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The alpha of this account is mid-afternoon, Sunday, December 7, 1941 and the real omega is Monday, May 29, 1944, about mid-day; however, over one-half century of years covers the in between. As a boy of sixteen with nothing to do and nowhere to go, I was laying across the bed listening to the little table model radio. The news flash advised the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor. That really did not mean anything to me. After church that night, Sonny Mitchell invited me to walk to town - Bristol, Tennessee, a distance of about two miles - to see if the newspaper people had printed a special edition. No extra, but the high of that trip was a Pepsi and hot dog Sonny bought me.

Months went by and Sonny went down to the recruiting office to join the Navy. As I recall, some hearing problem ended that direction of his life. I believe the same problem prevented him from playing football for the Tennessee High Vikings.

More months passed and the Army Air Force accepted his offer to render them his service to help defeat the enemy seeking to destroy our freedom. That date was January 6, 1942. At this point in his life, he was a sophomore ministerial student at King College, a local school only a mile from his house, a daily round trip walk.

Sonny's basic training was at the Army Air Force Technical Training Command, Miami Beach, Florida. He was impressed with the beauty of the man-made island and considered the weather, to quote, "perfect." "They held us up on everything they could. In Miami Beach, the prices on the things we wanted to buy were very high." This comparison was made with what he experienced in Chicago where he was transferred to train to be a radio operator on a B-17, one of the Army's four engine bombers, heavy machine. "If I do alright in this school, I hope to go to an ariel gunnery school. This radio school is no push over, so I do not know what I will do in it. I am going to try my best of course. Everything here in Chicago is free. They have free restaurants, free service centers, U.S.O.'s, and even operas. We can get on a street car and ride anywhere we want, and not pay a cent."

In his March 3, 1943 letter to me from which the above quotes are taken, a positive note of encouragement to me was expressed in three questions. "How are you getting along? Fine, I hope. Are you doing alright in school? How are you getting along with the church work?"

Sonny was very active in the ministry of the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church for an eighteen-year-old young man. He served as Assistant Sunday School Superintendent and was the leader of the Royal Ambassadors, a group of young boys. His interest did not stay in Bristol when he went into the Army Air Force. From Chicago; "From what I hear, the church work is progressing very rapidly. I hope you all keep it up. I pray daily for the church and I look forward to the time I can come home to worship God with you all again."

In early 1943, I tried to join the Army Air Force, but failed the test by nine points. Within 30 days, I was drafted and this time failed to pass the color blind test. With that I took the attitude I will take what they give me and volunteer for nothing. After being inducted into the Army at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, I endured basic training near Muskogee, Oklahoma, with the 42nd Rainbow Division. During this time, Sonny was transferred to the AAF Base at Ardmore, OK.

Ardmore Army Air Field, 1945

On Christmas weekend, 1943, I went to Tulsa on pass. My first Christmas away from home. To add to this on returning to camp, a Western Union message was waiting for me from Sonny. "Meet me at the bus station in Oklahoma City, Saturday morning." Too late, OH HOW SAD!

PART 2