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The Ortonville Independent
Ortonville, Minnesota
November 4, 2008     The Ortonville Independent
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November 4, 2008

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lalaitmn dilgmlmli Jialllllilil ,hJll tan HfliIHBDOH Jiaa lit JlglllllIllmlmHlingil :; illlli ]',ll]lllSli !qlOilU nllllmlim il i ....................... N!i!!iii ........  ..) iii#!]i0000:i 00i!i!iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii00i0000 Vernon Botker "Something was coming and we figured it was pretty big." Vernon Botker was born May 26, 1922 in Clinton, Minnesota. He grew up there, going to school and working on the family farm. Like all those who lived through those times he was a product of the great depression and the drought that covered most of the Great Plains. To cope with and recover from the drought, people relied on ingenuity and resilience, Despite all efforts, many people were not able to make a living in drought-stricken regions and were forced to migrate to other areas in search of a new livelihood. Vern's fam- ily stayed where they were and toughed it out through a decade of very hard times. By 1940 things were improving. The rains returned and farming was better. Normal life was returning and the future hinted of, at least in compar- ison to the recent past, prosperity and a good life. Then, suddenly, on that Sunday morning in December of 1941 things changed again. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and America was at war in the Pacific and Europe, as well. Vern would be going to war. But first there would be one more crop to plant and harvest and Vern worked through 1942 with his Dad on the family farm. When the last ear of corn was picked and all the field work was finished, Vern volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps on No- vember 6, 1942. "I volunteered. You kind of won- der what's g.oing to happen and where you are going to go," Vern said. "I went to Ft. Snelling to be processed, you know, take the tests and get your shots. We waited around a couple of days for them to decide where they were going to send us. When we left there, I could see there were a lot of guys going in." Indeed there were a lot of guys going in. Records show that Fort Snelling processed over 300,000 in- ductees during WW II. Most were sent, like Vern, to other camps for spe- cialty training, but not all. Snelling had many training facilities and prepared soldiers in duties from operating rail- roads to speaking Japanese. Vem traveled by train to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, for pri- mary training. "Actually, I never got a whole lot of basic training," said Vern. "There were so many guys coming in they couldn't take care of it [the basic training]. "They were training pilots, of course, but for us they just marched us around a few days and gave us or- ders so that we knew how to answer a command. Then, one day, a sergeant came in and said, 'You men are going to gunnery school', so we got ready and left - just like that." Vern was sent to Apalachicola, Florida for advanced training and gun- nery school. "At Sheppard I really did- n't have much basic training, but at gunnery school we got a lot more in- tensive basic training." He also learned how to fire a .50 cal Browning machine gun at moving targets in the same man- ner that Les Kutil and Victor Carlson did in Texas. But Vernon had another skill - he had a knack for fixing things. Making machinery run was a necessary skill for farmers and Vem had plenty of practice doing just that on the farm back home in Clinton. The Air Corps decided he would become a mechanic and he would be sent back to Sheppard Field where he would leam how to fix airplane engines and do general main- tenance on the Boeing B-17. Mechanic's school lasted 9 months and after finishing his training, Vernon worked on B-17s and B-24s at Shep- pard. Boeing's B-29 Superfortress had just been made available to the Air Corps and Vern was transferred over to that section where he would learn the many intricacies of that very large and very complex aircraft. In late 1944, Vernon was trans- ferred to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he would work exclusively on the Boeing B-29. The B-29 is remem- bered by most, or rather, those who did not fly it or work on it, as America's so- lution to end WW II. But, in fact, it was a monstrous aircraft. It was air- craft technology pushed to the limit to overcome the problem of long range bombing. Its supercharged engines could fly higher and over longer dis- tances than any aircraft of its time - but these attributes came at a price. The four engines that powered the B-29 were massive. The first engines Vern worked on were dubbed the "py- romaniac" 3350. It produced 3350 hp and had carburetion problems that caused the engine to burst into flame for no apparent reason and with fre- quency that caused great concern to pi- lots and crews throughout the Pacific Theater. The second engine, introduced just before war's end, was given the nick- name !'corncob' because its 28 cylin- ders were staggered in 7 rows which made it look like one. Vern worked on both, but, being a farm boy from Min- nesota, he probably liked the comcob engine better. Beside engine problems, there were other difficulties with the aircraft. It didn't handle well because the propeller tips rotated at supersonic speed. Air pressure inside the plane often failed above 20,000 feet and the supercharg- ers were unreliable. There are docu- mented accounts of pilots refusing to fly the plane after the first mission. Vern remembers, "When I first got there the B-29s were just coming into the base there. They had guards around the planes at all times. We didn't have any idea what their plans were." Most readers know now what Ver- non did not know then. Alamogordo was the site of the Trinity Test Grounds H00SSLEN CONSTRUCTION ORTONVILLE, MR 320-839-2529 where the first atomic test explosion would occur as a result of the Manhat- tan Project, the program to develop the atomic bomb before Hitler's Germany. It was, up to that time, America's most secret mission and no one outside the project compound knew what was hap- pening there. Even President Roo- sevelt was not apprised of all the progress for fear that he might tell Pre- mier Stalin of Russia. "We didn't know the A-bomb was being developed until it was set off, re- ally. Actually, I didn't see it. I guess I was off base or on night shift or some- thing, but as soon as I got to the shop I heard about the big explosion that had gone off. They [officers] tried to say it was an ammunition dump that had blown up, but the guys figured there was something coming and it was pretty big." Vernon was not alone in missing the test explosion that occurred 60 miles from Alamogordo. One article on the event put it this way: "At 5:30 am in the morning a bril- liant fireball rose into the air and lit the pre-dawn sky with the brightness of sunrise. A mushroom shaped cloud bil- lowed 38,000 feet into the air and all animal and plant life vaporized from the site. Despite this awesome sight, few people, other than those involved in the test, witnessed the blast and those that did failed to guess at its sig- nificance. Newspaper coverage that day did not enlighten the public. Pre- written press releases claimed that an ammunition magazine accidentally ex- ploded on the Alamogordo Air Base." The day of the test was July 16, 1945. Vernon was scheduled to go overseas to work on B-29s, perhaps in China or the Marianas Islands. "They were sending us overseas and I went to Newport, Virginia'. After we got there they gave us our shots and put us on the boat the night before we were going to leave. The next morning they had a new order from headquarters that any- body with over two years of service didn't have to go, so I was taken off the boat again. So, you see, I didn't have to go overseas." The war was almost over and America was waiting for Japan to sur- render. Vernon would continue to serve another 5 months and was dis- charged on February 26, 1946. He had been in the Army Air Corps for 3 years and 4 months. At the close of his interview, Vern said, "I didn't do all that much in the war." Those who knew Vernon Botker will, in part, remember him as a man of few words and this interviewer can at- test to that. He didn't say much about himself: he had served and he had worked on airplanes - what else would you possibly need to know? But we judge people by who they are as much as by what they say. Ver- non gave almost 3 1/2 years of his life in service to his country. That Counts as more than "... all that much" in our book. What else would we need to know about Vernon Botker? How about, "Still water runs deep."? TRICK AND TREATERS WERE OUT FOR HARVEST MADNESS last Friday on Ortonville's Main Street. Ortonville Fireman Kirby Athey, right, is shown above handing out candy to ypsy Emily-13olst , da ghter of Gordy and Patty Bolsta of Big Stone Cnty, SD. Veteran Service News By Richard Johnson The Office Hours for the Big Stone Veterans Service Office are as follows: Tuesdays 8:00-4:30 Wednesdays 8:00 -4:30. If there is an emergency of sort I can be reached at m home at (320) 568-2448. I do have voice mail at the Office. Leave your name and number and I will get back to Richard Johnson you as soon as possible. Also, you can call me at home at the above number. I do have an answering machine at home. CHANGE IN TELEPHONE NUMBER: My Telephone number has been changed. It is (320) 839-6398. Please make this change in your phone book as the old number doesn't work any longer. Fargo VAMC Announces Flu Shot Dates The Fargo VA Medical Center has scheduled walk-in flu clinics for all eligible enrolled veterans on the following dates. Immunization is encouraged for those 65 years of age or older and those who have lung, heart, metabolic and weakened immune systems. Fargo VA Medical Center: Nov. 13 - 8 to 11 a.m. - Third Floor Auditorium Fergus Falls VA Clinic: Nov. 19 - 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. VA Secretary establishes ALS as a presumptive compensable illness. Veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly needed support for themselves and their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the military. "Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general population and it was appropriate to take action," Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. James B. Peake said. Secretary Peake based his decision primarily on a Nov. 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the Association between active duty service and ALS. The report, titled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of the Scientific Literature, analyzed numerous previous studies on the issue and concluded that "there is limited and suggestive evidence of an association between military service 00FFL GETYOUR U SHOT Avera Big Stone City Clinic has flu shots available for adult and pediatric patients. WALK-IN CLINIC - NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY Tuesday, Nov. 4 from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm Friday, Nov. 7 from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm Shots are Medicare approvecl, must bring your Medicare card. Adult charge is $32 payable t time of service. Children throug h 18 years old charge Is $13 Vaccine is provided by the state of South Dakota. FluMist available, needle-free flu vaccine. Ask for details. We offer on-site flu shots to businesses. Call us to make arrangements. Flu shots are still the best way for you to prevent the flu, especially If you are at high risk for flu complications. So protect yourself and your familiy. Get the shot. Avera Big Stone City Clinic Loo no further. OUT TRICK AND TREATING last Friday was the Matt Lamb Family of Ortonville. From the left is Matt Lamb holding daughter Madeleine and Laura Lamb. Matt and Laura are expecting their second child in January. and later development of ALS." "ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, once it is diagnosed," the Secretary explained. "There simply isn't time to develop the evidence needed to support compensation claims before many veterans become seriously ill. My decision will make those claims much easier to process and for them and their families to receive compensation that they have earned through their service to our nation." Note: The Veteran's Service Office will be closed Tuesday, Nov. 4, as I am an Election Judge. Also, I will be closed on Wednesday, Nov. 5th to take my wife to a doctor's appointment in Sioux Falls, SD. The office will reopen Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 8 a.m. For further information on this program, please contact me at the Big Stone County Courthouse on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. INDEPENDENT WANT ADS PAY 2008 Pontiac G6 GT - $14,500 6,000 miles 2001 Toyota Corolla LE - $6,800 64,000 miles Check out all of our cars on our website: PRO aUTO Kevin Backstrand Ortonville, MN 320-S39-7197 or 320-S39-2911 Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 00INDEPENDENT Page 5