I believe this will be my last “hurrah” as I have written several letters for Vets Day so it get sort of repetitious.
You ask about the idea of patriotism. I was always patriotic growing up — but my concept of this idea became stronger after I entered the service. I feel that people who don’t have much patriotism should think about relocated instead of protesting.
I was born in South Lima, graduated from South High School in 1942. Drafted into the Army shortly after. Found out later that the Air Force was asking for volunteers and I saw a chance to stay out of the infantry. And as a young kid I liked excitement. And I sure got i!
After some more tests — three of us were accepted in the 8th Air Force. We found out later that the Air Force was losing so many gunners and this is why we were accepted. Anyway we were sent to gunnery school in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and I became a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber.
Ten of us were assigned to a B-17 named 5 Grand. So named because it was the 5,000 B-17 built by Boeing Plant. All the employees began signing their names all over the plane. Even movie stars signed it. This was to honor our co-pilot’s father who worked on the assembly line at Boeing. Pictures of 5 Grand and our crew were in the national news and we flew it to several U.S. cities showing off the plane. After this we flew this bird to Newfoundland and on to Nutts Corner, Ireland.
Assigned to the 486th Bombardment Group near Sudbury, England, flowing 10 missions with them. My third mission turned bad — took a direct hit over Mannheim, Germany. Two engine shot out with one fire. Dropped about 15,000 feet and got ready to be bail out. Thank God the pilot got the fire out and we had to limp back to England by ourselves and on the lookout for German fighter planes that just loved to take down crippled planes. A large piece of flak went through the tail about 1 foot above my head. We did lose six of our buddies when their plane was shot down. They lived in our tent — ages were 18 to 21 years old.
Transferred to Foggia, Italy, and flew another 25 missions with the 483rd Bombardment Group there. We got shot up but never shot down. Sometime we could count up to 80 holes in our plane.
I thank the Lord for keeping me safe. I came home and married a beautiful redhead and we have three wonderful children. Sadly to say my wife died very suddenly in 2002. I live with my 3 pound teacup Yorkie in beautiful Eagles Point West. The people here are very friendly and Ginny has many dog friends.
I might add that over the years I have spoken to mostly high school kids about World War II. Some of these places were in Lima Baptist Temple School, Fort Wayne, Ottawa and the largest was in Peoria, Illinois (class of about 500). I don’t do this anymore mainly because of my age.
I am the only survivor of our 10-man crew since Tony (ball turret man) passed away about six months ago. We were very close.
The irony of this tale is that I fought a war, attained rank of staff sergeant, awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, seven battle stars after flying 35 missions — but I was still not old enough to vote. Ha!
The cold stat for bombers in World War II is that the average bombing suffered 1.5 percent losses. This doesn’t sound so bad until one runs the numbers. 1.5 percent per run means that in 66 missions, the entire Air Force would be shot down. Every two months, the entire force had to be replaced. The men knew this but they still climbed into those planes.