It was about this time seventy years ago that World War II was heading toward its climax; Germany had surrendered; Marines and soldiers were mopping up on Okinawa. The world didn’t know about the atomic bomb yet.
And the idea of Air Power was at its peak; after three years of strategic bombing over Europe, and about a year’s worth over Japan, the idea that one could bomb ones’ opponents out of a war – very much in vogue before the war – still held great sway.
Of course, strategic bombing over Europe had had a ghastly toll; the US Army Air Force lost more men in the air than the Marines did in the entire Pacific War.
And the bulk of those casualties came among the crews of the roughly 6-7,000 bombers lost over Germany (among the Americans alone; the Brits also paid a horrific price).
There was the most famous, the Boeing B-17…:
…with its legendary toughness without which the toll might have been vastly worse.
And the B-24 Liberator – newer, faster, but less popular, and generally regarded as less tough…
…and the B-29, which costs as much to develop as the entire Manhattan Project, carried most of the weight in the Pacific.
Why do I bring it up?
Because as we discuss the idea that our younger genration of twenty somethings, raised during the Obama economy by helicopter parents and made into a cause – the “Millennials” – by a generation of Baby Boom media who want to have someone to poke and prod the way they were poked and prodded and examined – many of whom are out in the streets protesting for $15 an hour to run a shake machine (for a while, maybe), it’s worth remembering this; the officers, the pilots and navigators and bombardiers who flew these planes, averaged 22 years old.
Their enlisted crewmen? The flight engineers and radiomen and 3-4 gunners on each plane? They averaged 19 years old.
And this was what they did just to get the planes – in this case, the B24 – into the air.