Early Life

Air Force Service

Postwar and Reflections


Medary G. Boudreaux was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in June 1921. Prior to the war, he attended Commercial High School and graduated as a bookkeeper and clerk typist. His father was a foreman on the riverfront. His mother did not have a job. As a child, Boudreaux enjoyed playing football and skating. The Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States] did not affect his family very much since his father maintained his job. Each Christmas, Boudreaux received a pair of skates which he used to skate all over the city. [Annotator’s Note: He chuckles.] He graduated from high school in 1939 and got two jobs. He worked seven day a week as a ticket taker in a theater. The second job was delivering papers every Sunday morning, which was a hard job. He heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] on the radio while eating on a Sunday morning. He felt terrible that the Japanese did that. He had worked at Higgins [Annotator’s Note: Andrew Jackson Higgins founded Higgins Industries in New Orleans and built among other vessels PT or patrol torpedo boats, the LCPLs or landing craft personnel, large and LCVPs or landing craft, vehicle and personnel commonly known as Higgins Boats] for a couple of years before the war broke out. His brother was a leader man for Higgins on Bayou Saint John [Annotator’s Note: in New Orleans]. Boudreaux heard from his brother that Higgins needed more men and decided to join the company. Mr. Higgins told Boudreaux that he would have to be a fourth year apprentice. Boudreaux agreed because he wanted the job. His work was mainly focused on building ribs for the boats. He had a plywood table that was used to assemble and bolt together the individual ribs. He was not paid much for his effort. Lack of personnel resulted in reduced vessel production. Four torpedo boats and blunt nose landing craft [Annotator’s Note: LCPLs] were being built at the Saint Charles and Felicity sites [Annotator’s Note: Higgins Industries had multiple worksites in New Orleans one of which was on Saint Charles Avenue at Felicity Street where PT boats and LCPLs were built]. Later, a gate design on the front of the landing craft evolved [Annotator’s Note: LCVPs or Higgins Boats had a ramp for ease of troop deployment on beaches]. When war was declared, a speed up in production was required. Mr. Higgins was a busy man, but very nice. Boudreaux greeted him each morning. There were no black or women workers initially. Women were hired when the facility opened at City Park Avenue [Annotator’s Note: another manufacturing location for Higgins Industry in New Orleans]. In 1943, Boudreaux opted to join the Air Forces after he was drafted into the Army. His IQ was high enough that he was allowed to choose the Air Force. He was told by the instructor that his test results were the highest in months. It made Boudreaux feel great.


Medary G. Boudreaux was drafted, but a subsequent high test score and his IQ allowed him to go to Sheppard Field north of Dallas [Annotator’s Note: Dallas, Texas]. He tested and trained for two months to become a pilot. The training involved physical effort. It was hard to do and lasted all day. The rigors gave him an appetite so he ate a lot of food. He became accustomed to the routine. He was with the Technical Air and Intelligence Center where he was an aircraft parts and equipment technician. He worked with the B-29 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] in Hastings, Nebraska after working with B-17s [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] and B-24s [Annotator’s Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber]. After receiving the first B-29s, everyone wanted to go up and touch and admire the planes. Soon the B-29s superseded the B-17s and B-24s on the base. The B-29 was a big, wonderful machine that could travel thousands of miles on a tank of gas. Most of Boudreaux’s work was in a warehouse with parts for the airplanes. He attained the rank of PFC [Annotator’s Note: private first class] and was happy with that. From Hastings, he traveled to Salt Lake City [Annotator’s Note: Salt Lake City, Utah] then Colorado Springs [Annotator’s Note: Colorado Springs, Colorado] and Washington, D.C. and finally the proving grounds. He was assigned to Technical Air Intelligence, a secret outfit, in Washington, D.C. In that role, he would go to a Navy hangar that housed every Japanese aircraft that was in Washington. The enemy planes would be tested for capability by hotshot pilots. Boudreaux had to supply parts and equipment for the aircraft. The planes were studied extensively to see what was good and bad about them. That was where Boudreaux was when the war ended. Boudreaux had worked with Higgins Industry both on St. Charles and City Park [Annotator’s Note: Andrew Jackson Higgins founded Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana and built among other vessels PT or patrol torpedo boats, the LCPLs or landing craft personnel, large and LCVPs or landing craft, vehicle and personnel commonly known as Higgins Boats. Two of the numerous locations around the city of New Orleans were manufacturing sites at St. Charles Avenue and City Park Avenue.]


Medary G. Boudreaux returned to Higgins at Michoud after his discharge and worked there for two years [Annotator’s Note: Andrew Jackson Higgins founded Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana and built among other vessels PT or patrol torpedo boats, the LCPLs or landing craft personnel, large and LCVPs or landing craft, vehicle and personnel commonly known as Higgins Boats. Before the war, Boudreaux had worked at two of the numerous Higgins locations around the city of New Orleans, the St. Charles Avenue and City Park Avenue plants. After the war, he worked at the Michoud facility where larger boats and other equipment was built.]. He worked multiple jobs there. He was proud of his service with Higgins and the work done by the landing craft. General Eisenhower [Annotator's Note: General of the Army Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force; 34th President of the United States] said the Higgins landing craft won the war with the troops landing in France [Annotator's Note: Eisenhower was in overall command of D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944 where Higgins boats were extensively used]. The war ended when MacArthur took the surrender in the port in Japan [Annotator’s Note: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area, accepted the Japanese unconditional surrender aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay off Tokyo, Japan.]. The 29s [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945]. Boudreaux feels it is very important to teach the history of World War Two to younger generations today. They should know what happened to their relatives during that conflict. He feels The Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana] is very important. When the competition between Higgins and Chris-Craft landing boats was held in the Chesapeake [Annotator’s Note: Chesapeake Bay], the admirals wanted the latter to build the boats, but the Marines in the Pacific favored Higgins getting the construction contract. The Marine general thought Higgins built the best boat. Boudreaux still has his draw knife he used in boat building while at Higgins [Annotator’s Note: he demonstrates how to use the tool he brought with him to the interview]. After the war, Boudreaux worked for the Pullman Company for seven years and then went on to build houses. He built about 300 houses during that career. The Higgins boats were brought to Bayou Saint John and then to the lake to test [Annotator’s Note: Bayou Saint John is a waterway through New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain intersects it to the north of the city]. Three or four boats could be seen on the Lake at any one time. Higgins drove the boat himself. He drove it up on the seawall [Annotator’s Note: the south side of Lake Pontchartrain is highlighted by a seawall to contain the lake] and then backed it off. The Navy personnel were frightened by the experience.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.