Freedom Fighters: Welby Edwards - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Freedom Fighters: Welby Edwards

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By Joan Hallmark - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Although Welby Edwards was already involved in top secret operations for Lockhead Aircraft, in 1941 he volunteered for the U.S. Air Corps, where he went into more top secret operations as well as combat.

"My discharge showed three battle stars...one bronze star," said Edwards.

It wasn't long after Edwards joined the Air Corps in 1943 before he was sent to the pacific as an air operations specialist, directing air traffic and getting crews in and out of war zone airfields.

"We were in combat," said Edwards. "Every airfield we had was combat."

Edwards alternated between directing air traffic in New Guinea and serving as co-pilot and flight engineer on B-25s, transporting crews in and out of the Philippines. He still can't decide which was the most dangerous, dodging Japanese zeroes in the air or heading for foxholes when the fields were bombed.

"There was always danger, and we had a foxhole near the tavern and all whenever we knew somebody was coming in, we had to get cover."

What bothered Edwards the most wasn't danger to himself, but the loss of so many crew members he had sent into the air.

"That was the toughest part of it all," said Edwards. "Some of those you flew with and knew and you sent them out and they didn't come back. Memorial Day is when I think of those things."

While many young men didn't make it back in World War II, Edwards did return home, but malaria and stress had taken their toll.

"I had malaria see, and my mother and dad did not recognize me when I got off the plane," he said. "Mama started crying. She said, 'You're brown,' and I said, 'Honey, I'm home.'"

But, just being home didn't cure Edwards' medical problems

"[I] only weighed 131 pounds and had 20%-25% combat disability," said Edwards. "They sent me to a veteran's hospital to cut 43% of my stomach out and I said no."

With the help of a Tyler doctor, Edwards was finally able to get his health back. But a doctor couldn't cure the heartache from the "Dear John" letter he had received from his fiancee while overseas. However, in time Edwards was to meet that special person meant for him.

"I dated Davita for two years, but she was a perfect fit," said Edwards.

In 1951, Edwards and his Davita were married. At the age of 94, Welby Edwards looked back on a life of war and peace. In war he served his country and in peace he served his community as a successful businessman.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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