Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Part 8 and the End of Papaw's Remembrances

World War II was under way. Aero Technical School was built at West Helena to train pilots for the air forces. Buddy got a job there working in one of the offices. He worked there until he enlisted in the Air Forces in 1943. He made many friends with the cadets at the school. Buddy joined the Air Forces and was immediately sent to Sheppard Field Air Force Base in Texas. He did his basic training there. He went from there to Colorado Springs, Colorado. He remembered the barracks where he stayed as being very primitive and open. The snow would sift through the walls. The heat was a big furnace in the middle of the room. His bed was at the back of the room, and a window was broken, so it was very cold. They would get out of bed early every morning and take exercises in the snow before breakfast. They would take long hikes and camp out in the cold weather. He developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized there. After his training was over and because he had experience as a clerk, he was given an office job. He went to school in Kearney, Nebraska.

He had many pleasant memories of Kearney. He had a girlfriend there. She was a only 15 and worked at the USO there.

Back home in West Helena the housing for the cadets was scarce at this time. Many families opened their homes for rooms to rent to these young men. Mrs. Chapman cooked meals for some of the men who roomed in the neighborhood. She was a good cook, and she made a little money to help support herself and Virginia. When Buddy joined the Air Forces and left home, she rented his room to the cadets. One of the cadets that stayed at the Chapman's was named Mike. Mrs. Chapman was like a mother to him. He had been in love with a girl and had bought her a diamond ring. When the couple broke up he was left with the ring. He gave the ring to Mrs. Chapman for payment of room and board. She pretended she had a lover and all her kids were upset, because they thought she had gotten the ring from an old second hand furniture dealer that she had sold some of her furniture to. This old man had taken to liking her, maybe because he could take advantage of her being deaf. She was vulnerable because she had to sell her good furniture so she could live. She got an allotment from the government since Buddy was in service. He also sent her part of his money.

Burt Bickerstaff was one of the cadets that lived in the neighborhood and ate at the Chapman house. He and Buddy became fast friends. They had many fun stories to tell about the things they did. Burt had a car, so he put a hot seat in the car so the girls would have to sit close to him. [this was an electric shock]. He and Buddy double-dated and had lots of fun. The Chapman house was another home away from home for Burt.

Mrs. Chapman was doing well now since she was getting an allotment from the government. She made a victory garden to raise vegetables to feed the cadets and her family. Every household had a victory garden. Everyone was helping to win the war. There were now three Chapman brothers in the war. James was in the Army; Tommy was in the Navy; and Buddy was in the Air Forces.

Buddy was sent to Guam in the South Pacific. He was a Staff Sergeant and worked in the office. He worked in a division that monitored the preparations for the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.

Their quarters were in tents. They slept in tents. The barracks had cots lined up side by side, and there was no privacy. They were near the jungle and near a Japanese prisoner camp. There were big rodents that invaded the barracks constantly. One night a big rat ran across one of the sleeping airmen, and he awoke screaming. Everyone thought the Japanese had attacked him.

It was dangerous to go outside the boundaries of the camp. The Japanese were lurking in the bushes everywhere. One night when one of the guys went out to the latrine, a Japanese sneaked up behind him and slit his throat. They had to be very cautious when they went outside the camp.

Some of the guys saved raisins until they had enough to make "raisin jack." One night one of them went out and drank some of the stuff and came stumbling back into the barracks and fell across the cot Buddy was asleep on. He thought he was being attacked and drew his knife before he realized it was his buddy. Luckily he was too scared to use the knife.

There was a prisoner of war camp near Buddy's camp. He said the Japanese prisoners would sit in a squatting position all day and stare at them. After the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered and the war was over. This was a happy time for everyone all over the world, but especially for all the servicemen who could go home. Buddy's office immediately started writing orders for release for the airmen to go home. He said he wrote his own release. They were shipped out of Guam and were on their way home. Buddy got sick on the plane before it landed in Hawaii, and he was put in the hospital there. He was kept in the hospital until he was able to travel on to the United States. He was released from the Air Forces in October 1945.

The end of the war was a joyous time for everyone, but especially for Floy Chapman. All her sons came home safely. They were alive and healthy. Or were they? War does terrible things to people. There are visible wounds, and then there are mental wounds. James was a foot soldier in the army, and he fought hand to hand battle with the enemy. He came home with terrible memories of the war. For several years he tried to kill the memories with alcohol. He and his wife, Floy, struggled to keep their marriage together. They had two children, Bobbie and Charlotte. James lost his lumber company and failed at running a service station. He finally pulled himself together and got a job as a milk distributor for Coleman Dairies. Floy worked hard to keep the family together. She worked for a doctor in Russellville, and when he died she got a job in the shoe factory. She worked there many years. Tommy came home to his wife Violet and his little son Tommy, Jr. He opened a service station and did well.

Buddy was so happy to be home. He got a job with Interstate Grocery Company. He worked in the office. He was a good office worker, and he worked hard to support his mother and sister Virginia. He had a great love for music, and the first thing he bought for himself after he came home was a big console radio and record player combination. He also bought his mother a new chrome breakfast set. He was back with his friends and was enjoying life again. Then he met me!!

(And that is how Memaw ended Papaw’s Remembrances.)

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