By Christine L Bordelon
Kenner bureau



Staff Photo by Eliot Kamentz

Mickey Hurley, Carey Mavor, Joe Elliot and Irvin Kennedy meet for the first time during a lunch this month at Ye Olde College Inn. All New Orleans area residents, they were ball turret gunners for B-17 Flying fortresses during World War II.

    They didn't know each other during World War II, but when four veterans of that war's European theater met recently, they discovered similar experiences as B-17 ball turret gunners based in England.

    Mickey Hurley, 82, of Metairie; Joe Elliot, 81, of River Ridge; and Irvin Kennedy. 81, of Harahan joined Carey Mavor, 79, of New Orleans in reminiscing about flying dozens of missions aboard the "Flying Fortress." 

       "We have one thing in common," Mavor said. "All of us did the same thing and survived."

    Questions flew among the men about their experiences.


Men meet
in N. O.
for 1st time

    GUNNERS from Page 1

       "What bomb group were you in?" Elliot asked.

       "I was in the 452nd," Mavor said. Elliot was in the same group but a different squadron.

       "This was a coincidence," Mavor said.

       "When did you get there?" Elliot asked him.

       "January '45," Mavor answered.

       "I got there in April '44 and got home in September," Elliot said.

       "You went through hell," Mavor said. "I didn't think there was anybody else."

       "That's a small world," Kennedy said. "I was shot down the day Hurley got there."

       Hurley, who flew 33 missions from April to October 1944, was the link among the men. His photograph had appeared in The Times-Picayune's "Pictures from the Past" feature, and Elliot and Mavor saw it and phoned him. About the same time, Kennedy, who had known Hurley from working at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, happened to see him in person, and they discovered their commonality as gunners. Hurley then coordinated the first meeting of the group, at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans.

       "I didn't think there were many around, especially in the New Orleans area," Kennedy said. "I thought we were the forgotten warriors."

       As gunners, each man sat in what was called a ball turret, a circular enclosure that could turn 360 degrees on the exterior of the plane. It was a cramped space with two .50-caliber machine guns mounted on the side of a gunner's legs. Exposed outside of the plane at high altitudes, the men said it was cold, requiring them to wear heated jumpsuits and oxygen masks.

       "We were actually out of the airplane," Mavor said. "We were under the plane....The temperature was the worst part about being outside the plane. It was like 40 below zero."

       "If you put your hand on the gun without a glove, you wouldn't be able to let go because it would freeze on it," Hurley said.

       Each talked about missions he executed from bases in England.

       "I got 25 missions in 32 days. I was a wreck after that," said Mavor, who served from February to March 1945. "I lost about 30 pounds. When I got out, I weighed 119 pounds."

       Elliot recalled flying 30 missions in five months and eight days, from April to September 1944.

       Kennedy, who flew 21 missions from December 1943 to April 1944, was shot down over Poland and made it to Sweden, where he landed in an internment camp and stayed until he was repatriated in October.

       Mayor asked if Elliot was ever shot down.

       "We had a lot of flak damage but no injuries," Elliot said. "We crashed-landed on a runway coming back one time."

       "Mickey, did y'all get hit bad in the air?" Mavor asked Hurley.

       "One time, we came back and lost our engine," Hurley said. "You talk about a desperate feeling. We were near the North Sea."

       Mavor told of flying over Paris.

       "We flew over the Eiffel Tower in 1945 and got hit. One of the flaps was hit and wouldn't come up," he said. "Just as France was liberated, we had the plane fixed and buzzed the Eiffel Tower before we flew back to England."

       Mavor returned home in 1945, the others a year earlier.

       When they finally reached New Orleans, each said he wanted to return to a normal life as quickly as possible. Staying in touch with war buddies or talking about their experiences was the furthest thing from their minds.

       "You had a life -- a wife, children, bills and a mortgage; that's what my concentration after the war was," Mavor said. "Just recently, I started thinking about my war experiences."

       But each seems to have reconnected in some way with his war days. Hurley joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6640 in 1972 and became a member of its honor society, and he volunteers at the Veterans Administration Hospital in New Orleans. He said he has been to about 20 reunions of World War II bomb squadrons. Elliot has been to one reunion and keeps in touch with his bomb squadron through newsletters.

       Getting together to discuss their B-17 days was fun for the four, and they plan to meet again.

       "I think it was a nice experience," Hurley said. "You only go around one time. You may as well pick up the pieces in between. Who knows -- we might become good friends."



E-mail Christine Lacoste Bordelon at cbcrdelon@timespicayune.com or call 481-0437.


The above article ran:

The Times Picayune, (Kenner Picayune)
Sunday, AUGUST 17, 2003, Section D1, 2D1





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