Elmore Fredrick Ruck was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in February 1922. His father worked as a public service supervisor for the city. Ruck had two older brothers. He attended school and college in New Orleans. Ruck graduated from high school in 1939. He was at home when a paperboy in the neighborhood announced the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He did not know it was a territory of the United States until later. He was not very concerned at the time. It seemed far away from New Orleans. He had a private pilot's license and decided to join the Army Air Forces. He passed the requisite tests and enlisted in New Orleans. He was inducted a few months later.
Elmore Ruck went to ground school in Santa Anna, California. It involved training in navigation and aircraft identification. It was also boot camp for him. It took about three months. He next went into primary flight school in Phoenix, Arizona then went through basic flight training in Texas. Afterward, he completed his advanced flight training. The aircraft introduced at each stage were more complex than the prior stage. He flew an AT-6 twin engine airplane [Annotator's Note: Curtiss-Wright AT-9 Jeep advanced trainer aircraft]. Some friends did not make the grade and did not progress as he did. The instructors defined who progressed and who was cut. Ruck had a private pilot's license before he enlisted. He had been trained through a scholarship via a competition from the New Orleans Junior Chamber of Commerce. He learned to fly in a small two seat plane. Ruck enjoyed taking his friends for a flight. He met his wife during that time. He was married in between transfers during the war. After advanced training and gaining his wings, he was assigned to a C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft] group. Most of his training at that stage was at Sedalia, Missouri. The C-47 was a good plane. In civilian life, it was a passenger plane flown commercially as the DC-3. After six months of training, he went overseas. He flew the northern route through Bangor, Maine to Newfoundland where they were fogged in. Ultimately, he flew to Azores Islands and then North Africa where his new plane was turned over to the French. He then flew in another plane to join his squadron [Annotator's Note: 16th Troop Carrier Squadron, 64th Troop Carrier Group] in Italy.
Elmore Ruck flew from North Africa to Rome, Italy to join his new squadron, the 16th Troop Carrier Squadron, 64th Troop Carrier Group, 51st Troop Carrier Wing, 12th Air Force. The men were frequently billeted in houses where no one lived during their multiple moves around Italy. Sometimes, they shared homes with local inhabitants. The squadron had 60 airplanes with two crews for each. Flying was alternated and training continued through the slow times for the squadron. The planes carried all kinds of cargo, not just troops. He flew the missions without regard for the units or cargo he carried. His plane flew mainly solo but with others at times. Some missions were in support of partisans behind the lines. In those cases, he flew into German occupied Italy or France. Occasionally, there would be enemy antiaircraft fire in which case the mission would be terminated. The aircraft was not equipped to handle incoming fire. He wore a flak jacket for personal protection. He carried a .45 pistol [Annotator's Note: .45 caliber M1911 semi-automatic pistol] and a submachine gun [Annotator's Note: .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun] for defense. The crew was a pilot and copilot along with a crew chief and radio operator. Crew members were frequently changed. Ground crews took care of the logistics of loading the aircraft and preparing it for the mission. Nurses would be onboard if wounded were extracted from the front. The injured were usually taken to a large hospital in Rome. Relations with the Italians was very nice. Food would sometimes be provided to them because it was often scarce. If not assigned to a mission, Ruck could have time off to go into Rome or some other city. He actually joined his squadron in Istres, France in September 1944. The weather was freezing. He wore a winter flying suit for insulation. Weather could be rough while flying missions.
Elmore Ruck had a brother who was a flyer in the war. Ruck was promoted to first lieutenant and his brother in the Air Forces reached second lieutenant. The brother in the Army reached the rank of major. There was V-mail [Annotator's Note: Victory Mail; postal system put into place during the war to drastically reduce the space needed to transport mail] for limited correspondence with family. Ruck's squadron [Annotator's Note: 16th Troop Carrier Squadron, 64th Troop Carrier Group, 51st Troop Carrier Wing, 12th Air Force] had 16 planes. He flew different planes on each mission. When the war in Europe ended, Ruck's squadron flew veterans home from the war. His plane could usually carry 20 troops, or jeeps, or other heavy cargo. [Annotator's Note: Ruck flew Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft.] Puerto Rico became his main base. There was a lot of waiting between assigned flights. His accommodations in Puerto Rico were not bad. He managed to rendezvous with his wife in Miami on one of the round trips. Unarmed bombers were also used to transport troops home. After release from the service, Ruck stayed in the Reserves. Pilots like Ruck were able to be discharged after the three months of ferrying troops back to the United States. Many of the aircraft used in the European Theater were destroyed even before V-J Day [Annotator's Note: Victory Over Japan Day, 15 August 1945]. Ruck knew of no one that had to go to the Pacific nor wanted to do so.
Elmore Ruck used the G.I. Bill and attained a mechanical engineering degree after the war. He attends reunions but otherwise does not stay in touch with his fellow airmen. Time has taken a toll on the veterans. Ruck has traveled but not to those places where he served. He enjoyed the wartime flying and travel. He grew up making airplanes from model kits. It was interesting meeting people from all over the country. He found some Americans more different than those he met overseas.
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