By Joyce Whitis
Post 240 Honorary Life Member Brad Thompson, as a young man from Stephenville, Texas, was spending his last days in the U.S. Army Air Corps packing up to ship home, when over the Armed Forces Network Radio came the strains of a new tune he had never heard before, " .... Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease, gonna take a sentimental journey to renew old memories ...."
"What a way to end it all," he thought. "We had whipped the enemy and after two-and-a half years overseas, it was time for me to go home. What a time it was, those war years. All Americans were so united and were so riveted and of one mind that no combination of enemies could defeat us," he continued. "I remember the pride in seeing my friends and neighbors going into the services, and the pride and willingness to go myself."
"I remember a commander in chief that made wise decisions and had unshakable support of the war effort, because he knew we were in a must-win situation if America was to survive. The dedication and effort on the homefront had never been stronger and has not been equaled since."
Brad and his brother, Templeton, were born in Erath County, were close friends and enlisted in the Army Air Corps on the same day in July 1943. Both had been working in defense plants, but left those jobs to join the service, and from that point until the war was over their lives took different directions.
Temp, as he was called, had two years of ROTC study in his portfolio, so he was sent to pilot training school, eventually becoming a lieutenant colonel. He flew a B-29 in World War II, stayed in the Air Force after that war and trained pilots during the Korean conflict, instructing on B-47's. During the Cold War, Temp flew a B-32, (4-engine jet) for the Strategic Air Command. He finished his service during Vietnam with the C-130.
Brother Brad, on the other hand, loved the idea of flying and always wanted to fly, but went into the service as part of the ground crew and spent his time getting planes ready for combat.
"Philip Price (Post 240 PUFL member who went to Post Everlasting in 2013) and I were working the night shift in a defense plant in San Diego when Pearl Harbor was attacked," Brad said. "We suddenly realized our vulnerability out there on the West Coast. They cut out all the lights and told us not to turn on car lights but if we wanted to go home, to walk. Philip and 1 walked 42 blocks to our apartment."
Brad left San Diego and went to work in a Fort Worth defense plant. Shortly thereafter he volunteered for service. He was sent immediately to England because of his experience working in defense plants building aircraft; he was recruited to fit new airplanes for combat.
"I went to work on B-17s installing bulletproof glass on both sides of the cockpit as well as the windshield," Brad said. "A special jettison rail had to be installed on both side windows. We also placed armor plating on the floor for both pilot and co-pilot. We re-located the ammo boxes for more security and installed life rafts over the wing. Many other things went into preparing aircraft for delivery to operational bases.”
"After V-E Day, I was part of a replacement pool, awaiting assignment to the Pacific and the anticipated invasion of Japan," Brad continued. "But then along came President Truman, the Enola Gay, Paul Tibbets and World War II was over.”
"What a time it was!" he remembered. "The awesome and overwhelming feeling that something almost beyond imagination was about to happen, and then it did! I doubt there will ever be another time like it."
The preceding was written and posted in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune on Nov. 8, 2014, by Joyce Whitis, a freelance writer who makes regular contributions to the newspaper. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.