As the years pass, I believe my interest in politics became more vivid. Early in my life, growing up in poverty in south Lima, my dad lost his job due to the Great Depression. It was a constant struggle. But something I remember very well is when President Roosevelt started the WPA. It was then my dad could earn enough so our family could survive. Therefore my politics were slanted to that party. However, I am now an independent voter.
I believe most elected officials understand veterans affairs and have veterans interests at heart. The vet administration treats me fairly. They take care of most prescriptions and I have a free clinic care. They gave me hearing aids because my hearing was destroyed due to the unbearable noise during my bombing mission. Nothing is perfect.
You ask what I wish people understood more about my service. As an example, while living in Florida after World War II, my next door neighbor (a German lady) one day asked me if I realized that when we bombed their war factories, we killed many young German boys who were forced to work in those factories. I was stunned. To this day I cannot forget this instance.
Pertaining to my service, I entered the 8th Air Force at age 18 soon after graduating from Lima South High School. I was assigned tail gunner in our 10-man crew. After training in the states we left for England in our B-17 bomber via Newfoundland. After landing, we were assigned to a bomb group near Sudbury, England, and started flying missions all over Europe. Almost shot down on third mission over Mannheim, Germany. Two engines shot out — one on fire. Pilot had to “feather” the engines. Dropped out of formation and limped to England on two engines. Barely made it back.
Flew 10 missions with 8th Air Force, transferred to 15AF near Bari, Italy, and flew another 25 missions for a total of 35 missions. This was a required tour of missions to be eligible to return to the states for a rest. I was waiting in Naples for my boat when the war ended in Europe.
Our plane got shot up but never shot down. Always counted holes in the plane after landing. Once we had near 200 holes — one about one foot about my head. Lost the ball turret officer and waistgunner. The biggest shock was five gunners living in our tent were killed when one of our own planes (a B-24) dropped a 500-pound bomb on their plane by mistake. I had to help gather their belongings and send them to their loved ones. Fortunes of war. Maybe, but it is so sad. Their ages ranged 19 to 26.
To sum things up, my prayers were answered. My life was spared. My brother came home safely from the Pacific but in poor health. Out of our 10-man crew, only two are still living. I keep in touch with Tony (our ball turret man). He lives in New York. I was the youngest in our crew. I am 91 years old now and in good health. I live with a three-pound teacup Yorkie. She thinks she is a German Shepherd. Ha.
What I think is ironic: I flew 35 missions, earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, seven Battle Stars. Presidential Group Citation and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant but when I came home after 2 ½ years I still was not old enough to vote.