Woman's WWII Veteran Grandfather Inspires Military Career

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) — Jaclyn Hyman grew up on her grandfather's stories. From almost losing his life in a plane crash in Guam to flying missions to North Korea during the Korean War, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Hyman, 97, always has a tale to tell. So it might not be that big of a surprise that Jaclyn decided one day to follow in her grandfather's footsteps.

"It's definitely why I picked the Air Force," she said recently, referring to her grandfather's career that spanned almost three decades.

Jaclyn is a senior airman in the Air Force Reserves, where she is a crew chief on a KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueling tanker. And not only did Dick get to attend her swearing-in ceremony at Grissom Air Force Base last August, but he was even given the honor of swearing her in himself.

"Less than one percent can say their grandfather has sworn them into the military," her father, Rick, said.

The Hymans also got to tour Grissom that day, which was extra special for Dick, who spent several years there with the 305th Bombardment Wing as a nuclear weapons officer.

Drafted shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Dick was a self-described farm boy from rural Cass County. He went off to study at Purdue University in West Lafayette after graduation. While that education didn't defer him from military service altogether, it did change the course of his service.

At that time, you had to be in college to get into flight training, Dick said, and Purdue's cadet board was interviewing fighter pilot candidates. He jumped at the opportunity.

And on Jan. 16, 1942, Dick found himself in Fort Wayne taking a physical and being sworn in as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces, later renamed the U.S. Air Force.

Dick graduated in December 1942 from flight training in Montgomery, Alabama before heading up to Memphis, Tennessee as a member of the Air Transport Command.

"That was probably the best assignment they gave out," he said, "because all we had to do is deliver airplanes."

For months, that's what Dick did. He not only made trips from coast to coast, but he also got to travel to places like Scotland and Africa. He flew several bombers and fighters, like the B-17, B-24, B-25, B-26 and P-51. He even got to fly an A-24, a Navy dive bomber specifically used for aerial gunnery.

But while Dick said the military was exciting, it also came with a few reality checks too. Like the day he was called into his wing commander's office and told his roommate crashed into the Mississippi River the night before.

"Getting used to death was the hardest part," he said. "It eventually got to be old hat, but it was never good."

From Memphis, Dick went out to Mather Air Force Base in California for a short stint before eventually ending up in Guam, where he was a squad commander for 350 men.

Dick described Guam as paradise. He was even allowed to send for his family to join him.

But Guam was also where Dick had his own brush with death while flying a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. During landing, Dick said he noticed the left tire on the plane was flat and the right brake wasn't working.

"I tore 3 feet off the left wing that day," he said," and it took them 10 minutes just to get out to me."

Dick and his family spent two years stationed at Guam before heading back to the continental U.S. It was the mid-1940s by then, and World War II was coming to an end. There were stays at Bolling AFB in Washington, D.C. and Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, both lasting a couple years apiece. Then came two years in Okinawa, Japan.

Dick was with the 305th Bombardment Wing at the time.

"The Korean War broke out," Dick said, "and I was sitting there in Okinawa. We ended up flying missions to North Korea, and that's what we did until the war ended."

And while that plane crash in Guam a few years earlier was scary, Dick said enemy fire during the Korean War was scarier.

"They were shooting at us all the time, and I didn't really like it too much," he said, laughing.

Okinawa was Dick's last overseas deployment. He came home for good in the mid-1950s and eventually wound up at nuclear weapons school in San Antonio, Texas. Dick was one of 20 students enrolled in the program.

"They'd teach us all about nuclear weapons and how they were made. We also dropped 6,000 pound dummies onto a target. And when that thing dropped, we'd go up about 2,000 feet," he laughed.

Dick left the school with the title of nuclear weapons officer, which meant he eventually taught crews how to monitor and drop nuclear weapons.

But in 1959, a call from Dick's father sent him heading home.

"I had told my dad that if this farm ever came up for sale, you call me," he said, pointing at his property. "In 1959, he called and said 'they're going to sell that farm on the corner, so you better get back here if you want a shot at it.'"

So Dick called the USAF's Strategic Air Command headquarters and tried to make a deal. He told them they were going to be activating Grissom, and they likely needed a nuclear weapons officer.

Headquarters agreed, and Dick moved back to Indiana for good. He finally retired from active service two days before Christmas 1965.

"I just did what the rest of the guys did," he said, when asked if he should be labeled a hero. "We went out and fought, and that's all there was to it."

But his pride is hard to contain when he talks about the connection he now holds with his granddaughter.

"I'm glad, and I hope she's happy," he said, looking over at Jaclyn. "It brings back good memories, and it's fun to know someone else is interested in what you're interested in."


Source: (Logansport) News and Tribune, http://bit.ly/2kjOX6p


Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com

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This article was written by Kim Dunlap from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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