Veterans’ Reflections: ‘It Was a Thing I Had to Do’

WASHINGTON — Buster Adams ded­i­cat­ed his life to serv­ing his coun­try, though he didn’t intend ini­tial­ly to do it through mil­i­tary ser­vice.
Orig­i­nal­ly from Texas, Adams moved here to work as a civil­ian for the U.S. Army Sig­nal Corps in 1942, when the Pen­ta­gon was still under con­struc­tion and the War Depart­ment was based in down­town Wash­ing­ton.

Buster Adams, a World War II Army veteran, poses for a picture at the Alexandria National Cemetery, Alexandria, Va.
Buster Adams, a World War II Army vet­er­an, pos­es for a pic­ture at the Alexan­dria Nation­al Ceme­tery, Alexan­dria, Va., Sept. 11, 2010. Adams dis­cussed his time in ser­vice and what it means to him to be a U.S. mil­i­tary vet­er­an.
DoD pho­to by Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 2nd Class William Sel­by
Click to enlarge

His tal­ents with encryp­tion came in handy when he was draft­ed into the Army in 1942. He would end up spend­ing three years in the ser­vice, encod­ing mes­sages at Army Gen. Dou­glas MacArthur’s rear head­quar­ters in Oro Bay, New Guinea.

He hadn’t intend­ed to join the Army, he said, but when he got his draft notice, he knew he had an oblig­a­tion to ful­fill.

“I wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py about it [at the time],” he said. “It was a thing I had to do, so I did it.”

Adams’ Sig­nal Corps expe­ri­ence paid off in more ways than giv­ing him the skills need­ed to be a cryp­to­graph­ic clerk. His island sta­tion, he recalled, was sand­wiched between sandy beach­es with clear, warm water and coconut plan­ta­tions.

Tim­ing was on his side, as well.

“When I first arrived there, the Bat­tle of Buna was over,” he said. “It was still tech­ni­cal­ly a com­bat zone, but the com­bat had already moved up the coast away from us.”

Upon return­ing to the Unit­ed States in ear­ly 1946, Adams put away his uni­form and became a gov­ern­ment civil­ian employ­ee with the Sig­nal Corps. He end­ed up serv­ing more than 30 years of fed­er­al ser­vice as a ser­vice­mem­ber and civil­ian. He retired from his job with Naval Air Sys­tems Com­mand on Jan. 1, 1977.

Though he hadn’t intend­ed to don the uni­form when he start­ed work­ing for the Army, he said, he learned a lot of valu­able lessons as a sol­dier — lessons he thinks every young per­son needs to learn.

“I think it builds char­ac­ter,” he said. “It gives peo­ple an appre­ci­a­tion for what we stand for in our coun­try, and I think every­body, every male at least, should have some mil­i­tary duty.”

(“Vet­er­ans’ Reflec­tions” is a col­lec­tion of sto­ries of men and women who served their coun­try in World War II, the Kore­an War, the Viet­nam War, oper­a­tions Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day con­flicts. They will be post­ed through­out Novem­ber in hon­or of Vet­er­ans Day.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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