Tag Archives: WWII

Into The Light Again Part 1

19 Feb

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

As a part of the aftermath of the First World War many political and economic changes were seen in America. The national trauma of the war created an ever increasing attitude of isolationism in this country.  One of the immediate results, by the political establishment, was to reduce the military.  The elimination of the unneeded military forces was a large factor in helping to reduce the nations War Debt.  A feeling of relief, celebration and prosperity ramped up during the 1920s until the Great Depression was cast upon us in 1929.  Then the struggle of the 1930s was mainly centered on survival.

Typical “Bread Line” of the 1930s

Even with the buildup of Nazi forces in Germany in the late 1930s, most Americans didn’t want to think about getting involved in another war.  So, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 the United States was not ready for a war.  Even though hundreds of thousands of men immediately signed up for the military services, the U.S. military buildup was slow, with training being a large part of the equation.

U.S. Military buildup and training took time

At that time, the U.S. Navy only had a few operational aircraft carriers to help defend America’s coastlines, most of which were assigned to front-line duties, in the world’s oceans, fighting the Axis powers.  However, the Navy needed qualified carrier pilots, and they needed them ASAP.  As it happened, a far-sighted naval commander named Richard F. Whitehead had presented an out-of-the-box proposal for qualifying carrier pilots in early 1941, but the plan was rejected at the time by the Navy department.

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Commander Richard F. Whitehead 

But after the Pearl Harbor attack, Whitehead’s plan was quickly approved and expedited to provide the badly needed carrier pilot qualification source.  In March of 1942 the Navy purchased two early 1900s side-paddlewheel steam ships (SS Seeandbee & SS Greater Buffalo) that at one time had been luxury cruise liners servicing the Lake Michigan waters.

SS Seaandbee

The Navy essentially removed the superstructures and upper decks of both ships, and installed a 550’ long flight deck on each.  When the conversion of the Seeandbee was completed, she was renamed USS Wolverine (IX-64) and was commissioned in August 1942.  With a maximum crew of 270 officers and enlisted men, intense naval carrier pilot qualification operations commenced immediately.  The qualification of 59 pilots on the very first day of the ship’s operation almost doubled Commander Whitehead’s original pilot training estimate.  When the conversion of her sister ship, the Greater Buffalo, was completed, she was renamed USS Sable (IX-81) and the ship was commissioned in May 1943.

USS Wolverine & USS Sable at Chicago pier 

It was not long before the two ships began to be casually referred to as the “Cornbelt Fleet.”  Pilots would take off from their NAS Glenview training base, just north of Chicago, and head out over the lake in search of the USS Wolverine or USS Sable to begin their carrier qualification practice landings and takeoffs.  Once a pilot found his assigned ship, he would land and immediately takeoff to go around the pattern for another attempt.  Over the course of the war, U.S. Navy records indicate that almost 18,000 carrier pilots were qualified on these two ships, including one of the youngest Navy carrier pilots to be qualified, future president George H.W. Bush.  In addition to pilot training, the two ships were also used to train some 40,000 sailors and Landing Signal Officers (LSO) in carrier flight deck operations.    

Landing Signal Officer (Paddles) and Trainer 

It should be noted that, at the time, each pilot who was training to be assigned to flight duty on a frontline aircraft carrier, had to complete eight “successful” landings and takeoffs before he could qualify as an aircraft carrier pilot.  For most of these pilots, this was their first attempt at trying to land an aircraft on a moving deck, and they didn’t all have the steel nerves to do it right the first time.  It is said that as many as 400-600 landing and takeoff operations were performed on these two ships in a single day.  These operational schedules continued seven days a week (weather permitting) until the end of the war.  With all this activity, you might expect that there were some accidents along the way, and you would be right.

Carrier pilot qualification

—–To Be Continued

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.




One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Japanese Neighbors

11 Nov

My Take

DiVoran Lites

By Dora Bowers as told to DiVoran Lites

Crowley Colorado, 1942

Description: C:\Users\DiVoran\Pictures\Old Family Pictures\Bowers 3 (4).jpg

Circa early 40s Dora, DiVoran, Ivan, and David Bowers

In the time of writers like Lloyd C. Douglas who wrote The Robe, and C. S. Lewis…The Screwtape Letters. WW2 was heating up. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor triggering an outrage of fear so heavy that President Roosevelt decided to send families of over 117,000 Japanese Americans, many of them American citizens, to internment camps in order to pacify the millions of Americans who were afraid that if left free the Japanese would spy for the     enemy. 

Not long before the big, “Amache,” Internment camp was built near Crowley, Colorado where the Bowers family lived,         Japanese people arrived and were housed in section housing. One family moved in next door to the Bowers family on the outskirts of town.

The father was about the same size as Ivan, which was small for a man. He had dark shiny hair and a sweet smile. He always bowed low as he left to go to work (gratis) in the sugarcane field and returned in the evening. For this family bathing together was the highlight of their life. Their bathhouse was practically under our bedroom window. Night after night, I fell asleep to the sound of soft voices and laugher, a pleasant memory from our time in Crowley. 

On the few occasions when our Japanese neighbors visited us, they brought gifts of thoroughly cleaned vegetables from their garden. As they arrived, they removed their thong shoes by the front door. They were good, kind neighbors and in spite of the war between our two countries, we liked them and enjoyed getting to know a few of their traditions. 

If you are squeamish, please don’t read the next two paragraphs. 

Most regular folk in those days kept chickens for their eggs and for the pot. Being chicken people, we were interested in        Japanese methods of preparing them for supper. They selected a chicken, hung it upside down from a branch, and pierced the roof of its mouth so the blood could drain out. They could tell that the chicken’s insides were dry when its feathers turned down. 

Our way was to wring a chicken’s neck or cut its head off with an ax. If the headless chicken got loose, it ran around in circles until it dropped. From such necessities came sayings such as, “I’m so mad, I could wring his neck” and “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

Once the camps were finished the internees built model   communities with schools, health clinics, and, libraries. We were sorry to hear later that the Japanese families who had lived in camps for three years had been cheated out of their houses, cars, and businesses. Many suffered separation, poverty, and sometimes people just disappeared. It has been considered one of the most atrocious violations of American civil rights in the 20th century. 

The internment camps lasted from 1942-1945 when the   Japanese Americans were finally released to start all over again from scratch and the camps were eventually torn down. 

Dorothea Lange censored photographs.     

Author, Poet and Artist

DiVoran has been writing for most of her life. Her first attempt at a story was when she was seven years old and her mother got a new typewriter. DiVoran got to use it and when her dad saw her writing he asked what she was writing about. DiVoran answered that she was writing the story of her life. Her dad’s only comment was, “Well, it’s going to be a very short story.” After most of a lifetime of writing and helping other writers, DiVoran finally launched her own dream which was to write a novel of her own. She now has her Florida Springs trilogy and her novel, a Christian Western Romance, Go West available on Amazon. When speaking about her road to publication, she gives thanks to the Lord for all the people who helped her grow and learn.  She says, “I could never have done it by myself, but when I got going everything fell beautifully into place, and I was glad I had started on my dream.”

My Colonial States Trip~Part 19

25 Mar

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites


Next I headed east on SR #138 across Narragansett Bay to visit the Breakers and the Mansions of Newport, RI where I was surprised at the number of tourists there were lined up at the Newport Visitor Center trying to get on a tour bus ride of the area. The affluence of the area was brought home to me in an unusual way, when I stopped at a Shop-N-Go to pick up some granola bars. The first thing I noticed was the parking lot had an overabundance of expensive cars in it with names like Mercedes, BMW and Lexus. Then as I was walking the aisles looking for the granola bars, I saw this elegant looking woman, dressed in a beautiful flowing black silk dress, with her hair done up in some kind of fancy French looking hairstyle and 7-inch heels, pushing a shopping cart down the aisle. What a picture that was!



The Newport mansions were huge and unbelievably beautiful! They were too spread out for a walking tour (for me), and I didn’t want to take the time to go on a bus tour, so I just drove to a few of them, parked in their free parking areas, and toured outside the mansions and their grounds, taking photos. I had a brochure of all the different mansion locations, so was able to see several before I got bored with all that extravagance and moved on to the next museum on my list.

While I was in Newport I dropped by the White Horse Tavern just to say I had seen the oldest tavern building (1652) in the U.S. and get a photo of it. Over the years the building was expanded and used for other things, such as a boarding house and as a meeting house for the Rhode Island General Assembly. It’s rumored that a pirate (name unknown) ran the tavern operation during the early 18th century. It wasn’t actually named the “White Horse Tavern” until 1730, and during the American Revelation, Tories and British troops were quartered in the building around the time of the British occupation and the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778 (also known as the Battle of Quaker Hill).



Battleship Cove is a maritime museum located on the Taunton River in Fall River, Ma and is said to be the home of the world’s largest collection of naval vessels in one place. Included in the collection are the U.S. Battleship USS Massachusetts (BB-59), the U.S. Destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850), the U.S. Attack Submarine USS Lionfish (SS-298), the German Tarantul-class Corvette Hiddensee and the U.S. PT Boats, PT-617 and PT-796. As I mentioned earlier, since I have toured several U.S. Destroyers, Battleships and Submarines, my main interest at this museum was the PT Boats. I was impressed with their size, armament, speed and ability to go up against some of the enemy’s largest ships, sink them, and live to fight another day. It reminded me of the day I was walking with DiVoran in the woods near our house when I got too close to a wasp nest. I never saw the wasp that stung me and was gone before I knew what had hit me. I would guess that was just how some of those enemy ship’s captains must have felt like, after being torpedoed by a PT boat, and their ship beginning to sink under their feet. I can just hear them screaming, “What was that and where did they come from?”



—–To Be Continued—–



Crowley, Colorado

23 Mar

My Take

DiVoran Lites


Dora, Ivan, DiVoran, David at Grandparents Apartment House in Canon City, Colorado


When I was five years old my parents took my brother and I and moved to Crowley, Colorado. It was 1943 and WW2 was raging in Europe. At that time they weren’t calling up married men with children, but that would soon change. Dad went to Crowley to keep the canning factory machinery running and mother’s job was to cook a noon meal everyday for the bosses.

We lived in a shotgun house which meant all the rooms were in a row. I recall mother handing me a tomato warm from the sun and a shaker of salt and telling me to go sit on the front step out of the way and eat it. I haven’t had a real tomato since, but that may not be a fair comparison.

Another thing I remember in the food department was the goat milk. We had a Nanny goat and a kid. The kid got all the milk he needed, and our family got the rest. I called my daily portion a milkshake because mother gave it to me warm, fresh, and foaming from the goat. I sat on the front step to drink that, too.

Sometimes, mother wanted to walk down to the factory to say hello to dad. When that happened, she had her own entourage. We all went in a line. Mother and brother, David, then DiVoran, Nanny Goat, and Billy the kid. The baby goat walked on the panes of glass covering the tomato plants to keep them warm and never broke one. The proud and beautiful rooster, Chanticleer took his place at the end of the line.

At night, Daddy came home tired. He recline on the couch and I sat on its arm next to his head and ran my hands through his crisp and curly dark hair.

One day we got the news that Daddy had to go fight Hitler in the war. Mother and the children would go back to Canon City and live with the grandparents. The day we left Crowley, we were all packed up, but we took time for our noontime dinner before we left. It was chicken and noodles, which was one of my favorite meals. Suddenly I got suspicious … where did the chicken come from. Did it happen to have anything to do with Chanticleer? It did. I lost my appetite and thus begun the battle of the meat between my father and I. It got much worse after I saw the movie, “Bambi,” and dad started hunting after the war.

During the last nine months of the war while Daddy was gone, Mother, David and I lived upstairs in our own apartment at Grandmother and Grandad’s house. Granddad worked as a guard at the Colorado State Penitentiary and Grandmother had her own beauty salon there in the downstairs of the house with a separate entrance. Mother and Grandmother had many altercations over everything that comprised our daily lives. I was a diligent messenger between them never realizing how I was stirring things up.

For one thing, Grandmother was determined to keep Mother busy so she wouldn’t get sad missing her husband. Because fabric was vitually unavailable and David and I were growing children, our female guardians took all the clothes stored in the attic and made them into dresses, coats, pants, and shirts for us kids.

One time I got so tired of standing for fittings that I grabbed the unfinished neck of a dress and ripped it right down the middle. Apparently, that particular material was a bit older than they had realized. But my rebellion didn’t do me any good. The next day, we were back to making clothes again. I was probably the best dressed and best coifed child in first grade that year.


Even though Daddy was far away he was still a big part of all our lives as the war lumbered on toward its conclusion. I have his letters from that time that tell how much he missed us. What a wonderful legacy that is.

 Mark 13:7


Giving Thanks for Goats

24 Nov

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and Artist



This is the photo our mother sent to our father when he was in the infantry on the European front during WWII. The story is about the time just before he went away. He did come back, so the story’s not about that, it’s about goats.1

In 1943, my family had a nanny goat. We called her Nanny. When she had a kid, we called him Billy. I loved the warm foamy milk Nanny gave and Billy was glad to share with me. This is all when we lived down in Crowley, Colorado and Dad worked at the tomato factory keeping their machines going. We lived in a “railroad apartment.” That’s a long house built with a room or two going back in a row like train cars and an indoor side hallway to enter them by.

Speaking of trains, we did have one rumble past, practically in our back yard, every day. When we heard it coming David and I would be waiting to wave to the conductor who was always there in his dark uniform and square looking hat to wave back. Something tells me he stationed himself on purpose to say good morning to the two little kids who were so glad to see him.


Anyhow mother had more jobs than kids, housework, and animals. She cooked dinner, which we now call lunch, for all the men who worked at the factory, so with that, and the care of children and animals, she was a busy woman.

When the tomatoes were ripe, dad would bring some home and I remember sitting outside, on the stoop in the sun, with a salt shaker and salting each bite of that delicious fruit before I bit into it. You can be sure I was “all over” tomato juice when I finished, but I was washable and so was my dress, so that was all right.

Sometimes, Mother would take my brother who was about two, and I over to the factory to see daddy. Everybody went, walking the aisle between tomato plants. Here’s the line-up. Mother, DiVoran (5), David (2), Red, the Irish setter, Nanny, Billy, and Chanticleer the rooster. The baby goat wasn’t so bound by the aisle that he couldn’t divert to where the newest plants lived under panes of glass. Mother said his little hooves went trip-trap, over the glass and he never broke a thing.

This Christmas I’m buying a goat in memory of Nanny and Billy, but I don’t have any place to keep her, so I am sending her to a far away country and the people who live there will keep her, breed her, use her milk. Did you know that goat’s milk is especially nutritious for people who have AIDS? I’ll see my goat and all her progeny in a big tribe spreading over the hills when I get to heaven, (after I see Jesus and my family, of course). I’m looking forward to the whole scenario.





Matthew 25:35

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,


Parachute Man

27 Aug

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites



When I was six years old (1944) WWII was still raging and most everyone in America was trying to do their part to support the war effort. Children’s toys were among the many things that were slanted toward the war and my parents bought me a small stuffed Parachute Man. My Parachute Man was decked out in a camouflaged battle outfit with a cloth parachute attached to his back. I could wrap the parachute and shroud lines around his body, and then when I threw him high in the air, the parachute would unwind and he would come floating down just like a real U.S. Army Paratrooper. Boy, did I have fun with that Parachute Man! I repeated the sequence over and over, day after day, trying to see how high I could throw him. As you can imagine, the higher I could throw him the longer it took him to float back down to me. I can’t remember how long this went on, but I had gotten pretty good at lofting my Parachute Man way up there.



 Our house in Dallas, TX was on a corner lot, and the side street was usually fairly busy with traffic, going both ways, and I had been instructed to play on the other side of our yard. One day as I was playing with my Parachute Man, and having so much fun, I didn’t notice that the wind had shifted and was now blowing across our yard from the west. On one of the highest lofts I had ever thrown, when the parachute opened, the wind caught my Parachute Man and he drifted across our yard and out into the cross street, right in front of a car. I held my breath. Was he going to be run over and crushed? I ran to the edge of our yard to see what had happened to my Parachute Man. But, he wasn’t there! Where was he? I looked up and down the street, but he was nowhere in sight. Then I realized… he had gotten caught on the front of that car and I would never see him again. I was a sad little boy for a long time after that, but my parents didn’t buy me another Parachute Man; probably thinking it would end up the same way or worse, if I were to run out into the street after him.



The next year, our family flew to our new home in Albuquerque, NM in a beautiful shiny American Air Lines DC-3, and I’ve been hooked on airplanes ever since. I had planned to be a fighter pilot when I grew up, but my astigmatism ended that dream. I even took flying lessons, and soloed a couple times, but ran out of money before I got my license.   Now that I’m retired, the # 1 item on my “Bucket List” is to attend as many Airshows and visit as many Aviation Museums as I can while I can still walk.



Just last October I was at an airshow in Addison, TX to see “FIFI” the only flying B-29 in the world, and happened to run into Bob Bearden. Bob was a sergeant in the 507th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, who parachuted into France on June 6, 1944 as part of the Normandy invasion during WWII. Bob was dressed in his jump gear and boots and he reminded me of my Parachute Man. It was my privilege to meet and talk with Bob and have my picture taken with him, in front of a C-47, painted with invasion stripes, just like the plane he and his fellow paratroopers jumped from on that infamous day so many years ago.




         “Thank you Bob and all those many other Parachute Men for your service to our country.”




Cover Reveal~ Army of Worn Soles

7 Jun

I  haven’t read Army of the Worn Soles yet, it releases June 22,2014 but I know it is one I want to read. It is the story of author Scott Bury’s grandfather. We hosted the cover reveal on Rebekah Lyn books, but I wanted to share it here too.

I’ve been fascinated with Russian history since I was a teenager and have read a variety of historical accounts as well as a range of Russian literature. When I first heard about Scott Bury’s new release, Army of Worn Soles, I immediately put it on my to-be-read list.~Rebekah Lyn, author

1941: Soldiers retreat across Ukraine even when their boots wear out.

Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of the biggest invasion in the history of warfare: Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.

Maurice sees that his job as Lieutenant is to keep his “boys”—the men of his anti-tank unit—alive as they retreat from the unstoppable Panzers and German infantry. When they’re captured, survival becomes impossible. Their captors starve them.

Then a miracle: Maurice gets a chance to escape. He cannot leave his boys to starve. But how can twelve Red Army soldiers cross German-occupied Ukraine without being shot?

Army of Worn Soles - FULL RESOLUTION

Army of Worn Soles publishes on June 22. To follow the blog tour visit author Scott Bury’s blog, Written Words at http://scottswrittenwords.blogspot.com.

West Berlin~Part 1

11 Aug


Judy Wills



 We had some amazing experiences during our times in West Germany.  We saw so many wonderful sights while there.  So much history, as well. One of our favorite cities to visit was West Berlin.  At the time we were there, The 1Wall (Der Maur) was still in place.  And, unfortunately, the Brandenberg Gate was in the Russian Zone, or East Berlin.  We were unable to get close to it.I later spoke to a German 2national who said she just couldn’t imagine living in such an “enclosed” place as West Berlin.  I tried to assure her that it didn’t FEEL enclosed.  The American Zone was quite open and free.  I don’t think I was very convincing.  She just had to experience it for herself.

 3As we walked around the city, we came upon a fascinating piece of old Germany – a very old hand-watering pump.  Apparently, anyone who knew about it, could bring their car/wagon/etc. there and get free water to wash whatever they had – as long as they were willing to hand-pump the water.  Not something you see around the U.S.

My Mother had come to Germany to visit us that year (May 1969) and we delighted in taking her places that I know she only dreamed of ever seeing.  We happened to be in West Berlin during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.    The German people had erected a 4monument to that occasion, and the celebration took place in front of it.  The monument is three-pronged, representing the American, British, and French efforts to keep the free German people from starving and out of Russian/Communist hands.  It was a tremendous success.

Another site that impacted me greatly was in the heart of downtown West Berlin, along the 5Kurfurstendam, affectionately known by the locals as the Kudam, which is the main shopping street in downtown West Berlin.  After the colossal disaster of World War 2, the German people decided to leave a reminder to themselves of the cost of pride and war.  They left standing the bombed-out shell tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm church.  And built right next to it a beautiful and modern new church and church tower.  While the new structure is impressive, it cannot be fully appreciated until one is inside.  The all-glass bricks are a cobalt blue, and with the sun shining through those bricks – well, all I can say is, it’s breath-taking.  And peaceful. And amazing.  And I’ve run out of adjectives already.


To be continued………..

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