By Eve W. Engle

The dogs rule in our house. They are fed first, allowed in our bed, have their own bed in the guest room and sneak up onto the sofas when we aren't looking. Maxie, short for Maximus, is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenes mix, Sammy is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix. His full name is Samuel L. Jackson after one of my favorite actors. Both were abused and rescued from their former owners. They get cookies every morning.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100: WAR!

The United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Americans had entered World War 2! In anticipation of the unavoidable the United States had imposed the first peace time draft on September 16, 1940. Frank Engle's name was on the list. While he was traveling with his friends his draft notice was being prepared. It finally caught up with him.

It must have been a very emotional moment to read that letter at the end of such an incredible year of sightseeing and discovery. But Frank went to the nearest duty station to report and explain his situation. What must he have said? "I've just come from the most important experience of my 23 years sir. Sorry about being late." And the response he must have received? "Really? You think a year traveling around with two other guys looking at art was the most important experience you've ever had? YOU JUST WAIT!"

However, if you were late reporting for draft duty (with a legitimate excuse) then your orders had to be reissued. So Frank was told to go back to his hotel and wait for new orders. He promptly went looking for a job and landed one with the Burbank California facility for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Since he had an extensive background in art Frank was put to work in a hanger where they drew aircraft to scale from engineering designs. Lofting (drawing) the plans to scale on the floor of the hanger was standard procedure back in those days. Frank loftted bomber designs to scale and then the pattern department would step in and cut out the parts to begin construction. When his second draft notice arrived Frank's job was essential to the war effort and he was "frozen" in his position. The War Department couldn't touch him. He belonged to Lockheed. By the end of the war he was in charge of their Experimental Pattern Department.

By the time he was drafted a third time toward the end of the war he was pushing 30 and considered too old anyway. In the meantime Frank must have found the work during the war years at Lockheed exciting and stimulating.

The Lockheed Corporation's Burbank facility was believed to be in grave danger of possible attack by the Japanese.  A secret plan called "Operation Camouflage" was set in motion. Huge canvases were stretched across the roofs of all the buildings. Fake rubber cars and buildings were installed. Workers would leave on their breaks and go "home" to pull laundry off of lines and to do other chores which made it look like they were actually in a suburb to any aircraft flying overhead.

In 1943 the development of a new jet fighter began at the Burbank facility. The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was completed and became the first jet fighter to score a kill for the United States. You have to wonder if Frank lofted these plans.

One aspect of living in the Los Angeles/Burbank California area was an almost daily encounter with celebrities. Seeing movie stars and entertainers, directors and producers, writers and artists was common. Frank encountered many while he was there. His opinion of Burt Lancaster was in direct contrast to his opinion of Andy Divine (he thought Lancaster was one of the finest examples of a male physique he had ever encountered, while he found Devine repulsive, smelly, and obese). It was a thrilling time in his life.

He remained in California for a while after the war ended. After leaving Lockheed he opened his own ceramics studio and produced decorative ceramics. Many were bought for movie props. He married. He took commissions. But the war was over, and it was time to go home to Indiana.

Zebras, Frank Engle Studios

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