A Promise To Friends
by Donell Williams | Corsicana Daily Sun

When Jose 'Joe' Holguin promised Pace Payne and four others that he'd return their remains to their families if they died, he didn't know that it would forge a permanent bond between the families. His son, Curt, has relived his father's journey through meeting as many families of his dad's fallen comrades as he can. He didn't know that his journey would take him through Corsicana until he came across his father's records of Payne.

'My dad's death in 1994 sent a major message to me. I had a role to my community, to my children to teach the principles he lived by,' Curt said.

'Since World War II was a major experience in his life, I wanted to find out what drove him. During the war, he was a prisoner of war for two years in Japan. One of the things he lived by was a commitment to the group superseded a commitment to the individual. He put a lot of his own individual needs aside because there was always this commitment to the group meaning his church, community and his family.'

Joe also lived by a principle of reaching out to others.

'He spent the last years of his life healing old wounds. He traveled to Japan many times, and returned to the spot where his plane 'Naughty but Nice' landed after being shot down,' Curt said.

Curt is trying to teach these principals to his daughters Kate and Ryan. This desire to teach his children is what brought him and his family to Corsicana and to the Payne family. His father met the Paynes when he escorted the body of Pace to Corsicana to be buried here in 1985, 42 years after the plane was shot down.

'We've never met in person, but we've known each other all our lives,' Curt said.

'It's through comradeship. Even though we've never met we're connected because you don't let go of someone you spent combat time with. They don't go away,' Albert Pace Payne said.

With him he brought several items for the Payne family: The copy of Paradise magazine describing the final mission of the 'Naughty but Nice,' the identification papers of Payne's skeletal remains and a copy of Joe's diary from the time that he was in crew with Payne.

In Joe's diary, there is an entry that shows the day that Joe filled out the paperwork for Payne to be awarded the Silver Star. Payne was also awarded the Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster (signifying two awards), a Purple Heart, also with one oak leaf cluster, as well as a World War II victory medal.

The Paynes brought with them the letter that Joe wrote to their family informing them that Pace was dead, written October 24, 1945.

'I feel that as Pace's navigator, I was largely responsible for his death, in as much as it was my duty to bring our aircraft to the closest contact with the enemy that was possible. However, I feel consoled that Pace had always said to me and other officers of his crew that he would die for his country and crew if the occasion should arise,' Joe wrote in his letter.

As Curt went through all of his father's photographs with 'Bud' and his sister Jimmie Jo Payne Shelton, he explained who everyone was as well as what his father had done after he came back.

Curt organized a final get together of World War II veterans from America as well as from Japan. After both groups of veterans spoke, his daughter Kate spoke on why children will not forget the veterans.

She said that her friends had told her stories about what they had heard from their families.

'What do these stories mean' Well, they mean that some of us kids will see our imperfect 21st century as a place made better because of what our 20th century grandparents sacrificed to make it so,' Kate said in her speech.

Even through all of this, the families had never met. Sunday, Nov. 7, that goal became a reality when the two families sat down for a meal and memories at the Sirloin Stockade. The Holguin family, Bud and Jimmie Jo met at the office of the Daily Sun before they met with the entire family.