I recently ran into a 90-year-old lieutenant colonel who served in my headquarters many years ago. He was an enlisted man when he first joined the Army Air Corp.
During World War II, he was a crew member on a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in Italy. He flew 33 missions until the end of the war, and came up through the ranks.
I was always amazed that the first bombers flying out of England had the life expectancy of only eight missions, and some never reached that number. It wasn’t until there was a good fighter coverage when they made the life expec- tancy of 25 missions.
A lot of people aren’t aware that the bomber crews in Europe had a fixed duty tour, then they were sent home. No other unit in the war had that. The reason is because the casualty rate was so high and they didn’t expect anyone to outlive it.
That was the first thing this old country boy learned from the ‘old timers’ while I was going to radio school to be flying on a B-17 bomber. I’m glad I went into another career field.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.