inent scholars and the artifacts of notable
people, sometimes in torrid competition
with other institutions.
But the collection would be less complete, and much less interesting, if it were
limited to the work of professionals.
“Sometimes, in fact, we deflect scholarly collections, because,” he said, “what
is the product? The product is a book; you
might have some letters, research materials
that you’ve accumulated, but they’re rarely
primary. And our charter is specifically to
collect primary material.
“So, enter the amateur historians.”
Pete Parham, 16 and in high school in
Henderson, came out of a movie theater
to the news on Dec. 7, 1941.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we did know we were all going to be
As a senior he went to Durham to take
an Army Air Corps exam, to try to beat
the draft. Back home after training, he was
assigned to a B- 17 based in Tampa. His
brother-in-law Bob got the same assign-
ment. When they got there, Bob asked
that Pete be assigned to him, and somehow
it happened: Bob was the pilot, Pete the
bombardier. They would fly missions out
of Lavenham, England.
“We put on an electric heated suit. We
had heated inserts for our feet. We wore electric
heated gloves over silk gloves. We were able to
plug ourselves into the electricity on the plane.
In addition to all that, we wore a fur-lined
jacket and pants and fur-lined boots. We had
a leather helmet with built-in earphones. We
wore an oxygen mask that was plugged into a
central unit. We had a bottle of oxygen to carry
with us if we had to change positions.”
On a mission over a fighter base near
“We got into Germany, real deep. We
were a bit too far from the target for the bomb
run, and we got hit about the hardest I have
ever seen with fighters. The antiaircraft was
terrible. We lost a bunch of planes and crews.
I think about nine of our planes were shot
down with these fighters coming in. It was just
terrible. You could see the fighters jump on a
B- 17 that had been crippled and had to drop
out of formation. The fighters would come in
one right after another. I remember looking at
one falling out, a B- 17 that was crippled and
the fighters came out of the air and finally shot
them down. The crew went down, but they
should have been proud of themselves before
they went down.”
April 14, 1945:
“It was rather an unusual mission. We
were going to fly to the coast of France on
the Royan peninsula. A pocket of Germans
had holed up there ever since the invasion on
D-Day. They had been bypassed, and any
time planes would go over, they would shoot
at them. It was a big problem. They wouldn’t
surrender; we had to go in to see what we could
do to knock them out. … For the first time in
the war with Germany we were flying and using napalm bombs, which are a form of gasoline
jelly. They were incendiaries. … Well, after
two days of bombing them while the French
navy and American Navy were shelling them
from the coast, they were burned out literally.
They capitulated and surrendered. So that
ended the resistance in Royan peninsula.”
All this time, Parham was flying with
his brother-in-law. Later they got separated, and Parham was on his way to fly on
B-29s bombing Japan when the war ended
with the Japanese surrender. Pete and Bob
reunited at home.
Most of White’s students used cassettes. The library faces the challenge of digitizing
hundreds of hours of tape before it can be accessed practically by the public.