In 1942, Virgil Westdale was a successful young flight instructor when the government ousted him from the Air Corps and demoted him to army private. Having grown up as a Japanese American midwestern farm boy, Westdale had his first taste of Japanese culture when he was sent to train with the all Japanese American unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was ultimately transferred to the 522nd Artillery Battalion, where, as a member of the Fire Direction Center, he helped push the Germans out of Italy, rescue the Lost Battalion in France, and free prisoners from Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany.
After the war, Westdale went on to pursue a career in research and development with large corporations. He received twenty-five U.S. patents and earned an international award for his work with photocopier components. In retirement, he has been working for the TSA, returning to the worlds of aviation and national security.
Written for the lay reader as well as the history buff, Westdales stories of World War II challenge preconceived notions of what we think we know about a soldiers life in Europe and offer images that go beyond the history books.
---"Spanning over ninety years, Virgils amazing and complex life story vividly reflects Americas history from the early 1900s to our current fight against terrorism. His book reads if he were sitting before me casually sharing his life. A highlight of my careerboth as an Army officer and a Federal Civil Servanthas been the honor of working with and getting to know Virgil Westdale, a great American. This is a truly fascinating and memorable autobiography."
John H. Mumma, Colonel, US Army Retired Federal Security Director, Transportation Security Administration
---"Virgil Westdales Blue Skies and Thunder tells a story that is both unique in American history and uniquely American. After growing up as a Midwestern farm boy whose Japanese father had largely assimilated into the local community, he found himself after Pearl Harbor viewed with suspicion by the very government he wanted to serve in the Second World War. Denied a chance to serve as a military pilot, or even as a pilot trainer, he eventually found his way into a newly created Japanese American artillery unit and served with distinction in Italy, France and Germany. Back in the United States, he completed college and made a career for himself as an engineer with multiple patents to his credit, and eventually served his country a second time, as an airport security officer. His account is highly readable and offers insights into a wide range of aspects of both his own life and the world around him."
Dr. James Smither, Director Grand Valley State University Veterans History Project