July 8, 9 and 14, 1944: Dad writes a few letters home from Topeka Army Air Base where he is taking care of business for the 270th AAF Base Squadron. I’m going to apologize up front for the many links in this entry as Dad mentions some well-known people of the time whose names may have been lost to history, or at least are whom are not familiar to readers of this blog. That being the case, I wanted to provide links to additional information about them.
In between his duties in the office, he manages to get in some leisure time and keep up on his correspondence and studies, especially on the 9th as “The office is empty as it generally is on Sundays and I have that much more time to use for letter writing and catching up on my Physics.” He acknowledges his sister’s efforts on her letter writing too. “I certainly must congratulate you…on what a fine job you are doing, Ann, in writing to Stanley and me very conscientiously.”
Dad writes that his boss “Let me have the afternoon off to see Byron Nelson and ‘Jug’ McSpadden play an exhibition golf match at the Topeka Country Club. I and two other fellows went. We had to give $1.50 for China relief but it was worth it. Byron Nelson had 65 for 18 holes, breaking the former country club record of 67. …you could easily understand why he was able to win a lot of money playing tournaments.”
As is sometimes the case, Dad’s thoughts turn to news about the war. Here we see him thinking about what is going on in Europe. “I hear where the Russians are in Wilno and Brest-Litvosk; and Goebbles is talking…about the Germans having nothing of a chance ahead of them to live as they’d like to so they keep on fighting, referring no doubt to the ‘unconditional surrender terms and subtlety blaming that for prolonging the war. Who knows? Maybe they’d just as soon give up now if they were offered the same opportunity to prepare for another War. Hitler has taken charge of the West, and you know what happened in Russia when he took charge of the Eastern Front.”
As far as other activities on base, Dad writes that:
- He attended “a talk at the base theater given by Major General Uzal Ent, Commanding General of HQ Second Air Force. He’s a good talker and appeared to be a fine fellow.”
- “There’s a G.I. Aquacade at the swimming pool at the base tonight with colored lights and all. The participants are to be some soldiers and Wacs.”
Before signing off, Dad makes the first direct mention of the aircraft that are being processed through Topeka. “I’ve seen a B-29 flying around and they are the biggest ships I’ve ever seen. I hope they bomb all the fight out of the Jops so’s the Japs won’t feel like fighting again.”
Below is a wartime film about the B-29 produced by the U.S. Army for civilian consumption. Once you get past the first four minutes of anti-Japanese propaganda (some of which contains rather explicit violence), they get to the subject of the B-29 and its production. Reference is made to the B-29’s range as compared to other aircraft (approximately 5800 miles vs. 2000 miles for a B-17) and they allude to B-29s as being destined for bases in India or China. This may have led to Dad’s comments in earlier letters that he might get assigned to a place where “white sacred cows roam the streets”. At this time in the war, the closest land bases to Japan were in India and China as the Pacific Island were still in the process of being secured.