WWII vet Charles Whit­ford re­tired but ac­tive in Bella Vista

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

Charles Whit­ford lives in an apart­ment near the High­lands Gate, with mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, cam­eras and tele­scopes at the ready — plus a great view of the fall col­ors.

The 95-year-old re­tiree who takes care of him­self, keeps up with his hob­bies and finds time for the odd game of pool, He said he moved to Bella Vista back in 1987. Be­fore that, he taught.

“I was a teacher in Iowa for 150 years,” he said.

But be­fore that, he said, part­way through col­lege, he served in the Army dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He en­listed in the re­serves in 1942, he said, and got called up in 1943.

Af­ter he got through ba­sic training in Mi­ami Beach, Fla., Whit­ford said he joined the 5th Army Air Corps, which split from the Army and be­came the United States Air Force in 1947.

“I played in the band there be­fore I started ba­sic, and then I

fool­ishly de­cided I wanted to go to photo school,” Whit­ford said.

He went through photo training in Colorado, he said, then took his overseas training in Utah.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said, “all kinds of 10mile hikes.”

Whit­ford’s mil­i­tary ca­reer con­tin­ued to in­clude a great deal of travel.

Af­ter training, he said, he went on to Milne Bay in New Guinea, land­ing on the east side of the is­land na­tion. The fight­ing, he said, was con­cen­trated in Lae at the time.

Whit­ford trav­eled with his fel­low sol­diers through the Markham Val­ley — which he said was all jun­gle — be­fore emerg­ing in Biak, on the west side of the is­land.

“Then we got on a flotilla for the in­va­sion of the Philip­pines,” he said. “Had a lot of Jap planes go­ing over up in there. (It) was a lot of fun.”

As part of the photo unit, he said, he worked in photofin­ish­ing, where he pro­cessed pho­tos that were used pri­mar­ily for in­tel­li­gence and plan­ning.

“Didn’t have to carry a ri­fle around, for which I was thank­ful,” Whit­ford said.

Around this time, he said he moved back into the band. The band played for par­ties and spe­cial events, as well as in dance halls overseas.

The Army moved on and Whit­ford moved with it into Ja­pan. Whit­ford re­mem­bered spend­ing time on the west side of Ja­pan, near Ok­i­nawa.

“We could look out and see Ie Shima, where Ernie Pyle was killed,” he said. “If we had known, we were right in a good place to see the cloud — the mush­room clouds at Hiroshima and Na­gasaki. But of course, we had no idea.”

Af­ter mov­ing to Bella Vista, Whit­ford said, he served as a bu­gler in the Honor Guard for a time.

To­day, he said, he still plays in the Bella Vista Com­mu­nity Band and goes out at night to look at the stars with the Su­gar Creek As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety on top of the odd jam ses­sion in his apart­ment.

“And I still play pool,” he said.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Charles Whit­ford, who served in the Army Air Corps dur­ing World War II, still plays the eu­pho­nium in the Bella Vista Com­mu­nity Con­cert Band.

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