Truett Tyler grew up on a farm near O’Donnell, Texas, and the youngest of four brothers. One of his brothers died in 1932 at age 7. Truett graduated early from O’Donnell High School at age 16. He watched both of his older brothers go off to war. One day, while hoeing weeds, his dad suddenly asked him if he would like to go to college and offered to pay his way for one year.
He started Texas Tech in the fall of 1942, but attended for only one year. Truett followed his brothers’ example and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in April, 1944 in Lubbock. He was sent to Amarillo Air Base for basic training. The young man had dreamed of flying ever since a childhood experience on a carnival ride shaped like an airplane. However, by the time he was ready for flight school training, the demand for bomber pilots had declined, and he became part of a flight crew that worked on small trainer planes.
He was sent for additional training to Stockton, California, then was transferred to Carlsbad Army Air Base which was a bomber training school. His assignment was to score bomb hits by the trainees. He was then transferred to Lowry Field near Denver, Colorado. He was doing clerical work and reported that he “obtained the speed of 60 mistakes a minute”. In spite of his “mistakes”, he became a typing instructor. The military needs all kinds of skill. Truett was discharged from the service in November, 1946.
He returned to college and went into the ROTC program and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation in 1949. He declined his commission and went to work at Westinghouse as an Industrial Engineer. He had a variety of jobs over his career including a stint at General Dynamics in San Diego, and retired in 1986. As he grew older, Truett realized how much he missed West Texas and moved to Wolfforth.
Truett is a patriot who values the contribution of all veterans. The story of his brother's service, in particular, is one he wanted to tell. His brother R.L. joined the Army Air Corps in Lubbock before WWII began. He trained at March Field in California and was sent to Nichols Field in the Philippines in 1940, where he was trained to be a radio operator. However, a Japanese attack was imminent and R.L. became an infantryman to help defend the island. He was transferred to Bataan where 74,000 Filipino and American servicemen held out for over three months against the invading Japanese. R.L. was captured on his birthday in April 1942. A few days later the men were forced to begin the grueling 90-mile journey which is now known as the Bataan Death March. Thousands lost their lives because of brutal physical abuse and merciless killing. R.L. survived the horrible experience, but succumbed to malaria and died at POW Camp O’Donnell in July 1943. His remains were never recovered.
Truett travelled to the Philippines in 2001 to pay his respects to his missing brother and his fellow missing servicemen.
Respectfully submitted by
Larry A. Williams
Veterans Liaison Co-Chair
Texas South Plains Honor Flight