Summer vacation was over and the usual rush to line up classes had begun. It was September 1940 and I was beginning my senior year at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California. I had decided to enroll in a class titled Speakers Workshop and learned to my dismay that a prerequisite of one year public speaking was required to join this elite speakers group.
The teacher said that if I attended an extemporaneous speaking contest along with four or five other aspirants, and was judged worthy, I could be considered for the class.
I remember the contest was held on a Saturday and we were all given copies of the Readers Digest. We were told to pick out an article, go off in a corner and study it for 30 minutes and give a 15 minute speech on the subject.
I finished my speech and sat down while the others paraded up to the podium and did likewise. Finally the teacher informed us that the contest was being judged by a former Speakers Workshop graduate, who was now attending the University of Southern California.
The judge stepped up to the microphone and called out the name of Tom Overturf as first prize winner. I then was summoned to the front of the room and presented with a box of candy and hand shake by the judge. His name was Don McCordindale.
You can appreciate the surprise and shock fours later when one dismal, rainy day a replacement crew reported in to the 603rd orderly room and I looked up to see 2nd Lt. Don McCordindale standing there. I jumped up, gave him a friendly salute and said, Do you remember me? He said, I sure do.
It was late afternoon and the Paul Rich crew looked tired and wanted to find their quarters so they soon left the orderly room.
I never say him again. I wanted to talk about Long Beach and find out what he had been doing since 1940, etc.
Everybody had a job to do and the crews were flying or sleeping or in town whenever possible. They seldom had reason to drop in to the orderly room.
I heard a number of times later what a fine pilot this Paul Rich was, and I wanted so much to touch base with McCordindale and find out how our paths happened to cross again a half a world away.
Getting word about a missing crew was always hard for us who had the job of waking up the crews for missions. But 21 November 1944 was the most difficult day. Five from the 603rd went down this day. Including the Rich crew.
And my friend from Long Beach, Don McCordindale.
Transcribed for the 398th Web Pages by Dawne Dougherty.