Broken Arrow Express
CAPTURING THE PAST: Dr. Judy Moody and her students scan a historic WWII scroll.
A group of students at Northeastern State University-Broken Arrow recently partook in an opportunity to reveal a moment in Tulsa’s history.
A scroll dating to World War II has safely returned to Tulsa 67 years later with a piece of history revealed.
“My class was just amazed and I’m sure they will have wonderful stories to tell their families,” says Dr. Linda Wilson.
The last B-24 bomber airplane built at the Douglas plant in Tulsa in 1945 was named Tulsamerica.
“This is a time in American history when the majority of men were at war and the ladies worked at defense plants building airplanes and ships,” says Kim Jones, deputy director and curator of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.
Jones says it was determined at the Douglas plant that the last B-24 bomber to be built in Tulsa would be built by Douglas employees. A large internal bond drive ensued.
“To pay for the cost of the plane, employees built war bonds to finance the cost of the final project,” says Kevin Gray, docent for The Tulsa Air and Space Museum. “Anybody who bought a bond got to sign the scroll.”
Upon completion, the scroll was placed under one of the pilot seats. While in route to Italy for the plane’s further instructions, one of the pilots noticed the scroll and mailed it home.
Unfortunately the Tulsamerica was shot down off the coast of Croatia, and it was presumed that the Tulsamerica and all its contents were lost forever.
Many years after the pilot passed away, a family member contacted The Tulsa Air and Space Museum and graciously donated the scroll.
“The museum had been looking for someone with a hand held scanner to scan the scroll,” says Jones.
It was in this capacity that Dr. Judy Moody volunteered her technology expertise in supervising the scanning process. She is an assistant professor at NSUBA who has worked and volunteered at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium for more than five years.
“It’s in such great shape considering how old it is,” says Moody.
The docents removed the scroll from the leather bag and rolled it out on a long countertop for Dr. Judy Moody to scan so that an electronic copy can be prepared for display.
“They allowed us to take as many pictures and videos as we wanted,” says Julie Rhodes, Broken Arrow senior.
Wilson’s social studies methods class stood huddled and quiet around the large marble table in the Reading Clinic at NSUBA, as Gray and Jones slowly rolled out the scroll.
“We are so grateful for this marvelous living history experience,” says Moody.
Students stood by in amazement, the list of names slowly becoming visible, released one at a time like slowly opening the lid of a treasure chest found deep beneath the sea.
“It was such an amazing opportunity to be one of the few who will ever touch that scroll,” says Rhodes. “That scroll that made its way across oceans and lived through a time that many men and women didn’t.”
A moment of surprise for all arrived as Wilson revealed that she recognized a name on the scroll. She cried as she explained it was the name of a man who knew her parents long ago.
“He was such a sweet man,” Wilson says.
Gray says the scroll’s preservation will allow Oklahomans of all ages to see a significant piece of history, and will offer future generations the opportunity to search for the names of their ancestors.
“Seeing the signature of a parent or grandparent on that scroll can help the story of WWII come alive for those of us who were not alive during that terrible conflict,” says Gray.
The scroll is currently on exhibit at TASM’s Sherman and Ellie Smith Hangar One Museum.