October 15, 2013
Gas station attendant turns war hero to lead his troops to victory in Europe
Reality struck quickly for 22-year-old George Westlake when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in July 1941. It did not take long for the Seattle gas station attendant to realize the American military was not prepared for the war it was about to enter.
When he arrived at Fort Riley, Kan., for basic training, he was shocked there were no barracks, but instead an assortment of World War I surplus tents in the middle of an old farm. He was thrust into an even more unfamiliar situation six months later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he was assigned to Officer Training School at Camp Brown, Texas.
“Our unit was part of the Cavalry, but I did not expect to find officers still riding horses,” the 94-year-old Westlake said. “We were told that America would need 12 million trained soldiers to defeat the enemy. But there were no manuals on how to train soldiers or instructions on what to do once we get into combat.”