Vets Photos Document Bomber Crews Hopes, Fears

By Eric Olson

April 6, 2012 Updated Apr 6, 2012 at 11:59 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--They were the most awesome killing machines created by man. They bombed Japan back into the Middle Ages and brought her to her knees. And the men and boys who flew the B-29 super fortress adored every deadly square inch of her.

“When it gets down to your airplane and it’s one you’re either gonna die in or gonna live in, that got very personal”, says World War Two veteran Eugene Gillum.

Gillum knows just how personal it got. As a 24 year old aircraft mechanic he spent the last year of the war at Northwest Field on the Pacific island of Guam keeping the planes of the 315th bomber wing in the air, hammering the empire of Japan. On the last day of the war Gillum grabbed a camera and roll of color film, and documented the artwork that adorned the airplanes he worked on.

“It was artistic,” Gillum says, “but it also had a thought behind it, it wasn’t some nice babe that was there for entertainment.”

‘For the Luvva Mike’ was named for the son of this airplane’s pilot. The commander of this plane named her ‘Rose Marie’ for a buddy who was killed over Germany. Rose Marie was his buddy’s wife.

“You look at that without knowing that story you walk right past,” Gillum says. “Okay it’s a babe without any clothes on, so what? But it was a memorial…his buddy that got killed.”

The nose art on this Super Fortress, ‘Just One Mo’ Time’ sounds salacious…it’s not.

“Without knowing what somebody’s thinking was ‘why would you name an airplane that?’ It was a prayer, ‘just one more time get us there and get us home’.”

Eugene Gillum’s photos are part of an exhibit at the Fort Wayne art museum on World War Two nose art but these photos are art and history and psychology and poetry, expressing the hopes and fears of a generation of soldiers who never knew if their next mission would be their last, but somehow took comfort by personalizing the killing machines that would bring them home..or carry them off to oblivion. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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