Ronald Reagan during World War II

Vern Wuensche, Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: Vern Wuensche’s opinion pieces have appeared in USA Today and other newspapers.

I had always admired Ronald Reagan long before I made the five hundred get-out-the-vote phone calls for him from my home on election day 1980. His overwhelming victory that night was among my life’s happiest moments. After the disastrous Carter years, America could now finally begin to improve. When the Berlin Wall fell and communism with it a decade later, my unwavering confidence in Reagan was realized. I met him once in 1976, was present at his inauguration, and today consider him among the greatest of American presidents.

In March 1935, Ronald Reagan began his stint in the military by enrolling in a series of home-study Army extension courses. He completed fourteen of these in two years. Reagan then joined the Army Enlisted Reserve and was assigned to Troop B, 322nd Cavalry in Des Moines, Iowa. And although he began in Iowa as an enlisted Private, he was soon appointed Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry’s Officers Reserve Corps. From Iowa, Reagan moved to Los Angeles. And it was in Los Angeles while in the Army that he began his film career. He accepted his Officer’s Commission there and was soon assigned to the 323rd Cavalry.

Five years passed. Lieutenant Reagan was ordered to active duty, but eyesight difficulties resulted in his classification for limited service, which excluded him from serving overseas. His first assignment on the home front was at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation in Fort Mason, Calif. The Army Air Force requested that the Cavalry would transfer him to them. So with them, he was appointed as liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. His work there was in their Public Relations unit, which included the First Motion picture Unit in Culver City, Calif. Rather quickly after that, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of the Army at Burbank, Calif. However, soon after that, he returned to the First Motion Picture Unit and six months later was promoted to Captain.

In January 1944, Captain Reagan was ordered to temporary duty in New York City to participate in the sixth War Loan Drive opening. Later that year, back in Culver City, Calif., he was assigned to the Eighteenth Army Air Force Base Unit, where he remained until the war's end. He was recommended for promotion to Major a year later, but that was disapproved a few months before the war’s end. His active duty ended on Dec. 9, 1945. And his Reserve Commission automatically terminated on April 1, 1953.

While on active duty with the First Motion Picture Unit and the Eighteen Army Air Forces Base Unit, Captain Reagan served as Personnel Officer, Post Adjutant, and Executive Officer. By the
war’s end, his units had produced four hundred training films for the Army Air Force. And of course he became Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. armed Forces when he became President on Jan. 20, 1981. A happy moment that many of us conservatives still treasure.

Adapted from information in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as cataloged in the National Archives.