Central Texas Heroes: James Wellman

James Wellman (Courtesy photo)

One Waco veteran had a front row seat to combat in World War II in the turret of a B-24 bomber.

He was a gunner in Europe.

James Wellman was two pounds shy of Uncle Sam's 140-pound weight requirement when he first enlisted during World War II, but that didn't stop him.

"Doctor says go out and drink milk and eat bananas and come back. So I did that and I weighed 141 when I got back," Wellman told us.

Nothing was going to keep him out of a plane.

"Dreamed of being a hot pilot all my young life," he said.

The Army Air Corps had plenty of pilots so Wellman became a gunner flying bombing missions across Europe on a B-24 Liberator, cutting off enemy supplies.

They tried to hit railroad depots and trains all while flying in unheated planes.

"You never touched any metal without your gloves on because your skin would stick to the metal, that's how cold it was," Wellman shared.

And they had to dodge thick anti-aircraft fire.

But on one mission in Austria they did not succeed.

"We got hit over the target, only time we got hit," he said.

They lost an oxygen supply line but their plane stayed in the air.

Wellman remembers seeing another bomber get hit and catching fire.

"We saw 8 people come out of the plane and open their chutes," he said, "4 of them pulled their chutes too soon."

Their parachutes caught fire and those four men did not make it.

They were some of the thousands of men lost in combat but completely dedicated to their ultimate goal.

"Someone had to do it in order to save our country I'd say, so we were the ones who did it," he said.