Benjamin Jacob Flanagan
(10 Jan 1934 - 27 Jul 2001)

Shane Flanagan, son of Benjamin Jacob, provided this story about his dad.

Benjamin Jacob Flanagan. I don't see how anyone thought he was 17 years old. "As a young boy growing up during WWII, he got excited about crazy rumors that the military was taking 12 year olds. If I have done my math correct he was 11 in 1945, so naturally he could have lied about his age and get into the service. Obviously that wasn't the case, but fast forward to 1949. Now, dad at the ripe age of 15 and looking for some way to improve the tough living that lots of folks experienced in the rural areas. (Dad sometimes fished the French Broad River to supplement the meals, but that is another story.)

He leaves Burnett's Creek one morning, goes into town (Knoxville) and talks to an Air Force recruiter. Dad tells him that he needs to join up right away. The recruiter asks the obvious, "How old are you?" Dad replies confidently, "17", knowing that you could get into the military at that age with parental consent. The sergeant told him to bring his mother back to sign for him and the paper work could begin. Dad then convinced a non-family female friend to pose as his mother to go back with him to sign the consent papers. With the paper work done and physical complete, Dad finds himself shipping out to Texas for basic training in December of 1949 shortly before Christmas. Well, maybe the timing could have been a little better for this 15 year old, but there was no turning back.

Again, jump to the future, say summer of 1951. Young Ben is summoned to the base commander's office at Shepherd Field. The officer on duty tells Airman Flanagan that there appears to be some erroneous information about his age. Faced with the facts, Dad admitted that he was only 15 when he enlisted and yes, he was then only seventeen. The Lieutenant then tells him that he would have to leave the Air Force. After the initial shock, the Lieutenant with a sly grin tells Dad not to worry, that he had served enough time and would be honorably discharged. I saw his DD214 many years later and sure enough he was honorably discharged at the age of 17.

Now, one last time step ahead to 1953. Ben J. Flanagan at 19 years old is summoned to appear at the draft board to be conscripted into the United States Army. Dutifully he appears at the draft board and is herded into a room for processing. The sergeant gets everyone's attention and asks the following question, 'They make us ask this ridiculous question, but has anyone ever been in the armed services before?' Veteran Ben Flanagan raised his hand, 'Yes Sir!' Dad said that the look on the sargeant's face was priceless. I suppose the military's record keeping was better in 1951 than it was in 1953."