#11 in a series
Sgt. Gordan Carpenter, Tulsa OK
By Paul A. Roales
I acquired a large scrapbook of photos in 2011 that belonged Gordan Carpenter of Tulsa, OK. The scrapbook had 94 military related photos (70 different) from WW2 and 25 of them had information written on the backs. There were also several hundred family photos in the scrapbook.
From what I have been able to compile from the www and the information on the photos Gordan Carpenter was born 21 Oct 1905 in Kansas, enlisted in the Army Air Corps on June 3, 1942 at Tulsa (enlisted serial #38129287), graduated with the Tenth Photographic Squadron (L) at Colorado Springs, CO on Feb. 13, 1943, and by 11/15/43 was in China. One photograph has "Somewhere in China 11/15/43" written on the back. I also have a 1943 Christmas card from him to his wife stating "China 1943". After he was discharged he worked as an Engineer for the City of Tulsa. He died on Feb. 16 1977 at the age of 71. His wife, Dicia (Sexton) Carpenter, had died in 1959 at the young age of 48. According to his obituary they had no children and he was survived only by nieces and nephews.
I contacted the National Archive to obtain his military records but was told they were destroyed in the fire of 1973. So I tried to contact any of the nine men who were identified by name on the back of several of his photos. So far I have only been able to track down the grandson of one of those men. So a lot of the information in this summary is based on inferences and skimpy evidence.
ABOVE: Left-Gordan Carpenter, Frank Kimak, and Clarence N. Berberick, in China. Right-Snake charmer in India.
BELOW: Left-Sawtooth hills around Kweilin, China. Right-Gordan Carpenter.
The first problem I encountered was that the Tenth Photographic Squadron (L) was not sent to China. I assumed he was transferred to another Photographic Squadron to utilize his training. A little research determined that only the 21st Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was in China on 11/15/43 (the date on one of the photos), so I assume he was assigned to that unit. One of the photos in the collection shows 2 soldiers seated on the hood of a jeep, and under the windshield of the jeep is painted “21” and a small American flag. I was told by a surviving member of the 21st Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron that this was how they identified jeeps assigned to their unit, so I think this confirms that he was in the 21st Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.
The next problem was to try and determine where in China he was stationed. The grandson of one of the pictured soldiers knew his grandfather was stationed in Kunming (Headquarters for the 21st), so I assume Carpenter was there when he took the photo of that man. But I also think Carpenter spent some time at Kweilin Airfield because 2 or 3 of the photos show the saw-tooth mountains that surrounded that area. According to the www the 21st had a detachment at Kweilin airfield from 12 July 1943 until 12 Sept. 1944. I know he was in China by Nov. 15, 1943 because of a date on one photo. So I think Carpenter was stationed at both Kunming and Kweilin during his time in China.
One of the photos show him with the rank of a Sergeant, so I know he attained at least that rank. I assume he was not discharged until after the war was over but I have no definite date. His enlistment was “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law”. I know he was still in China in June, 1944 because there is a picture of Vice President Wallace and General Chennault in the collection and Wallace only visited China in June, 1944. He probably had a rest leave to India at least once during his China tour because there are a number of photos taken in India in the collection.
ABOVE: Left-Vice President Wallace and General Chennault in China June, 1944. Right-Transportation in China.
The web page at http://community-2.webtv.net/cbivet/doc1/ contains a brief history of the 21st. Photo Recon Squadron written by Donald Kiefer~Senior Clerk~21st Photo Recon. Squadron. In part it says: "Col. Foster, only 26 yrs old at the time brought his pilots , after a year of training in Colorado Springs, to a staging base at Jorhut, India. where they, along with their planes, were flown by the ATC to their destination at Kunming, China. Ground crews came by boat, one of them, the Mauretania, sister ship of the illfated Lusitania, to Ceylon,to Bombay, then by train across India to Jorhut. Monsoons delayed by three weeks their arrival at their staging base in Jorhut. The treacherous Himalayan air route to Kunming was patrolled by the Japanese at that time and some of the planes did not make it to their China destination.The C-47 carrying myself, two NCO's and 2 tons of photo supplies, was forced to land about l00 miles short of Kunming, which was under threat of bombing at the time. I was able to then load the supplies onto a truck and with a Chinese driver come the rest of the way over the badly damaged Burma Road to Kunming, arriving five days later with the much needed photo supplies. After arriving in Kunmng in the summer and fall of l943, all personnel received additional training to prepare for the coming Japanese push into south and eastern China. A flight was dispatched to Kweilin to be closer to enemy targets. As the war progressed additional flights (detachments) were established at l4th AF bases near the eastern China defense perimeter."
This probably also describes Carpenter's move to China. He had trained at Colorado Springs before deploying to China and there is a picture of the SS Mauretania in Carpenter's album. This further ties him to the 21st. Photo Recon Group.
Despite skimpy evidence I think I have a reasonable picture of the military career of Gordan Carpenter. Perhaps this web page will keep his service to his country from being totally forgotten.
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