Art Vinall’s Story

I was born on Sept. 16, 1918 on a farm in central Iowa. Lots of hard work and good fresh food made, for me, a healthy body. As might have been typical for the times, I rode my Shetland pony to a one room school for grades 3 thru 8.

Occasionally the snow was deeper than Buster’s legs were long. It was a mile and a half each way and uphill in both directions!

Today the media makes heroes of those who live off “the grid”: those whose daily lives are completely independent of electric companies, etc. Let me tell you of my childhood. We ate what we produced on the farm. There was no electricity.

My mother, in the winter, fed us from a basement fully stocked with hundreds of jars of food that were ‘canned” the previous fall. Cattle and hogs were butchered and ‘cured’ or canned. Those were different times, believe me. Some years passed when the only cash that came our way was from the eggs and cream that we sold every Sunday morning on the way to church. Usually that money was immediately spent on flour and spices and other necessities purchased at the general store.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to college; Iowa’s Universities were practically tuition-free and I worked about 8 hours a day for my food and lodging. It can be done.

After receiving my degree from the U. of Iowa, I was employed by TWA in Chicago. I had always wanted to learn to fly so I made application to the Army Air Corps who declined saying that I was color blind. A week later, I went to the Navy
Air Corps and they also came back with ‘color blind’.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, while I was working for TWA in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my roommate joined the army.

The same day, I received word that TWA had contracted with the Army Air Corp’s ‘Air Transport Command’ to transport strategic personnel and vital cargo to the war fronts in Africa and Europe. At that time, it made sense to me that I could be of more use in furthering the war effort by using the skills I already possessed. TWA called for volunteers to serve overseas and I was the first to respond.

In Nov. 1942, our army invaded North Africa and, immediately thereafter, I was assigned to establish a ground station in Marrakech, Morocco. The most urgent cargo and personnel came to North Africa in a steady stream via our airplanes. The main cargo that we carried was usually spare parts for disabled aircraft. The Army personnel that we carried was usually Colonels and above.

In 1943 FDR flew to Casablanca to meet with Stalin and Churchill. When the meeting was over, he was driven to Marrakech and boarded our (TWA’s) plane for the return to Washington. The departure was in the late evening and there was a lot of security established around the plane.

I was almost ready to dispatch the plane when I walked under the plane’s wing and, in the dark, collided with a man in an army uniform. I excused myself and immediately realized that the man I had just bumped into was the commanding general of the entire war: five star General George C. Marshall. What do you say to a five star General but “Excuse me Sir”. I quickly got back to my business.

After six months of duty there, I was assigned similar duties in Prestwick, Scotland. After a year in Scotland, my draft board ordered me to return to the states to be drafted.

On another occasion when I was assigned special duty in London in 1943, and was there when the German Blitzkrieg was in full force showering London with incendiary bombs every night and I can well remember seeing London’s entire skyline lit up with fire night after night. Whole communities lived in the ”underground” every night. Either their homes were destroyed by fire or were about to be. Most of these people had lived there at night for four years. The underground in central London is very deep and was a perfect bomb shelter.

I was inducted into the Navy late in the war at Fort Meyer, Va. and sent to Bainbridge, MD for 11 weeks of boot camp. I was then assigned to the Headquarters of the Naval Air Transport Command in Patuxent River, Md. where I felt at home relating to things that I knew best: air transport.

I was later sent to an officer’s training school at Rensslear Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and emerged as an Ensign. The war ended shortly thereafter and I was placed on inactive duty. I was discharged from the Navy in 1955.

I am proud of my service during the war, particularly the time I spent in the Navy and I also remember well eleven weeks in boot camp, how could you ever forget that?

After the service, I continued on with TWA and later managed two Travel Agencies and served a brief stint with the State of New York in Albany.

Since moving to Bend in 2009 to live with my daughter, I have found joy in climbing Pilot Butte which I do most days ( I have logged 1,100 miles on that Butte) – also I win a gold medal there ever year in their “challenge” – (you compete against your own age group – and there aren’t many old Geezers like me in that race.) I also fell in love with Mt. Bachelor. I have had a season pass the last four years and am ready for the current season.

"I am Ensign Art Vinall. I am 95 years old and I feel like a million dollars - LIFE IS GOOD!"

presented by Lyle Hicks

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