by Sherry Rux
Above, the award winning crew of “farm boys,” with Wilbur “Bill” Lueck, third from the right. Bill later had the silent “e” in his last name legally removed, making him Wilbur “Bill” Luck. Photo courtesy of the Rux Family Archives.
My father enlisted in the Army in January 1941, and he was stationed at Ft. George Wright as a typist. He had two years at Kinman Business School in Spokane, so he tested into the Army Air Corps. My dad made the cut as a pilot and was trained in Deming, New Mexico. He was assigned to a B-29, the “Super Fortress.”
From New Mexico, he was sent to Wichita, Kansas to form a team of eleven, of which he would be the pilot. When he got there, he approached the personnel department to ask for “farm boys” to be assigned to his crew. He then rented a home away from the training center. Every weekend he brought those men to eat, play, study, drink and form friendships. At the graduation ceremony, the emcee awarded my father, Wilbur E. Lueck, the honor as the top pilot in that graduating class.
Each of the other ten positions was also up for “best in class,” and they all won as well, something that had never happened before. Their hard work and my Dad’s enterprising faith in “farm boys” had paid off for all of them.
Their reward was to fly a B-29 into Hollywood, California for a special preview of the plane at an airport where War Bonds would be sold to help the war effort. Some Generals also accompanied the crew. As they approached Hollywood the head man told Dad to “buzz” the main street. Dad cautiously let the plane down which made quite a roar at low altitude. Not satisfied, the General said, “I want to read the sign that says Hollywood & Vine!” He then took over the controls from my Dad and lowered the plane more on the next go around and really shook everybody up!
After leaving the plane at the airport, the men were treated to dinner at the home of Bing Crosby, It was a very special memory for them all. My Dad had a very nice voice and blue eyes, and we always called him “Old Blues Eyes” whenever he sang for us like Bing.
My Dad eventually ended his career flying out of the Pacific theater. He was stationed on The Tinian Islands and was to be a part of the second wave of atom bombs if the first two didn’t stop the Japanese advance. He was glad he didn’t have to. He did add that he participated in the “fly over” of the ship, The Missouri, during the signing of the surrender of the Japanese. He said his B-29 was one of 500 airships flying that day.
As a footnote, I was born in May 1944 in Deming, New Mexico. My parents had been in a private home with many other couples each with their own room. Housing was very scarce. But after I was born, my Dad got the only house he could find for them as a new family. It was an adobe house with a dirt floor at the end of the runway where he trained. When he flew over it, he would tip his wings which made a particular noise from the engine. When Mom heard it she would run outside and wave a dish cloth in the air to let him know she had heard him. And because he did manage to come home after the war, I have a sister and three brothers, and I had the chance to get to know my wonderful Dad. I know not everyone got to come home. We were lucky, and we never took that for granted.