War changes come inland
R. D. Miller b. 1937
I recall my father and grandfather discussing the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but at four years of age I did not comprehend the significance of it. Being so far inland, we were never subject to black outs and, although the town siren sounded every day at noon, I do not recall any air raid drills such as I have read about in major cities.
My parents started saving tinfoil and I can remember peeling it off of chewing gum wrappers, and some candy wrappers. A sign was erected in a small park on Main Street that listed the names of the men that were in service.
My mother and my grandmother had large “Victory Gardens,” but the change was lost on me as we had always had pretty big vegetable gardens. I recall discussions about rationing and my parents using honey rather than sugar as a sweetener in their coffee.
The USAAF built an airfield outside of Casper, Wyoming, about 25 miles west of my hometown. It opened in late 1942 and trained crews for both B24s and B17s. A part of that facility was a target range for practice bombing and gunnery. That range was located about 15 miles north of my hometown in a scrub brush, sand hill area. As a result, men in uniform and Army vehicles became a common sight in our little town.
The range crews drove back and forth from the air base and the range every day, and became regulars at the local establishments such as the bars, the lone movie theater and grocery stores. A few even became overnight guests in the one cell city jail.
As more crews trained at Casper crashes became inevitable and were fairly common. A history1 of the base shows that “Over one hundred forty Casper Army Air Base aviators perished in 90 plane crashes between September 1942 and March 1945.” (see the link below)
I recall my dad taking me to a crash site near the bombing range and seeing the wreckage of the airplane.
There was an USO Canteen in Casper and many of the young women from our town went to entertain at that Canteen. That is where my aunt met her husband to be. It was probably late 1943 or early 1944 as he had completed his required combat missions as a tail gunner in B24 Liberators in North Africa. He was assigned to the Casper USAAF Airfield as a gunnery instructor.
Shortly after he and my aunt started dating, he incurred lung damage from an inflight fire during one of the training missions. The damage was severe enough that in 1944 he was medically discharged and he and my aunt were married.