LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - During the early days of World War 2, several training bases were set up across the U-S to train crews for the B-17 Flying Fortress, the bomber work horse of Europe. After trying three times to enter military service, Hardy O’Neal finally was able to leave his Allen Parish home in Elizabeth and head to Pyote Air Base in West Texas.
“We had to get the planes ready for take off,” recalled O’Neal. “It was a combat training crew location there. For them to get up and go on an early flight with the fighter planes going with them, also.”
In the first part of his tour, O’Neal and his crew prepared the planes to the European Theatre.
“Most of them were going to England. They were at war with Germany at the time, and Japan, too.”
Eventually the base was converted to train B-29 bomber crews getting ready for an invasion of Japan that never happened.
"Every Saturday, we’d have to dress and go out to the parade ground they called it and they would introduce some of the guys who were in the Pacific. "
O’Neal, age 98, remembers the day the peace treaty was signed and he was able to go back home to Louisiana.
“After the war, next day after I got home, I went down to Lafayette and enrolled in college.”
Hardy later married his wife Faye and they recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.