They didn't know
each other during World War II, but when four veterans of
that war's European theater met recently, they discovered
similar experiences as B-17 ball turret gunners based in
Mickey Hurley, 82,
of Metairie; Joe Elliot, 81, of River Ridge; and Irvin
Kennedy. 81, of Harahan joined Carey Mavor, 79, of New
Orleans in reminiscing about flying dozens of missions
aboard the "Flying Fortress."
have one thing in common," Mavor said. "All of us did the
same thing and survived."
Questions flew among
the men about their experiences.
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bomb group were you in?" Elliot asked.
was in the 452nd," Mavor said. Elliot was in the same group
but a different squadron.
was a coincidence," Mavor said.
did you get there?" Elliot asked him.
'45," Mavor answered.
got there in April '44 and got home in September," Elliot
went through hell," Mavor said. "I didn't think there was
a small world," Kennedy said. "I was shot down the day
Hurley got there."
who flew 33 missions from April to October 1944, was the
link among the men. His photograph had appeared in The
Times-Picayune's "Pictures from the Past" feature, and
Elliot and Mavor saw it and phoned him. About the same time,
Kennedy, who had known Hurley from working at Louis
Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, happened to see
him in person, and they discovered their commonality as
gunners. Hurley then coordinated the first meeting of the
group, at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans.
didn't think there were many around, especially in the New
Orleans area," Kennedy said. "I thought we were the
gunners, each man sat in what was called a ball turret, a
circular enclosure that could turn 360 degrees on the
exterior of the plane. It was a cramped space with two
.50-caliber machine guns mounted on the side of a gunner's
legs. Exposed outside of the plane at high altitudes, the
men said it was cold, requiring them to wear heated
jumpsuits and oxygen masks.
were actually out of the airplane," Mavor said. "We were
under the plane....The temperature was the worst part about
being outside the plane. It was like 40 below zero."
you put your hand on the gun without a glove, you wouldn't
be able to let go because it would freeze on it," Hurley
talked about missions he executed from bases in
got 25 missions in 32 days. I was a wreck after that," said
Mavor, who served from February to March 1945. "I lost about
30 pounds. When I got out, I weighed 119 pounds."
recalled flying 30 missions in five months and eight days,
from April to September 1944.
who flew 21 missions from December 1943 to April 1944, was
shot down over Poland and made it to Sweden, where he landed
in an internment camp and stayed until he was repatriated in
asked if Elliot was ever shot down.
had a lot of flak damage but no injuries," Elliot said. "We
crashed-landed on a runway coming back one time."
did y'all get hit bad in the air?" Mavor asked
time, we came back and lost our engine," Hurley said. "You
talk about a desperate feeling. We were near the North
told of flying over Paris.
flew over the Eiffel Tower in 1945 and got hit. One of the
flaps was hit and wouldn't come up," he said. "Just as
France was liberated, we had the plane fixed and buzzed the
Eiffel Tower before we flew back to England."
returned home in 1945, the others a year earlier.
they finally reached New Orleans, each said he wanted to
return to a normal life as quickly as possible. Staying in
touch with war buddies or talking about their experiences
was the furthest thing from their minds.
had a life -- a wife, children, bills and a mortgage; that's
what my concentration after the war was," Mavor said. "Just
recently, I started thinking about my war
each seems to have reconnected in some way with his war
days. Hurley joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6640
in 1972 and became a member of its honor society, and he
volunteers at the Veterans Administration Hospital in New
Orleans. He said he has been to about 20 reunions of World
War II bomb squadrons. Elliot has been to one reunion and
keeps in touch with his bomb squadron through
together to discuss their B-17 days was fun for the four,
and they plan to meet again.
think it was a nice experience," Hurley said. "You only go
around one time. You may as well pick up the pieces in
between. Who knows -- we might become good friends."
E-mail Christine Lacoste
Bordelon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call
The above article ran:
The Times Picayune, (Kenner
Sunday, AUGUST 17, 2003, Section D1, 2D1