OSAGE | The magnitude of World War II and how it affected the world it is hard for many to understand.
One of those who does understand is John Whitaker, 95, of Osage.
Whitaker was assigned to the Army Air Force's First Air Commando Group in Asanso, India, about 100 miles east of the Taj Mahal.
He flew his light plane into Burma from there.
He was born in Osage and graduated in 1938.
In 1939, he started working at Davidson Gas and Electric, which was the biggest LP gas company in the state.
He went into service in 1943, training in California, Texas and the East Coast.
"We started pushing the Japanese out in November of 1944 and had pushed them out by May of 1945," he said.
Whitaker was assigned to fly a Stinson LD, a light, unarmed aircraft.
“We hauled supplies into Burma, and casualties out,” he said. “We were probably the only ones to fly an unarmed plane. We got shot at, but we couldn’t shoot back.
“My plane was full of bullet holes, so I put some glue in the holes and covered them with pink tape.”
Danger lurked in other places as well. Pointing to a picture of himself and a corpse near his plane in a published book about the First Air Commandos, he related the story of how one morning he found the corpse near his aircraft. The Japanese had attempted to blow up Whitaker’s aircraft, but the explosives had malfunctioned.
At the rear base in India, Whitaker’s unit lived in housing holding 15 servicemen. While in Burma, they slept in tents.
He was exposed to disease, suffering from malaria, dengue fever and other fevers.
While in the service, he married his wife, Elieen, who died in 2004.
When he returned home, he resumed his job at Davidson. In 1978, he retired from Standard Oil Co., which bought out Davidson, and worked for Therma Gas for a few years.
In regards to serving in WWII, Whitaker said, “It was something we had to do, so we did it. A lot of good people lost their lives in that war.”