Korean War Veteren Bernard Gerdeman of Ottoville talks about his work on the 50 caliber on the B-29 fighter planes in the war back in the 1950s.
By Monica Gerdeman
OTTOVILLE - After World War II, the young men of the area started to understand the system. Either join or be drafted by the U.S. Army. As Bernard Gerdeman and several of his high school friends realized it was about their turn to be drafted, they decided to join the Air Force.Originally from Delphos, Gerdeman was born on Nov. 12, 1931 to Theodore and Margret (Korb) Gerdeman. Being in the middle of 10 siblings, Gerdeman looked up to his older and only brother Eugene. When Eugene joined the Army, Gerdeman knew he was next and in late November of 1951, he joined the USAF. He knew that this was his calling, either join or be drafted.
USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on Sept. 18 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. Just after Gerdeman's 20 birthday, he arrived at basic training.
"I did my basic training Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas, and after basic I went to Lowery Field in Denver Colo. This is where I went to school to be an armament mechanic on a B-29," said Gerdeman. "When I got in there, the United States was just starting to switch over to jet plains, and my job was to work on the B-29 weaponry."
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States toward the end of World War II and during the Korean War. Features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets, were just a few to mention on the B-29.
"I worked on the 50 caliber machine guns. When there was something wrong, I would take them down to the shop, repair them and put them back into the planes," said Gerdeman. "I always thought it would be better for me to work on the planes than to fly them. In fact, the only time I flew was on my one way home."
Gerdeman along with each mechanic had their chance to be gunners in Korea, but the Air Force also encouraged men to stay and work on the parts that needed fixed.
"I had a chance to be a gunner in one of those planes, but then I would have had to go to Korea. I chose not to because I really enjoyed what I did on the base. If I had the opportunity to do that all over again, I would choose the same job. I really enjoyed the men I met, and the things I got to see," said Gerdeman. "I was a lucky one, I never had to leave the country. I know that the Koreans had a few of those Jet fighters, and with a B-29, they were hard to track down with a gun. I was never sorry that I didn't have to go into the war zone, that's for sure."
Gerdeman reminisced about the friends he made while in the USAF.
"I had friends from all over the country. I met guys from Indiana, Louisiana and all over the United States. I can remember the one winter in San Antonio, we had a lot of freezing rain, and our trucks didn't have any heaters or defrosters in them, but by the afternoon, all the ice was gone. I also remember the first Christmas I was there in basic, it was 88 degrees. Needless to say, there was no snow that year," said Gerdeman. "That was warm! The next year I was down there, was the only time we had a big rain. It rained for two weeks. The rain was up so high on the houses and buildings there. No one knew what to do. In the spring, we had a lot of dust storms. We couldn't hardly see, and that's something you don't see back home."
Gerdeman remembers how much he liked the warm winters, but the summers were unbearably hot.
"When we weren't working, we used to get under that shade of the plane wings and watch the heat waves just rise off the cement. And those old planes would get hot inside in the summer. We used to go to Austin once in awhile and Dallas, just to have something to do but I bet if I wouldn't go back today I would recognize anything there. They say it has gotten so big, I am not sure I'd want to go back."
In November of 1955, Gerdeman was discharged from the Air Force, as his term was up. He received a book on how to return to civilian life, and a plane ticket home. He currently resides in Ottoville and is retired from General Motors.
"I don't believe I would have seen what I've saw if I didn't join when I did. I wouldn't trade it for anything and I know I would go back and do it all over again," finished Gerdeman. "Either join, or be drafted."