A hundred people packed the Summit Room of Willow Brook at Delaware Run Thursday afternoon to hear from U.S Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Glenn Beaber, 94, who talked about his 14 completed missions in the Pacific Theater as a B-29 Bombardier during World War II.
“It was the largest crowd for a Thursday Talk, which is a regular program at Willow Brook,” said Community Relations Director Erin MacLellan. “They counted 100 people. Usually, we get about 50.”
MacLellan added there were two other World War II vets in attendance: Charles Allen, 100, and Jim Perkins, 96.
As for recalling his years spent serving his country during WWII, Beaber told the crowd he flew his 14 missions from Tinian Island near Guam.
“Not only do I want to tell you the story, I want to tell you the whole story,” Beaber said. “I joined the service on Aug. 18, 1943. I was 18 years old.”
Beaber, originally from New Philadelphia, Ohio, caught a train in Dennison that took him to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he began his military career.
“I spent the first year of my service training,” he said. “We had all kinds of duties to do, and a lot of classes.”
Beaber said he had to travel to various spots in the country for specific training as a bombardier. After Nebraska, he went to Montana State University in Missoula, Montana.
“There were about 200 of us up there,” he said. “We got to stay in one of the dormitories doing a lot of drilling and exercises. The food was great, because it was being done by civilian women. They had some of the best steaks I’ve ever had. I had put on about 20 pounds in two months.”
Beaber said he boarded a train in Missoula on Christmas Day that was bound for Santa Ana, California, where he spent the next four months.
“We never saw an airplane there,” he said. “It was all classes and drilling.”
Beaber said while there, he learned that he would be a bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress.
“I don’t know how they picked me for that except that I was a thin guy, small, and didn’t weigh very much,” he said. “They must have figured I couldn’t handle the plane, because I wasn’t big enough.”
Beaber also explained that the bombardier was the one who sat scrunched up on a metal step in the nose of the plane. He thought since he was small, it might have had something to do with him becoming a bombardier.
Beaber’s next destination for training was Las Vegas to gunnery school, because the bombardier was in charge of not just the bombs, but all of the 50 caliber machine guns and gunners aboard the plane.
“We got a lot of shooting in there, but most of it was like working with 50 caliber machine guns,” he said. “We had to break them down and put them back together while blindfolded. It wasn’t too easy, but I guess we got through it all right.”
From Las Vegas, Beaber said he went to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for flight training. He said he got to fly almost every other day in a two-engine plane learning to drop bombs.
“We would take turns dropping bombs, and if we weren’t dropping the bombs, we were taking pictures of bombs being dropped,” he said.
From there, he said he went to Pyote, Texas, to learn about the Norden bombsight that he would be using on the B-29.
“It was considered the bombardier’s baby,” he said. “It was right up in the nose of the plane.”
Beaber said the bombsight was a small computer attached to the autopilot of the B-29, which actually flew the plane. He said it calculated the bombs, the impact point, the weather, and all of the flight conditions.
“It was quite an instrument,” he said. “We graduated Nov. 4, 1944, which happen to be my birthday. I received my commission along with my bombardier wings.”
From there, Beaber went with his new crew to pick up a new B-29 on April 29, 1945, to fly to San Francisco to pick up their orders.
“The orders were secret,” he said. “We were not to open them until we were three hours out.”
Beaber said it was about then that the number three engine blew on the plane.
“They told us to come back,” he said. “It took them four days to put a new engine in.”
Once the repairs were made, Beaber said they traveled to Tinian Island near Guam where they were based.
“We got to see the ocean a little bit,” he said. “We did get to swim a bit.”
During his spare time, Beaber said he wrote letters to his then-girlfriend, who he married in 1945. He said they grew up across the street from each other and that recently, they celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary.
Beaber said his first mission was with 100 other planes to drop incendiary bombs on a Japanese town.
“We got along fine,” he said. “We didn’t have any problems.”
However, Beaber said not all the missions were that easy.
“On takeoff to Osaka, we lost the number two engine,” he said. “We did finally get off the ground but before we did, because we were flying low, I told the captain that I could count the grass blades down there.”
Beaber said another exciting mission was a 14-hour night mission to Okayama, Japan, carrying some incendiary bombs.
“We were one of the last crew to go in that day,” he said. “By the time we got there, the fires had smoke that was streaming up full of fallout that we hit full-on. It dropped us 2,000 feet.”
Beaber said his last run was a night flight Aug. 2, 1945, carrying 400, 135-pound incendiary bombs to drop on an industrial area of Japan. He said his plane was one of 836 planes launched that day to strike against the various cities of Japan.
“It was the largest strike of WWII,” he said.
After the strike, Beaber and his crew were sent to California for training. He said when they landed, they learned that the first Atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan.
While waiting on orders, he was ordered to El Paso, Texas, where he was released from the Army Air Corps. He said after the atomic bombs were dropped, the war was over for Japan.
“It was quite an exciting experience for 20 year old,” he said.