by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—Wayne White left his hometown of Tennessee, Ill., in 1943, to go overseas and fly bombing missions as a B24 photographer for the 454th Bombardment Group, U.S. 15th Air Force during World War II. Sixty-eight years later, the distinguished veteran wrote a book about his memories as an airman who participated in 37 missions in Europe over an 18-month stretch.
White’s book, “It Wasn’t My Time: An Airman’s Story,” was released last July, and is a recollection of World War II memories meant to be passed on so that today’s youth can understand the sacrifices, fear, trauma and emotions American soldiers experienced every day while fighting for their country. The book also chronicles White’s travels to Denver, Texas, Charleston, S.C., New York City, Brazil and Africa in preparation for the U.S. 15th Air Force (based in Italy), and the experiences that led to him being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart.
“I was an aerial photographer … took pictures of all the bomb spots. When the bombs were falling on the target, that’s when I was busy,” White said in an August interview for a DVD presentation. “I then brought (pictures) back for interrogation.”
White mentions in his book that he learned the terror and fear of war firsthand. During a mission in Ploiesti, Romania, the 15th Air Force lost 350 B24 planes over a single oil field target. The Air Force often bombed oil fields in an attempt to cut off the German’s fuel supply.
White will speak at the Elburn Town and Country Public Library from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, which is prior to the American Legion’s Veteran’s Day ceremony at the memorial across the street from the library. White will also sign copies of “It Wasn’t My Time: An Airman’s Story,” which can be purchased for $10 during the event.
White’s daughter is Cheryl Krauspe, an Elburn resident, who said her father wants to reach out to surviving veterans of World War II and encourage them to also participate in a celebration of their service.
“He hoped to inspire others to tell their stories, and to also strongly encourage them to take part in the great program, the Honor Freedom Flight,” she said. “This program transports World War II vets to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II memorial dedicated to their cause for freedom and remembering those who served beside them that didn’t survive.”
White, now 89 years old, is a resident of Macomb, Ill. He was the superintendent of Argyle Lake State Park in Colchester, Ill., from 1966 to 1991. He had three children with his wife, Bette, who passed away in 1995. For some time now, his partner has been Nancy Aydelotte, the widow of 454th Bombardment Group Gunner Don Aydelotte.
White plays golf almost every day, bowls in a senior league twice a week and loves to play cards. He also published “It Wasn’t My Time: An Airman’s Story,” with his own money.
The book was recently accepted by National Archives/Library of Congress Project, which seeks out stories like White’s. The State of Illinois History Project included the book in its collection, as well.
“’It Wasn’t My Time’ is a sincere series of stories that has been enjoyed by all who have read it,” Krauspe said. “What he has written teaches a firsthand account of the legacy and conditions of freedom, the value of sacrifice and the love of country.”
Wayne White speaking engagement/book signing
Friday, Nov. 11 • 9:30 to 11 a.m.
Elburn Town and Country Public Library
Copies of, “It Wasn’t My Time,” can be purchased for $10.