After searching multiple databases and trying to make sense of the above biography, I came to realize that the references to Charles Ernest's duty with "XXIX Corps" were dead wrong, he served with Tenth Army, XXIV Corps Artillery in Leyte, Okinawa and then Korea during 1944-1945.
.....and now for an incredible story I stumbled across after digging deeper and deeper - from a Soviet Veteran who served in Korea in 1945
Let me take you to another note on the Korean bill that was written by a person with a great sense of humor,
"The American who by mistake came to Yang Yang North of 38° but now is sorry to return to his own army. Charles Ernest, Major U.S.A."
EXTRACTS FROM "GOOD LUCK CAPTAIN!"
Here is the story unveiled by a Korean paper bill, signed by four American officers on November 3, 1945. (What happened on November 2-3, 1945, was told by late Vladimir Epstein, a Soviet Army officer who served in Korea at that time. He was then commander of a Soviet Infantry regiment patrolling the area.)
It was a gloomy morning of November 2, 1945, at the 38th Parallel just north of the Korean region of Yang Yang. Commander Vladimir Epstein heard the rattle of an airplane engine. A small airplane was circling a clearing in the woods, looking for a landing. The plane was not Soviet, and Vladimir Epstein ordered the soldiers to quickly surround the area. When the plane landed and four Americans stepped out of it, the whole incident became a matter of a friendly visit! Commander Epstein invited the Americans to follow him.
He led the guests to a small house in a peach orchard. Soviet soldiers quickly laid the table. The Allies raised their glasses to the long-awaited Victory and the long-lasting friendship between the two great nations. The next morning the Americans toured the barracks of the Soviet soldiers. Neatly made bunk beds and stacks of shiny rifles produced a favorable impression on the guests. After lunch they all went to see the shooting exercises at the range.
Standing by the airplane just before their departure, Americans gave Epstein something that he would keep for the rest of his days: two pieces of paper currency which happened to be an American paper dollar stamped "Hawaii" and a Korean bill with a traditional floral design on one side and a portrait of a historical figure on the other. On it, all the Americans wrote down their warm wishes and signed their names. Commander Epstein, in his turn, gave the Americans Russian 5-ruble bills that had a picture so appropriate for the occasion: a pilot standing next to his war-time airplane. Someone from Epstein’s group came up with more Soviet currency which was signed by those present and given to the Americans.
The plane with the American friends slowly steered around the opening to get more room for take-off; a minute later it was airborne. While still visible, it rocked side to side, as if waving good-bye and disappeared in the direction of Seoul.
To correctly read this name off the banknote was probably the least of a problem. To find a veteran with such a common name proved to be a major task. There were just a couple things I knew for certain about this man: Charles Ernest was a Major as of November 3, 1945, and at that moment he was in Korea. Using the information off Philippe Durette’s Purple Heart medal, I assumed that all the men may have belonged to the same military unit, that is: 7th Division, 10th Army, XXIV Corp. They may have gone together through the battle for the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) in the Pacific.
The result of the White Pages search was overwhelming. After talking on the phone to a couple of dozen namesakes of Charles Ernest and not finding a trace of the one I needed, I gave up: sifting through hundreds of names without any reference to people’s age or veteran status was akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.
The Library of Congress website looked promising: its Veterans History Project provided information on military personnel for the period of World War II. In this database, three people had the combination of "Charles" and "Ernest" in their names. One of them took my breath away: he served in the same 7th Division, 10th Army in (among other places) Japan, Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands). However, his highest rank by the time of his discharge from the Army was Private First Class. Wrong person.
The Census of 1930 shows a Charles Ernest born in 1920 in South Carolina. A different snapshot states that Charles Ernest was missing in action in 1945 in Germany. Is it the same person?
The Second World War Memorial downtown Washington, D.C. honors millions of Americans who served in the Armed Forces, hundreds of thousands of those who died, and all those who supported the war efforts back at home. Here, among the sixty-one entries with the last name Ernest, two veterans also shared the first name, Charles. The information in the Memorial Registry, scant as it is, states that one of them "flew 50 missions out of Southern Italy over enemy territory" while the other "flew reconnaissance missions and served as a pilot instructor." The person I was looking for could be either of them.
A week spent in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, cleared a lot of uncertainties and the kaleidoscope of information started to look like pieces from the same puzzle.
Charles Ernest was born on August 10, 1907 in Columbus, Ohio. During the Second World War he was a Field Artillery pilot, flying air observation post aircraft for the field artillery. In the Southwest and Central Pacific Area (Okinawa) in 1945 artillery air officers were instrumental in bringing up a few important innovations to air observation posts.
The process and its impressive results are described by Dr. Edgar F. Raines, Jr. in his book Eyes of Artillery. The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II. The artillery fire and its accuracy were observed and directed by artillery air pilots who were flying reconnaissance planes over the battle field. Before the troops gained any shore area to build landing strips, the planes had to be based at sea. The large air carriers could not approach the shores close enough.
Dr. Raines writes, "At the very opening of the ground campaign, Tenth Army introduced a major innovation in air-observation-post operations, at least as far as the U.S. Army was concerned. Selected pilots used a Brodie device to provide observed fire during the landings." A Brodie device was a complex combination of wires, cables, poles, a hook, a trolley, and a trapeze.Originally, for practice purposes, it was built on land. It was meant to send the planes into the air and also to catch those at the end of a mission without having the wheels touch the ground or the deck of an aircraft carrier. Later the Brodie device was mounted on a landing ship tank LST-776, which allowed for a relatively smaller floating vessel to come closer to the shore and "permitted Field Artillery planes to observe fire continuously during a landing. It eliminated the dependence on aircraft carriers to transport light aircraft to the landing area […]."
Brodie Device Pioneer Pilot
Charles Ernest brought his expertise, skills, and personal courage into the picture. Dr. Raines continues, "The XXIV Corps artillery air officer, Major Charles Ernest, had learned to fly off a land-based Brodie rig […]. He began training selected pilots in its use. […] Ernest and most of his men received the intense training needed to operate such complex gear. When XXIV Corps landed in Okinawa on April 1 1945, the Brodie device and the pilots using it functioned almost flawlessly, making twenty-five takeoffs and landings until engineers could prepare strips ashore."
Charles Ernest operated small reconnaissance planes, probably L-4, also known as Piper Cubs or Grasshoppers. It may have been one of those planes that he and his army fellows flew on November 2, 1945 to land on a forest clearing just north of the 38th Parallel.
After the Second World War, Ernest was stationed in Camp Polk, Louisiana. In July 1952, while at Camp Polk, 45-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ernest received orders assigning him to the Far East again, to Korea. This extraordinary man’s passion was flying. The National Archives hold several photos of Charles Ernest. They are all about flying or teaching others to fly. There, among other duties, he served once again as a pilot instructor, teaching Korean students of the Army Aviation School.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ernest passed away on January 15, 1965 at the age of 57 and was buried with military honors at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.