Mesa WWII vet flew 50 missions over Europe - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa WWII vet flew 50 missions over Europe

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Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 5:58 pm | Updated: 1:25 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Miles Alldredge said he and his wife plan to let Veterans Day pass by quietly, but he proudly tells stories of his days as a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II in 1944, when he was credited with 50 missions over Europe.

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Miles Alldredge said he and his wife plan to let Veterans Day pass by quietly, but he proudly tells stories of his days as a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II in 1944, when he was credited with 50 missions over Europe.

"Things kind of get faded," Alldredge said in his gravelly voice as he sat back in his living room chair in his Mesa home with his wife, June, whom he married in 1941. "That was a long time ago. I went through the assignment without a scratch, but the plane got pretty beat up."

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At the age of 91, Alldredge is one year older than the forerunner of the Veterans Day holiday. It originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 began a national holiday in 1938.

Alldredge also is slightly older than the average age of a World War II veteran (84), whose ranks are thinning as they are dying off at more than 1,000 a day across the United States, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Alldredge said he believes he is the sole survivor of his squadron of 10 men who often dropped 500-pound bombs over oil refineries and other strategic points throughout Europe.

Alldredge, who once delivered the Mesa Daily Journal (a forerunner of the Tribune) throughout downtown Mesa as a kid in the late 1920s, interrupted his teaching career when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps after making a 10-hour drive from Tucson to Salt Lake City, Utah, to find an open recruitment office in May 1942.

Because of his Mormon beliefs, Alldredge enlisted in the service because he said he did not want to be drafted into the infantry and carry a rifle. He underwent extensive training to become a bomber pilot that lasted nearly two years before he was placed at the controls inside the cockpit as a member of the 831st Bombardment Squadron with the 485th Bombardment group that mostly was stationed in Africa.

"I recognized the action had to be taken," Alldredge said. "I thought it through very clearly. I could not vision myself carrying a rifle, so I found a way around it."

Between March 1944 and September 1944, 1st Lt. Alldredge piloted 34 missions over Europe, but his squadron was credited with 50 missions because 16 of them were considered more difficult, he said. Alldredge's bombing missions were highlighted with moments he vividly remembers: His co-pilot being hit with gunfire through the windshield as it hit his bulletproof vest and knocked him unconscious at the controls; gunfire going through the nose of the plane before seeing it explode in the air above them and a monkey from Africa the crew had briefly adopted that got a little more than restless inside the plane during a sandstorm at high altitude.

Named the Valiant Lady, Alldredge's plane featured a colorful drawing of The Statue of Liberty, a form of Americana now known as "nose art" on the front. The Valiant Lady was ditched by another crew in Vis Bay in Italy after the aircraft was shot down Jan. 20, 1945, according to the March issue of Lightweight Tower Calling, a military magazine for the surviving members of the 485th Bombardment Group. Some of the remains of the plane were discovered in that area in August 2008, according to the article. Pieces of a parachute harness from a member of the 831st Liberator Squadron were also recovered near the site, the article said.

Alldredge said he always believed that by being a bomber pilot, he would safely return home after each mission.

"I never had a problem with that," Alldredge said of his bombing missions. "I just assumed I was going to be all right. I always thought if the Lord wants to see me through this, he will. If he doesn't, then, well, it was that simple."

Prior to his honorable discharge from the Army Air Corps in May 1945, Alldredge was awarded seven medals that included the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Alldredge. who has four children, retired in 1978 after teaching for more than 30 years with stints at Morenci High School, Arizona State University, Mesa Community College and working as a longtime business and typing teacher at Mesa High School.

June Alldredge echoed her husband's sentiments about his years as a pilot of a B-24 bomber and said she is proud of his service.

"He did his job, and did what he was supposed to," she said. "And when it was over, it was over."  

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