By Richard Mabey Jr.
Since I began this series of true-life stories of my dad’s journey with Seventh Army Air Corps at Hickam Airfield, during World War II, I have received a few emails asking me how I came to learn about this fortress of the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War. All I can say is that it was through a series of miracles.
I first began learning about Hickam Airfield, through my dad, particularly in the time period between October of 1965 and August of 1966. I was 12 years old at the time and fighting off a very serious attack of Rheumatic Fever. As my beloved cardiologist, Dr. Martin Rosenthal, once told me that I had a full blown text book case of Rheumatic Fever. I was required to have full bed rest for almost a full year. During that time, I had three long-term hospital stays. And, I did not go to school, but had bedside tutors.
During this time, every single night, after Dad ate his supper, my father would climb the 15 steps of the old Mabey Homestead and walk down the hallway to my bedroom. I had an old wooden desk chair placed beside my bed. Dad would sit at that old wooden chair and talk to me about everything from how things were going for him at work to what was happening with Boy Scout Troop 170 to how people in our church were doing and especially, his memories of serving in the Seventh Army Air Corps at Hickam Airfield, during the Second World War.
At Hickam Field, my dad worked as an airplane mechanic. He mostly worked on the famous P-51 Mustang fighter planes. Although, he did also work on some of the bomber planes. Dad was a very good airplane mechanic. In fact, he was such a good airplane mechanic that an article was written about him and it appeared in the Hickam Highlights newspaper. This was the official newspaper of Hickam Airfield, during World War II. Jerry Siegal wrote for Hickam Airfield. He was at Hickam Airfield the very same time that Dad was there. Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster were the creators of Superman.
Dad once told me that it was Jerry Siegal himself who interviewed him for the article that appeared in Hickam Highlights. If you look up Jerry Siegal’s biography it will state that Mr. Siegal wrote for Stars and Stripes, which he did. But, he also wrote for Hickam Highlights. I was in high school, when Dad showed me the article that Jerry Siegal wrote about him. Sadly, after Dad went Home to be with the Lord, Mom and I went through Dad’s keepsakes from Hickam, but we were not able to find the article. I regret not making a copy of it, back when I was in high school.
Also, while I was battling Rheumatic Fever, my paternal grandparents would visit with me, once or twice each week. Grandpa was retired then, so they would visit during the day. It is a funny thing because my bedroom was the very same bedroom that my grandfather had when he was a boy, growing up at the old Mabey Homestead. He shared the room with his brother, Earl. Grandpa came from a big family, so he did not have the luxury to have a bedroom all to himself.
During those visits, Grandma and Grandpa would share their memories of the letters that they received from Dad during his stay at Hickam Airfield. My grandparents were very patriotic. But, they shared with me the anguish of having three of their sons serving in the military during the Second World War. They were my dad’s older brother, Edward, then Dad, then my dad’s younger brother, Carl. I learned a lot about how Dad felt about his stay at Hickam from Grandma and Grandpa. The one thing that both my grandparents stressed to me was that my dad was very homesick during his time at Hickam.
My dad went Home to be with the Lord in May of 2005. At the time, my mom and dad were living in the small town of Saint Thomas, Pennsylvania along side the famous Lincoln Highway, also known as Route 30. When Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I left my job at the Chambersburg Public Opinion newspaper, to help take care of Dad. Dad chose to leave the hospital and be under the care of Hospice, in order to live his last months at home.
Miraculously, about two months after dad passed away, Bill moved in to the house next door. Bill’s daughter and son-in-law were my neighbors. Bill was in his late eighties and amazingly, had served in the Seventh Army Air Corps, during World War II, at the very same time that Dad was at Hickam. I figure that the odds of that happening were easily a million to one.
Every morning, Bill and I would take a walk around the neighborhood. And, during our walks, Bill would talk about his days and months at Hickam Airfield. After World War II, Bill went on to become a policeman in a small town in Pennsylvania. Bill was a good man. I often wondered if Dad and Bill knew each other at Hickam.
About a year after I moved to Florida, I called Bill. His son-in-law then informed me that Bill had passed away. I was so very sad to hear the news. I am very grateful that the good Lord provided me the opportunity to become friends with Bill. I learned so very much about Hickam Airfield from Bill.
And, of course, I have read every book I could find about Hickam Airfield. I have done extensive research on the Internet about Hickam. It was, and remains to be, a fascinating place. Almost haunting in its history. Like Pearl Harbor, Hickam was hit hard on that fateful day of the seventh of December of 1941.
The men who served in Word War II, seemed to be so quiet and unassuming about their heroism. Having grown up in the small town of Lincoln Park, many of my school teachers, Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, uncles and neighbors were veterans of the Second World War. But, they were so reluctant to talk about it. To coin Tom Brokaw’s phrase, they were truly the greatest generation.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put on the subject line: My Life Publications.