McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Features

November 11, 2012

McAlester veteran, Dr. Thurman Shuller, a World War II hero

(Continued)

McALESTER —

Shuller was commended by Putman as a “jealous guardian of rights and privileges of combat crew personnel.”
 
A confession
Shuller said he fought for the mental well-being of his crew in a report to his commanding officer after working with fliers who “faced endless bombing missions and faced the fear of never surviving the theater of war.’”
“The losses were terribly high,” Shuller said. 
As flight surgeon, Shuller said he learned quickly that for some pilots, the flight surgeon may be the “only one who will really listen” He said one of the pilots confided in him about his fear of flying. “Being new to the situation, I just fluffed it off and didn’t respond to that confession sufficiently,” Shuller recalled. He said the next day on a high-altitude mission, the pilot ran into another plane in the formation and both planes went down out of control. Twenty crewmen were killed. 
“To this day, I still grieve over the mistake,” Shuller said.
In March of 1943, Shuller wrote a report called Combat Expectancy of Fliers to his commanding officer requesting there be a maximum of number of 20 operational missions. He said in the letter that fliers suffered “unbearable casualties in personnel and planes, yet at the same time realizing their effort hadn’t done one thing to further the war effort. 
“The fliers were actually saying among themselves that the only apparent hope of survival in the theatre of war is either to become a prisoner of war or to get ‘the jitters’ and be removed from combat,” Shuller’s letter states.
 In the report. He described the incredible number of losses the crew had faced. 
“In this group we have lost 20 of the original 35 combat crews in addition to several replacement crews, yet very few had seen as many as 15 missions,” he said. 

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