Paul Eurey was 25 or 26 when this official military photograph (left) was taken and as he is today (right). Contributed
EDITORâ€™S NOTE: More than anything else, Paul Eurey is a patriot. Thatâ€™s evidenced by the license plate on his Ford F-150 pickup, VETWW2AF, and the sign in the back window of that vehicle, â€œRemember The Alamo and Pearl Harbor and buy only American made products.â€
Living in Lincolnton and recovering after a recent stay in the hospital, Eurey has stories to tell about his experiences during World War II at bases in the United States and on the war fronts in North Africa and Italy.
Eurey unmistakably is part of what former NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw labeled â€œThe Greatest Generation.â€ He speaks proudly of his military years as an airplane mechanic and beams brightest when he talks about working on B-29s, the behemoth bombers used mainly in the Pacific against the Japanese.
The following question-and-answer interview is the 18th in what is an ongoing series appearing on Page One every Monday.
This interview was conducted May 21 and June 1 by Will Kennedy, managing editor.
This is half of Eureyâ€™s Pursuit Squadron based at Harding Field in Baton Rouge, La., in 1942. The unit shipped out from the base to North Africa in November 1942. Eurey said the three months spent in Baton Rouge were nothing but drilling. Contributed
Question: What did you do after graduating from Lincolnton High School in 1937?
Answer: I worked in the furniture industry. Some of that time I was in Elkin [N.C.] until I was inducted.
Question: When were you inducted into the Army?
Answer: I was sworn in on Jan. 7, 1942. Thatâ€™s exactly one month after Pearl Harbor.
Question: Where did you go?
Answer: Got screened at Fort Bragg. I wanted to be a pilot but couldnâ€™t be because I had a bad eye. I remember asking someone to just give me an airplane and let me go shoot down some of those Germans.
Question: Since being a pilot was out of the question, what did you do?
Answer: I had a good mechanical ability and one of the officers asked me, â€œWell, since you canâ€™t fly a plane would you like to work on one?â€ That suited me just fine.
Question: So what happened? You obviously agreed with that assessment.
Answer: They transferred me to the Army Air Force and I went to Biloxi, Miss. Horrible, and hot. They would march us for eight hours and feed us a hot dog.
Question: What do you remember about that stint?
Answer: In Biloxi? I remember drilling. Nothing but drilling. I stayed there about two months. I was only making $21 a month and once they took out the insurance and laundry fees, I got about $13 a month.
Question: OK, Biloxi was drilling, what was next?
Answer: Went to a town outside Chicago â€“ Rantule â€“ where I spent about three months in technical school. Then it was to Niagara Falls for specialty school, then to Harding Field in Baton Rouge. The day we arrived there all the planes were transferred to Alaska.
Question: What did you do at Harding?
Answer: More drilling. They told us we had been sent there to work on planes but they really sent us there to get us ready for the North Africa invasion.
Question: Did you see combat?
Answer: When we got there, to Casablanca, there were no planes to work on. I did get to see the planes that flew Roosevelt and Churchill in for their big meeting.
Question: Did you see them?
Answer: No. Headquarters moved then to Tunis, and we got to work on P-39s. The planes were shipped over without wings and we had to assemble them. We did ground support for the troops at the Battle of Kasserine Pass.
Question: How long were you in North Africa?
Answer: I was there about a year and about nine months in Italy.
Question: Did you jump from working on the P-39s straight to the B-29s?
Answer: Worked on the 39s in Sardinia, too, but when the advance got north of Rome, we got the P-47s.
Question: Did you get to see Rome?
Answer: Yes â€¦ for a day. We got one day to tour Rome. Not much time.
Question: So when did you get to the B-29s?
Answer: After the troops moved north of Rome, they took three men from each squadron and sent them home to work on the B-29s.
Question: How did you get back to the States?
Answer: Left on a ship from Naples, went through Gibralter. Spent about five days at sea.
Question: Was that scary?
Answer: You better believe it. Every whitecap looked like a periscope.
Question: What home port did you arrive at?
Answer: Newport News, Va., then on to Fort Bragg for the paperwork before I had to head to Lincoln, Neb., for more training. I got a 21-day leave.
Question: That must have been something after what you had just been through. What did you do?
Answer: I came home to Lincolnton and got married.
Question: Talk about the B-29.
Answer: They were in development for years. They started planning them even before the war started for us. They were used mostly in the Pacific. Big, really big for that time. Ninety-nine feet long and 27 feet high. Four engines with two generators for each. There was an auxiliary engine in the tail of the plane. It was something else. Compare it to an ordinary fighter plane back then. The fighters cost about $47,000 each and the B-29s ran about $1 million each.
Question: In development, what was the major concern?
Answer: Well, the bomb load. They were concerned about that. That plane could carry 20,000 pounds of bombs. It took almost a mile to get the plane off the ground.
Question: So you got B-29 training in Lincoln?
Answer: Yes, and then it was on to Albuquerque in New Mexico.
Question: The 29 was the type of plane that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, right?
Answer: Yes, but we didnâ€™t know anything about that. I ran into a man in a bar in New Mexico one night who talked too much. He told us that he couldnâ€™t tell us anything or he would end up in a place like Alaska or Iceland, but he did say that we had a bomb that was going to end the war. He said he wouldnâ€™t tell us what it was but when it was developed, the B-29 would deliver it.
Question: What did you think of the atomic bombings?
Answer: â€¦ The incendiary bombings on Tokyo had already burned it out. The atomic bombs gave them a reason to quit.
Question: The B-29s did the incendiary bombings, correct?
Answer: Yes, They were the only planes that had the range. By the time the atomic bombs were dropped, we had run out of incendiary bombs. They had run out about 10 days before the first atomic bomb was dropped.
Question: Where were you when the war ended?
Answer: I was in Pueblo, Colo. They tried to restrict us to base because they were afraid we would tear up the town. But we got word of the end and we slipped off base.
Question: What do you think most about those war years?
Answer: Those boys overseas. Thatâ€™s where you bonded. We became just like family. I still hear from two or three of them but a lot of them are dead. Working on those 29s, we had a job to do together. If something went wrong with one of them we would go out, find it and fix it. We realized we had better jobs than most.
Question: What rank were you?
Answer: I made staff sergeant and if there wouldnâ€™t have been one too many tech sergeants, I would have had those stripes.
Question: You have a prevailing thought today, looking back at the war?
Answer: No one would buy foreign cars if they would have seen some things during the war. Iâ€™ll never buy a foreign car. To this day, I canâ€™t understand why anyone does.
Question: What did you do after the war?
Answer: Well after my discharge â€“ that was in September or October 1945 â€“ I had an intention of loafing for a month or so, but two of my brothers started a supply business. I was offered a dollar an hour and that was big money back then.
Question: How long did you work?
Answer: I retired from the family business when I was 73 and worked in the plant as superintendent of manufacturing. I traveled about 45 years as a salesman, mostly in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Eureyâ€™s sentiments are communicated by his license plate and the sign in the back window of his Ford F-150. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
FULL NAME: Paul Hamilton Eurey, 88.
FAMILY: Married to Ruth for 63 years; two sons, Paul Jr., and Michael; a daughter, Linda; nine brothers, five sisters.
HOBBIES: â€œIâ€™m a collector, first it was clocks that I restored and sold. Next, it was patterned glass, then pottery and then jewel teapots.â€
EDUCATION: Lincolnton High School, Class of 1937.
FAVORITE FOOD: â€œTaters and beans. Mother believed in rotating. One night it was taters and beans. The next night it was beans and taters.â€
FOOD YOU REFUSE TO EAT: â€œLiver and anything like that.â€
FAVORITE BOOK: â€œThe Bible. I read a little of it every week.â€
BIGGEST REGRET: â€œIâ€™ve done a lot of things I wish I wouldnâ€™t have done, but I wonâ€™t tell you.â€
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: â€œMarrying my wife and staying married for 63 years.â€
SMARTEST THING I EVER DID: â€œWe were having problems with a B-29 engine one time. Everyone thought it had to be an electrical problem but I thought about it a long time and figured it didnâ€™t have to be electrical. I thought it could be a weak fuel pump that was the reason we would lose power. They didnâ€™t believe me. We ran tests â€¦ They showed it was a weak fuel pump.â€
FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND AN EVENING: â€œI like to watch a good Western. John Wayne, that sort of thing. I got a lot of them.â€
n Know someone who would be a great subject for the Monday question-and-answer feature? Contact Will Kennedy, managing editor, at (704) 735-3031 or email@example.com.
n NEXT WEEK: Staff writer Allyson Levine interviews Maria Navarro, owner of Anjolique Bridal.
by Will Kennedy