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They Were Trying to Kill You

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John Luckadoo, known as Lucky, was born in March 1922 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He grew up in Chattanooga. It was a depressing area to live in because of the weather. He decided that if he ever got out of there he would never go back. Luckadoo's father was a stock broker with his own practice and worked with many of the industries in and around Chattanooga. One of those companies was the Shultz Tannery which made leather goods and saddles for the US Military during World War 1. He also handled the stock for the original Coca Cola Bottling Company which was headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He was sometimes called to appraise the value of stocks held in the estates of people who passed away for the banks or the executors of the estates. The depression was very memorable in Luckadoo’s childhood because his family was one of the few that had two automobiles. Luckadoo also grew up around horses. They were even one of the few families invited to participate in the horse shows at Fort Oglethorpe. They were also allowed to enjoy a lot of the privileges at Fort Oglethorpe. When Luckadoo was in high school he went to Fort Oglethorpe to take part in the Civilian Military Training Camp, CPTC. They rode horses during their time at the camp. Luckadoo recalls seeing a young lieutenant who had won many gold medals playing polo. When Luckadoo saw how the man was treated as a Second Lieutenant and how popular he was Luckadoo decided that wanted to go to West Point. The army maintained a stable for the man and he was able to live like a king. In the summer of 1941 Luckadoo and his best friend decided to go to Canada to join the RCAF [Annotators Note: Royal Canadian Air Force]. They figured that if they got their flight training they would be in a better position to transfer into the US Army Air Corps. They applied and were both accepted but since they were both 19 years old they required parental consent. Luckadoo’s friend Sully obtained the blessing of his mother. Sully's father had been gassed and died in World War 1. Luckadoo’s mother told him yes but his father said no. Sully joined the RCAF and ended up in North Africa flying Spitfires before being sent to England. After Pearl Harbor Luckadoo joined the army as an aviation cadet but since there were so many people entering the service at that time he was told to return home and that he would be called when they needed him. He volunteered in February 1942 and was called up the following May. Luckadoo was sent to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama for preflight training where he was selected to be the wing adjutant. There were 4,000 aviation cadets at the time and they had to parade every afternoon for retreat. It was Luckadoo’s job to stand in the middle of the parade ground and to yell to the cadets to pass in review. After preflight the cadets were broken up into smaller groups and sent out to take primary flight training. Luckadoo took his primary flight training in Avon Park, Florida flying PT-17s, the Stearman Yellow Peril. Luckadoo was then sent to Shaw Field, South Carolina for basic flight training where he flew the BT-13, the Vultee Vibrator. He had difficulty there. He had not had any trouble soloing in primary flight training. In primary, basic and advanced flight training Luckadoo was designated captain of the cadet corps. He was about to be washed out by his military instructor but a civilian instructor took him on. The civilian instructor took him up and showed him a few things. Then they flew to an auxiliary field and landed. The instructor got out and sat down under a tree while Luckadoo took the plane back up and made three landings. After the third landing the instructor got back in the plane and they returned to base. The instructor passed Luckadoo.

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John Luckadoo and the other cadets were segregated in advanced flight training between single engine and twin engine. Luckadoo ended up in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Field where he was made the captain of cadets for the twin engine advanced class. A guy named Bert Shaber was made captain of cadets for the single engine class. At the graduation ceremony Luckadoo noticed that Shaber was not present. He later learned that Shaber had been a German plant. From advanced training Luckadoo and about 40 other members from his class were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group [Annotators Note: 100th Bombardment Group] which was based in Kearney, Nebraska. Luckadoo graduated in February 1943 in Class 43B. They were shipped to Salt Lake City then to Kearney where they arrived on 1 March [Annotators Note: 1 March 1943]. There they had the B-17. Luckadoo loved the B-17. They called the B-17 the Queen and they called the B-24 the Consolidated Mess. Luckadoo and the other cadets were replacements for the 100th Bomb Group. They were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group because the lack of discipline in the group was such that it was declared not fit to go to combat. Another thing that was discovered about the 100th Bomb Group at this time was that many of the copilots in the group had accumulated more flight time than most first pilots from other groups. Luckadoo was assigned to the 351st Squadron [Annotators Note: 351st Bombardment Squadron] and became part of the crew commanded by Lieutenant Glen Dye. The other officers on the crew were resentful that their copilot had been expelled after they had gone through crew training with him. They made life miserable for Luckadoo and were not very receptive to him. It was rather childish of them. After about two months they were told that since heavy bomber groups were needed so desperately in England they would be going. They were issued new aircraft which they flew to Bangor, Maine. From there they flew to Gander Lake, Newfoundland. With all of the extra fuel and equipment they would be carrying from Gander Lake to Prestwick, Scotland they would need a favorable tail wind. The planes were taking off singly. While waiting for a favorable tailwind the pilot contracted a venereal disease which hospitalized him. They had to wait in Gander Lake while the rest of the group took off. Finally they put him in the plane. The pilot was in such bad shape that Luckadoo had to fly the plane. Luckadoo told the navigator, Tim Cavanaugh, that if he did not make landfall right on the button he was going to throw him out of the plane. They took off and orbited for an hour or hour and a half to burn off enough fuel and weight to be able to make the climb up to about 8,000 or 9,000 feet. The North Atlantic was not a place they wanted to go down over. There were picket ships set up that put out radio signals for the bombers to follow. The wolf packs [Annotators Note: nickname for groups of German submarines] would distort the radio signals in an attempt to get the bombers lost so they would run out of fuel and have to ditch the plane. They finally made landfall and Cavenaugh hit it right on the nose. They were ten days behind the rest of the group. The group had already gone down to Thorpe Abbotts where the 100th Bomb Group was based. When they arrived at Thorpe Abbotts the field was not yet ready for them. After a few practice missions they start flying combat. Dye decided that his crew would be the first to complete their 25 missions which was the required number at the time.

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John Luckadoo was a copilot in the 100th Bombardment Group based at Thorpe Abbotts. Dye [Annotators Note: Glen Dye, the pilot of the B-17 Luckadoo served aboard] was determined that his crew would be the first to complete their 25 missions which was the required number at the time. Their crew became a lead crew. In those cases the copilot flew in the tail gunner’s position while a lead pilot sat in the left seat. Luckadoo did this one time. He had never fired the twin .50 caliber machineguns that were set up back there. Luckadoo’s guns both froze so he just sat there freezing to death for the whole mission. The concept was that by having a pilot in the tail gun position he could act as fire control officer for the formation behind them. The problem was that the tail gunner could only communicate with the pilot who would then have to switch channels and broadcast to the rest of the formation. That mission was to Hanover. When Luckadoo got back he went to the operations office and threw his wings on the desk. He told the operations officer that he was not trained to be a tail gunner and if they wanted his wings they could have them. All but one of the gunners on Luckadoo’s crew were the first in the Bloody Hundredth to complete their 25 missions. By that time Luckadoo had flown about 20 missions. Instead of giving him another crew after his returned to the United States he became an instructor for new crews. Luckadoo’s worst mission was mission number 21 which was to Bremen, Germany on 8 October 1943. He was leading the second element of the low squadron of the low group. This position was called Purple Heart Corner. They put up 18 ships on this mission. When they turned from the IP [Annotators Note: initial Point] onto the bomb run they were inundated with the heaviest flak Luckadoo had ever encountered. German fighters were flying through their own flak which they usually did not do. Generally they stayed off to the side and waited for the bombers to finish their bomb run then they would attack. When they turned onto the bomb run they lost 12 ships instantly. The ship in front of Luckadoo, which the operations officer for the 351st [Annotators Note: the 351st Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force] was flying as command pilot, was rammed by a Fw 190. Luckadoo had to dump the nose of his plane to keep from being taken down. The command pilot’s wingman scrapped the top turret of Luckadoo’s plane. Luckadoo became the new operations officer for the 351st in early October and remained in that position until later in November when they were briefed for the first daylight raid over Berlin. His squadron commander told him that their squadron was leading the group and he wanted Luckadoo to lead the squadron. Luckadoo called the commander out and told him that if they were leading the group he should be leading the squadron. The squadron commander insisted that he wanted Luckadoo to lead the squadron. At the briefing the following morning Luckadoo saw that they would be going to Berlin. Worse than that they were supposed to go in at 12,000 then break through the clouds to 6,000 feet and bomb the Reichstag. Curtis Lemay [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF General Curtis Lemay] told the men in the briefing that he wished he was going but he had been forbidden. They took off and headed toward Berlin but the mission was scrubbed and they returned to base. Luckadoo accused the squadron commander of knowing that Berlin was the target and having Luckadoo lead the squadron instead because he was a coward. He then went to the group commander who transferred him to the 350th Squadron as operations officer. Luckadoo was the only man in the group to be the operations officer for two squadrons. Luckadoo finished his 25 missions with the 350th Squadron in February of 1944 after about nine months of combat. Luckadoo was asked to stay on and take over a squadron as a squadron commander but he turned it down. About a month after flying his last mission he boarded the USS George Washington which took him back to the United States. When he got back Luckadoo was sent to Bryan Air Force Base in College Station to learn to fly instruments [Annotators Note: flying an aircraft using only the plans's instruments instead of flying by sight]. It was the best training he ever got in the service and it is where he met his future bride who he has now been married to for 66 years.

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John Luckadoo’s crew was the first in the 100th Bombardment Group to complete their 25 mission but Luckadoo was not with them. They ended up about five missions ahead of him and finished up in September of 1943. At the time they were losing a lot of planes. There were two schools of thought. Some guys made up their minds that they would be the exception. At the time the average crew life was four missions and statistically nobody could complete a tour. Dye’s crew did as did several others. The most famous of them was from the 91st Bomb Group, the Memphis Belle [Annotators Note: Memphis Belle was the name of the 324th Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group B-17 flown by Robert Morgan]. Morale at Thorpe Abbotts was very low, particularly after the Schweinfurt and Regensburg raids. Luckadoo counted a 400 percent turnover rate. That was how they got the name the Bloody Hundredth. As the war wore on the Luftwaffe was subdued. During the last year that the 100th Bomb Group was flying missions things were not nearly as bad as they were when Luckadoo was flying. Luckadoo’s 21st mission was his worst. They had been to Bremen before and knew that there were a lot of antiaircraft guns around the city but had never before encountered the amount of flak they experienced. That was also the first time they saw the Germans flying through their own flak. They had been briefed on the predicted fighter opposition. What they did not know was the ability of the Luftwaffe to move their units around. The Germans knew what the targets were. They had ample time to move their fighter groups and flak guns around. They had all been taught that if they were shot down and captured they were only required to give their name, rank, and serial number. Talking to guys who escaped and got back they learned that the Germans never asked them their name, rank, and serial number. The Germans had a dossier on all of them and knew more about them than they knew themselves. All the Germans wanted to know was about the 8th Air Force's future plans and targets which very few of the airmen knew. All the airmen knew was what they had been told in the briefing and that was usually wrong.

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A typical mission for John Luckadoo started by him being woken up between three and half past three in the morning, depending on the mission. They would shower and shave, have breakfast, then go to the briefing where they were given the details of their mission. The gunners had a different briefing. They would go to the airplane and check out the plane with the crew chief. When they were lucky they got a plane they were familiar with but they often got planes they had never flown before. Even though the planes were all basically the same they each had their own little idiosyncrasies which the crews had to compensate for. When they got the flare from the tower they would start their engines and get ready to taxi. They already knew the order they were to take off in and where they were supposed to be in the formation. Taking off in England was dangerous because even in the summer the fog would get bad and there would be cloud decks ten to 15 feet off the runway. They were petrified when they took off because they knew there were hundreds of other planes up in the soup they were flying into. There were many mid air collisions. Sometimes the clouds above the runway would reach 10,000 feet. At their rate of climb it could take them 45 minutes to reach that altitude and break out of the clouds into the clear. After they did the lead ship would fire a flare and the others would form up on it. They would form up into squadrons, then groups, then wings. Missions averaged from six to eight hours with some as long as 11 hours. That was tough. Above 10,000 feet they had to use oxygen. It was so cold up there they could freeze to death in just a few seconds. The German strategy was to damage bombers, forcing them to slow down and fall out of formation which made them easy targets. They developed some very effective techniques to attack the formations. One of those was hitting the formations head on like a game of chicken. They would fly right through the formation firing as they went. This was effective until late 1943 when the bomb groups started getting the G model with the chin turrets [Annotators Note: the G model B-17 had a turret on the front of the aircraft with twin .50 caliber machine guns in it]. The bombardiers were not very good gunners. Of the 40 classmates that went to the 100th Bomb Group [Annotators Note: 100th Bombardment Group] that Luckadoo was part of only four of them completed their tour. That was a 90 percent loss rate. To deal with that they had to be numb and realize that they were in the big leagues facing a very well equipped and very well trained enemy. The way they saw it, the Germans were professionals and they were amateurs. If they survived they considered themselves lucky. Even if they were damaged they would many times make it back. That was one of the real attributes of the Boeing B-17. It could take a lot of damage and still get them home.

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John Luckadoo and the other aircrews began receiving heavy fire as soon as they reached the enemy coast. The flak was heavier and the fighters were attacking them all the way to the target and back. During that mission [Annotators Note: the 8 October 1943 mission to Bremen] Luckadoo was leading the second element of the low squadron, of the low group. The position known as Purple Heart Corner because it is closer to the flak. On that mission Luckadoo had the nose blown out of his plane and lost an engine and was not sure he would be able to keep up. All of the lead ships on that mission had gone down. He was the only element leader left. He collected the stragglers and tacked on to the 95th Bombardment Group and returned to base. Once they hit the IP [Annotators Note: Initial Point] that is when things got bad. Just before they hit the IP Luckadoo was flying the plane because he knew the plane had to be stabilized for the bomb run. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two Fw 190s barreling in on his plane. He called the enemy planes out to his gunners who did their utmost to knock them down. The lead German plane flew into the ship Luckadoo was formed up on, Piccadilly Lily. Luckadoo had to dump the nose of his plane top keep from being hit by Piccadilly Lily when she went down. The sheer volume of the flak that day surprised them. When a flak shell explodes it leaves a black puff of smoke and all they could see was black. When the flak bursts they could hear the shrapnel hitting and going through their planes. One guy flying that day described the flak as being so thick they could put their wheels down and taxi on it. Luckadoo believes that that was not an inaccurate description. To see the volume of the flak and the enemy fighters flying right through it really startled them. They were petrified. The only way to get through that was to concentrate totally on doing their job. The temperatures were so cold that the condensation in their oxygen masks would freeze. Luckadoo did not see any German pilots who were not professionals. They tried everything they could to knock down the bombers even going so far as flying above the formations and dropping their own bombs. They also used steel cables to try to foul the props on the bombers or tear off a wing. They attacked out of the sun. They even used a night fighter they had developed for use against the British which was an Me 110 with a cannon fixed to its fuselage. They would fly beneath the bomber formations and try to shoot at their gas tanks. The Germans were formidable.

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When John Luckadoo was on his bomb run [Annotators Note: during the 8 October 1943 mission to Bremen] it was terribly difficult for him to maintain control of the aircraft with flak bursting all around and enemy fighters attacking the formation. The flak creates turbulence similar to that of the prop wash of the other planes. During the bomb run they had to be in as tight a formation and as level as possible. They were not able to take evasive action. When they did take evasive action they stood just as good a chance of turning into the flak as they did of turning away from it. The Germans had a way of determining the altitude of the bomber formations. Their guns were fired electronically so they only needed 12 and 15 year old kids shoving shells in the guns. The Germans flak gunners fired box pattern barrages which were devastating. The gunners knew what they were doing and they were trying to kill the bombers. It was kill or be killed. They were sometimes criticized for killing civilians. Luckadoo did not feel bad for the people on the ground. They were perpetuating the war. As the war wore on they no longer needed bomb sights in every aircraft. The lead bombardier would make the required calculations and the rest of the bombardiers would drop their bombs when he did. The lead bombardiers would drop their bombs short of the target so when the others reacted they would straddle the target. Luckadoo later learned that their bombs were within nine miles of the target less than 25 percent of the time. So much for the accuracy of the Norden Bomb Sight. In the later stages of the war bombardiers were removed from all of the planes except the lead plane and toggliers took their places. Initially the German flak gunners were scatter shooting. When they started using radar they became very effective. Piccadilly Lily was hit before the formation released their bombs. Luckadoo had to dip the nose of his plane then level it back out so he could continue his bomb run. After leaving the target area the flak would lessen. On that mission and subsequent missions they encountered flak all the way from the enemy coast to the target and back. The Germans were able to move their flak guns around and knew what the bombers' route would be. On this mission to Bremen the 100th Bomb Group [Annotators Note: 100th Bombardment Group] sent 18 aircraft and lost 12 of them between the IP and the target. Some of those aircraft did make it back. Luckadoo was too busy trying to rally other planes to be concerned with his chances of getting back. After rallying other aircraft they tacked on to the 95th Bomb Group for the mutual protection of the bombers defensive firepower. The plane Luckadoo was flying had its glass nose blown out. The number three engine was also went out. The bombardier and some of the gunners were injured.

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After the Bremen mission [Annotators Note: on 8 October 1943] John Luckadoo was temporarily grounded because he was made the operations officer. The operations officer had many duties including being the second in command of the squadron. Luckadoo did not fly for several weeks after the Bremen mission which had been in early October until the Berlin mission came up around the middle of November. That mission was aborted and he did not get credit for it because they never reached the enemy coastline. After Bremen there were two other raids that week, one to Marienburg and one to Munster. On the Marienburg raid they lost nine ships and on the Munster raid they lost all but one. Rosie Rosenthal [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal, known as Rosie] was the sole survivor of the group. After those missions morale at Thorpe Abbotts tanked. They still had some older and more experienced hands but most of the crews were now replacements. The air crews did not fly every mission. Luckadoo did not fly the Schweinfurt mission or the Regensburg mission. If he had he would not have survived in all probability. Luckadoo knew Bucky Cleven [Annotators Note: USAAF Major Gale W. Cleven, known as Bucky] but not well. He also knew Bucky Egan [Annotators Note: USAAF Major John C. Egan, known as Bucky]. Egan was in London when Cleven was shot down on the Bremen mission. Egan was so irate that he cut his leave short and returned to Thorpe Abbotts. He insisted that he lead the next raid. He did and was shot down. Egan and Cleven were original 100th Bomb Group [Annotators Note: 100th Bombardment Group] members. Some of the airmen cracked under the strain and they had to get rid of them. Some were sent to a rest home known as a flak farm. Luckadoo never got to go to a flak farm. He only got to go to London two or three times during his entire time in England. He took his friend Sully [Annotators Note: Sully was a friend of Luckadoo before the war started] up in a B-17 and Sully called him a truck driver. Sully offered to take Luckadoo up in his Typhoon. The day before Luckadoo went to see him, Sully he augured in and died. Luckadoo had to notify Sully’s mother that he had been killed. As squadron operations officer Luckadoo shared the responsibility of notifying the next of kin of those killed with the squadron commander. He was also responsible for censoring outgoing mail and V Mail. On the Bremen mission Luckadoo was flying an airplane that had been assigned to a new crew. The plane had been named by another crew that had gone down in another airplane.

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John Luckadoo was the operations officer of the 350th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force based at Thorpe Abbotts. After the Munster mission [Annotators Note: on 10 October 1943] there was a lot of speculation as to what had happened. Rosie Rosenthal [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal, known as Rosie] and his crew were the only members of the 100th Bombardment Group to return from that mission. They purposely tried not to speculate on what happened to the aircrews that went down. They just hoped for the best. Some of them were captured and others were picked up by the underground and made their way into Spain. The airmen had to psyche themselves up to get back into an airplane. They all had their own superstitions some of which were almost comical. Luckadoo wore certain clothes including a nylon stocking that a girlfriend had sent him that he wore as an ascot. They also prayed a lot. Rosie was a prince of a guy who was well liked and a good pilot. After he was shot down and evaded and came back he was not supposed to fly again. Rosie went back up anyway. Rosie was shot down three times during his 52 missions. After the war he was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials. On Luckadoo’s last mission he was flying a B-17 named Alice from Dallas II which was Bill DeSanders' [Annotators Note: William D. DeSanders] plane and named after his wife. Both Luckadoo and DeSanders had 24 missions under their belt. Many airmen had been shot down on their 25th mission including Murphy [Annotators Note: USAAF 1st Lieutenant Thomas E. Murphy] who was flying the aircraft above Luckadoo during the Bremen mission. Since Luckadoo was acting squadron commander that day he picked the mission they would fly. Luckadoo selected a mission to bomb a V2 emplacement [Annotators Note: V2 rocket site] on the French coast just across the Channel. They met a lot more opposition than they expected and got bumped around a bit. The opposition was in the form of flak and fighters. The fighters went out and met them over the Channel which they usually did not do. Luckadoo’s plane did not suffer much damage and all of the planes made it back. When they [Annotators Note: Luckadoo and DeSanders] got back to Thorpe Abbotts they were among the elite. Very few survived 25 missions so there was a lot of celebrating to do. They got their orders to go home. One of the privileges Luckadoo took full advantage of was buzzing the airfield when he returned. Luckadoo and DeSanders congratulated each other on completing 25 missions then went to the officers club to have a few shots. After having their drinks they were debriefed. Luckadoo and DeSanders were treated to a celebratory dinner. They thoroughly enjoyed the accolades bestowed upon them.

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John Luckadoo had no regrets about returning to the United States after completing his 25 combat missions. The brass tried to induce him to stay by offering him a job flying a British Mosquito on path finder missions. Luckadoo thought about it but decided to go home instead. Luckadoo returned to the United States in March of 1944. He was sent to the redistribution center in Miami. From there he went to Bryan [Annotators Note: Bryan Army Air Field in Bryan, Texas] where he went through an instrument school then he went to Lockbourne, Ohio where he attended an instructors school in B-17s. From Lockbourne he went to Mac Dill Field in Tampa, Florida where he set up a combat crew inspection team. Luckadoo was assigned to the 8th Bomber Command after the war ended. He was sent to Tyndall Field, Florida where he went through an air tactical school. He was a captain by that time. From Mac Dill Luckadoo was sent to Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. The 8th Air Force Headquarters had returned to the United States and was based at Carswell and Luckadoo was in the headquarters unit as an air inspector. He transitioned into B-29s and was preparing to go to the Pacific to fight another war when the bomb was dropped. Luckadoo thought that the B-29 was an improvement but it did have a flaw in that it was too closely cowled which caused engine fires and overheating. That problem was not corrected until the creation of the B-50. Luckadoo never flew a B-50. Luckadoo had transitioned to B-29s at Mac Dill before he was married. He was tasked to fly a B-29 to Peyote, Texas to the grave yard. It was the Enola Gay. Luckadoo flew the plane to Newark then on to Peyote, Texas. It was there when the Smithsonian decided that it was too historic to be in the graveyard so they flew it to Dulles where it is today. When the Air Force became a separate branch Luckadoo was offered a regular commission which he accepted. He became a regular officer on reserve status. He applied for a program the government had which allowed regular officers to attend the college of their choice with full pay. He applied to Stanford and was accepted but found himself waiting on orders to go. When he inquired as to why he had not gotten his orders to go he was told that they were allowing older officers to go before they reached the age limit which was 32. Luckadoo was 26 at the time. He asked when he would be able to get in and was told right before his 32nd birthday. Luckadoo resigned his commission and went back to school on his own. He took advantage of the GI Bill and attended classes at the University of Denver. He graduated from there in 1950.

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After the war the US Army Air Forces suspected that John Luckadoo was suffering from PTSD. When he had returned from overseas he went on leave for 30 days. He had no duties and felt like a fish out of water. He was sent down to Miami to await reassignment. In Miami the men were rationed a fifth of whiskey per day. Having survived the war Luckadoo over did it a little bit. He had been out all night and when he got back to his hotel he saw his name on the bulletin board with a notification to report for a physical and psychological exam at eight. It was six or seven in the morning when he had walked in the hotel. Part of the exam was a 14 page questionnaire inquiring about different problems. He checked yes for everything then turned it in and left. He was in the dentist’s office down the hall when an officer entered with Luckadoo’s file that was marked Stop Processing. Luckadoo met with a psychiatrist who was a major. The major told him that he was stressed out and being sent to Saint Petersburg to Don Cesar Hospital. Luckadoo protested and claimed that all he needed was an assignment. Luckadoo went to Saint Petersburg. There were some people with serious problems at the flak house there. The colonel running the place was entitled to requisition an airplane if he had a qualified pilot to fly it. By orders of General Arnold, Luckadoo had to stay at the flak house for six weeks. The colonel asked Luckadoo if he would stay and fly the plane. Luckadoo considered the colonel's offer but was released from the hospital before he gave his answer. He was cut loose and sent to instrument school. That was the closest Luckadoo came to being diagnosed with PTSD. Luckadoo was not happy about the prospect of having to go to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. He was married by that time so things were different than when he went to Europe to fly B-17s. But Luckadoo was a soldier and had to do what he was told. The invasion of mainland Japan in the works and was something that had to be done. He would have accepted it with reluctance. He had not received any orders but was training for the invasion. Like many other soldiers and airmen who had served in Europe Luckadoo felt that he had already fought his war.

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John Luckadoo does not believe that long range fighter protection was possible in the early stages of the war. They were making very deep penetrations without fighter escort and were getting cut to ribbons. The British were insisting that the US Army Air Corps join them in nighttime bombing but the United States was adamant in thinking that strategic daytime bombing was the way to bring Germany to its knees. The bomber crews were convinced that without long range fighter protection they would not prevail. The bomber formations were not able to protect themselves and that was proven over and over. It just was not ever admitted. The only thing that allowed it was that bombers and bomber crews were being produced with impunity back in the United States. The United States was producing not only for itself but for its allies as well for the first time in history. This ability to produce was the difference in victory. Luckadoo has no memorable events. The mission to Bremen [Annotators Note: on 8 October 1943] was one he will never forget but he would not call it memorable. He just focused completely on the job he had to do. Survival was the most memorable part of the war. Luckadoo fought in World War 2 because after Pearl Harbor was attacked the entire country got behind the war effort. There were daily reminders that there was a war on. That momentum carried him along as did his patriotism. He also had not choice and was expected to do it. Luckadoo has a hard time with conscientious objectors and those who went to Canada and South America trying to avoid being drafted. Looking back now Luckadoo admits that a good part of what he did was not the smartest thing he could do. Old men make wars and young men fight them. The problem Luckadoo has with patriotism is that it sometimes forces people into doing things that are not the smartest thing. When the Korean War began and Luckadoo was told that he may be recalled to active duty he felt that he was in the service on his country and if called upon he would do what he had to do. He just would not do it willingly. Luckadoo had accepted a regular commission after World War 2 and was subject to being recalled. Luckadoo sees war as folly. It is not the thing to do if it can be avoided. To Luckadoo the only reason a country should go to war is to defend its homeland. Luckadoo understands that the German were defending their homeland when the American aircrews were over there playing in their backyard. The Germans were sending out messages day and night through Axis Sally stating that the Americans had no business being over there and that while they were fighting their wives and sweethearts were back home being romanced by 4Fers [Annotators Note: the designation 4F on a draft registration card indicated that the holder of that card was unfit for military service]. The Germans had a point.

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The war changed John Luckadoo’s life pretty drastically. He matured rapidly when faced with going out every day and being shot at and possibly dying. It was a very deadly game and it was serious. Luckadoo took a trip with some Air Force cadets who were about the same age he was when he went to Europe to fight. He told them how the war matured them rapidly. There were instances where guys went out on a mission and when they returned their hair had turned white. At the time Luckadoo did not consider how the war was affecting him but looking back now he sees how it changed his life completely. When he was going through basic he fell in love with a girl who wrote him constantly when he was overseas. When he returned she told him that he was not the same person. How could he be. The war was a deadly game and it was serious. The fact that it was constant was the most difficult part to bear. Being able to do their job day after day took a lot of courage and a lot of soul searching. Some guys cracked up under the pressure. Luckadoo absolutely believes that institutions like The National WWII Museum are important. It is very rewarding to him to go back to England and France and to see their appreciation and gratitude for what they did and the sacrifices they made in the name of freedom and liberation. The highlight of Luckadoo’s trip was meeting a group of French school children. Museums are the most effective way of portraying what they did, how they did it, and why it was done.
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