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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Just In: "We Discover New American Air Base"

"Use of Ascension Island is Badly Kept Secret"
Peter Edson
Newspaper Enterprise Association
Washington Correspondent

December 30 1943

"Use of 34-square-mile Ascension Island as a U.S. air base at last can be talked about.  For more than a year, this tiny British island, 300 miles south of the equator in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, has been a stopping point for short-range fighter planes being ferried to Southern Europe and African fronts, and even to the Middle and Far East.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Story Behind the Story of A U.S. Base on British Ascension

For some time I've wondered about the treaty and/or legislative details that led to the construction of an American air base on Ascension Island, which is a British Overseas Territory.

From my reading of Winston Churchill's fascinating history of World War II--six volumes, but who knew the history better than he?--I've long suspected that the U.S. right to that stretch of clinker on that desert island must have come from one of the Lend/Lease or Destroyers for Bases deals cooked up between FDR and WSC in the lead-up to America's entry into the war.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Birds on Ascension Island Were Comical, But Not to The Army

Air Force bomber takes off from Wideawake Field, 1943. Air Force photo.
The Birmingham News
"Birds on Ascension Island Were Comical, But Not to the Army"
Tuesday, February 4, 1947 (Page 11)

"Professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania, Louis N. Ridenour served during the war on the staff of the radiation laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

by Louis N. Ridenour
NEW YORK, Feb. 4--(NANA)--"I have this story from a friend of mine who is a practicing ornithologist.  He was called in as a bird expert, at a time when the Army Air Forces found themselves at their wits' end--all on account of the habits of birds, and the love of a mother bird for her egg.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Soldier's Ode to Ascension"

I found this among my father's papers.  It is signed by Linn Garibaldi and notes that it is limited to 100 copies. (My father's is numbered 13.)

Soldier's Ode to Ascension©

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Can You Identify These Men?

I've had several requests from readers, asking if I have photos of any of their family members who served on Ascension during World War II.  I do have some photos of people I can't identify:  so here is a group to look through, and see if you can spot anyone you know.  (To enlarge the photos, just double click on them.)

   Above is a group from Ascension, the only one of which I can identify is my father, standing at photo left.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Letter From the Chaplain

Roy and Mary Chapman of Homewood, Alabama: my father's parents.  They appear to have some kind of a World War II booster sign on the front door and are posing with it.  "We have a son overseas" or "We support War Bonds."  It must have been something like that.

By August 1942, my grandparents in Alabama were concerned that they had not seen their son for seven months, mail service had only just begun to work with some regularity, and they still didn't know where he was.  When Lt. Chapman was asked to stay on at his secret location--Ascension Island--it appears that he asked the unit's chaplain to write his parents and assure them they shouldn't worry.

Office of the Chaplain
38th Engineers
APO #1257, C/O Postmaster
Miami, Florida

August 3, 1942

"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Chapman,
I am the Chaplain of the organization to which your son, Lt. Chapman, is assigned, and take pleasure in writing this letter.  He seems to be in the best of health and is quite cheerful in the performance of his duties.  He is one of Uncle Sam's reliable officers and is to be commended for his worthy service.  It has been a pleasure to know your son during the past few months.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time Magazine and Wideawake Field: January 1944

General George Marshall, Time's 
Man of the Year, January 3, 1944

Boobies on the Runway
Time Magazine
January 3, 1944

"If we don't hit Ascension
My wife gets a pension."

"So, sing U.S. flyers of the South Atlantic.

"This week the Army officially revealed why. Tiny (34 square miles) Ascension Island, 1,400 miles from the bulge of Brazil, is one of the vital links in the Air Transport Command's world-girldling chain of airfields. Ascension is the dot in the ocean that made it possible to fly Lightning (P-38) single-seated fighters across the South Atlantic to combat fields in North Africa and England.