Handy Island

Handy Island
"The Air War Finds A Handy South Atlantic Island" was the caption on this Peter Hurd painting of Ascension Island, from Life Magazine, April 1945. It was the only place for pilots to refuel between Natal and West Africa.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Building a Runway ... (Continued)

Artist Peter Hurd made this painting of Wideawake Field on Ascension Island for Life Magazine, April 30, 1945.  By the time this was published, my father, then Captain Chapman was in the middle of the thick of it during the Battle of Okinawa.

(Editor's note: this is a continuation of a piece my father, Col. William Ashley Chapman, wrote about his experiences in World War II, for the book World War II Reminiscences, edited by John H. Roush, Jr.)

Col. William Ashley Chapman

"My unit landed on Ie Shima (near Okinawa) on April 19, 1945, the day after Ernie Pyle was killed there.  Along with the other EAB's (ed: Engineer Aviation Battalions) we built runways and all necessary facilities again on time.

We were on Ie Shima about four months and were bombed every day, sometimes more than once, until the time of surrender.  We saw kamikazi planes being shot down while others were seen striking ships.  An LST (ed: Landing Ship Tank) was hit by a kamikazi, was beached and abandoned.  The hulk was later hit by several more suicide planes.  

My good friend, Captain Ray Kidd, our Company Commander on Ascension, was killed by a bomb during July (ed note: Kidd was actually killed in June.  When my father wrote this he probably could not lay his hands on the paperwork that shows Kidd was killed on June 24, 1945.) of 1945, just a few days before the surrender.  He never saw his son who was born while we were on Ie Shima.

Our island [this time] was the stop-over for the planes carrying the Japanese surrender delegation flying in "Betty" bombers enroute to meet General Douglas MacArthur on Bataan, Philippines.  Those planes were the same type of bombers they had used against us on Ie Shima.  As you can imagine, we were all at the runway to see the two white painted bombers carrying green crosses and watch the delegation change to a U.S. Army Air Corps C-54 plane.  They were greeted with silence from the spectators ... (to be continued.)

A second Peter Hurd painting of Ascension Island, from the same issue of Life Magazine mentioned above.

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