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Oran M. Roberts

Oran M. Roberts

Chapter 440

United Daughters of the Confederacy®

Houston, Harris County, Texas

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Judah P. Benjamin Award

Ruth and Henry Dittman

Ruth Allen Dittman
Presented - 13 June 2009 - National Recipient Number 269

Biographical Narrative

Ruth Allen Dittman was born on 17 Feb 1920 in Humble, Harris Co., TX and was the daughter of John Kirby Allen, III and Alice Saphronia Standley Allen. Her siblings include: John Eugene (Johnny Gene) Allen; Raymond Samuel (Ray Sam) Allen; Lecel Donna Allen Harbour; Mary Mildred Allen Howard; Dorothy Myrteel Allen Howell; Edith Ada Allen Gaylord Harbour; Ella Marguerite Allen Mooney Jones and Hope Allen Harris.

She attended Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, Harris Co., TX and Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University) in San Marcos, Hays Co., TX. Ruth began dating Henry "Pelly" Dittman when he was a Senior at Texas A&M University. In 1941, she received a call when the operator had her paged in the Texan Theater for a call from Hawaii. On the other end was Henry Dittman who was calling to pop the question and her answer was "yes." The very next day, Ruth packed her bags and she and her sisters left for a drive from Baytown to San Francisco, CA where she took a ship to Hawaii.

On 19 July 1941 at Hickam Field, Oahu, Hawaii, she was married to Lieutenant Henry Dittman, U.S. Army Air Corps. Her wedding dress was made out of a silk parachute and as the couple exited the church, they walked under a traditional arch of crossed sabers.

Mrs. Dittman, an Army Air Corps bride of only a few months, was living in the Officer Quarters at Hickam Field on Sunday, 7 Dec 1941. A few days before, her husband had flown one of nine Boeing B-17D Flying Fortresses to Clark Field, Philippine Islands. During the attack, the Japanese aircraft machine gun strafed the Officers Quarters. She said, "I awoke to the sound of windows rattling and wall mirrors falling to the floor. Our quarters were literally shaking." Mrs. Dittman remembers that she got out of bed and she and her roommate ran outside. She said, "When we got outside, I looked up and Japanese planes were like bees swarming. They were so close I could see their long white silk neck scarves flying from their open cockpits."

The attack on the naval and military installations at Pearl Harbor was a surprise strike conducted by the Japanese Navy and consisted of two aerial attack waves totaling 353 aircraft, launched from six enemy aircraft carriers.

Hickam Field, located adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, suffered extensive property damage, aircraft losses and personnel casualties totaling 139 killed and 303 wounded. The bombing and strafing of Hickam Field was an important objective, because the success of the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was dependent on eliminating air opposition and precluding American aircraft from following the enemy back to their aircraft carriers and bombing the Japanese Navy task force.

Between the first and second attack waves, Mrs. Dittman made her way to the Hickam Field Base Hospital to help care for the wounded. She remembered, "Then the second attack came. One bomb exploded within 20 feet of the hospital but it wasn't hit. Part of the roof was torn away by machine gun fire, however." Mrs. Dittman said that during that first day and night and into the next, "it all seemed like a dream, a nightmare. We couldn't believe it. Everything that anyone did was automatic. There was little reasoning or logic back of it. It was terrible."

She related, "Within a few minutes after the attack was launched, despite the confusion of the civilian population and the bombs dropping and machine guns pumping death into the soldier barracks, the army men went to work."

Later, she was sent to the temporary hospital set-up at the Base Gymnasium. She remembers, "Around 11 a.m. they started evacuating the civilians, but I didn't go. I stayed three days at the base gymnasium to help with the wounded. Throughout Dec. 7th and the next few days, she worked, without regard to her own personal safety, to assist with the care of the wounded and dying American servicemen who were brought in from all-over the island to this triage center.

Mrs. Dittman's patriotic service is a testament to what every American should strive to emulate in a large scale emergency situation that threatens the security of our country due to an enemy attack.

On Christmas Day, 25 Dec 1941, she and other military dependants at Hawaii were evacuated aboard an Army transport ship convoy to San Francisco, CA. She then traveled by automobile with her shipboard roommate, Mrs. G. M. Earl to San Antonio and then from there by train to Houston, arriving on 6 Jan 1942.

Upon arriving home in Baytown, she immediately went to work in the war effort and became the first married woman to be hired at Humble Oil Baytown Refinery (Humble is now known as ExxonMobil).

The only contact Mrs. Dittman had with her husband was a cable she received on 23 Dec 1941, two-days before she left Hawaii. He said he was still in the Philippines. She remembered, "All I knew about Pelly was that he was somewhere in the Philippines and probably dead after knowing that Clark Field had been destroyed and was overrun by the Japanese army."

Her husband did not want to be taken prisoner and instead found a motorcycle and headed for the mountains and joined up to fight with a Filipino guerrilla group. After several months, he made his way to a tiny island in the Philippines to hop aboard an Australian seaplane and freedom. He was the last American pilot to leave without being killed or captured. Once in Australia, he boarded a freighter headed for Mexico. In April 1942, he arrived in a small fishing village on the south coast of Mexico. The first thing he did was call his wife to let her know he was alive.

Mrs. Dittman continued to serve her country as a military wife supporting her husband in his many prestigious military assignments throughout the United States and overseas. They were stationed around the world where Colonel Dittman served as the commander of numerous large Air Bases including: Castle Air Force Base near Merced, CA; Hanscom Air Force Base near Bedford, MA; Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach, FL; and others.

Colonel Dittman (U.S. Air Force, ret.) was born on 19 Feb 1915 in Houston, Harris Co., TX and was the son of Carl Richard and Anna (Krause) Dittman. He attended Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown and then Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Kerr Co., TX. He was a member of the Class of 1938 at Texas A&M University. Colonel Dittman died on 25 Aug 1980 in Baytown and is buried in the Goose Creek Cemetery in that community.

Their children: Major Henry Dittman, Jr., (U.S. Air Force, ret.) and Ralph Ernest Dittman, M.D.; grandchildren: Mary Ruth Dittman, Henry Mitchell Dittman, Sydney Celeste Allen Huffington Dittman and Lindsay Michael Allen Huffington Dittman.

Mrs. Dittman is the granddaughter of James Julius (J.J.) Standley, Private - Co. E, 7th Cavalry Regiment (7th Regiment Texas Mounted Volunteers, 3rd Regiment Sibley's Brigade), Texas and is a member of the Oran M. Roberts Chapter 440, UDC.

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Judah P. Benjamin Pin

The Judah P. Benjamin Award is presented to honor the Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America. It consists of a certificate awarded to individuals for outstanding endeavors and achievements not necessarily related to the Confederacy in the following fields: civic / community service, conservation, education, the environment, humanitarian efforts and patriotic service.

In 2001, the award was approved at the 108th Annual General Convention held in Columbia, SC. The first award was presented in 2002 at the 109th Annual Convention held in Richmond, VA by President General Mrs. Frank I. Silek to Dr. O. James Lightehizer, President of the Civil War Preservation Trust.

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