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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