What My Mother Said About My Dad’s Military Service During World War II – Jacki Kellum Memoir


Hank Baker bottom row, third from left, and his Army Air Force Unit during World War II

Image scanned & shared by my niece Jessica Baker

An interesting story about my dad is that although his papers now indicate that his name was Henry Albert, his actual name was merely H. A., and people called him Hank. When he joined the military, he was told that he had to have a “real” name–a first and middle and last name–and not mere initials. One of my dad’s grandfathers had been named Henry and one had been named Albert; and surely that is what the initials H. A. represented; therefore, when my dad joined the army, he became Henry Albert.

While in the Army Air Force, my dad flew on a B-17 aircraft and served as its radio operator.

The United States Army Air Force was a military branch that followed the Army Air Corps and preceded the separate United States Air Force. The Army Air Force was a division of the army. Following is what my mother said about the years that my dad spent in the military.

From the Memoir of Laura Mae Dunscombe Baker,

Born December 6, 1926
Recorded by Jacki Kellum, Born 1950

If you have read other of this series of posts, you will remember that my mother actually said what I will share–[that is not in square brackets]:

“On July 7, 1942, Hank went to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis for examination and swearing in.
“After a few days there, he was sent to Camp Roberts California for radio training for the army. The closest towns were Paso Robles and San Miguel. Hewas stationed there 13 weeks. He left in November, 1942 for Camp Butner, North Carolina and was with Infantry headquarterswhere he was made Radio Operator. He liked this part of the country and dated a girl there from which you got your name, Jacqueline.
“Almost Christmas time he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for advanced training and stayed until Feb. 1943. He then went back to Camp Butner, N.C. and stayed until December at which time he went to Miami Beach, Florida. There the hotels on the beaches had been confiscated to house the military and he was fortunate to stay there. He had elected to switch to the Army Air Force and was taking pilot training. When tested he didn’t make pilot but became Radio Operator.
About January 1944, he went to gunnery school at Fort Myers, Fl–then to Plant City to be crewed, then on to Gulfport, MS. for crewtraining. From there they would be sent overseas and life was becoming more serious. Around the first of Oct., 1944, they were on their way, stopping a few days in Savannah, Ga.–then to Newport News, Va. where they boarded ship  on Oct. 13.
German Uboat
“The voyage took 15 days and German Uboats were in the ocean.
Foggia Italy early 1900’s
“They landed in Naples, Italy in the Mediterranean Sea on the West side of Italy. They stayed there a while, then went by train to the East side of Italy to Foggia which was on the Adriatic Sea. American and British were both housed at this base and from there he assisted in 33 missions to bomb the enemy. Hank recalled many memories of the area and the people, good memories some of them. He said the native women would put a sign on their door stating that they would be serving American meals at a certain time and the soldier guys would pay to eat there. The people were in desperate need
and even that small token was helpful.
The Tuskeegee Air Men
“He also spoke of the black airmen flanked and protected them on missions and how much they were appreciated. A movie has been made about them, but I can’t remember their title or the name of the movie. I wish I could. [Mom sent another email, affirming that the unit was the Tuskeegee Air Men].
My dad, while serving in the Army Air Force
“He left Italy in July, 1945 for furlough home fully expecting to be sent to Japan when that was over. We began dating on this time at home and were together on VJDay in August when the war was declared to be over.
He was discharged Sept. 9 in Jefferson Barracks. We married Jan. 12, 1946.”
Read more from my mother’s memories of living as a child in the Depression, World War II, etc.

Copyright Jacki Kellum October 22, 2015

As I have also said before, I have begun a 3-Way Memoir, where I’ll record some of my mother’s responses to some questions that I asked about her life. I hope to have the memoir published for my mother’s 90th birthday on December 6, 2016. It will be my grandmother’s story, my mother’s story, and mine–all told about our lives in the now very dusty and boarded-shut Bootheel of Southeast Missouri.

You can find excerpts from that memoir in various places on my blog, by searching:

What My Mother Said, Calico Cotton, Cotton Child, and When Cotton Was King

Read More about the upcoming book: https://jackikellum.wordpress.com/2015/10/17/it-is-time-for-the-world-to-hear-from-3-strong-women-from-the-missouri-bootheel/

All Rights Reserved

]The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the military aviation arm of the United States of America between 1926 and 1941. The statutory administrative forerunner of the United States Air Force, it was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926 and part of the larger United States Ar

my. The Air Corps was the immediate predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), established on 20 June 1941. Although discontinued as an administrative echelon during World War II, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing a United States Department of Defense consisting of a Department of the Army (formerly the War Department), Department of the Navy and Department of the Air Force.[1] Wikipedia


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