UPDATE! 09/11/2016

Editor's picks from the web 09/11/2016
As editor often get outstanding contributions from readers. They represent hard work of others who share my passion to remember!, I can't put on KilroyWasHere.org but they deserve wider distribution.
Shared by
Tony Welch

Jack Wendling
Click the image for MagicValley.com

"Meet Jack Wendling. Born with wings, some say -- no arms. A B-24 pilot at 17, now turned 91 and still airborne going on 73 years. Join Jack in the co-pilot's seat and learn what it took -- and takes -- to stay aloft a lifetime."

Jack is not new to KilroyWasHere.org! See COMING OF AGE IN THE SKIES OVER GERMANY. Jack was 18 when flying a B-24 over Nazi Germany. He was just an 88 year old kid when Tony Welch first told his story 3 years ago. Click the title below.


Quotes from Tony Welch

Jack Wendling, 88 and at ease



…as told to TONY WELCH

2nd LT Wendling, age 18, early 1944

For the record, Jack Wendling became a commissioned officer and a B-24 co-pilot at age 18. Now 88, he still carries a current pilot's license tucked in his wallet."I have an old pilot friend," Wendling notes, "whose personal credo goes straight to the heart of the matter. Flying is not inherently dangerous. All it requires is your undivided attention." Evidence that Wendling himself pays homage to this aerial rule of thumb becomes crystal clear, as his narrative unfolds.

Let's join our fledgling aviator, as he spreads his wings for the first time.

Small Photos enlarge when clicked


"In 1942 I was a 17-year old freshman at the University of Minnesota. The largest aeronautical school at that time. My dad took me for a spin in a twin-engine Curtis-Condor when I was five years old. From then on I was into it, building model airplanes and learning all I could about aviation. On a Sunday evening I happened to hear a radio newscast that said 17-year-olds could apply as aviation cadets. So I took the exam at Fort Snelling with a group of others, passing with the highest test score. I was then sworn in to the Enlisted Reserve Corps. I only got half way through the second quarter in college when they called me up in early April of forty-three. Then more physical tests at Nashville, Tennessee. Mostly eye-hand coordination to determine my reaction time. Walking wasn't allowed. Everything was double-time from the moment your feet hit the barracks floor at five-am.

" I first flew in the Boeing PT-17. Or Stearman trainer, as they called it. With two open cockpits - the instructor sat up front, and the cadet behind. Dual controls. All the flight instructors were civilians. It was my good fortune that my primary instructor, "Smokey" Olson, was the best at his trade. Before getting in the airplane, he'd make certain I understood exactly what we were going to do. Once airborne,he would demonstrate that particular aerial maneuver a time or two, while at the same time describing his actions. Then I took over the controls to duplicate the maneuver, while Smokey helped talk me through it. Back on the ground, he would critique my progress. Each maneuver was practiced a number of times. Failure to 'get it right' within a given time frame meant flunking out of flight school.

"Flying blind at night or in heavy cloud cover - without visible reference to the horizon and depending entirely on gyroscopic instrumentation--was another learning experience. You had to learn to place absolute trust and reliance on your instruments. Say you're sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. You know up from down, from the pressure on your butt. But in a cockpit, there's more than simple gravitational pull at play. Severe air turbulence can leave the false impression the aircraft is diving or climbing. Vision and inner-ear balance are no longer of value. What you 'feel' is wholly unnatural - an entirely new, unprecedented experience. So … making the sudden switch from a familiar two-dimensional world, to a strange three-dimensional world, had to be mastered. The challenge was to feel confident and comfortable in your new environment -- but ever alert.

"Smokey Olson was a prime example of someone who'd totally adapted. He'd been an aerobatic stunt pilot in the thirties, performing at county fairs and giving rides. His specialty was inverted landings. As in - upside down. Now, that's simply not possible. You'll kill yourself and wreck the plane. But Smokey figured out how to get around that. As he explained it to me, he rigged his bi-plane with an extra pair of extended landing gear struts, so that the upper wing surface on the bi-plane now sported a second pair of wheels, pointing skyward. He also had an upside-down tail wheel attached to the tip of his vertical stabilizer, so as not to damage the tip of the tail when it made contact with the ground. And he'd land upside down and do a delicate touch-and-go - then goose the throttle and get airborne again.

"After about eighty hours flying time, a lieutenant put me through a solo flight check, and I passed. Afterwards, Olson wanted us to take a final spin together. Only this time, we'd switch places. I got in the front cockpit, and Smokey in the rear. A role reversal. I was now the instructor, and Olson the cadet. We were connected by a Gosport speaking tube. I could give him verbal commands, but Smokey couldn't talk back. That's how the system worked. Here was a golden opportunity to out-fox the fox, as they say. Or so I thought.

Jack exhibits a poster commemorating General Jimmy Doolittle's air raid on Tokyo in 1942. Two years later, Doolittle led the 8th Air Force to supremacy in the skies over northern Europe.

"There was a big swamp off to one side of the airfield. During flight training, it was off-limits to solo flights. I said: 'Head for the swamp, maintain fifteen-hundred feet.' And he did. Then I said: "Do a half-roll.' And he did. We were now upside down. Then I pushed the throttle down to the idle position - just like he used to do to me during training. And I said: 'Forced landing.'

"No reaction - Smokey just let the Stearman glide as we began to lose altitude. I fully expected Olson to right the airplane and look for the shortest way out of the swamp, but he didn't do that. Then I noticed Smokey was pumping gas to the carburetor, which normally was gravity-fed - and which would otherwise soon starve itself because we were still upside down.
"Up ahead, I spotted a rise at the far side of the swamp, maybe three acres of dry ground planted in cotton. I saw the Stearman turn, and noticed that we

were now lined up with the cotton rows. Which told me Smokey was going to attempt an emergency landing once he righted the airplane. But to do that, he needed more engine power. So I pushed the throttle forward - we were only about 150 feet from the ground.

"Olson pulled it back to idle - dual controls, remember?

"There was a split rail fence at the end of the cotton patch. I could see three men working in the field. Just as we passed over the fence, Smokey flipped the plane over and upright. If you'd been standing atop the split rail fence, you could have reached up and touched the rotating wing tip as it flipped over. Only then did he open the throttle and climb up, with a few feet to spare.

"Olson and I stayed in touch -- casual correspondents. Smokey later transferred to a flying school in Louisiana. One day I got a letter from his wife. He'd taken a cadet up and the student apparently 'froze' at the controls. They were both killed"

Wendling maintained an on-going friendship with fellow cadet Lary Wreyford, whom he'd met at Nashville during classification. Together, they went through primary, basic and advanced training. Both Jack and Larry remained sharply focused on single engine fighter aircraft, as their ultimate goal.

"On one flight, Larry Wreyford performed a double snap roll that left his instructor speechless. He finally found his tongue and said to Larry: 'The next time you do that, warn me first and I'll step out of the plane.' On one of his later solo flights, Wreyford buzzed the dormitory of a girls' school in Montgomery, where his girlfriend was a student. Not once - but two passes. It was nighttime, and he turned all the lights off on the airplane, barely clearing the tree-tops. And he got away with it, despite an intensive investigation. Larry went on to B-17s and was shot down in 1944, ending the war as a POW. He lives in California. We still get

Crash helmet firmly in place, Jack poses for a photo with daughters Ann (center) and Sue Wendling. "It makes dad kind of nervous when I drive my Harley," says Ann. The sisters reside in Portland, Oregon.

together on the phone.

"Then off to Albany, Georgia in preparation for advanced twin engine school. This time we flew Consolidated Vultee BT-13s, the next step up and a very important phase in the training cycle. We even did aerobatics in formation. With enough practice we could stick like glue to the instructor. On completion of this course, I was awarded my wings and second lieutenant bars. Before departure, I was approached with an offer to become a flight instructor. I said: 'Do you realize I'm just 18 years old?' A few days later I was informed they'd discussed it at command level and did some checking around…and found out that as far as they could determine, there wasn't any record of a commissioned eighteen year-old B-24 pilot younger than myself anywhere in the U.S. Army Air Corps. *

"Then back to Montgomery and B-24 transition school. A lieutenant instructor gave myself and three other students a walk-through. He then asked if there were any questions. I said: 'How do I get out of here and into fighters?' And he said: 'You don't think you can fly this airplane?' And I said: 'I can fly the box it came in.' This wasn't brash bragging on my part, but rather an expression of self-confidence in common use at the time. What it meant was -- give me a pilot's information manual and some dual instruction, and I can fly anything you've got. My hope was that two-engine advanced training would lead to the P-38, a twin-engine fighter. Later, I kept bugging him about it, but I was wasting my breath."

Spread out over 30 combat missions, Wendling's crewmates manned more than a half-dozen Liberators -- among them 'Black Cat,' shown here in this January, 1945 photo. Black Cat was the last 8th Air Force bomber to be shot down (April 21, 1945), killing ten of the twelve crew members. That's Jack, back row center.

Jack waited for a crew to be assembled and further trained, then journeyed to Topeka to pick up a factory-fresh four-engine B-24. First a check ride, then off to England. Destination: Attlebridge Air Base, in the Midlands some 70 miles from London. Home of the Second Air Division, 96th Combat Wing, 446th Bomb Group. Jack's crew members relinquished their Liberator, never to see it again.

"Most people think you get a plane, and you stick with it - it's yours until it's wrecked or shot down. Not so. Our crew manned at least six different B-24s for varying lengths of time. Just off-hand I recall the 'Ghost,' 'Ghost II,' 'Flying Red Horse,' 'Parson's Chariot' and 'Lady's Home Companion.' And I can't forget 'Black Cat.' She was the last 8th Air Force B-24 shot down over Europe, on April 21, 1945. Our crew flew 'Black Cat' on at least eight combat missions. You can read a book about her - 'Wings of Morning.' I talked with the author at a couple squadron reunions. Reassignments also happened with the aircrews. Over time, four of our original ten crew members transferred out for various reasons and were replaced.

"Superstitions, we had them. Each man had to deal with bad luck in his own way. Keep harm at arm's length. For the past 68 years, I've always put my left shoe on first - without fail. I also carried a rabbit's foot on each of my 30 combat missions. The other guys might get slammed, but not me. Ever hear of 'lucky' clothes? Like lucky woolen underwear? Some guys wore their long johns year-round, on each and every combat mission. Some never cleaned them - that might wash away the good luck."

Wendling flew his first bombing mission August 3, 1944 in company with 35 other Liberators. Scattered throughout the United Kingdom was a total of 46 such groups. Each group contained a minimum of 60 bombers, either B-17s or B-24s. The fighter groups, which escorted the bombers to their targets, were slightly greater in number. Wendling's crewmates in the squadron were the only crew to fly all their combat missions as the lead aircraft - the most dangerous position in a formation when it came to anti-aircraft fire. German flak batteries always attempted to focus on the element leader's plane whenever possible, because the bombardier on that aircraft determined the aiming/drop point for all the other B-24s in that flight. When the 8th Air Force increased the number of mandatory combat missions from 30 to 35, Jack and those crewmates who qualified were only required to complete 30 missions. As well, all of Wendling's missions were deep into Germany, a round trip averaging between six and eight hours. After takeoff, and barring bad weather, it took a good 45 minutes to assemble a formation at 10,000 feet--if all went well, that is. Bomb loads were customarily dropped from an elevation of 22-24,500 feet. In all, the 466th flew 5,693 sorties during 231 bombing missions and delivered 13,000 tons of explosives from March, 1944 to late April, 1945. The cost: forty-seven B-24 combat losses, 333 aircrew killed or missing in action, 171 POWs. As well, battle-scarred crew members could be found scattered throughout the squadrons. In all, 135,000 men flew in combat with the 8th Air Force; more than 26,000 perished and another 20,000-plus were wounded. Statistically, the 8th casualty count actually exceeded that of the entire U.S. Marine Corps. A total of 6,537 B-17s and B-24s were lost in combat, together with 3,337 fighter aircraft.

"We had our share of surprises. Least expected was the trip when we lost oil pressure on the number three engine and had to abort the flight. The return course took us across the Zuider Zee and out over the English Channel. We still had our three-ton bomb load, stuffed with RDX. Per pound, the explosive power of these bombs was five times greater than TNT.

"The bombardier suddenly called up and said he could see the silhouette of a submerged submarine. It was underway, and the sub's periscope was leaving a wake. The ocean surface was like glass - had the wind been blowing, we'd never have spotted it from our height at 8,000 feet.

"I got out the maps and discovered we were over a section of the channel where Allied shipping was forbidden to enter - most likely because the Germans had planted charted minefields throughout the area. So we maneuvered the plane and carefully lined up on the sub's course. The bombardier let go the entire load of 500 pounders. Mind you -- not for nothing was our bombardier known as a master of his trade. He was close to getting his degree in physics when the war broke out, at which point he enlisted. Dropping bombs on target was just another ballistics problem to be solved, and he became very good at it. His salvo perfectly straddled the submarine on either side. Once the explosions subsided, we spotted a hump of boiling water surging to the surface. At debriefing, we told the intelligence people about it but we never heard anything back. I like to think the Germans had one more missing U-boat."

An example of the Eighth's impressive display of air power occurred the day before Christmas, 1944. The maximum effort sent up a total of 2,017 B-17 and B-24 bombers, plus 1,700 fighter aircraft .Wendling and his crew were absent, however. No transportation. Their aircraft was in 'intensive care,' having suffered near-fatal wounds the day before, on December 23rd.

A Luftwaffe tactical combat instructor demonstrates to student pilots the various arcs of a B-24's defensive fire. The Liberator's known weak spot was its nose, thus encouraging head-on attacks by German FW-190s, Me-109s and Me-262s.

"The weather had finally cleared and it was a beautiful day. Our target was a large storage depot that was supplying the German ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge. Once again, we were the lead aircrew flying in 'Ghost II'. What we didn't know was that the Germans had several 88mm flak batteries parked in the vicinity, mounted on open flatbed railway cars. They seemed to be 'flock shooting' that day. We had thirty planes in the flight. None were shot down, but twenty-two were flak damaged. Compare that to an earlier trip to Ulm. You've heard the expression - 'an image burned in your brain?' The bomber off our left wing, maybe 200 yards away, took a direct hit in the bomb bay. Instantly there was a humongous ball of fire traveling horizontally across the sky - around fifteen hundred gallons of burning fuel. All that was visible was a wing tip sticking out of the flames. I carry that image to this day.

"Just after our bombardier toggled his load, 'Ghost' tipped over on the left wing and spiraled down from 24,500 feet to 8,500 feet before we could wrestle her upright again. As we later figured it out, a full salvo from a gun battery of eighty-eights simultaneously entered our airspace. Three of the four shells connected. One went through the outboard portion of the right wing, clipping the aileron controls. A second eighty-eight went through the right horizontal stabilizer on the tail, which in turn took out the right rudder. The third round passed through the right wing behind the inboard engine. The first two shells didn't explode on contact, but the last one certainly did - leaving an exit hole twice the size of a manhole cover. The Germans at this point didn't have proximity-fused artillery shells like we did, thank God. Otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting here.

"It was a real struggle trying to navigate. Because of the damage done, the only thing we had much control over were the engines. 'Ghost' wanted to drift sideways. We managed to slow down, and that helped a bit. Once we got oriented, the goal was to set out on a homeward course in hope that we'd come across some P-51 fighter protection before the ME-109s or Focke-Wulf 190s found us.

"Now hold on - there's more. The navigator in the nose called up and said another group of flak batteries was shooting at us. He could see the gun flashes. From experience, he calculated it would take about eight seconds for the rounds to reach our elevation. So we started a game of hop-scotch. The guns would fire, the navigator would shout, and we'd turn either left or right by adding power surges to one or more engines. More than one cluster of shells exploded in the air space we'd vacated just seconds before.

"Hang on - we're getting there. The front lines were about 90 miles distant, with a headwind all the way. As we limped along, the tail gunner spotted another B-24 approaching our rear at about the five o'clock level. He kept me posted as to its progress. The plane was painted all black, no markings that he could see. I told the upper turret and tail gunner to keep their fifty-calibers trained on him. And if they saw so much as one of their gun barrels start to wiggle, to shoot the sons-a-bitches down. The Germans were known to repair crashed American aircraft and use them on reconnaissance or infiltration missions. We were maybe a mile shy of the front lines when the suspicious-looking B-24 slowly began drifting back and off to the side, then turned away. And we just kept right on going, until we crossed the channel and made it back to England. The squadron commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Gene Roberson, was aboard our plane that day and he put every crew member in for a Distinguished Flying Cross, which were later awarded." **

With little advance warning, the Battle of the Bulge suddenly interrupted the 8th Air Force's assigned bombing missions. Patton's Third Army was running out of fuel, and the general turned to the 446th for help. Wendling's crew, among numerous others, virtually overnight found themselves delivering gasoline instead of bombs. The delivery points were just behind the front lines. Before it was over, Jack would get a taste (plus a powerful whiff) of what the ground pounders faced every day.

"We went to three different towns in France, landing at what were once German-held airfields. We were reduced down to a five-man crew. I particularly

A radar-directed 88mm battery, consisting of four cannon, could load and discharge up to 120 shells inside of a minute. By October, 1944, more than 18,000 88mm anti-aircraft guns were in use. A German study estimated that it took an average of 3,300 shells to bring down an Allied bomber.

remember St. Dizier, not far from Metz. Patton posted armed guards at night, to protect our parked B-24s just in case the Germans tried to catch us on the ground by surprise. We could hear nearby artillery fire. We started out hauling five-gallon jerry cans, but it wasn't enough. So we switched to Tokyo tanks - large rubberized containers that held a much greater quantity of fuel. On inbound flights we flew at 500 feet, so the American anti-aircraft gunners could more easily identify us. Just one tracer bullet into our fuselage and that's all it would have taken.

"The first time my crew walked into St. Dizier, we had to hold our noses. The roadside ditches were littered with German corpses. First stop was the village pub. The place was crawling with French resistance fighters, the Maquis. They looked like Mexican bandits, minus the sombreros. Most of them were packing snub-nose automatic weapons, with bandoliers of ammo draped across their chests.

"One of the guys could speak some English. When I told him our bombers and fighter planes had bombed and strafed the nearby airfield a couple months earlier, he looked me straight in the eye and replied: 'I know - you killed our mayor.' At this point it occurred that I might not leave the tavern in one piece. All of a sudden he tossed his head back and laughed. Then he said: 'That's all right - he was a collaborateur allemand (German collaborator).' "

Ignoring overcast skies, radar-guided German gunners zero in on a B-24 as it departs Ludwigshafen, on the Rhine River. By war's end, a staggering total of 13,000 Allied bombers pummeled this city's industrial complex in 121 separate raids, killing 1,800 and wounding 3,000.

As for other distractions,Wendling also became involved in the Cornstarch Caper, which occurred when an entire group of thirty returning B-24s was forced to divert to a British air base due to foul weather. The crews were fed and made welcome overnight.

"There were close to 300 of us. When it came time to bed down, we were issued mattresses. They were about four inches thick, almost square. Two of them fit on a cot. The Brits referred to them as 'biscuits,' because of their shape. More like 'hardtack.' Unfortunately, the mattresses were already inhabited.

"About a week later, some of the crew members came down with an awful itch. Then a few more, until about twenty percent of the group was clawing and scratching. It was funny to watch….but not funny to suffer through. I escaped it somehow. The medics diagnosed it as

scabies, and got right to work with a cure. You can't fly a plane or drop bombs or shoot down ME-109s if you're constantly scratching your posterior or whatever.

"The base dispensary had two big old claw-foot bathtubs. A scabies patient would step naked into the bathtub, sit down and lay back. At which point a medic began shoveling powdered cornstarch into the tub until the patient was buried up to his chin. And there he would repose, immersed for about a half-hour. I saw this with my own eyes.

"When his time was up, the patient wiggled his way loose and stepped from the tub. Then another patient came forward and sat down in the second tub. The medic then began shoveling the cornstarch from the first tub into the second tub, until the patient was buried. This went on back and forth for days, until every last scabies critter was dead. I actually thought at the time they were suffocating the bugs. But on further reflection I have to think some kind of medication was mixed with the cornstarch. I never did bother to find out.

"And while we're at it….the only time I saw wing commander John Jacobowitz really howling mad about something, was the morning he lined up every crew outside his headquarters and proceeded to give us a verbal flogging while we stood at attention. These were the guys that hauled all that gasoline to Patton's army for nearly a month. According to the colonel, we'd also brought something else home from the fleshpots of France. He told us fifty-six crewmen were currently being treated for clap. Incapacitating yourself for duty, he called it. Inexcusable, irresponsible behavior. As far as the colonel was concerned, the infected crew members were guilty of fraternizing with the enemy.***

"This leads me to the delicate subject of other body fluids. Every B-24 had one or more relief tubes. For every thousand feet that an airplane ascends after takeoff, the outside temperature drops about 2-1/2 degrees. In the wintertime, that meant it got around 40 or 50 degrees below zero at 22,500 feet, our bombing altitude. The first or second guy to use the tube at that height on a winter day almost always plugged it up. Frozen solid. You couldn't hot-wire the thing, or somebody might get electrocuted if it short-circuited. So the other nine crew members had no other choice than to use the bomb bay. There were four vertical bomb racks forward, two on each side of a narrow catwalk. And that's where they'd do their business. Well … the warm liquid ran down the racks and collected in the bomb bay doors below, where it instantly froze solid. It happened on a few occasions that the frozen discharge would build up and prevent the doors from opening. No matter-- the bombardier would let the bomb load go anyway. You couldn't do this in a B-17, which had reinforced barn-like doors. But the Liberator doors opened and closed like a roll-top desk, and were purposely made to break away under major stress. So the falling bombs smashed through the frozen roll-top doors and went their merry way. Whenever this happened, it really irritated the repair crews back at base. They had enough real combat damage to tend with as it was.

Four of the ten crew members aboard this bomb-laden B-24 survived a failed takeoff attempt on April 12, 1945. Nearly 19,000 Liberators were built ---more than any other American combat aircraft series. Fewer than a dozen surviving B-24 'war birds' are on display; only one is airworthy. Admission price for a 30-minute joyride aboard Witchcraft (six passengers minimum): $2,500 total

"Most every plane in the group got dinged up, some more than others. The only injury to our crew, if you can call it that, happened to the navigator, Alvin Broadway. He always wore a pair of oversized flight boots. A piece of flak came through the fuselage and sheared the sole clean off one of them, but hardly scraped the skin. One time we brought back 'Ghost II,' really peppered with flak. We got as far as 164 shrapnel holes but had to stop counting when the crew truck showed up and hauled us off for debriefing. Another time Stevie Barnes, the flight engineer, noticed a hole in the underside of the right wing. On closer inspection he found an intact 88-millimeter round lodged in the wing's interior. This made his hair stand on end. Was the shell dead as a doornail -- or a disaster waiting to happen? There was no way to tell.

" Barnes got on the field telephone and called for help. A voice came on the line: 'Armament office.' Barnes explained the situation in detail, and in turn answered a number of questions. He then asked how soon a munitions expert could come by and remove the shell from hell. The voice on the other end said: 'You've got the wrong number.' And hung up. Can't say as I blame them. It took three days before we could get anybody out there to tackle the problem."

Far left: each of these 88mm flak fragments (sorted by size) caused a fatal aircrew injury. Center: shattered Plexiglas cockpit windshields also posed a threat; recorded are 85 typical (though non fatal) head and neck injuries to 75 individual pilots and co-pilots. Far right: collected fragments from a single 88mm anti-aircraft shell, gathered up after a contained explosive test. All the fragment samples shown here are many times larger than pictured.

As Wendling approached the thirty-mission mark, he paid a visit to the 56th Fighter Group. His interest now focused on the single-engine P-51 fighter. But nothing came of it. Then Jack remembered two friends who flew Mosquitoes. The two-seater Mosquito - pilot and navigator/radar operator - was a British designed jack-of-all-trades fighter-bomber, made almost entirely of laminated plywood. The latest models could climb to 43,000 feet and exceed 400 mph in level flight. Twin Rolls-Royce engines, each packing 1,460 horsepower. And so Jack began a love affair with the Wooden Wonder; Timber Terror was another nickname, as evidenced by the Germans' fear of it.

"The Mosquito outfit was involved in special reconnaissance - meaning more than just photo reconnaissance. Low-level snooping and intruder missions, stuff like that. I'd looked the Mosquito over and really liked what I saw. So I talked to the head honcho and he made the arrangements. I transferred in March of forty-five, after my last bombing mission. During the transition I trained in an Oxford, another British aircraft. The guy I roomed with gave me my first rides in the Mosquito.

"Then the war suddenly ended. To celebrate, a couple pilots took off and flew to London, where they proceeded to buzz Buckingham Palace. The wonder was they weren't shot down. The air ministry got involved in the ruckus, and the end result was that all our Mosquitoes were transferred to some remote airfield in Scotland."


Wendling's post-war career never strayed far from military matters. After college graduation, he was recalled to active duty in September,1949. Jack completed a five-month atomic energy course before being assigned to the propulsion lab at Wright-Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. Every imaginable kind of aviation engine came under the lab's scrutiny. Further assignment to the Technical Intelligence Division (a think-tank devoted to the 'prevention of technological surprises by an enemy') rounded out Jack's military career. Wendling as a civilian spent a further 21 years at Wright-Patterson, dealing with such subject as acoustics, telemetry and meteorology as they pertained to missiles, jet aircraft , space and nuclear activities. At age 31, Jack learned he was the youngest federal civil servant outside the Washington Beltway to attain the rank of GS-15. Before Wendling retired at the tender age of 48, the Force Systems Command recognized his contributions with its highest meritorious service award, the first ever awarded outside its military ranks.

An Idaho resident for many years, Jack and his late wife Kathleen raised four children. "When I wasn't fishing," says Jack," I was hunting. And when I wasn't hunting, I was skiing. Don't much remember what I did in between…."

"Ooh…and a bit of flying."


Wendling is a long-time aero club member, having flown a variety of sports aircraft. This 1946 Ercoupe is one of two he's owned. Jack flies out of the Buhl, Idaho municipal airport, near Twin Falls.


*Among the four-engine (Heavy) bomber crews, LT Emil "Mickey" Cohen (1924-2008) was the youngest commissioned B-17 pilot in the 8th Air Force. Cohen flew with the 447th Bombardment Group, 709th Squadron.

**In addition to the DFC, Wendling was awarded the Air Medal w/4 oak leaf clusters, plus the European Campaign Medal/4 battle stars.

***Wendling adds that Col. Jacobowitz, his 23-year-old squadron commander, graduated medical school after the war. "He once told me," Jack relates, "how amazed he was by the manner in which two hundred young guys could think up so many ways to aggravate him."

This is another in the oral history series by Tony Welch. See the other three at:


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