Posted by: SJS | April 12, 2017

A diploma of distinction

My father never went to college.  It became one of his greatest regrets. Over the course of his life George “Red” Stahley gave voice to that regret often.  Many of his friends and many of my uncles who served in WWII took full advantage of the GI Bill and pursued degrees in business and other fields.  My father saw it as a missed opportunity for him and strongly encouraged his kids to get the best education possible.  We heard him loud and clear.  We pursued higher education in everything from healthcare to real estate management to philosophy.  My father took enormous pride and delight in the accomplishments of his children in the realm of higher education.

As I looked again through my father’s Navy file, I came across this Navy Training Course Certificate dated January 24, 1944.  Since January 24th is our son’s birthday, I noted that convergence immediately.  And, as I studied the details of the certificate, I realized it was for his training as a radioman.  The course of study he went through was rigorous, fast paced, and brutally demanding.  Sailors trained to be communications experts knew that their skills could be a matter of life and death, especially in the PT service where speed, mobility,  and coordination depended on a radioman’s knowledge and coolness under fire.

Red Stahley earned his certificate and became a Radioman 3c (Third Class) in late January of 1944.  Within six months, he would be putting his radio skills into practice in the Mediterranean. In the summer of 1945, in the steaming jungles of Borneo, he would be using his skills with Morse Code to collaborate with his closest buddy, Tom Saffles, to get their PT boats out of harms way on that fateful day when they came under fire from Japanese snipers on a patrol that was anything but routine.  The two radiomen, Stahley and Saffles, played outsized roles in getting PT 373 and PT 359 back to safety.  On a mission where one crewmate on PT 359 died under fire, the smooth work of the two radiomen ensured that the boats repositioned rapidly, took out the Japanese radio tower, and made it back to base with no further casualties.

Higher education on the GI bill after the war?  No, Red Stahley didn’t pursue it.  A Navy Training Course Certificate as a Radioman Third Class in 1944?  Yes.  Yes, indeed–and I could not be prouder of that accomplishment.  In my eyes, that humble, bureaucratic-looking Navy certificate earned by Red Stahley is more beautiful and meaningful than a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania or Harvard.  That simple, dignified document is a striking testimony to hard work, hours of study, and experience that saved lives and helped to win a war.  That is education at its very best.

Congratulations, Red–job well done.


  1. I understand how you are so proud of your father. What he and many others accomplished out there [I doubt very strongly] could ever be repeated. With out the technology we have today, they saved a world.

  2. I agree how important your father’s certificate was. My undergraduate English degree, which among other things taught me to read Chaucer in Middle English, pales in comparison to the skills he acquired that actually helped to save lives.

  3. I couldn’t agree more mate.

  4. Great post. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of your father.

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