Robert Goddard

                                              By Bob Jamison

          This is no joke. Far from being a natural airplane enthusiast, many women, men, Boy Scouts, and other volunteers actually manned spotter towers in the “front line defense” of our nation. It was a noble effort to inform certain designated control depots exactly what was flying in their sector. Direction, type, engines, and estimated altitude were foremost to determine if we were indeed, reporting the possibility of attack from air by the enemy.

          Unlike today, the population was protected from much serious information in the early part of World War II. The reason was obvious; they did not want panic in the communities. Too much information about threats to our home front could demoralize our people. Instead, the wisdom of our defense department wanted to ensure that each and every person should do his part in the defense of our country.  

On the other hand, citizens were not allowed on the beaches at night nor were street lights to be remained lighted. Curiously, huge globs of oil were a constant menace on the beaches. Most beach houses even had kerosene floor mats on the steps to wipe off unwanted oil tracks in the houses.  A somewhat flippant remark about an off shore oil spill was taken as ‘tongue in cheek’ remark when many rumors of German U-Boats in the Gulf of Mexico were sinking tankers loaded with oil and gasoline for the European Theater.

                  Boy Scouts fanned out in the communities to collect aluminum pots and pans that folks no longer needed. A huge pile was always on display in the town center of most cities. In Dayton, Texas, a pile that seemed about forty feet high was on a vacant lot at the corner of Main Street and Cook Street. This caught the attention of all that haven’t been asked to donate to this great stock. That was a reminder they should do so.  The material would eventually be used to build airplanes.

          Volunteers would also join efforts to sell war bonds and dime stamps for a book until that person could fill enough in the book to buy a $25.00 bond. The smallest bond cost $l8.75. It was a good investment of ten years but the interest continued after that period. Naturally, there were bigger bonds for purchase and the effort was a colossal success in the cooperative effort of all citizens.

          The spotter towers were many. One was on the top of the Liberty County Court House. Liberty volunteers, mostly women, were manning the towers constantly. In Dayton, one tower was about five miles south of town on Hwy. l409. It was about thirty feet high and enclosed with walls and a roof. Windows were all around and a crank up telephone was directly connected with the defense center located at Ellington Field just south of Houston.

          In good weather, spotters usually sat outside on a walk way while listening and watching for the sight and sound of airplanes. But it wasn’t boring at all. While they did their duties manning the towers, they were busy talking about the day’s events, the war, and all the while they were knitting army wool army sweaters which would be donated to the military. They were furnished typical olive drab yarn but they furnished every thing else, especially labor.

          Since most were not familiar with all types of aircraft, the government furnished a silhouette picture if all airplanes whether friendly or foe. Training was available to qualify as a spotter just as our fighter pilots and gunners were trained in recognition.

          When an airplane was spotted the routine was an immediate crank on the telephone to the center. It went like this: “This is tower 34; we have a flight of six P-40 fighters flying at 270 degrees (west) at about 6000ft. Or, “We see a DC-3 flying north about 320 degrees at 9000 ft.

          This writer often accompanied his mother to the south Dayton spotting tower. A collection of all types of WWII airplanes adorned the ceiling of his room with dreams of once flying through the clouds to see what they really looked like on ‘both sides’. Or, slipping in the seat of a formidable P-5l and give the enemy what they deserved. But that was a bit premature.

          One particular incident I well remember when Mrs. J. F. Matthews and Mrs. W. T. Jamison were on their usual watch, a pair of P-38s (a twin engine fighter) buzzed their tower. Full throttle at an altitude of hardly more than tree tops, it looked like they would take off the roof of the tower.

            Very excited and without protocol or precise manner of reporting, Mrs. Matthews yelled on the phone to the center, “You have two P-38s headed your way and they are ‘whooping it up’”!!! I can imagine the grin that must have been on the faces of those two fighter pilots. Or what they might have imagined about the reaction of two little ladies of the town that were doing their part in the effort of the defense of our country.