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Interview with Charles Wesley Borders [3/3/2012]

Ms. Leger:

We actually have a veteran here who is going to do his history for you live. And so Teri Nunley is our court reporter today and we have Judge Pulliam -- am I saying that right -- is going to be the interviewer of our veteran. So -- The one thing I would request that each of you do, please treat this like a deposition, just like you're in court, just like you're in church. If you have your cell phones on, please turn them off at this time. Try to keep any noise very limited; not only for our court reporter's sake but for everyone around you because as I said, these are great histories. You're going to absolutely admire everything these veterans have done for us so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do today. So I'm going to go ahead and turn it over to Judge Pulliam and if you'll introduce our veteran.

Jason Pulliam:

Can everyone hear me?

Mary Berry:

Judge, let me just say a few words about you. Judge Pulliam, he's one of our County Court at Law judges and he's a marine, ex-marine, and he was a JAG officer. And we did our very first -- here in Bexar County, we did our very first Veterans History Project and he helped us with it and we did it on Veterans Day and we did it the following day. And Judge Pulliam has come to me and said, I will help you get the attorneys and I'm going to go to the Young Lawyers Association. And so we are presently scheduled for March 31st here at Air Force Village One to do our second Veterans History Project. So we are very thankful that he has taken this; but not only him, our bar, our San Antonio Bar really has come through for us. Okay. Sorry, I just wanted to say that about him. He's wonderful.

Jason Pulliam:

Thank you.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Hello Ladies. Hey, that works pretty good, doesn't it? Never saw so many pretty women in all my life.

Jason Pulliam:

But none prettier than your wife?

Charles Wesley Borders:

We have -- we have 67 years and climbing.

Jason Pulliam:

Well, good afternoon everybody. This is going to be a veterans history, very much like a deposition. I'm going to ask the colonel some questions about his life and his military service and we're going to let him take the lead and provide his full background and history and the rich culture and tradition of the military service here in Texas and his particular service. And we're going to get under way right now. My name is Jason Pulliam. I am the Judge of County Court at Law Number 5 here in Bexar County. Today's date is March 3, 2012. I am conducting an oral history interview of Colonel Charles Wesley Borders. We're going to call him Wes Borders for the purpose of this oral history. We are at the Marriott Plaza Hotel here in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The name of our court reporter is Teri Thomas Nunley. And our veteran this afternoon as you've already heard is Colonel Wes Borders. His date of birth is April 10, 1922, and he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the United States Air Force. He served in three wars and so we're going to try to fit in a pretty detailed military history in an hour and 15 minutes and so I think we should get under way. Colonel Borders, tell us about your family and what led you to join the U.S. Air Corps.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Thank you, Judge. Both sides of my family came to Texas at an early -- early times and they stayed there -- lived in the east part of Texas before it was a state, of course. And some of my mother's relatives fought with Sam Houston at San Jacinto because they lived in what is now Spring. And in the Civil War, my grandfathers on both sides fought in the Civil War for the South since they were from Texas. In World War I, my father was married and had two children. They drafted him late and he went to boot camp in Louisiana. And the war ended before he got to go fight, so he was pretty happy with that. In fact, he walked home. He was about 40 miles from where he was living and he walked home on Armistice Day. I'm the third of six children of that union, my father and my mother. My older brother served in the United States Navy during World War II and my younger brother just kind of missed them all. He was quite a bit younger. He wasn't born until late in life for my mother and so he missed the wars. I, of course, was the middle child and we were -- I was born in Kenedy, which is about 60 miles southeast of here. When I was five-years-old, we moved to Hallettsville which is 100 miles east of here on the way to Houston. My father was a high school math teacher and my mother was a farmer's daughter and we farmed and taught there. And one day, three DH.4, De Havilland 4 biplanes from Kelly Field landed in our patch just behind the house. They were lost, out of gas, and the last one over the fence took the fence and damaged his gear. Well, they sent gasoline for the other two and they went home and the third one stayed a week while they repaired his landing gear. And during that week, I was the king of the -- I was the king of the airplane. I got to sit in the cockpit and I got to hang around with the pilot and played with his scarf and so I was kind of hooked right there. I was eight-years-old at the time. So we moved to San Antonio, I was 11 I guess. I graduated from Jefferson High School here in 1939, so you can relate to that a little bit.

Jason Pulliam:

So what did you do directly after high school?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I went to work and I went to -- I was trying to get some -- some college. I went to San Antonio Junior College for a semester and I was working nights and you could -- I couldn't get into the U.S. Army Air Corps at the time because I didn't have all the qualifications, but when the war started, they took you -- they took you with lesser qualifications.

Jason Pulliam:

Where were you exactly when the war started?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was right here in San Antonio on 1715 Craig Avenue, West Craig Street I think.

Jason Pulliam:

And so did you just put your name in again for reenlistment and they took you once the war went away?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes. Well, I had actually signed up for the Canadian Air -- Royal Canadian Air Corps which had an office in the St. Anthony Hotel, but when December 7th came, he said here is your papers. I'm persona non grata, you have to go join your own outfit, so I walked around the corner and joined the aviation cadets. I was now qualified. I was young and fast and quick and I could see good.

Jason Pulliam:

And where did you do your training?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I went to pre-flight here at Kelly Field and during that pre-flight, they started building Lackland and I was the first of the troops that walked up the hill at Lackland and finished out my basic training there, my pre-flight training. Then I went to first flying schools at Victory Field, Vernon, Texas, then back to Randolph for basic and Brooks for advanced. I graduated from Brooks February 16, 1943.

Jason Pulliam:

Can you explain how you became a pilot?

Charles Wesley Borders:

How I became a pilot?

Jason Pulliam:

What led to your decision to become a pilot rather than pick some other military occupational specialty?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, that was the -- young -- young men at that age, that was the main goal for all of them. If they wanted to fly, they wanted to drive the machine. So if you qualified, they sent you to flying school. If you didn't -- some of them -- some of them couldn't qualify and some wound up being navigators, bombardiers, all sorts of things, but --

Jason Pulliam:

And how did you first get actively engaged in combat missions in World War II?

Charles Wesley Borders:

After flying school, I went to fighter school in Georgia. Then I went to reconnaissance school in fighter airplanes in Mississippi and I was shipped to the southwest Pacific area in New Guinea to join a unit in November of 1943 and started flying combat at that time in P-39s. We wore them out. They were beginning to become obsolete and we flew P-40s for about three months after we wore out the P-39s. And then we got the first P-51s in the whole Pacific Theatre as a replacement for that.

Jason Pulliam:

And can you tell us -- I think you flew a record number of combat missions in World War II. Can you tell us the number and explain the different planes you flew for those missions?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, they were all fighter airplanes. P-39, P-40, P-51. The P-39 had an amazing amount of armament on it. It had a 37-millimeter, two 50 calibers and four 30 calibers and it was really good for strafing, which is what we did. It wouldn't -- it wouldn't maneuver as well as some other planes, but for shooting, it was a blast to shoot. We wore them out, of course. The P-40s had six 50s in it, six 50 calibers. And it was an older airplane as well. These were the last off the assembly line that we flew. They were new, but they were becoming old. The P-51 was brand new, of course, and it was a D -- a D model with a bubble canopy. It had -- it had six 50s in it also. And we carried bombs and wing tanks and rockets. You could intersperse those on the wing racks and depending on what your mission was, we -- our main mission, although we were called reconnaissance, was low level strafing and bombing because no one had as much experience with low level flying as we had during our reconnaissance training. So we -- as a consequence, we lost a lot of people. The squadron had a complement of 35 pilots, the C.O. and ops officer and 33, three flights of 11. And in my first year we lost 30 out of 35, so you get a feel for the -- that didn't last too long. Not the original 30, but we lost 30 during that first year of operation.

Jason Pulliam:

Can you tell them the number of missions that you flew and came back safely from?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I came back safely from -- from 202 of the 205. I got shot down in a P-39. I had to ditch it in the ocean and that was pretty exciting.

Jason Pulliam:

Where exactly were you when you were flying your combat missions?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was on the north -- the north side of New Guinea Island flying in the Danang area and I got shot pretty -- pretty good there and I couldn't get home. And so I was going around a big thunderstorm and I got low down to get -- get away from the skirt cloud and my engine just quit. And the guys with me found a PT boat coming around the storm and got him to pick me up. So I was only in the water about 45 minutes. That was a pretty -- pretty good day for me.

Jason Pulliam:

Who was the enemy that you were fighting in World War II?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, it was the Japanese but what we were fighting most was the Pacific Ocean and the weather and health, water. And then there were the Japanese; they were trying to kill us, too. But really, you know, the main thing you had to have over there to survive was you had to have bath water every day. Then you had to have drinking water every day. And those were the two main things that you had to have because it was equatorial and it was always hot, always humid and we -- we would just be alive with rashes and those kind of things from the heat. We couldn't wear underwear at all. That was impossible. Or any kind of a thing like that. We couldn't wear our flight suits because they were too scratchy. We wound up wearing old timey, before World War II khaki pants and shirts because they were soft and you would wash them a lot and they would soak up the perspiration.

Jason Pulliam:

How long did you serve in World War II in terms of years?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was there a year and a half in active combat. Of course, I never got out. I was in -- I stayed in 30 years from '43 to '71. September of '71 I retired, but --

Jason Pulliam:

And when did you return from World War II?

Charles Wesley Borders:

In -- June 14th, 1945. And I got married June 28, 1945. See, I still remember.

Jason Pulliam:

And this is your lovely wife, Jacqueline, with us today?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes.

Jason Pulliam:

In the inter war period between World War II and the Korean War, what did you do?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, we became a separate service in 1947 called the United States Air Force, separated from the army. And we were a large corporation basically and we didn't have anyone to run it, so we had to train people to run it. So I became what they call nowadays a CFO. I went to school in statistics and analysis, management analysis, budgets. I learned how to do budgets and all the fiscal things because you're the chief fiscal officer is what you amount to of this corporation. And I also did a lot of war plans and at peace time you always plan for war. So I became pretty expert in war plans and I did attend the University at Maxwell, the Air University on several courses. We -- we did a lot of training when you could go to a course for a few months and not lose your job. No one liked to get out and go back to school for two years and get completely out of the circuit because you just got lost in the shuffle. And that's what happened to me, so I got my education as I went along. I have six hours -- six years of college credits with no degree.

Jason Pulliam:

And what was your rank at the time you were doing this educational training?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, at the end of World War -- I went into the service as second lieutenant. At the end of World War II in '45, I was a captain, two -- two Silvers, and then I was a major. I did a lot of this -- a lot of this training, captain and major. And then I went to Korea in 1950 when it started.

Jason Pulliam:

Okay. What type of combat planes did you fly in the Korean War?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I was -- I was in the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in Okinawa when it started, but when I got to the combat part of it, they wouldn't let me fly combat because I was in charge of all the money. I sent a payroll -- I sent a payroll to a forward operating base during the war and I gave it to a fighter pilot just to take it up there. He flew a mission on route and he got shot down with a whole bunch of thousands of dollar payroll in cash, and so they grounded all of us that were in that business. So we had -- we had cargo airplanes they let us fly so -- In Korea, I flew 105 missions in a C-47 and mostly it was back in the back hauling bombs and rockets and dead marines out of frozen Chosen. That was a pretty grim duty, but --

Jason Pulliam:

Can you give us an idea of some of the awards that you have earned throughout your career?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, fliers get air medals for flying missions. And if they do pretty well, they do really good when they get a Distinguished Flying Cross. And I have -- I have several air medals and a DFC. I also ran some pretty large operations and for that, sometimes they will award you with what they call a Legion of Merit. In Vietnam, I ran the entire Pacific fleet, air fleet for two years and for that I got a Legion of Merit. All my promotions are overseas by the way. I got promoted to full colonel in Vietnam. I went back over there in '64 as a lieutenant colonel, then got promoted to colonel and --

Jason Pulliam:

When you came back from World War II and you had your lovely wife, did you start a family?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes. We have a son Charles, Jr. He went on to fly 184 missions in F-4s out of Danang in Vietnam. His mother just about had a fit. She never worried about me. I was always too mean to get hurt but you send her baby over there and they're firing telephone poles at him all day every day, she gets really upset. And the young one, Michael, he -- his eyes wouldn't permit him to go fly airplanes so he became a missileer, and he was one of the ones shooting the -- shooting the missiles from Vandenberg down range to Kwajalein on all their test firing of the big missileers. And he had a 20-year career in the Air Force also, so --

Jason Pulliam:

And tell us how you got to Vietnam.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was at -- I was -- I was at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, which is on Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne, as everybody knows. We were flying C-123 airplanes. It's a little twin engine cargo airplane. And I was a squadron commander at the time. And so we were sending -- we started sending them on temporary duty over to Vietnam when we were sending advisers during the Kennedy Administration. We sent them over and bring them back after two months and rotated. So I convinced the wing commander to convert us all to C-130s, which is a larger four-engine airplane and we did that. And after that happened, President Johnson announced this big build-up over there of 500,000 troops on the ground, and so that's when I put up my hand and said, Send me. So I went over in '64 to -- to run all those things I had been sending over there. So for a year, I ran the in-country airline with those C-123s, four squadrons of them. Plus, yes, Agent Orange. I was the guy that was running the detachment that spread Agent Orange all over the country. So anyway, that's how I got there. And a year later they asked me to run the entire airlift fleet, which had some 200-odd four-engine machines and 170-odd two-engine machines in the whole fleet. And we moved 92 percent of all cargo that had moved in the Pacific. And it belonged -- that -- that effort belonged to the commander-in-chief PACOM which was the navy admiral in Hawaii because he had the whole Pacific in a unified command basis. So we were really running the admirals airline for the theatre.

Jason Pulliam:

So you were basically in charge or very high up in the Pacific command?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was the operator. I was the director of operations for the whole operation. The fellow that prioritized every target, every -- every piece of cargo that moved was an army colonel sitting in my office. He set the priorities and I moved it to wherever it needed to go with the people and the airplanes necessary to move it 24/7 for two years.

Jason Pulliam:

So you were in charge of a large portion of the military assets that you --

Charles Wesley Borders:

All of the airlift assets. Eight percent came from the United States only and that came from material airlift command, assets from the states, but only 8 percent. We moved 92 percent of the rest of it.

Jason Pulliam:

Were you involved in any strategic war planning at that level in the Pacific?

Charles Wesley Borders:

To a degree, yes.

Jason Pulliam:

Can you explain some of that?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, SAC has -- SAC had some -- strategic air command had some recovery bases in case of a nuclear war that they would drop their bombs and recover at X base because they couldn't get back home. And I had to steal several of those from -- to use to station airlift units all over the Pacific. We about moved everyone from the United States over there to Taiwan and Okinawa and Japan and the Philippines. We had them stationed all over. And some of those bases were involved and I was involved with some of the nuclear strategic planning for those bases and support for that operation.

Jason Pulliam:

Well, when did your role in Vietnam come to an end?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I spent a year in-country and then I went -- spent two years after that with the division running the airline and then I came home from there.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

In Japan.

Charles Wesley Borders:

In Japan, yes. I had five tours in the Pacific. They wouldn't let me go to Europe except on temporary duty. I'd go over there on NATO exercises, but they wouldn't let me stay there.

Jason Pulliam:

So you could have retired after 20 years of service. What led you to serve a full 30?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I was doing what I wanted to do. This is my career. I -- she tells the story that --

Jason Pulliam:

What would she say?

Charles Wesley Borders:

When we -- when 9/11 came, we were watching the buildings go down and I was standing there. And she says, What? I said, They're going to have another war and I can't go. Well, they taught me how to do war. I was very good at what I did.

Jason Pulliam:

I think we were chatting outside before we came in and you told me about the number of missions that you flew and I asked you how come you never became an instructor. Can you tell me what your response was?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Something very derogatory.

Jason Pulliam:

It's okay. We're all adults in here.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I was an operator. I didn't have any interest instructing anyone. Let someone else teach them and send them to me and I'll tell them -- I'll show them how to fight the war.

Jason Pulliam:

And you are in your heart a fighter pilot?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes.

Jason Pulliam:

And that's what you wanted to do?

Charles Wesley Borders:

That's all, yes.

Jason Pulliam:

And you had no interest in teaching but --

Charles Wesley Borders:

No.

Jason Pulliam:

Just flying as a pilot?

Charles Wesley Borders:

No, except for self-preservation.

Jason Pulliam:

Now, I think you were telling me you were just doing what you were trained to do but to come back safely from 202 out of 205 missions in World War II in my estimation took a great deal of -- of skill and ability and maybe some blessings from up above, but can you explain in your -- in your own words what you believe led to you coming back safely from all those missions?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Eyesight, quick reflexes mostly.

Jason Pulliam:

Just that simple?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Just that simple. I could see an airplane before anybody else for whatever reason.

Jason Pulliam:

So I think you cited that 30 of the 35 members in that first year were World War II --

Charles Wesley Borders:

It's the little things that kill you.

Jason Pulliam:

Like what? What little things?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Miss some little something.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

Tell them about training, what you did with your hands to know when you were upside down and --

Charles Wesley Borders:

Oh, well, I tell a story, I was in primary flying school and I had a great instructor that really knew how to fly. And I would spend time on my bunk on my back, my upper bunk, and I would visualize an airplane coming from this direction what I would do, coming from this direction what I would do and that direction and I would -- I would think of responses to put my airplane in a -- in a favorable position so that I could kill him and he wouldn't kill me. So -- and I would visualize that and then trying to imprint the reflex automatically. I was trying to see if it's here, I'd automatically do something and I don't have to think about it. And I practiced and practiced and practiced things like that a lot and there was consequences that I could -- if you didn't -- if you didn't try as hard as I was trying, I was going to whip you.

Jason Pulliam:

And so were you able to employ some of those --

Charles Wesley Borders:

Oh, yeah.

Jason Pulliam:

-- bunk techniques --

Charles Wesley Borders:

Oh, yes.

Jason Pulliam:

-- in actual combat?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes.

Jason Pulliam:

And do you believe that led to some of your success?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Certainly. Led to my survival mostly.

Jason Pulliam:

Do you know how many confirmed kills you may have had in -- in your three wars?

Charles Wesley Borders:

No. I'll tell you one story though. We were at a place called Min -- Mindoro. Yes, Mindoro, just south of the Luzon in the Philippine Islands and it was January and it was just a week before the invasion of Luzon in the Lingayen Gulf. And there was a flight going up north to the north island, Luzon, up the coast and I was taking a flight inland and we were to meet at the top and discuss what we had seen and maybe swap routes. Well, the fellows that went the -- went the coastal route didn't see anything and on the way up, there is a lot of activity going on and we just shot and shot and shot and shot. We just shot a lot of people that day. And I got up there and he was calling. And I said, I can't take your route. I've run the boys out of ammo and gas. We've got to go home. Okay, he said. And the air boss about that time in the carrier running the invasion said, Get off this channel. Priority traffic. So I changed my communications channel to another one for my flight of four and chugged it on home. Pulled up through three layers of clouds, about 10,000 feet. Meanwhile, just after we left these other guys, they ran into 13 airplanes, 12 zeroes and a Betty bomber coming south for replacements. They shot down 10 of them in 10 minutes and they were screaming for help all the time. Of course, we couldn't -- we couldn't hear. Of course, we couldn't have helped them anyway. We didn't have any gas and no ammunition. So -- and the P-51, the two inboard guns of the six held a little more ammunition than the rest of the outboards, 50 rounds apiece, so when we ran out of ammo on the outboards, we quit firing. Just had 100 rounds to get home on and we were at that stage. So as I broke out of this cloud cover, here above us about 3,000 feet is three flights of four fighters and a Betty bomber just like the ones those guys ran into going our direction. They were ferrying them down to some airstrip. The four closest to us dove on us and, of course, I picked that up really quick and I dove away and swapped altitudes for air speed. And as we pulled up about 600 miles an hour, we zoomed back up and the guys peeled off and went away. The enemy peeled away. Well, I can't chase them. I've got no ammo, no fuel. So we looked down and the bomber is still headed the same direction, hadn't moved. So I told my wingman, Come in close. See if we can shoot this thing down. So I said, Come in close. When I fire, you fire your 50 rounds each. So we did. We had about one second bursts from two API's, two guns on each airplane, just shot the dirty thing down. Of course, I gave that to him because he's the only wingman that ever shot down an enemy plane that he never saw. Gave him the bragging rights. We shot a lot of machines on the ground, just -- that's what we did for a living and we strafed that place, just -- bomb dumps were pretty bad. They would blow up on you, fuel dumps and bomb dumps and people and convoys and all sorts of sites. Boat sites and little harbors, they were tough. And shipping, shipping is very dangerous. I dive bombed a cruiser once and I was glad I didn't have to do that more than once.

Jason Pulliam:

Where was that cruiser?

Charles Wesley Borders:

It was right outside in the middle of the harbor, escorting a bunch of ships in to pick up something. They were escorting the largest regular ship that they had at the time, the something Maru. It held 30,000 people or something like that. They were picking up troops and getting out of there. We were -- we had invaded and started killing them off, so --

Jason Pulliam:

If you could single out one episode -- I know it's hard in a 30-year career -- that you remember most, what would that be and why would that be the most memorable moment?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, that's pretty tough.

Jason Pulliam:

That's why I asked it.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I -- I -- here is a little heart story. In February of '45, I was -- one of the boys in my flight was on a mission and I wasn't scheduled to fly that day. His airplane broke so he borrowed my airplane and he got shot down in it in the foothills north of Manila. It was during that Philippine invasion. And he got hit and he caught fire and he pulled up and turned over and plopped out and the airplane burrowed in and he hit the ground running with his chute in his arms, running into the woods. That's the last I ever saw of him. Fifty some-odd years later at Midland what used to be the Confederate Air Force Show this lady came up and talked to one of the guys who was there with his helmet on with his number on it. And she was the sister of this guy that had been killed. She said, Do you remember this outfit? Yeah. Can you -- do you know anything about J.B. Cox? He was from Sweetwater actually. He says, As a matter of fact, I do. And I also called a guy in Houston, Jap Lott, an attorney by the way -- he's still alive, too -- but they put together some people who knew him and one of them was the guy that had flown with him that day as his wingman and he lived across the street from his son who was born 11 days after he was killed in Florida. And they all got together and told the family what really happened to him. So that was kind of a nostalgic thing. Funny things happen in wars. That was an interesting story.

Jason Pulliam:

Where did you retire from the Air Force? What base were you at?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I was at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. I had been the wing commander there previously and I had taken a one-year assignment to the Tactical Airlift Center in North Carolina and I actually came home to retire there. And that was my last duty station.

Jason Pulliam:

And what have you done since retirement?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I chased her a lot. For four years, I -- I did a 14 county MHMR center thing in west Texas, drug and alcohol rehab, psychiatric outpatients, the whole thing. This was the MHMR bill of 1963. These people didn't believe in federal money until it got to the point where they needed to do it, so I was the guy that got it started in those 14 counties. I was there as the executive director and my job was to put this thing together and go around and get money for 14 different places to support all these half-way houses and rehab centers and all the psychiatrists and psychologists.

Jason Pulliam:

How long did you do that?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Four years, 24/7. And that was just like a war. So then we went to -- we went to Port Aransas down the road here and I started a business managing resort condominiums and we did that for about 15 years.

Jason Pulliam:

Well, let's talk about Jacqueline. How did you meet her?

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

That's my story.

Charles Wesley Borders:

She's an army brat. Her father was a colonel in the army and her grandparents lived down the street from me. And she would come home in the summer, you know, for summer vacation and I knew -- I had some friends in the neighborhood and I was down there all the time anyway. I had a girlfriend down there really and she showed up -- she had been in Hawaii and she showed up one summer after they got back from Hawaii. I think she was 13, something like that. And so she -- she became my summertime girlfriend.

Jason Pulliam:

Did she know that?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Oh yeah, she knew that. And as we got older, the family moved here and the war started and so she was here while I was at Randolph and Brooks. And we thought of getting married then, but it was just too much to think about, a 20-year old widow with a kid. And that was happening --

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

I didn't have a kid.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I know, but if we had got married --

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

We might have.

Charles Wesley Borders:

-- you might have. We waited until --

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

And my father would turn over in his grave.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Anyways, so we got married as soon as I got home from World War II.

Jason Pulliam:

And where did you marry?

Charles Wesley Borders:

In Loveland, Colorado, north of Denver about 50 miles. She had -- she had some relatives up there and her mother went up there when her father went to war, things like that, so --

Jason Pulliam:

This is a tough question. What did you first see in her that made you want to date her?

Charles Wesley Borders:

She was lively, vivacious, a lot of fun. I took her sailing and swimming and dancing and racing around, you know, what kids do. We had a lot of fun. We had jitterbug out on the highway, out on the Austin Highway and then Cline's Landing, two or three joints out there and jukeboxes. We would go out there and drink rum and coke and dance.

Jason Pulliam:

And this is when you both were over 21, right?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes, yes. Not really. She was -- she wasn't 21 when we got married. She was just almost and we were at Estes Park for our honeymoon and went to the bar there. They wouldn't serve her a drink. They carded her.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

I was 21 in August, one month to go and they wouldn't give me a drink.

Jason Pulliam:

But to be serious, I imagine serving as long as you served, you needed someone at home to provide a level of support and love for you. You couldn't have provided any --

Charles Wesley Borders:

You can't do it without them.

Jason Pulliam:

Right.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Something like that. She raised the kids and was the anchor that I had always.

Jason Pulliam:

And I'm fond of saying, and I hope that you would agree with me, that when two folks are in the service -- well, when you have a service member and you have a military wife, you both serve together. Do you agree with that?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Exactly. Exactly.

Jason Pulliam:

And so what do you do today? What is your life comprised of today?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I'm 90-years-old next month and I have a fear, I have had for a while, that my body would outlast my mind. So for the last number of years, I took to writing and reading a lot, exercising my mind as best I could. I write a four page news letter a month and it takes me about 12 hours a page to do one; research, arrange, print, rearrange and publish. I figured it out so that's a good exercise.

Jason Pulliam:

What do you write about?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Everything. I just try to stay current. I write about demographics, the world situations, energy.

Jason Pulliam:

What do you read?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Everything.

Jason Pulliam:

Fiction, nonfiction, both?

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

Oh, no, he doesn't read books.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I don't read nonfiction any -- fiction anymore. Very seldom. I pick up one every once in a while.

Jason Pulliam:

So do you read newspapers and magazines, articles?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Newspapers, magazines. I get a whole lot of points of view. It's all out there. It's kind of hard to wade through but -- I try to be factually as possible, but I found a lot of good stuff out there. I'm not all that computer literate that I read it on the computer. I still like to read the book. I read the page.

Jason Pulliam:

My last question for you is, based upon your life's experience and your military experience, if you could pass some advice along to today's generation, specifically service members, what would it be?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Keep the faith.

Jason Pulliam:

Well --

Charles Wesley Borders:

And remember the constitution. That's the only thing we've got between us and I don't know what all. Once you lose that, you're lost.

Jason Pulliam:

Well, I think that's a perfect place to end. I want to thank you for giving us your time today and for your 30 magnificent years of service and your wonderful wife. So thank you so much, sir.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Thank you very much, sir. [Applause]

Ms. Leger:

We still have -- we still have a little bit of time. I know this is actually a little unconventional, but if there is anyone who has a question for him that they want to ask about his veterans history.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I'm pretty easy. Fire away.

Unidentified speaker:

I have a question. Do you keep up with any of your friends that you served with in past wars currently?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Well, I'll just -- do I keep -- do I keep up with any of my friends that I've shared these experiences with? Here is a little (holds up picture) -- 10 of us at the Menger Hotel in 2002. That was 10 years ago. That was our last time we could get together any number to have a reunion and that was 10 years ago. And of those left, of those, only this one and this one, me and one more are -- are still here. So it's -- it's been a long time ago. This one, old squadron commander, he died taking -- taking this year's Christmas decorations down from his porch in Illinois. He was okay but he was 96. So, you know, but there are a few of us. Yes, we live in a -- we live in a facility out here that has a whole bunch of people like us in it. So -- so there is a lot of peer stuff out there so we -- in fact, we've been there 10 years and when I first got there, I started a weekly program like this telling your story every Thursday afternoon. That lasted five years straight. We finally ran out of stories. I'm sorry we didn't record them. We did -- we did -- our squadron did write a book after World War II, which is kind of interesting but unfortunately it's not available in print.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

But you can get information on Google on the Strafin Saints.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yeah, there is some pretty good stuff. They call us the Strafin Saints, S-T-R-A-F-I-N Saints, and if you Google that, there is some pretty good stuff on the squadron in there.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

And there is a DVD of them and --

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yeah, I had a DVD there. Somebody did that a few years back and it's kind of interesting.

Ms. Leger:

I think there is another question.

Jason Pulliam:

There is a question over here.

Unidentified speaker:

I wanted to know about your family. You said they were from East Texas, here in Texas when it was a republic?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Yes.

Unidentified speaker:

What names were they and what area --

Charles Wesley Borders:

Borders and Busby.

Unidentified speaker:

And what area of East Texas?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Busbys was just north of Houston and for their part in the -- with Sam Houston, they got a grant here south of Kenedy where I was born. They got a land grant and moved -- they didn't own the land at -- where they were living at the time, but when they fought with the -- with the forces in 1836, afterward they gave them all that participated a section of land someplace and they got a section down here between Kenedy and Runge on the San Antonio River.

Unidentified speaker:

Where did they come from to Texas?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Mostly from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, down the Ohio. My father's bunch came down the Ohio, then went into Missouri and down into Texas from there and they were farther north around Nacogdoches. They settled there. There was already a grant there. They didn't have a grant, but they allowed them to buy land from the grantees. They have a little place in Chireno. My -- one of my grandfathers was running a little dry goods store there after the Civil War in 1866 and the carpetbaggers came by and hung him one day just for no reason outside his dry goods store or his general store I guess they called it in those days. But my father's family was in that area and my mother's came down from Houston to Kenedy, and of course, we've wandered around all over the world. We -- we kind of left home for sixty years. It is glad to hear all these -- all this Texas talk around here. All these -- all these Texans, it's pretty nice. But we're Texas people. Jacque is an army brat. She was born in the Nix Hospital.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

No, I wasn't born in the Nix Hospital. Our son was born in the Nix Hospital.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Our son, okay. Short-term memory.

Ms. Leger:

Any other questions?

Charles Wesley Borders:

Thank you so much. My pleasure. [Applause]

Ms. Leger:

Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified speaker:

I was wondering if I could ask the colonel a question.

Ms. Leger:

One second. We have to go back on the record if you want to.

Teri Nunley:

Sure. I can do it.

Unidentified speaker:

Colonel, as a veteran myself and being in and around official reporters who take down words everyday of important people, how important is it to you or do you feel about returning veterans that are coming back from the wars now and future wars being able to do something like this for them, to get factual answers and to ask questions about what actually happened over there without filters from other people that would filter out?

Charles Wesley Borders:

The earlier the better.

Unidentified speaker:

Excellent. Thank you.

Charles Wesley Borders:

We had -- we had this experience with our book. That was about 10 years after World War II we wrote this book and we were asked to write chronological stories and then they were all put together and we sent in tapes and pictures and made a wonderful book. It made a lot of sense. But if you wait too long, the stories get stretched, everything gets bent out of shape. It's much more accurate if you do it within the first 10 years.

Unidentified speaker:

Thank you.

Ms. Leger:

Any other questions?

Unidentified speaker:

Thank you.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

Are you going to Air Force Village One or Air Force Village Two? Where is this meeting that you're going to be out at the end of the month?

Mary Berry:

We're going to do this March 31st, Air Force Village One.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

Okay. That's where we live.

Mary Berry:

Yes.

Ms. Jacqueline Borders:

I'll sign up.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Let me answer. We have one of the last WASP in captivity, Women's Air Service Pilot. Dorothy Lucas trained at Sweetwater 1943. We have a guy that spent six and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton. His story is already on-line for his family but there is a -- and we have a guy that sunk the first Japanese carrier at the Battle of Midway, a navy guy. We have -- not only air force, we got army and navy there also and even a couple of marines.

Mary Berry:

We hope to get all of them. Colonel, we hope to get all the court reporters in our entire State of Texas to at least do one story so we can take as many of those stories as we can.

Charles Wesley Borders:

That's wonderful. Get the Korean ones before it's too late. There are some real sad stories over there. That was the worse one I was in, the Korean. [PAUSE]

Ms. Leger:

More questions? Anything else that ya'll want to ask?

Unidentified speaker:

I wanted to ask you if you could tell us a little bit more about the time you were shot down? What did you do after? How did that happen and what did you do when you landed? How did you get rescued or what?

Charles Wesley Borders:

I'll give you a quick one. We were leading in Biak and I got -- I got hit strafing and my airplane, the propeller ran away, which means it wasn't controlled. It would go faster and slower and faster and slower uncontrollably and I knew I couldn't -- my hydraulic pressure went to zero, which means they must have shot my hydraulic line somewhere. So I couldn't get back home and it was over an hour over water. So next door to this place, they were building a brand new little strip of coral on a coral island. A landing strip, they were working on it and there were already a couple of wrecked airplanes over there that had bellied in. So I said, Well, I told the guys, I'm going in here. I'm not going to make it back. Send somebody after me. So I shut the gear down, which you could do without any pressure, and halfway down this runway, across it, there were barrels -- there was a row of big barrels, 55-gallon drums, and on the other side of that, there were big rollers rolling the coral, smoothing the coral for a runway. These are these huge three -- three-thing rollers, with the big thing in the front and the two big -- the two wheels on the sides. Well, I landed fine, but I had no brakes. And I went through the barrels and hit a steam roller head-on and he took off my wing and snapped the thing in half behind me and the battery went by my head and the prop hit the other -- the other rotor thing and it fell off and the engine went flying away. And I was going out on the runway about 60 miles an hour and I ended up in just the cockpit. And that's all there was. The rest of it was just shredded. And I unstrapped and stood up and stepped out. So sometimes talent has little to do with it. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Good luck I always have. Yes?

Unidentified speaker:

Have you read the book, Unbroken?

Charles Wesley Borders:

No, I haven't.

Unidentified speaker:

You haven't? It's the same kind of story. Yeah.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Thank you so much. [Pause]

Charles Wesley Borders:

Jo Anne, I sent in about 10 stories of World War II.

Ms. Leger:

Great.

Charles Wesley Borders:

You all have them here. You might -- if they're interested in other stories.

Ms. Leger:

Oh, yes, always.

Charles Wesley Borders:

Like I ditched a P-39 in the water, in the ocean. That's in there and things like that.

Ms. Leger:

Yes, sir. [Pause]

Ms. Leger:

Yes, ma'am.

Unidentified speaker:

My question is for a -- it sounds like you got to fly a few different kinds of planes. I just wondered if you had a favorite plane and if you or your friends painted ladies or a picture on the plane? Did ya'll decorate your planes?

Charles Wesley Borders:

The subject was planes that flew and how you decorated them?

Unidentified speaker:

Yes.

Charles Wesley Borders:

I had three airplanes, all San Antonio Rose. And I had her name on it with the crew chief's girlfriend's name. So they were always Jacque and Norma. I flew 21 different kind of airplanes I was qualified to fly. And the two best machines I ever flew was the P-51 and the C-130. They're unbelievable air machines; the best, as advertised. Now, guys painted all kinds of things on their airplanes. Well, you've seen pictures of them. You could put anything on them you want in those days. You can't do that anymore, no. Well, I'm sorry, I could do this for about two months. I flew 538 missions in three wars and you can imagine, I could talk and talk and talk and talk. That would be boring, so thank you so much.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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