A Tale Of Two Gunners
While the 458th Bomb Group may not have had the oldest and the youngest gunners in the Eighth Air Force, they would have been in the running had there been a contest for such a title.
Sgt DeSales A. Glover was a gunner on Lt George N. Spaven’s crew (33) in the 753rd Squadron. Records do not show when he joined the group, but it was at some point towards the end of crew training in Tonopah, Nevada in December 1943. His name appears on two available loading lists, the first on March 3, 1944 to Friedrichshafen, Germany, and the second on March 6, 1944 to Berlin. The crew was forced to abort the Berlin mission due to supercharger problems on three engines. In mid- April 1944, Glover divulged his true age to his fellow crew members and was relieved of flying duties. Shortly thereafter, on April 22nd, his crew was shot down over Germany, all survived as POW’s except for Spaven who was killed in the aircraft. Public Relations articles of the time credit Glover with six completed missions, making him eligible for the Air Medal. He left for the States in early May 1944, having been overseas nearly five months.
At the other end of the spectrum was Sgt Wells N. Gardner, assigned as a gunner with Lt Birto R. Brumby’s crew on June 3, 1944. Gardner had served in France in The Great War and had felt the calling again for the current war. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant in July 1944, and remained at that rank for the rest of his time at Horsham. He flew 30 missions, most of these with Brumby as lead crew. Unlike Glover, there was no problem with Gardner’s age (more than twice that of the average American bomber crewman) that would prevent him from flying. He was granted Rest Home Leave in February 1945 around the time that most of the crew completed their combat tour. Gardner returned to the States in March 1945.
Public Relations Articles - Sgt Glover
A FAREWELL TO ARMS
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE LIBERATOR STATION, ENGLAND
SGT. DE SALES A GLOVER, HOLDER OF THE AIR MEDAL AND A VETERAN OF SIX MISSIONS OVER EUROPE SITS BESIDE HIS WAIST GUN AS HE PONDERS THE PROSPECT OF RETURNING TO CIVILIAN STATUS AFTER 18 MONTHS IN THE ARMY AIR FORCES. HE’S TOO YOUNG TO CONTINUE AS A WARRIOR. AFTER FLYING HALF A DOZEN MISSIONS HE DIVULGED TO HIS LIBERATOR CREW MEMBERS THAT HIS AGE IS 16 AND CONFESSED THAT HE WAS ONLY 14 YEARS OLD WHEN HE ENLISTED ON OCT. 14, 1942. THE YOUNG SERGEANT WHOSE HOME IS AT 237 MCKEE PLACE, PITTSBURGH, PA., HAS BEEN GROUNDED FROM FLYING WHILE THE ARMY AWAITS OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION OF HIS AGE BEFORE SENDING HIM HOME.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE LIBERATOR STATION, ENGLAND
SGT. DE SALES A. GLOVER, VETERAN OF SIX MISSIONS OVER EUROPE AND HOLDER OF THE AIR MEDAL SITS ON A BOMB AND PONDERS HIS PROSPECTIVE RETIREMENT FROM THE ARMY AIR FORCES. HE’S TOO YOUNG TO CONTINUE AS A COMBATANT. AFTER FLYING HALF A DOZEN MISSIONS HE DIVULGED TO HIS LIBERATOR CREW MEMBERS THAT HIS AGE IS 16. THE WAIST GUNNER, WHOSE HOME IS AT 237 MCKEE PLACE, PITTSBURGH, PA, HAS BEEN GROUNDED FROM FLYING WHILE THE ARMY AWAITS OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION OF HIS AGE BEFORE SENDING HIM HOME FOR A RETURN TO CIVILIAN STATUS. GLOVER ENLISTED ON OCT. 14, 1942, AT WHICH TIME, HE CONFESSES, HE WAS ONLY 14 YEARS OLD.
AN EIGHTH AAF LIBERATOR STATION, ENGLAND
SGT. DE SALES A. GLOVER, HOLDER OF THE AIR MEDAL AND VETERAN OF SIX MISSIONS OVER EUROPE INCLUDING THE FIRST U.S. ATTACK UPON BERLIN IS GOING TO BE RETIRED. HE’S TOO YOUNG FOR THE ARMY. AFTER THE GUNNER HAD FLOWN ON HALF A DOZEN ASSAULTS ON TARGETS ON THE CONTINENT HE DIVULGED TO MEMBERS OF HIS LIBERATOR CREW THAT HE IS BUT 16 YEARS OLD. THE ARMY IS AWAITING OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION OF HIS AGE BEFORE SENDING HIM HOME FOR A RETURN TO CIVILIAN STATUS. MEANWHILE HE HAS BEEN GROUNDED FROM FLYING.
THE YOUNG SERGEANT, WHOSE HOME IS AT 237 MCKEE PLACE, PITTSBURGH, PA., ENLISTED ON OCT. 14, 1942, AT WHICH TIME, HE CONFESSES, HE WAS ONLY 14 YEARS OLD, HAVING COMPLETED HIS FIRST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL.
“I HATE TO QUIT FLYING”, DECLARED GLOVER. “I’VE GROWN ATTACHED TO THE ARMY AND DON’T LIKE TO LEAVE. I HAVEN’T ANY DEFINITE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, BUT I’D LIKE TO GET A JOB IN WHICH I CAN LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT FLYING. WHEN I’M OLD ENOUGH I’D LIKE TO RE-ENLIST IN THE AIR FORCE FOR PILOT TRAINING.”
SERGEANT GLOVER WAS GRADUATED FROM THE GUNNERY SCHOOL AT TYNDALL FIELD, FLORIDA, IN THE SAME CLASS WITH CAPT. CLARK GABLE, AND TRAINED IN THE UNITED STATES WITH BOTH LIBERATOR AND FLYING FORTRESS GROUPS.
Oakland Boy Veteran of Air War at 16
Sgt. DeSales A. Glover who was decorated after his sixth mission over Germany is coming home from the wars at the ripe old age of 16. A Liberator gunner, he was grounded in England recently when the Army discovered he was under age, the Associated Press reported today.
His mother, Mrs. John J. McGrath, of 237 McKee Place, Oakland, said he enlisted when he was 14 and a freshman at Connelley Trade School. Mrs. McGrath, the wife of a retired Oakland traffic policeman, said her son was large for his age. She added, “He was five feet eight when he joined, and the following August, when he came home on his only furlough, he stood five feet 11.
“He came home from school one day and said he wanted to enlist. I thought he was only kidding, but he said he had tried to enlist in the Navy. Then he tried for the Air Corps. I think he told them he was 17 or 18. I signed the papers for him. He said he wanted to do his share in the war. He liked it after he got in, especially after his squadron flew the Atlantic.”
In England, Sgt. Glover commented, “I hate to quit the Army and give up flying. But when I’m old enough I hope to re-enlist for pilot’s training.”
458th Group Articles - Sgt Gardner
OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE
WE DON’T THINK WE ARE PUTTING OUR NECKS OUT TOO FAR WHEN WE STATE WE BELIEVE THAT THIS GROUP HAS THE OLDEST COMBAT GUNNER IN THE ETO. WE BASE OUR CLAIMS ON S/SGT WELLS N. GARDNER WHO IS AN AERIAL GUNNER ON B-24’S WITH THE 458TH. SGT GARDNER IS A VETERAN OF WORLD WAR 1, HAVING SERVED 16 MONTHS IN FRANCE WITH THE 56TH ARTILLERY, A BATTERY. HE PARTICIPATED IN THE ARGONNE, CAMPAIGN AND WAS DISCHARGED AS A CORPORAL, JUNE 25, 1919. THIS 46 YEAR OLD GUNNER, WAS A BRAKEMAN FOR 10 YEARS WITH THE PENNSYLVANIA, RR, ENLISTED FOR WORLD WAR 11 IN OCTOBER 1942 AS A CORPORAL AND ENTERED FOREIGN SERVICE MAY 1, 1944. HE IS CREDITED WITH 26 COMBAT MISSIONS OVER GERMANY AND ENEMY OCCUPIED EUROPE AND HOLDS THE AIR MEDAL WITH THREE OAK LEAF CLUSTERS. BEFORE SGT GARDNER WAS ASSIGNED TO B-24’S HE WAS A GLIDER PILOT. GARDNER’S BETTER HALF, MRS. DOROTHY GARDNER, IS ALSO DOING HER FAIR SHARE IN THIS FRACAS AS SHE IS A WAC STATIONED AT LOWRY FIELD, COLO. AND AS WE SAY, “OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE”, THEY JUST KEEP ON GOING FOREVER.
21 JAN 45 - STATION HIGHLIGHTS by Lt Joiner
FIGHTING THE HUN AGAIN
The other day, the following interesting item was sent in to us and being so unusual, we thought that it would be news to pass along. It seems that there is a gunner on Capt, Brumby’s crew who not only has fought in this war, but in the last one also. His name is S/Sgt Wells N. Gardner, who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. Having entered the service in April 1917, he served in the 56th Artillery having been in France for 16 months and was a vet of the Argonne Campaign. He was discharged in June 1919, having obtained the rank of Corporal. He enlisted again in October of 1942 and has been overseas since May of 1944. Gardner at one time was a glider pilot. Now having flown 26 missions, he holds the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Yes, gentlemen, he is 46 years old and still giving the Hun plenty of trouble. In civilian days, he was a railroad brakeman with the Pennsylvania Railroad whom he worked for for ten years. It just proves one is never too old to fight and we all hope you have best sailing on the rest of your tour.
(Photo: Elmo Geppelt)