They Also Served-Prayed and Waited

by Christine Krebs Goyer (440th TCG) and Michael N. Ingrisano, Jr. (316th TCG), Copyright 2004

During World War II, some sixteen million American men and women served in the military. Most left behind loved ones with whom, in that era before television, computers, cell phones, and under scrupulous security, they could communicate only through written words and unspoken thoughts.

As seen through the eyes of just a typical few, this then is dedicated to those loved ones who kept the "home fires burning" while their loved ones faced the hell fires of war.

 

March [4, 1944]--?

Any how its Sat.

Dear Ginger [Ginny]:

I am sending you a night letter to night because I didn’t have time to answer your letter immediately and I do want you to come to Salem if you can work it—

I really am not very busy I didn’t write because of work. Olly (B.J’s new husband was hone on a 10 day leave and Mr. Tanner (English) was here for about 3 days saying farewell.—Also Ohio is in a heavy toll in the Draft as it is reported Ohio hasn’t met its quota-ever-so they have asked for 20% more—It seems a little strange that I should be the one every one should call for sympathy when their husbands reclassifications come in 1A—The only one who hasn’t felt the need for public sympathy is Bebe and for her it is tough. She has a home which they are still paying on. One little girl about 18 mo. and another baby due in July. She has to go home as her husband will be Pvt. She can’t follow him because of the children and the old home stead will never hold still for a cigarette for nerves or a little drinkie for morale.

Listen Ginnie-come to Salem and how about a trip some where. I have around or over 100 gal. of gas that will expire—2 new tires etc.—I can’t think of a place to go but I just want to blow somewhere.

Our trip home was a daisy. Hattie and I said Goodbye at 10 o’clock Saturday morning. Feb 12th we watched Hq. And the 95th board a horrible train. The weather was raw and wet. Southard didn’t leave til 2 in the P. M. So I loaned Betty [Southard] the car and Hattie and I packed and wept and looked glum.

Audrey and Sue left for Durham and Ft. Wayne immediately after the 95th departure.

Betty and Hattie in Hattie’s car and "The Ford" containing Emily and Jean left Fayetteville around 4 P. M. We decided to spend the night at Greensboro and would meet at the "best hotel" in town. The couple arriving first to reserve a room for the other 2.

Emily and I inquired at the O’Henry about the girls. Checked in and waited two hours. Finally called the "King Cotton"—No Hattie—No Betty—waited some more—Finally on the third call to the "King Cotton" Betty answered. The we both "boiled." Hattie and Betty arrived in town within fifteen minutes of "we all." They stopped at the "O Henry" and were told that no friends were registered and they hadn’t any room left. They also telephoned the hotel and no soap. I went boiling down to the lobby and the [?] was Jean Scott Krebs was registered on the phone as just Jean Scott.

As Betty had a room with 2 double beds for $10. Emily and I moved over to the "King Cotton." We drank & drank. Betty told fortunes and Hattie’s sure to happen card was the Ace of Spades which really threw her into a spin. We finally started up the Shenandoah Valley the next morning and it was beautiful—had a grand dinner at the Hotel Roanoke. Then we got dumb. (At the time we thought we were smart.) and decided to take a short cut which led us over the damn Alleghanies with ice & snow on top and the God damn winding ole foot hills in W. Va.

I did spin on top of a mountain that had a nice drop off and a stone edging about a ft. high to keep you from going over. Poor Emily couldn’t find her voice for an hour. And Betty who happened to look back in time to see the sashay was done for. Poor Hattie.

We drank that night at Elkins in a quaint hotel rather like Tomah Wis. Only we had a bath & closets.

From Elkins on we drove on a sheet of ice. The Ford made the last 200 miles on the bias. I steered the front wheels but the back end insisted on being in the gutter that the road banked towards.

Outside Morgantown, we did a 2-1/2 twist and landed in a shallow ditch. Road workers gasped as the lady threw her in 1st –hauled out of the ditch and went on her way. Emily just laughed. Perhaps her nerves were done for or else she decided "what the Hell." Betty had the same attitude as Emily—"What the Hell."

In Salem, Betty’s mind was set on Ft. Wayne by Wednesday and of course you know what happened to Betty and Hattie in spite of the their husbands’ admonishment. They also boarded the train with Emily.

The following Monday, Hattie and Audrey blew in to pick up Hattie’s car and to blast on to Washington, D. C. Audrey has a job there. Hattie a friend she intended to visit, then on to Phil[adelphia], to another friend. Sooner or later she will go to Greenwich then to Utica. Then she says she is going to take a trip.

Frank called me from Baer Tues, Feb 22nd and we said inane things and that’s the last I’ve heard.

Betty and Hattie went through a horror in Ft. Wayne. Saw the boys but it was anti-climactic and old Jack [Southard] quite upset about Betty coming.

I guess I won’t turn up in Calif. to live. Perhaps visit but they advertise "Please don’t come ‘til after the war." Emily has more dope on the house in Queens County, N. Y. It’s furnished. The draw back now is a year’s lease.

She doesn’t want to ask for her apt. in Dayton as her sub-letters are expecting in April and of course a place to live in Dayton is like Calif.

My baby is up. Must sign off.

There is a wet snow. We have snow forts all over the yard. It’s much prettier with snow as the town is really shabby on gray soggy days.

Hope to see you Ginny & where can we go.—

Love,

Jean

[Posted from Cleveland, OH, on Sunday, March 5, 1944 from Mrs. F. X. Krebs, 914 Franklin, Salem, Ohio to Mrs. C. H. Young, 11 Medway St., Providence, 6, R. I.]

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Jean, Mrs. Frank X. Krebs, was the wife of Colonel Krebs, commanding officer of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. As her letter notes, she went back to Salem, Ohio, living with her widowed mother. She then joined Emily Agnew in Dayton where she remained before returning to Salem at the end of the war.

Her letter was addressed to Ginger [Ginny], Mrs. C.H. Young,, wife of Col. Charles H. Young, who was named commanding officer of the 439th Troop Carrier Group in January 1944. Before he received that command, Col. Young was Executive Officer of the 440th under Col. Krebs. Virginia, "Ginny," Young never did get to Salem as Jean hoped she would. Rather, she returned to her former job as a stewardess with American Airlines, and remained in New York for the duration of the war.

B.J. [Cope] married Olly Dilworth. Jean Scott [Krebs] had a close relationship with the Cope family.

Mr. Tanner was an English business man who went to Salem to inspect the operation of the Salem Electric Furnace Company in which B.J. father was a partner.

Emily [Mrs. Paul Agnew] and Jean Scott studied together at the Dayton [Ohio] Art Institute. Jean Scott met Col. Krebs when he was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton [Ohio]. Emily’s husband, Paul, was also an art student there before the war. During the war, he was a crew chief with the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron, 440th TCG.

Betty’s [Mrs. Jack S. Southard] husband, Major Southard, was commanding officer of the 97th TCS, 440th TCG. And the Krebs baby, Christine K. Goyer, was born in Austin, Texas on July 24, 1943. "Frank called me from Baer Tues, Feb. 22nd, and we said inane things and that’s the last I’ve heard." Col. Krebs led the air echelon of the 440th Troop Carrier Group from Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana, on February 23, 1944. Flying 52 new C-47s, they started on an 11,000 mile flight which eventually took them to Bottesford, Nottinghamshire, England, via the southern route through South America and Africa.

Ginny’s husband, Col. Charles Young, left with his 439th Troop Carrier Group from Baer Field on February 14, 1944 for Balderton, its first station in England.

For Jean Krebs, Ginny Young and the others, the praying and waiting had just begun. And their relationships, so evident in Jean’s letter, were bonded with memories that went back several years. It was just not the packing, unpacking, and packing again, nor the long drives in their four-wheeled temporary homes. It was also the many memorable hours when they were thrust into the duties of social life that prevailed when military duty permitted. It was the planning and fulfillment of the Group parties in Alliance and Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in Deadwood, South Dakota, the Halloween dance in Sedalia, Missouri, and the monthly dances in Del Valle, Texas.

The Krebs’ and Young’s paths first crossed in mid- 1942 when both men were assigned to the 89th Troop Carrier Group stationed at Camp William Airfield at Camp Douglas, Wisconsin. So new that they helped initiate the opening of its officers’ club.

In September, the 89th moved to the new air base in Sedalia, Missouri. Housing was difficult to find but the Youngs found a house in nearby Warrensburg, and invited the Krebs and the Jacksons (Wally and Laura) to share it with them. In October, Wally Jackson was killed in a crash outside of Midway Air Field near Chicago, Illinois. Shortly thereafter, the Youngs were ordered to Del Valle near Austin, Texas, but then were reassigned to Bowman Field. Louisville, Kentucky. The Krebs remained in Sedalia.

In January 1943, the 89th TCG was assigned to Del Valle. Then in June 1943, Major Krebs was named commanding officer of the newly formed 440th TCG. He, in turn, appointed Captain Young as his executive officer. The 440th was formally activated in July at Baer Field, Indiana, and then sent to Sedalia for training.

While Ginny Young followed her husband from post to post, Jean Krebs remained in Austin, Texas, to rear her daughter, Christine. In September, the 440th was sent to Alliance Air Base, Nebraska, for further training. In December-January, Jean Krebs joined her husband as his group participated in air lift exercises at Pope Field, Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

On January 21, 1944, Young was given command of the 439th TCG at Laurenberg-Maxton Army Air Base, North Carolina, after the commander, Lt. Col. Ralph L. Zimmerman was killed in an air crash. Less than two weeks later, on February 1, the 439th left North Carolina by train for Baer Field, where it received its new aircraft and began its departure from Baer Field for overseas duty on Sunday, February 13. In the short span of time, from May 1942 to December 1943, Virginia Young moved 17 times.

440th Wives, from left to right: 4th from left: Rosemary Neal( Bascome Neal, 98th TCG CO)5th from left: Lillian Waldorf(Loyd C. Waldorf,Operations Officer, Headquarters)6th from left: Jean Scott Krebs(Frank X. Krebs, 440th TCG CO) This photo was taken at Pope Field in 1944 just before the boys were loaded on a train at Fayetteville on route to Baer Field, Indiana. The 440th air crews had to ride the train as they picked up their new C-47's at Baer Field before they started on the long flight to England. (Editor's Note: Anyone who can identify the other ladies in this photo, please contact us at the website to add the identifications, thank you.)

On February 12, when Frank Krebs’ 440th left Fayetteville, for its trip to Baer Field, and overseas duty, Jean Krebs recalled the troops singing "For Me and My Gal" as they marched to the trains. She also wrote in her letter of March 4 that in their last phone conversation, she and Frank said: "…inane things and that’s the last I’ve heard."

Charles Young recalled that after the final review of his group in North Carolina which Ginny saw, "…it was time to say good-bye for what was to seem an endless time. We each kept the same unspeakable question to ourselves, silently bound in our acceptance of how little we knew of what was now to come. She showed her characteristic courage, though I saw tears in her eyes as she turned to get in the car. The last image I had was of the gold of her hair in the reflected sunlight against the green of the car as she drove away."

Jean and Ginny and their comrades knew that they were but a few among the very many of their generation who served, prayed, and waited for their loved ones to come home "For Me and My Gal!"

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In Retrospect: "for the good ole days:"

In response to a request from Christine K. Goyer for possible identification of the wives in the subject photo, and other information, Ginny Young responded on October 7, 2003: "We’ll if you had asked me all those questions 50 yrs. ago, I’m sure I could have told you exactly how, when, and where we met and got acquainted and how in the world we spent all that time while the men were training hard and fast for heaven only knew what….It was really awesome. Hundreds of wives from all over the country & different backgrounds suddenly thrown together in common, at least emotionally. In a way there were no strangers."

Because of that lapsed time, Ginny could only recall the first names of some of the women. But, she has told us a bit about her life after Colonel Young’s group was sent overseas to Europe.

Following the revue of the entire 439th TCG at Maxton Field, I left—that day [January 21, 1944]—by train for Providence, R.I. I would stay with my mother for awhile & await news from Baer Field [Ft. Wayne, Indiana] from which the 439th would leave for overseas. Jean and Audrey had driven me to the station & had done their best to dispel the doom of the moment. At this point I did not know any of the 439th wives. Charlie’s appointment had come so suddenly, practically on the eve of deployment, that there had not been time to meet them. As a matter of fact, we all met at Squadron reunions some years after the war had ended.

I stayed in Providence waiting for the phone call I was dreading. It came in February. Charlie called to say good-bye. The Group was leaving—No other information. [note: The 439th left Baer Field on Sunday, February 13, 1944].

It was decision time for me and I contacted American Airlines in N. Y. In my opinion that company was the greatest. They were wonderful to work for and I knew I had to keep busy. I was rehired and would be based in N. Y. where I wanted to be. N. Y. seemed to get more news of the war faster than anywhere else & it was the APO for mail from Europe. I volunteered to stay on call (for AA) and that did keep me busy. At that time we did not have TV. News was not readily available, and what did filter through was heavily censored. As I have watched some graphic coverage of subsequent wars, I cannot help thinking no TV was a blessing. I moved into an apt. in Jackson Heights [Queens] with 3 friends who were AA stewardesses, and when Marge came to N. Y. to write advertising for Sears & Roebuck, we made room for her. Occasionally someone from the 439th or 50th Wing would get to N. Y. and would call, when possible we would meet and that helped a lot.

The years have brought many changes. In 1939 when I was hired, and again in 1944, we were stewardesses, not flight attendants & had to be a certain wt. & height & single. An exception was made for a few of us in 1944 but my name plate read Miss V. Young, and I wore my wedding ring around my neck hidden under my blouse.

The airline was operating on bare bones. The military had so many of our airplanes, Flight crews & Mechanics. The passenger lists were predominately military personnel who of course had top priority & most civilians traveling were on military business.

Along year and a half later the war ended and finally Charlie was on his way home. he arrived in N. Y. and we met at a hotel where I had made reservations. The 439th was scheduled to go on to the pacific but fortunately the Japanese surrendered in August. We were unbelievably free to pick up the threads of our life together and plan for the future. Does a separation under such drastic circumstances make for a stronger marriage? I don’t know—I just know I felt incredibly lucky. Charlie died in 2001 but I look back on 60 wonderful, eventful years with him.

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[The stories of the 440th and the 439th heroics are told in two separate books. DZ, EUROPE: The Story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. 2nd Edition, 2003. And Col. Charles H. Young. INTO THE VALLEY: The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II. Dallas, PrintComm. Inc., 1995.]