United States Navy
(As related by his daughter, Ruby Chaney)
It was 1946 and the war to end all wars was over. The United States was entering a period of unprecedented prosperity. It was time to celebrate, enjoy the fruits of victory, and begin a new civilian life. However, for Palmer Theron McCormac, as with many of his fellow WWII veterans, a new war, in a place called Korea, would change those plans. While technically a U. N. “police action” and not a declared war, the bulk of the U.N. forces to serve in Korea would be American. The number peaked at 348,000. In all, approximately 1.5 million were rotated in and out of Korea. As a result, the Navy was critically short of personnel and Palmer was recalled to active duty.
Born March 5, 1920 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Palmer was the first of nine children. He was the son of a carpenter and WWI veteran. His parents had met under rather unusual circumstances. His mother worked in a Hanes underwear factory that supplied underwear to the military. For reasons that can only be speculated about, she placed a note with her name and address in one of the underwear packages. The package ended up in the hands of Palmer’s father who opened the package, read the note, and looked her up. They were eventually married.
Palmer’s only child, daughter Ruby, was born in 1944. Her mother was employed by the State Department. Ruby describes her father as an engineer without the degree. He was interested in all things mechanical and electrical. His Opticalman First Class Navy Rating (OM-1) was appropriate in that OM’s perform organizational and intermediate level maintenance on small navigational instruments, binoculars, night-vision sights, range finders, turret and submarine periscopes and other optical instruments. OM’s must be able to perform close, exact and painstaking work and possess high mechanical aptitude.
After leaving active duty, he was employed in the quality control section of the Washington Navy Yard and was responsible for setting quality standards. Ruby states that he had an insatiable curiosity and would take everything apart to determine how it worked. He built their first television set in his home workshop. Palmer was a ham radio operator (amateur radio operators proudly call themselves hams but nobody knows why). She describes him as a “geek” who was a voracious reader.
Ruby’s parents were married for 57 years. Her mother and father passed away in 2000 and 2003, respectively. She describes her father as a good hearted man of principle and conviction and wanted to commemorate her father’s military service. Although she did not personally serve in the military, she has been closely involved with military personnel.
Ruby has been an airline flight attendant for over 40 years and is a member of CRAF (the Civil Reserve Air Fleet). CRAF consists of selected personnel and aircraft from U.S. airlines, contractually committed to support Department of Defense airlift requirements in emergencies when the need for airlift capacity exceeds the capability of military aircraft. In simple terms, they ferry military personnel back and forth to places like the Middle East for operations like Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
The call went out for volunteers prior to Operation Desert Storm and Ruby jumped at the chance to serve. She had missed out on a similar opportunity during the Vietnam War; many volunteers had more seniority with the airline than she and were chosen first. She began her CRAF service in late 1990 and spent seven straight months making trips from various staging areas around the U.S. to and from the Middle East. The flights usually consisted of Boeing 747 aircraft configured to hold 301 troops including their equipment.
She describes these military contract flights as somewhat different from commercial airline flights. “Since soldiers are responsible for their weapons, they bring them on board the airplane and keep them in sight. We had rifles, pistols, rocket launchers, protective suits and other weapons all over the place.” She states she is lucky to be able to be part of CRAF and has met many wonderful people. Since many of the troops are reservists, they range in age from teenagers to people in their forties. She states that the flights to the Middle East are quite interesting as there is a lot of conversation among the troops in the beginning of the flight but that they became very quiet and introspective as they get closer to their destination.
On returning flights, the troops are much more animated and love to tell “war stories”. She describes the troops as “special people with great enthusiasm for what they are doing.” She has been asked many times whether the people of the U.S. are really behind the troops. “They are always concerned about that.” She has placed many personal phone calls and sent many e-mails on behalf of service members and delights in being able to tell relatives and loved ones that their service member is doing very well.
Ruby feels that she is very lucky to have had such great parents. She describes her father as a dedicated man whose favorite expression was “If a man pays you for 8 hours, give him 9”. If he were alive today, she would ask him to tell more stories about his military service.
~ GEORGE REISWIG