It was 1943 and the world was in chaos. Japan had declared war on the United States on December 7, 1941. In Chicago, Illinois, 18 year old Donald Blanke got his notice that he had been drafted. He said his goodbyes and went off to do his part.
Donald's first stop was Camp McCoy in Wisconsin for basic and then he was sent to Asheville, North Carolina for specialized training. He thought he was going to be a clerk but his scores and abilities were brought to the Army's attention and they decided his talents would best be used in a brand new field. Donald joined the ranks of the Army Airway Communication System Operators and was shipped out overseas.
It was not a pleasant voyage to his assignment. From Long Beach, California, Don's ship made its way to Australia, a trip made miserable by both the heat at the Equator and the number of ships being sunk by the Japanese. He took another ship from Australia to India and then he and his fellow soldiers were assigned to guard a train headed to northeast India. Once there, they were put on an airplane and flown over "The Hump", that range of mountains known as the Himalayas. He was headed to Kunming, a city in China at the end of the Burma Road, used to resupply Allied forces in Burma and China.
He served out the rest of the war there supporting the Army Air Corps and the famous Flying Tigers of Claire Chenault, of which he became a part. The Japanese took offense at the base in Kunming and tried to wipe it off the face of the earth several times. He did note that a lot of bombing attacks weren't too accurate but one time the Japanese meant business. The attack was particularly heavy with the Japenese surrounding his base. The Japenese were beat back with the assistance of the British.
The Communications System Operators had numerous varied jobs. They ran the flight control towers and provided weather forecasts for fliers going on missions. They also ran the communications systems including coming up with innovations improving the flow of information.
The Air Corps got along well with the Chinese, both the fliers and workers at the base. The Chinese learned English to work better with the Americans.
On at least one leave, Don was able to spend time in India. On the base itself, he ran the movie projectors, Hollywood was definitely very popular over there.
Don received 3 combat Bronze Stars. This enabled him to earn an earlier return after the war ended as soldiers were being returned based on a point system, and the 3 medals qualified Don for an early exit. He returned again via ship to the East Coast. He met his future wife at college while attending on the GI Bill and had 3 sons.
16.1 million men and women served the United States during World War II. This is just one story among millions, of a man who considered it only his duty to serve his country. All are heroes. They just don't consider themselves to be anything extraordinary.