One of B-25’s visitors knows his way around an aircraft

 

At left, Charlie stands in the doorway of an aircraft during World War II. At right, Charlie gives a thumbs-up as his son stands next to him in front of “Maid in the Shade” at the La Porte airport.

Column and photos by WNLP’s Mike Kellems (click photos to enlarge)

The Air Fair held at La Porte Municipal Airport this past weekend brought a lot of excitement to the visitors. Many came to see the classic cars on display and the airplanes lined up in neat rows, and a whole lot of folks enjoyed the pancake breakfast sponsored by the Westville Lions. Some estimates put the crowd at over 1,000 hungry aviation enthusiasts on Sunday, Aug. 15.

Charlie sits on a bench in Hawaii, where he was stationed during World War II.

I had the good fortune to spend some time with a gentleman who came to the airfield Sunday afternoon, someone with a special connection to the era that bore witness to the sleek, silver B-25 at the airport since midweek. Charles “Charlie” Link, Sr., came to the airport with his wife, Shirley, a longtime nurse affectionately known as “Tootie.” The couple were accompanied by Charlie, Jr., and his wife. They came with the specific purpose of paying a visit to the “Maid in the Shade” B-25. Charlie served our country in the Second World War and felt that it would be a good opportunity to see a a piece of history that was around at the same time he had served.

I learned that Charlie was a lifelong La Portean, having been born when Calvin Coolidge was president and the ’20s were roaring. A member of La Porte High School’s Class of 1943, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, a precursor to the current-day Air Force. Charlie’s enthusiasm to serve his country, like so many of his generation, was so great that he didn’t stick around to collect his diploma; by the time they were handed out, he was on his way to a series of posts for training. Stops included Utah, Missouri, California and Washington State, before he eventually ended up in Hawaii.

Charlie’s job in the Air Corps was aircraft armorer. His duties included servicing weapons, bombs and even camera equipment on both P38 and P39 aircraft. He offered examples of his work that included setting up a firing range at Lake Moses in Washington for the purpose of getting the operating systems and sighting of weapons exact and ready for battle.

At one point the rumor mill alerted Charlie that he and his comrades were about to be sent to Okinawa, however that rumor proved to be false and he ended up on a ship headed for Hawaii. It’s important to remember that while the beautiful island may sound like a paradise, it had just been brutally attacked a couple of years before. While stationed in Hawaii he spent time at three different air bases and was there when VJ Day was announced. Charlie’s face lit up with a bright smile as he talked about that day. He could still recall the name of the supply sergeant, Willie Pritchet, who finagled his crew a never-ending supply of beer. “It was ice cold, too!” he remembered of the brew.

Once the war was over, Charlie returned home and worked for a time at Haverstock Funeral Home. Charlie related that O.M. Haverstock was very supportive and even sent him to school in Indianapolis, where he eventually became a certified embalmer and funeral director. Charlie ended up leaving the funeral business and started work, like so many others, at Allis-Chalmers here in La Porte, where he was a purchasing agent. At one point in his career, which lasted until the plant closed in 1983, he was working directly with area steel mills and purchasing tons of locally produced steel. Charlie also spent several years working at a package liquor store and also served at La Porte Hospital for a decade in the receiving department.

WNLP’s Mike Kellems

Charlie and Tootie will achieve a huge milestone next month when they celebrate 70 years of marriage. They’ve raised their son, Charlie, and daughter, Rosemary, and both have lived a contented life, thankful to have experienced some of our country’s great times.

In the short time I spent with Charlie, it was clear to me he has earned his place as a member of “the greatest generation.” For his dedication to his country and military service, Charlie has earned our deepest respect and gratitude. I ask all of our loyal WNLP readers to join me when I offer a salute and say, “Thank you for your service, sir!”

7 Responses to “One of B-25’s visitors knows his way around an aircraft”

  1. Becky

    Aug 16. 2021

    What a great story. Thank you Charlie for your service. Thank you to all the men and women who have served and are still serving for us. Greatly appreciated

    Reply to this comment
  2. Kathy

    Aug 16. 2021

    Thank you for taking the time to find out about this veteran’s life and sharing it with us all.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Danielle Case

    Aug 16. 2021

    WOO HOO!! Congratulations and Thank You for your service, Uncle Chuck!!!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Joe Wiley

    Aug 16. 2021

    Such a great accounting of your time serving our country. For that we are eternally grateful. I am looking forward to seeing your son in September. 👍🇺🇸 May the Good Lord bless you and keep you safe.

    Reply to this comment
  5. David Stassel

    Aug 16. 2021

    Marvelous to see Charlie still smiling . Thanks for your service. (FYI, I am Lucille Stassel’s son,Mrs. Link’s former hospital colleague).

    Reply to this comment
  6. Dianne (Struss) Kessler

    Aug 16. 2021

    Charlie, a fellow Lutheran. I fondly remember working with you in Purchasing at Allis Chalmers. A wonderful story that I knew nothing about! What a diverse life you have had! Wishing you and Shirley a happy 70th Anniversary.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Karen

    Aug 17. 2021

    I never heard this story from Mr. Link, but it is not surprising. He and his wife, Tootie, were our chaperones ( and absentee parents) of many of us in the Maple City Cadets, for years. So wonderful to hear of such a enriching life, when all of us kids just thought he was a good supporter , a great equipment truck driver, a loyal fan, and a fantastic example of a good fatherly figure. Thank you for both your service to the country and service to the cadets!

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