by Jim Houck, Jr.
Warren Deardorf Grove Jr.
3rd Class Petty Officer U.S. Navy
Warren (Buddy) Grove Jr. was born in Emmitsburg on August 17, 1926, on Crystal Fountain Road. When he was two years old, he and his family moved to Eyler’s Valley on the Seiss farm.
Warren had two sisters by the time he was ready to start school, and a brother by the time he was ten years old. Warren’s dad didn’t like the school bus that picked up the kids for Emmitsburg School, and their house happened to be on the line (in fact the line was marked by a spring that was piped through the house), between the Emmitsburg school district and the Sabillasville school district. So, his father chose to send him to the Sabillasville school district. They had just built the two-room school house in Sabillasville right before he started there. They could use the two rooms as one if they wanted, because in between the two rooms was a collapsible wall. Later, the W.P.A built a furnace room and bathroom in the school.
Buddy went to the Sabillasville School through the seventh grade, after spending two years in the third grade because the winter was so bad in his third grade year that he missed six weeks of school, thus not passing and having to repeat the year. Warren said that he graduated Sabillasville School with unsatisfactory marks.
When Warren was twelve, the home his family lived in burned down. He remembers that the .22 caliber rifle his dad had given him was one of the few things that survived the fire. His mother was home alone when the fire started, and the fire took the home quickly. His dad had just bought all of the material to put a new metal roof on the house. Warren said that had the roof been put on, the house probably wouldn’t have had as much damage from the fire.
With help, his family ended up building a new house, but not on the same foundation. The old house was built along what was once the main road. It had an outdoor bake oven and a black smith shop. Warren said it was actually used as a stagecoach stop at one time.
The new house was built on what was, at the time, the main road where they raised hogs and goats. The reason they raised goats was that Warren’s brother was allergic to cow’s milk. An old farmer who lived on Flint Road told his father to give him goat’s milk instead, and it would straighten him out. Warren said that, sure enough, the old farmer was right.
They bought the goat’s milk from Mrs. Walters at Emmitsburg. At first, she didn’t want to sell it to him, but when she found out it was a matter of life and death, she did.
One day, Warren’s father saw an advertisement for someone selling a milk goat, so he went to see it. The goat had really long ears that stood straight up. It was a genuine Toggenburg milk goat. The goat gave over a gallon of milk each milking when they first got it, so his brother had plenty of milk. From then on, his mom and dad never used any milk other than goat milk. Warren recalled that the goat not only provided the milk they needed, but, also kept the weeds down.
The family went into goat farming and used the goats to cultivate the fields and to pull carts filled with vegetables. Warren had one of the goats as a pet. It followed him everywhere. The goat never needed a harness, except when in the corn field.
Warren said the goat could never be trusted in the corn field without the harness even though it was well trained by him and understood the commands Warren gave to him. One year, Warren and his goat won the first prize in the fireman’s parade in Emmitsburg. He had the goat pulling a wagon they made to look like a tanker truck.
After Warren graduated from Sabillasville School, he went to high school in Thurmont. The only drawback to that was that when school let out in the afternoon, not all the buses went all the way to Sabillasville. So, he had to ride three different buses to get home. When he got off the last bus, he had a little over three miles to walk to get home—Warren got very used to walking.
While in high school, he took vocational agriculture and went to all the different county meets. He also belonged to the Future Farmers of America and figured he could put it to good use after he graduated, but there were no jobs available after he graduated.
Businesses didn’t seem to want to train anyone for the jobs. Young men just graduating from high school were probably going to be drafted into the military. Warren was seventeen when he graduated high school, so he went down to enlist in the Navy, having his dad sign for him.
Warren went to boot camp for about sixteen weeks, and then completed sixteen more weeks of electrical school. Out of the four hundred and twenty-some that started in his class, only two hundred and twenty-six graduated. The course was very tough. Warren hadn’t had any high math—only general math—so he and six others had to take a special math course after class hours. Sometimes the extra course ended at one or two o’clock in the morning. They learned their entire higher math on a slide rule: algebra, geometry, and the works. Warren came out twenty-ninth out of two hundred twenty-six graduates. Warren said if it wasn’t for that slide rule, he would never have made it.
He was third class petty officer (electrician) in the amphibious outfit after he left electrical school. He went overseas to an island called Mauritius, then to Sonora Island, and then Borneo, and as an amphibian, they landed the Australian troops. Warren was then transferred to the SEABEES. They put up Quonset Huts. Warren wired the huts and refers to generators. When the war ended in August of 1945, they stayed until January of 1946. At Christmas, they made snow with ice flake machines. They got the freezers as cold as they could and made snow for twenty-four hours a day and spread snow all around the base—where it was 120 degrees outside. While there, Warren found a guilder piece (which was the currency in use there at the time), and he still has it today. He also brought back a Samurai sword and recently gave it to his son. Warren’s brother, who was ten years younger than him, was the recipient of a Japanese rifle that Warren brought back with him.
The firing pin had to be removed to bring it home, but Warren drilled a hole in the stock and inserted it and put carboline over it. When he got home, he put the original firing pin back in, and everything was original on the rifle.
Warren was on a small carrier vessel that ended up in China for a while. He stayed aboard the ship that was tied up in dry dock. Soon, they left there and headed to Japan. Warren stayed in Japan just about a year as an occupation troop at the Tsukiji Japanese Officers Training School (Japan’s version of an officer’s training school similar to our Naval Academy in the United States). His unit was there to build a radio station in Tokyo Bay. He told his Lieutenant that it was nothing but a sandbar and that it didn’t seem solid enough to use. It turned out that he was right since a bulldozer they were using to level things off sunk into the sand until there was only about four inches of its exhaust pipe sticking above the sand and water. It was stuck. They didn’t even try to get it out because they didn’t have the necessary equipment to remove it.
Warren was still doing generator work when he left there. With a ninety-day leave, he went home. When he went back, they sent him down to Port Hueneme at Oxnard, California. Warren was to teach others about motors and generators.
He thought they were sending him to school for diesel engines, but that wasn’t what it was about. It was about water power, steam power, gasoline engines, diesel engines, and experimenting with new turbine engines. Warren said they could really speed up like jet engines on airplanes. He was only there for a short time when they shipped him down to San Diego, California, where he was discharged.
They told him he had to muster out now or reenlist. The only problem with reenlisting at the time was that they wanted him in the seventh fleet, and promised that he could never get out of it as long as he lived. Warren could have returned home and enlisted, but he would have been shipped right back out.
Having enlisted in 1944, he was discharged then, in 1947, just a couple weeks short of a three year enlistment.
When Warren returned home, he put in for refrigeration school because everywhere he went for an electrical job, they wanted someone with experience in refrigeration. He worked for the State of Maryland and helped open the Western Maryland Hospital at Fort Ritchie, before they eventually moved the hospital to Hagerstown. Warren did everything: he helped whenever a person didn’t show up to work, whether they worked in the ward, the kitchen, or fired the boiler.
During this time, he went to Baltimore and secured his engineer’s license. He worked and waited for a year and a half until he was admitted into the Dunwoody Industrial Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended Dunwoody for three years and then he came back to the state job, to get the minimum required time for coming back, by putting in two months there, and that completed his one tour. Warren then got a job at the Letterkenny Army base in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He wasn’t in the labor pool to start with, but they knew that some of the guys really wanted to work and knew that Warren was one of them. So they sent him up to the box factory, where he soon received a promotion.
He was then sent to Warehouse Six—general supply—where they were shipping things overseas. Here, he received a bit of a better promotion. He was supposed to serve six months in training, but in three months school let out and they hired kids out of school. One of the big bosses’ nephews graduated high school and they gave him a job immediately. This was a job that Warren was supposed to get in six months.
Warren told his boss that he would like to go up to personnel that afternoon, but his boss told him he couldn’t. This is where the boss made his mistake. If his boss had told him he would make an appointment for Warren to speak to someone in personnel, there would have been no problem. But, the bosses were eating lunch with several people around, so Warren said, “Here are my witnesses, so you may as well get on the phone now and make me an appointment.” The boss said, “I guess I really goofed, didn’t I?” Warren said, “Yes, you did.”
Each division had their own personnel department, and when Warren explained the situation and got no satisfaction, the personnel person told him he would have to stay there. Warren explained that he did not have to stay and asked to see the chief of personnel. The first thing the chief told him was that they didn’t have a job he was qualified for. Warren called him a liar. The chief told him he could be fired. Warren said, “Go ahead, the sooner the better.”
The chief told Warren that there seemed to be something wrong, and asked him where he was hired. Warren informed him that he took seven exams on the Philadelphia Register and knew of the openings they had that Warren qualified for, according to the register. Warren told the chief that he couldn’t fire him. He would have to be fired out of Philadelphia. He told the chief that they recently had seven guard openings and had hired two, and that it was too early that day and he hadn’t officially hired anyone yet. The chief told Warren to relax. He got on the phone and told a person over the phone, “I have a man I’m sending up. I don’t know what he does or what he knows or anything, but you are going to have to take him.”
Warren told the people upstairs that he knew he was qualified for the job because he used to pull shore patrol duty and that was the same as MP’s. Warren got the job and stayed there for two and a half years.
Here, Warren was the first one his boss selected to go to the police training. He went through part of the training, and when a job came open, he thought it was Fort Richie, but learned that the job was at Site R (The Tunnel, Harry’s Hole, Under Ground Pentagon). Warren thought he might be there a couple of years, but he ended up working there for twenty-nine years.
He went in just to be an operator and got promoted to diesel mechanic with a pay increase, because when they needed help, he helped them. Then they decided to put foremen in the power plant since they were running fulltime. Warren was one of five who were selected as foremen because he knew refrigeration, diesel, and electrical. Those were the three basic shops that ran things. He was a diesel mechanic for twelve years at Site R, then he was promoted to diesel and machine shop foreman.
In all, Warren served thirty-five years with the government. He was asked what he wanted to do, and, at the time, Warren said he wanted to live equal time to what he worked. During our interview, he said, “Well, it’s happened!” He retired in 1981, thirty five years ago—the official date: August 21. On August 16, 2016, Warren will be ninety years young and has traveled all over the world, been in every state of the United States, and has lived life to the fullest. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge and is a pleasure to be around. I could listen to him tell his life stories for hours. I wish everyone could meet and talk with this man, who is so dedicated to his family and his country. I found out that I graduated high school with Warren’s wife’s brother. What a small world we live in after all.
God Bless Our Country, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.
Warren Deardorf Grove Jr., 3rd Class Petty Officer U.S. Navy