He originally enlisted on Nov. 29, 1940, and served one year in the 44th Infantry Division. He was discharged in November 1941 and came home for good, he thought. But, that all changed on Dec. 7, 1941. Harley remembers that "Two weeks later Pearl Harbor was bombed. I was already working long hours on the railroad, and wasn't getting enough sleep. It happened on a Sunday, but I didn't even know about it until Monday morning."
Harley was called back to active duty in November 1942. He said, "I'll never forget my examination in Syracuse. I passed my written exam hands-down. But, my physical exam concerned the doctor. He said, 'You can't go into the service. You've got a heart murmur.' I said right back to him, 'I haven't got a heart murmur. I'm just excited, that's all!' The doctor responded, 'You go calm down for awhile and then we'll see how it goes.' I passed."
Harley's second tour of duty was anything but calm. First, at Fort Niagara he took a cadet exam. He remembers that "Seven of us went down to take it. It was all about mechanical stuff, and I can barely change my own oil or fix a flat tire. But, it was a multiple-choice test, and I was the only one who passed!"
"We shipped out from Mitchell Field on Long Island. They were short of all positions, but they were so short of pilots that it was pitiful. So, I went to pilot training in San Antonio (TX). I wanted to be a pilot, but I wanted to fly a twin-engine plane. I figured if they knocked out one engine, I still had one left and another chance to land the thing."
"We went to primary pilot training in Corsicana (TX). We flew PT-19's. The very least you could solo before earning your wings was six hours, which is what I did. I knew that we were running out of time one day, so I just landed the plane. Boy, I bounced all over the place! Next, I flew BT-13's in Enid (OK). It was a lousy airplane. Every once in awhile the wings would fall off!"