Tag Archives: Stewart

In The Army Now

Bill Stewart received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Minnesota on December 18, 1941 (See Pt. 2). That was 11 days after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

bill stewart abt 1942I went directly to induction into the military at Ft. Snelling MN. Military service was not completely strange to me because I had two years of ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] in high school. I passed through three training schools. The first in Tulare CA, next at Taft CA and the last at Phoenix AZ. There were “wash outs” but we never knew who or what; they simply disappeared.

I had a great sense of accomplishment when I made my first solo flight. My wings were pinned on me by my flight instructor in bill-stewart usaaf wingsPhoenix. I was one of a group of P38 pilots sent up to Everett WA on a train. No sooner were we off the train than we were sent on another train to Orange County CA airport. Our job was to defend Southern California. Ha! The Air Force was trying to determine where we were needed most.

Shipping out

After two weeks in California we were flown to New York and put on a “banana boat” for shipment to England. The interior of the ship had been modified to accept bunks rather than produce. My good friend Andy Winter and I were standing on the stern of the ship when the gun crew on the deck above decided to let go with three inch deck guns.

My ear drums were blasted at that impact. The ship was sunk later in the war at the Straits of Gibraltar with all personnel lost.

We docked in Scotland. Some of us pilots were stationed at Ayr – a rehabilitation area for exhausted RAF pilots. These were seasoned fighter pilots; we were supposed to learn from them. The US command apparently didn’t know what to do with us. That first day at Ayr we heard that a US pilot had flown into a mountain in the north of Ireland with an Admiral on board.

capt-bill-stewart-blackpool-nov-1943-or-1944I was soon sent to London for treatment for my ear damaged by the deck gun blasts. The doctor treated my ear with a sulpha solution. This was before sulpha was commonly available.

In London I worked in US fighter command headquarters for one month. While there I prepared an accident chart for General Hunter. This was a simple bar chart comparing pilot error accidents with mechanical failure accidents. Most accidents, I confirmed, were caused by pilot error. The General was pleased with my work.

Then I was sent to another air base in England to learn to fly all the different airplanes. There is a use for pilots in many different aspects of war. By that I mean flying in gasoline, bombs and ammo and flying out wounded to hospitals. We didn’t have helicopters for flexible use as are commonly available today.

Tailored Jacket

Discipline was a bit lax in the squadron I was in. But one day when a pilot from Oklahoma came to flight line for duty wearing his western boots, he was very firmly corrected. There was, however, a gradual change in jackets that was not in any of the manuals.

Jacket_Owned_and_Worn_by_General_Dwight_D._Eisenhower_-_NARA_-_7717661_page_1-wikicommons
Gen. Eisenhower’s Ike Jacket, NARA photo

A pilot named Costa reported for flight duty in a handsome jacket none of us had ever seen before. It was of Air Force uniform material with generous shoulder width and a slim waist The jacket, professionally made by a London tailor, was cut off at the waist and patterned after a Cuban dinner jacket. The jacket was so becoming that it soon became popular with other pilots who could afford to have one tailored. The senior officers knew something had to be done before the situation got out of hand. But what to do?

Apparently the senior officers liked the unauthorized jacket so much that they decided to go to the top: General Dwight D. Eisenhower. They wisely named it “The Eisenhower Jacket” and it must have been readily approved.

Pilot Costa was thought to be from a family of Cuban diplomats. He was part of our squadron because he was one of the few men to have experience in a B17. Costa was flying one of the original B17s in the Pacific when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

* See English Channel 1944 for section Bill wrote here.

Squadron Operations Officer

After several months of service, I was made squadron operations officer. But when pilots crashed, disappeared or were transferred, I was not told what happened to them. However, I was asked on several occasions to write letters to the families of deceased pilots.

Another problem for me was the lack of instructions. For example, I was sent to investigate and report on crashed aircraft. I did not feel qualified to properly do this job but probably was better qualified than the other pilots. Did I have the authority to go on another air base and question the ground crew of the crashed airplane? I made a natural assumption that the pilot was the ultimate person to determine whether a plan was flyable and not the ground crew.

Preparing for a flight of P38s from England to Africa, one pilot objected to the flying readiness of the aircraft. The ground officer of the departure field threatened to bring charges of insubordination against him. I was one of the pilots, not the squadron leader, so I had no jurisdiction over the situation. The pilot apparently ran out of fuel over the Straits of Gibraltar and crashed. He died.

Later a general asked me if I wanted to lead a squadron of P38s on a flight to Africa. I said I did not. The general did not take kindly to this response. Several weeks later I was reprimanded verbally by another general over the phone.

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“Bill Stewart in the 32nd P38 Lightning ever built”

I still think that I am correct that the pilot determines the flying readiness of an aircraft. All aircraft are not in proper condition all the time. In Germany I had 21 stretcher cases and one or two nurses and one engine was missing fire. I immediately turned the aircraft around and landed.

Memorable Flights

Among my memorable experiences is the flight where I had a planeload of British prisoners captured at Dunkirk. So they probably had been in France or Germany almost seven years. The ex-prisoners would come up to the cockpit and look ahead to the land of England and cry. I helped them a little bit on this one because I cried too. Their teeth were in deplorable condition but they were so happy. These men were still fairly young.

I also had the opportunity of flying repatriates from Buchenwald concentration camp. I did not even turn off the motor of the airplane. Someone else directed the loading and bench seating along the sides of the plane. Then I quickly took off. During the war the pilots did not know what was going on on the ground, such as the concentration camps and crematoria. We knew nothing about that. The leadership knew but intelligence told us only what they wanted us to know.

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“Bill Stewart in B17, 1944 Mid-Atlantic”

I wish to mention one other incident because of the unusual severity of the situation. In the summer of 1944 Andy Winter and I were flying a B17 from England to Oklahoma City. At approximately 2 a.m. we took off from the Pan American air base at Belem, Brazil.

It was my turn to pilot on this leg of our journey. We immediately entered an intense rainstorm. I had never before seen or experienced rain of such volume and force. No lightning, no thunder. Just rain and turbulence. This was above the estuary of the Amazon River. I was flying by hand since we had no operating automatic pilot. The B17 was acting like one of those twenty five cent bucking broncos at fun places! I was surprised that the airplane could take it. But it never missed firing in this deluge. I was exhausted when we landed at Puerto Rico.

Commercial Pilot’s License #283070

I was honorably discharged from the service 22 Oct 1945. I had earned the rank of Captain sometime in 1943 and probably had flown about twelve different heavy aircraft. Upon discharge I was awarded a Commercial Pilot’s License to fly multi-engine aircraft. License number 283070: I held in my hand what I had worked toward for so many years.

I had accomplished my lifetime goal. But my values had changed. I Marji Smock Stewarthad to make a decision. Did I want to continue flying and being away from home? Or did I want to seek a non-traveling job? By this time I had been away from friends and loved ones more than nine years, which had a profound effect on me and my ultimate decision.

I loved my family and, by now, a pretty girl named Marji. I placed a stable family life and marriage above a flying career with its financial rewards and recognition.

Thanks and Apologies

I appreciate the Air Force teaching me to fly. The feeling of unbounded freedom in the sky does indeed increase one’s confidence. I needed that. Also there is that spiritual bond to one’s creator when you know that the only thing between you and death is a higher power.

flying-fortress-Boeing_Y1B-17_in_flight-USAF-wikipedia
B17 or “Flying Fortress” in flight, USAF photo

My profound thanks to the British people. I was there three years. Although I had very limited time for personal contacts or sightseeing, I appreciated their courtesies and their strengths.

And my apologies to the new PX in Germany for an incident sometime in 1945. If it was my plane that brought you a planeload of cups – A, B, C and D – I had nothing to do with choosing brassieres instead of paper cups!

bill-stewart-ca-1987We in Bill Stewart’s family are very grateful to the men who fired the deck guns on that transport ship. The ear damage Bill sustained prevented him from becoming a combat pilot. Their life expectancy in WWII was 4 weeks.

My professor and friend Dr. George Park was a US combat pilot who, thankfully, did survive. He said he loved flying. So I asked if he’d thought about becoming a commercial pilot after the war. No, he laughed, the kind of flying he’d learned didn’t translate well. Wouldn’t make for a reassuring flight for civilian passengers.

Next: Life on Civvy Street.

Kentucky to Minnesota

amanda-chappell-stewartMy grandmother Amanda Chappell Stewart died 06 December 1923. She was born on 03 October 1859; thus she lived 64 years. She lived in Ohio County, approximately eight miles from our house. Robert, my dad, was the eldest of her five children. Dad’s younger siblings were: Chris, Melville, Beulah and Frank. My grandfather William Minor Stewart was born 19 March 1861 and died June 16, 1907 when he was 46.

In about the year 1922-23 good fortune came to Grandma Stewart. Oil was found on her small hill farm. Oil wells in that area were not abundant producers; I remember the price of oil was fifty cents per barrel. The oil money was divided between the five children.

Ford-Touring-Car-1923-american-automobiles.com_Ford_1923Mom and Dad began to formulate a change in plans. Dad purchased a new 1923 Ford touring car, probably costing $200 or less. Touring cars had canvas tops and side curtains, supposedly to keep out the wind and rain. My parents made plans to lease the farm and move to Owensboro so Lillian and I could go to high school.

There was a precedent for doing this: Grandpa and Grandma Brown had moved to Owensboro so that my mother, Mabel, could continue her education. We had no access to high school where we lived in the country. No buses and very few autos. Four-party telephone lines came in the late 1920s.

From the farm to Owensboro

Dad worked as a laborer for Kendall-Hill produce company in Owensboro, twelve hours per day, six days a week for $2 per day. Shared poverty lessens its intensity. We didn’t know we were that poor because most others were in the same situation.

We lived on Crittenden Street in Owensboro in a small duplex and paid $15 a month rent. The shared toilet and bathtub were on the back porch. There was a small kerosene heater for warmth when bathing in the winter.

We again had wonderful neighbours because our house backed up to the Tinius family on Lewis Street. The Tinius family had three girls and one boy named Charles. He was my best friend. Charles died of scarlet fever or diphtheria during our first year of high school. Ada Tinius married Noble Midkiff. Ada’s sisters’ names were Mildred and Emma.

Later, Marji taught with Noble at Fordsville High School in 1960-63. Noble was the “Ag” teacher. One Sunday in the early sixties we invited the Midkiff and Tinius families for dinner. I remember serving country ham and fresh strawberries from our farm. Mr. Tinius sat and cried when he talked to me because he could visualize what his son Charles might have been had he lived. The elder Tiniuses are gone now but we still keep in touch with Ada and Noble by phone and letters. What wonderful friends.

Brown and Stewart Courts

Now, back a few decades. From Crittenden Street we moved to an old two room tenant farm house. We had running water in the lean-to kitchen but an outdoor privy. The house was at the back of my maternal grandfather John Lester Brown’s property on Highway 60 East, which goes through Owensboro. The street was also known as Brown Court.

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Red arrow marks Stewart Court. Brown Court is at far left. (tap to enlarge Google map)

Mother and Dad obviously lived in a very frugal manner but they saved enough money to make the down payment on a new house to be built on approximately six acres of Grandpa Brown’s land. He gave them part of the acreage and they paid him for part. The house was finished in 1933, located at 211 Stewart Court as the street was named.

stewart-court-1930s-bill-stewart-picsThat house is no longer standing. It was of modest brick construction but the location was a treasure. The huge side yard faced the Ohio River. Mother could stand at her kitchen window and watch the towboats go by.

The folks raised a large garden. We all worked in the garden to plant, care for, harvest and sell most of the produce in the city. My parents were good role models for me.

High School Graduation

I graduated from Owensboro Senior High School in 1933. The Great Depression was in full swing and widespread. After watching Mother and Dad work so hard with very little cash income, I decided to try to get a college degree and establish myself in some kind of profession.

Owensboro-High-grads-1933-Bill-Stewart-pics
Tap image to see names. Bill Stewart is 2nd from right in middle row.

Through contacts at church, I was hired at Kenrad Tube Corporation working in the chemistry lab. Kenrad later became part of GE. My wages were 37 cents per hour.

By living at home and being very conservative, I saved all the money I could. In March 1937 I was ready to start my studies. Dad agreed to co-sign a note for $1,000 with the Bank of Whitesville KY. Dad had a good reputation with this bank and he did not even have to give security. This small bank did not close its doors during the Depression. I later repaid the loan from my soldier’s pay.

University of Minnesota

I chose to attend the University of Minnesota because it was one of the few institutions in this nation that offered courses in aeronautics. I studied business, business administration and took some courses in aeronautics. I was poor in calculus and advanced mathematics but did very well in other subjects; i. e. I learned I had weaknesses and strengths.

The faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota were very good to me. They helped me in many ways, mostly in getting a part time job and always having good food. Remember, this was a big university; one of the Big Ten.

Most of my jobs were washing dishes and waiting tables. But there were some fun times too. I was truly surprised in the spring of 1937 to go to the matinee dance at the University ballroom; there was the Lawrence Welk band. In those days, it was common for many big bands to appear there. Admission was probably less than fifty cents. I had problems learning the polka but loved smooth dancing.

I was introduced to White Castle hamburgers here. The stand was across the street from the main campus gates. Burgers were ten cents each or three for a quarter!

White_Castle_Building_8-Minneapolis-Nat-Reg-Historic-Places-Todd-Murray-wikicommons
Minneapolis White Castle on US Register of Historic Places. Now a jeweller and accordion shop.

My time at the University of Minnesota was the best of my life. It gave me confidence in myself, gave me rank in the military and opened doors in later life. It improved my ability to manage money, organize and plan; abilities which have gone with me all my life. If I have any legacy to pass on to my family, I couldn’t have done it without this education.

During my years at the University of Minnesota, I was in classes or working full time. I never had a vacation or break. The University was on the quarter system, in session year around.

Problem Solving Strategies

In Business and Marketing we had case studies regarding situations involving company and department problems with full discussion. This was problem solving from the bottom up. Essentially it was seeking a solution by discussion. The sessions were led by company representatives, faculty or guest speakers.

Later, upon induction in the Air Force, there was complete reversal of approach. The command structure was from the top down. But I have nothing but appreciation to the Air Force for teaching me to fly. At that time the standard cost of training a pilot was $50,000.

On 18 December 1941 I received the degree of Bachelor of Business Administration. Including the extra courses I had taken, with my hours in Engineering, my credits amounted to almost five years of scholastic work.

Next time: From Minneapolis as a student I went directly into another phase of life; induction into the military at Ft. Snelling, MN.

Previously, Pellville Kentucky. Also see Bill Stewart’s family tree.

Pellville, Kentucky

Written by Bill Stewart, my late father-in-law. It’s in a life history that he and his wife Marji Smock Stewart wrote. Her part is called Finding the Rivers. He called his Climbing the Hills. It starts on a farm near Pellville, Hancock County in western Kentucky.

Pellville Farm 1918

stewart house pellville ky stewart photos
“John Lester Brown lived here. Robert I Stewart ” “. William L Stewart born “. 2½ mi east Pellville at intersection Ky 69 and 144” – written on back by Bill Stewart

The year was late 1918. I stood in the front yard near the road in front of our house and held Mother’s hand. Standing near the edge of the road, both curious and scared, I waited as the approaching noise became louder and louder.

When the source of the noise came up the road to the front of our house it stopped. It was the first time either of us had ever seen an Second-Series-Liberty-Truck-us-signal-corps-wikipediaarmy lorry. Soldiers disembarked from the covered back portion of the truck: World War I soldiers were coming home. They were getting off at the nearest place to their homes. Mother would have drawn fresh water from the well and made biscuits and fried eggs as a quick meal. No one was expecting them. The lorry had solid rubber tires and rims about 16 inches wide. This was real Kentucky hill country and all the roads were narrow and dirt.

There was a small crossroad at our home. This was the house where I, William Lester Stewart, was born 17 November 1915. The house was built by John Lester Brown and Cordelia Brown, my mother Mabel’s parents. Built of logs, two stories high, it had a sandstone fireplace at each end of the house, horizontal weather boarding covered the exterior. All the houses had tin roofs. There was a wood burning stove in the kitchen, in the back of the house, used for cooking and heating. Two large maple trees grew in the front yard between the house and the road.

Cordelia and Lester Brown 1889
Cordelia and Lester Brown with baby Mabel, sons Clarence and Junius ca. 1889

This farm was about sixty acres in size; strictly subsistence living. We had a garden, chickens, hogs and two black horses to pull the farm implements. Best of all, we had a dog, Teddy. Teddy was my friend.

About half our farm acreage was hill; too steep to cultivate. The nearest paved road was twenty-five miles away and that was in Owensboro. The country road toward our house had some gravel two and one half miles toward our part of the county. All direct roads were practically impassable in inclement weather and dusty in dry weather. We had wonderful neighbors, Walter and Blanche Glover, who lived directly across the road.

School and Church

Up the hill going east towards Patesville one fourth a mile was Brown school. Brown was a one room school house with a coal heated stove plus a water well outside and down the hill. Grades one through eight could go to school there but often boys or girls in the upper grades had quit school to work so it was mostly small children.

Continuing east on this road towards Patesville, seven-tenths of a mile from our house, was the nearest Baptist church. We had Sunday School every Sunday but church only once a month. A preacher would rotate among four churches.

wm-stewart-1922-oak-grove-baptist stewart photosIt was accepted practice for one of the families to invite the preacher home for Sunday dinner. Sometimes that included his family. Preferably the hosts had an automobile so he didn’t have to walk or ride horseback.

It was common practice on these roads and especially in inclement weather and winter to hitch our two black horses to a wagon. We put stiff backed chairs with cane bottoms in the wagon and rode in the wagon to church. But mostly our legs grew strong climbing hills to school or church or walking to visit friends and family.

At church, accompanied by an old pump organ, we sang the old songs such as “Old Rugged Cross,” “Shall We Gather At The River,” “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” “Love Lifted Me,” “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” With the windows full open in the summer and an enthusiastic crowd singing loudly, these country hills really were alive with the sound of music!

Pellville 2002

I went back with my nephew Tom Poole in October 2002. A country store has replaced the house where I was born. The house was torn down in the last ten years or so. The store and crossroad are our reference point now. On a Kentucky road map, #69 is from Fordsville to Hawesville and #144 from Pellville to Patesville. The roads are now black topped.

144-and-69-ky-google-street-viewTom and I went on a search for the site of the former Oak Grove Baptist Church and cemetery where two of my mother’s brothers are buried. Tom found it seven-tenths of a mile from the crossroads reference point, east on Highway 144, i.e. toward Patesville on the west side of the road. The church has been torn down.

Tom found the gravestones of the young uncles I never met. Junius E. Brown died Sept. 17, 1890 at the age of seven. Bertram Lee Brown died Nov. 6, 1898 two months before his second birthday.

Panther Creek Baptist Church

panther-creek-church-google-mapsNext, Tom and I looked for Panther Creek Baptist Church where my grandparents Stewart attended and where they are buried. This is on a road which runs from Pellville to Whitesville KY and is partially paved.

The cemetery is across the road from the church. To find my wm-stewart-amanda-chappel-grave-findagravegrandparents’ resting place do this: Enter the gate and turn left. Look in the front row for a large headstone which is prominent. William M. Stewart, born March 19, 1861; died June 16, 1907. Amanda W. (Chappel) Stewart, born October 3, 1859; died Dec. 6, 1923. On the stone were these words: “His words were kindness, his deeds were love, his spirit humbled, he rests above.”

See Bill’s Stewart Family Tree, also his Brown Family Tree.

Next, in Kentucky to Minnesota, growing up and university.