I Went Searching For an Indian and Found I Was a Dutchman

I Went Searching for an Indian and Found I Was a Dutchman.
I've always been interested in history so when my Uncle Wayne gave me some information about our family roots I had to begin changing the way I've always thought about where I came from. We had always been told, "there's Indian blood in our ancestry, we just haven't been able to prove it". I have been surprised to learn that while searching for an Indian link, I found a Dutchman. Now I'm not saying there may not be some Indian blood somewhere but the prospect looks dimmer the more I find out.
I also have had some general prejudices about folks back east, especially areas like Ohio (I grew up in the Woody Hayes era and couldn't stand Ohio State). What a surprise (and God ordained I believe) to find we arrived in Ohio in the early 1800s, my ancestor fought in an Ohio Regiment in the Civil War, and came to Kansas afterwards. That, and some visits to Ohio, has adjusted my thinking.
And the other reason why-to keep communication between the far flung members of my family and encourage them to drop a note so we can keep in touch with the details of their lives. We miss too much by not being there in the day to day workings of life. So, leave a post for all of us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lessons Learned While Sailing, Part 2

The wife and I set out after church on Sunday to spend a night swinging on the hook at the local lake.  The winds were pretty high (for us) but they were to abate somewhat so we hung out at the slip for awhile then headed out to sail a bit then find a nice cove for the night.  With the winds and the Labor Day stinkboat parade the water was a mix-master.  Even anchored back in a cove we got a good share of sloshing about.  We finally move further back into the cove the lessons began (yes, this all happened on one trip):
1. When using a cheap halogen light for an anchor light, never pull it up to hang from the jib halyard.  The wave action soon has it spun around the mast, main halyard, and stays.  Dang. How will I get that undone in the dark?
2. When the main halyard is tangled with the jib halyard due to #1 never take it loose from the mainsail and pull.  Now it's a real mess.  No sailing now until we putt back to the dock with the aid of Mr. Johnson's 4 40 year old horses.
3. Remember back in coves there are underwater trees and snags.  In the cool 50 degree morning one cannot pull up an entire tree with the anchor rope.  It requires an upside down swim down the rope to fix it. Brrr.
4. Mr. Johnson's horses need fuel and when the tank gets low, it requires a tilt to keep the gas flow to the horses.
5. The trailer you stored at the marina to have ready to pull 'er out in the fall is never where you left it.  The help shows you where it's at-in the bone yard.
6. Remember to put the box receiver hitch in the truck. You can't pull the trailer with out it.  Good thing we only live 10 miles from the marina.
7. Old outboards tend to die an the most inopportune moments.  Like motoring from the slip to the dock to put the boat on the trailer so the mast can be un-stepped to fix #1 and #2.
8. Starter ropes break on old outboards at the most inopportune moments.
9. Boats with no power move with the wind to the nearest shore when one gets frazzled and forgets to throw the anchor.   It always has rocks.
10. Old outboards have a backup method to start using the broken rope on the flywheel.  They will start after a few pulls (figured as ambient temperature x frustration level of the captain x length of the boat).  But...old fuel line fittings on old outboards tend to break off.
11.  While one is fussing with how to get the boat to the dock through the underground rocks, he finds out about the famous weak tiller connection on O'days when the swing rudder he forgot to pull up hits same rocks and snaps off the tiller.
12. Those rocks next to the shore are hard on shins while one walks the boat to the dock.
13. He finds that other sailors are very kind and helpful to get his boat out of the water, onto the boat, and the mast un-stepped.  The even admit to having the same things happen rather than ridicule him.
14. Tires on trailers left at the marina tend to rot and fly apart on the way home.  Thankfully the air stays in and he can limp it in since (see above) he's only 10 miles from home.
15. Be grateful for God's grace and the help of complete strangers.  These are important lessons to learn because...
Cap'n Rocky of the good ship Lubberdink Twee.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another Hero Goes Home: My Uncle Bart

The Earl Bartlow Family
Back-Rex, Bart, Duane, Wayne Front Norman, Rachel Victor, Earl, Mel, Elsie, Leta
In a man's life, there are a few men who are his heroes.  It's not that he doesn't have women who affect his life greatly but that's another whole different thing.  Of the men in my life, there have been a few who rose to hero status.  My father, grandfathers, and a man named Carl Wales (who I'll tell you about some other day), and my uncles.  I have six who are my father's brothers (Bart, Wayne, Duane, Rex, Victor, and Mel), my father's sister's husbands (Hal and Loyd), and my mother's sister's husband (Ric).  There's not a one in the bunch who aren't great men in their own right.  Their characters are more than just one dimension but f I gave each a one a simple description they would be: Wayne-Sensitive; Duane-Teacher; Rex-Honorable; Victor-Joy; Mel-Adventurer; Hal-Faithful; Loyd-Integrity; Ric-Endurance. Of course, I left the subject of this entry until the end: Bart-Steady.
Bart (far right) with brothers Wayne,
Duane, and Rex. Howard, Ks
My uncle Bart was a little distanced from me due to my father's place in the pecking order: In the lower half of the siblings at number six.  Bart was one of my dad's older brothers and thus one of my older uncles.  He was born the second child and first son to my grandparents Earl and Rachel, on the plains of northwestern Oklahoma in May 1928.  Their lives weren't easy scratching out a living farming and such in land that wasn't very forgiving.  Life was difficult, so much so, that shortly after my father was born in 1938 when Uncle Bart was but ten years old, they lost their land and had to live in a tent until the crop came in and then moved to southern Missouri.  Life wasn't any easier there and they once again were forced to move, this time to Howard Kansas where his Uncle Willy and Aunt Lucy lived.  Facts are stranger than fiction as Bart graduated from Howard High School and his middle name was...you guessed it...Howard.
The family eventually moved back to NW Oklahoma and Bart took on many jobs over the next few years ranching and cotton picking in Texas but in 1950 he along with his younger brothers Duane, Wayne, and Rex joined the famous 45th Division Thunderbirds and went off to Korea for a couple years of adventure (if you can call it that). Thanks to the Lord's protection, they all returned home, he in 1952, where he married my aunt Joan.
Uncle Bart took a job operating a D6 Cat building ponds late at night.  It was cold and Uncle Bart was never a complainer but he was smart enough to know how to find something better and ended up with a job at the AT&SFRR, a career he held for 34 years, retiring in 1986.  He and Aunt Joan eventually settled in Enid although they never did really "settle" until his health turned poor. For many of those retirement years he was the head of the Retired Bartlow Brothers Traveling Circus-all of them with trailers who went from place to place on great adventures.
Probably the greatest picture of Uncle Bart I could give to describe him as the steady man he was, was given by my daughter Kellie at his funeral. She said "Uncle Bart always reminded me of John Wayne".  Wow, and it was true.  Uncle Bart didn't talk as much as his siblings but when he did it was in a low, growly voice that demanded attention and got it.  It was a voice of steadiness, of power, of experience.  A voice that demanded respect and made the listener sit up and take note.
John Wayne-he
always aspired to
be like my Uncle
He told me stories of working on the railroad as the supervisor over derailment sites when he would take charge of the mess.  Some less knowledgeable in the upper management ranks would show up and try to tell him what to do.  In his best steely, growly voice he would inform them they could either do it his way or fire him and they could do it themselves.  He said he got fired several times but never lost his job!
He was a John Wayne kind of guy.  Faithful to his wife and family, true to his word, confident in his abilities.  He never talked a lot about his faith but I know he trusted the Lord and led his family that way.
Just like when the weather turned cold on that old D6 Cat, he never complained.  Even when he fought the cancer that eventually took his life, he never complained.  As Pastor Jeff Jackson said at his funeral, he was of the generation that just got things done.  They weren't whiners about the difficulty of life like some of the generations who have followed.
I'm sure going to miss him.  But as Pastor Jeff said, Uncle Bart spread his sails and moved out to sea, we watched until he became a speck and said "There he goes".  But those just over the horizon on the other side saw that speck appear and he got larger and they said, "Here he comes!".  Because of Christ, one day he'll say that about me. Until then, he awaits on the shore, joyful with his King and family and watching for us.
Aunt Joan, Uncle Bart, Ramona 2006 Enid, OK
So, one of my heroes has left this world.  If you're a young man and want to take notes on how to be a REAL man, not those sissified, mamby-pamby, momma's boys who seem to pervade our world these days, take note of a real hero--Warren Howard "Bart" Bartlow.  My uncle and hero.
Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Trip Down South: My Ancestors History in Winfield, Kansas 2/26/11

Kathi was feeling bad because a friend took his wife south for the winter to St. John’s in the Caribbean so I did the same for Kathi.  I announced on Friday that we would be taking a weekend excursion south too-to balmy Winfield Kansas.  Since I have found that not only was I born there (which I knew but don’t remember) but that my GG Grandparents, William and Sarah, lived there also, I decided it would be a good chance to burn some vacation days and find out some more family history.

Nazarene Church Eureka, Ks
So, I arranged rooms at a quaint Mom-n-Pop called the Sonner Motel and Saturday morning we headed out.  It could be that the freezing rain was telling us something but we were undaunted and mushed on south.  I decided to make it a real history tour for Kathi and not only let her see family sites but also where I have been over the last few years since my job entailed supervising the technician who covered the same areas.  We started south down the Kansas Turnpike to Emporia, cut through town to K-99 and south through the little towns of Olpe, Madison, and Hamilton and on to US 54 and into Eureka.  I showed her where Uncle Willy McCollom was pastor of the Nazarene church across from the Caseys (which had a just-in-time bathroom).  We ran by the Greenwood County Courthouse and Eureka Downs then back east on US 54 to the K-99 junction and on south again. 

Nazarene Church, Severy, Ks
Our next stop was Severy where not only did cousin Russell McCollom pastor the Nazarene church, but also where my old buddy Bill and I went to visit a couple of girls from Climax and went to the Methodist church with them.  It’s funny how my life later mirrored the same locations:  Met the girls from Climax, went to Howard to see a show-got a couple of traffic tickets and lost my license temporarily-cruised the main drag of Eureka for fun and went to church in Severy.  You can’t make this stuff up-it has to be true.

Nazarene Church, Howard, Ks
Anyway, we continued on south on K99 to Howard and cruised around the town to see the Elk County courthouse, where the Nazarene church that Uncle Willy was pastor used to be (it has since fallen down and is a vacant lot), and the old school.  Then back onto the highway and south to Moline.  Just before the west curve to Moline is the turn to Elk Falls where Uncle Mel was born.  We passed west through Moline and continued on to Winfield.

We arrived at the Sonner motel to find it was not a quaint Mom and Pop unless you were from Pakistan.  They lost our reservations (how hard could that be? We were the only ones there) and while there’s not a prejudiced bone in my body, their standard of clean and my good wife’s was not the same.  She gave me the “we can stay if you really want to” speech and I have been married long enough to know what that means.  I said why don’t we look around a bit and then we’ll just check out and head home if something doesn’t change.  She thought that a capital idea and I learned a valuable and relatively inexpensive lesson: When you go looking for your own family history (which isn’t as exciting to HER as it is to ME) get a room at the NICEST place you can find.  She will enjoy the trip more which means YOU will enjoy the trip more.  See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

So, we went on to the Cowley County Historical Museum where I met a very nice docent named Jerry Wallace who informed me the lady who ran the archives was only available weekdays so I couldn’t look through any files for information.  However, Jerry had written various articles for the CCHS including one I bought called “Remembering Edwin Cassander Manning The Founder of Winfield, Kansas”.  In it was some very good information from the early days of Winfield and also details about why people came to this area.

Jerry couldn’t remember our ancestor but he did have some documents in his book so we opened it up and lo and behold, it showed the original town lot holders from September 20, 1873 and number 17 is William Bartlow, Block 107, lot 17.  We couldn’t read the map well enough to see where that was but after consulting a website which by the way has a listing of Winfield characters including everything written about “Bartlow” in the Winfield papers) I found that the lot is the second one from the south on the west side of Main street between 7th and 8th streets.  This could possibly be the lot mentioned in the articles that said he was “excavating for a cellar on his lot on Main Street next to Boyer's. Planning to erect a building on this lot...” (Winfield Courier 10/22/1874).

But back to how we got here.  Jerry told me that Winfield in that day had no old people.  They were all young men who moved west after the Civil War with their families largely due to the Homestead Act of 1862 which gave 160 acres to anyone who would 1) file an application with the US Land Office, 2) improve the land and 3) file for a patent (deed).  They were required to be a family head or person at least 21 years old, US citizen or intended citizen , never borne arms against the US (which precluded all Confederate soldiers), live on the land for five years (or after 6 months buy it at $1.25/acre or $200).  A Union veteran could deduct the years he served from the five year requirement.  They also had to build a house of a minimum of 12 x 14 and clear and improve the land.

So thinking back on how William and Sarah got there I speculate this:  Living in southern Ohio with its limited land and growth opportunities, they decided to take advantage of the special land openings available and packed everything up (some time between 1865 and 1869) and headed west.  They had arrived in Cottonwood Falls, Chase County, Kansas, in the Flint Hills for sure by 1869 because our grandfather George was born there.  They also were in the 1870 Chase county census and I would guess he had exercised his rights to the 160 acres there.  Since he had served four years in the war he only had to live on the property one year to own it.  They surely had land there since the census showed their real estate worth at $8000 and personal property at $4100 (both quite a sum in that day).  So why on to Cowley county?

A little more history to help things make sense.  The Kansas legislature created Cowley county on 3/2/1867, carved out of Hunter county, and named in the memory of 1st Lt Matthew Doll Cowley who had settled in Butler county in 1858, served in the 9th Kansas Cavalry and was killed in Little Rock, AR.  Cowley county belonged to the Osage Indians who held a 30 mile wide strip comprising 8,000,000 acres in eight Kansas counties (Mongomery, Sumner, Cowley, Sumner, Harper, Cherokee, Chase and Howard-to be Elk and Chatauqua).  The area was known as the Osage Dimished Reserve.  The land on the north was bordered by Butler county and went south to cover 90% of Cowley county.  South of that was a smaller three mile wide Cherokee Strip that ran along the border of IT (Indian Territory-Oklahoma).  Those already in the county were squatters but could “rent” the property from the Osages for a five dollar fee.

E.C. Manning settled the area at the southeast side of the confluence of the Walnut river and Timber creek in 1869, purchasing said “rent” from the Osages for the privilege.  The town would eventually be named Winfield after a Baptist minister from Leavenworth, Winfield Scott.  The US Congress passed a bill authorizing the purchase of the Osage land and the Osage ratified the treaty on October 29, 1870. The Osage were given land in Indian Territory and on May 11, 1872 the Cherokee portion of Cowley county was opened for white settlement. Winfield could now be called legitimate and after some conflicts with rival Arkansas City, became the county seat.

Confluence of Walnut river and Timber Creek
Location of the Winfield Saw Mill
Into this timeline stepped the William Bartlow family.  Although not exactly sure when that happened, we can guess from what we do know.  The family was in Chase county in 1870 at the time of the census and according to newspaper accounts, had set up a steam powered saw mill at the intersection of the Walnut river and Timber creek (Cowley County Censor, March 18, 1871).  Kathi and I found the location by driving to the west end of 4th street, parking in a gravel lot, and climbing up over the dike that has been constructed.  It’s plain to see the Walnut river coming from the north and Timber creek coming in from the northeast.  The Walnut curves and continues on to the west.  While we don’t know exactly where the sawmill was, my best guess would be on the Winfield side of both which would put it on the southeast side of the confluence.

The newspapers give details that help us fill in the story of the family from that point.   It’s possible that Sarahs’ (nee Daugherty) brother came west with them.  Mention is made of the “Daugherty & Lyons shingle factory” that was moved close to Bartlow’s Winfield Saw Mill in 1871 (Cowley County Censor, July 1, 1871) and a wedding between Ben Dougherty and Maggie Bush “at the residence of Wm. Bartlow, in this city” (Winfield Courier, January 28, 1875).  We also can tell from this that along with the lot on main street, they evidently had a house in town as well as the property with the saw mill.  If we add in the fact that they held a farm auction on March 12, 1877 “one mile east of Sand Creek on the Wichita road in Ninnescah Township” selling 110 acres of wheat, 23 acres of pasture, 10 acres of cultivated land, a house, farm equipment, 2 head of horses, 15 head of hogs, 4 head of cattle and 200 bushels of corn we might also guess they moved to a farm property some time after the wedding in 1875. (Winfield Courier, March 1, 1877)

Other items of interest that we see from the newspapers include the fact that there were troubles at the mill-it caught fire once and William cut off one of his fingers.  William was also busy in Republican politics as one of the delegates to the Cowley County Republican Convention in 1876 (the year US Grant was elected). He build a sidewalk across Loomis street for which he was paid $18.20 (Winfield Courier, March 18, 1875) and took an interest, along with other town fathers, in the higher thinking skills helping to organize a Literary and Scientific Association in 1874.  He was also active at the fair, entering oxen, was a good fund raiser, had some legal tussles (suing C. A. Bliss, one of the commissioners),

He initially made the decision to head for the Black Hills of the Dakotas with his steam saw mill in 1875 but evidently didn’t go for a couple of years.  That must have made for interesting conversation around the dinner table with Sarah.  Evidently things didn’t go smoothly as shortly after the big farm sale in March 1877, Sarah was “permitted to retire from the protective wing of Mr. William Bartlow, and also to take with her four children <probably Anna -14; George-9; Martha-7 and Christopher-4> and $1,000, provided the Sheriff could find that much raw material lying around loose” (Winfield Courier, May 17, 1877).   The only mention of William in Winfield after that is his name appearing on letters unclaimed at the Post Office.

NE corner 9th & Main 
From what I can surmise, Sarah continued on, losing the farm in a sheriff’s sale in May 1878 and buying a piece of property for $350 in 1885.  The rest of the family continues to appear from time to time in the papers, most notably Anna and Benjamin.  Anna must’ve been a good young lady, never missing a day’s school in 1874 and taking a temperance pledge in 1878 after a lecture by Rev. Mr. Rushbridge as part of the Murphy Movement.  Ben was a bit wilder it seems.  He had a near serious horse wreck at the corner of 9th and Main at the age of 13,  was in a fracas with another man over a land lease and got his leg peppered with a shotgun blast at 24,  and accused of sending obscene letters through the mail to a Miss Katie Hixon, one of the dining room girls at Axtell’s restaurant at age 25 (of which he was eventually aquitted).  Ben did seem to have a quiet day job though, as the 1885 Winfield Directory notes he is a clerk at the Commercial hotel and resides there.

We never hear much of the Bartlow clan in Winfield after that but for a few minor puffs of smoke which give us a little insight.  It’s noted in 1881 (Cowley County Courant, Nov 17, 1881) that “Bartlow’s mill and its crew have disappeared” and in 1882 “Messrs. Bryan and Harris have just consummated the sale of the old Bartlow farm, in Ninnescah township, which was owned by W.D. Crawford, to John W. Gibson; for $2,200. Mr.Gibson is from Virginia, and his father is living in this city” (Cowley County Courant, February 9, 1882).   Records of Sarah’s move to Mulhall, Indian Territory indicate at the time she filed in May, 1889, still was in Winfield, but her claim record shows she began living in a hut on the property near Mulhall on November 3, 1899.

As far as I can tell, she, nor William, ever returned to Winfield.  However almost 60 years after she left, one of her descendants was born in Winfield at the William Newton Hospital.  He became the author of this document.  Fact is stranger than fiction.
The author at his birthplace-a little larger
than the last time

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Married a Dentist, Part 3: Fixing the Waterbed

Welcome back to the adventure of stories from true life that you just can't make up.
Bartlow Domesticus in its king sized water bed habitat
Back in the day, Kathi and I had a king-sized full flotation (non-baffled) water bed.  You had to get used to it, since a movement by one affected the other.  You also had to have training on how to get OUT of the thing since it involved placing knees and grabbing sideboards and so forth to fling yourself out.  By the way, this also reminds me of the story of Greg, a buddy of mine from work, who had the same situation.  His problem was that he was about 98 pounds soaking wet.  His wife was a "full figure big boned" gal and happened to be pregnant (Careful now).  Anyway, one night, she got a cramp in her backside, threw herself up in the air in agony, and when she came down she produced such a tidal wave that it flung poor Greg out of the bed and we woke up face down kissing the carpet.  There's a word picture for you.
Well, anyway, I digress from the story.  Having a water bed ourselves we were well versed in water bed care (you know, put the anti fungus stuff in the water so you didn't grow your own back yard swimming pool type funk an so forth).  As part of that process, one could purchase a kit for about $5 at that time that would fix a hole in the bladder (never really got used to the idea of sleeping on a bladder especially when the heater quit and it was a COLD bladder).  It consisted of some glue and a patch and worked very well.  Anyone who had one of those knew of the disagreeable morning when you woke up with a wet foot, backside, or similar from a leak.
Anyway, we were at the Williams ranch in Broken Arrow one year and very kindly we were given the privilege of mom and Don's water bed.  That was nice since we were used to sleeping in one and that would be pleasant.  So come bedtime Kathi and I piled into the bed and proceeded to go off to sleepy land.  Pretty soon my self-serving bride woke me up complaining of a wet foot.  "No big deal, go back to sleep" I say.  "Not happenin'", says she.   So we get up, pull off the covers, and find there is a hole but is HAS been patched.  Just not with the normal patch kit.  After all, if duct tape worked in other applications, why not to fix a waterbed?  It must've worked for awhile (or possibly the patch had been changed out numerous times knowing Don's track record).
I don't remember how we made it through the night but you can guess Mrs "We're doing it right!" wasn't going to let it stay that way and we made a trip to the Wally World to get the proper kit and fixed it proper.  As time went by, the fad of water beds gave way to baffled water beds, then air beds and as of this writing, mom and Don's as well as our water beds are just a memory.  I always thought blown up with air they would have made a good sled in winter and a good raft in the summer.  Oh well.
You just can't make up stories like this-it has to be true.  
Come back soon and see me for another story.  Leave a comment if you have memories of the same things.
Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aircraft #13

I diverge from my normal stories to give you one about a particular hero.  I hope you enjoy it.
Aircraft #13  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

For you historians, this is an interesting account of the Doolittle raid on the mainland of Japan in early WW ll.  Enjoy!
This is a really excellent firsthand account by the pilot of  aircraft #13 on the Doolittle Raid off the Hornet in 1942. Take the time and enjoy a bit of history.
My  name is Edgar McElroy. My friends call me "Mac". I was born and raised in Ennis , Texas the youngest of five children, son of Harry and Jennie McElroy.  Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at 609 North Dallas Street and attended the Presbyterian Church.  
My dad had an auto mechanic's shop downtown close to the main fire station. My family was a hard working bunch, and I was expected to work at dad's garage after school and on Saturdays, so I grew up in an atmosphere of machinery, oil and grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane fly over, and would run out in the street and strain my eyes against the sun to watch it.  Someday, that would be me up there!   

I really like cars, and I was always busy on some project, and it wasn't long before I decided to build my very own Model-T out of spare parts.  I got an engine from over here, a frame from over there, and wheels from someplace else, using only the good parts from old cars that were otherwise shot.  It wasn't very pretty, but it was all mine. I enjoyed driving on the dirt roads around town and the feeling of freedom and speed.  That car of mine could really go fast, 40 miles per hour!
In high school I played football and tennis, and was good enough at football to receive an athletic scholarship from Trinity University in Waxahachie.  I have to admit that sometimes I daydreamed in class, and often times I thought about flying my very own airplane and being up there in the clouds.  That is when I even decided to take a correspondence course in aircraft engines.  Whenever I got the chance, I would take my girl on a date up to Love Field in Dallas .  We would watch the airplanes and listen to those mighty piston engines roar. I just loved it and if she didn't, well that was just too bad.  
After my schooling, I operated a filling station with my brother, then drove a bus, and later had a job as a machinist in Longview but I never lost my love of airplanes and my dream of flying. With what was going on in Europe and in Asia , I figured that our country would be drawn into war someday, so I decided to join the Army Air Corps in November of 1940. This way I could finally follow my dream.
I reported for primary training in California .  The training was rigorous and frustrating at times.  We trained at airfields all over California .  It was tough going, and many of the guys washed out. When I finally saw that I was going to make it, I wrote to my girl back in Longview , Texas .  Her name is Agnes Gill.  I asked her to come out to California for my graduation. and oh yeah, also to marry me.   
I graduated on July 11, 1941.  I was now a real, honest-to-goodness Army Air Corps pilot.  Two days later, I married "Aggie" in Reno , Nevada .  We were starting a new life together and were very happy.  I received my orders to report to Pendleton , Oregon and join the 17th Bomb Group.   Neither of us had traveled much before, and the drive north through the Cascade Range of the Sierra Nevadas was interesting and beautiful.  
It was an exciting time for us.  My unit was the first to receive the new B-25 medium bomber.  When I saw it for the first time I was in awe.   It looked so huge.  It was so sleek and powerful.  The guys started calling it the "rocket plane", and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it.  I told Aggie that it was really something! Reminded me of a big old scorpion, just ready to sting! Man, I could barely wait!
We were transferred to another airfield in Washington State , where we spent a lot a time flying practice missions and attacking imaginary targets.  Then, there were other assignments in Mississippi and Georgia , for more maneuvers and more practice.  We were on our way back to California on December 7th when we got word of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor .  We listened with mixed emotions to the announcements on the radio, and the next day to the declaration of war.  What the President said, it just rang over and over in my head, "With  confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.  So help us God."  By gosh, I felt as though he was talking straight to me! I didn't know what would happen to us, but we all knew that we would be going somewhere now.  
The first weeks of the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols at sea looking for possible Japanese submarines.  We had to be up at 0330 hours to warm up the engines of our planes.  There was 18 inches of snow on the ground, and it was so cold that our engine oil congealed overnight.  We placed big tarps over the engines that reached down to the ground.  Inside this tent we used plumbers blow torches to thaw out the engines.  I figured that my dad would be proud of me, if he could see me inside this tent with all this machinery, oil and grease.  After about an hour of this, the engines were warm enough to start. 
We flew patrols over the coasts of Oregon and Washington from dawn until dusk.  Once I thought I spotted a sub,  and started my bomb run, even had my bomb doors open, but I pulled out of it when I realized that it was just a big whale.  
Lucky for me, I would have never heard the end of that!  Actually it was lucky for us that the Japanese didn't attack the west coast, because we just didn't have a strong enough force to beat them off. Our country was in a real fix now, and overall things looked pretty bleak to most folks.  In early February, we were ordered to report to Columbus , South Carolina .  Man, this Air Corps sure moves a fellow around a lot! Little did I know what was coming next!
After we got settled in Columbus , my squadron commander called us all together.  He told us that an awfully hazardous mission was being planned, and then he asked for volunteers.  There were some of the guys that did not step forward, but I was one of the ones that did. My co-pilot was shocked.  He said "You can't volunteer, Mac!  You're married, and you and Aggie are expecting a baby soon. Don't do it!" I told him that "I got into the Air Force to do what I can, and Aggie understands how I feel.  The war won't be easy for any of us."   
We that volunteered were transferred to Eglin Field near Valparaiso , Florida in late February.  When we all got together, there were about 140 of us volunteers, and we were told that we were now part of the  "Special B-25 Project."  
We set about our training, but none of us knew what it was all about. We were ordered not to talk about it, not even to our wives.  In early March, we were all called in for a briefing, and gathered together in a big building there on the base.  Somebody said that the fellow who was head of this thing is coming to talk to us, and in walks Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.  He was already an aviation legend, and there he stood right in front of us.  I was truly amazed just to meet him.
Colonel Doolittle explained that this mission would be extremely dangerous, and that only volunteers could take part.  He said that he could not tell us where we were going, but he could say that some of us would not be coming back.
There was a silent pause; you could have heard a pin drop.  Then Doolittle said that anyone of us could withdraw now, and that no one would criticize us for this decision.  No one backed out! From the outset, all volunteers worked from the early morning hours until well after sunset.  All excess weight was stripped from the planes and extra gas tanks were added.  The lower gun turret was removed, the heavy liaison radio was removed, and then the tail guns were taken out and more gas tanks were put aboard. We extended the range of that plane from 1000 miles out to 2500 miles.   
Then I was  assigned my crew. There was Richard Knobloch the co-pilot, Clayton Campbell the navigator, Robert Bourgeous the bombardier, Adam Williams the flight engineer and gunner, and me, Mac McElroy the pilot.  Over the coming days, I came to respect them a lot.  They were a swell bunch of guys, just regular All-American boys.
We got a few ideas from the training as to what type of mission that we had signed on for.  A Navy pilot had joined our group to coach us at short takeoffs and also in shipboard etiquette.  We began our short takeoff practice.  Taking off with first a light load, then a normal load, and finally overloaded up to 31,000 lbs.  The shortest possible take-off was obtained with flaps full down, stabilizer set three-fourths tail heavy, full power against the brakes and releasing the brakes simultaneously as the engines revved up to max power.  We pulled back gradually on the stick and the airplane left the ground with the tail skid about one foot from the runway.  It was a very unnatural and scary way to get airborne! I could hardly believe it myself, the first time as I took off with a full gas load and dummy bombs within just 700 feet of runway in a near stall condition.  We were, for all practical purposes, a slow flying gasoline bomb! 
In addition to take-off practice, we refined our skills in day and night navigation, gunnery, bombing, and low level flying.  We made cross country flights at tree-top level, night flights and navigational flights over the Gulf of Mexico without the use of a radio.  After we started that short-field takeoff routine, we had some pretty fancy competition between the crews.  I think that one crew got it down to about 300 feet on a hot day.  We were told that only the best crews would actually go on the mission, and the rest would be held in reserve.  One crew did stall on takeoff, slipped back to the ground, busting up their landing gear. They were eliminated from the mission.  Doolittle emphasized again and again the extreme danger of this operation, and made it clear that anyone of us who so desired could drop out with no questions asked. No one did.

On one of our cross country flights, we landed at Barksdale Field in Shreveport , and I was able to catch a bus over to Longview to see Aggie.  We had a few hours together, and then we had to say our goodbyes.  I told her I hoped to be back in time for the baby's birth, but I couldn't tell her where I was going.  As I walked away, I turned and walked backwards for a ways, taking one last look at my beautiful pregnant Aggie.  

Within a few days of returning to our base in Florida we were abruptly told to pack our things.  After just three weeks of practice, we were on our  way.  This was it. It was time to go.  It was the middle of March 1942, and I was 30 years old. Our orders were to fly to McClelland Air Base in Sacramento , California on our own, at the lowest possible level.  So here we went on our way west, scraping the tree tops at 160 miles per hour, and skimming along just 50 feet above plowed fields. We crossed North Texas and then the panhandle, scaring the dickens out of livestock, buzzing farm houses and a many a barn along the way.  Over the Rocky Mountains and across the Mojave Desert dodging thunderstorms, we enjoyed the flight immensely and although tempted, I didn't do too much dare-devil stuff.  We didn't know it at the time, but it was good practice for what lay ahead of us.  It proved to be our last fling.  Once we arrived in Sacramento , the mechanics went over our plane with a fine-toothed comb.  Of the twenty-two planes that made it, only those whose pilots reported no mechanical problems were allowed to go on.  The others were shunted aside.   
After having our plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air Station in Oakland .  As I came in for final approach, we saw it!  I excitedly called the rest of the crew to take a look.  There below us was a huge aircraft carrier.  It was the USS Hornet, and it looked so gigantic! Man, I had never even seen a carrier until this moment. There were already two B-25s parked on the flight deck.  Now we knew! My heart was racing, and I thought about how puny my plane would look on board this mighty ship.  As soon as we landed and taxied off the runway, a jeep pulled in front of me with a big "Follow Me" sign on the back.  We followed it straight up to the wharf, alongside the towering Hornet.  All five of us were looking up and just in awe, scarcely believing the size of this thing.  As we left the plane there was already a Navy work crew swarming around attaching cables to the lifting rings on top of the wings and the fuselage.  As we walked towards our quarters I looked back and saw them lifting my plane up into the air and swinging it over the ship's deck.  It looked so small and lonely. 
Later that afternoon, all crews met with Colonel Doolittle and he gave last minute assignments.  He told me to go to the Presidio and pick up two hundred extra "C" rations.  I saluted, turned, and left, not having any idea where the Presidio was, and not exactly sure what a "C" ration was.  I commandeered a Navy staff car and told the driver to take me to the Presidio, and he did.  On the way over I realized that I had no written signed orders and that this might get a little sticky.  So in I walked into the Army supply depot and made my request, trying to look poised and confident.  The supply officer asked "What is your authorization for this request, sir?"  I told him that I could not give him one.  "And what is the destination?" he asked.  I answered, "The aircraft carrier, Hornet, docked at Alameda ." He said, "Can you tell me who ordered the rations, sir?"  And I replied with a smile, "No, I cannot."  The supply officers huddled together, talking and glanced back over towards me.  Then he walked back over and assured me that the rations would be delivered that afternoon.  Guess they figured that something big was up.  They were right.  The next morning we all boarded the ship.   
Trying to remember my naval etiquette, I saluted the Officer of the Deck and said "Lt. McElroy, requesting permission to come aboard." The officer returned the salute and said "Permission granted."  Then I turned aft and  saluted the flag.  I made it, without messing up.  It was April 2, and in full sunlight, we left San Francisco Bay .  The whole task force of ships, two cruises, four destroyers, and a fleet oiler, moved slowly with us under the Golden Gate Bridge .  Thousands of people looked on.  Many stopped their cars on the bridge, and waved to us as we passed underneath.  I thought to myself, I hope there aren't any spies up there waving.
Once at sea, Doolittle called us together.  "Only a few of you know our destination, and you others have guessed about various targets. Gentlemen, your target is Japan !"  A sudden cheer exploded among the men.  "Specifically, Yokohama , Tokyo , Nagoya , Kobe , Nagasaki and Osaka . The Navy task force will get us as close as possible and we'll launch our planes.  We will hit our targets and proceed to airfields in China ." After the cheering stopped, he asked again if any of us desired to back out, no questions asked.  Not one did, not one. Then the ship's Captain then went over the intercom to the whole ship's company.  The loudspeaker blared, "The destination is Tokyo !" A tremendous cheer broke out from everyone on board.  I could hear metal banging together and wild screams from down below decks.  It was quite a rush! I felt relieved actually.  We finally knew where we were going.
I set up quarters with two Navy pilots, putting my cot between their two bunks.  They couldn't get out of bed without stepping on me. It was just fairly cozy in there, yes it was.  Those guys were part of the Torpedo Squadron Eight and were just swell fellows.  The rest of the guys bedded down in similar fashion to me, some had to sleep on bedrolls in the Admiral's chartroom.  As big as this ship was, there wasn't any extra room anywhere.  Every square foot had a purpose... A  few days later we discovered where they had an ice cream machine! 
There were sixteen B-25s tied down on the flight deck, and I was flying number 13.  All the carrier's fighter planes were stored away helplessly in the hangar deck.  They couldn't move until we were gone.  Our Army mechanics were all on board, as well as our munitions loaders and several back up crews, in case any of us got sick or backed out.  We settled into a daily routine of checking our planes.  The aircraft were grouped so closely together on deck that it wouldn't take much for them to get damaged.  Knowing that my life depended on this plane, I kept a close eye on her. 
Day after day, we met with the intelligence officer and studied our mission plan.  Our targets were assigned, and maps and objective folders were furnished for study.  We went over approach routes and our escape route towards China .  I never studied this hard back at Trinity.  Every day at dawn and at dusk the ship was called to general quarters and we practiced finding the quickest way to our planes.  If at any point along the way we were discovered by the enemy fleet, we were to launch our bombers immediately so the Hornet could bring up its fighter planes.  We would then be on our own, and try to make it to the nearest land, either Hawaii or Midway Island .

Dr. Thomas White, a volunteer member of plane number 15, went over our medical records and gave us inoculations for a whole bunch of diseases that hopefully I wouldn't catch.  He gave us training sessions in emergency first aid, and lectured us at length about water purification and such.  Tom, a medical doctor, had learned how to be a gunner just so he could go on this mission.  We put some new tail guns in place of the ones that had been taken out to save weight.  Not exactly functional, they were two broom handles, painted black.  The thinking was they might help scare any Jap fighter planes.  Maybe, maybe not.  

On Sunday, April 14, we met up with Admiral Bull Halsey's task force just out of Hawaii and joined into one big force.  The carrier Enterprise was now with us, another two heavy cruisers, four more destroyers and another oiler.  We were designated as Task Force 16.  It was quite an impressive sight to see, and represented the bulk of what was left of the U.S. Navy after the devastation of Pearl Harbor .  There were over 10,000 Navy personnel sailing into harm's way, just to deliver us sixteen Army planes to the Japs, orders of the President. 
As we steamed further west, tension was rising as we drew nearer and nearer to Japan .  Someone thought of arming us with some old .45 pistols that they had on board.  I went through that box of 1911 pistols, they were in such bad condition that I took several of them apart, using the good parts from several useless guns until I built a serviceable weapon.  Several of the other pilots did the same. Admiring my "new"  pistol, I held it up, and thought about my old Model-T.   
Colonel Doolittle called us together on the flight deck.  We all gathered round, as well as many Navy personnel. He pulled out some medals and told us how these friendship medals from the Japanese government had been given to some of our Navy officers several years back.  And now the Secretary of the Navy had requested us to return them.  Doolittle wired them to a bomb while we all posed for pictures. Something to cheer up the folks back home!
I began to pack my things for the flight, scheduled for the 19th.  I packed some extra clothes and a little brown bag that Aggie had given me.  Inside were some toilet items and a few candy bars.  No letters or identity cards were allowed, only our dog-tags.  I went down to the wardroom to have some ice cream and settle up my mess bill.  It only amounted to $5 a day and with my per diem of $6 per day, I came out a little ahead.  By now, my Navy pilot roommates were about ready to get rid of me but I enjoyed my time with them.  They were alright. Later on, I learned that both of them were killed at the Battle of Midway.  They were good men.  Yes, very good men.  [The men of Torpedo 8: nearly all killed but while the Japanese focused on them, the dive bombers got into position and proceeded to sink the Japanese fleet]
Colonel Doolittle let each crew pick our own target.  We chose the Yokosuka Naval Base about twenty miles from Tokyo .  We loaded 1450 rounds of ammo and four 500-pound bombs... A little payback, direct from Ellis County, Texas!  We checked and re-checked our plane several times.  Everything was now ready.  I felt relaxed, yet tensed up at the same time.  Day after tomorrow, we will launch when we are 400 miles out.  I lay in my cot that night and rehearsed the mission over and over in my head.  It was hard to sleep as I listened to sounds of the ship.   
Early the next  morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast, expecting another full day on board, and I noticed that the ship was pitching and rolling quite a bit this morning, more than normal.  I was reading through the April18th day plan of the Hornet, and there was a message in it which said, "From the Hornet to the Army - Good luck,  good hunting, and God bless you." I still had a large lump in my throat from reading this, when all of a sudden, the intercom blared, "General Quarters, General Quarters, All hands man your battle stations!  Army pilots, man your planes!!!"  There was instant reaction from everyone in the room and food trays went crashing to the floor.  I ran down to my room jumping through the hatches along the way, grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could go to the flight deck.  I met with my crew at the plane, my heart was pounding.  Someone said, "What's going on?"  The word was that the Enterprise had spotted an enemy trawler.  It had been sunk, but it had transmitted radio messages. We had been found out!
The weather was crummy, the seas were running heavy, and the ship was pitching up and down like I had never seen before.  Great waves were crashing against the bow and washing over the front of the deck.  This wasn't going to be easy!  Last minute instructions were given. We were reminded to avoid non-military targets, especially the Emperor's Palace.  Do not fly to Russia but fly as far west as possible, land on the water and launch our rubber raft.  This was going to be a one-way trip!  We were still much too far out and we all knew that our chances of making land were somewhere between slim and none.  Then at the last minute, each plane loaded an extra ten 5-gallon gas cans to give us a fighting chance of reaching China .   
We all climbed aboard, started our engines and warmed them up, just feet away from the plane in front of us and the plane behind us. Knobby, Campbell , Bourgeois and me in the front, Williams, the gunner was in the back, separated from us by a big rubber gas tank.  I called back to Williams on the intercom and told him to look sharp, "and don't take a nap!"  He answered dryly, "Don't worry about me, Lieutenant.  If they jump us, I'll just use my little black broomsticks to keep the Japs off our tail."  
The ship headed into the wind and picked up speed.  There was now a near gale force wind and water spray coming straight over the deck.  I looked down at my instruments as my engines revved up.  My mind was racing.  I went over my mental checklist, and said a prayer? "God please, help us!"  Past the twelve planes in front of us, I strained to see the flight deck officer as he leaned into the wind and signaled with his arms for Colonel Doolittle to come to full power.  I looked over at Knobby and we looked each other in the eye.  He just nodded to me and we both understood.
With the deck heaving up and down, the deck officer had to time this just right.  Then I saw him wave Doolittle to go, and we watched breathlessly to see what happened.  When his plane pulled up  above the deck, Knobby just let out with, "Yes! Yes!"  The second plane, piloted by Lt. Hoover, appeared to stall with its nose up and began falling toward the waves.  We groaned and called out, "Up! Up! Pull it up!"  Finally, he pulled out of it, staggering back up into the air, much to our relief! One by one, the planes in front of us took off.  The deck pitched wildly, 60 feet or more, it looked like.  One plane seemed to drop down into the drink and disappeared for a moment, then pulled back up into sight. There was a sense of relief with each one that made it.  We gunned our engines and started to roll forward.  Off to the right, I saw the men on deck cheering and waving their covers!  We continued inching forward, careful to keep my left main wheel and my nose wheel on the white guidelines that had been painted on the deck for us.  Get off a little bit too far left and we go off the edge of the deck.  A little too far to the right and our wing-tip will smack the island of the ship.  With the best seat on the ship, we watched Lt. Bower take off in plane number 12, and I taxied up to the starting line, put on the brakes and looked down to my left.  My main wheel was right on the line.  Applied more power to the engines, and I turned my complete attention to the deck officer on my left, who was circling his paddles.  Now my adrenaline was really pumping!  We went to full power, and the noise and vibration inside the plane went way up.  He circled the paddles furiously while watching forward for the pitch of the deck.  Then he dropped them, and I said, "Here We  Go!" I released the brakes and we started rolling forward, and as I looked down the flight-deck you could see straight down into the angry churning water.  As we slowly gained speed, the deck gradually began to pitch back up.  I pulled up and our plane slowly strained up and away from the ship.  There was a big cheer and whoops from the crew, but I just felt relieved and muttered to myself, "Boy, that was short!"
We made a wide circle above our fleet to check our compass headings and get our bearings.  I looked down as we passed low over one of our cruisers and could see the men on deck waving to us.  I dropped down to low level, so low we could see the whitecap waves breaking.  It was just after 0900, there were broken clouds at 5,000 feet and visibility of about thirty miles due to haze or something.  Up ahead and barely in sight, I could see Captain Greening, our flight leader, and Bower on his right wing.  Flying at 170 mph, I was able to catch up to them in about 30 minutes.  We were to stay in this formation until reaching landfall, and then break on our separate ways.  Now we settled in for the five hour flight.  Tokyo , here we come!   
Williams was in the back emptying the extra gas cans into the gas tank as fast as we had burned off enough fuel.  He then punched holes in the tins and pushed then out the hatch against the wind.  Some of the fellows ate sandwiches and other goodies that the Navy had put aboard for us... I wasn't hungry.  I held onto the controls with a firm grip as we raced along westward just fifty feet above the cold rolling ocean, as low as I dared to fly.  Being so close to the choppy waves gave you a true sense of speed.  Occasionally our windshield was even sprayed with a little saltwater.  It was an exhilarating feeling, and I felt as though the will and spirit of our whole country was pushing us along.  I didn't feel too scared, just anxious.  There was a lot riding on this thing, and on me.
As we began to near land, we saw an occasional ship here and there. None of them close enough to be threatening, but just the same, we were feeling more edgy.  Then at 1330 we sighted land, the Eastern shore of Honshu .  With Williams now on his guns in the top turret and Campbell on the nose gun, we came ashore still flying low as possible, and were surprised to see people on the ground waving to us as we flew in over the farmland.  It was beautiful countryside.   
Campbell, our navigator, said, "Mac, I think we're going to be about sixty miles too far north.  I'm not positive, but pretty sure."  I decided that he was absolutely right and turned left ninety degrees, went back just offshore and followed the coast line south.  When I thought we had gone far enough, I climbed up to two thousand feet to find out where we were.  We started getting fire from anti-aircraft guns.  Then we spotted Tokyo Bay , turned west and put our nose down diving toward the water.  Once over the bay, I could see our target, Yokosuka Naval Base.  Off to the right there was already smoke visible over Tokyo .  Coming in low over the water, I increased speed to 200 mph and told everyone, "Get Ready!" 
When we were close enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the bomb doors.  There were furious black bursts of anti-aircraft fire all around us but I flew straight on through them, spotting our target, the torpedo works and the dry-docks.  I saw a big ship in the dry-dock just as we flew over it.  Those flak bursts were really getting close and bouncing us around, when I heard Bourgeois shouting, "Bombs Away!"  I couldn't see it but Williams had a bird's eye view from the back and he shouted jubilantly, "We got an aircraft carrier!  The whole dock is burning!"  I started turning to the south and strained my neck to look back and at that moment saw a large crane blow up and start falling over!...  Take that!  There was loud yelling and clapping each other on the back.  We were all just ecstatic, and still alive!  But there wasn't much time to celebrate.  We had to get out of here and  fast!  When we were some thirty miles out to sea, we took one last look back at our target, and could still see huge billows of black smoke.  Up until now, we had been flying for Uncle Sam but now we were flying for ourselves.
We flew south over open ocean, parallel to the Japanese coast all afternoon.  We saw a large submarine apparently at rest, and then in another fifteen miles, we spotted three large enemy cruisers headed for Japan .  There were no more bombs, so we just let them be and kept on going. By late afternoon Campbell calculated that it was time to turn and make for China .  Across the East China Sea , the weather out ahead of us looked bad and overcast.  Up until now we had not had time to think much about our gasoline supply but the math did not look good.  We just didn't have enough fuel to make it! 
Each man took turns cranking the little hand radio to see if we could pick up the promised radio beacon.  There was no signal.  This is not good.  The weather turned bad and it was getting dark, so we climbed up.  I was now flying on instruments, through a dark misty rain.  Just when it really looked hopeless of reaching land, we suddenly picked up a strong tailwind.  It was an answer to a prayer.  Maybe, just maybe, we can make it!
In total darkness at 2100 hours, we figured that we must be crossing the coastline, so I began a slow, slow climb to be sure of not hitting any high ground or anything.  I conserved as much fuel as I could, getting real low on gas now.  The guys were still cranking on the radio, but after five hours of hand cranking with aching hands and backs, there was utter silence.  No radio beacon!  Then the red light started blinking, indicating twenty minutes of fuel left.  We started getting ready to bail out.  I turned the controls over to Knobby and crawled to the back of the plane, past the now collapsed rubber gas tank.  I dumped everything out of my bag and repacked just what I really needed, my .45 pistol, ammunition, flashlight, compass, medical kit, fishing tackle, chocolate bars, peanut butter and crackers. I told Williams to come forward with me so we could all be together for this.  There was no other choice.  I had to get us as far west as possible, and then we had to jump. 
At 2230 we were up to sixty-five hundred feet.  We were over land but still above the Japanese Army in China .  We couldn't see the stars, so Campbell couldn't get a good fix on our position.  We were flying on fumes now and I didn't want to run out of gas before we were ready to go.  Each man filled his canteen, put on his Mae West life jacket and parachute, and filled his bag with rations, those "C" rations from the Presidio.  I put her on auto-pilot and we all gathered in the navigator's compartment around the hatch in the floor.  We checked each other's parachute harness.  Everyone was scared, without a doubt.  None of us had ever done this before!  I said, "Williams first, Bourgeois second, Campbell third, Knobloch fourth, and  I'll follow you guys!  Go fast, two seconds apart!  Then count three seconds off and pull your rip-cord!" 
We kicked open the hatch and gathered around the hole looking down into the blackness.  It did not look very inviting!  Then I looked up at Williams and gave the order, "JUMP!!!" Within seconds they were all gone.  I turned and reached back for the auto-pilot, but could not reach it, so I pulled the throttles back, then turned and jumped.  Counting quickly, thousand one, thousand two, thousand three, I pulled my rip-cord and jerked back up with a terrific shock.  At first I thought that I was hung on the plane, but after a few agonizing seconds that seemed like hours, realized that I was free and drifting down.  Being in the total dark, I was disoriented at first but figured my feet must be pointed  toward the ground.  I looked down through the black mist to see what was coming up.  I was in a thick mist or fog, and the silence was so eerie after nearly thirteen hours inside that noisy plane.  I could only hear the whoosh, whoosh sound of the wind blowing through my shroud lines, and then I heard a loud crash and explosion.  My plane!
Looking for my flashlight, I groped through my bag with my right hand, finally pulled it out and shined it down toward the ground, which I still could not see.  Finally I picked up a glimmer of water and thought I was landing in a lake.  We're too far inland for this to be ocean.  I hope!  I relaxed my legs a little, thinking I was about  to splash into water and would have to swim out, and then bang.  I jolted suddenly and crashed over onto my side.  Lying there in just a few inches of water, I raised my head and put my hands down into thick mud.  It was rice paddy!  There was a burning pain, as if someone had stuck a knife in my stomach.  I must have torn a muscle or broke something. 
I laid there dazed for a few minutes, and after a while struggled up to my feet.  I dug a hole and buried my parachute in the mud.  Then started trying to walk, holding my stomach but every direction I moved the water got deeper.  Then I saw some lights off in the distance.  I fished around for my flashlight and signaled one time. Sensing something wrong, I got out my compass and to my horror saw that those lights were off to my west.  That must be a Jap patrol!  How dumb could I be!  Knobby had to be back to my east, so I sat still and quiet and did not move.  
It was a cold dark lonely night.  At 0100 hours I saw a single light off to the east.  I flashed my light in that direction, one time.  It had to be Knobby!  I waited a while, and then called out softly, "Knobby?"  And a voice replied "Mac, is that you?".  Thank goodness, what a relief!  Separated by a wide stream, we sat on opposite banks of the water communicating in low voices.  After daybreak Knobby found a small rowboat and came across to get me.  We started walking east toward the rest of the crew and away from that Japanese patrol.  Knobby had cut his hip when he went through the hatch, but it wasn't too awful bad.
We walked together toward a small village and several Chinese came out to meet us, they seemed friendly enough.  I said, "Luchu hoo megwa fugi!  Luchu hoo megwa fugi!" meaning, "I am an American! I am an American!"  Later that morning we found the others.  Williams had wrenched his knee when he landed in a tree but he was limping along just fine.  There were hugs all around.  I have never been so happy to see four guys in all my life! 
Well, the five of us eventually made it out of China with the help of the local Chinese people and the Catholic missions along the way. They were all very good to us, and later they were made to pay terribly for it, so we found out afterwards.  For a couple of weeks we traveled across country.  Strafed a couple of times by enemy planes, we kept on moving, by foot, by pony, by car, by train, and by airplane. But we finally made it to India .  
I did not make it home for the baby's birth.  I stayed on there flying a DC-3 "Gooney Bird" in the China-Burma-India Theatre for the next several months.  I flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains, or as we called it, over "The Hump" into China .  When B-25s finally arrived in India , I flew combat missions over Burma , and then later in the war, flew a B-29 out of the  Marianna Islands to bomb Japan again and again.  
After the war, I remained in the Air Force until 1962, when I retired from the service as a Lt. Colonel, and then came back to Texas , my beautiful Texas .  First moving to Abilene and then we settled in  Lubbock , where Aggie taught school at MacKenzie Junior High.  I worked at the S & R Auto Supply, once again in an atmosphere  of machinery, oil and grease.  
I lived a good life and raised two wonderful sons that I am very proud of.  I feel blessed in many ways. We have a great country, better than most folks know.  It is worth fighting for.  Some people call me a hero, but I have never thought of myself that way, no.  But I did serve in the company of heroes.  What we did, will never leave me.  It will always be there in my fondest memories.  I will always think of the fine and brave men that I was privileged to serve with.  Remember us, for we were soldiers once and young.  With the loss of all aircraft, Doolittle believed that the raid had been a failure, and that he would be court-martialed upon returning to the states.  Quite to the contrary, the raid proved to be a tremendous boost to American morale, which had plunged following the Pearl Harbor attack.  It also caused serious doubts in the minds of Japanese war planners.   They in turn recalled many seasoned fighter plane units back to defend the home islands, which resulted in Japan's weakened air capabilities at the upcoming Battle of Midway and other South Pacific campaigns.   
Edgar "Mac" Mc Elroy, Lt. Col., U.S.A.F. (Ret.) passed away at his residence in Lubbock, Texas early on the morning of Friday, April 4, 2003.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Married a Dentist, Part 2: Bees in the Bathroom

So you know all about the house in Broken Arrow from the earlier post so I'm not going to go into detail about it's other charming qualities but the bathroom was it's own unique domain.  I should specify the indoor bathroom as the place also had an outdoor, or rather, garage bathroom.  There was one room set aside in the garage, next to the door out of the kitchen and between the kitchen and Don's shop/tooth making emporium, that was designated a bathroom.  It did have a sink, toilet, and shower along with the hot water tank.  The toilet and sink worked and although the wimmenfolk were squeamish about it, I figured "any port in a storm" especially if the inside toilet was taken by aforementioned wimmenfolk. Showering was the bigger challenge.  One had to plan ahead like Sir Edmund Hillary heading for the mountains.  Since the garage while technically having a concrete floor, was always covered with a layer of dirt given the fact the genius who planned the garage put it DOWNHILL from the driveway so all the water and dirt ran right in.  Of course one could clean it on an ongoing basis but for the reasoning why that didn't happen see part 1.  Anyway, because of the dirt floor, you had to plan to find an off-floor parking place for one's towel and toiletries like the toilet tank or sink.  You also had to plan a pair of shoes or flip-flops to carry yourself from the kitchen to the shower.  This is where the juggling act began.  The shower consisted of water pipes (hot and cold) and mixing valve, shower head, curtain (one must remember the proprieties) and a wooden pallet to stand on under which was a floor drain.  Store the toiletries and towel, slip off the flip-flops and onto the pallet; do one's ablutions, then don't forget to slip into the flip-flops BEFORE stepping onto the floor or it's back into the shower for a ceremonial foot washing.
But I digress as the point of the story is the indoor bathroom. It wasn't too bad all in all.  Linoleum floor with old bathtub, sink, toilet, and along the wall a large mirror and built in vanity.  Spartan furnishings but good enough for me.  The wimmenfolk were somewhat hesitant at times since the door lock was broken and one had to pull out a drawer from the vanity which kept the door from opening but would leave enough room to peek in if you really wanted to.  Oh, and there was the problem that, since the house was on a cistern and water had to be hauled (200 gallons at a time in a tank in the back of a Chevy Luv pickup which had seen better days) it was best not to flush too much so things tended to stand for awhile before them more delicate among us would trip the handle.  Now this wasn't as much a problem in the summer since the house was air conditioned with multiple window units which, handily, dripped condensate and could be caught in a 5 gallon bucket which, which when taken and stored in the bathroom, could be used to pour 3 or so gallons into the bowl and "voila!" a cheap flush.
But here I am again wandering from the story.  So we were visiting and the call of nature occurred so since the room was vacant at the time, I grabbed a good book and headed there for some serious meditating.  In the door, pull out the  drawer, take a seat and get on with it.  I might note that Don must've had stock in a duct tape factory as it was used in copious amounts all over the place and one that got good use, was the old linoleum floor. It had a few gaps in the floor around the toilet and tub and the tape came in handy to keep the bugs out.  Except today, the tape had gotten loose.  Unbeknown to me, bees had taken up lodging in the bedroom exterior wall upstairs directly above the bathroom (the bedroom was off limits for that reason) and for some unknown reason had come downstairs.
I first noticed a bee by my leg flying up and as soon as I saw him I noticed he had buddies.  In fact, a whole stream of them came through the hole next to the toilet and started to do the Immelman loop above my head.  It was at that time I figured it was time to beat a hasty retreat, yelled, "Mom there's bees in the bathroom!", grabbed my drawers and fled for my life.  After almost tearing the drawer off it's slide getting out the door, I noticed in the mirror on my way out, the room was virtually filled with bees.
Don to the rescue!  He came with a can of wasp spray, kicked open the door, and proceeded to knock bees out of the sky like the British Spitfires at the Battle of Britain.  When the carnage ended, there was dead bees everywhere and wasp spray dripping off the mirrors, light fixtures, and porcelain.  This is when it's handy to have the wimmenfolk as they came in and cleaned up and all went back to "normal".  The only after affect was when I went in to shave the next morning, the sink wouldn't drain.  Clogged up with dead bees.

I guess the moral of that story is...always check yer duct tape before you drop yer drawers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Married a Dentist, Part 1

I’ve always claimed that true life makes better stories than fiction (fact is stranger than fiction) and real life culminates in stories you could never make up.  It’s in that belief I bring you then next few postings.  I’ll call this Part 1 and not indicate how many parts there are since I’m not really sure how many there will be.
As you already know, my father passed away at the age of 43, and my mom, having been married to him since she was 17 (would have been 24 years if he had lived until June), was lost without him.  It wasn’t much later that she met and married Darrel Blumer of Independence, Ks.  That was short-lived and they divorced, she moving further south to be with her sister Dorothy, in Tulsa.
Naturally we were concerned for her well being and were pleased when she called and said she had met a great guy and he was a dentist.   I imagined how well he could take care of her, much in the way my father had taken care of her.  Soon they had eloped to Miami, Ok, and were man and wife.  Not long after that we were invited to their house which was described as being at the end of the road in a nice rural setting.
We drove down, taking the left turn off the Broken Arrow Expressway and head down the short road north.  As we got closer to the end of the road we saw a nice brick home.  “I bet that’s it,” I said but Kathi quickly reminded me it was the last house on the road and we weren’t quite there yet.  We ventured on and soon came to the “Williams Ranch”, an old wood-sided farmhouse that had seen many better days.  Not much to look at from the road but I was reserving judgment until I saw more.  We pulled into the driveway and Don comes out in a white apron, smiling and welcoming us to the house.  The story began to become clearer when we sat down inside and Mom told us the whole story.
It seems Don wasn’t exactly a dentist, but actually a bootleg denture maker.   And the reason they lived where they did was because bootlegging dentures was only legal in Oklahoma and Arizona and they also couldn’t live within the city limits of Broken Arrow where it was also illegal.
Front porch of theWilliams Ranch

The house was falling down around their ears but because of the legal issues and the fact that the rent was cheap (and the landlord basically didn’t much care what they did out there as long as they paid the rent), they were staying.  You could pretty much throw a cat through any of the exterior walls and it obviously had been the abode of a bachelor before Mom came along.  he wood was dry as a bone and the place, if it ever caught fire, would go up in a matter of seconds.  To make matters worse, it was heated with those little gas heaters that were open flame and lit with a match.On ensuing trips to the ranch, Kathi would find out our room assignment, make sure the kids were sleeping in the same room, and we'd have an on site fire plan with Kathi as fire warden.  All she'd say was, "In case of fire, we're all going out THAT window!"
Karli and Grandpa Don in the Living Room
Don’s shop was out in the attached garage where he had a sink (that drained out the back wall into yard) and an old desk with a grinder where he would sit and grind the dentures to shape.  There was plastic denture shavings all over the floor and desk and it was obvious that the shop, as well as the entire garage, hadn’t had a good cleaning since the beginning of time.  It didn’t look like the kind of place I’d want someone working on something I was going to put in my mouth but I understood people flew in from all over the country to have teeth made.  It wasn’t fancy, but Don could make a comfortable pair of chompers.  I might stop here for just a note to tell you I wouldn't want to give a bad impression of Don.  He was a very likable guy.  Always smiling, generous to a fault, and easy going.  But fancy creature comforts just weren't that important to  him. The basics would suffice.
Karli, Kellie, and Grandpa Don
In the kitchen Don boiled the teeth material in a set of molds that he kept there along with the teeth that set into them.  The smell of the teeth cooking always made Kathi gag as it reminded her of the molds they took when they put the dental material in her mouth to make impressions for her braces.  So in the kitchen was teeth boiling on the stove-a stove of old vintage that matched the original sink and (what must have been novel in its time) a dishwasher.  Of course the dishwasher hadn’t worked in who-knows-when but it made a nice storage place.  One must not either miss the cast iron skillet with grease in the oven.  Don never believed in washing them after use-just putting them back in the oven and melting the old grease when it was fired up again.  Washing would just take off the patina and the flavor.
In future installments I’ll describe the rest of the house and you won’t want to miss out on the stories of: Bees in the Bathroom, How to fix a Water Bed; Upgrading the Plumbing, What to do When the Breaker Blows, The Arrival of the Titanic, and other interesting TRUE stories.
Happy New Year.