Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit

Posted 12/12/2012 |  Updated 03/14/2024

Introduction

"Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit" was an on-site exhibit that opened at The History Center on October 25, 2005. Its 22 panels and 5 exhibit cases showcased photograph and document reproductions and original artifacts, telling the story of Angelina County during World War II. The exhibt remained up through 2006. The History Center was proud to host local school children, veterans, Angelina County citizens, and travellers eager to learn about county's contribution to the war efforts in the armed forcesr, at home, and in local industries. The 6 images in this online exhibit are a small example of the photos and documents that were displayed for the physical exhibit. For an indepth look at Angelina County during the war and to see many of the images from the exhibit, plus more that were not featured in the exhibt, see the 2005 issue of The Pine Bough Magazine.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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"Little Boots"

"Little Boots," a B-17 Bomber of the Eighth Air Force's 615th Bombardment Squadron, 401st Bomb Group (Heavy), flies over Germany in about 1944. From the collection of Tom B. McKinney of Burke, who served as the plane's crew chief at Deenethorpe, England. McKinney slept in tents along the air field runways and was responsible for readying the plane before and after each flight, including refueling and reloading with bombs and ammunition.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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Bill Wesley of Lufkin Guards Premier Tojo

Born on December 30, 1884, the son of a general in the Japanese Army, Hideki Tojo followed his father into the military and rose through the ranks. By 1940, he was Japanese War Minister, responsible for Japanese military operations and in charge of industrializing and mobilizing Japan's forces as the island nation began to spread into Southeast Asia. In July of 1940, his mobilization tactics and aggressive expansion policies began to strain the already difficult relations with the United States. Appointed Premier in 1941, Tojo became defacto dictator of Japan, with complete control of all military, civilian, and industrial operations. He ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II and beginning the long, fiercely fought and incredibly destructive Pacific Theater of Operations. Tojo remained in power until the disastrous string of Japanese defeats forced him to resign in July of 1944. Nine days after the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, Tojo attempted suicide. The Japanese were defeated and he was a wanted man. Arrested a short time later, he was convicted of seven counts of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Lufkin's Bill Wesley guarded Tojo during his trial, and remembered the Japanese Premier as a quiet, diginified man. As Wesley expected, on November 12, 1948 Hideki Tojo was sentenced to death for his war crimes. The former Premier of Japan was hanged on December 23, 1948. Wesley heard the news on his way to work in Lufkin. While he knew the verdict and expected the outcome and he also believed it was the correct way for the international community to react to Japan's World War II actions, Wesley was deeply affected by this historical event that he had been so close to.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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Preparing for the D-Day Jump

A smiling, smut-darkened John H. Taylor of Lufkin, standing far right, a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles, waits with Stick #77 just before take off at 11:07 p.m. on 5 June 1944 for the D-Day jump into Normandy.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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Brenner Pass Flight Log

This page from Frank Devereaux's flight log tells of bombing missions in early 1945 aboard B-25 bombers as part of the 380th Bombardment Squadron (310th Bombardment Group), then assigned to keeping closed Brenner Pass, an important German Army supply route between Austria and Italy. Usually delivering four 1,000 pound bombs each, the planes attacked railroad yards and bridges. Devereaux served as a togglier/bombardier and received the Purple Heart medal for the injury mentioned here.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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Rothhammer 1944

Once believed to have been inscribed by a German prisoner of war, this stone forms part of an entrance wall to a Lufkin POW camp that operated between late 1943 and early 1946. However, the inscription was made by Oklahoma-born U.S. Army PFC Glynn S. Rothhammer who was stationed in Lufkin at the time. During this time Lufkin, the county seat, was home to two POW camps, where several hundred German prisoners were brought to perform forestry work, primarily in the pulpwood and lumber industries. The Lufkin Daily News reported on activities of the camps, including a work strike in early June 1944. The stone wall pictured here, originally part of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp wall of the 1930s, still stands off Raguet Street in northwest Lufkin. Photo, September 2005.

Angelina County at War: A World War II Exhibit
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You Have Been Trapped

When the Allies invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944, they faced an entrenched and highly prepared German Army. The sheer size of the invasion force and the determination of the Allies - from commanders to foot soldiers, steadily overtook the most heavily guarded coastline in European history. Allied casualties were high, but the invasion was unrelenting. Once Allied soldiers and paratroopers reached the interior of Normandy, they fought determinedly. The German commanders tried to demoralize the invading troops by dropping these leaflets throughout Normandy, urging them to surrender, to give up a hopeless fight. J.L. Bradford, a Navy LST pilot who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, saved this leaflet. He was not demoralized and had no thought of surrender upon reading the German propaganda, but he did decide it would be an interesting momento from the invasion, relic of the German Army's last ditch effort to keep their hold on Europe.

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