Joan McMullen Nesbitt, was known in her hometown as a caring British lady who loved her family, God, and community. When her daughters would ask her about her life in England as a child, she would refuse to talk. For almost 50 years, she never said anything about her service in the British Air Force. For her six daughters, this was part of her life they knew nothing about until after the 50th Anniversary of WWII. As a young girl growing up in Liverpool, Joan lived an affluent life. Her father was a second lieutenant on a ...
Joan McMullen Nesbitt, was known in her hometown as a caring British lady who loved her family, God, and community. When her daughters would ask her about her life in England as a child, she would refuse to talk. For almost 50 years, she never said anything about her service in the British Air Force. For her six daughters, this was part of her life they knew nothing about until after the 50th Anniversary of WWII. As a young girl growing up in Liverpool, Joan lived an affluent life. Her father was a second lieutenant on a merchant marine ship when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack in 1937 in the Philippines. In 1939, the Nazi air strikes started, and Joan, her mom and sister Dorothy hid behind the stairway at home. At the age of seventeen, Joan got a job and while walking to work, she would see and hear the Nazi airplanes. There were times she had to hide inside doorways as bullets strafed the streets. After two years of bombings, on December 7th, 1941 Joan was drafted into the British Royal Air Force as a meteorologist serving at Anglesey Air Force Base near Wales. Serving as a meteorologist was an important role in order to plan for future bombings against Germany. It was top secret work and as Joan saw Allied pilots going out and coming in, fear would stir her heart when she heard the Nazi planes and warning sirens. While working with the Americans, Joan met Hugh Nesbitt, who was helping to set up the American Weather Base as a weather forecaster. She said, "And the British people, who really knew very little about Americans before the war, took the well-educated, good-looking, mannered GI Joes into their hearts and homes." Hugh and Joan dated sixteen months and were married on September 12, 1944 in England. Joan was fond of the times when the American USO entertained the troops. Bob Hope was one of those great entertainers that came to England, and the soldiers loved him. Joan sat in the front row and could have touched his shoes. Joan was distraught during the events before and after D-Day in 1944. The weather reports were bad, and thousands of men lost their lives. None of her pilot friends returned. During all of this period, they endured extensive rationing of food, gas and electricity. Joan mentioned the lack of meat and eggs since the German U-boats had surrounded the country to keep out any food cargo. There were the blackouts at night, when everyone during the war had to keep the lights off and the shades drawn. No one would be allowed to light a cigarette, because the light could possibly be seen by enemy aircraft. Driving at night was impossible. Moving from place to place was done by bicycling or by walking. Electricity was used for a few hours per day, and gas coupons had to be carefully saved for daytime driving. The couple excitedly welcomed their new baby into the world, even with the rationing. Before returning to the states, Hugh bought a basket from a gypsy for baby Barbara. Then, Joan and baby boarded the SS Edmund B. Alexander, a troop ship that was used to carry 250 women and children to America. They arrived near Jersey City, and all new immigrants went through Ellis Island to register. From New York, Joan and Barbara took the train to Chicago, where they were met and taken to their new home in Aledo, Illinois.
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