Major Sam J. Willis was one of the lucky ones. He made it back safely.
“He had a lot of friends who were killed in the war,” his son, Sam Willis Jr., said.
For most, flying bombers over enemy territory sounds treacherous. But the flights to India were where Willis lost most of the crews he knew.
“They called them Hump Pilots,” Willis Jr. said.
“They call that mountain in the Himalayas the Hump.”
Pilots would have to fly upwards of 18,000 feet to get across the area.
“That was pretty high in those days,” he said.
“They called it the aluminum trail, because so many planes crashed on that route. They iced up and crashed into the mountain.”
Willis Jr. said that he wishes he knew more about his late father’s service and time in the war. “He never talked about it too much.”
On Monday, everyone is invited to Veterans Memorial Park for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9170 and Auxiliary’s tribute to the fallen soldiers.
The Memorial Day Ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to bring a lawn chair and umbrella for shade.
Also participating will be the American Legion Post 274 and Auxiliary and the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 929.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.
Willis Jr. reminded that it wasn’t just the military men serving their country.
His mother, Joyce Willis, was doing her part. She was one of the “Rosie the Riveter” workers helping build the aircraft being flown.
During this era, the government decided to launch a propaganda campaign to sell the importance of the war effort and to lure women into working.
Willis Jr. said he didn’t know why his mother joined the workforce.
“She never did say or I was too young to understand,” he said. “I guess it was just a wartime job.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.