WWII Air Force Cook, Gordon Hoxie
Posted by Eddie Schmidt on Nov 9th 2009
Well to start my full name is Gordon David Hoxie. I go by David. My brother’s full name is Glenn Daniel Hoxie, he goes by Danny. Our father’s full name is Gordon Densmore Hoxie, he used Gordon. Dad enlisted in the summer of 1942 when he was a junior in high school. He was the youngest of three sons, no sisters. At the time of his enlistment his two older brothers, Leon and Dowel, were already in the Army Air Force.
Uncle Leon was part of the ground support personnel for A-24 dive bombers, the AAF version of the Navy SBD. He was on Nickols Field, Philippines the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. We were always told that he fought as infantry on Bataan. He survived the death march, but died of beri beri in Zero Ward of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. His childhood friend, Charles Buchanan, wore his shoes home. Uncle Leon told him he considered it a loan.
Dowel, or as we called him, “Uncle Buddy,” went to England. He was a flight line mechanic in the AAF and he helped service six A-20 aircraft for the first American raid on Europe July 4, 1942. The Mighty Eighth will say that it happened in September 1942, but it was just six lend lease A-20s with all-American crews that went on a mission to hit a Nazi airfield in Denmark. Two of those ships were shot down over the target. He went on to North Africa to service the B-24 Bombers and other Bombers raiding Italy and Southern Europe.
Our father enlisted at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in the fall of 1942. He wanted to be an aerial gunner. The AAF sent him to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi where they quickly found out that he did not have the eyesight to be a gunner. He was nearsighted, so they sent him to cook and baker school at Chanute Field, Illinois where they taught him the proper way to cook. Everything was cooked on steam - all fresh produce and meats. After graduating from cook and baker school he was sent to California, then put on a troopship to Brisbane, Australia.
He was put in a manpower pool until he got assigned to his unit. This unit would be the only fighter group to form up outside of the USA. Under orders from General Kenney, the all P-38 outfit 475th Fighter Group “Satan’s Angels” was formed - drafting the best pilots and mechanics from existing groups in Australia in the 5th Air Force to be the nucleus for the new group.
Many billets had to be filled and my father was pulled to be a cook for the 432nd Squadron. He was 19 years old. The AAF threw him a curve in the culinary department. The stoves burned gasoline and the food was powdered, dehydrated, desiccated - or should I say desecrated! He had to go to a mini-school to learn how to prepare these kind of rations known as B rations. As a side note, the B rations were so detested that the Army got rid of them before the Korean War. Dad must have been a pretty fair cook since the headquarters staff ate at his mess for the duration.
The 475th was formed in May 1943 and by September they were on the move to New Guinea. The 432nd Field Mess consisted of several M-1937 field ranges, plus the short stoves - as to the exact number we don’t know. They did have a good baker who was a baker in civilian life. According to Curt Tinker, the squadron had good bread for the duration. Each field range puts out 50,000 BTUs of heat with as many as six burners going under an O.D. tent that is screened in.
On New Guinea, where the daytime temperature in the shade is 100+ degrees and the humidity is very high, you can see why my dad would lose weight. He entered service weighing 145 pounds and was discharged weighing 120 pounds.
He told me that he fed Charles Lindberg his meals. Lindberg taught the pilots of the group how to get better fuel economy out of the P-38. This increased mission times by 50% and saved many pilots lives as the missions were over water for long stretches. Dad would pull the stale survival rations out of the planes and take them into native villages and swap for fresh vegetables and meat. He could not drive at the time so he had a scrounger drive him about.
The 475th Fighter Group was a front line fighter outfit and steadily on the move up the Eastern Coast of New Guinea. Their accommodations were pyramidal tents with the side walls pulled up. They were set up after the jungle was cleared away by hand. In some places they built floors about 2 feet off the ground to keep the rats out.
Tropical diseases were a constant problem. Dad got malaria on Biak Island and had to return to Australia to recover. He made it back for the landings at Leyte, Philippines. Linguyan Gulf was the next stop.
While he was there he got permission to go to Cabanatuan Prison Camp to see where his oldest brother had died. By the time he arrived there was nothing left of the camp. Graves Registration had come through and removed all the bodies of those that had died there and the camp was bulldozed flat. Then he went to Ie Shima off the coast of Okinawa where he saw the Japanese surrender planes land. Then it was on to Kimpo Field, Korea.
He left the unit in late 1945 on the first ship stateside and came down with malaria again during the voyage home. He had to spend 2 weeks in Spokane recuperating to be well enough to ride the train home. He dropped his personal gear off in Vicksburg, Mississsppi and went on to Camp Shelby to get discharged. He returned home to a smaller family since his eldest brother and father had died.
He finished high school, started college, got married, and then my brother and I came along at the same time - we are mirror identical twins. That cut my Dad’s doctor career short, so he became a hospital lab tech and a hospital administrator for a small hospital in the Mississippi Delta. Later, the family wound up in Memphis, Tennessee.
In May of 1988 the 475th had a reunion in Dallas, Texas. I encouraged him to go. He missed the previous reunions due to the distance of the locations. It had been either on the East Coast or the West Coast, but never in the middle of the country until Dallas. He put his war photos in an album, booked tickets, and left on a Wednesday. He wanted to get there early to greet his old buddies as they came in. He had a good time. Late that following Saturday night, the scar tissue on his heart from 3 previous heart attacks split and he dropped like a rock. But he died being where he wanted to be and doing what he wanted to do. He was going to retire that following January when he turned 65. It beats waiting for the Grim Reaper in a nursing home.
David and Danny Hoxie cooking at the opening of the 475th Fighter Group Museum.
475th Fighter Group Museum and kitchen on display.