George B. Delaplaine Jr. joined the Navy within weeks of his 18th birthday.
But he had been involved with the military for years before.
As a teenager, Delaplaine joined the band in the Maryland State Guard with some of his friends.
Delaplaine played the clarinet. But during his time with the guardsmen — unofficial though it might have been — he learned so much more: how to salute, the appropriate uniform to wear, how to hold a rifle.
“We were dressed in uniform. We performed with them. We went on camp with them, but we were not members,” Delaplaine said. “It was quite an experience.”
While studying at Johns Hopkins University, Delaplaine turned 18 and needed to register for the draft. With hopes of serving on a big ship, he took a test to join the Navy.
At the end of the semester, Delaplaine started an electronics training program in Chicago. But the end of the war was near. “I never did get on a ship,” he said.
After he returned to Frederick, Delaplaine joined the FSK American Legion Post 11, where he gained lasting memories and lessons from more senior members, he said.
Delaplaine and Raymond Gafney are the final two remaining members of the post’s “Last Man’s Club,” a once-41-member group of World War II veterans who have reunited for a meal every year. The final member will inherit a bottle of Champagne the group bought in 1955.
— Danielle E. Gaines