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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Letter From Herb

One of my father's fellow officers--just as newly minted as he from an ROTC class of '41--was Herb Schiff, who became one of his best friends.  It was a friendship that lasted until my father's death in 2010.  Herb is, I believe, the last surviving officer of the 898th Engineers who remained on Ascension 1942-1944.  He isn't well and is in skilled nursing in Sarasota but he's on his way to age 92. I recently found this letter he wrote my father about their experiences. No date on the letter but it appears to have been sent before one of my father's trips back to Ascension. 1986? 1992? Something like that.

Lieutenants Schiff and Chapman on Ascension. The relentless sun of the equator turned them both brown.  My father said his lips grew swollen and cracked and you can see that in this photo.

"Dear Ash,
For stories about Ascension Island, you undoubtedly have the following--
Pilot to Tower: I'm coming in.
Tower: Where are you?!
Tower, in surprise: You've landed in the wrong direction!
Pilot: Sun was in my eyes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Lid is Off! Letter From Ashley on Ascension

The 38th Engineers play baseball on Ascension Island, 1943.  That's my father, swinging for the "fence" on that desolate ball field.  American soldiers played baseball all over the world during WW II.  The Red Cross often supplied the gear.

Ascension Island
November 28, 1943

"Dear Mother & Dad,

The lid is off!  I can say where I am now and also I can describe the place.

We are in the heart of the "trade winds" which makes the climate so perfect.  If it weren't for the wind we would really swelter.  The eternal unvarying strong wind sometimes gets on our nerves but it is a boon anyhow.