Wm. Ellsworth Bishop
CHILLICOTHE - Wm. Ellsworth Bishop, 95, formerly of Chillicothe, Ill., died peacefully at Hope Valley Hospice in Danville, Calif., at 6:15 a.m. Monday, March 14, 2011.
He was born Aug. 15, 1915, in Hennepin, Ill., to Charles Henry Bishop and Bessie Pearl (Cassell) Bishop.
Following high school graduation, Ellsworth was employed by Hiram Walker and Sons of Peoria, Ill.
He then enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later named the U.S. Air Force) Dec. 29, 1941, at the Peoria Post Office. With several other area men, he was sent by Rock Island railroad to Camp Grant in Chicago, and then to Jefferson Barracks, Mo., for basic training. This quiet, private man served four years, during World War II, which included foreign service in the Pacific Theater, eventually under Col. Tibbets, as chief engineer and aircraft inspector for the Superfortress B29 Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb. It was after completing initial training in Missouri that Ellsworth was assigned to special engineering in Dallas, Texas. Opal Albert joined him from her enlistment as a nurse in the Air Corps, Camp Grant, and they were married in the Methodist Parsonage in Dallas on May 16, 1942. In October of 1942, Ellsworth had to return home on dependency leave for his family, but by January of 1944 he had returned to the Air Force, was trained in Miami, Fla., and assigned to Fairmont Nebraska Air Force Base. While doing his engineering duties, he was selected to serve under the 20th Air Force, 509th Composite Group, 393rd Bomb Squadron, a uniquely created group of 300 men, assembled for a highly secret, unknown purpose. By Sept. 1, 1944, the Squadron was assigned to Wendover, Utah, with a task of modifying and maintaining the new B29 bombers for an unusual and important bomb load.
He and his wife, Opal, also assigned to the base, lived near the Bonneville Salt Flats in a one-room trailer, with a coal-burning stove and a hole in the roof, just so you could see the stars. Once the training was completed in early 1945, Ellsworth departed to the Pacific Island of Tinian in the Marianas and Opal returned to Illinois.
Living conditions on Tinian were very hot days of 110 degrees, softball games, fine-tuning engines and eating food delivered by air and boat from the states, eggs, butter, milk, coffee and meat. All the men were anxious to perform well, complete their mission, and return to the states. After the dropping of what they later found out was the atomic bomb, the men were flown back to Roswell, N.M., for debriefing and then on to Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio, for discharge.
By February 1946, he was back home in Illinois with his wife, Opal. Ellsworth farmed in the Varna, Ill., area for many years and served on the Peoria Producers Livestock Commission Board.
He was a trustee for Steuben Township of Marshall County and served on the Mid-County School Board for nine years, lastly as president. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge 119 AF&AM of Henry, Ill.; a member of VFW Post 4999 in Chillicothe, Ill.; and past Worthy Patron, Star of Magnolia Chapter, order of the Easter Star 489.
He worked for B.F. Goodrich Chemical for 15 years and was a member of their Golf League and Retiree Club.
Both he and his wife were members of the Varna, Henry and Chillicothe United Methodist Churches.
Ellsworth is survived by his son, William A. (and Gail) Bishop of Alamo, Calif; his daughter, Linda K. (and Sterling) Smith of Sacramento, Calif; two granddaughters he adored, Claire L. Smith and Samantha G. Bishop; along with several dear cousins and many lifelong friends from Varna, Henry and Chillicothe.
His wife, Opal (Albert) Bishop, preceded him in 1995, and recently last month, his sister Bernice Bishop.
Visitation will be held Friday, March 25, 2011, at 12 noon, with a memorial service at 1:30 p.m. at Calvert and Johnson Memorial Home, 513 Carroll St., Henry, Ill. Burial with military honors will immediately follow at the family plot in the Henry Cemetery, where Ellsworth will join his parents, his sister and his wife, Opal. The Rev. Lindsey Churchman will officiate.
Per Ellsworth's request, memorials or donations may be made directly to Ambulance Rescue 33, 1217 N. Santa Fe Ave., Chillicothe, IL 61523.
Published in Peoria Journal Star on March 22, 2011
SGT - US AIR FORCE WWII
393rd BOMB SQUADRON
Opal Lillian Albert Bishop
1916–1995 (m. 1942)
Bernice Helen Bishop
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