Editor’s note: The Marietta Daily Journal this week will be featuring several local World War II veterans leading up to Friday’s observance of Veterans Day with stories and video interviews. Our full coverage is available on mdjonline.com.
KENNESAW — General William T. Sherman is credited with the phrase “War is hell” several years after the American Civil War. That sentiment from the 19th century is one Kennesaw resident Quentin Schenk likely agrees with from his time in the 20th century’s biggest conflict, World War II.
Now 96 years old, Schenk’s biggest role in World War II was that of a carrier pilot, flying over 100 carrier landings during his time in the war. His preparation for those flights, however, began while he was still in grade school.
“I started in the seventh grade in the civilian pilot training when war was just about to come. When the war came along, I was already in part of the service, and so I just continued on up. Us guys who were in there for a while did have the chance to choose what we wanted to do, and I chose flying and ended up on a carrier,” Schenk said, adding that he did his first flying when he was a freshman in college.
Fighting mainly against the Japanese in the Pacific Theater, Schenk’s missions varied but were crucial in the effort against the enemy.
“My job, like the other members of the squadron, was to keep the planes down, and also to keep the troops in their barracks as much as possible so they wouldn’t harass our troops as they came forward. My job then was to go around the routes to see where the troops were located in the enemy, and see to it that they didn’t get out. There were a bunch of cargo ships, and we were supposed to sink them, and we were also supposed to neutralize those youngsters that were coming through there so that they weren’t worth anything,” he said. “It was a nasty job.”
Schenk said his most tense moment during the war was when one of his colleagues, a man named Foster from New England, was killed in a firefight. The two had gone through training together.
“The Japanese took those young men and put a bomb on them, and said ‘Now, you go and flying to get those guys.’ I think the most scared that I was was when Foster got killed and I was left there with that big squadron of enemy,” he said.
Schenk ended up earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other honors, for his accomplishments in combat. But he says those honors were not worth the human cost.
“I didn’t care much for the blood that was spilt,” he said, “but that had to be done in order for us to win the war.”