WWII in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, 75 years ago today. I profiled my father yesterday. Today is Shirley’s father, James Edward (Jimmie) Ryland.
James Edward (“Jimmie”) Ryland and Shirley’s mother, Mary Chew (“Chew”) Brummett grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They graduated from high school in 1936 and were married on June 16, 1941. They moved to Memphis, where Jimmie had been working as a salesman for a paper products company since 1936. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet Candidate. This was the first time that non-college graduates were offered the opportunity to become pilots.
Shirley’s older sister, Katherine Amy (“Katie”) was born November 6, 1942. Jimmie was called to active duty in 1943 and spent over a year in an accelerated college program, from which he graduated in March 1944 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Chew, meanwhile, moved back with her parents in Pine Bluff.
Jimmie’s MOS was 1024, Pilot, Four Engine. After completing 48 weeks of flight training in Chattanooga, TN, Maxwell Field, AL, Lafayette, LA, Walnut Ridge, AR and Stuttgart, AR, Jimmie qualified as pilot of a B-24 Liberator and was ordered to the European Theater on September 19, 1944.
Flying with a stopover in the Azores, he reported first to North Africa. He was scheduled to fly next to Italy, but during takeoff, one of his engines malfunctioned, and he turned back. All of the other planes in his group were lost in a storm over the Mediterranean.
Figure 1 - Jimmie Ryland with daughters Shirley and Katie in 1945
Figure 2 - From left to right, Chew, Shirley, Katy and Jimmie after Jimmie’s return from Europe in 1945
Jimmie flew five combat bombing missions over German-held territory from Italy. On his fifth mission, his plane took flak while bombing Vienna on October 17, 1944. His tail gunner was killed, and Jimmie was severely wounded in his calf muscle. He returned to base safely, but it ended his flying career, and he spent the next nine months recuperating in hospitals. Shirley was born November 10, 1944, while her father was in a hospital in Bari, Italy until December 15, 1944, when he boarded a hospital ship to return to the U.S. he learned of Shirley’s birth through the Red Cross.
Jimmie finished out his military service as a Transition Dispatcher at an Air Transport Command Base and was separated from the service on October 1, 1945. He was awarded the Air Medal, Purple Heart and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Service Stars. His battles and campaigns listed in his service record include North Apennines, Rhineland and Air Combat Balkans.
In 1945, Jimmie resumed his sales career, and the family moved back to Memphis where Jimmie and Chew raised three daughters and a son and remained the rest of their lives.