Dr. Stephen Stanford
Interviewed By Steven F. Crane
11 March 2013
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Dr. Stephen Stanford
Steven F. Crane
11 March 2013
Copyright © 2013 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
researched, recorded, and transcribed interviews, the Oral History Program creates archival oral histories
intended for the widest possible use.
Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of
events. The interviews are transcribed, edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees
(as available), who are encouraged to augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and
corrected transcripts are indexed, printed, and bound with photographs and illustrative materials as
available. Archival copies are placed in the University Archives, which also houses the original recording
so researchers can gain a sense of the interviewee's voice and intonations.
The Weber and Davis County Communities Oral History Collection include interviews of citizens from
several different walks of life. These interviews were conducted by Stewart Library personnel, Weber
State University faculty and students, and other members of the community. The histories cover various
topics and chronicle the personal everyday life experiences and other recollections regarding the history
of the Weber and Davis County areas.
Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken
account. It reflects personal opinion offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it
is partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to
the Stewart Library of Weber State University. No part of the manuscript may be
published without the written permission of the University Librarian. Requests for
permission to publish should be addressed to the Administration Office, Stewart
Library, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, 84408. The request should include
identification of the specific item and identification of the user.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Stanford, Stephen, an oral history by Steven
F. Crane, 11 March 2013, WSU Stewart
Library Oral History Program, University
Archives, Stewart Library, Weber State
University, Ogden, UT.
Dr. Stephen Stanford
Dr. Stephen Stanford
April 19, 2013
Abstract: Stephen Stanford participated in an oral history interview with Steve Crane
of the Ogden Rotary Club on March 11, 2013 to talk about his experiences in the
Army Air Force as a C-46 aircraft pilot. Stephen enlisted in the Air Force in July
of 1941 and served in World War II where he was responsible for flying gasoline
and ammunition to the front lines until his separation in 1946. He then went on to
become a professor at Weber State University and retired in 1986.
SC: This is the second session of the 2013 Ogden Rotary Club and Weber State
University Veteran’s Project held March 11, 2013 at the George E. Whalen
Ogden Veteran’s Home. My name is Steve Crane, a member of the Ogden
Rotary Club, I will be conducting this interview. Also present are Stacie Gallagher
from Weber State University, Robert Harris of the Ogden Rotary Club and my
wife, Donna Crane. Our guest at this session is Stephen Stanford. This session
is going to be about Mr. Stanford’s military service. What is your date of birth?
SS: The 16th of May 1920.
SC: What branch of the military did you serve in?
SS: The Air Force.
SC: What years did you serve in the Air Force?
SS: I went in July 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, and I came out on the 29th of
December 1946 after Hiroshima.
SC: What rank were you when you left the service?
SS: I was a 2nd Lieutenant.
SC: What was your job in the Air Force?
SS: My purpose was to fly the C-46, which is a very big airplane. We would haul
trucks in the back of our plane. Our main job was to haul in the Pacific Theater
and we would go from the Philippines to the front lines of combat to deliver
gasoline and ammo. Then, we’d go back and pick up the wounded just off the
front lines and fly them back to the hospitals.
SC: How did you come to be in the Air Force?
SS: I got my private pilot’s license in 1940 and decided to enlist. I enlisted on July
16th, 1941. It was a voluntary enlistment.
SC: Where were you trained?
SS: I got my private pilot’s license in Logan, Utah. I went into the Army Air Force in
1941 and when I got into the Army Air Force, they were calling for volunteers to
train as glider pilots. I entered that program and got my silver wings as a glider
SC: Did you ever fly gliders?
SS: Yes, you bet.
SC: Where did you fly gliders?
SS: Just in training in Dalhart, Texas.
SC: What aircraft did you say you flew?
SS: The C-46, it’s called the Curtiss Commando. It was a very big beautiful airplane.
It would carry not only a truck, but it would haul 52 infantrymen with all their
equipment. So, it was pretty big.
SC: Where were you trained to fly that aircraft? Did you have to go somewhere to
learn how to fly that aircraft or were you already trained?
SS: We were already trained.
SC: Where did you serve? What campaigns were you involved in as you flew?
SS: I was sent to New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies just two miles off the equator.
We set up a base on Biak Island. I went to Leyte Island in the Philippines which
was where I was for three years. In fact, I was there when they dropped the atom
bomb in the war. I was in the Philippines. I was stationed for a long time in
SC: What were your feelings when the atom bomb was dropped?
SS: Some things you can explain. You feel awe. A-W-E—awe.
SC: You said you were in the Philippines when the atom bomb was dropped.
SS: I was actually on the island of Okinawa.
SC: What were your feelings about the dropping of that bomb?
SS: I was glad that it was over.
SC: Did you feel like that was going to bring Japan to peace?
SS: My squadron went right on to the island of Japan as part of the Army of
Occupation to take over the island. I lived in Japan for three months as part of
that occupation group.
SC: Were you concerned about the problems of trying to invade Japan? Were you
going to have to fly if the invasion of Japan had to happen? Were you worried
about the death toll that would result?
SS: No. We accepted it as reality and that was it.
SC: You said you were flying soldiers to various locations. Did you see combat
SS: That’s a very interesting question because on several occasions, I just missed
some major battles by sometimes 20 or 30 minutes. The battle of Leyte Gulf was
regarded as the most significant naval battle of the entire world and I was there.
We were coming in with a load of gasoline and we saw all this activity on the gulf,
so they said, “You can’t land because the airstrip is being used for the fighters.”
So, here’s Leyte Gulf and we went round and round and literally had a ringside
seat of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
SC: That was the Japanese Navy with the U.S. Navy?
SS: Yes. That was regarded as the outstanding, most severe battle of World War II in
terms of loss of both Japanese and American shipmen.
SC: Was it a turning point in the war?
SS: Oh, very much. Very much.
SC: Until then, the Japanese had been the aggressors and from then on they were on
defensive. Is that true?
SS: Right. The loss of Japanese vessels and battleship aircraft carriers in the area
and that was a focal point for the climax of the war. It wasn’t too long after that
they dropped the atom bomb.
SC: You were flying around watching that battle from above? What did you see?
What were your experiences there?
SS: The Japanese had some giant guns. The guns shells were probably 16 inches in
diameter. We sunk two of their carriers, three of their battleships, and many
destroyers. I think historians agree that it was the turning point of the war with the
SC: Did you actually see aircraft carriers sinking?
SS: No. It was really quite cloudy. We would fly through the midst of the fighting. We
could see all the ships, but I didn’t see them sink.
SC: What other major experiences did you have during your time in the Air Force that
you could share with us?
SS: The most important thing we hauled in our planes was gasoline to refuel the
fighters. We would pick up 50 of those big oil drums and fly them up to the front
lines of combat where there were fighter planes had an airstrip and they’d empty
them out. That was the point at which we would go back and get more ammo. It
was very rare to haul personnel. It was mostly ammunition and fuel.
SC: Were you ever shot at?
SS: Oh yes. What was interesting is we expected to be shot down anytime because
there were Zeros flying in the area too. We’d come back and find bullet holes in
our plane. We were pretty close, probably within a half mile.
SC: As you’re flying with all of this gasoline, did you worry about getting hit? You
were basically in a flying bomb, weren’t you? If you had gotten hit, you had all
that gasoline on board.
SS: Pilots don’t worry. We do what we do and it’s like you’re part of the machine
itself. It’s very automatic. I can’t remember spending five minutes worrying about
what was going to happen or whether I was going to come out alive or not. It just
never crossed my mind. We just did what we had to do. When you’re flying a
plane, especially in cloudy conditions, you take things as they come and be glad
you’re still alive. I have to tell you about one episode that was very interesting.
We took off at midnight for a base down in the East Indies. We took off at
midnight hauling gasoline and planned to land at the break of dawn to deliver our
gasoline. Here we were, hauling these 50 gallon drums and as we came in we
saw all the planes on the strip were burning. They just finished strafing and were
raiding that particular airstrip. We were about 20 seconds, maybe a minute and a
half away and we could still see off in the distance the Zeros just raided the field
and they were just leaving. They didn’t see us, or they would have come back
and got us too. They had just strafed and bombed the airstrip. I think everything
on the ground was on fire. We landed about 20 seconds after the last one.
SC: They just didn’t see you or else they would have come back?
SS: They didn’t see us and didn’t come back. I think that was our closest call.
SC: Any other experiences like that you can share with us?
SS: On one trip, we came in to land and a plane was taking off in front of us and
while it turned it stirred up a cloud of dust, so we lost sight and our plane was out
of control. We approached the ship and crashed into two parked C-46’s off the
side of the strip because we couldn’t see.
SC: Were you loaded with gasoline at that time?
SS: I don’t think so. I believe we happened to be empty on that trip. That was a close
call. We discovered later on that the plane that was taking off on the strip was
loaded with ammo.
SC: So they were a flying bomb.
SS: If that cloud of dust hadn’t kept us from landing, we would probably have run
head-on into the other bomber loaded with ammo.
SC: Your life was saved by a cloud of dust.
SC: Were you ever wounded yourself?
SC: Do you have any other experiences? These are marvelous experiences you’re
sharing with us. Can you think of any other close calls or experiences that you
can share with us?
SS: I guess it was mostly just a routine delivering and hauling back and forth.
SC: Did you feel like your planes were reliable? Did you feel confident in the aircraft
you were flying?
SS: There was never any question about that. The C-46’s are very remarkable and a
very beautiful airplane and very big. Can you imagine putting a truck in the back
of an airplane? A full size army truck would just fit into a C-46.
SC: How many props did it have?
SS: It had two engines, four props, and 2000 horsepower, a really powerful engine.
SC: They would drive a truck into the belly of your airplane and you would deliver it
SS: Oh yes. We put up a ramp on the side of the plane and opened the doors and
made sure the truck was anchored.
SC: Did you have some really close friends that you made during your time in the air
SS: That’s kind of hard to answer because, like I said before, you felt like you were
part of a big machine or an operation that was very impersonal. I don’t remember
any personal friendships except the people with whom we flew in the routine over
and over again.
SC: Were you the pilot?
SS: We took turns and would switch between pilot and co-pilot. If the pilot flew in,
then I would fly back. Actually, the other pilot would be the captain in charge, but
we both had the opportunity to fly.
SC: How many crewmembers were in this aircraft?
SS: The pilot, co-pilot, navigator, crew chief, and sometimes a second crew chief.
SC: So, four of five would be the crew. Were they from all over the country?
SC: Did you have the same crew flight after flight?
SS: We were pretty well assigned to one particular plane. There were others in our
squadron, but basically we were a number of little units that were pretty well
coherent within themselves.
SC: Do you feel like your experience in the Air Force changed your life? Was it a
turning point in your life?
SS: After the war was over and the dropping of the bomb, shortly after we were sent
to japan to occupy it, I was released and came home. Being a Mormon, I left the
Air Force so I could go on a mission with the LDS church. That’s why I left my
squadron, so I could serve the mission.
SC: Where did you serve your mission?
SS: In Canada.
SC: You came back and where did you attend University?
SS: I came back and enrolled at BYU and met my wife in 1965.
SC: Has your wife passed away?
SS: Yes. Last week. Just a few days ago.
SC: I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you have children?
SS: Eight children, seven boys and one girl.
SC: That’s a great family. Do they live nearby?
SS: They’re in and out all the time. They’re really close.
SC: Where else did you attend school?
SS: I went to BYU and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and stayed for another
year and got my master’s degree. I went to the University of Colorado and got my
SC: Did you come back and teach at Weber your entire career?
SS: Most of the time. I took some sabbatical leaves in Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Most of the time was at Weber. Twenty-two years at Weber.
SC: When did you retire from Weber State?
SS: In 1986.
SC: Mr. Harris is wondering what your experience was like during the time you were
in Japan in the occupation forces.
SS: Before I went into the Army, I had majored in college in landscape architecture.
When we took over the country, our squadron was assigned to a place called
Fussa, Japan. Because of my training in landscape architecture and because I
had a lot of flying I requested a chance to help beautify the airbase. They put me
in charge of the landscaping crew and gave me a whole bunch of Japanese
workers to work on the environment and clean up the trees and shrubbery. I did
that for almost three months. I was at the top of the list for those that had enough
points to go home, so I was the second one in my squadron to be sent back to
SC: During that period of time you were in charge of beautifying the Japanese
SC: How were you treated by the Japanese?
SS: It was like little puppets. I couldn’t feel any personality at all. It was very
automatic. They were just doing what they were doing. I can’t remember ever
developing a personal feeling toward them. Of course, I had an interpreter all the
SC: But you were treated with respect, of course, you were their boss.
SS: That doesn’t seem to be the word. It’s kind of like a feeling of automation or
something. It was like we were puppets. It was very impersonal.
SC: They were just doing what they were told. There weren’t any interactions with
SS: After they gave you a work crew of about 10 Japanese, I would tell the
interpreter, “I want that done and this done.” He’d go talk to the Japanese and
he’d spend almost a full minute talking to them. I don’t know if they understood.
I’d say five and you’d see 20 or 30 back and forth, but we got along fine.
SC: Is there anything else about your military service that you think we ought to know
about? Any other experiences you would like to share with us?
SS: I think those are the basic points. The two really close calls that I mentioned
were probably outstanding.
SC: On behalf of all of us, I want to thank you and all who served with you for what
you did during that time. You’ve been called the greatest generation and I think
that certainly is an appropriate title for you. We really do appreciate it. I also
appreciate you sharing your time and experiences with us. It has meant a lot to
SS: I thank you for the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.