Marvin "PeeWee" Schulz and Ralph Hansen, two World War II veterans from Nebraska, pose for a portrait at the Nebraska National Guard Museum on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Seward, Nebraska.

Even toward the end of World War II, there were still many soldier hopefuls. One of these men was Marvin “PeeWee” Schulz, who enlisted just before his 18th birthday in 1945. Schulz’s father served in World War I and that inspired Schulz to want to enlist even though the war was coming to an end. Schulz was born in Seward, and at the time was living on his family’s farm a few miles west of Goehner.

“Everybody else was kind of trying to help the war efforts,” Schulz said. “I didn’t care about being drafted, so I thought I would go to the Coast Guard, see what happens. You had to be under 18 to enlist in the Coast Guard so the day before my birthday I went to Omaha and enlisted.” 

Schulz didn’t know exactly what it was he wanted to do in the Coast Guard. After his three months of boot camp in New York City, he said there were opportunities to choose what they wanted to go into. He heard about a weather school in New Jersey that he thought sounded interesting and decided to go with that. Here he would learn how to measure and monitor all different types of weather for the war effort.

After weather school, Schulz and his crew went up to Newfoundland, Canada, to do their work. They worked on ships about 30 miles of the shore. They would drop anchor, read the weather, and every six weeks they would go back in for fresh food before doing it all over again.

“After boot camp, we went up to Newfoundland, reading the weather and sending it all out in code,” Schulz said. “We were there to read the weather and send it out: wind direction, temperature, air pressure and so forth. Every three hours we’d sent out a report.”

Schulz said that it was hard to be on such a small ship with so many people and that he often got seasick, making the close quarters even worse for him.

“There were 65 people on the ship,” he said. “It was a small ship but it bounced around. It would go up and come down and shake like you’d wonder if it would hold together. Up and down, up and down.”

The boat didn’t deal with the waves too well and often rocked back and forth a lot. This made the pots and pans slide back and forth and often kept them awake. Schulz said he never got over his tendency to get seasick either.

“Every time we’d go back in for food and go back out again, I never got quite used to that,” he said. “My dad said that was the worst sickness there was and he was right. But they’d hand you the mop and say, ‘You take care of that.’ That’s one way of breaking you of that.”

One of Schulz’s most memorable experiences with the Coast Guard was getting nearly pushed off the side of the boat one night. He was with a young guy who was out on the boat with them for the first time.

“We had a little room where we’d blow up a [weather] balloon and send up a balloon to get the weather up the airways,” he said. “The wind caught the hatch door and pushed both of us over toward the edge of the ship but the good thing was there was a cable there otherwise we would’ve gotten pushed off the ship.”

Ultimately, Schulz only served for a little over a year. He said there were usually 7,000 people in the Coast Guard, but during the war, there were more than 70,000 so massive cuts had to be made.

“They wanted to know if we wanted to reenlist,” he said. “I thought I’d better come home and help out with the farm. They discharged us because they had to get back down to their 7,000 people so that didn’t make me mad at all.”

As for Schulz’s life after the service, he went back to helping out with his dad’s farm after he got out in 1946 and hasn’t looked back since, farming on a plot of land his father gave him for the rest of his career.

“Glad it’s over with,” he said. “I haven’t been on one ship since, but it was a good experience.”

I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and am studying journalism and English. I am from Omaha, Nebraska, and will be graduating from UNL in May 2020.