A collection of e-mails  about Wyatt Exum WWII Hero and Vaughan Bassett Furniture Executive.

From Major Johnnie Eller:

Hi John,

I doubt if you remember me but Judy and I were classmates (58). My sister Jane and I lived at 911 W. Stuart Drive or just across the street from Wyatt, Francis and Pat Exum.

At some point when I was in High School I heard a story about Wyatt landing an airplane in WWII and rescuing a fellow pilot but never knew much else.

I spent 20 years in the Air Force and was assigned to the Armish-MAAG (Army Mission - Military Assistance & Advisory Group) in Tehran, Iran from June 1971 to June 1972. We had no US Military facilites as such but we did have a small Officer's Club at one of the Embassy facilites.

One day we were told that Brig. General Chuck Yeager was in town and that we were to meet him at the O-Club for dinner and drinks. There were only 8 Air Force Officers so it was a small party. I think everyone in the world knows who he is and his exploits in WWII. He was a multiple ACE along with being the first man to break the Sound Barrier. At the time Gen Yeager was the Defense Attache at the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan and would come to Tehran as an R&R.

During the evening we were sitting around a table talking to Gen. Yeager and he was telling us about his years of flying the P-51 and about being shot down and escaping from Germany. I mentioned (don't recall why) that I thought my neighbor, Wyatt Exum, had flown P-51s and had landed and picked up a fellow pilot who had been shot down. He immediately said "That was Captain Wyatt Exum!". He further stated that "everyone who flew the P-51 knew about Captain Exum's mission and it was even taught in the P-51 pilot training classes. He then related to us everything he knew about the mission. I was surprised because I had heard that Gen. Yeager was not one to do much talking.

Gen Yeager said he did not know Wyatt personally but stated he had the utmost respect for him and his heroic actions.

Needless to say, after his comments, I had to brag a little about Galax to my fellow Officers.

Major Johnnie Eller
USAF, Ret.d.
Galax HIgh (Class of 58)
3804 Creekside Ct.
Burleson, TX 76028


From Wes Lineberry

You certainly can!  In a convoluted way, I think Wyatt was a factor in an airshow in Ohio this summer.  It was billed as the last round-up and reunion of WWII Mustang pilots.  I was visiting with someone who attended this airshow last night.  He was thrilled by the large number of Mustangs flying and seeing several Mustang vets including Charlie Wilson who Wyatt had rescued in Hungary.  The Chairperson of this airshow was Angela West who is Lee Lauderback's fiance'.  Lee owns Stallion 51 in Kissimmee and gives flight instruction in a P-51 called "Crazy Horse".  I was fortunate to fly for an hour with Lee in Crazy Horse.  Lee related to me that Charlie was his inspiration to become involved with Mustangs.  So that is "The Rest of the Story"!


Copy of note From Wes to StanGillaspie:

A few years ago, I attended a meeting in Orlando to listen to a man called Charlie Wilson discuss his exploits of flying a P-51 in WWII.  Most of his talk was centered around attacking a train in Hungary.  He essentially shot himself down because the train he hit exploded as he flew over it.  As soon as He described his forced landing, I knew the rest of the story as related to me by Wyatt.  Wyatt was his rescuer!  There was a major airshow a few months ago organized to honor Mustang pilots and Charlie was one of the guests of honor.  I just discovered the airshow had a web page dedicated to that rescue and thought the Galax gang would like to see it:


Wyatt left me forever enamored with the Mustang and I got to fly 'Crazy Horse' with Lee Lauderback a few years ago.  Lee let me do most of the flying including acrobatics, landings and takeoffs.  Lee and Angela West of Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, FL were the organizers of the airshow.  Lee flys several airshows a year in 'Crazy Horse' including formation flights with the latest Air Force and Navy fighters.  The P-51 looks like a toy next to these monsters!

Wes Lineberry


From Ted Hall

Well, I actually spent time with Wyatt Exum at the Galax airport and flew with him in Bill Honneycutts PT-19. This, of course, was after he was working at the furniture plant. Also, I visited Wyatt at his home and actually saw old news paper stories and pictures concerning his rescue of a downed pilot. These, among other things in his scrapbook!! He landed, rescued the downed American pilot and flew him out sitting in his lap in the P-51 Mustang!! True story!!! Ted Hall


From Ken Tomlinson

Stan--I have so enjoyed all these stories about Wyatt Exum.

Do you have any way to track down his grandson. He would absolutely love these stories about his grandfather.

Back in the early '80s when I was director of the Voice of America. Got a call from Wyatt. His grandson was a senior at Episcopal High School. They have a spring intern program. He asked that I get the grandson placed at VOA.

Obviously done.

Took the grandson to lunch, and he loved his grandfather as much as I admired him. Great kid. Chip off the old block, as they say. Have no idea what happened to him though I would be happy to track him down through EHS.

If you have any trouble finding him, let me know.

Again, what a service you do with these emails, keeping us all in touch with what is really good with life.

Footnote: Ten or so years later, I would get to know EHS well. My second son, the one who inherited great legs from his Mom, played football, track and lacrosse at Episcopal. I didn't miss a single game or meet. As I said, got his speed from his Mom. The college recruiting was fun--even got to know the Duke lacrosse coach (by phone.) But he never really considered anyone but Navy.


reply to my email asking permission;


The greatest scout master ever.

But figure Wyatt was best ever at everything he did--iincluding husband and father. Best--Ken Tomlinson

To Stan Jan 28

Stan--What wonderful emails about Wyatt Exum.

He was no doubt the greatest role model we all had growing up in Galax. What an exceptional man. Remember his Boy Scout Troop?

Reflections on his exploits in WWII--and his fame which as young men we (I) really didn't understand--are deeply appreciated. When I say we didn't really grasp his past, I should add that I just wanted to be like Wyatt Exum.

Twenty-five years ago when I was VOA director, I did a late night interview on WBT in Charlotte about some crisis of the time. Wyatt was driving some place in North Carolina, and he tracked me down by phone in Washington that night, and we had a great talk.

What a great service your emails are. What great memories. Many thanks--KT


I didn't see the first of these messages about Wyatt Exum, but I want to
add to the memories. I first met Wyatt at a Scout Meeting at his house, Troop
59. My cousin Eddie Boyer invited me to go along with him. It must have been
around 1950. I later joined this troop. Wyatt was the most generous person I had
ever met, and what a memory he had. He taught us Morse code and semi-phore code
with all kinds of memory tricks to aid us. Once on a camping trip to Raven Knob
Park Wyatt went ahead of us to ask if we could use another area of the park.
After gaining approval he signaled the answer to us using semi-phore code. We
understood the message and responded accordingly. This made quite an impression
on the caretaker of the camp.

Wyatt loved young folks and was a constant source of encouragement. Once I was
at my brother Harry's house and Wyatt came over for a visit. My wife and two
sons watched as I went through an entire deck of cards reciting each card out
loud. Wyatt, who was on the other side of the room then proceeded to recite back
to us the entire sequence, never having seen the cards. To this day we all
remember that. He knew lots of tricks. He once told me that he would help Pat
memorize her Latin vocabulary, about 20 words each day, on the way to school
(Pat, please correct me if I am wrong). This drive must have been all of 5
minutes. With his techniques, learning was easy.

I treasure the time I had with him and the influence he had on my life.

Best wishes to all of you,
Jerry Cook


Dear Stan, I have been overwhelmed at the attention Daddy's rescue of

the "other Charles Wilson" has garnered since the movie "CharlieWilson's War" came out.

When John and I saw and loved the movie I told

him there would no doubt be confusion. Would you mind forwarding this
note to our GHS list?: You have been so terrific keeping all of us
linked together. I am so appreciative of the warm remembrances of Daddy.
He loved and knew all of our crowd and he and Mother often said that
those years of Cotillion, ball games, the Youth Center retreats were the
happiest times of their lives. My children had a ball with them as they
were very young grandparents and they made an indelible impression on
their lives. John and I try to spend real quality time with our 9
grandchildren and are so grateful for the fabulous example they set. I
really hope to get to the reunion at the library this year.I went to see
Daddy's Charles Wilson after Daddy died. He was a terrific guy and I
still hear from him.The other fliers that day have also been kind enough
to come and see me. Everyone's story is pretty much the same and
needless to say I am very proud of Daddy. He was a remarkable man who
loved people unconditionally and they loved him back. Much Love to you
and Monica. Pat  ( Exum Bassett)



Go to top