Wallace Peck's DNA
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June 22, 2009 – Wallace Peck is a second-generation Army veteran. His father, a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps and World War I veteran, was stationed at Rockwell Field which occupied half of North Island (now Naval Air Station North Island) when Peck was born in 1930. Sergeant Peck made an prediction for his son which was recorded in an article in the San Diego Union, a week after his birth. The article said, "Twenty years hence, Wallace Russell will appear at Kelly Field, Texas, for instruction as an Army pilot." According to Peck, he wasn't interested in joining the military and was about to begin law school at the University of California, Berkeley when he said, "along came the Korean War and the Congress reinstated the draft, and I didn't want to get drafted so I immediately signed up for the air cadet program and as the article says it was exactly 20 years later that I appeared in Texas for flight training." Peck flew for the U.S. Air Force, enlisting in 1950 just two months after his father retired after 30 years of service.
IRIS ENGSTRAND (Editor, The San Diego Journal of History, professor, University of San Diego): Welcome Wally, I’m so glad to have you here on our program on Military experience. In fact I understand that your Military experience started probably before anyone, so lets hear about it. WALLACE PECK (Veteran): My father, who came from Western New York, joined, (lied about his age) and got into the Army back in 1915. He was sent to the Philippines Islands, spent a couple of years in the Philippine Islands then he was sent to China to spend a couple of years in China, in Siberia at the end of the first World War. PECK: He was assigned back to the United States, after being thirteen years overseas, and he was assigned to the seventh bombardment group, which was the Army operation on Rockwell field at the time. At the time, the Army occupied half of North Island and the Navy occupied the other half. ENGSTRAND: Is that a picture of the plane that he used in North Island? I see the one over by you. PECK: Well this is later. This is in. He started out as a private on North Island, on Rockwell field and then the Army started to put together a plan to see how long they could keep an airplane aloft and he was part of the ground service crew for that airplane, which was called the Question Mark. The plane flew for a hundred and fifty hours, which is almost seven days, back and forward between Van Nuys and Rockwell field, being refueled in the air. So he was on the ground support group. My mother who had just come from Iowa, was working at the flight line restaurant and that’s where they met, my mother and my father in Van Nuys in 1928/29 so that’s how they got together. So she moved to San Diego to continue their courtship and she got a job with the Russell parachute company (that photograph over there) which is located in the old McClintock storage building, which is now the home of Rainwater restaurant and a number of other operations. That’s a photograph from about 1928 when she was working there, although I can’t find her in there, but those are the seamstresses that were putting together parachutes for that company at the time. ENGSTRAND: Well I see a little picture over by you is that when you made your appearance? PECK: Well I appeared in 1930 and we lived on India Street when I was born, which is now practically cut off by the I-5 freeway, then we moved to Coronado and then ultimately, we moved right on to the base at Rockwell field. And we were one of the first occupants, we moved-in in early January of 1934 and this photograph here is of my family, my brother, myself in 1934 right after we moved-in. And I was over there a couple of years ago and took a photograph of the house, it’s still there and they’re well maintained and they’re now on the national register of historic places. ENGSTRAND: Your father made an interesting prediction when you were born, I think it’s in that newspaper article. PECK: Well somehow, they got an article in the newspaper I week after I was born, this is in the San Diego Union, which says, Sergeant Peck who is receiving congratulations upon the arrival of Wallace Russell (that’s me) says that just twenty years hence, Wallace Russell will appear at Kelly field Texas, for instruction as an Army pilot. It’s all settled, the only thing, which remains, is for the twenty years to roll by. Well I was never too enamored about going in the service and he wanted me to go to West Point and I vetoed that I decided I wanted to go to Law School, so I graduated from the University of California Berkeley and I had a nine-month hiatus before Law School started, so I worked as a fry-cook in San Francisco at a restaurant chain and then along came the Korean War and the congress reinstated the draft, and I didn’t want to be drafted so I immediately signed up for the air cadet program and as the article says was exactly twenty years later that I appeared in Texas for flight training. My father, he retired in 1950 after thirty years of total service and I went in two months after he retired so one replaced the other.