WWII Snapshots by Chelsi Medved - 2008

Felix Powers, Army Air Force, and Uteva Powers, Home Front

While out gathering firewood, Uteva (Pfeffer) Powers and Lyonel Felix Powers got the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. The attack - Dec. 7, 1941 - came just two months and two days after the couple had exchanged their wedding vows.

"It [the war] was such a horrible thing, really," Uteva recalled. "The world was changed."

Felix had enlisted before meeting Uteva, but was officially called to duty during their first summer together in 1942. He was sent to an Air Force Base in Utah to join the Army Air Force. Uteva followed her husband to Utah and worked as a nanny, awaiting his departure from basic training. Immediately after being released from training in Utah, Felix was sent to Chicago to become a radio mechanic. Packing up her belongings, Uteva followed right behind. She worked in a department store, supporting herself without Felix.

After becoming a certified radio mechanic, Felix was sent to England in 1943. He was stationed at a B-24 Bomb Base at an undisclosed location. Needing to help support her family, Uteva, 22, returned to Manhattan, Kan. from Chicago to live with Felix's parents.

"They were rough times, living with his parents," she said. Uteva remembers having very different viewpoints than Felix's parents while she was living with them.

Shortly after returning home without her husband, Uteva searched for a job. Having no previous college training to fall back on, she landed a job at Fort Riley, working in the Quartermaster's Office. Uteva was put in charge of the requisitions, outfitting departing oldiers.

"I was happy to have a job that was doing something for the war," she said. "I was destroyed when I had to send soldiers out without things like shoelaces."

Struggling to find supplies for the soldiers was not the only difficult task Uteva faced while working at Fort Riley. Sugar, gas and other items were rationed. Even with the small amount of money Uteva had to call her own, she invested in the war by purchasing war bonds.

She said posters, advertisements and clips in movies reminded citizens not to give away any information related to a soldier's location. Any information that was leaked could be pieced together and might give another country an advantage. Since televisions were not around, posters were the main way of advertising for the war. The posters included typical Uncle Sam, "I Want You!" messages.

"Everybody in the country was involved in the war, one way or another," she recalls. "During the war, it was just day after day of doing your job."

While Felix was gone, Uteva spent most of her free time writing to him overseas. Using the technology of V-mail, Uteva and Felix were able to communicate every day.

V-mail, or Victory Mail, was a system used by the government that allowed soldiers to write and receive letters without disclosing their location. According to the National Postal Museum, the V-mail letters were microfilmed versions of full size sheets. Instead of wasting cargo space, the microfilms were sent overseas where the letters were then "blown up." Letters were received within one week of being written. All mail from military personnel was censored during the war. Officers could censor their own mail while enlisted men had to have their superior read their mail for them.

"It was a great innovation to have," Uteva said. "Felix and I could write to each other every day. He was also able to write to his parents."

Uteva still has an original V-mail Felix had mailed to his parents during the war. She keeps it on a bureau with her pictures and memorabilia of her late husband.

After serving his time in England, Felix was sent home for a 30-day leave. It was during this time that he filed a request to be honorably discharged on the basis that he needed to care for his elderly parents. Before his request could be filled, V-E (Victory in Europe) Day occurred on May 8, 1945. This was the day when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Felix was sent to the Pacific, but his request for an honorable discharge was filled after he served only one day in the Pacific.

After the discharge, Felix and Uteva resumed life as if it had never been disrupted. Uteva recalls Felix after his return home.

"I don�t think he ever changed as a person," she said. "A lot of people were, but because he wasn't in serious danger, I think he was just doing a job."

Felix was very open about the war and his experiences, although they were put on the back burner after he returned. The couple welcomed their first child in 1946 and soon after had three more.

At the age of 57, Uteva decided to return to school. Because she had a family to raise and had a job, she began taking one class every semester. She started with Expository Writing I, followed by Expository Writing II. It was in these classes that Uteva decided that she wanted to write children�s books.

"I wanted to write children's stories because the ones I wanted to read to my children I couldn't buy," she said.

After realizing that children's books were not such a hot market, Uteva began to take theater classes, including children's theater.

"I was never really going to school for a career," Uteva said. "I was going to school because it was fun."

She decided on journalism after taking a reporting class and finding it interesting. She submitted some of her class stories to the Manhattan Mercury. It took 10 and a half years before she walked away from Kansas State University with a degree in journalism.

After receiving her degree, Uteva remembers going to apply for a paid position at the paper. She still chuckles as she recalls her interview.

"I walked into the office and, when I met with the editor, all he said was 'Can you start on Tuesday?'" she said, laughing.

While at the Mercury, Uteva wrote stories for what was called the women's pages.

"My favorite part of being a reporter was meeting all the people," she said. "I loved to write feature stories. I also loved that I was involved and people gave me credit for helping with things like keeping the courthouse open in Marysville."

Uteva continued to write for the paper and raise a family at the same time. She led a happy life with her husband and children. Felix died in 1999.

Uteva described her experiences during the war in 2003 when the Riley County Historical Society decided to create a DVD Veterans History Project with people from the World War II years. Uteva was one of many to share her stories. When asked what her favorite memory from the war is, she doesn't even go back to actual wartime.

"I enjoy seeing the flag on Felix's grave every Memorial Day," she said.

When asked how living through World War II was different from living during the War in Iraq, Uteva is very quick to answer.

"It was a rough time back then," she recalls. "You had to grow up fast. Everybody was involved back then. Whatever you were doing, you were doing it because that is what you thought your part was."

Left: Uteva Powers during her days as a student at Kansas State University; right: a V-Mail letter from Felix to his parents.

Contents of April 1944 letter below:

I read in the paper today that you are having some real floods right close to home, but I'm not worrying about them getting into our land. I had pork chops for supper - and doughnuts too. The wild plums are in full bloom, and the daisies and dandelions make a pretty sight growing together in a nearby pasture. The crows over here are very tame compared to the ones back home. I'm getting sleepy so I must close and hit the hay. I'm healthy and full of hope for the future. My motto is:

Take it on the chin,
With a great big grin.

Lots of love,


Other Stories.