In 1938, Howard “Doc” Ayers joined the U.S. Navy, where he served for three years and four months. Ayers claims that it is hard to believe it was only three years because he felt as if he had been in the Navy forever. This is probably due to the fact that Ayers’ time in the Navy was spent in the midst of World War II.
Most who know the name Doc Ayers, know him as a legendary football coach for the University of Georgia. But Ayers graciously allowed us to tell his story about his time on the USS Card during one of the most devastating wars that this world has ever seen.
Ayers and his wife, Glenda, share an apartment at the Renaissance Marquis in Rome, Ga. Ayers has a very charming sense of humor and you would never know that the man is only a few years shy of turning 100 years old.
Doc is a nickname, of course, but it came from his childhood.
“My daddy was physician here in Georgia, and I was the black sheep in the family. I ended up coaching football rather than being a doctor,” explains Ayers.
But the name Doc stuck anyway, and nicknames now run in the family. Without a mention of their given names, Ayers’ three children have the nicknames Bucky, Bunny and Buzzy. Bucky, being Ayers’ only son, is now a golf coach at Auburn University. Bunny has been a flight attendant with Delta for 30 years and Buzzy provides home health care. He was also given nicknames in the Navy but wouldn’t share them with polite company.
Ayers was stationed on the Aircraft carrier USS Card for the duration of WWII.
“We thought we were the finest ship in the Navy. During the war when Germany surrendered, we thought we were going to get to go home, and then suddenly, they were escorting our ship to the Pacific. We traveled through the Panama Canal into the Pacific. We stayed there for what seemed like forever, but I got to come home safely. So, I’ve been very fortunate,” says Doc.
When asked what his job on the ship was, Ayers smiles and says, “I was in charge of giving everyone on the ship calisthenics; I kept them in shape. They didn’t like that worth a damn.” The mission of the aircraft carrier was, of course, to transport planes. But the vessel would also locate and torpedo German submarines.
Ayers reiterates that he was very fortunate to come home after the war. When he did, he went to the University of Georgia and played football. He later returned to Athens where he spent 22 years coaching the team. Doc then returned to Rome and coached in Cedartown where there is a stadium named for him.
These days, he keeps himself occupied with friends and family. He has earned the life he lives at Renaissance Marquis. When asked what keeps him busy, he responds, “Well I’ve got that recliner in there and I read a lot. I watch a lot of Football.”