My short bio: Hello Reddit! Back again here with my dad, we did this a couple of years ago. We'll be here for an hour or so to answer any questions (he'll answer, I'll type). Here's the link to the previous AMA we did:

Here's his history: Iama retired USAF pilot who flew missions as a bomber, transport, and tanker pilot in WWII, Vietnam, and the Korean War. My first mission was bombing just beyond Omaha beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944). I flew 33 missions in 60 days during the war. Some other notable things I did: I flew Lyndon B. Johnson (when he was still President of the Senate) and the then Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, and flew the last plane out of Saigon (as far as I know) at the end of the Vietnam War.

I also grew up during the great depression (born 1923) so can answer any questions about that too. Yesterday was also my birthday! I turned 92. AMA!

Here's an imgur album of some interesting photos from his past:

As an aside, I (his son) will be filming this AMA session and posting it to /r/videos at some point in the next few weeks after I edit it together.

My Proof: See link above to the previous AMA we did. Also:

Edit: Ok, that's it for us! Thanks everyone for the great questions. My dad had a good time again answering these. I have some footage of him answering them and will get around to editing a video in the next few weeks, aiming to post on r/videos and maybe as an edit here. Cheers!

Edit 2: Wow! I'm surprised that this blew up so much. Thank you all so much for your interest and response! I'll be showing this to my dad and he'll be blown away. I sincerely apologize to all of you with unanswered questions, I was only able to have my dad do this AMA for a few hours yesterday. I unfortunately don't live super close to my dad and had to go back to work today. If we do this again I may try to schedule the AMA ahead of time. Thanks again!

Comments: 438 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

suaveitguy283 karma

Growing up in the 1980s, we all were exposed to the music and films and tv shows of our parents (the boomers in the 1960s.) Growing up in the 1920s, what parts of your parents' turn of the century culture were you exposed to and nostalgic about?

whatismyusername440 karma

Well during that time there was a depression, and a lot of people were hard hit. I was raised by my father and mainly by him alone. We wasn't home much, he was away working somewhere. My father would take us to ball games, or other things that didn't require much money, we'd go to those because they were free. And I understood that, and that affected my life. Most of my friends weren't as poor as I were, and they'd go to the movies. Whereas I'd go to the railroad station and watch the trains.

pepolpla120 karma

Ball games didn't requre that much money back then? because now they are expensive

Newfff178 karma

It was probably just local amateur games and not professional.

whatismyusername303 karma

My dad says "that's correct"

JLBate212 karma

I'm in the RAF, and whilst sitting in the cockpit of a Voyager a/c, en route to the Ascension Islands in the middle of the Atlantic, I asked the pilot, "How on earth did people find tiny islands in the middle of the ocean all those years ago?" To which he replied, "I have no bloody idea"

So my question is: How on earth did you find such difficult targets, given that the enemy will try to deceive you, you had little-to-no modern equipment and had the enemy trying to shoot you?

From what I can tell from statistics, that show the real danger you guys faced, the skill and bravery you shown day to day is unparallelled. Much respect to you, sir!

whatismyusername268 karma

Oh well we had excellent maps of Germany. We knew where the targets were, there's a whole division in the military that's their job to find the targets. That's all they do.

panic4me175 karma

When you were 10 years old, how did you imagine 2015 will be?

Do you think if the nazis won the war, the present will be the same? What major difference will be observed?

whatismyusername392 karma

I didn't think much about what would be happening 80 years down the line when I was 10. [laughs] I think I would've been optimistic. I don't think a 10 year old really gives a damn. [laughs]

Well I've got two major thoughts on that (the second question). Even if they won the war, all they'd do is conquer England. I don't think the German people would've taken Hitler seriously for more than five years. And if they won the war, it'd be chaos in Germany. I don't think they would've been able to make a difference over a span of 20-30 years, I believe the nazis would've disappeared. The German people are intelligent, they've proven that many times, so they wouldn't have put up with that for more than a couple of decades.

panic4me86 karma

Well what do you think was the best things that you were doing before the war? And what was the hardest thing you've done during the war?

I imagined civil war will rise up after the war if the nazis won. But a tyrant will rise up. Do you think the war was necessary for human evolution?

whatismyusername188 karma

I spent a great portion of my life in the library. I'd go into the children's section of the library, but then I got tired of those dinky books. Someone got a hold of me and taught me to really read and understand. But the librarians wouldn't let me into the adult sections because I was too young, so I would sneak past them into the adult section. I would read Aviation Week and railroad magazines. That was a great thing I remember I did before the war.

Sonic_Is_Real147 karma

How close have you come to being hit by flak during your flight in a b17?

How well did the b17 handle in the air? Was it easy to fly than other planes?

Did you get to talk to Lyndon at all during your flight with him?

whatismyusername239 karma

Well it wasn't close, it was many time directly hit [lauhgs]. Every time when we went over Germany. Oh the only times we didn't get flak was when we were bombing the german bases in France.

To me it was an easy airplane to fly, because when you wanted to turn, it was like driving a Mack drive, you had to put pressure into it. Where like a C-47 or a twin beech, you take your finger and you just turn the yoke a little bit. Well I may be exaggerating a bit. But that worked in your favor because you didn't have to keep changing position and adjusting the flight. Much easier for the B-17 in it's mission, but for low flight, no I'd rather have one with an easier pull up and all that.

Oh, no [laughs] he wouldn't even talk to my crew members, the load sergeant and all in the back of the airplane. He [Lyndon] had a bottle of scotch on the table the whole time, but I had no direct contact with him. But my crew members said, "he's not a very nice guy, you know that."

theseeker119128 karma

Hello, I want to tell you Happy Birthday! You look great for 92!!! What is your secret for longevity? Living through what you did, There had to be dark days. How did you get through them? Did you pray, or believe in God? What was your escape from the turmoil around you?

whatismyusername445 karma

Yes I prayed and I do pray. I'm not a member of a formal church and never have been. I believe there's some big power up there doing something and I don't know what it is. But one reason I can live through all this, is I'm comfortable not knowing, and that's a great feeling to have. And that I'm not afraid of all these things I don't know, I'm not afraid of the future. I recognize that everything doesn't go well all the time, and I'm able to accept bad days and bad things.

That's why I look so good at 92, I don't know how I look, I feel like I'm 93 [laughs]. I laugh at the world often. I can't do anything about it (the world) and I know that.

Williamcg124 karma

Did you ever fly in purple heart corner?

whatismyusername199 karma

(after looking up what this was) Oh! I forgot about that...we never used that term when I was there, before or after. But it's true, some positions were more dangerous than others. Oh yea, I flew in it, probably every other time I flew. It wasn't really any big difference. But no I didn't like it as much (flying down there), you don't feel as protected. But at the end of war when I was flying, I only ever saw two german fighters, so that didn't really affect my flying. So I didn't really worry about it.

Buckeyefan12392 karma

What was it like to fly and fight on a B17 during long missions? What was the closest encounter with the enemy you had during WWII?

whatismyusername173 karma

It was long and tiresome, one thing. Sometimes I'd come back from a mission and I wasn't tired at all, but those were short missions. I'd often think about the last missions, what happened to the last guys, if that'd happen to me. Staying in position and not running into another airplane was high on the priority list.

The closest encounter I had was the Messerschmidt flying straight at me. In a bombing mission over Germany, a German fighter, I assumed a Me-109 or Focke-Wulf 190, came flying directly at us. I thought his target was me and there was nothing I could do about it. He passed a hundred foot under me and he missed me. My tail gunner and ball turret gunner couldn't see where he went. I'm cruising at 300 mph and he was cruising at 400, so he passed me at about 700 mph. I'm rounding off the numbers of course.

1edgy3me85 karma

How different was the morale from one war to another?

whatismyusername176 karma

Ahh, well people looked down upon the Vietnam war, they even used to riot in front of people's houses who had soldiers in the military in Vietnam. Some would be rioting to get our troops out, and others would be rioting to get more troops in to get it over with. It was a strong feeling during that war. Zero rioting in WWII.

sdgoat75 karma

My grandfather was on a B17 crew during WW2 (believe he was a flight engineer / top turret gunner). I know nothing about him since he died many years ago and he and my mom never got along. Are there any resources or groups that I can use to find more about his military career? He retired as part of the SAC in the 60's.

whatismyusername97 karma

Hello, this is the son speaking. To kind of answer your question, we found a lot of information on my dad by discovering this website about his bomb group in WWII: If you can find out your grandfather's B17 bomb group (or where he was stationed out of) there's likely a similar website or group that gathers information about the crews in that group. With a little google-fu, you should be able to turn something up!

CaptainLepidus75 karma

How was morale during the Korean War among the airforce? As I understand it the army and marines were very demoralized for the duration of the conflict. Was it different for you, since you weren't involved in fighting on the ground?

whatismyusername118 karma

I didn't even think about Korea much. I knew I was there, I knew people didn't like it, I knew people were getting killed there. Fortunately I was never stationed there, and I only flew in there four or five times. But I know that everyone that spoke about the Korean War hated it, thought it was dirty and nasty, so my opinions come from my friends, that DID go there.

NineteenEighty951 karma

Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

What was going through your mind on the morning of June 6, 1944? At the time, did you have any idea how big of a historical event D-day would become?

whatismyusername105 karma

I think I certainly did. I thought about what's gonna happen in the next few months. I thought it was gonna be a terrible fight. Being in the active military I knew what that meant, being stationed in England I was surrounded by men and special forces that were going there. And I thought, this is gonna be the biggest event of my life. It had to be. I didn't know what the date would be.

mgoyoda46 karma

What is your favorite song?

whatismyusername87 karma

Moonlight and Roses. Link:

Ph0Mai42 karma

Have you ever gone back to Viet Nam? Would you if you had the chance/motivation?

whatismyusername74 karma

I haven't been back, no. I would like to, because I'd like to see what happened to those people that I flew with, and I wonder what happened to them. I worry about their future. I'd go to Vietnam in a minute if I had the chance.

Apoxual39 karma

I come from a military family where my mom, dad, and step-dad are all either veterans, or still in the service. With that, what is it like comparing the military of then, to the military of today? Do you see a mentality change in the soldiers/airmen/seaman/etc. and do you think that the US has gotten "big-headed" as of recently in regards to our military?

Edit: It's also cool to hear that you flew the last plane out of Saigon during Vietnam. That kind of hits home because during my step-fathers last deployment to Iraq, his unit was the last that left Iraq during the US withdrawal in 2011.

whatismyusername73 karma

I've observed the modern air force only from a distance, what I read, etc. nothing from what I participated in. It's 70 years, and I've got a lot of questions myself. To my knowledge, I'd probably say I don't think there's been a significant difference. We do different things in different ways with different equipment. But it all boils down to defending our country. I don't believe the military, and the people in it, are very much different than then.

coconut_water36 karma

Like many people my age, both of my grandfathers served in the military - one during WWII and the other during the Korean War. Their experiences always piqued my interest in war and I watch a lot of war movies and shows in order to help satiate that interest.

What are your thoughts on war films and/or television shows? In which ways do they "get it right" and in which ways do they miss the mark in depicting war? Any favorites?

whatismyusername46 karma

I didn't watch much television, I don't even watch much television now [laughs]. So I can't really answer that well, I'm sure there are some movies out there that get it right more than others.

Chuml3325 karma

Two questions:

Have you ever taken a life and if so how did it feel?

What are the biggest differences between the two wars for you?

whatismyusername105 karma

In the position as a pilot of a bomber, my ability to know who I was affecting on the ground was very limited. I just know we were bombing german cities with women and children, and I used to think about that. I didn't get any joy out of bombing German cities, I was just doing the duty. I always say they brought it on themselves, but the people on the ground didn't bring it on themselves, the civilians I mean, the military did. Namely Adolf Hitler, gotta bring his name in here...worse thing that ever happened to Germany.

[laughs] two wars...I've been through five wars! (he's joking) You're thinking of Vietnam I'm sure. After the war with Germany, and starting our war with Vietnam, I went into cargo planes. We didn't carry bombs at all. We would land at these small towns, everything was kind of temporary. The difference is, we were in the war itself (in Vietnam), getting directly shot at on the ground. We'd be taking off and be only hundreds of feet off the ground, and be getting shot at from these guys in the trees, trying to get this cargo to our troops. When we offloaded cargo, our troops wouldn't even come out to the airplane, they'd be targets. So they wouldn't even come out until we left. So, the main difference, was the closeness of the people involved. I never saw any germans, but I saw all kind of Vietnamese...sick, wounded, dead.

Fezman9213 karma

I would like to thank you for your service. My mom's father and his family went through the Holocaust. He lost his parents and other relatives, but all of his brothers survived.

Do you have any good book recommendations about WWII, Vietnam, and/or Korea? Also do you have any plans to write an autobiography?

whatismyusername42 karma

Vietnam: The Last Plane out of Saigon. It was written by two Vietnamese guys who were in charge of some of the (American) missions in Vietnam. They never specified any names about the last planes out of Saigon, but that was because they said there was so much chaos at the end, we (the authors) didn't even know where the airplanes were. They said it wouldn't be fair to anyone to name a name because it was such chaos. And I agree with that.