How Nice It Would Be

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Olevia didn’t fully understand how much Charles loved her until she read his letter. His words spoke to her more deeply than any she had heard in her young life. Charles wrote his most endearing feelings for Olevia, offering his love through the miles that separated them. He had found the love of his life and expressed his emotions beautifully. Charles had thought long and hard about what love meant to him and shared every one of his beliefs in the written lines.

He spoke of the long search and the realization that Olevia was the only woman for him. He vowed to love her their whole lives and wanted to get married as soon as possible. Charles wrote of Olevia’s concern for her mother and understood that her mother may need to live with them after the wedding. Something that could have easily been a deal breaker for many men, Charles would accept her mother into their home and make it work. He loved Olevia that much.

On the train, heading for Minneapolis, Minnesota for more training, Charles started making plans when he would be able to come back to Boise for their wedding around the middle of December, 1943. They would have ten days together for their honeymoon. He hoped it would work out the way he imagined it. It would be up to Olevia to make all the wedding plans. He wondered if it would give her the time she needed to create the wedding she wanted.

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Pull Yourself Up a Chair

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Charles’ wit showed up in the most interesting places in his letter. He wrote his feelings much more honestly than he spoke when it came to sharing his thoughts with Olevia. The evening of November 4, 1943 brought a level of happiness into Charles’ heart he had never felt before. Nothing came close to it. Giddiness filled his entire body, so much so that he couldn’t sleep. Love had found its way into his soul.

Oh, how he hated to leave Olevia at the train station again. A place of joyful meeting and sad departing, the Boise Depot created mixed feelings in his gut. The Depot, where he had proposed to her as soon as he got off the train the night before and where she had said the one word he longed to hear, would forever be etched in his mind and life.

Goodbye came too quickly the following morning. Once they waved farewell and he got settled on the train, Charles wanted to tell everyone the news so the rest of the passengers could share in his overflowing joyful energy of having found the love of his life!

“Olevia said, ‘Yes!’ Do you hear? She said, ‘Yes!'”

Everyone on the train would applaud and holler, “Yeah!” Some of the men would pump their own fist in the air and then shake his hand and congratulate him. Others would slap him on the back with friendly affirmations. Some of the women would clap and nod and get a little misty-eyed for Charles and his new fiance’. Everyone would share in his happiness. The train ride went quickly that day. He only wished Olevia could have been with him so he could introduce her to every single passenger and afterward snuggle in the seat with her and wrap her in his loving arms and never let go.

Wasn’t it ironic how the war that had brought them together in the first place was the very thing that once again separated them from each other. Why did it have to be that way? Damn!

Since he couldn’t be with her right then, he chose instead to write to his soon-to-be wife about what love meant to him and how happy Olevia had made him. Today could not have been any better. Halfway between Ogden and Salt Lake City was when he settled down enough to write.

This was the fourth letter from Charles to Olevia and the first time he spelled her first name correctly. No doubt that subject was part of the conversation before she said, “Yes!”

How About a Date Friday Night?

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Charles waited for weeks as time dragged so slowly it probably felt more like years. Where was a letter from Olevia? Why hadn’t he got it yet? Having heard nary a word from her, he decided it was time to take action, to take a furlough to find out in person, face to face, why she hadn’t mailed a letter or sent a telegram. He couldn’t even connect with her on the telephone. Was she avoiding him? Had something happened?

 

He couldn’t wait another minute to find out if the woman that he loved with all of his heart loved him back. Surely she had told him something that made him believe she loved him or he would not have put his heart on the line like he did for her in his previous letters. All he wanted now was an answer, one way or another. By this time on Friday evening he would be in Boise and be able to speak with Olevia. Friday couldn’t come quick enough for him now.

 

Charles made it his mission to exhaust every possibility before giving up hope. Once he made his mind up there was no changing it. He would take the 300 mile trip by train from Wendover. He hoped Olevia would be at the other end at the Boise Depot to pick him up. If he didn’t see her there when his train pulled into the station, he would walk if he had to in order to get to Olevia’s home and see her face to face. Nothing would hold him back from getting an answer. He hoped it was the answer he wished for, but Charles was a realist and didn’t dare get his hopes up too high. He knew better than that. He had more life experience at twenty-six than most people would see in their lifetime. He prepared himself for the worst while expecting the best.

 

The train ride allowed his full attention to plan for an unknown future. As Charles thought about a future with Olevia a smile came to his face and made his heart feel lighter. He liked the idea of them settling down together and creating a home for their future family. He had time to think about the future without Olevia too. He would manage without her and be all right but he would never meet another woman like her. He knew that completely. This was the one woman who had entered his life through his dreams and settled into his heart from the moment they met.

 

 

 

I Would Wade Hell’s Fire

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Who was the young man was who went AWOL and where did he end up? Why he left Wendover Field in the first place is a mystery along with why he joined the Army Air Corp. What did he think the Army was going to be like?

Jones and Peggy had just gotten married and Wesley and Carol were already engaged. Though the letter didn’t say it specifically, the “proposition we talked over in front of the depot at Boise” sounded very much like a marriage proposal. Charles was making plans for his future in the Army Air Corp and hopefully a future with Olevia. Perhaps the commission would have given him the opportunity to transfer back to Gowen Field. He now considered Boise his home and very much wanted to be there.

Charles had put his heart on the line in this letter, hoping the woman he had fallen head over heels over would give him a chance. What more could he have done? This might have been the last letter he would send to Olevia. Time seemed to drag waiting for her reply. How could he stand the waiting? Why hadn’t she replied? Had her letter been lost in the mail or had she decided she didn’t love Charles after all? All the possible scenarios played over and over in Charles’ head like a needle getting stuck in a groove on a record in a record player. He loved music but this particular song was wearing him down.

Don’t Spare the Horses

A lot went on between the lines. Expectations and misunderstandings, maybe even fear. September 4 to October 21 as the dates between Charles’ letters to Olevia would have felt like an eternity. They were both holding out, waiting for the other one to write. Why? Maybe on a deeper level they felt like they were rushing into a relationship too quickly. Olevia and Charles didn’t know much about each other at this point in time. One or both of them may have wondered what they were getting themselves into. Is this what they wanted?

Both of them had their work that kept them busy in addition to Charles’ studies and Olevia’s chores at home. After a long day it may have become a real challenge to come up with something worth writing, something interesting enough to mail, especially when they could easily get distracted by a game of bowling or a movie. It would be difficult for Olevia to choose not to go to the USO dances with her friends in Boise. Thoughts of what they wanted and what they needed must have been reeling through both of their minds.

Olevia and Charles had enjoyed spending time together from June to August and now it seemed so long ago. The time they enjoyed being together had gone much too quickly. They had a lot of fun times around town with their friends. They wished the fun times could have lasted a little longer. Would they get the chance to do it all again?

Charles had been gone for almost two months now since his transfer to Wendover. Could it have all been a dream? A wonderful, whirlwind romance in an era of constant change and a possibility of being transferred overseas, even further away from each other? It seemed that they were a world apart already.

Common sense told them both that they should allow this relationship to develop naturally over time but with the war in full swing, there seemed to be a universal push to live life now. There might not be a tomorrow. The world being at war probably caused everyone’s energy to vibrate at a higher frequency, causing a sense of urgency that normally wouldn’t have been so prevalent.

Maybe the romantic dream was already over. It had hardly started. They would both know soon enough. If Olevia didn’t answer Charles’ letters, it would be pretty obvious.

About Wendover Field

Wendover Field 1943 photo taken by Charles Westbrook

Crew of B-29 “Enola Gay” Col. Paul Tibbets center (photo courtesy Wikimedia.com)

Wendover’s mission was to train heavy bomb groups. The training of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator groups began in April 1942. By late 1943 there were some 2,000 civilian employees and 17,500 military personnel at Wendover. For much of the war the installation was the Army Air Force‘s only bombing and gunnery range.

‘Bomb Trainer’ was the job title Charles Westbrook held there. He and another fellow named Poptonich were responsible for the bomb trainer building, to take care of the trainers and keep an eye on the bombardiers.

South of the main airbase and runways, a facility was built for development of the technology necessary to drop the first atomic weapons. These buildings were known as the “Technical Site”, and were located as far as possible from the rest of the base for security and also for safety in the event of an accident.

In September 1944. Boeing B-29 Superfortresses arrived on the field, as part of an operation code named “Silverplate”. They started preparations for the dropping of the world’s first atom bomb. Because of its remote location, Wendover Field was specifically chosen by Colonel Paul Tibbets as the training site for the crew of the Enola Gay to hone their skills for their infamous flight to deliver the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Enola Gay was named for Tibbet’s mother.

Colonel Tibbets held the reputation of being the best pilot in the Air Force. President Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed that Tibbets was the man for the job. Charles had the honor of meeting Colonel Tibbets and the privilege of being in charge of the A-Bomb site vault while he was stationed at Wendover Field. Nobody, not even close relatives knew what type of work Charles was doing at the base until after the war was over.

This operation required utmost secrecy. The base was given the code name “Kingman” and the activity to assemble, modify and flight test prototype bombs was named “Project W-47”. Security was so intense, that 400 FBI agents were involved to help maintain it. Personnel were instructed to talk with no one about their activities, not even among themselves. Those who did were immediately transferred from Wendover to other assignments, some as far away as Alaska.

Crews were trained to drop one bomb with a high degree of precision, and to execute a sharp turn after dropping it in order to avoid the effects of the nuclear blast. The aircrews trained continuously for the classified mission until May 1945. In late April 1945, Colonel Tibbets declared the group combat ready and the ground echelon moved to its new home, North Field, Tinian, in the Marianas, on May 29 with the air echelon following on June 11.

Credits:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

References

  1. ^ “National Register Information System”National Register of Historic PlacesNational Park Service. 2009-03-13.
  2. ^ 11 sites make new list of ‘endangered historic places’, at CNN.com
  3. ^ http://www.wendoverairbase.com/world_war_2 Wendover Air Base website (unofficial)
  4. a b c Wendover Air Base website
  5. ^ Boyne, Walter J. (June 2007). “Project Paperclip” (PDF). AIR FORCE MAGAZINE, Journal of the Air Force Association (Air Force Association) 90 (6): 72.

About Dad’s Letters

As I sorted through the letters, put them in date order and began reading them, the words absorbed my very soul. A mirage began to take shape of a life that seemed as real as if I’d been there.

Dad’s letters have been safely tucked away for over 60 years, stored on the top shelf of Mom’s bedroom closet where they have remained safe. The letters have been protected as if they were treasures. They are. I have become the keeper of the letters and feel a responsibility to create a book out of them for family, historians, WWII buffs, interested readers and future generations. They provide a portal into the lives of my parents during their young adult life when our world was at war for the second time. Dad’s written words give insight into who he was and where he came from.

Originally from Steens, Mississippi, dad joined the Mississippi Army National Guard in 1934. Two years later he was called upon to help clean up the aftermath from a devastating tornado that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on the evening of April 5, 1936. In 1939 Dad enlisted in the Army Air Corp and worked on the Tennessee Valley Authority Electrical Installation. In 1940 Dad was transferred to Guatemala and was chosen to go on a Good Will tour of South America. He was later transferred to Panama where he met Wesley Lyons who was also in the Army Air Corp which would later become the Air Force.

Wesley was from Boise, Idaho. They became fast friends and ended up being transferred to Gowen Field in Boise in May, 1943. Wesley’s girlfriend, Carol Howry, was best friends with Mom. Wesley introduced Dad to Mom at Carol’s home in June, 1943.

Two months later Dad was transferred to Wendover Field in Wendover, Utah. At that point is where these letters began.

About My Book

In my possession are approximately 150 letters written by my father to my mother during WWII. He was in the Army Air Corp which became the Air Force. I am writing a book about the letters.

Dad was quite a letter writer and had some interesting ways to explain what was going on in his life and the world at that time. One example is his description of snowmelt on the mountains. He described them as bearded men who were getting a shave.

My intention is to include much of what he wrote along with my comments.