Millard “Lefty” Palmer – US Army Air Corps in World War II
Millard Palmer was born in 1926. Sadly, his mother passed away within two weeks of his birth, so he was raised by his grandmother. Almost immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lefty felt compelled to join the militarym but because of his age, he could not join up until January of 1944. He recalled that his grandparents did not own a vehicle, so a friend dropped him off at the bus station on the 26th of January 1944. He was destined for boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Upon completion of his initial training, he reported for Pilots school in California. After reporting in, the pilot program was canceled, and trainees were offered a selection of enlisted specialties. He opted for gunnery and transferred to Clovis, New Mexico, where he trained on the operation of the B29’s electrically operated turret system.
After obtaining his qualification on the B29’s weapon system, he deployed from California to Hawaii, to Saipan. During his first bombing missions over Japan, the high-command noticed that dropping bombs from the extremely high cruising altitudes was very inaccurate, with many bombs falling far from their targets. Lefty explained that the high command changed tactics too much lower level bombing runs, which substantially increased accuracy. By May of 1945, Lefty recalls that it was challenging to find industrial centers due to diffusion into the civilian communities, so the aircrews switched to dropping napalm bombs onto civilian centers. He felt the death rates in Tokyo were so high due to the firebombing that they exceeded the tolls caused by the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Lefty flew a total of 15 combat missions before the war’s conclusion. Because most missions occurred at night time and the extreme heights they flew at, he saw very few enemy aircraft.
When the war came to its end, Lefty and his comrades were tasked with participating in a massive fly-over of the USS MISSOURI as the surrender ceremony commenced. He estimated that formations totaling over 2000 aircraft took part in the flyover. Almost immediately after the Japanese surrender, Lefty and his crew participated in missions to drop food and supplies to American POWs to hold them over until their eventual rescue.
Despite the war being over, Lefty remained at the airbase in Saipan until April of 1946 due to his low number of points. He recalled finally arriving home on the 26th of April, 1946.
Lefty described his homecoming as a happy event. He was picked up at the bus station by his friend. On his way home, Left recollects seeing a woman on a swing set who later became his wife. His friend dropped him off at grandmother’s house, where he was meet by her and his twin brother, also a B29 turret gunner.
When war broke out in Korea, Lefty was recalled to the Air Force for service as a Staff Sergeant. He spent the war training new members on the B29 turret system. He continued his service with the Air Force reserves after Korea, obtaining a commission and reaching the rank of Colonel. Lefty retired from the reserves in November 1980, after 36 years of service.
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Bio prepared by Shannon P. Reck, MMH