Many people in Bryan-College Station know Jim Gordon as a retired pharmicist, who practiced in the Brazos Valley for over 40 years. But, what some people might not know is that Jim served in the Air Force during World War II, and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he incurred while on a mission to Austria. Tom Turbiville has more in this week's Voices of Veterans.
Jim Gordon was 16 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 7th, 1941 and he could not wait until he turned 18 when he could join the Army Air Corps and fly in defense of his country. A B-24 tailgunner, Jim Gordon was on a crew that flew 35 missions over the Eurpoean Theater in World War II.
His plane was hit on most of those missions, mostly by flack, but he never had to eject - even on that one mission where he earned the prestigious Purple Heart.
"I wanted to fly. I wanted to fly, that's the reason I joined the Air Force. I joined on May the 20th, 1943 and I was called to active duty in January of '44."
Jim Gordon, a 1943 graduate of Gilmer High School, joined the Air Force at 19 and after Air Corps Gunner School, became a B-24 tailgunner.
"I figured it'd be better to fly than walking. I joined the Air Force."
In January of 1944, Gordon loaded onto a ship at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and embarked for the European Theater, where he would spend the next year and a half fighting.
He flew on his first mission in October of that year, but on a mission to Austria in January of 1945, Gordon had a scare - one that caused him to be injured and almost lose his left ear.
"Came on to the target, we got heavy flack and we got a hit, behind me between me and the way and a shell went through the fulsillage and it severed my oxygen line, and the pilot after we came off the target, he called an oxygen check...I didn't answer but I could hear them, but I was losing consciousness. Finally the pilot said, 'Somebody check on Gordon,' and so Al Stewart came back there and he saw that I was out of oxygen so he got a walk-around bottle, and put it on my face. To do that, he had to take my helmet off and he forgot to turn the controls on, so as he brought me out, my knees hit the controls and flipped me around into the slip stream of this 65 below zero weather and it froze my face, froze my left ear."
Gordon was taken back to base where he was one of many waiting for medical attention. Since his injury was not severe, he was one of the last in line.
"That night, about 12 o'clock, they finally got around to me. I was sitting on a table and the captain there, a major that was head of the hospital, and he said 'Sergeant, looks like we're going to have to take your ear off,' and I said 'Not mine!' and he said 'Well if we have to save your life,' and I said, 'well if you do, get with it, and if not…' and there was a captain standing there and he said, 'Major, let me have a few days with the sergeant and see if I can't do something with it with this new drug penicillin."
Jim Gordon was able to keep his ear, and was awarded the purple heart for his injury on a combat mission. He caught up on his flights and was able to rendezvous with his former crew and all 10 of them were able to come home together when the war was over.
"You were doing something for your country, and for yourself, and I guess trying to prove to myself, and other crew members that we were a unit and we had a job to do and we were going to do it and to the best of our ability and hopefully all come home together. And that's what happened. We went over together and we came home together."
For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.
To see more local veteran's stories, you can acces the Voices of Veterans page at www.kbtx.com/veterans.