Pull Yourself Up a Chair

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Fourth Letter Page 1

 

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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!”

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.

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.