Sunday, May 24, 2009

For Memorial Day, In Remebrance....

(M.I.M note - Originally written May 24, 2009, updated May 26, 2013)

Pictured below is my maternal grandmother, Melba with her husband, my grandfather, David Warren Wilds. I'm not sure of the date of the photo, 1942 perhaps. At the time I originally published this, I wasn't sure where the photo was taken. My aunt (his sister) told me it was taken in Southern California, while he began training as a cadet pilot in the Army Air Corps (precursor to the U.S. Air Force).

David (or "Chubby" as he was known to his friends and my grandmother), was born in 1920 in San Benito, TX and grew up in nearby Rio Hondo, a neighboring town across the Arroyo Colorado from Harlingen. He married my grandmother August 20, 1939 and he was the love of her life. His best friend, Paul McMurtry, was a Navy Cross recipient for heroism on the USS Nevada during the Pearl Harbor attack. "Chubby" enlisted in the AAC in February 1942, by August, he headed out for flight training to Southern California, first, for primary training at Ryan Field in Hemet, CA, then to Minter Airfield, which was located in Shafter, CA, near Bakersfield.

Beginning with primary trainers at Ryan, such as the PT-22 Recruit, he graduated to basic trainers at Minter, like the BT-13 Valiant (or "vibrator," as it was nicknamed by the pilots due to how it vibrated in flight). In one of his last letters to my grandmother, he wrote about a rough landing on a muddy airfield which splattered mud inside the cockpit and onto his goggles.

BT-13A Valiant, assigned to Minter Airfield.

Minter, known originally as Lerdo Field (due to the highway nearby), was one of the largest training facilities on the West Coast. Where my grandfather would have gone to next was anyone's guess, as pilots were trained for fighting fighters as well as bombers. My grandmother did mention to me one time that his squadron ended up being assigned to the Pacific, where they flew P-38 Lightning fighter planes.

On February 28, 1943, David was on a training flight in a BT-13A, Bu. No. 41-10428 when fog obscured his destination, Poso Airfield (one of Minter's auxiliary fields near Bakersfield) and he crashed one mile northeast of the field. Had this fatal accident not occurred, he would have received a commission as Second Lieutenant after two more months of training. Back in Texas, my grandmother, who was about two months pregnant with my mother, was on a shopping trip to McAllen when word arrived with her parents about the fatal crash that killed her husband. My great-grandfather took a bus to McAllen, to find her and bring her the heartbreaking news that the husband she loved with all her heart was gone.

Condolence Letter from Gen. George C. Marshall

Among the heroes we remember on Memorial Day, I also remember my grandfather, a man I never knew but felt his presence though my grandmother, his mother, brother, sister, and also his best friend and fellow veteran.
To all who have given their lives while in the service of our military, thank you, for your sacrifice and your service. We will never forget you.

1 comment:

Ken & Carol said...

Thanks for the story. We need to remember. We only realize how our politics and economics works when something goes wrong.