For Momma - Memorial Slide Show (Turn Playlist Music off before watching)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Going Home - The Unexpected - Part Seven

Not long after passing the Nebraska state line we start spotting the Pioneer Village billboards. Pioneer Village is in Minden, Nebraska and houses many of the items the pioneers would have used as well as a replica of an old time village. I mention to my hubby that one of my great grandpa's buggies is displayed there and we make plans to see it. We lived in Minden for a year in 1956 while my dad was stationed in Morocco. I tell him about the old house we lived in and how the mice would run across the kitchen floor while we watched TV in the next room - well they did until mom took control. Feeling the affects of all the coffee we've drank we stop at one of the many rest stops through Nebraska to check out the facilities and stretch our legs a bit. Once we're back on the road it's not long and we are again chatting about Uncle Willis.

In September of 1943 Willis was sent to Port Moresby, New Guinea. He joined the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Squadron as a fighter pilot serving under Maj. Edward "Porky" Cragg. They call themselves the "Headhunters", a name that Maj. Cragg came up with to honor the local tribesman who helped rescue many downed pilots to safety and also to show their fighting spirit.

A patch was designed to depict a proud Papuan Chief and two bones in the shape of a "v" for victory below the head. The original patch was designed by Msgt. Yale Saffor who had been an artist with the Walt Disney studios. Through the years the patch has gone under a few changes, but is still worn today by this squadron.

At Port Moresby, Willis joins well known Aces such as Norb Ruff, Edward "Porky" Cragg, Louis Schriber and many others. He writes home that the plane he is assigned is a P-38 Lightening and states "it's old but it flies good". This plane was flown earlier in New Guinea by Pearl Harbor famed George Welch. George Welch was one of the only pilots at Pearl Harbor to get a plane off the ground to fight the Japanese that invaded Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

Soldiers stationed overseas used a mailing system called V-Mail during WWII. The letter was censored and copied onto microfilm. Using this system saved space on the transports for war materials. Once the microfilm reached the U.S. it would be printed on a specialized form which reduced the size of the letter to about 4x5 and then mailed to the recipient.

September 11, 1943
Dear Mother & Dad,
Here it is 6:00 P.M. I am writing this letter at our club, a cement floor a few poles to hold up the roof and the sides are covered with screen. We have a bar, a radio, phonograph, tables, chairs and because we are having a party tonight we have a piano, just think a piano. Lt. Mcgee, he shot his 5th down yesterday, is playing the piano. Some of the fellows just brought us some flowers and they are decorating the place.
Lt. Hill, one of the fellows that went to Seattle with me is here in my squadron. He shot his first zero down yesterday. He told us all about it when he got back.
This morning another fellow and I went down to the beach and went swimming. It was a lot of fun. You would be surprised at the different fellows that are in the squadron. One was a Missionary, one a clerk in Washington D.C., one a motorcycle racer and etc. So far I have not heard from anyone.
Sincerely, Willis

October 15, 1943

Dear George,

I just got your letter of August 19th. For a while I thought maybe you would be sent out of the States before I would have a chance to write to you again.

So you don't like the place where you are stationed now. I know that you would think this place much worse. For breakfast we had French fried toast. For dinner we had Bully beef cold, dehydrated potatoes and carrots. How I'd like to get a good meal of fresh vegetables.

So far as I know Elmer Hinricks is stationed south of here. I wrote home for his address. Maybe I will get a chance to look him up while on leave if Mother sends me his address in time.

Half of the time we fly over jungle the other half over water. I was close enough to see in the cockpit of 4 Jap plans as they passed me. But, I have not fired on them as yet. A lot of ack ack burst near me while flying over different targets.

I wrote Joe a letter yesterday I sent along 3 pictures I took here. She will send them home to the folks. You can ask Mother to send them to you.

It has been raining almost every night here for the past week. Our rainy season has just begun.
It's time for chow now so I'll write again later.
Sincerely - Willis

(some pictures in the post are in the public domain of the Federal government - others a privately held - do not use without permission)

To be continued........

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