Another One for the Funny Pages
When I went through the June/July 2008 issue of World War II magazine, I found a pleasant surprise: an article about a soldier who also drew cartoons on his mail home (“Special Delivery”). I was attached to the 10th Armored Division, both at Fort Benning, Georgia, and at Camp Gordon, Georgia, before going overseas to Europe. I worked in the personnel office of the 423rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion. Every evening after chow, the personnel group would congregate at the office and write to our sweethearts, wives, and families. That is when I started drawing some cartoons on the envelopes to my wife, Lora, as a pastime. Once, when I went to the main post office to pick up the mail with our mail clerk, he introduced me as “the guy who draws on the envelopes,” and they all cheered.
NORMAND H. CARLETON
Wendover as Hellhole
Your article on Wendover Field (“Time Travel,” August /September 2008) brought back a flood of memories. During the war I was an armorer on B-24s with the 726th Squadron, 451st Bomb Group in the Fifteenth Air Force.
After my graduation from tech school in Denver, and after processing in Salt Lake City, I left via truck convoy for some place called Wendover. “You’ll love it!” said the truck driver, who also mentioned something about waving palm trees and girls in grass skirts.
Arriving at Wendover around midnight we could see only a vast, apparently empty expanse with the dark shadows of three or four huge hangars looming in front of us. I guess we weren’t expected, as we had to sleep that night on the floor of one hangar. We each had only one blanket and it was cold as hell even in the middle of summer.
We considered Wendover a hellhole. It was hot and dusty and there was no place to go nor anything to do. I do have a few distinct memories of the base, like the hangars on the field, one of which is shown in your article. At that time we had never heard of a B-29, much less seen one. Those hangars were huge! We could work inside on two B-24s at the same time with the doors closed. But the really strange thing was the door arrangement. In the center of the hangar’s front wall, high up above the sliding doors, was another rectangular door. This is the white rectangle in your photo. We had many a discussion as to why some idiot would put a special door way up there. A year or so later when we saw photos of B-29s, with that tall tail assembly, we understood.
COCOA BEACH, FLA.
In 1943, as a 12-year-old-boy, I was relocating to California with my parents in our 1939 Plymouth, which my dad held to the wartime 35 mph speed limit as man dated by FDR, though you could travel for miles and not see another car.
Somewhere in the vicinity of Wendover Field we saw the tail section of a B-24 just lying alongside the highway. Perhaps it fell off a crash-recovery truck without the driver’s knowledge. I don’t think there were any guns in the tail turret, but there wasn’t a soul around, and Dad never even slowed down.
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.
Playing with Death
I enjoyed the story about German children’s games during World War II (“War Games,” August/September 2008). We also had military games in the United States at that time and my favorite was a game called “Bombs Away.” The game consisted of a corkboard that had objects such as factories, schools, etc., and a bomb sight. The player would look through the bombsight and release dart “bombs.” You received points for hitting factories and military targets; points were removed if you hit schools or hospitals. Does anyone else remember this game?
Your feature on war games reminded me of a little piece of paper in my World War II collection. My father was inducted into the army on his 26th birth day—January 5, 1942—and served in the South Pacific until December 1945. On his 30th birthday—January 5, 1946—he was discharged, having spent exactly four years in the army. Among the memorabilia he passed on to me is this coupon for a war game called “Bomb Tokyo.”
Soviets Did Acknowledge Lend-Lease Aid
As Alexander Hill noted (“Did Russia Really Go It Alone?” June/July 2008), the Soviets downplayed the role Lend Lease aid played in its defeat of Germany. But the record shows that Stalin and Georgi Zhukov both referred favorably to this invaluable aid.
In 1963, Zhukov described this critical American aid as follows: “Today some say that the Allies didn’t help us. [Yet] we cannot deny that the Americans shipped over to us materiel without which we could not have equipped our armies held in reserve or have been able to continue the war….” For his part, in a message to president Harry S. Truman on June 11, 1945, Stalin admitted, “During the war the strategic materials and foodstuffs shipped to the U.S.S.R. under Lend-Lease played an important role and to a significant degree contributed to the successful outcome of the war against the common enemy, Hitlerite Germany.”
ALBERT L. WEEKS
I enjoyed how Hill’s story pierced the veil of Soviet bluster about Allied Lend Lease planes and tanks not significantly impacting the war with Nazi Germany. Kudos for the great reference work and presentation. I would like to add that one Lend-Lease plane was overlooked: the P-39 Airacobra. Though it was not a high altitude dogfighter like the Spitfire or the Mustang, it worked well in action at levels below 15,000 feet, which prevailed on the eastern front. Many Russian pilots became aces using the plane, and admired its maneuverability, easy handling, powerful armaments, and excellent vision.
Were Fat Man and Little Boy Lifesavers?
A big “what if ” not often explored is the Japanese civilian suicides that might have occurred and been encouraged by the “hardliners” had there been an invasion, or the total blockade that Mark Grimsley mentions (“What If,” June/July 2008). All one needs to look at is the terrible loss of civilian life by suicide during the takeover of Okinawa. While America has been vilified over the years for drop ping the atomic bombs, it may well be that thousands of Japanese lives were saved.
Due to a typographical error, the caliber of the Me 262A’s weapons was misstated on page 63 of the October/November 2008 issue. The Me 262A was armed with four 30mm guns.
Originally published in the January 2009 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.