The Bible, its cover tattered, some pages brittle and yellowing, was in a box of pictures and miscellaneous items from the estate of Addie Davidson DeLong Wright of White County.
Addie DeLong, as she was commonly known, had died in 1989, but the box remained with family members until another survivor died.
LaVenier Mize Hicks, a family relative, took the Bible and gave the remains of the box to other family members. She knew it had belonged to Frank W. DeLong Jr., Addie’s son, and wanted to get it back to a family member.
Frank DeLong Jr.’s service during World War II was adventurous, to say the least.
According to his son, Frank W. DeLong III, his father was a sophomore at the University of Georgia when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Having already had some flight training as a reserve, he signed up for active duty immediately. After further training in Tampa, Fla., DeLong in February 1942 was assigned to pilot a B-17 bomber to northern Africa after a stopover in Brazil.
On the flight from Brazil, he and two other B-17s in the group ran into storms over the ocean and were separated. DeLong’s plane had to take so many detours, his crew didn’t know where they were. Low on fuel, they flew along the coast of West Africa until they found a beach wide and long enough to land.
Fortunately, they were spotted by nearby friendly plantation workers, who helped them get the cargo unloaded and the plane in position to allow DeLong and his co-pilot to take off again for a landing strip on the plantation. The crew was treated royally during their stay before the B-17 left for the Middle East and bombing runs in a heavier B-24 over Burma, later northern African ports, Germany, Italy and other targets.
While the initial beach landing in West Africa might have been nerve-wracking, it was nothing compared to piloting bombing runs with enemy flak exploding on all sides of the aircraft. Nevertheless, Frank flew 32 missions unscathed in 13 months before returning to the United States in April 1942. He spent the rest of his military career training other pilots in Boise, Idaho, Casper, Wyo., and other bases. His last duty was helping crews prepare for long-range missions on Superfortress B-29s, the kind of bomber that dropped atomic bombs on Japan.
DeLong returned to Gainesville in 1945. His father, Frank W. DeLong Sr., put him to work in his businesses, DeLong Home and Auto Supply and DeLong Motors, a Buick-GMC dealership on East Broad Street. He immersed himself into hometown activities, becoming president of the Chamber of Commerce and leadership roles elsewhere.
Frank’s brothers, Jim and Harold, also aviators during distinguished careers in World War II, were involved in the DeLong businesses and the community as well.
Frank moved to Florida in 1965, eventually becoming a real estate developer. He died at age 96 on Pearl Harbor Day 2015.
His well-worn King James Version Bible will have a new home. His son, Frank W. DeLong III, a lawyer in Portland, Maine, will add it to other family memorabilia, including his father’s diaries he kept during the war and are kept in Frank III’s mother’s desk.
Frank III lived in Gainesville from 1946-65, attending Candler Street Elementary School and Gainesville Junior High when it was in the old high school building on Washington Street. He attended high school at Baylor in Chattanooga, Tenn., and college at Vanderbilt University. He joined the ROTC program there and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army infantry, which he served for six years.
Frank III taught school before going into law school to become a lawyer. He is married to Lisa Letarte, and they have lived in Portland since 1981.
The DeLongs have played leading roles in Hall County’s civic, business and government life. Many members of the family remain active in this community and in various fields elsewhere.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times whose columns appear Sundays. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; or email.