World War II Veteran Luckadoo Interview On WallBuilders Live: If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live. Today, we are interviewing WWII Veteran Luckadoo. Tune in now to learn more! 

Air Date: 05/09/2019

Guest: Veteran Luckadoo

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live where we talk about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture always from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

Today’s a very special program; it’s one of those opportunities we have to interview a veteran and bring their story to life right here on the program. Tim, you had the chance to interview Mr. Luckadoo. And, will be sharing that interview with us in just a few moments.

TIM:

Yes, guys; it was really fun to be able have a chance to sit down and interview Major Luckadoo. {We love to talk to} veterans, especially World War II veterans, who obviously are getting very elderly now, so there are just not many left. We want to capture these stories as quickly as possible.

And when I got Major Luckadoo’s story while interviewing him, I was floored by some of the things he did now. Now, he was a pilot who flew B-17s, the Flying Fortress. In the group he was with, there were 40 guys that were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group; 86 percent casualty rate from those 40.

RICK:

Wow.

TIM:

So, the whole story is just amazing. We need to get to this interview as quickly as possible. So, let’s take a break, and we’ll come back to this interview.

RICK:

Guys, hang on one second. We’ll be right back. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live!.

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Meet Major Luckadoo

TIM:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live! This is Tim Barton, and I’m joined by a very special guest who’s a World War II veteran. He was a major; it’s Mr. Luckadoo, known as “Lucky.”

But, Mr. Luckadoo, thanks so much for being on the program today to share your story.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Thank you, Tim. I’m delighted to be here.

TIM:

Well, Mr. Luckadoo, we know that we’re losing so many veterans, especially World War II veterans. And, most Americans have not heard firsthand from World War II veterans, some of their story. I know some of your story, from being in the Air Corps and the things you’ve done, is pretty incredible.

So, would you share with our listeners some of your story, how you got involved in World War II, and what all you did in the war?

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

I’m very delighted to. Thank you.

Friends Wanting to Fly

Prior to Pearl Harbor, my best friend and I, Sully Sullivan–whom I went through high school and began college with–were in the middle of our sophomore year at the University of Chattanooga in Tennessee. We had decided that it was inevitable that the United States would ultimately become involved in World War II. And, for our own purposes, we were both wanting to fly.

So, we decided that we would apply to the Royal Canadian Air Force and go to Canada to secure our wings. Then, once America did get involved, we would be allowed to transfer, already in grade, in rank, and be, perhaps, a step ahead of all of our contemporaries. This made a lot of sense to us.

And, it did, apparently, to the Canadians because they invited us to come up post-haste. Unfortunately, because we were at the tender age of 19, they said, “We will require that you have parental consent.” My buddy was the only child of a World War I veteran.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

He had unfortunately been mustard gassed and died when Sully was only 2 years old.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

His mother said, “Sully, if you feel that this is something that you need to do, you have my blessing.” I went home and was thinking that my family would probably react similarly; my mother did pretty much that. She says, “I certainly hate to see you take this step, but if you feel like that’s what you ought to do, why go ahead.”

My father, however, took an entirely different track and said that we were both idiots, that it was not our war, and that he would not give his consent. So, Sully went ahead and did go through training, ended up flying Spitfires all through the North African Campaign. The following December, of course, Pearl Harbor occurred, and we all were galvanised into action to retaliate against the Japanese.

Joining the 100th Bomb Group

I marched down and joined the Air Corps as a aviation cadet. So consequently, I went through training and graduated finally in February of 1943. Forty of my classmates and I were sent immediately upon graduation to the 100th Bomb Group, which was then stationed in Kearney, Nebraska, flying B-17s, the Flying Fortress.

Consequently, they immediately sent us overseas to conflict and combat. We flew our airplanes across the North Atlantic, landing in England. Then, at the beginning of June of 1943, we were immediately pressed into combat.

And, as you can recognize, we had very little training or opportunity for training in the aircraft. But nevertheless, England was so desperate for aid and support in the aerial war against the Germans, that we were put into combat almost instantly. Naturally, we had no real idea or concept of what we were getting ourselves into; but, we were there had to do the best that we could.

So, I flew with this original group. Our crew flew 21 missions. And, we had a rule that if our crew led the group formation, that the co-pilot would be unseated and go back and fly the tail-gun position, being replaced by a command pilot who was in charge of the entire formation.

Well, that really was questionable because we’d never fired a .50 caliber machine gun in our lives. And, suddenly were thrust into the position of defending the tail of the airplane.

TIM:

Wow.

Completing 25 Missions

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

So, I flew one mission that way and said, “I wasn’t trained for this, and I’m not going to do it anymore. When my crew flies, I’ll sit on the ground;” which I did. And, my crew finished up becoming the first crew in the 100th Bomb Group to complete a tour of, at that time, 25 missions.

They were rotated back to the United States as instructors. And, I remained and continued to fly. Because I didn’t have a crew, I was appointed as the operations officer of the squadron.

TIM:

Major Luckadoo, if I can interrupt for just a second. Knowing that you all flew 25 missions, that is almost unheard of that a crew goes on that many missions and survives. We often hear at least, from what we’ve experienced–and, I would love to know firsthand from someone who was there–that seems like a very high number of missions and success rate. Was that normal for where you were stationed and the men you were flying with; or, were you the exception making that many missions and coming back successfully and everybody alive?

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

We were very exceptional. It was just a matter of pure luck that we did survive. Of those 40 members of my class who went as co-pilots to the group fresh out of flag school, only four of us managed to complete 25 missions. And, I was one of those four. So, you don’t wonder why I’m called “Lucky.”

TIM:

Wow. Well, that was gonna be my question: Is that why you’re called “Lucky”? Oh, and–

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

That is one reason.

An Appropriate Nickname

TIM:

My follow up question is: It seems like there had to have been some other things that happened that people pointed to you and said, “Okay, being lucky kind of flows with Luckadoo;” I can see that. But, there had to been something people went okay, “You are one of the luckiest man alive to have survived this.” Were there are those moments where things happened and people pointed to you and said, “You are so lucky;” or, was it just maybe from your last name?

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

All of the above. Absolutely, all of those factors came into play and possibly a third one. After I returned from overseas very early in the war, almost four months before the invasion or D-Day, as an instructor, I then met one of the most beautiful women in the world; and, she became my wife. So, I actually consider myself extremely lucky to have ever met her.

TIM:

That is a great answer. I’m sure every boyfriend, every fiancee, every husband listening is going, “Okay, I’m writing that down.”

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

That’s another Valentine’s Day story.

The Missions

TIM:

Okay. Well, if we can go back to when you were flying your missions. How long would a normal mission take? And, were you generally targeting maybe operation and manufacturing facilities?

What was the point of the mission? And, how long would it take you? If you’re going on 25 missions, what does that look like?

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

It looked like a tremendous hill to climb. We were going out against a very formidable enemy, one that had great experience and was extremely well trained and well equipped. And, we were playing in their backyard.

Daylight Bombing

At that point in time, the Nazis had actually occupied the entire European continent and were planning to invade England, which would have been their next logical step. But, during the Battle of Britain in 1940, the British managed to drive them off; so, Hitler had to give up that immediate goal. But, our normal mission–we were going out in broad daylight.

The British had attempted daylight bombing, but had concluded that it was against such a formidable enemy, it was suicidal. So, they begged and pleaded with us; and, we did not know that as crewmen. At the time, we were not aware of this at all.

But, they begged our commanders to abandon daylight bombing and to join them in nighttime bombing. Now, of course, at night you can’t fly in formation. And, we were flying between 25 to 29,000 feet in mass formation in broad daylight.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

And so, we were subjected to various, serious ground fire, anti-aircraft and their fighters.

TIM:

That’s almost like target practice for the enemy is what you’re doing.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

We were sitting ducks because at that altitude, the weather is so bitterly cold and we were unpressurized.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

So, we were having to endure that agony in addition to being scared spitless the whole time because of the fighter attacks for four seven to eight hours, which was our normal mission length.

TIM:

Wow. So, not only do you have to endure the fire from other planes, from their fighters, from them shooting anti-aircraft from the ground; you also have to fight maybe a frost-bite kind of scenario even in the plane.

Frostbitten Feet

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Well, you’re exactly right. As a matter of fact, the only physical injury that I personally sustained during my entire combat tour was frostbitten feet.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

On one mission, I had the nose blown off of my airplane, which was plexiglass; and, that’s where the bombardier sat. And, that cold, rushing air that was minus 50 or 60 degrees below zero, rushed in over my feet for five-and-a-half-hours. Then, when I landed, finally managed to get the airplane on the ground, both my feet were frozen to the rudder pedals; so, they had to chip me out and send me to hospital.

But, that had a consequence that I consequently missed some of the most horrendous-loss missions that my group flew.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

And, that was in October of 1943.

TIM:

And, did you maintain both of your legs, your feet? Nothing had to be amputated and cut off?

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Fortunately, I did retain all of my toes. There were no long-term effects of it, except for 20 years after I was married, my wife suddenly one day said, “Do you realize that you twitch your toes all night long?” I said, “What are you talking about?”

And, she said, “Well, you’ve just for some reason are flexing your toes.” So, I said, “That’s probably the effect of my feet being frostbitten; I’m still trying to keep the circulation going.”

Last One Alive

TIM:

Wow. So, Major, you really are lucky in that the sense of where you became known as “Lucky.” That is remarkable.

It really is miraculous that you didn’t lose any toes or feet or legs. I can only imagine having to endure for five or six hours what had to be incredibly painful, as you are completing your mission, then trying to make sure your crew is safe, and land this plane safely. That must have been excruciating.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

It was excruciating and also very dangerous. We didn’t realize what a danger and what terror we were actually being subjected to. But, I’ve just returned this week from a mini reunion of my bomb group in Palm Springs, California.

And, I was informed that out of all of the flying officers, pilots or  co-pilots of the group, as far as they know, I’m the only one left alive.

TIM:

Wow.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

I’ll be 97 next month.

Freedom Isn’t Free

TIM:

Wow. Well, Major you sound incredible, like maybe you’re in your 70s or 80s. You sound much younger than you are.

Absolutely incredible. And, we’re so grateful that we get to capture part of this story. We often talk on our radio program about the cost of freedom, that freedom isn’t free, and the great price that generations before us have paid for us to be able to enjoy the freedoms we still have in America. And, hearing part of your story really does give perspective of the price that people paid.

Obviously, with what you did, you were seeing firsthand, people lay down their lives trying to stop this Nazi regime, the evils that were happening around the world, and trying to help America be safe.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Well, we were just doing what we were called upon to do, our patriotic duty. It was–I know people do launt us as being “the greatest generation.” But, we don’t consider ourselves heroes; we only consider ourselves survivors.

The Greatest Generation

TIM:

Wow. Well, I think because of your humility, it’s easy for those of us who have come after you to look and say, “They really were the greatest generation,” because with all that you did, oftentimes as we’ve talked to other veterans and even from my own grandparents and great grandparents who were in that era, they really just explained that, “We were just doing what we had to do and didn’t think it was special.” And, we look today and go, “It was incredibly heroic;” but, it really seemed that for many in your generation, you just thought If it’s the right thing to do, that’s what we need to do; and, if our country needs us to do something, that’s what we’re going to do.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Well, that’s exactly our motivation and the way we responded. Of course, not only did we respond when we went into uniform, but we’re extremely grateful for all of those who stayed home, kept the home fires burning, and turned out the most incredible amount of war material produced, all of that we needed as well as our allies. And so, I am trying now to get a day set aside where we will commemorate the memory of those who served at home.

TIM:

That is a great thought.

Those Who Served on the Homefront

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Because, I think we do have our Memorial Day, our Veterans’ Day, and do celebrate and acknowledge the sacrifices and contributions that those in uniform made. But, we seem to forget that there were people back of us supporting us, sustaining us, or we would not have realized the victory.

TIM:

Major, that is a great point. It’s something that certainly–we can’t forget the sacrifices not just of those who go abroad to protect and defend America and keep her safe; but, oftentimes the sacrifice that families at home make while their loved ones are gone, the effort they’re putting in even on American soil–and actually, Major Luckadoo, to that end, we have a lot of military that listen to us and this program around the nation and the world. Many military veterans that listen.

Do you have any words of encouragement or any thoughts to people that are currently serving or those who have served, as someone who has obviously gone through and done so much. Any advice that you could give to other military soldiers?

Advice for Military

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Well, I’m hard pressed to advise them. I can tell them that they are duly appreciated for what they do, even though sometimes they feel like they’re forgotten.

TIM:

And, Major, what is something that we as Americans should remember or maybe we can do, to help appreciate them? Or, even things that maybe we should do here; because, in World War II, certainly we saw Americans as they would rally together and the different manufacturing facilities that people were now working at to help create these weapons of war to protect and defend America, the sacrifices that were made with food and the gardens. Certainly, there was a price that was paid in previous generations.

Do you have any thoughts for Americans today of how we should or could support the military or what sacrifices that we should be making today for the nation?

The Definition of a True Veteran

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Well, my only advice is that we should never ignore or forget our basic values of freedom and the tremendous price freedom extracts in order to continue to enjoy it. As you mentioned, it is not free. And, we always are being subjected to, by those who want to invade our freedom or take it away from us.

It is such a precious thing, and we should be willing to defend it up to and including our lives, if and when called upon. That’s the definition of a true veteran.

TIM:

Well, Major Luckadoo, we are so grateful that you would take time out of your day to come and share with us. And, just so the listeners know, Major Luckadoo is working on overcoming laryngitis; so, even having this conversation was something that was a sacrifice for him to do. But, Major, we are so grateful that you would take time to share your story, and even more grateful for the sacrifice you made for this nation that we can enjoy freedom because of the price that you and so many of your friends have paid; and, certainly, the military that are still working to insure and pay those prices.

But, Major, we want to tell you, “Thank you so much.” And, we truly appreciate who you are and the sacrifices that you made.

MAJOR LUCKADOO:

Thank you so much. I do appreciate your acknowledging that. And, I have been decorated by both the French government and our own government for my service. Further, I am duly appreciative of that recognition.

God bless you and God bless America.

TIM:

Well, God bless you Majo Luckadoo. And, we sure appreciate who you are and all you’ve done for America.

I’M back now with Rick Green and David Barton. Guys, as we’re hearing this story unfold, some of the moments from flying up at crazy altitudes, 50 and 60 degrees below zero.

The Sacrifices

DAVID:

Time out. “Chip your feet out when you land?” They had to take chisels and chisel your feet out of the ice? Are you kidding me?

Oh my; I know it’s really cold out there because a pilot, when you get up to 35,000 feet, you’re at 60 below. But, having your windshield blown out and having to fly at 60 below for several hours? Are you kidding me?

TIM:

I am not a tough-enough man to do what he did.

DAVID:

Oh, my gosh.

TIM:

Absolutely astounding. You know, as he mentioned, going on these raids and how they were told the British said, “Hey, go at night; fly low.” But, for whatever reason, the American officers were like, “No, it’s fine; let’s just go in the daytime.”

DAVID:

“Let’s just go in the day when they can see us and see what they’re shooting at.” Oh my gosh.

A Great Interview with World War II Veteran, Major Luckadoo

TIM:

The things he went through are absolutely amazing. It never ceases to amaze me: every time we talk to one of these World War II veterans, they are always just like, “We just did what we’re supposed to do; that’s just who we were what we did. It’s just part of part of what you do.”

And, it’s never a big deal in their mind; yet, his story is such a big deal.

DAVID:

Well, even as you introduced him, you talked about how that 86 percent of these guys  didn’t survive. To hear him say that flying 25 missions, 90 percent were not able to fly 25 missions because wiped out, casualties. And, he’s part of that 10 percent.

I mean, what a remarkable guy and remarkable story.

And, I loved the part where you asked him, “What do we need to do? He said, “Never forget or ignore our basic values.” I thought, ‘That is a great statement: Never forget or ignore our basic values.”

RICK:

Thanks to Mr. Luckadoo for joining us today. Thank you for listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!