Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Emmett Evans

I have written about my great-uncle Emmett, and how sometimes grief is so great that there aren't a lot of remnants of it for researchers.  And last week, I wrote about my experience in Digital Storytelling, which ended up with a much more personal story than this one, the one I thought was going to do.  But this is still a good story, so here you go, the background to Emmett's death, which I've learned since I first wrote about him in May.

After that blog was posted, I was given the diaries of  Emmett’s sister Norma and their grandmother, Rosa Branson, who shared a house with Emmett’s parents, Alta and Raymond.  Through their diaries you get a more complete picture of what happened. I also found his obituary in the Eugene, Oregon paper - which explained details about his death that my mom had never heard before.
Labelled: Emmett and Fontelle, Just Married 1942.  Norma and Tom are seated.
Norma: Emmy and Fontelle were married in July of [1942] on a hot night in Reno and came home happy young married people to set up housekeeping in Eugene which was to be jumped to Klamath Falls and back to Eugene again.

Emmett went to Klamath Falls for the initial phase of Civilian Pilot Training, or CPT.  In 1939, the Army had only 4500 pilots.  So they created CPT Program.  The CPT operated at 1,100 colleges and universities and 1,500 flight schools. They trained 435,000 pilots from 1939 to 1944. 
Emmett was called up to complete his pilot training with special instrument, night flight and aerobatics training, on March 16, 1943. 

Rosa: Pretty good day.  We just did up the work.  I ironed.  Got a telegram for Emmett to go to Coeur D’Alene Idaho to finish his flying course.  They was here for supper.  Emmett goes tomorrow.  I’ve written to Bertha.  Raymond set out one dozen cabbage.
Rosa, March 17: Pretty good day.  Just did up the work.  Alta went to have her hair fixed.  Emmett and Fonnie went to Portland.  Emmett went on to Idaho.  Dickie stayed with us and the rabbits.  Alta is going to Portland tomorrow to Norma’s.
Between December 1941 and August 1945, there were more than 52,000 Army Air Force accidents in the continental United States.  Nearly 15,000 people were killed in these domestic accidents.  But the CPT fatalities were outside the Air Force numbers.  They didn’t receive military honors and weren’t counted in military statistics.  Emmett was one of the unknown number of CPT pilots who were killed in training.

April 2, 1943.
Rosa: Emmett was killed this AM about 3 o'clock.  Died about 8 o'clock.  Raymond and Fonnie and Bettie went to Idaho.  A sad day for us.  I let Raymond have 20 dollars for expenses.
Norma: April the 2nd found Emmy killed in a plane crash in Coeur D’Alene Idaho, a permanent and awful blow to all of us this sting of which we can never lose.  The baby as yet unborn and unnamed came to the rescue and gave courage when and where it was most needed.

That baby was my mother, born 4 months later. 

The last piece of the Emmett puzzle is tracing his wife, Fontelle, and finding out what happened in her life after Emmett died.  I am working on that, and will have that last piece of the story sometime soon.

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