McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

November 11, 2012

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

(Continued)

McALESTER —

Shuller enrolled in the school with the goal of becoming a flight surgeon and after graduation he was assigned to Wendover Field, Utah. He said his first combat assignment was to the 306th Bombardment Group based in the heart of England, at Thurleigh.
He was the 369th Squadron flight surgeon for what was known as the longest continuously-serving bombardment group of the Eighth Air Force. 
“That kind of war had never been fought,” Shuller said. “There had never before been an Air Force organization like this one and three others also being similarly newly organized.” 
The others were the 305th, the 303rd, and the 91st. 
The U.S. Air Force began combat from England in October 1942. Its first strike was the railroads at Lille, France, where the 306th lost one out of 24 planes. Another plane was lost on the second mission. Shuller said things drastically changed with the third mission. He said it was an experimental low-flying mission to St. Nazaire, France, a submarine base. The mission was a failure and was never attempted again. 
“It was a vicious battle which we lost four planes and one man was brought back killed,” Shuller said. “Several weeks of bad weather followed the St. Nazaire disaster, resulting in multiple cancellations resulting in sinking morale and sloppy discipline.” 
That’s when Col. Frank A. Armstrong took command, leading the first mission against a target in Germany. On Jan. 27, 1943, Armstrong flew the first plane over Germany to Wilhelmshoven, documented in the book and the movie “Twelve O’clock High.”
“It was a successful mission with no casualties and morale of the combat crews soared,” Shuller said. 
Commanding Col. Claude E. Putnam described Shuller’s duties as “to maintain the physical well-being of his group and to effect to mental psychological state required for combat personnel,” according to a June, 1943, commendation letter to the Adjutant General, Washington D.C.

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