THE RARE BREED |
Recognizing Area Veterans Of World War II
Chester Corporon Helped To Keep
The B-24's Flying
BUDDIES IN ITALY: Chester Corporon, center, with two air crew buddies of the B-24 bomber, Toggle Annie: Tom Collins, left; and Frank Jones, right, in Italy.
For Chester Corporon, World War II took him from the ricefields in the Collegeport area to being a ground crew chief for B-24 bombers in Italy.
The son of Ira M. and Carrie Lee Jenkins Corporon was born at Citrus Grove on Jan. 4, 1923. He was an 18-year-old rice farmer when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor on that December day in 1941.
On Nov. 19, 1942, Chester, along with his cousin, Duane Corporon, and Robert "Bob" Ackerman of Blessing, went to Houston and joined the Army Air Force.
"All three of us thought we would be able to stay together," Chester recalls. "And we did," he adds, "for about 30 days."
After the initial training, he was chosen to attend an airplane mechanics school at Amarillo for 14 weeks. Then it was to the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command's airplane mechanics school at Seattle, Wash., to learn the workings of the famed Boeing B-17 (Flying Fortress) and the B-24 Bomber. He had been promoted to Corporal by the time he received his diploma from the Seattle school on June 11, 1943, qualified as a Crew Chief.
After some 17 months, mostly at the Air Force tech schools, he shipped out by ship from Virginia for the European-Africa-Middle Eastern (EAME) theater on March 18, 1944 and arrived on April 8, 1944. He remained overseas until Nov. 1, 1945, a total of one year, 8 months and one day.
Corporon became posted as a crew chief with the 826th Bomb Squadron of the 15th Air Force in Italy. There were usually three members to a ground crew for each plane, sometimes four. Ground crews repaired the planes, patched up holes, changed out engines--all the work needed to keep the aircraft loaded and ready for flying.
Corporon and his crewmates were assigned to the B-24 bomber that had been given the name, "Toggle Annie." B-24s could carry up 8,800 pounds of bombs and had a maximum speed of 300 miles per hour, with a range of just over 2,000 miles.
Toggle Annie logged an impressive record for one bomber. The American Legion magazine reported in its September 1979 edition: "Toggle Annie proclaimed 90 daylight missions and 17 night runs. 107! Toggle Annie must have logged 100,000 miles, fully half of that distance under almost incessant fire. That would be about the equivalent of flying twice around the world through the ripping of machine guns' bullets, ugly black balls of flak and the constant roar, down below, of German anti-aircraft cannon."
Towards the end of the war, Corporon also worked on another bomber.
For his valuable ground crew responsibilities, Corporon was credited with participation in the Rome-Arno, No Appennines, Po Valley, Southern France, Rhineland and Air Combat Balkans campaigns.
For his military service, Corporon received the American Theater Medal; EAME Campaign Medal with seven Battle Stars; Good Conduct Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge with one Battle Star; and the Victory Medal.
Toggle Annie made it back to the States. But, when last seen--in a photo in the September 1979 issue of American Legion magazine, she was parked in line on the open desert at Sandia Air Force Base near Albuquerque, N. Mex., with her number of mission symbols still painted on her side, awaiting the hammers and torches of salvage crews. Part of her valuable metals may have been reclaimed for use in modern day jets. Maybe.
Corporon returned to the United States on Nov. 18, 1945--one day short of being three years since he had enlisted. He received his discharge at San Antonio, with the rank of Staff Sergeant, on Jan. 14, 1946, ten days after his 23rd birthday.
That same month he met his future bride, Margaret Hermis, in Bay City. They were married on Aug. 6, 1947.
Chester and Margaret became the parents of four sons and a daughter, namely sons Charles Ray, employed at the South Texas Nuclear Plant; Thomas Lee, of Collegeport, employed with El Paso Oil & Gas; Carl Melvin and Victor Alvin, both farmers and ranchers at Collegeport; and daughter Linda Maxine, a housewife in Austin. There are also 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Corporon has preserved two mementos that he is proud of. One is a Certificate of Appreciation for War Service from General "Hap" Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces. It states:
"I cannot meet your personally to thank you for a job well done, nor can I hope to put in written words the great hope I have for your success in future life.
"Together we built the striking force that swept the Luftwaffe from the skies and broke the German power to resist. The total might of that striking force was then unleashed upon the Japanese. Although you no longer play and active military part, the contributions you made to the Air Forces was essential in making us the greatest team in the world.
"The ties that bound us under stress of combat must not be broken in peacetime. Together the share the responsibility for guarding our country in the air. We who stay will never forget the part you have played while in uniform. We know you will continue to play a comparable role as a civilian. As our ways part, let me wish you God speed and the best of luck on your road in life. Our gratitude and respect go with you."
Corporon was also among those who received the following letter from President Harry Truman:
"To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation. As one of the Nation's finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be called upon to perform. Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace."
CHESTER and Margaret Corporon, on their 50th anniversary in 1997.
FOR OTHER FEATURES ON VETERANS.....Click Here