“With one engine lost,” Joe explained, “the remaining engines had to work harder, [consuming greater quantities of fuel].”
The situation was so perilous that, at Joe’s urging, the pilot asked for and was granted special permission to land without “circulating the field,” which was standard landing procedure. It was a life-or-death landing Joe will never forget.
“As we were taxiing in [from the landing],” he said, “engine number 1 ran out of fuel; thank God we were on the ground.”
On Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States dropped the first of two nuclear bombs it would ultimately release on Japan, Joe and his crew were on leave in the United States.
On the night the Japanese Emperor announced the country’s intention to surrender, following the United States’ release of the second nuclear weapon several days earlier, Joe and his crew had been sent out on yet another bombing run; it was a mission they would never finish.
“We were gone about three hours,” Joe said, “but we were called back because the second atomic bomb had been dropped and the war was over.”
On Sept. 2, 1945, when the Empire of Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the US Battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Joe and his crew did a flyover.
The day after his discharge from the Air Force in December 1945, Joe went to work as an assistant for Decatur County Veterinarian Dr. Dyar Wood. Shortly thereafter, he met Elsie when she came to work for the same veterinarian as an office assistant. The two married Feb. 23, 1952.
“I’m glad I didn’t know Joe back when he was in World War II,” Elsie said. “I’m a worrier and I would’ve worried myself to death.”
Joe had grown up on a farm in Franklin County and in September 1952, he left Dr. Wood to return to farming. Elsie, who’d also grown up on a farm, was happy to make the move. Joe would continue farming for almost five decades before finally retiring for good in 2001.