I was sent to gunnery school in El Paso, TX. Once during parachute training, I jumped over five crouching people and did the required roll. Unfortunately, I hit my nose with my knee. I stood up and realized it was torqued at about a forty-five degree angle. I went to see the doctor. He told me to lay down on a bench in the waiting room. He then put his knee on my chest, his left hand on my forehead, took my nose in his right hand and snapped it back into place. Basic training was full of surprises, but I guess he’d seen a lot of broken noses.
I trained to be a tail gunner. We’d board the plane together but as the rest of the crew went forward, I’d crouch down on a sliding seat. It took me through the tube to the cabin in the back of the B-29.
Part of my duty was to check on the engines, always looking for signs of trouble. Once, an engine was leaking oil, a dangerous situation. I alerted the pilot and, thankfully, we landed safely. Those were exciting days and I felt proud and excited. But when I learned our unit was pegged for a nighttime reconnaissance over Japan, I was nervous. We were supposed to photograph potential bombing sites. This meant I’d be leaving the United States for the first time, and going to war.
Fate intervened. When I think about it now, I get an eerie feeling. World War II ended just days before we were to ship out. Japan surrendered and I had to make a decision… whether to go home and maybe work in the local crane and hoist factory, or to re-enlist. Upon hearing I could audition for the Air Force band, I re-enlisted.