Honor Flight gives closure to Jemison veteran

Published 10:13 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

When Jasper Carl Glass of Jemison was drafted into the Army Air Corps on July 30, 1943, he wanted to be a pilot.

When Glass learned there was not a need for pilots at the time, he turned down an offer to go to gunnery school and was placed in a chemical warfare company in the Southwest Pacific.

Although he didn’t get his wish, he found himself in the midst of history.

“I was on Tinian when the atomic bomb was dropped,” Glass recalled. “We didn’t know what it was to begin with.”

Tinian is part of the Mariana Islands, which also include Guam and the island of Saipan. There, Glass and about 20 other men watched from their tents as the first atomic bomb was loaded onto the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress bomber.

“At 9 a.m. the next morning, they announced over the loudspeaker that the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima,” he said.

Three days later (Glass indicated it seemed longer than that), the men heard a similar announcement that a second atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki.

While the chemical warfare company — one of two such companies in the military — did test chemical weapons, they were never used during the war.

Glass was discharged Nov. 1, 1945 and returned back to his hometown of Jemison to finish his high school education.

“I liked one credit of finishing high school,” he recalled.

He graduated in 1946 and married Ann Crowe two years later. But he had to wait much longer — 61 years to be precise — to receive his three bronze stars.

Wednesday, Glass added another chapter to his story as he and 100 other World War II vets flew to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial.

The trip was made possible thanks to Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides the experience at no cost to the veterans.

Upon returning to the Birmingham airport, the veterans were greeted by family and friends waving American Flags and chanting, “USA! USA!”

For Glass and those who went with him, it was a long overdue “thank you” for their service.

“I think it does the veterans good to show them that they were appreciated, because there were a lot of them who didn’t come back,” he said.