GULF COAST WAR MEMORIES
Dr. Langley Bell
View Image Gallery
“22 Classmates from Pensacola High School”
Langley Madison Bell, Jr. grew up in Pensacola and attended Pensacola High School, graduating in 1940. He attended the Citadel, along with about ten of his classmates from PHS. Bell’s entire class at the Citadel was inducted en mass into the military. Bell transferred to the US Air Force, where he became a B-24 navigator-bombardier.
“Our B-24 crew of ten consisted of four 2nd Lieutenants – a pilot, Ray Roberts; co-pilot, Bill Wilson; me as the navigator and a guy named Ferguson as the bombardier. Our crew also included six enlisted men, including the engineer, nosegunner, tailgunner, ball-turret gunner and two waist-gunners,” recalled Bell. “Our average age was seventeen to twenty-two years old. In fact, I was the oldest at age twenty-two. Our crew landed in Chregnolo, Italy to fly with the 15th Air Force where we participated in missions over Austria, Germany, Northern Italy and Greece. Our B-24F was nicknamed the “Flying Boxcar.”
On one attack mission over Austria, Bell’s aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire and slightly disabled. “Before reaching our initial point for a bombing run, we experienced the first German jet fighter plane we had ever seen, and it made a pass at us. We were struck by anti-aircraft guns and pieces of metal penetrated our plan over 35 or 40 times.” Air Force P-51s from the all-black Tuskegee Airmen 332nd fighter group were dispatched to aid the disabled bomber against further attack. As Bell’s plane approached the landing area, the P-51 fighters peeled away. A voice with a distrinctly southern accent radioed to Bell’s plane, saying, “Y’all are safe now. See yo’ later!”
“When I returned home to Pensacola after the war in 1945, I discovered that twenty-two classmates from Pensacola High School – graduates from the years 1934 to 1944 – had been killed in WWII,” Bell recounts. These men included Bob Campbell, Alfred Pipkin, Tommy Loggins, Charley Mankin, Doyle Nee, James “Pickle” Forte, Tommy Galey, Glen Connor, “Bubba” Arrington, Jim Folmar, Leo Carvalis, “Buddy” Dubuison, B.J. Nettles, John Holm, “Rosie” Scholl, Tommy Stanley, Bobby Oliver, and Archie Mills.
“There were quite a few sacrifices during WWII. Everybody sacrificed without any qualms about it. You just did it,” Bell states. “It was natural instinct to fight for your country. The sacrifice that my classmates gave in winning the battles of Europe and Japan were tremendous sacrifices. So many of them gave their lives to serve their country. They volunteered and served with pride, with a lot of pride.”