Charles Campbell survived dozens of World War II bomber missions - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Charles Campbell survived dozens of World War II bomber missions

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He's sad about the buddies he lost who were shot down or whose planes crashed. Charles Campbell of Bossier City survived more than five dozen bomber missions over the South Pacific in World War II. And he told us about his own narrow escapes.

When American B-24's soared over their targets to deliver their bombs, it was time for Campbell to leave his post as radio operator to man a machine gun and fight off Japanese warplanes.

"We could pretty much get rid of them," Campbell remembers. "When they would come after us and they'd see those .50 caliber machine gun shells coming at 'em, why, they'd change their mind and move out of the way."

Campbell says the greater danger was flak -- anti-aircraft fire from the ground -- as our planes had to fly level and straight to deliver their bombs on target.

"There were so many shells the sky was filled with black smoke," Campbell says.

One time, shrapnel hit his plane and Campbell thought he was wounded. He felt something warm and wet on his back.

"When I pulled out my hand and it was hot and red," he says. "I thought, well, that's blood. Why don't I feel any pain?"

The good news was Campbell wasn't hit. The bad news? The plane's hydraulic system was. It was spewing the red, hot fluid. So the flaps wouldn't work. Campbell and the crew could only hand crank down two of three sets of landing gear.

"We missed the runway, couldn't get stopped, tore up the plane, tore up some and trees and pushed us around in there," Campbell says.

Ten of the missions Campbell flew were even more dangerous night-time runs, when he couldn't see the enemy in the sky. But he could see their fire from the ground.

"I'd look down there and it looked like the 4th of July down there," he says. "Just thousands of shells coming up with those tracers. And you'd swear every one was going to hit you. But for some reason they missed you."

Campbell flew 61 missions in all.

"It was no picnic over there. But it was an experience and I was just lucky to get back," Campbell says.

He made the Air Force a career for 21 years. After retiring from at Barksdale Air Force Base, the native Pennsylvanian decided to make Bossier is home. He opened three car dealerships. And having just turned 92, he's still active as a notary.

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