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Living History: World War II Veteran John Hale Shares His Experience As A Pilot In Pacific Theater

History students pose with WWII Veteran John Hale.

Veterans always have a different and well-rounded outlook on the world. John Hale is no exception when he gave a presentation on Monday, Feb. 11. He talked about World War II as a whole. Then he talked about how he fit into the war.

Hale had brought a picture of the plane that he flew, a B-25. He talked about the role of the planes in the war, and how although  many German towns were destroyed in the war by these planes, that it was not always the crew’s fault, due to faulty equipment or wind, or many other factors. He wanted to reiterate that with most of these missions they we’re trying to hit factories in the town and not the entire town itself.

A major in Japan that felt that the pearl harbor “Awoke a sleeping giant,” and Hale seemed to agree with that. He then talked about the atomic bombing of Japan, how Japan wanted to fight the U.S. into exhaustion before the atomic bombs dropped, but how after the bombing, the Japanese government did not want to go along with that.

Then Hale went into his role in the war. He talked about the structural integrity of the B-25 that him and his crew flew, about the cruising altitude of the plane, and how fast it normally went. He was swept up into the military from high school. The military did not have enough people to man the equipment they had.

His wildest experience in flight school was flying downward towards the earth as a simulation of what it would feel like to feel hopeless. He said, “You don’t know what to do,” when falling towards the earth fast, and that he was very scared. He also mentioned that, “You don’t know when you are upside down,” referencing when a flight trainer had blocked out all of the windows and had trainees fly them upside down.

Hale and his crew had to fly their brand new B-25 from Georgia to New Guinea. Their first stop was the Hawaiian islands, where his navigator started to cry, saying that he couldn’t see any astronomical objects, due to cloud cover, to use the sextant for navigation. So they used a radio compass to get to where they were going. Hale described a radio compass as using a radio to pinpoint where you are. They would use radio station’s languages and what music they were playing to make a guess on the city or area they were close to.

The anecdote he seemed most excited for, and everyone else in the presentation seemed the most engrossed about, was when he was flying home from a bombing run one night and it was dark. A voice crackled over his radio telling him to turn on his landing lights which he thought was odd because he was nowhere close to landing. So he switched to another channel and asked if anyone had told him to turn on his landing lights and they said no. It turns out that an enemy plane was behind him asking him to turn on his landing lights.

Story by James Schupp

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