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