Ernest Bernhoft, Jr.
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 10/24/1943 - 02/09/1946
C-54 Flight Engineer, CBI Theatre

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the oldest of four sons of Ernest, a machinist and diesel mechanic for Illinois Central Railroad, and Ethel Roberts Bernhoft. Ernest worked in a grocery store as a youngster, and graduated from White Haven High School in 1943. He joined the U.S. Army Air Forces, entering active duty on October 24, 1943, and took basic training at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi. There he also finished mechanics school, where he learned to work on B-24s. Sent to Ypsilanti, Michigan in June of 1944, he observed how factories built the bombers. Ernest was attached to the 4th Ferrying Command, based in Memphis. He was sent on to Lincoln, Nebraska, then to Casper, Wyoming, for B-24 transitional training. From Miami he flew across the Atlantic, eventually landing at Kurmitola, India. There, B-24s, converted into C-109s, ferried 55-gallon drums of gasoline to B-29s based in Kunming, China, with all the windows open for ventilation. "You couldn't get within any distance of one of them, and you all you could smell was 100-octane gasoline," he recalls. Ernest served as flight engineer on these missions that took up to seven hours. Among other trips he made was to fly 82 soldiers of the Chinese nationalist army from Luchow, China to Shanghai. His unit next went to Okinawa to ferry the 82nd Airborne Division to Japan. They were not allowed to perform the mission because they needed Mae West personal flotation devices for trips across the water. After the war ended, Ernest's unit delivered men from fighter and engineer bases to Karachi, India, a port of embarkation. Ernest left for America from Karachi aboard the USS General Greeley A.W. Greely (AP-141), a converted tanker taking some 5,000 men home. Aboard was a classical pianist, Leonard Pennario, who played every day during the 30-day crossing. Ernest arrived in Seattle in December of 1945. By then Ernest had more than 250 hours of flight time, sufficient for his discharge, which he received in February of 1946. Ernest started summer school on the GI Bill at Rhodes College in Memphis. He earned a degree in economics and business administration in 1950, and began work in Memphis at Union Planters Bank. He next went to work at General Electric, which transferred him to New Orleans. After his job was eliminated, Ernest began working in sales at Godchaux Sugars, where he met Josephine Aiuvalasit. They married in November 1956, and would have three sons, along with seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He ended his career with Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation in Shreveport.