Clanton WWII veteran received Bronze Star for work on B-17 bomberBy Emily Reed Published 5:42pm Friday, November 8, 2013
“We had long days,” Elmore said. “Our days would start at 5 a.m. and most of the time wouldn’t end until about 9 p.m. The plane would come in from a mission and I would get it ready for the next day.”
Elmore said the B-17 was equipped with 10 .50-caliber machine guns and he would sometimes go on missions with others from his crew, but he never told Dene.
“I didn’t want her to worry so I never told her I was going on the missions,” Elmore said.
Elmore said five aircraft in the 452 Bomb Group were shot down, but the last airplane flew 57 missions without any mechanical trouble.
Due to the high number of missions without trouble, Elmore was awarded a Bronze Star for his thoroughness in working on the aircraft.
“I can’t remember the general who gave it to me, but the reason I got it was because the plane I worked on flew 57 missions without any mechanical trouble,” Elmore said. “It meant a lot to me when I got it.”
Elmore said one of the more startling images still haunting him today is from a flight after the war had ended when a group of American soldiers, including Elmore, flew over an area that had been used as a concentration camp for Jews.
“I will never get that image out of my mind,” Elmore said. “There were dead bodies stacked real high on top of one another just waiting to be cremated. I had a picture of it for a while but I don’t anymore because it was just awful.”
Elmore said he and others helped pick up some of the Jews who were at the concentration camps when the war ended.
“We picked them up and flew them to Paris,” Elmore said. “I can remember those people were just skin and bones. We took two trips to get some of them.”
Elmore was discharged from the Army on Sept. 23, 1944, in Columbus, Ga., and took a bus to travel home to Dene who was in Thorsby.
Elmore said he might have stayed in the war but he didn’t want to go to Japan.
Upon returning to Chilton County, Elmore became a certified pilot, flying for more than 20 years and becoming a flight instructor out of Birmingham.
“I had about 10,000 hours up in the air throughout my career as a pilot,” Elmore said. “I spent about 20 years of my life flying and flew up until 1967.”
Elmore said he always enjoyed flying due to being in the air alone.