Terveer spends WWII keeping planes in the air
Dave Terveer has enjoyed a life of leadership and service. From the flights of the Air Force in World War II to leading the Decatur Catholic Commodores to basketball success, Terveer has had tenacity for leadership and success.
Terveer was only 17 when he graduated from Decatur Catholic High School as one of the most successful basketball players in the county at the time. His basketball prowess took him to St. Joseph College in Northwest Indiana, where he enlisted in the United States Air Force at the age of 18-years-old.
“I was 18 years old and in college when I enlisted,” said Terveer. “The fact that we were at war and were attacked created a desire in my mind to serve our country. I wanted to get involved in it all. I had a sense of loyalty to our country, but also a sense of adventure.
“I was called to active duty in 1943. I took my test at Baer Field and got into the Air Force. I went with a contingent to Camp Atterbury on July 15, 1943. From Atterbury I was sent to Miami Beach, Fla. for basic training,” Terveer said.
Terveer chuckled when he told how he did his basic training at a golf course in Miami Beach. He described crawling through a sand trap and marching with regiments across the golf course.
Because of his interest in the Air Force, Terveer was sent to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. There he spent a semester studying weather, math and various sciences.
“During that time we were living a real strict military life,” Terveer said. “We were up at 6 a.m. for the flag raising and all of the ceremonies.”
Terveer continued his travels with a stint in San Antonio, Tex. where he was tested to see what his next assignment would be. Finally, it was determined that he would be sent to Keesler Field in Biloxi, Miss. where he was instructed in working on aircraft engines. He was eventually transferred to Ypsilanti, Mich. to Ford Motor Company, which made B-24s. There he studied systems, hydrologic, electrical and various other plane mechanics.
After six weeks at Ford Motor Company, he was given his first break to spend a short time in the home area before traveling to Texas to gunnery school. There, he was part of planes doing maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, some which he described as, “getting to our stomach.”
When he was finished with that assignment, he was sent to the Army Air Force Base in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I was assigned to B-24s and sent to combat crew training at Mountain Home, Idaho. There I was taught skills as a navigator, radio operator and flight engineer,” Terveer said. Eventually, Terveer was assigned into exercise runs that were typical of bombing runs overseas.
For three months, Terveer flew around Saw Tooth Mountain and took runs through Idaho.
“We had a couple of crashes at the air field during training,” said Terveer. “We were preparing to go to the Pacific front when we received a call asking us to report immediately to the base.
“They told us that our flight to the Pacific had been canceled,” continued Terveer. “My first reaction was, ‘oh gee,’ but my second reaction was, ‘thank you God.’ They told us that our officers would tell us what was going to happen.”
Terveer said that he was placed on a train, but was stopped because of flooding in New Mexico. There he was placed on a different route and taken to Green River, Wyoming. He was then shipped to Kearney, Nebraska where he was told to wait for further instructions.
After an assignment in Topeka, Kansas, Terveer was taken to Rosecrans Field in St. Joseph, Mo. While he was there, the war ended. But his service as an aircraft mechanic wasn’t over. He was sent back to an army base in California before being discharged with honor on February 21, 1946. Ironically, his brother John, who became a doctor, was also released the same day from Camp Beale.
“If we traveled in uniform, they allowed us to travel free,” Terveer said. “I rode the train back to Chicago and then to Fort Wayne.”
Back in Decatur, Terveer married Betty Melchi. He eventually took over the head coaching position at Decatur Catholic High School, before spending a lifetime working successfully at General Electric.
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