Long-time Pine Islander recalls his days as a World War II B-24 bombardier
Pine Island resident Ed Snyder was born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, in 1920, and was 21 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7, 1941. By that time, he was training for the Army Air Corps and later flew 30 missions over Nazi Germany in a B-24 as a bombardier.
Snyder graduated from high school in 1938 and at his father’s direction went to work in a local bank.
“I graduated from high school on a Friday night and Monday morning went to work at the bank,” Snyder said. “I worked there for three years before joining the Army Air Corps.”
Snyder enlisted at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, in October 1941 and went through basic training at Shepherd Field, Texas, from October to December.
“That’s where I was when I learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked,” he said. “Everyone knew war was coming because it had been going on in Europe since 1939.”
After that Snyder went to Scott Field, Illinois, for training as a radio operator and then to aerial gunnery school in Harlington, Texas.
“They were starting a bomb group in Ephrata, Washington,” Snyder said. “I wanted to be a pilot but ‘washed out’ of flight school. I went on to be trained as a bombardier in Pueblo, Colorado, and was assigned to the 466th Bomb Group.”
Once he completed bombardier school, Snyder was shipped to Attlebridge, England.
“Many of the guys flew over but I went on the Queen Mary,” Snyder said. “Once I got to England, I was assigned to the U.S. 8th and 15th Air Force as a bombardier in a B-24 Liberator.”
The B-24 was produced in far greater numbers than any other airplane of the war. It has also been called the “most maligned” airplane of the war.
“Flying Fortress (B-17) crews called it ‘the crate that ours came in,'” Snyder said. “But the B-24s, more than any other airplane, helped to stop Hitler’s forces in Europe.”
Snyder flew his first bombing mission May 4, 1944, over Brunswick, Germany. The next day, May 5, the group bombed Sottevast, France. Three days later they returned to bomb Brunswick, Germany.
“When we returned to Brunswick, we got shot out of formation,” Snyder said. “The German fighters generally attacked before the bombing mission in the hopes that they could stop us. But this time they hit us after we completed the mission. A shell came through the top turret and tore through four fuel tubes. Those tubes are supposed to be drained before taking off but somebody forgot and they were full of fuel. When the shell came through it ignited the fuel and the whole flight deck was on fire. I couldn’t find any fire extinguisher.
“Two of our guys bailed out and I crawled into the nose to let the nose gunner know we were in trouble,” he continued. “I pulled on his pants leg and when we were crawling back I spotted a fire extinguisher strapped under the navigator’s table. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and started to put the fire out. That’s when I spotted the pilot standing in the bomb bay getting ready to jump. I said ‘Wait a minute.’ I was able to get the fire completely out.
“We headed home and landed at an emergency airfield in England. That was the last time that plane ever flew – the hydraulic and electrical systems were both gone. We manually cranked the landing gear down. That was sort of interesting. We were all relieved to see those White Cliffs of Dover.”
Facing enemy fire was not new to Snyder and his crew.
“We got shot up quite a bit,” Snyder said. “Sometimes we came back on three engines and sometimes on just two. But somehow no one got hit. These planes got me there and back 30 times.”
Snyder married his high school sweetheart “Jessie” in January 1944.
“I was in Pueblo, Colorado, and she was working in New York for Wright Patterson putting inventory systems in aircraft plants,” Snyder said. “I called her up and said ‘Would you like to get married, Jessie?’ and there was dead silence on the phone. Jessie and her girlfriend got a couple of days off and came to Pueblo and we were married. We had one daughter and one son,” Snyder said. “Today with the grandchildren there are 19.”
When the war ended, Snyder left the military service.
“After we dropped the bomb on Japan, I left the service in 1945 and went to school to study geology at the College of Wooster in Ohio,” Snyder said. “By that time my son was on the way and we went back to Upper Sandusky.”
Snyder worked for Cummins Engine Company for 17 years in manufacturing engineering doing time studies for production. It was when Cummins was building a new plant in Mexico that Snyder retired.
“We found Pine Island because my wife’s sister had a home in Cherry Estates,” Snyder said. “Then in 1980, we bought our retirement home in Bokeelia and have been here ever since.”
Last month, Snyder and other World War II veterans were honored at a luncheon at American Legion Post 323. Each of the veterans was awarded a “Service to America” certificate. The certificate reads:
Service to America
to Ed Snyder
“In recognition of your love, patience, courage determination and resourcefulness in serving America as a member of a U.S. Armed Forces Family. Your devotion to your family and your country upholds the highest traditions of service to loved ones, the military and the United States of America.”
“On behalf of the 4 million members of the American Legion family, thank you for your sacrifice, commitment and patriotism.”
Snyder spends his days with his friends at the VFW, Moose and American Legion.
“Ed is still very capable of drinking a glass of beer or two and is a pleasure to talk to about many diverse subjects,” friend Dick Thomas said. “After hearing some of Ed’s stories, I now know why his generation is called the ‘Greatest Generation.'”