At 95, retired firefighter has no intention of slowing down.
George Schofield has more ties to Delaware than just his comfortable Camden retirement home.
During World War II, as a young U.S. Army Air Force officer, Schofield was stationed at the New Castle Army Airfield, where he met and later married Wilmington native Elizabeth Craven. After the war, he was a fireman in New York City, where he and Elizabeth eventually raised five children before they retired and moved back to Delaware in 1995.
Elizabeth passed away in July 2013, but Schofield stays busy with volunteer work at the Air Mobility Command Museum, where he gives visitors first-hand stories about ferrying airplanes to the Pacific Theater during the war.
Schofield recently was a guest of the New York fire department for a tour of the World Trade Center Museum.
ABOUT GEORGE SCHOFIELD
BORN 1920, East Side of Manhattan
SERVED World War II aircraft navigator
DISCHARGED 1946, reactivated for the Korean War and Cuban Missile Crisis
RETIRED from the USAF Reserve as a lieutenant colonel and NYC fire department as a captain in 1978
How was it that you came to join the New York Fire Department?
I had worked during summers in the 1930s, making $15 a week. A policeman made $60 a week, which was wonderful money back then, so I wanted to be a policeman. But when the policeman’s test was held, I was four months too young, so I applied for the fire department. I passed, but had to wait to be appointed.
How did you come to join what then was known as the U.S. Army Air Force?
When the war started, the fire department said they weren’t going to make any more appointments until after the war. I’d taken some tests to be an aviation cadet before the war, but they said I didn’t get a high enough score. But after Pearl Harbor the Army went over my scores and they decided I had scored high enough. I washed out during pilot training, so they made me a navigator. Actually they did me a favor by doing that. I checked later and all of the pilots in my class were sent to Europe and 25 percent of them were killed.
In October 1957, you received the John McElligott Medal for Valor from the New York Fire Department.
We were called to a sewer manhole and were told there were men unconscious down there. We had just gotten these two self-contained masks and air tanks, so [two of us] volunteered and we went down, about 40 feet underground. We found six guys down there, and got three of them out alive. The other three were already dead. We ran out of air and ended up breathing the gas down there so we were pretty weak and they rushed us to the hospital. I’ve got the award hanging on the wall here, but I don’t look at it too often.
What were your thoughts on 9/11?
It was unbelievable. They killed a lot of firemen, 343 of them. We always speak of each other as brothers. I knew more of the officers that were killed than the firemen, but I also knew a lot of firemen who were the children of firefighters I had known.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to live a long life?
I’m 95 now, and that’s pretty old. But I’ve always taken an interest in what goes on around me. I’ve always been active, and so I’m always doing something. I joined a ladies bowling league at the Modern Maturity Center when someone asked me if I bowled. I said I did, but I didn’t tell them it was 50 years ago. I was the only man on the team then, but there’s another there now.
I also read, I read all the time. My house is a mess of newspapers I’ve been saving up intending to read.
What was the big surprise you got recently?
For all the years we were married, my wife Elizabeth was typing up what I had told her about what happened at the firehouse each day. I didn’t know she was doing that, and I only found out about three months ago when I found her notes. So I’ve been reliving those stories. I was really surprised.