December 7, 1941

World War 2

A Day That Will live in Infamy

A True Story of War

The 457th Bomb Group

A Soldier's Letters Home

Smoke School

Smoke School Stories

Suppose They gave a War and nobody Came.  This is a story about a war where everybody came.  This page is called World War II, a Soldier's Letter Home. This is the story of my Uncle Artie Jr Whitlow who served proudly with the The 457th Bomb Group


Hello, I just finished watching Saving Private Ryan for the second time. The Captain's last words inspired me to come back to this page, that was a tribute to  my uncle whom I never met.  Tom Hanks told Private Ryan to go home and live a good life.  The last scene was filmed in the cemetery in Normandy.  I have seen those miles and miles of white crosses, not in Normandy, but in England where my uncle was stationed when he was shot down and killed while performing as a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress.

I remember that day in 1979 in England, sitting on the steps looking at the rows of white crosses.  Then seeing a small little girl running to play on the steps.  The thought ran through my mind, "So that she may live and she may live a good life."

Well this is a story about America.   American boys, fighting German boys in a war to end wars, World War 2. It is the story of two American boys who went to war. One came home and the other never lived to see America again. He never lived to meet me. And I never met him.

On December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Naval Aviation Corps performed an unprovoked surprise bombing on American Forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Within days the United States government declared War on Japan and Germany. Thousands of American men and women enlisted or were drafted into the military. Many of these soldiers who went to war never never came home again. Artie Whitlow Jr. (my uncle) was one of the ones we never got the chance to meet.

LT Artie JR Whitlow was killed in action on 457 Bomb Group Mission No. 52 on May 27, 1944 in the air space over Bergheim Germany.

This mission was to the marshalling yards at Ludwigshaven and Mannheim. The 457th led the 94th Combat Wing with Col James Luper as Air Commander. Enroute to the target the group was savagely attacked by 50 or 60 ME-109's and several planes in the formation were lost. The fighter attack lasted 25 minutes and disrupted the formation causing the low box to bomb before the lead. The lead box did a 360 degree turn and made a second pass through the heavy flak. Thirteen planes received flak damage.
Plane s/n 42-31594, piloted by Lt Artie J. Whitlow when the fighter attacked. The ME-109's shot off the end of Whitlow's right wing and the aircraft fell into a tight spin and did not recover. The plane crashed near Bergheim, Germany. Two of the crew were killed, six became POW's and one managed to evade.

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Click here to avoid this wonderful introduction and get right to the table of contents for Artie Jr's Letters, but you will miss the stories of my daddy and the Marines.

Artie Whitlow Jr. was a young man with a plan and a bright future. He joined the Army Air Corp. He and his 2 younger brothers, George (my daddy) and Maurice, and his sister, Eloise, spent non school hours working in Cotton Valley, Louisiana in the Red Front General Store owned by his parents Artie Whitlow and Mammie until Artie answered the call of Uncle Sam unclesam.bmp (118262 bytes) and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp where he was soon flying missions from England into France and Germany as a pilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress.


Artie Jr. was helping to wage war against the forces of Adolf Hitler.

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Army Air Corp B-17

Maurice was too young for War World II, but years later, he would enlist in the U.S. Air Force for the Korean War. Maurice was lucky he spent most of the war as a fire fighter and a football player for the team touring overseas. These activities led him to a scholarship at Oklahoma State University playing football and a degree in Fire and Safety. He recently retired from Monsanto as the Chief of Fire and Safety in Alabama.

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When  December 7, 1941, the day that will live in infamy, came George Was delivering ice for the family store and played center for Minden Louisiana high school football team. Since he was from Cotton Valley, Louisiana and he was the fastest player on the team, the whole town called him the Cotton Valley Flash. 

Incidentally, Cotton Valley is not too far from Texarkana.  I am sure that you have heard the song "Cotton Fields" with the lyrics, "It was down in Louisiana, just about a mile from Texarkana."  Who ever wrote that song has never been to Texarkana, because there are no places in Louisiana that are within 25 miles of Texarkana. But lets get back to the story.

He loved football and would end up on the coaching staff of Northeast Louisiana College in Monroe after the war. He liked the ice delivery job because it gave him a chance to meet his admiring public who would always greet him with, "Here comes the Cotton Valley Flash!" People would place large blocks of ice in front of big fans to keep cool in the 90+ degree heat and to make ice cream.

At a church social he was turning the crank on an ice cream freezer when he watched one of the long legged drum majorettes sit right there   in front of him on top of the freezer. She had long black hair and the dark skin of a woman that was half Choctaw Indian. Her name was Johnnie Claire White and she was very high on any boys list with her radiant smile, quick laughter and beautiful looks. George and Johnnie were quickly becoming an item when daddy joined the Marines.

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As George's activities in the war increased, his relationship with Johnnie went down hill. She stopped writing when she went to college at Northwestern College in Natchitoches (Steel Magnolias) and after she got involved with a new boyfriend. Daddy served as an Military Policeman in the South Pacific. This would lead him to a career as a cop in Monroe and a Law Enforcement Instructor for the Louisiana State University Law Enforcement Institute in Baton Rouge.

He was wounded twice in the war. His transport ship was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze plane. George had taken a short water cooler break from his kitchen police or clean up detail when the plane crashed into the ship and exploded the boiler room and the kitchen or galley. The cook and several other men were killed. The resulting fire singed all the exposed body hair from George as he was knocked to the floor, not knowing what the hell had happened.

The second wound happened as he fell onto a keg of nails while dodging a snipers bullets. This leg and knee injury caused him to be laid up in the hospital in Hickman Field until after the war ended. It also eliminated the chance that he would ever play college football, his life long dream.

Daddy has told me many war stories. Japanese planes would often fly over the Marine Corp camp and the men would run for the trees on the parameter. They would never run down the open main trail because they knew about a very large hornets nest that hung about head high in the center of the trail. The nest was left there to keep the Japanese soldiers from sneaking up the path after dark. They forgot to tell some new comers about the nest of aggressive bees. As the nightly raids came in with machine gun bullets singing and fire tracing through the night air, the new requites headed up the main trail hitting the hornets nest head on. Daddy heard the screaming as the bees made the attack. "Medic! I been hit!"

He told me how the Japanese would come and stand in line during meal or chow time and how they would say, "Me no Japanese, me Chinese."

He said one night he replaced a guard on duty. The guard walked over, placed a Japanese helmet on a fence post, then walked back to the camp. After a few hours the fence post started walking around in the dark. Daddy yelled, "Halt!" The fence post kept walking so daddy shot it with an M-1 riffle and killed it.

Several years ago daddy and I were fishing for white perch, sac-a-lait, or crappie down on Bayou D'Arbonne .

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When daddy picked up a Hawaiian Wiggler fishing bait dripping with the lake water at the end of the fishing line. He let the bait dangle in the air as he held the line and the skirt wiggled on the hook. He looked at me with a shy expression and asked, "Did I ever tell you about the time I was an out patient at Hickman Field?"

I drank a cold sip of Falstaff Beer and continued paddling the boat slowly past  a cottonmouth water moccasin snake on a low hanging cypress limb and on down the creek bank amounst' the willow trees and popped my fly line into the wind. "Nope," I whispered.

"Well,"  he said as he cast his line amongst' a dead cypress stump, about four feet from a resting alligator. "Yo mamma wasn't too sure she wanted anything to do with me as the war went on. She done found her a city slicker for a boyfriend at that school she was going to. I think his name was Herman. Well,---" a bass hit the line and daddy reeled him in excitedly. The fish weighed about half a pound.

"That will keep the grease hot," he said as he tossed the fish into the water in floor of the leaking metal John boat. We owned several boats during my early years and they all leaked.

"Well," he continued, "I met this native Hawaiian girl at Hickman Field. She was right pretty, she was. You would have liked her."

I nearly spilt my beer and might near fell right out of the boat. I had never dreamed of daddy having other girlfriends.

He went on, "Her mamma owned the movie theater there in the town. We was always seeing the movies free. It was lots of fun. Well, she wanted to get hitched."

I dropped the beer. The choicest product of the brewers art according to Dizzy Dean.

I popped open another cool one and said calmly, "I thought there was always mamma."

"Nope, that black haired beauty with the hula skirt wanted me to stay there. Mamma said she was going to give me the store since daddy and Artie Jr. passed.

It were a hard choice for me to make. The hula dancer's mamma said she would give me the theater if I married her daughter.  You know how much I love movies."

"Yea but daddy."

"Well somehow yo mamma heard of me getting hurt and all. She started sending me mail from out of the blue. I decided to wait around Pearl Harbor after the war. I had a chance to fly home, but you know how much I am afraid of flying. I ain't never to this day been on a plane. 

I hung around for a few weeks till I could catch a ride to California on a ship. And then a train to Minden where yo mamma was a waiting fer me. I figgered if it didn't work out between Johnnie Claire and me that I would find away back to Pearl.

I didn't know it at the time but Herman had brung yo mamma down to the train station. He was waiting in his car. She told him if her hat fell off to go on back to college without her.

Well when she saw me with all these new Marine Corp muscles, a gust of wind blew her hat off. We both went back to school then. I couldn't play anymore football. My mamma and yo grandma Roe planned a big giant wedding with all the trimmings. We got kinda leery of all that crap so we decided to quit school and elope. We got married secretly in Long View, Texas.

When mamma found out about it, she got mad as heck and sold the store. Then she moved to Shreveport and worked as a cook at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Well I went to work for yo uncle Guy Sievers on the Monroe Police Department and helped him coach at Northeast College."

After daddy quit coaching college he coached the Police Department Little League Baseball Team for 20 years. He coached Little League Football. He also became a football official for high school games. He was also a Boy Scout Leader. He was a president of the Optimist Club where he helped design and  plan the boat trip and arrangements of the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo.

He served 20 years on the Monroe Police Department, walking the De'Siard Street beat, riding 3 wheeled Harley motorcycles, and running the Traffic Davison. He was a president of the Louisiana Municipal Peace Officers Association. And he was a great daddy. For years and years after the war daddy taught boys, men, and women  the value of hard work, hard fun, fairness and justice. He died suddenly of congestive heart failure on their front porch in the piney woods near Columbia, Louisiana in 1993.  That is how i want to go. Suddenly.  Don't drag it out.

My stories are from the heart, and they will make you roll on the floor laughing or they will make you cry a million tears.

Well look, I done got way off track. This is supposed to be a story about my uncle Artie Jr. that got shot down and killed while he was a pilot on a B-17.

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I drifted a bit so I could tell you the story of two brothers that went to war  and only one came home. Artie Whitlow Jr. was a young man with hopes and dreams. He was very much in love with his new bride and he wanted to get home to raise a family. He wanted a future in the family store, and above every thing else he wanted just to come home. Artie Jr. wrote lots of letters home starting on December 30, 1941, just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. He was my mamma Whit's favorite son, her first born.

The Air Corp officials came to the family house and said that Artie Jr's plane was shot down, that he was seen parachuting out, and that he was considered missing in action. The news gave grandpa a massive heart attack. Artie seemed to be recovering when a few weeks later the Air Corp came and said Artie Jr. was dead. Pappaw had another heart attack and died. I am crying a bit as I type. I never met either one of them.

Well when Mother Whit passed away several years ago in Houston, Texas. I found these letters in her dresser drawer mixed in with of Houston Astro's baseball trivia.. I am posting the letters as images so you can see the love in the handwriting and the 50 years of yellow on the pages. If you are in a hurry, you will not like this page. The images of the letters will load slowly. However the wait will do your heart some good.

Many boys and girls went to war and many never came home. Artie Jr. never got a chance to have a family, he never held his baby son. And he never took him fishing. This is his story from his own pen.

Artie JR Whitlow Letters home

The Whitlow Family 1940s: From Left to right- My Grandfather Artie Whitlow, Eloise Whitlow- Daddy's sister, Artie JR Whitlow- B-21 pilot killed shortly after picture taken in WW2, Mother Whit- my Grandmother, Daddy George Wesley Whitlow, Maurice Whitlow- Daddy's Little Brother- the only survivor living today in Arab Alabama

The Whitlow Family Late 1960s: Left to Right- Uncle Maurice Whitlow, Mother Whit, Eloise Whitlow, Daddy- George Wesley Whitlow (with the apron- now you see why I like to cook at smoke School. WW 2 cost the family both my Grandfather and my Uncle Artie JR. Artie JR was a B-21 Pilot killed in action over Germany. My Grandfather had a massive heart attack when they delivered the telegram about Artie Jr.


- Read the actual letters home Subject Index Contents of each letter

Further reading on Artie JR's last B-17 flight mission Sweat'er Out

Other smoke school stories and family stories

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