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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Creator: Welch, Earl L.

Date: March 27, 2007

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 213579

Biographical sketch: In Earl Welch's family there were nine children, he was the sixth in line. His parents ran a grocery store in Turon, Kansas and that was where he graduated from high school. After graduating he worked in the local hatchery and was also married when he was drafted into the United States Air Force in 1942 and placed in the Signal Corps. Earl said that he never really went through basic training, he ended up in Chicago, Illinois, where he went to the Coin Electric Company and learned radio work. It was a civilian company and they didn't stay on an army base, they lived in a hotel and were given money to buy their meals. They operated transmitters and receivers and learned how to repair them. He stayed in Tampa, Florida for a couple of years before being placed in the 6th Bomb Group and eventually ended up on Tinian Island. This island was where the two atomic bombs were kept. They got into "jamming," where they would send out false frequencies when the B-29s were getting ready to go on a raid on Japan and they would jam the Japanese radar. When a B-29 would come back his group would have to go into the airplane, remove the jammers and reload them before they took off. "It was very top secret," he said. For two years he never told his wife what he was doing, nor where he was going when he went overseas, but they set up a code via mail and she figured it out that he was on Tinian. There were still Japanese on the island as you could hear them shooting every now and then. The Japanese had been getting fuel from an oil field and they wanted to knock it out so they sent two planes out every two hours, then they would come back and have to be refueled and bombs reloaded. He never got to sleep for seventy-two hours straight. Some times the bombers would come back so damaged that you couldn't believe they could still fly. There were three places that the B-29s were manufactured and the guys preferred the ones built in Wichita. Then a special group of B-29s came to the other side of the island, and Earl said they were treated differently, you couldn't get close to them. One of those was the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb. They had a receiver that could reach back to the United States and they heard the announcement on the radio, before the planes had returned to the island. The Welch family had four sons in the service at the same time, two in Germany and two in the Southwest Pacific, and they all returned safely. Earl is five feet two inches tall and they had trouble getting a uniform or shoes that would fit him. They had to issue him officer's pants because they were the only ones small enough to fit. When he returned to Turon he went back to work for the Turon Hatchery and stayed there for four or five years and then went to work for the John Deere Agency as book keeper and parts man. The farmers would call on him all hours of the day and night to get parts and sometimes his wife would pack him a lunch and bring his fishing gear so he could get away for a while. He is a life member of both the VFW and the American Legion but says he never used the G.I.Bill for anything. The 6th Bomb Group has had a couple of reunions but he wasn't able to attend those, however he has attended some of the 843rd Battalion with his second wife.

Summary: Earl Lee Welch was inducted into the Army (Air Force) in 1942 and served until 1945 in the 6th Bomb Group. Interviewed by Marian Poe on Mar. 27, 2007, Welch talked about military experiences in the Second World War. He was born September 25, 1920, in Turon, Kansas, where his parent operated a grocery store. His wife Wilma and his daughter Karen Wingfield were present during the interview, which took place in Hutchinson, Kansas. The 2005 Kansas Legislature passed a bill funding the WWII Veterans Oral History grant program. This transcript is from one of the community institutions receiving grants. The transcript of the interview is presented here; the original video copy of the interview is available through the Rice County Historical Society (Lyons) and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

Space Required/Quantity: Video

Title (Main title): Interview on experiences in World War II

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019-14-04-02  DVD 

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