After I became a printer in the late ‘40s, on every base I served I was always in the main headquarters that ran the base. Every unit that wanted printing came to me.
Sometimes we had other units assigned to our base, the Army, Marines or Navy, for which we did printing. We also printed classified work for the OSI (Office of Special Investigations).
I sometimes knew of things before they happened. A lot of reports came to us in wartime that never got to the media. You had to learn to keep your mouth shut, or you were in big trouble.
When a new boss came to your department or you were assigned to a new base, my boss always told me, “Sarge, you know the printing career field and I know very little. I will go along with anything you decide, but don’t be wrong and make me look bad.”
All the people I worked for learned they could trust me. They knew I never told tales and I always looked after their best interest. They were always getting letters of appreciation and phone calls from all over the base telling them what a great job the printing department was doing for them.
It made my boss look good and went on his records.
Every new base I was assigned to, even though I am not a good speaker, I would call a meeting of representatives of each unit and tell them what I could do for them.
After a few years word got out that M/Sgt. Vanover had one of the best printing departments in the Air Force. I was very proud of that statement. We always gave a good quality of work, and one-day service on most jobs. All our finished jobs were put on a large table and one of my NCO’s duties was to check that job and make sure it was printed the way the requester wanted.
I once was assigned overseas to a base in the printing department. I was processing into the base when I was told to report to another part of the base. The commander of the higher headquarters had my records come across his desk and he knew of me and my work. He had a special job that none of his printers could print.
He talked to me awhile, saying he saw from my records that I had been a printer for eight years. He had his master sergeant take me to his small print shop and show me the job that the other printer could not print. I was told that every printer on the island had tried their hands on it. I saw right away that I had a big problem with this job.
The paper was ninepound onion skin, and had laid on their shelf for a long time with no wrapper, and was all curled up. Here I was in my nice uniform, and they want me to print this job on an old offset press that looked like it was 100 years old.
I looked around the room, people started coming in from next door, and all eyes were on me. I put an apron on and made a lot of adjustments on the old press. I was praying that I would not screw up this job. I made my own plate and made a couple other adjustments on the press. I fanned the thin paper as well as I could, and started printing while holding my breath.
I printed every sheet of paper, never had a missed feed, and I took the work and laid it on the table. I looked around and saw the boss standing there. He walked over and checked the work out, turned to the others and told the printers, “Guys, meet your new boss.”
This was Rear Admiral Williamson, the officer in charge of the Pacific Division Headquarters of the whole Far East, for whom I worked on our next three bases.
He was a Naval hero in the Pacific, flying off aircraft carriers during the war with Japan.