Navy veteran was radio operator in Morocco

WEATHERSFIELD — Stephen Fizet Jr. spent the summer between his junior and senior years at Niles McKinley High School at boot camp.

He spent 79 days at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois in the summer of 1962 and then spent his two-week Christmas break that year on board the USS John Hood (DD-65).

“There were a lot of young kids on that ship,” Fizet, 72, said.

After graduating in 1963, he went to radio school in Bainbridge, Md., for six months where he learned Morse Code, how to send and receive teletype messages and how to direct naval traffic. He then was sent home, but his stay was short-lived because he got called to active duty about two weeks later.

Fizet went to the Navy receiving station in Philadelphia to await his orders. He was flown to Madrid, where he boarded a two-engine Navy plane with about 40 other sailors and headed for Morocco.

“I was a radioman, which basically meant I pushed a bunch of buttons to receive messages and get our planes into classified airspace. I was there for a while and then got transferred to a different room at the base, which was more classified,” Fizet said.

But his stint in the more classified section was short-lived because there was a snafu with his paperwork.

“I never knew my grandfather committed suicide, so I did not put that on my military paperwork. Someone higher up found out and moved me out of the classified area, but I got moved back there later,” Fizet said.

He said even weather reports were considered classified because a weather report could indicate to the enemy where the ships were located.

“I wanted to be a ham radio operator in Morocco, but the commanders were worried I would talk to my parents over the radio instead of using the telephone, so I never got my license,” Fizet said.

While in radio school, he met a man named James Gliwinski and they became friends. During a one-month leave, Fizet went to London where Gliwinski was stationed. He eventually married Fizet’s aunt, who was 11 months younger than Fizet.

“Jim and I would talk to each other over the teletype all the time,” Fizet said.

He said one of the things that struck him most about Morocco was how poor the people were.

“People would climb fences to steal clothes off the clothesline, so one of our duties there was clothesline watch,” he said. “I did it several times, but I was not sure what I would have done if I caught someone stealing a T-shirt or pair of underwear.”

Fizet said he probably received “thousands” of teletype messages and several dozen of them were marked “urgent,” meaning he had to get the message to whomever it was for in a hurry.

He was in Morocco for almost two years and when he came home, he met a woman named Carolyn “Sue” Crews while delivering newspapers. Her father, William K. Crews, who was in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, was one of Fizet’s customers. He and Sue will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in October.

“I did not see combat, but I know guys who did. I give them credit for serving and I would not have hesitated to answer that call,” Fizet said.