Three More WWII Veterans Take Honor Flight

By Ellen Sussman Special to the Green Valley News

We're not finished yet. Three more local World War II veterans are headed for a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., with Honor Flight. They join 137 WWII veterans from Green Valley and Sahuarita who have made the trip. Honor Flight has turned its attention to Korean War veterans, but WWII vets are still making the trip and are going to the head of the line.

Local veterans will be on flights in April and May.

In the infantry
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Jim Wulliman, 91, served in the Army Air Corps from April 1944 through December 1945. He hadn’t signed up for Honor Flight until his daughter Jamie Gastell convinced him. She was in Washington in 2013, and was at one of the memorials when a contingent of Honor Flight veterans was there.

“She said it was so memorable and told me, ‘You have to go!’ She’s the one who got the paperwork,” Wulliman said. He will be on the April 23 flight.

He served with the infantry and recalls his convoy landing in Normandy and being in combat early on.

“I remember seeing a French farmer with his horse and plow stopping and getting off his equipment and hugging one of the troops when we arrived,” he said. After his division left France, they were sent to Czechoslovakia where they came upon hundreds of German troops.

“They wanted to surrender to the U.S. because they wanted to be safe. They didn’t want to surrender to the Russians,” Wulliman said.

As a clarinetist with the Army Air Corps, he recalls giving a concert with two guitarists, a bass player and a vocalist.

“The next day we were sent to the Battle of the Bulge."

The storm
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Paul Sauve, 89, served in the Army from March 1945 through December 1946 and spent most of service time in Japan and the islands off Japan. He will join Wulliman on the April flight.

The only times he felt in great danger was during hurricane season when he was aboard a ship for three days in the Pacific.

“Anchors got loose, planes aboard the ship were lost. That’s what got my attention the most during the whole time,” he recalled. “The ship almost went down. Some ships were lost.”

A typhoon with 115 mph winds and sea swells of 50 to 60 feet swept the area in June 1945, damaging 33 ships, destroying 76 airplanes and killing six men aboard ships. A typhoon in October 1945 was responsible for sinking 12 U.S. ships, killing 36 troops and injuring 100 Navy personnel.

Sauve has seen the Vietnam Memorial but is eager to see the World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004. He said friends who went on the Honor Flight trip were very pleased and he’s looking forward to the experience.

Long career
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Donald “Don” Kirkwood, 89, a resident of Quail Creek, is going on the May 21 Honor Flight trip.

He joined the Naval Reserve serving from December 1944 to October 1945, with most of his time spent in the Seattle Naval Hospital with scarlet fever. When he recovered he served there repairing radios.

In 1950, he began working as a civilian for the Army at Benicia Arsenal in the San Francisco Bay area where he installed radios in combat-ready tanks for shipment to Korea. He was also trained to work on anti-aircraft weaponry against Russians bombers.

In July 1973, the Department of Defense and the Army declared the threat from Russian aircraft to be minimal and the air defense mission was closed. Kirkwood transferred to Fort Huachuca, where he worked as chief of the Logistic Assistance Division to Army units worldwide including offices in Germany and Korea. He retired in 1982.

Contact Green Valley freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at ellen2414@cox.net.