George Scanlon began his military service at Fort Meade, Maryland, in 1941 as an enlisted soldier in the 104th Medical Corps of the National Guard. After perceiving his commanding officers did not respect him, Scanlon decided to desert.
After leaving his base, Scanlon saw a “the Army Air Forces need you” sign. Unsure of the mission of the newly established Army Air Forces, Scanlon went into the building. After questioning by one of the airmen inside, Scanlon admitted being absent without leave. Rather than arresting Scanlon for being absent without leave, the Airman spoke with his commanding officer. After returning, an Army Air Forces officer told Scanlon to sign some papers and return to his base. Two days later, Scanlon transferred to the Army Air Forces.
After his transfer, Scanlon received basic and technical training at an airplane mechanic school in Sheppard Field, Texas. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, while stationed at Sheppard Field, Scanlon learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the Army Air Forces began mobilizing for war, Scanlon was a P-38 fighter mechanic with the 94th Fighter Squadron. He started to prepare for overseas deployment. After returning to the East Coast, Scanlon and the 94th Fighter Squadron boarded the RMS Queen Elizabeth bound for Scotland.
Scanlon and the 94th Fighter Squadron remained in the United Kingdom until October 1942, when they received orders for North Africa. For their first mission, Scanlon and his squadron took part in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. The 94th went on to establish an airfield in Arzew, Algeria, where they came under sporadic attack from enemy aircraft and local militias allied with Axis forces. Later in the war, Scanlon and the 94th went to the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy. They were responsible for carrying out air raids against Southern France in preparation for the Allied invasion. Throughout his time in Europe, Scanlon witnessed several accidents and crashes and attempted to do what he could to save the men involved.
Concerned that taking his leave would tempt him to go absent without leave, Scanlon served his entire three years in Europe without taking leave. He discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1945 at the rank of technical sergeant. Upon trying to board a train back to his home in Pittsburgh, the conductor told Scanlon he had invalid tickets. Angry and unwilling to pay for the train fair, Scanlon eventually hitchhiked his way back to Pittsburgh. He went on to chronical his experiences during World War II in his book, Scanlon’s War: An Enlisted Man Remembers 1941-1945.
Scanlon passed away in 2004.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Additional writer: Sarah Concepcion
Graphic artist: Michelle Zischke