Saturday, March 27, 2021

Two World War II pilots remember their time as flyboys

Roy Nolte

Lyle Bradley

FARGO (KFGO) – It was a step back in time last night at the Wings of Honor Dinner & Auction at the Fargo Air Museum. Two World War II veterans were featured and shared their stories of the Great War.

As you stepped into the building, you were met with the sweet sounds of Big Band standards.  Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra transported you to a different time as you were surrounded by World War II era aircraft, artifacts, and auction items.

Two World War II pilots were featured last night.  Roy Nolte of Minnesota & Lyle Bradley of Iowa shared their stories.

Nolte was an Air Corp B-52 Bomber pilot.  He was one of 36 cousins in his family to serve in World War II.  He remembers his first experience in an airplane.

“There was a guy giving airplane rides at a county fair, I was only about 15 at the time.  I decided I wanted to take a ride, that was how I got into flying.”

When he started training flights, he recounts a certain night when he was landing his BT13 and missed the runway and crashed landed his plane into trees.

“It’s by the grace of god I survived.  That’s the only reason I’m still here.”

The other pilot featured was 96-year-old World War II & Korean War fighter pilot Lyle Bradley.  He flew the F4U Corsair his entire career with missions in WWII off the carrier USS Bennington and during the Korean War from Yonpo Airfield to the Chosin Reservoir; there he supported the famous First Marine Division with close air support.  Bradley says he always wanted to be a fighter pilot.

“There was no question, I wanted to be a fighter pilot.  I didn’t give dootaly darn about flying passengers.  I wanted to get in the fight.  I requested for it, and got it.”

He says the F4U Corsair is the most beautiful airplane ever made.

“The first time I saw it was in a local newspaper in Iowa. I fell deeply in love.”

Bradley says he saw a lot in his years in the cockpit, and especially remembers a friendship he had with a former Japanese Kamikaze pilot.

“After the war I met a former Kamikaze pilot, he told me he faked an injury to get out of that job and became a doctor.  He told me, ‘The very best thing you guys ever did was drop those atomic bombs on Japan’.”

Later, Bradley found out they had flown against each other in the Pacific and that Bradley had shot the Kamikaze pilots wingman, and best friend, down during a dogfight.

“We were on a mission to hit a big aircraft factory right outside of Akakura, Japan.  We had it all planned out that I would lead the assault.  I found a train and hit the train and after I came out of my dive I spotted a Japanese N1K shooting at my guys so I engaged him and shot him down.  It turned out the guy I shot down was best friends of the former Kamikaze pilot that I befriended.  We worked through that, I knew he liked wine so we sat down and killed several bottles of wine and talked.”

Bradley says you can’t go through war without remembering the dead.  He says he still has nightmares about what he saw but he said he never lost faith.

As time passes, the men and women who served in these wars are getting older and passing away.  It’s important to remember their stories and everything they sacrificed.

1 comment: