About the Author

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941:
the Shaw is hit and explodes

Bill S. was born in Niles, Ohio on June 29, 1918. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939, and served in the Pacific theater in World War II, narrowly escaping death in the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, he was assigned to work full time creating alcoholism treatment programs at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Using his own recovery as a guide, he persuaded the Air Force to appoint him full time to working with other alcoholics. The success story which he and psychiatrist Dr. Louis Jolyon West related in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1956 was distributed all across the country by the National Council on Alcoholism.

He retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant in 1961, but later ran alcoholism treatment programs at Fort Ord for the Army, and then at Alameda Naval Air Station, where in 1983 he was given the Meritorious Service Award, the Navy's highest award for a civilian at a duty station, for his work there with alcoholics and drug addicts.

Photo taken from an attacking Japanese warplane of smoke coming up from Hickam Air Base,
just adjacent to the harbor. Bill S., who had awakened in his barracks to the sound of the airplanes
and exploding bombs, was running for his life through the barrage shown here.

Mrs. Marty Mann and Dr. E. M. Jellinek at the Detroit Economic Club in 1946.

Marty Mann, who had been brought up in wealth and moved in the highest circles of society, was one of the first women to gain long term sobriety in A.A. Her story ("Women Suffer Too") appears close to the front in the story section of the A.A. Big Book).

Jellinek is famous as the researcher who developed the well known Jellinek Curve demonstrating the progressive nature of alcoholism, and the way in which the disease pulls people further and further down the longer they drink.

Sgt. Bill was given the opportunity to study under both of them at the Yale School of Alcohol Studies in 1949, only a year after he had gotten sober in A.A. himself. He describes his experiences at the Yale School in Chapter 14 of his book:

"The knowledge I gained during my attendance at the school was simply overwhelming. You need to remember that the instructors were some of the most learned and famous people in alcoholism studies at that time. I still use to this day innumerable things that I learned from them. Dr. E. M. Jellinek was there, the biologist and neuroendocrinologist who worked out the famous "Jellinek curve" which still bears his name, a chart based on his careful statistical studies of A.A. members, which demonstrated the progressive nature of the illness which we call alcoholism and its various stages in order of their progression. He knew so much about so many fields of study, often ranging far outside his own area of formal training. He was fluent in at least three languages that I knew of, and had worked all over the world."

Marty Mann in 1950 at home in New York City, working
on her first book, Primer on Alcoholism. Sgt. Bill was continuing
his alcoholism treatment program (with her support) at Mitchel
Air Force Base on Long Island.

"Dr. Jellinek had actually been trained originally as a biometrician, using statistics to study biological phenomena, then had developed enough professional competence in neuroendocrinology to be put on the Yale University faculty, where he then became interested in the effect of alcohol on the human body and nervous system. But I also learned an incredible amount about the fundamentals of psychiatry from him, an area in which he had never been formally schooled at all. He had that sort of sweeping range of knowledge.

"Seldon Bacon was also there, another quite famous researcher on alcoholism, and Leon Greenberg, and of course Marty Mann herself. Adapting to that world of incredible intellects was one of the most challenging things I have ever taken on, but it was one of the most exciting periods of my whole life. You cannot imagine what it was like to see minds like that tossing ideas back and forth, back when modern alcoholism studies was first beginning, and the thinkers debating all these issues at the school I was attending were the most formative people in this whole new field of studies."

Mitchel Air Base on Long Island

Sgt. Bill had been assigned to Mitchel Air Force Base on Long Island, not far from New York City, and had finally gotten sober himself. He knew that the Twelfth Step required him to carry the message to other suffering alcoholics. In Chapter 14 of his book he describes what happened next.

"In September of 1948, I approached my Squadron Commander with the idea of giving a talk on alcoholism to the members of our Squadron. At first he looked at me as though my sanity had left me. I told him of the success I had had over the past two months or so in working privately with several of the other hard drinkers on the base, and he finally consented.

"In fact I had no idea how to present the program to this sort of audience, so when the day arrived and I had to stand up and address the other 159 members of my Squadron I was filled with great apprehension. I began by saying, 'I am an alcoholic and have found a way to live a useful life without having to drink alcoholic beverages.' The whole room broke out in uproarious laughter on the spot. They knew all about how much I used to drink ....

"[But] as my talk progressed, I noticed to my surprise that there appeared to be an interest in what I was saying .... After my speech was over, two people came up to me and quietly asked for my help. In the days that followed, two rapidly became four, and four became six, and six became eight. Something big was off and running, and I had no idea what was going to happen next, but knew that my part of the job was to go where I was being led. This was the beginning of an awesome responsibility in helping others to seek a better way of life."

Yvelin "Yev" Gardner was an important early New York A.A. member

Bill started taking these Air Force personnel to the little A.A. meeting on Long Island which he attended. He did not realize that one of the members of the group, Yev Gardner, was Mrs. Marty Mann's righthand man at the National Council on Alcoholism.

But one day Yev asked him, "Would you like to work with alcoholics full time?" When Sgt. Bill said yes, Marty used her connections to get Bill appointed by the Air Force to a fulltime position working with alcoholics at Mitchel Air Force Base. That was the beginning of Bill's career as alcoholism counselor.

Sister Ignatia in Akron

Sister Ignatia, "Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous"

In 1951, Sgt. Bill was reassigned by the Air Force to teach at Kent State University, which is located right outside Akron, Ohio. He took advantage of this by driving in to St. Thomas Hospital regularly to have many heart-to-heart talks with Sister Ignatia, and observe the way she worked with alcoholics in the highly successful treatment program which she and the Akron A.A. people had set up there.

Sister Ignatia helped early A.A.'s work with alcoholics
at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio

Bill learned a number of additional valuable things about running alcoholism treatment centers from Sister Ignatia, which he was later able to put into practice when the Air Force reassigned him to working with alcoholics, this time at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.