About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Back Story.....Henri Charles Romieux

This blog post introduces Henri C Romieux and shares the history of Wold-Chamberlain Field.
Mary spent her enlisted time at the Naval Air Station on the north side of the field.
During World War II, Naval Air Station Twin Cities was used as a Navy training facility. Some work had already been done before the war at Minneapolis naval reserve air base, but immediately after January 1, 1942, expansion to air-station size began with the construction of barracks for 300 students and 600 enlisted men, instruction buildings, and storage facilities for 50,000 gallons of aviation gasoline.

We conclude Mary met Henri at the Naval Air Station.

Many of the "Letters to Mary" were written by Henri C. Romieux.
We know very little of Henri, except that he earned the affection of Mary. Most likely, they met in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On line research indicates that he was born January 23, 1904, which would have made him 5 years older than Mary at the time they met. Everything we learn about Henri comes from the text in his "Letters to Mary," which will be revealed chronologically in following blog posts.

Wold-Chamberlain field currently named (Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport) served the Naval Air Station training facility during World War II. Its most famous flyer was George H.W. Bush, who was flying the PT-17 Stearman there in 1943. He was the 41st President of The United States. 

The following information is an excerpt from Wikipedia.

In 1920 a hangar was built on a former auto racing track to accommodate airmail service, and the 160-acre property became known as Speedway Field. In 1923, the airport was renamed Wold-Chamberlain Field in honor of two local pilots, Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain, who lost their lives in combat during World War I. The airport soon became home to Northwest Airways, which in 1926 won the government's airmail contract and acquired the airport's only hangar.

World War II

In February 1942, after the United States' entry into World War II, the United States Army Air Corps 1454th Base Unit was assigned to Wold-Chamberlain Field to conduct a survey about the usefulness of the airport to the war effort. The unit's mission was to organize, coordinate and supervise the movement of cargo and passengers traveling though the airport by contract airlines and to and from Ferrying Command. Northwest Airlines remained in control of the control tower and flight facilities. Other construction was initiated to expand flight facilities, base operations, passenger service facilities, customs and port of entry facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to expand the ramp facilities and also to expand the airfield.
Personnel from the Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command arrived at the airport on 29 December 1942 to organize a control detachment. On 20 September 1943, the detachment was re designated as Station No. 11, Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command. The airport became a key stop on what was designated the "Alaskan Route", in which aircraft were ferried north to Edmonton Airport in Northern Alberta on the Alaska Route, to support the Alaskan Campaign against the Japanese, and also for eventual transport to Siberia as part of Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union.
Minneapolis was also a stop on ATC's "Crimson Route", the ferrying route between the manufacturing facilities in Southern California and the combat bases being constructed in the United Kingdom. It operated as a refueling and maintenance base on the transport route north to Crystal II in the Canadian Northern Territories or Goose Air Station in Labrador to support the combat forces in the United Kingdom, North Africa and other destinations.
Church Service Program dated November 21, 1943 from the archives of Mary Willis Garner

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