WWII USAAF B-24 Pilot Martin Luther
Sept. 4, 1921 - Oct. 19, 2015
I first met Martin Luther in August 2009 at his house in Ontario Oregon. I was invited to come over and meet him and talk about his WWII days as a B-24 Liberator pilot. He had flown over 60 missions out of Italy. Most of his runs were spent over the industrial areas of the Balkan States and Germany. In his den, the wall was adorned with memories of his career in the Air Force. He had photographs, plaques, letters, and a frame containing his medals.
While living in California with his new wife Shirley, he entered the service in 1942 and began his wartime effort training to fly the B-24 Liberator. After certification in flying the extravagant war machine, he then found himself in Stornara Italy assigned to the 15th Air Force 456BG, 744 BS where he carried out the majority of his missions.
He told me that several times his crew had taken on fire from German aircraft and flak guns, peppering his plane nose to tail. On one mission in Hungary over half his crew was injured including one KIA and serious damage to the ship. A German fighter had ripped the belly of the plane open as if it were a fish being cleaned. He managed to land back at the base even though hydraulics were out, brakes are gone and some of the cables cut controlling flaps; for a last ditch effort, the crew rigged the parachutes to the mid-ship gun mounts to slow the plane to a stop. Although successfully getting home, the plane was a loss.
Pictured here is Martin in the seat of his ship “Rackenjamer”, another later photograph shows the damage after returning from a mission.
Not only was Martin a warrior of WWII he also served in the famous allied “Operation Vittles” also known as the “Berlin Airlift” dropping over 2 million tons of aid and cargo to the US, British and French sectors. Martin returned to the European Theater in 2008 to Wiesbaden Army Airfield for the 60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift wherein in 1948 he was assigned to the Combined Air Lift Taskforce (CALTF). This is where I had met him not knowing a few years later I would become his friend back home.
Martin stayed with the military performing humanitarian missions in the Korean conflict in 1951.
All the best for the family: so long to a good friend who has rejoined his wife, family members, and fellow wingman buddies.