Paul “Burt” McKenney had no aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps.
In fact, his father’s job as a meat cutter for a meat packing company was one McKenney very much hoped to avoid, he said. And the benefits he received after serving in World War II through the GI Bill helped him attain the education he needed to do just that.
Yet his role as a radio operator with the Navy was the direct result of his father, who served the same position in World War I. McKenney learned Morse code from his dad as a child, making him a shoo-in for the same position.
McKenney never saw combat during his time in the Atlantic, stationed on a total of three vessels. During a recent interview, McKenney, now 91, questioned whether his story of service was worthy of publication given the lack of bloodshed and battle.
But at the time he enlisted in 1944, as an 18-year-old high school graduate living in Boston, he felt proud to serve his country. That same patriotic sense of duty continued throughout his service, overshadowing any fear he might have felt.
“I think, because we were all patriots, we were all convinced of our invincibility,” he said. “There was a real element of pride ... in looking forward to serving to the best of our ability.”
— Nancy Lavin