Veteran Profile: Herman Stanley
Stanley served as a waist gunner
aboard B-25s and radio operator
Henry County’s Stanley was part of the famous
Flying Tigers in World War II
JERICHO, Ky. (September 2015) – When Herman Stanley was drafted in 1942, he was already considering joining the U.S. Army. The government beat him to it, and he served in the U.S. Army Air Force for two and a half years during World War II.
Herman Stanley, 93, of Henry County, Ky., poses in front of a display of his World War II medals.
Stanley, now 93 and living near Jericho in Henry County, Ky., was 19 years old when he went into the Army. He took his basic training in Miami Beach, Fla. “The government took over most of the hotels in the area,” he said, and that is where the soldiers stayed while there.
From Miami Beach he was sent to South Dakota to train to be a radio operator and attend machine school. He received advanced training in Homestead, Fla., before being assigned to a flight crew. The crew consisted of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, crew chief and radio operator.
Stanley flew “all through South America and took German subs in the Caribbean,” he said. He served in the China-Burma-India Theatre flying C-46s and C-47s, flying numerous times over the “hump” (Himalayan Mountains) to deliver supplies to China.
“They were ill-equipped to be fighting the Japanese at that time,” said Stanley of China. He flew to other places like Karachi, India and Calcutta, where he received more advanced training.
For four and a half months, Stanley flew with the Flying Tigers as a waist gunner on B-25s. The Flying Tigers were volunteer American fighter pilots who flew for China from Dec. 20, 1941, to July, 4, 1942, and were commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. Their combat aircraft were easily identifiable by their shark-faced nose art.
While with the Flying Tigers, he was in the 14th Air Force Division. Their job was to “bomb bridges and convoys,” he said. He and his comrades had to endure below zero temperatures while fighting off enemy planes.
Of the experience, Stanley said it was “really very traumatic. The planes we flew – none were heated. It was very cold. We had to be on oxygen if we flew over 9,000 feet.”
As a Flying Tiger, he flew over “Japan and all over the hump. We were shot down once in a C-46 coming back from China.”
For 27 days, Stanley and his crew had to survive on their own in the jungle until rescued by American forces. “We had some rations, but they ran out,” he said. “We sustained ourselves on berries and roots.”
Before going oversees on the mission, the Air Force gave soldiers a booklet that cautioned them to “watch what monkeys eat. We did it, and it wasn’t tasty, but it kept us from starving. Most of us lost 20-25 pounds in those 27 days in the jungle.”
When he was drafted, Stanley was “like a lot of other fellows at the time,” he said. “We were just kids. We’d never be away from home or even out-of-state. We got an education on a lot of things.”
After the war, Stanley came back to Louisville to look for a job. “There were millions of men and women looking for jobs, and jobs were hard to get,” he said. He finally landed a job in 1946 with Phillip Morris, where he worked for 31 and a half years.
He retired in 1978 and had lived in Jefferson County, Ky., until 1974, at which time he moved to Henry County. He’s lived in Henry County for 40 years and “loves being away from the city.”
Stanley has an observatory on his property. It is a hobby he took up when he moved there. When he was younger, he “never thought I’d go into the service and fight a war.”
Jeff Thoke, Main Street Manager and Economic Development Coordinator in New Castle, Ky., said it’s important to honor men and women like Stanley. “The men and women who served our country really served our world,” he said. “They are disappearing at an alarming rate.”
Within five years, 90 percent of the ones alive now will be gone, he said. “We’re losing 600 to 700 a day. Even the youngest veterans will be 93 on the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War II.”
It’s important to Thoke to “honor them while they’re still alive. People forget that if these veterans hadn’t been successful during the war, who knows how the world would be today?”
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