G B Wheatley – May 21, 1927 – August 23, 1980

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Dad fought WWII in the Navy and the Cold War in the Army.

With his mother’s permission, and some bad math, he entered the U.S. Navy in 1942 where he eventually became a gunner on a liberty ship. He was wounded when an enemy aircraft slammed into his ship, but served out the rest of the war, active onboard.
Discharged from the Navy at the cease of hostilities, he returned home for a time. With few prospects at home, he decided to return to the service. Hitchhiking to Memphis Tenn., from Gillett Ark., he crossed the Mississippi River bridge with a dime in his pocket, and a single, spare T-shirt. He spent the night at a YMCA intending to join the Coast Guard the next day. Looking at the Coast Guard vessels docked at the port of Memphis, he had second thoughts. These did not appear to belong to a spit-and-polish organization like the Navy.
There was an Army recruiting station next door to the Coast Guard recruiting office. He saw a poster depicting the paragliders and decided that looked like something he’d like to do. He enlisted, but soon found that the paraglider unit was being shut down.
Things get a little difficult to trace from this point. He did join the Airborne. He was first stationed at Fort Campbell Ky., home of the 101st Airborne Division. His first child was born during that time. He was later transferred to Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne. It was also around this time that he went to Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. and Camp Rudder in Florida.
After all of this infantry training, he was suddenly assigned to an artillery unit. I remember him laughing about it years later, saying he wouldn’t have known which end of the tube to put on the ground and which end to point at the enemy. He went to Korea where he appears to have spent a lot of time, deep in the jungle with a unit of only a few men. I’ve never been able to get any information about what his assignment was.
His MOS was tactical nuclear weaponry. He worked with both the Sergeant and Corporal missiles. He was eventually assigned to the European Theatre Headquarters Weapons Assembly Department in Oberammergau, Germany as an instructor.
There can be little doubt that this was merely cover for his real job, of which very little will ever be known. But here are few of the things we do know.
The photo of him in his jump gear shows by the fact that he is alone in it, and by the gear he is carrying, that he was most likely a Pathfinder. That probably explains his transfer from Fort Campbell to Fort Bragg, and his attending Ranger school. Lacking formal education, he nonetheless showed an aptitude for electronics and engineering. This must be what singled him out for training on battlefield nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
We also know that this Infantryman, trained as a Ranger and assigned to an artillery unit, was first stationed at Zweibrücken Air Base on his arrival in Germany. 
This was the height of the Cold War. His family frequently received the phone call that Sgt. Wheatley was on CQ. This meant that he would not be home that night, nor did we know when he would return. We were not told where he was, nor how long he would be gone.
In October 1962, we received an especially disturbing call. Not only was Sgt. Wheatley on CQ, but we were to prepare for possible evacuation. Though her heart must have been icy with fear, her voice was warm and reassuring as this military wife explained to her children that we might be taking a ride on the Army Truck we could see parked on the street in front of our apartment. We might even be going back to America, but daddy was going to have to stay and work for a while. She collected the seven-day supply of K-rations and packed travel bags we were required to keep and placed them next to the front door.
But we didn’t have to leave, and after a few days, dad came back home.
After transferring to Oberammergau, things settled down a little, but there were still some unusual happenings. Sgt. Wheatley belonged to a very exclusive “ski” club. There were six to seven other guys in this club, none of whom were very well known on base. The club would often take off for a few days on ski trips. Just those seven or eight guys. 
No wives or children or any other friends ever went along. Often as not, we’d get a call from somebody on base telling us that the guys had decided to stay for a few nights. The sergeant would often return from these relaxing ski trips bruised and exhausted. But they must have been fun, because it wouldn’t be long before he’d be off again.
The sergeant also took his family on picnics in the German countryside close to the East German border. There would usually be another family along, but these were not friends. Usually the families didn’t know each other, and it was rare to go with the same family more than once. The soldiers usually took at least one long walk by themselves. They often seemed a little tense for a couple of guys out with their families. But the scenery was beautiful and the food usually good. In fact, in a family that pinched pennies, expense rarely seemed to be of any concern on these outings. We traveled well, ate good, and occasionally got to spend the night in some really nice resorts.
In November 1963, things again got very intense. The K-rations and travel bags were again stacked by the front door, and the sergeant was confined to base for several days. At least that’s what we were told. But eventually things settled down and the remainder of this deployment was uneventful.
The sergeant returned to the United States were he soon retired from active service. He went to work for the Corps of Engineers, and spent the remainder of his life hunting and fishing in the hardwood bottoms of Southeast Arkansas that he loved so well.
He never spoke of his military career with his family. Family friends, mostly soldiers he served with, tell me it was an unusually distinguished career, that I should be very proud of my father. And I am. I don’t know specifically what he did that brings moisture to the eyes of the hard men he served with, as they earnestly assure me of his character. But I do know the man. I know he was an honorable man of strength and courage. And I will always believe that the world is a better and safer place for his having lived the life he did.

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