Frederick Stone joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in June 1942, six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Stone was 39, a Roanoke native living in Bedford County, motivated to sign up because a family friend was killed in the bombing.
He became commanding officer of the 301st Air Service Group, stationed in India, in charge of air shipments to China, aiding that country in its resistance to occupation by Japanese forces. Stone returned home from a theater of World War II little talked about today, with permanent damage to his hearing and his left leg and wild stories to tell about his mission through the mountains and jungles of Burma.
Though most of the supplies the Chinese forces received from the U.S. arrived by air, the Army also constructed the Ledo Road, more than 470 unpaved miles that connected Northern India to a section of the Burma Road still under Chinese control. The construction was supervised by Virginia Polytechnic Institute graduate and future U.S. Army Chief of Engineers Lewis Andrew Pick.
Stone, who died in 1968, possessed unpublished photos of the first convoy across the Ledo Road that included glimpses of Pick at work, given to him by a friend who served as official photographer for the mission. Starting Friday, the public can view images from Stone’s collection at the combined History Museum of Western Virginia and O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke as part of “Proud to Serve,” a show commemorating more than a century of service from Southwest Virginia military veterans, from the Spanish-American War to Operation Desert Storm.
The staff of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, which operates the joint museum, put the exhibition together in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, said curator Ashley Webb.
The display drawn from Stone’s collection, titled “The First Convoy on the Ledo Road,” makes up one half of a two-part photography exhibition containing previously unpublished photographs from World War II. The other half, “The Aftermath of Hiroshima,” holds snapshots taken by longtime Roanoke resident Jim Warren, who served from 1943 to 1946 in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Stationed in Japan after the country surrendered, Warren used a weekend pass to take a jeep and a camera into Hiroshima, where he captured images of the cityscape devastated by the nuclear blast, and residents going about their daily lives amid the rubble.
Warren, 94, will be at the free opening reception Friday. He has made news in recent years because of his campaign to give living World War II veterans commemorative ball caps decorated with the words “World War II Veteran 1941-1945” as a way to increase public recognition for their service.
The remainder of “Proud to Serve” gathers recruitment posters, uniforms, maps and other artifacts, many from the history museum’s collection, that give insights into the lives of generations of Roanoke Valley military personnel.
The historical society has been working with Mill Mountain Theatre to hold story circles where veterans and family members can share stories of military service. Further sessions will be held July 20, 3 to 5 p.m. at the Gainsboro Branch Library at 15 Patton Ave. N.W., and Aug. 25, 3 to 5 p.m. at the combined history and Link museum at 101 Shenandoah Ave. N.E. The theater is making a documentary using the material gathered in the story circles, Webb said. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The history museum also intends to collect oral histories of veterans every Saturday during June and July. The recordings will be shared with the Library of Congress.