I’ve been overwhelmed by the emails and card expressing condolences regarding my Dad’s recent death. These expressions of sympathy have helped and I thank you. Below I offer a bio that I wrote, much like what I published six months ago for my mother. I hope this might interest to some of you. I will soon return to more traditional topics for Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch.
The Life Journey of
John Howard Hutton
April 11, 1921 – June 14, 2017
Howard Hutton, the only child of John Francis Hutton and Kate Frances (Lincoln) Hutton, began his life’s journey April 11, 1921 at his grandparent Lincoln’s home in Liberty, Missouri. He was two months premature and at birth weighed a mere three pounds. Howard was not expected to survive, being even too small for a crib. His parents instead bedded him down in a shoe box.
Howard later relished telling the story of how the local doctor, to stimulate his tiny heart, placed a few drops of whiskey into his mouth; an occurrence, he later claimed, that led to his fondness for distilled spirits.
When asked as a small child to introduce himself, he would respond, “Hoppy Hutton, three years old,” an endearing affectation to be sure, but actually resulting from his difficulty pronouncing his given name. The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri where Howard attended Central High School and where he was a good student. He also sang in the high school choir. Howard was an affable youth who enjoyed riding his bicycle and interacting with the teen and young adult group at the First Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo. It was there he met his future wife, Adele Catherine Greenway.
Following high school Howard attended Kansas City Junior College. Howard and Adele shared a backseat in a carpool for KCJC and became better acquainted. Soon after they began to date.
Howard’s life journey then took him to the University of Missouri in Columbia where he studied Criminal Justice and Sociology. Adele followed the following year. Toward the end of the fall semester of Howard’s senior year, his plans to enter the field of criminology suddenly changed when on December 7, 1941 Japanese military forces attacked Pearl Harbor. This event rattled the structure of daily lives, altering myriad life journeys.
Following the dastardly sneak attack, Howard was filled with outrage and patriotic fervor. He joined the military, choosing the U.S. Army Air Forces. Howard found the idea of flying airplanes extraordinarily appealing.
The following May, he officially entered the U.S. Army Air Forces. His love for Adele amidst an uncertain and shifting world stage prompted him to hasten his marital plans. Howard proposed marriage to his “Chipper” who was then completing her junior year at MU. Adele accepted and they married June 20, 1942. Adele skipped her promising senior year of college to trail Howard to various military bases about the country. Such was her dedication and love for Howard that she chose to join together their life journeys. Both Howard and Adele considerably broadened their view of the world by living in multiple communities from California to the Gulf Coast and from Texas to the Dakotas.
Howard’s service during World War II consisted mainly of being an instructor pilot. How many of his trainees went on to demonstrate bravery and heroism in European and Asian action is unknown. How many of his trainees gave their country what in Abraham Lincoln’s words were “their last true measure of devotion” is also unknown. Nevertheless, Howard helped to weed out those unfit for flying and less likely to survive, and to train, to his best of his ability, those who went on to fight in the air battles of World War II. His good nature and boundless patience served him well throughout his assignment to the pilot training program.
His military journeys for initial flight training took him to Santa Anna, California and for primary basic training to Gardner Field in Taft, California. While in Taft, his daughter, Joan Adele was born March 1, 1944. He then took advanced training at Luke Field at Phoenix, Arizona and had many other military postings.
Howard requested transfer to B-29s, believing the massive, long-range bomber would play a pivotal role in concluding the war with Japan. He wished to contribute to achieving victory in World War II in a more direct way than via pilot training. He took his training in B-29’s most likely at Gulfport Mississippi, but was also stationed at Roswell, New Mexico, another B-29 training base.
As an aside, during training for the B-29, Howard and crew flew gunnery practice for fighters in which they would trail a target for the fighters to shoot at. He recalled receiving a request to slow up his greater than 350 mile per hour B-29 Superfortress that was powered by four Wright 3350 turbocharged engines generating 2200 horsepower, as the fighters couldn’t even catch him, much less hit the target. Whenever Howard related this story, he did so with a broad smile on his face.
Despite strategic losses in 1943 and 1944, the Imperial Japanese forces refused to capitulate. The U.S. Air Forces commanded by General Hap Arnold had tried to bomb Japan into submission with high altitude daytime bombing raids. This approach had proven largely ineffective.
Under the leadership of General Curtis Lemay, low altitude and incendiary night bombing began and wreaked a fiery havoc on the largely wooden Japanese cities. It also led to a greater loss of the B-29 bombers and their crews due to their vulnerability at low altitudes to anti-aircraft fire. More pilots and crews were needed to continue the air onslaught.
Following a prolonged B-29 bombing campaign, General Douglas MacArthur championed a straight up invasion plan (Operation Olympic), consisting of first attacking the southernmost Japanese home island, Kyushu. But rather than the 80 thousand defenders anticipated, Japan had in place nine divisions comprising some half million, well dug in defenders. Japan also held back over 900 hidden aircraft for suicide missions along with providing training for terrestrial kamikazes and for the piloting of suicide boats. The American invasion plan would likely have resulted in up to a million American casualties.
In 1945 large numbers of the technically advanced, long range B-29 Superfortresses began rolling off the Boeing production lines. The B-29 was the most expensive military project of World War II (even greater than the Manhattan project).
Production of the highly advanced B-29s had proved difficult due to the need for many technical changes. The airplanes were known to go directly from the production plants to the modification plants.
By the end of 1944 Boeing had delivered only 100 B29s of which only fifteen proved airworthy. Moreover, the initial losses of these bombers and their crews were high due to mechanical malfunctions, fires, and mission losses.
Following heavy bomber training in 1945, Howard and crew transferred to a military base in North Dakota for a final shakedown. About this time Howard ran into a thorny staffing problem with one of his crew that greatly perplexed him. Something simply did not click with the assigned co-pilot such that Howard made the difficult decision to remove him from the crew. Howard disliked having to take this action, but did so in the interest of crew cohesiveness. He then added a more capable and cooperative co-pilot to the crew. The eleven-man crew then worked together well. As a final humanizing gesture, Howard named his flying ship, the Kansas City Kate, in honor of his beloved mother.
The high-spirited and well-prepared crew of the Kansas City Kate finally received their departure orders for Tinian, a small island in the South Pacific to join in the bombing campaign of Japan. They packed items not destined to go overseas and shipped their boxes home.
As they prepared for their overseas journey, something unexpected occurred. Another B-29, the Enola Gay, based at Tinian and piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbits, dropped an A-bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima. This was followed three days later by the B-29 Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, dropping a plutonium bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki.
President Harry Truman from Independence, Missouri, not far from where Howard had been born, had ordered the dropping of the atom bombs. He did this to save countless American lives and in the hope of avoiding the calamity of having to invade Japan. One of the lives he saved may have been that of a young First Lieutenant B-29 pilot who hailed from nearby Liberty and Kansas City, Missouri.
Shortly after the dropping of the atom bombs, the Imperial forces of Japan surrendered. Howard in mock bravado offered an alternative explanation for the Japanese surrender, in which he claimed, “They heard I was coming and decided it was time to give up.”
After the Japanese surrender the U.S. military services began to reduce their ranks and Howard mustered out. Howard’s next journey returned him to Kansas City, Missouri. No doubt any disappointment at not having shipped out for the South Pacific was more than offset by his joy of going home. Not long after his homecoming his second child, John Thomas Hutton, was born December 26, 1945.
Howard likely pondered resuming a career in Criminal Justice as this was his original career plan, but the flying bug had bitten him badly. Unable to immediately obtain a job as a pilot, Howard supported his growing family by working as a postal employee and by selling lamps as a traveling salesman. He thought of himself as a poor salesman, his honesty and truthfulness reducing the effectiveness of his sales pitch.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) hired him only to furlough him during a downturn. Mid-continent Airlines, based in Kansas City, then hired Howard. It merged in 1952 with Braniff Airlines. Only then did Howard’s career as a pilot become assured.
Given the shortage of housing units following the war, Howard and Adele initially lived with Adele’s parents (Grace and Charley Corp), and Adele’s sister, Grace, and her husband, Verd Schwarz. The stone and brick house on Benton Boulevard was crowded, boisterous, and loving.
Howard eventually moved his family to a new veterans housing development in Kansas City that offered greater room and privacy. The family promptly and aptly dubbed the new development, “Mud Hill,” as no grass existed in any of the yards.
The family continued to expand with the births of David Howard on September 7, 1950, and James Philip on January 28, 1954, both in Kansas City. The family relocated from “Mud Hill” to a new planned J. C. Nichols development, in Prairie Village, Kansas. The development had meandering streets, large lots, big setbacks from the street, and provided ample public art and decorative fountains. This represented one of the first planned communities in the United States and the philosophy underlying it influenced such communities as Beverly Hills and Westwood in Los Angeles, and Highland Park and River Oaks in Texas.
Howard commuted to the airport in Kansas City, Missouri while his family attended school and settled in among the rolling hills of Kansas’s suburbia. A common site on Canterbury Road was Howard running, huffing and puffing, behind bicycles while teaching his children how to ride. Again his ability to train was evident.
In 1957 Howard realized in order to advance or perhaps even to maintain his career, he would need to relocate to Braniff’s home base in Dallas, Texas. He knew the magnitude of Adele’s sacrifice by leaving behind her extended family for the unknown terrain of north Texas. Nevertheless, his very career required he undertake this new journey. With effort and careful planning, Howard paved the way for his family, built a new brick home in Richardson, and moved his family during the summer of 1957.
Grace Schwarz, Adele’s sister, had a proud saying about the family’s attitude, “While our family might not have the millions, it still has the airs! “
Never was this truer than when the Hutton family arrived in Dallas during a terrifically hot summer. The family soon learned that Texas cars had the luxury of air conditioning, whereas their blue 1950 Buick Special did not. At Joan’s urging and with Howard’s acquiescence, the family would roll up their car windows and steam down Central Expressway or across Texas highways, acting to the passing cars, as if it were frosty cold inside. It’s surprising that young Jimmy survived this over-heated act of Hutton hubris.
The growing family created increased financial needs. To his credit but adding substantially to his sleep deficit, Howard routinely bid night flights because they paid more. He proved to be an excellent provider for “The Hungry Hutton’s” as he often referred to his family.
Howard was able to rear four children and pay for four bachelor degrees, a master’s degree, two medical degrees, and still was able to take his wife on many exciting trips about the world. Howard and Adele journeyed to pre-revolutionary Cuba, Europe multiple times, to the Soviet Union, to Egypt, to many South American countries, to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, and Thailand among others.
Howard had few hobbies except boating, but he always possessed a high energy level. He used this attribute for extensive yard work, making additions to the house, volunteering in the schools, and assisting with his children’s recreational activities. Howard taught all four children to drive. During these risky ventures, his patience and even-tempered nature likely reflected his experience in the Army Air Forces Training Command when training even riskier novice pilots and at much greater speeds.
Howard also served as Asst. Scout Master, as an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Richardson, and supported a mission of the local Methodist Church to sponsor a recently arrived Vietnamese family. Howard taught the father how to drive a car. No doubt the Vietnamese man learned to corner with the wide, sweeping airplane-like turns characteristic of all who learned their driving skills from Howard. He also stocked shelves for a time at the Richardson Food Pantry.
In his career as a commercial Braniff pilot alone, Howard ably logged an incredible 26,942 flying hours and covered an estimated distance of 8,108,260 miles! To put this in perspective, he flew the equivalent of over 824 times around the circumference of the earth or over 27 round trips between the earth and the moon. What a journey!
Howard flew thirty-two years for Braniff International during which he piloted the following commercial aircraft: DC-3, BAC 1-11, DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Convair 240, 340 and 440, Martin 404, Lockheed Electra L-188, Boeing 720, 727, 707, and the Boeing 747. He retired as an international captain flying the jumbo 747 to Asia and Hawaii. He was always at his best and proudest when he put on his snappy blue pilot’s uniform and donned his pilot’s cap ablaze with gold captain’s braid.
Howard retired at the mandated age of 60 and lived for the next 30 years in Richardson, Texas. He was asked decades after his retirement if he still dreamed of flying. His honest, heartfelt, and emphatic answer was, “every night!” No longer able to fly commercially, Howard continued his air journeys in his dreams.
He was serving as President of the Braniff Retired Pilots Association when Braniff International entered bankruptcy. He sacrificed much time for his fellow pilots with long hours of uncompensated service, fighting to save their pensions. His efforts finally culminated in his testifying before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where his arguments proved partially successful.
Perhaps Howard Hutton’s most prominent personality characteristic was his amiability. He wanted to be liked and he liked other people. The writer of this bio cannot recall ever seeing his father truly angry. This emotional steadiness contributed to his success as a pilot and to his ability to get along with virtually anyone.
Due to failing health and advanced age, Howard and Adele in 2010 made a final move from Richardson to Athens, Texas and he entered South Place Nursing Home near the home of daughter, Joan.
In November 2016 with Adele’s earthly journey completed, she preceded Howard in death at the ripe old age of 95. On June 15, 2017 Howard died peacefully in his sleep at age 96, leaving behind his children; Joan, Tom, David, and Jim and his grandchildren; Jeff King, Heather King, Andy Hutton, Katie Hutton O’Neal, Christopher Hutton (deceased), Elizabeth Hutton, Margot Hutton, and Jessica Hutton. He also left behind former colleagues and friends. Howard, you shall be missed.
On June 15, 2017 Howard embarked on his final journey that is beyond all human comprehension. To paraphrase the poem “High Flight,” Howard slipped the surly bonds of earth for the last time and in smooth air, with the wind at his back flew toward the setting sun for his final flight west and… to touch the face of God.
Tagged: B-29 Superfortress, Braniff Airways, Braniff International, Final flight west, General Curtis Lemay, General Douglas MacArthur, General Hap Arnold, Kansas, Kansas City Junior College, Mid-continent Airlines, Mud Hill, Pearl Harbor, Prairie Village, Richardson, Texas, The Kansas City Kate, Tinian, U.S. Army Air Forces, University of Missouri, World War II