COLUMBUS GROVE — Robert Green, 93, has always been proud of his status as a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. However, he doesn’t view himself particularly as a hero. Green said the times were different when he was drafted into the service.
“I am proud of my service,” he said. “Things were different. It was just something that all men back then knew had to be done.”
In 1942, a little more than a year after graduating from Beaverdam High School, Green was drafted. He took his enlistment oath in September and completed basic training in October. In November, he completed gunnery training in Panama City, Florida.
It was the beginning of a scary yet heroic part of Green’s life.
Green was trained as a gunnery sergeant, often touted as a “suicide mission” type of job. Green was located in the ball turret of the B-17 bomber as an armored gunner. His job was to make sure guns were clean and operating and bombs were armed when on ground. When in the air, he was responsible for destroying the enemy.
Stationed in Africa, Green said his first mission was what they often referred to as a “milk run,” or a run considered relatively easy but still counted as a combat run.Green’s squadron flew around Gibraltar and Casablanca because of the possibility of German fighters being in the area during World War II. Green said the planes flew at 2,000 feet to avoid radar.
After the flight, Green and the rest of the squadron learned they would be making 50 combat missions instead of the normal 25 missions required for fliers.
Later, Green was moved up the coast to Constantine. On his first real combat mission from there, they bombed the Tunis and Bizerti harbors as the Germans were trying to move all personnel and equipment out of Africa. He later also flew missions to many places, including Sicily, Italy, France, Corsica, Austria and Italy until Feb 23, 1944, when he finally flew his last mission.
Green said he recalled many memories from the war and how things improved equipment-wise as the war went on. While stationed in Africa, he said he recalled filling their planes with 5 gallon cans, filling the planes to 3,000 gallons. Later on, improvements were made to 50 gallon drums and pumps.
He also remembered getting into his own little bit of mischief while stationed in Italy.
“”We were shooting geese with small-arms fire,” Green said. “The first guy there got the goose. We were warned about this several times, to no avail. Finally we all got restricted to base for one week.”
In one mission, Green was credited with eight kills, and was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.
Some other interesting highlights included completing gunnery school with Clark Gable, and once flying in a noncombat mission with Jimmy Stewart.
After returning to the United States, Green returned to his job as a supervisor at Westinghouse, where he had been working before being drafted. His wife died two years ago after nearly 66 years of marriage, but his son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Linda Green, his grandaughter, Laura, and his great-grandson, Henry, make frequent visits.