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November 11, 2012

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

McALESTER — As war raged in Europe during World War II, U.S. pilots flying in endless bombing missions had little hope of surviving their tour of duty until a young flight surgeon intervened.

Dr. Thurman Shuller of McAlester, 98, says his service as World War II U.S. Army Flight Surgeon happened as a stroke of “extraordinary good luck.”
In 1943, at the age of 29, Shuller had risen through the ranks in 28 months from first lieutenant to captain to major to lieutenant colonel — as chief flight surgeon of the First Air Division of the 8th Air Force.
“I was among the first to go into England and the among the last to leave,” Shuller said. 
Of his rise through the ranks Shuller said, “That could have only happen during the explosive expansion of the Army Air Corps during the years 1942 to 1944 ... and having had the extraordinary good luck of being at the right place at the right time.”
Born and raised on a working farm in Arkansas, Shuller said he received his primary education in a two-room school house before attending high school in Ozark, Ark., and then graduating from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1939.
In 1939, he joined the Army Medical Corps Reserve after graduating from medical school. 
 
One year, or five
“With war raging in Europe, it seemed the practical thing to do was to spend one year of service in the Army,” Shuller said. He was assigned as a first lieutenant to the Air Corps Gunnery School in Las Vegas, Nev., as a general physician. 
Shuller said five months later, “Pearl Harbor extended my one year of active duty assignment to nearly five years.”
He said he took the advice of another doctor at the Las Vegas base and applied to the School of Aviation Medicine. He was also advised to pay attention to the promptness, accuracy and appearance of all his reports. 

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