Ware is third from left on front row
Freedom has never been free
By ROBERT PIERCE
Charles Ware now lives in the small Oklahoma town of Tyrone, but he has seen a large part of the world both from the ground and the air.
Ware served as a nose gunner on B-24 Liberator airplanes during the latter part of World War II. A nose gunner is a crewman on a military aircraft who operates a machine gun turret in the front of the airplane.
As part of the 4132nd Army Air Force Base Unit of Garden City, Ware departed for Italy in April 1944, and he spent about six months in that country. He said although he was a nose gunner, he was also a second engineer, a position made for backups, and later, he was put in the tail gunner’s position of the Liberator.
“My pilot, later on, passed me on to the tail position. He had the same ammo as I did. If something happened to the first engineer, I was to take over from him to do the duties he did,” he said.
Part of those duties included checking gas tanks and wires on the plane and participating in a daily bombing raid.
“You could always bet on a lot of fighters and 88s shooting at you,” Ware said. “One day, we were going to Munich, Germany, to bomb a ball bearing plant.”
During his six months overseas, Ware was sent on 50 missions, and this came after the gunner received his training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
“I went to gunnery school in Eldorado, Texas,” he said. “My pilot got his training right there in Liberal. My co-pilot learned from him. We made a crew in California. We went to San Fransisco, picked up a brand new airplane.”
Ware said the crew flew across the U.S. to a destination in West Palm Beach, Fla., to pick up equipment for the overseas journey, but another stop was made before crossing the Atlantic.
“We flew south to Brazil. From there, we flew across the ocean to Dakar, Africa,” he said. “We ended up in Italy. They assigned us to whatever place we were going to be in. They had a runway, and we had the other. Quite an experience.”
Ware said orders for the bombing raids were given out around 6 a.m. every morning.
“We met up there in an old dugout the farmers had,” he said. “They had good communications and everything in there.”
Ware said the town in Italy was near the center of wheat growing country.
“We flew out of there about every day, and wherever they said for us to go, that’s where we went,” he said. “Sometimes, the targets were in France. Sometimes, the targets were in Germany. We had several targets around where the Germans had the gasoline.”
Ware recalls one flight that he said was different from the others, however.
“One day, we were on our way to Munich, Germany, up about 20,000 feet,” he said. “We were leading the flight, and the ship on our right, for some reason, their left wing caught on fire. It scared the p--- out of me. I was just 20 years old.”
After serving his country, Ware was honorably discharged in September 1945, and he remembers his trip back to America.
“I was over there about six months to the day, and I came back home,” he said. “We landed at Hampton Roads, Va. From there, we went to Fort Smith, Ark. I was there for a few days, and I had to take a train to Enid, Okla. There, I got on a Greyhound bus to come on home. Beaver, Okla., was my home.”
Following the war, Ware worked as a carpenter for the Ideal Food Stores chain for 31 years. He described some of his duties.
“In the newer stores, I’d install the shelving and all the exterior things,” he said. “I worked for Ideal Food Stores until they went into Chapter 11.”
Ware said only five of the original 10 remain from that crew, and he has seen very little of them since the days of World War II.
“I never had money to meet with any of them,” he said. “I was raising a family, and I just made enough money to support them.”
Ware would later buy two houses in Liberal, but with financial troubles, he had to sell one of them. He then purchased a home north of Tyrone, and now 87, he has since moved to the town he calls home.
“I finally got the chance to buy this property here,” he said. “I’ve lived here ever since.”