anuary 1942, Ted received notice that he could be called to duty at any time. He had been reclassified as a I-A from the III-A status he had previously been. At that time he was the sole supporter of his mother, May Williams, who worked for the Salvation Army. She was unable to care for the family and she and Ted’s father were divorced. A friend suggested to see the adviser to the governor’s Selective Service Appeal Agent, an attorney, due to the support issues surrounding his mother. Ted’s classification was brought in front of the Appeals Board, but was voted down.

“This really got the attorney mad, and he said he was going to go to the Presidential Board, to General Hershey.” Ted having nobody to advise him ~ “no father, no mother there to tell me anything, no real personal big league friends” ~ so he let the attorney take charge and was deferred back to III-A status approximately 10 days after the Presidential Board review.

Ted took the wrath of the press, enduring the criticisms regarding his draft situation. “Unpatriotic” and “Yellow” were the milder depictions of Ted. The Japanese were running wild, and patriotism invaded the pressbox. Ted’s decision to attend Spring training only compounded things. “There are a million ballplayers in III-A, Gordon played baseball that year, DiMaggio played, Musial played.” ~ but it was Ted Williams having trouble with the draft board. So much so that Quaker Oats canceled its $4,000 endorsement contract due to the unfavorable press.

May 1942
Ted Williams Enlists
Seaman 2nd Class, USN Reserve Naval Air Corps Enlistment Center, Boston, MA

Aug 1942
Ted Becomes an Aviation Cadet
Naval Air Corps Enlistment Center, Boston, MA

Nov 1942
Civilian Pilot Training
Qualifies for Naval and Army Training

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Jan 1943 - May 1944 Williams Completes Pre-flight, Basic and Advanced Training
Preflight: Chapel Hill, NC Basic Flight: Bunker Hill Naval Air Station, Kokomo, IN


And so in May 1942, deferment or not, Ted signed up. He went to the naval recruiting station on Causeway Street in Boston where he met with Lieutenant Donahue. Lt. Donahue swore him in and signed Ted up for naval aviation. He didn’t have to report until the end of the 42’ season. (Click on our link Baseball Highlights to read about Ted’s Triple Crown Year.)


In November 1942 Ted got called. He went with Johnny Sain and Buddy Gremp of the Braves, Joe Coleman of the Athletics and Johnny Pesky (a Red Sox teammate) to Amherst College for preliminary ground school. They required all of the basics, such as navigation, aerodynamics, math, and aeronautics. Ted, academically, not going beyond a high school diploma, was not overconfident, but made his mind up to give it his best.


At Amherst, physical training was rigorous. Ted’s preparation was slowed due to the development of a hernia. One day Ted and some other cadets tried seeing how many chin-ups and push-ups they could do and how fast they could all swim. It was a competition that sent Ted to Chelsea Naval Hospital for two months. Once recovered, Ted went onto Chapel Hill, North Carolina for preflight training. He will never forget getting off the train at dusk at Chapel Hill. The cadets already there were hanging out the windows. One guy hollered, “OK, Williams, we know you’re there, and you’re going to be sor-ry.” Ted was never sorry. “All of it was absolutely different from anything I’d ever been through, and even the hairiest times were interesting”, says Williams. Basic flight training was taught at Bunker Hill Naval Air Station at Kokomo, Indiana where he logged 100 hours in a Cub.


After Indiana, Ted was off to Pensacola for advanced training. By the time he reached Pensacola, Ted felt as though he was in the best shape of his life. He weighed 178 pounds and could run like a deer. He remembers running the half mile better than sixty cadets one day. Although his physical condition was at its peak, training slowed because there were more cadets than planes to fly. Ted played on the Pensacola baseball team, but did not play well because he was more interested in flying and started to enjoy the pleasures of Florida’s fishing for the first time. He became an instructor at Pensacola, flying Navy SNJ’s. He made this choice because it allowed him extra flight training and he figured he would need as much as possible if he were to go into combat. In May, the day he made second lieutenant, he married Doris Soule at the base in Pensacola. He states that he would have been married before, but when signing up for naval aviation one of the rules were ‘No married students’.


His last operational training stop was Jacksonville, Florida where he learned how to fly the F4U Corsair. It was in Jacksonville where Ted set a student gunnery record. It was an important accomplishment to Ted because his instructor had flown in the Pacific and shot down a Japanese Zero. He stated, “If I could have shot better, I would have bagged eight or ten.” He said, “I just couldn’t shoot.” At that time, the pilots were flying hard, preparing themselves for combat. V-J Day was declared while Ted was in San Francisco waiting for a boat. He was sent to Hawaii anyway ~ and it was in Honolulu where he finally received his orders to return home.