Schneider — gunner’s mate to officer in three decades

Schneider — gunner’s mate to officer in three decadesBy GENE SCHNEIDER, Ridge Writers

George Schneider enlisted in the Navy in May 1910. He wasn’t quite 18, so he lied about his birth date (but that’s another story). The recruiter said George’s father had to sign the enlistment papers because he was “only” 18. George said he had left home years earlier, and wanted no contact with his family ... they probably didn’t know where he was, and he wanted to keep it that way. As he told it, the recruiter went to the window and pointed: “See that man there in the park?’ Go to him and say, ‘Dad, I want to join the Navy. Will you sign my papers?’”

George’s first regular assignment was to USS Idaho (BB 24) in September 1911. He was promoted from Seaman Apprentice to 2nd Class Gunner’s mate.

His duty on Idaho ended in July 1914 when the ship was decommissioned at Villefranche (France). In his approximate words, “The crew filed off the ship by division, and when we mustered on the pier, we were told, “All the divisions on the right have volunteered for destroyer duty. Those on the left have volunteered for submarine duty.”

George served on various submarines during and after WWI, being promoted to 1st Class Gunner’s Mate, and finally Chief Gunners mate (Chief Petty Officer) in January 1918. He was much prouder of earning the rank of Chief Petty Officer in eight years than of his later promotion to commissioned officer in WWII.

Early in 1923, a fire broke out onboard his submarine USS S-3. He tried to enter the boat because one crewman was not accounted-for. As he started down the hatch, an explosion blew him into the air and he landed on the pier. He was in a coma for a year as a result of these injuries. Technically, he was granted “six months of medical leave twice a year” until his “retirement” in 1940 upon completion of 30 years of service.

Between wars, he went to watchmaking school (he had apprenticed to a watchmaker right after he left home around 1908). He opened a tiny jewelry store in Hollywood where, among other things, he operated an unofficial pawn shop for the stars during the Depression.

He attempted to return to active duty in 1941, but was declared medically unfit.

In 1942 he married Shirley Warner. He got liberty on Fourth of July. They drove to Las Vegas, got married, and drove home via Death Valley. Their wedding dinner was at the Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction. The menu said the meat was pork, but they privately thought it was burro.

In the meantime, George had contacted a former captain who had been promoted to admiral, and got that reversed in 1942. George was assigned to the Naval Recruiting Office in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Upon Shirley’s March 1943 enlistment in the Marines, George received a letter of congratulations from the Secretary of the Navy (Commandant, Marine Corps) for “being able to furnish a wife who measures up to the high standard required for enlistment in the United States Marine Corps.”

On Aug. 30, 1943, George received promotion to Lieutenant (j.g.), so he could swear in the new inductees.

During the remainder of the war, Shirley was stationed in North Caroline at Bogue Field and Cherry Point, and George sometimes wrote himself orders to visit her.

George sold his store in 1959. He, Shirley, and their children Gene and George Jr. (aka “Gunner” spent the ensuring three years exploring places to live.

In 1961 they bought a house in Ridgecrest, where Shirley became a community volunteer and George enjoyed retirement.

He often attended China Lake’s annual Military Ball where he would usually be recognized as the oldest Navyman present.

He died in 1981, with Shirley following him in 1992.

Sources for the above article are in the collection of Gene Schneider, George and Shirley Schneider’s daughter and the member of Ridge Writers who wrote this article.

Pictured: A World-War-I era George Schneider, pictured on a submarine.

Story First Published: 2019-11-08