Voices of the Veterans

Fighter pilots, crew chiefs, bombardiers, and factory workers: All have stories to tell.

A B-17 crew in England finishes its last mission. (USAF)
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Lee W. Bower Jr.
485th Fighter Squadron, European Theater. P-40/ P-38/ P-51 pilot

(Lee Bower in a Stearman. Photo: R. W. Norton Oral History Foundation)

[After the war ended] they put me on a train, a troop train, to Fort Smith, Arkansas. And I was in charge of the GIs on there. It was quite an experience. They were all hardened [infantry] troops, you know, and I was an Air Force officer [and fighter pilot]. The first time I let them get off the train, I couldn’t get them all back on. So I decided: Well, I’ll just appoint one of them to get off and get food and cold drinks, and the rest of them can’t get off anymore. They told me I better not go to sleep, they were going to kill me. I think they would have, you know!

Coming back [from Europe] on the Liberty ship, I had had a captain with me who was an infantry officer. They had assigned us to get these ground troops to do chores on the ship, sweep and mop and so forth. When I got the troops up on deck, they threw all the mops in the ocean! And [the captain] said, “I’ll take care of that.” You know, he knew how to handle them better than I did. I never had been in charge of troops. (Source: RWN)

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