Honoring My Father’s Service in World War II . . . by Linda Whitesitt

Honoring My Father's Service; Don & Judy Whitesitt

Judith Elaine Whitesitt and Donald Lee Whitesitt

I don’t have anything close to a full story about my father’s service in World War II, at least not yet. But from the few pieces of memorabilia he saved, I know this — 

  • Donald Lee Whitesitt enlisted on July 25, 1942.
  • His photo appears in the Class of 43-6F (Arizona Gliding Academy, Wickenburg, AZ) with a nickname “Professor.”
  • Private First Class Whitesitt is pictured in the 25th Training Group (Jefferson Barracks, MO, April 6, 1944).
  • His military “occupation speciality” was “Administrative & Tech Clerk 405”;
  • He received the American Theater Ribbon, The Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, a Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Medal World War II.
  • He was a sergeant in the India-China Division, Air Transport Command in Calcutta (Kolkata) serving the China, Burma and India Theater.
  • His honorable discharge lists his “date of separation” as February 11, 1946.

Although I know next to nothing about what my dad actually did during the war, I can see something of what he saw during his time in the Air Transport Command by the photographs he took — pictures of Calcutta streets filled with people (he’s labeled one “humanity”); ships and troop transports at Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka); water buffalo; the hanging gardens in Bombay (Mumbai); the harbor in Singapore. And I know what was important to him when I look at a picture of a cross in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Calcutta with the name of one of his fallen comrades written in the margins and a photo of him hiding behind a newspaper with the very large headlines “Peace Official.”  

I can learn something about his service in the “Forgotten Theater of World War II” by rooting around the Internet and reading the stories of the men and women who served in the India-China Division, but it’s not enough. I wish I could talk sit across from him at our old dining room table and ask him how he started in a gliding academy and ended up serving as a clerk in India, how his war experiences changed his life, what he learned about himself during his years in the army, how he coped with being away from my mom whom he had married just a year before enlisting. 

In his obituary, one that Daddy wrote himself because he wanted to make sure that we got it “right,” he described his degrees and his work for the Social Security Administration (he helped to set up the Medicare program), the places he and mother lived after they retired, and his volunteer work. He saved his army service for last, almost as a footnote. As I begin my work on a history of my father’s life, I think I’m going to put it first.

Honoring My Father's Service; Donald Whitesitt

Donald Whitesitt reading about the end of World War II

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Linda is our story gatherer.

Read other memories about fathers herehere and here.

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