airman’s name or can give me a clue to follow, I will do everything I can to locate him.
For now, congratulations, John, on your Honorary Graduate degree! And, again and always, thank you for your Service. This excerpt from Ramsey High School is deserved tribute to you and all of our Veterans…and bears repeating:
These men gave up a portion of their childhood to fight for freedom, combating evil, and to defeat dictators around the globe. Their service stands as an example for all and we are proud to claim them as our alums.