The Royce E. Whitman Papers contain photographs and papers related to Mr. Whitman’s military service during World War II. Born on September 26, 1919, Whitman was raised in Beaumont, Texas, graduating from Beaumont High School in 1936. He attended Lamar College for two years, then worked as a salesman for Standard Brands, Inc., and later as a bank teller for First National Bank. Whitman joined the Army Air Force in 1942, and became a bombardier. After completing training at Pueblo, Colorado, his crew was processed at Herrington, Kansas, before transferring to West Palm Beach, Florida, for further orders. His crew was assigned to the China Burma India Theater of operations, so he and his crew flew to Karachi, India (today part of Pakistan), where they were assigned to the 492nd Squadron of the 7th Bombardment Group of the 10th Air Force. They arrived in India on January 27, 1944.
Their first bombing missions were against Japanese airfields and supply dumps in Central and Southern Burma. Whitman flew in a wing ship as a Deputy Squadron leader for about 100 hours on these missions, and then was promoted to Flight Leader. Objectives for his next 300 combat hours included Japanese supplies and communications in Burma, Thailand, and the Andaman Islands. Specific targets included airfields, railroad centers, marshalling yards, rail bridges, shipping, docks, troop concentrations, and supply dumps, with their focus being Rangoon, Bangkok, and Port Blair. Whitman achieved good results on these missions and was later advanced to Squadron Bombardier, then was detached to Group Headquarters as a Group Bombardier.
He helped build a low-level bombing range and developed a method for low-level glide-bombing, which proved especially effective against rail bridges. In all, he flew 55 combat missions for a total of 440 combat hours. One 18-hour mission against railway bridges in Jumbhorn, Thailand, earned the 7th Bombardment Group a Presidential Unit Citation. Whitman himself was promoted from a 2nd Lieutenant to a Captain by the time he left the service.
In July 1945, Whitman returned to the United States and took on the role of assistant AAF Liaison Officer of the Personnel Distribution Command at Fort Douglas, Utah. He coordinated the screening, processing, and orientation of all Air Corps officers returning to the United States, and gave advice on problems related to their return. He earned accolades from his superiors for his tact and compassion in working with these officers.
Whitman was honorably discharged from the AAF on May 3, 1946. He married Mavis Keenan (July 31, 1924 - June 26, 1986) circa 1950. They had three sons, Jerry, R. Randolph, and Robert. He worked as an underwriter for the American General Life Insurance Co. for many years, and was a member of the Irish Village Kiwanis Club, and the Evening Optimist Little League.
He died on October 15, 1969, and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Beaumont, Texas.