Gilbert “Tommy” Farr Autobiography
Born on October 10,1920 in southeast Iowa but spent my adolescent years in Eureka, Illinois where my father taught high school Science classes. I graduated in 1938 and then attended one year of college at Eureka College.
In June of 1940 I enlisted in the Army Air Corps to attend airplane Mechanics School at Rantout, Illinois. After graduation near the end of 1940 I was assigned as a mechanic to the flight school at Randolph Field, Sam Antonio, TX. All of 1941 was spent as a mechanic on an engine change crew. I was at Randolph when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We just knew the japs were going to attack Randolph Field so I spent many a night on guard duty patrolling the perimeter. I was armed with a huge revolver, but no shells. I guess I might have shot the wrong person had I had shells. The japs never did show up, probably because they knew I was on duty.
Early in 1942 enlisted personnel were approved to apply for flight training without necessarily being a college graduate. I was accepted and went through Primary, Basic, and Advanced flight training as a corporal at various fields in Texas. Graduated from Kelly Field Advanced Training School as a Staff Sergeant Pilot and was assigned to the 46th Bomb Group at Blythe, CA. to fly Douglas A-20 twin engine attack planes. We were on maneuvers with General George Patton's Army training in desert warfare against tanks and other mechanized equipment.
After a few short months of the 120 degree heat of the Blythe desert country, the 46th Bomb 6p became the Cadres for three A-20 Bomb Groups; the 409th BG, the 410th B6 and the 416th B6. The 409th, to which I was assigned, moved to Will Rogers Field at Oklahoma City. The next few months were spent training new pilots and bombardier-navigators, and gunners. We spent time at several fields in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida to give everyone, including all of the enlisted personnel, training in their jobs.
In January of 1943 the Group was sent to New York City and embarked for England on HMS Mauretania, the third largest British ship next to the Queen Elizabeths. We were not in a convoy and went at great speed by the arctic route to Liverpool, England. Our Base in England was located near the little town of Walden where we spent the next week or so getting used to flying over England and the English Channel. After this minimal tralnlng we started our own war against Germany, bombing targets in France, Belgium, Holland and Western Germany.
A few weeks after D-Day our Group moved across the Channel to the little town of Bretigny, a short distance south of Paris. Later we moved to Laon, north of Paris, so we could reach German targets more easily. We were at Laon through the end of the war in Europe. The war in the South Pacific was, of course, really heating up so many of us flew our planes back to the States on our way to the S. Pacific. On arrival at Atlanta, Georgia, we were all given 30 days leave and during that leave period the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, and the war was over.
Between the time of my return to the States and my release from the Air Corps, I courted and married Janet Monilaw whom I had met more than a year and a half earlier. We were married on October 6, 1945 and I was released from the Air Corps in late December,1945.
This has been rather a lengthy description of my military service, but it was an important part of my earlier years.
After a period of indecision about my future, I went back to college, and while Janet worked as a Secretary at the schools, I attended school and graduated from the College at Grinnell, Iowa. Following that I spent a year of Graduate Work in Wildlife Management at the University of Wyoming at Laramie.
Jan and I had been contemplating moving west after graduation and we applied to several schools for High School teaching positions and in 1950 accepted an offer to teach Science and Math at Salmon, Idaho. We spent the next 6 years at Salmon and during each summer I worked for the USDA, Forest Service, mostly on the Salmon National Forest, but one summer in Montana on the Flathead National Forest. Fire fighting and timber work gave me a good background.
In 1956 I took the Federal Employment entrance exam and subsequently was offered a job on the Salmon NF. But first I had to honor a teaching contract which I had signed to teach Science and Math at a High School in Forks, Washington. This was a long wet year, trying to teach forestry and its field work in country that had an average of a foot of rain per month.
Finally we were able to return to Salmon in June of 1957 aitd I began work with Lester Gutzman on the Copper Creek District. Again, Timber and Fire, and to that was added administration of the Idaho Primitive area. Lots of horse days as transportation and a mule string as a suitcase.
The good years between 1957 and 1966 were spent on the Salmon NF in District Administration. But in early 1996 we moved to Pocatello to the Caribou National Forest, where I had the administration of the Pocatello Ranger District. This Job involved a lot of contact with City administration, nd teachers and students at the Idaho State University. Very enjoyable friendships developed which continue to this day. While at Pocatello, with access to the Pocatello airport so close, I took up flying again after being ground-bound since 1945. Again I started from scratch and went through the steps of Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Instrument Rating, single and multi engine land, and single engine sea ratings. And, to top it all off, I received the Flight Instructor Rating which I used to teach others to fly. All of it an enjoyable release from District administration in the Forest Service.
In July of 1971, I was offered the job of District Ranger on the Ketchum Ranger District on the Sawtooth National Forest. What a plum of a job. Administration of the Sun Valley Ski Area Permit enabled me to work closely with owners and developers of the Premier Ski area. Added to that were administration and development of mang recreation trails and recreation programs, I had a very competent District Staff to aid me and thanks to them I had a very enjoyable nine and one half years on the Ketchum District
Retirement from Federal employment Came on my birthday in 1980, but I was still able to continue my love of flying. Another World War II pilot and I founded WJhite Clouds Aviation and we chartered air flights out of Hailey, ID. to all parts of the eleven western states. In addition we flew owners of corporate aircraft to various points in the southern states. We sold our company to Sun Valley Aviation and continued to flu for that company until late 1988.
Beginning in 1985, at the encouragement of my longtime friend, Harvey King, I became involved with motorcycle touring. We covered thousands of miles mostly on the western states' secondary roads. That love of touring by motorcycle continues to this day and I am now riding my twelfth touring bike and my sixth BMW. Harvey King died of cancer in the mid 90s but I have found other enthusiastic riders with whom to cover more miles and Western Scenes.
Janet and I built our retirement home on 5 acres east of Bellevue, ID. In 1980, still close to the last Ranger District where I worked. For many years we were able to travel by trailer to camp wherever we wished and we saw lots of the West including the west coast-California to Washington. We've curtailed that mode of travel in the last few years but we still enjoy seeing and visiting with former workers and long time friends. I'm preparing for a February motorcycle trip to visit a friend in Havasu City, AZ where we will ride the roads of AZ, NV, and CA.