Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letter from Wichita, February 1944

Dear Betty and Susan:

It's been a strange adventure indeed building B-29s here in Kansas. I understand why Dwight sent us here, but it's awfully hard to get used to this place.

My days are a blur of flat, white landscapes and towering silver mountains of Superfortresses. To compare our B-17s to these mammoth new bombers would be to liken the Smith Tower to the Chrysler Building. And I'm afraid I'm turning out to be more of a Smith Tower kind of girl. These behemoths have an alien, and I must say, sinister quality, almost soulless. Perhaps the engineers who designed them meant it that way, since their single purpose is the defeat of a sinister and soulless enemy who sits at an unimaginable distance.

But a rivet's a rivet, so I'm just tying to concentrate on my work. And a lot of it there is. Dwight warned us we'd be busy, but Jane and I had no idea of the scale of the project. The Wichita factory's so far behind that girls are flooding in from all over the country to help out. It seems the B-29's complexity has been an endless headache, with defective planes rolling off the assembly line and redesigned parts arriving too late for factory installation. We're sometimes working out on the tarmac in daggers of cold wind and whirling snow. Never did I imagine I'd long for the damp gray of Seattle!

Speaking of icy, we Northwest girls got a less-than-warm reception when we arrived. I suppose the locals resented interlopers, and I admit we lacked appreciation at first for the difficulties of our undertaking. Things are better now and we've made a few friends.

I imagine you've seen the installments of Dyess's story in the Seattle Times just as we have here. Needless to say I find it hideously difficult to read about what happened in Bataan two years ago in light of where Bob may be now, but I refuse to give it up, though Jane thinks I should. If nothing else it's given me fresh strength of purpose for the job here in Kansas. Every rivet is one tiny step toward launching these wicked-looking weapons at an enemy who surely deserves them.

Well, enough with the morbid philosophy! I hope all remains well on Tillicum Drive and that Stormy is not being too much of a pest. I'm told that the workforce here is expected to be large enough by early March to allow our return to Seattle. By then the skies will be lighter and the first rhododendrons should be blooming. Never will anyone be as happy to see rain, moss and a Flying Fortress factory! Til then, take care.

Your friend,