World War II veteran recalls Dec. 7, 1941

Lloyd Winkle recalls the fearful day of Dec. 7, 1941, and how he responded by joining the U.S. Army Air Corps. 

Staff photo by Cathy Spaulding

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Lloyd Winkle recalled the fear he felt immediately after the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Winkle said he had graduated Checotah's Central High that summer and was working a welding job in California.

"When we first heard about the bombing — I want to say it was on a Sunday — they alerted all of us," Winkle recalled. "You had to take turns listening to the radio, when they'd tell us there was any foreign planes coming to the coast or not. It was scary times because we weren't familiar with that kind of atmosphere."

When news of the bombing became a declaration of war, Winkle responded. He joined more than 16 million people who served during World War II.

Winkle, 94, is part of a decreasing number of people who can talk about the war.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs projected that, out of 16,112,566 U.S. service members from World War II, 1,711,000 are alive. Of those, 9,453 are in Oklahoma, according to information obtained by Nita McClellan, public affairs officer for the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

Winkle said he registered for the draft in 1942. 

"I didn't want to go into the Army, so we volunteered for the Air Corps, some friends and I, and we all shipped out together," Winkle recalled. "Three or four of us went in together instead of splitting up. I went into the supply department. All the ammunition and food — and bombs for the airplanes. Kept them well finished. We went out at night, hauling bombs and ammunition."

He recalled going into North Africa in 1943, then moving into Italy.

"I spent my 21st birthday sitting on the steps of a cathedral in Rome, Italy, eating rations out of a tin can," Winkle said. "It was quite an exciting time."

He later served in the Pacific, seeing action in Saipan, Okinawa and Guam.

Winkle recalled perilous times.

"We ran and hid in cane fields and culverts to find safety," he said. "You get to the place where a person can fight and help each other, then all of a sudden you have to think things out yourself."

He spent the war's waning days at Tinian Island, the launching base for the Enola Gay. Crews on the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

"I was right next to it, but I never did fly it," Winkle said. "We were fixing to invade Tokyo when they dropped the atomic bomb. And we were so happy about those fellows then. Thank the Lord I came back."

After the war, Winkle went into the ministry with the Assembly of God.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928, @cspauldingMPhx or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

Locations

This Week's Circulars