MAFYIELD -- As his 97th birthday approaches next month, Mayfield's Robert Clark reflects on how his World War II service led to him going to school and starting a successful chiropractic business that was open for many years.
Clark joined the U.S. Navy in March 1943 and served throughout the rest of WWII, finally finishing in April 1946. He trained in Memphis, Tennessee, Norman, Oklahoma, and Great Lakes, Illinois, as well as the Ammunition School of Gunnery and Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. When he was sent overseas, he was stationed with the Navy Air Corps at Port Lyautey in French Morocco. The northern Moroccan city is now known as Kenitra.
Clark's job was to fly back and forth between Gibraltar and Spain spotting and eliminating German submarines.
"We hunted for submarines and we were very effective," Clark said. "That was our business - to blow them up. I did it until the war was over."
Although Clark's duties couldn't have had much higher stakes, Clark said he never felt fear, largely because of his faith in the engineers who designed the equipment.
"Of course, it was a very dangerous game, but I never was afraid," Clark said. "All the equipment we had, you couldn't beat it."
"Our pilot and co-pilot, before we would take off, they would say, 'OK. Let's have a little prayer here.' So we'd have a little prayer. And if we got into something so big we couldn't handle it, we would radio to someone who could handle it."
The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 - known commonly as the "G.I. Bill" - provided many benefits to veterans, including tuition to go to college or vocational school, low-cost mortgages, and low-interest loans to start businesses. The bill shaped Clark's life, as he was one of the millions of World War II veterans who used the G.I. Bill to get an education. He went to the Texas Chiropractic College in San Antonio, Texas, and came back to Mayfield to start his business under the name Dr. Robert E. Clark, D.C.
Clark worked as a chiropractor until 2010 and sold the business just before he turned 90. He said he sold it partly because he lost a large number of customers after the Continental General Tire plant closed. He also treated employees from a nearby tire plant in Tennessee.
"We had a real good business down on Seventh Street," Clark said. "I loved that business. Ã¢ Â¦ When General Tire went out, we sold out."
Clark will celebrate his 97th birthday on July 2.