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.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wideawake to Ie Shima

(Robin writes: This is the last segment of the chapter my father wrote for the book World War II Reminiscences edited by his friend Col. John H. Roush.)

Captain William Ashley Chapman on Ie Shima during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945.  Though he was in the Army Corps of Engineers, this unit , the 1902 Aviation Engineer Battalion was attached to the Army Air Corps, now the Air Force. I know this because I found his unit's history in the Air Force archives. This is something my father obviously knew,  but never mentioned, or just forgot about.)

Col Chapman wrote:

"In September 1945 we were sent to Japan as a part of the occupation force.  I visited Nagasaki and was awed by the sight of the destruction created by one A-bomb.

Japan had been very badly damaged by high explosive and fire bombs.  The Japanese people were polite to us and exhibited no fear.  The dear little children followed us around asking for "chewding" gum and candy.

Captain Chapman on Ie Shima

The airbase at Ascension Island is now an active U.S. Air Force facility used for missile and satellite tracking.  It was a staging base for the British during the Falkland Island War of 1982.  The base has been in operation, with only a brief hiatus since that first landing July 10, 1942.

My wife and I were privileged to visit Ascension in 19898 as guests of the USAF to participate in the dedication of a remodeled building my platoon had constructed in 1943.  Much has changed, for they now have ample water, air conditioning, paved roads and other amenities.

Chapman, back on Wideawake Field, Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic, 1988.

The dust and the everlasting wind remain.

I continued my military service in the U.S. Army Reserve with various assignments.  My last duty was with the 351st Civil Affairs Area A Command, Mountain View, California, from which I retired as a Colonel in 1973."

My father, William Ashley Chapman, died March 26, 2010.

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