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today I met one "Odell Hooper", B24 top turret gunner, POW, Monkey-Ward retiree!

My VFW post in Duncan dedicated a memorial to fallen soldiers from our area this morning and the fellow invited to unfurl the POW-MIA flag was Odell Hooper:

*** B-24H-10-FO - #42-52175 - "Portland Anne" ***

453rd BG - 2 CBW - Circle 'J' - 732nd BS - E3 - 2nd Div - 8th Air Force
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Crew: B-24H-10-FO - #42-52175 - "Portland Anne" - 8 Mar 1944 - Mission: Berlin
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18216914 - S/Sgt. - Engineer / Top Turret Gunner - Odell Hooper - Hastings, OK - EVD-POW


http://www.teunispats.net/t3519.htm

this is Mr. Hooper's pic on the wall at VFW Post 1192, Duncan, Oklahoma. He is a life-member.



this is myself, my buddy Tim Zinn (DAV post commander, Vietnam vet - specifically "tunnel rat") and Mr. Hooper as he appeared this morning. He turned 90 a few weeks ago and drove himself to this event.



I went to shake Mr. Hooper's hand and we spoke for twenty-minutes!

I will try and give ya'll the highlights of our conversation.

When he his plane was hit, he really wasn't worried until "he saw the gas stripping the paint off the plane".

He felt his feet getting cold and noticed the bomb bay doors were open. His comm link had been severed thus he had missed the order to bail out. He watched his pilot and co-pilot bail out but "stayed on the plane quite a while because, well, there wasn't anyone there to push me out!".

After he jumped, he could not locate his rip chord. Finally, he realized he had put thing on wrong, located the ring on the wrong side, pulled the chord and "it blossomed!" but.......he forgot to shield his face with his forearm so he "got smacked by the chords".

He landed in daylight in a farmer's field but didn't know where he was. He hollowed out a haystack and spent the night there. The next morning he made contact with a farmer. He figured out he was in Holland and even though the farmer couldn't speak English, "he made it damned clear he hated the Germans!".

The farmer made contact with the Dutch reisistance who hauled him around "in the trunk of cars, in car floor boards and in buck boards." Sometimes he was "given a map and bicycle and told to ride west towards Switzlerland or Spain".

He rode trains fairly often and always shadowed his resistance handler by "at least one car. I never stood side by side with him. Every time I was in a train station I was shoulder to shoulder with German soldiers."

Mr Hooper had only his dog tags for ID when he boarded his B24 that morning. The Dutch resistance told him that the lack of any other ID might cause the Germans to suspect him of being a spy and shoot him on the spot. He kept one dog tag sewn into the collar of his resistance supplied civilian suit jacket and the other "in the bottom of a matchbox where it just fit perfect!".

He was captured by the gestapo in Belgium and, sure enough, his lack of ID led the interrogating officer to surmise he was a spy. He cut the dog tag out of his collar and showed it to the officer who said, "BAH! You can buy those at any dime store!".

He was eventually transferred to a Luftstalag where he said the Germans "treated me pretty decent but nearly starved us because they barely had enough food for themselves. If it hadn't been for Red Cross packages I don't think I would have made it."

He came home to Hastings, OK in 1945, moved to Duncan, OK in 1946 and went to work for the Montgomery-Ward. He retired from there in 1978 after thirty-two years of service. He is just one hell of a man.

He recently lost his wife and has not been at the VFW much in recent years though he "misses the pool tables there".

Here he is.....holding hands......with.......my wife.........hmmmmm



My wife has promised to buy him a beer and shoot a game with him just as soon as he is ready to come back. He has said he will make it happen soon!
 

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Mr Hooper is a national treasure
 

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I met a ball turret gunner from a B-24 a few years ago. He explained the importance of the protective clothing and keeping it plugged in, said at the altitudes they flew at it was 20 below. Always thought the ball turret gunner had the worst position, locked inside a Plexiglass turret for hours at a time.
 

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I met a ball turret gunner from a B-24 a few years ago. He explained the importance of the protective clothing and keeping it plugged in, said at the altitudes they flew at it was 20 below. Always thought the ball turret gunner had the worst position, locked inside a Plexiglass turret for hours at a time.
They had annual air shows at Scholes Field in Galveston during the years we lived on the coast, at Texas City (the '50s). Recall one when i was about 12 or 13, had a B-24 as part of the display. Could crawl around in it - including getting into the ball turret in the belly. I was young, skinny and flexible then. it was still a tight and awkward fit getting in and worse getting out. Not a job I would have wanted, I'm pretty sure.
 

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I met a ball turret gunner from a B-24 a few years ago. He explained the importance of the protective clothing and keeping it plugged in, said at the altitudes they flew at it was 20 below. Always thought the ball turret gunner had the worst position, locked inside a Plexiglass turret for hours at a time.
You`re right, they absolutely had the worst position of any bomber crew, the Sperry Ball Turret meant that if you lost electrical power or hydraulic power to the turret you were stuck.
A popular falacy is you could "bail-out" of the turret itself.
You couldn`t, you had to bring the turret to it`s entry-egress position (guns pointed straight down), then exit the turret, strap on your chute then jump. There was simply no room for a chute inside that ball nor an effective means of egress.
Ball turret gunners rarely survived a shoot-down...
 
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