Wartime Christmas

Bill and Velma Stacey

Velma’s story:

Velma and Janet in Salina, Kansas

Velma and Janet in Salina, Kansas

In 1945 we were living in Salina, Kansas. Bill had orders to go overseas, so I just planned to take Janet and go back home. When I got there, I got a place in Randolph living in the house with another couple. Then I waited to hear if Bill would be coming home for Christmas.

We had no phones, of course, so I heard by mail he would be able to come home for Christmas, which made me very happy. Then on December 23 he sent word to someone with a phone he wouldn’t be able to get a leave after all. Of course I was disappointed. Norma and Wayne didn’t want me to be alone so they invited me over for the holiday. We dressed the kids and took them to the Ward Christmas Party in Woodruff. Janet was 1 and John was 2. Santa always came to that party; it was the big event of the year, and we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

After we came home, we were dressing the kids for bed when there was a knock at the door. I didn’t think anything of it because it wasn’t my house, and Norma answered it. I still remember the tone in her voice as I was dressing Janet for bed. All she said was “Velma, look.” There was Bill standing in the doorway. It was my best Christmas surprise ever.

Bill Stacey in World War II

Bill Stacey in World War II

Bill’s story:

After the atomic bomb had been dropped my squadron was transferred to Okinawa. Knowing we would go any time, I sent Velma and Janet home so they could be near the family. We were preparing to leave for when plans changed. Suddenly Russia became a threat as Japan retreated, and they transferred us to Albuquerque, New Mexico to wait for our final plans.

While we were in Albuquerque, I was assigned to ferry bombers to other cities around the country. Two days before Christmas we still didn’t know where we were going, but they wouldn’t let us go home for the holiday. When they told me to take a bomber to Tucson, Arizona, I realized nothing could persuade them to let me go home, so I called to have someone tell Velma I wouldn’t be home after all.

Christmas time came, and I desperately wanted to get home to Velma and Janet. But we were scheduled to fly a B29 to Davis Monthan Airfield in Tucson about December 23. As I circled Davis Monthan I called the control tower for landing instructions, and the tower operator said “stay where you are. There are two P80s taking off.” I had scarcely heard of a P80 because the Air Force was so secretive about their new jet fighters. I soon

On December 23 Bill flew a B-29 to Davis Monthan Airfield in Tucson

On December 23 Bill flew a B-29 to Davis Monthan Airfield in Tucson

learned they were really something because, although it would have taken a P51 or a P38 several minutes to get up to where I was at 10,000 feet, these P80s made it in one pass. I was impressed and couldn’t wait to look at them when they came back and landed.

When we checked in our B29 we immediately began looking for someone who was going back toward Albuquerque so we could get back to base. The train would take too long. I happened to find a C46 transport pilot who wanted to get to but he had no copilot. I agreed to fly copilot for him to if he would drop off my crew in so, at least, they could be home for Christmas. He agreed, and we flew to . When he and I were getting ready to leave for we happened to find another pilot there who wanted to get to . So he became copilot, and I was free to head for home.

Bill volunteered to help fly a big transport plane, the C46, to Oklahoma City.  (Courtesy www.richard-seaman.com)

Bill volunteered to help fly a big transport plane, the C46, to Oklahoma City. (Courtesy www.richard-seaman.com)

But, by now, it was late evening on December 23 and the bus schedules to Evanston, Wyoming were slow. I found one which would get me there on December 24 at about 8 p.m. so I took it. I called ahead to have my folks pick me up in , which they did. Then, at about Ray took me to where Velma and Janet were staying with Wayne and Norma. Telephones were very scarce, and Velma had no way of knowing I was coming until I appeared on the doorstep. Norma answered the door and said nothing to me but exclaimed “Velma! Look!” Needless to say, it was the best Christmas I ever had.