Gayle L. Smith
Group Operations Officer
387th Bomb Group
I sought advice from several individuals on the type of presentation that I should give. They ranged from a Senator John McCain patriotic speech to a "feel good", to a President Harry S. Truman type - "Tell them like it is". I think, in today's political and socially correct society, I better steer clear of President Truman's method of calling an S.O.B. an S.O.B. or his "give them hell" method or the trial lawyers might hit me with a class action suit.
Recent attention to our generation by Tom Brokaw and others has bestowed upon us the label of "the Greatest Generation". It isn't something that we sought, and it, like our participation in WWII, isn't any more than recognition of what we were proud to accomplish. We served a good cause - to regain freedom for many at great sacrifice in lives and injuries. We retained this right for our fellow citizens only to have freedom used as justification for activist disruptive behavior - i.e. the flag controversy; the disruptive behavior at the Seattle World Trade talks, the disruptive behavior at both political conventions. I don't think this is quite the way we felt that freedom would be interpreted.
Our generation grew up facing adversity. We didn't dwell on the fact that we had little. This attitude helped us build character and compassion for those that were worse off than we; this attitude created camaraderie with each other and it overcame adversity. We were proud simply to be just plain American.
Now I'll talk about our contribution in making the 387th Bomb Group a proud contributor to the World War II victory. Those of us serving in the 387th know what we did, so I will be covering some things that you accomplished and never really talked about to your wife, significant other, children, grand children, and yes, even to your great, great grandchildren. I hope that I will even reflect on some events unknown or long forgotten. To those of us who were in the 387th from its forming, we will reminisce. To others we will hear a bit of history.
The B-26 almost never made it. Design began in 1939, well in advance of the attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941). The initial order for 201 aircraft at $78,000 each resulted in the first aircraft rolling off the line on November 25, 1940 and the first four aircraft being accepted by the Army on February 22, 1941.
The B-26 was a marked change from past bombers. The takeoff and landing speeds were more than twice the speeds of anything flown by pilots out of pilot training. Likewise, maintenance requirements exceeded those in Army Technical School.