The History Center uses exhibits, both on-site and on-line, to showcase some of our vast collections of documents and photographs.
Gayle Cruthirds World War II Flight Log
A member of the 376th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, S/Sgt. Gayle Cruthirds is a Diboll native who left his home and family to serve his country as a gunner in the Army Air Corps in 1943. He served 2 years, 7 months, and 17 days, from March 5, 1943 to October 21, 1945. Throughout his time of service, Gayle earned a Purple Heart medal, an Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with 3 bronze stars, a Presidential Citation with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters on his unit citation, an Aviation Badge, and Overseas Service bars.
Mr. Cruthirds loaned his flight log, several photographs, correspondence and his military records to The History Center for the 2005 exhibit Angelina County At War, and at the conclusion of the exhibit, donated the items to The History Center to become part of the permanent collection. The Cruthirds World War II Collection is an invaluable collection of documents and photographs that not only document his time in the war, but also allow The History Center’s visitors and researchers, as well as local students, to peek into the daily life of a World War II aviator.
Of particular interest in Mr. Cruthirds’ collection is his flight log. He kept this log while he was a nose gunner stationed in Italy to record each mission he flew. This log is fascinating in that he tells where they flew, described the weather and flak conditions, and some of what he experienced as a nose gunner flying over enemy territory in Europe in 1944. The log doesn’t contain many of his feelings or thoughts, but occasionally he records his relief after a particularly rough landing or the details surrounding the mission when he was wounded. The log is fully transcribed and will be available soon as a PDF file within the exhibit, making Mr. Cruthirds’ words available to anyone who wants to read them.
The purpose of this exhibit is give students and teachers, as well as any one else interested, a chance to look at history from its most basic level. History is the story of the people involved in the events of their day – and Mr. Cruthirds was a Diboll native involved in one of the most pivotal events of the 20th Century – World War II and the battle for Europe. In addition to reading a textbook describing the events of the war, students can read the words of a man who experienced it, look at his photo and see his Purple Heart.