July 11, 2012 - Jim Oakley

There have been many movies made about the deadly bombing missions Allied forces flew over Germany and France during World War 2.  Lake Charles' Jim Oakley lived through those missions...28 of them, as a matter of fact.  Oakley remembers when his B-17 was shot up while returning from a mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, targeting ball bearing factories.

"So, I just rolled it over and down we went from 25,000 feet to tree top level and apparently the German fighters knocked us out because we never had anyone jump us," said Oakley.

The losses were so heavy to the 8th Air Force that the U.S. didn't return to the target for 4 months.

"We lost 60 planes on that raid.  Sixty B-17s.  That's 600 trained airmen.  Another 90 damaged, out of about 285, 290.  It was way too much loss."

Oakley says he lost many classmates in those bombing runs.  But he says his division, commanded by Curtis Lemay, was experienced and tough.

"There's no foxhole up there.  You're protected by paper-thin aluminum.  But psychologically, if you can duck down, it's going to save you."

KPLC salutes Jim Oakley as this week's Hometown Patriot.

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