Wendell Lasater- World War II

Monday, November 12, 2007
Wendell Lasater

On Sept. 24, 1943, right after graduating from high school, Wendell Lasater went into the Air Corps. He was trained as an aircraft mechanic and in October 1944 flew out of Miami to pass through Bermuda, Casa Blanca, Cairo, and end up at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains in a little town called Tezpur, India.

"They made me a propeller specialist," says Lasater, " then they sent me to Kunming, China. I stayed there until the war was over." Lasater apologizes that he doesn't have an exciting story to tell about his war service. He was working on airplanes at the time.

Those planes were part of the famed US Army Air Force "Hump" airlift Operation. That was history's first sustained, long distance 24-hour around-the-clock, all-weather, military aerial supply route. The 525-mile route from the Assam Valley in northeastern India to the Yunnan province in southwestern China was called the "Hump Operation" because pilots had to fly over mountains with an elevation of 16,000 feet in northern Burma. Japanese Imperial forces had isolated China by land and sea when they invaded Burma. This cut off supplies that were supporting China's effort to fight off the Japanese invasion of their country.

The propellers that Wendell Lasater fixed in China flew planes that supplied a crucial part of the war effort; Chinese forces were keeping hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops occupied that might otherwise have been helping the Axis powers in the European theater.

Lasater's grandson, Aaron Lasater, is serving now in the Army. He has been in Afghanistan twice, and is back at Fort Bragg recuperating from a rotator cuff injury. His grandfather is very proud of him.

For his service in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Corporal Lasater was awarded a presidential unit citation and an armed forces expeditionary ribbon with a subsequent award of 3 stars.

That is equivalent to 4 expeditionary ribbons. He also got a good conduct medal, about which he jokes, "No one can understand how I got that one."