I met Wilbur Richardson while helping to feed the homeless at a shelter in Pomona. He was obviously a very elderly person, 90, and wearing a WWII jacket with 30 bombs on the back. As we served up food, I asked him questions, fascinated by his answers I KNEW IT WAS MY JOB TO DOCUMENT HOW HE HAD FLOWN 30 MISSIONS AS A BALLTURRET GUNNER ON A B-17 Bomber and never been shot down.
Wilbur still sings in the Chino Community Chorus and volunteers every weekend at the Chino Planes of Fame Museum.
His autobiography is available both in Spanish and English and is an easy read for ages 12 and up. Available on Amazon, Castillos de Aluminio or Aluminum Castles is full of photographs and information about how he saw the war from the belly of a B-17 bomber.
Here is a piece of his story:
"What we didn't know was that the #061, the "F" we were assigned, was a weary one. It had been shot up, repaired, crash landed and repaired again. This Queen had seen her best days. It just didn't fly that well. This all became apparent as we started our roll down the runway. We were at max load and 061 plane just barely got off. I usually sat on the doorsill into the bomb bay in the radio rooms I could get out of the open hatch above quickly if necessary. I would look down through the large crack of the bay door to watch the runway drop away as we left the earth behind. Today it was nervous time as we used up the entire runway and I saw green grass as we barely lifted off in time. Close? Shades of Lindbergh. We were off for what was to prove a historical operation and a near disaster to us in particular."