The Liberty Gazette
January 11, 2011
January 11, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Last week we wrote about Bill Ford, one of the veterans our friend Vickie Croston accompanied as guardian on a recent Honor Flight Network trip to Washington, D.C. This week we introduce you to her second charge, Gerald Roop.
From Oklahoma City, Gerald Roop (OU ’42), was drafted in December 1942, serving in Europe for four years and an additional two years during the war in Korea. After basic and officer training at Fort Sill he was commissioned a second lieutenant in September 1943. Sound and flag observation school at Camp Gordon, Georgia made him a sound platoon officer. Gerald’s platoon of 30 men, part of the 291st Observation Battalion, used microphones and observer posts to listen for shells as they flew overhead. By timing them they figured out the shells’ point of origin and directed return artillery fire accordingly.
During the winter of 1944/45, the coldest winter in Europe in 45 years, Gerald’s platoon located 65 enemy gun positions during the Battle of the Bulge. Wounded by shrapnel during his tour in Europe, Gerald witnessed the aftermath of the Malmedy Massacre where more than 100 U.S. POW soldiers were machine-gunned down by their German captors. The German officers were later tried for war crimes and executed.
Gerald told us a story about collecting souvenirs in Europe. “We got moved to 40 miles west of Berlin to wait for the Germans to surrender. The Russians were shooting at them and they were surrendering in droves. I told Sergeant Dusty Rhodes ‘let’s go to get some pistols on the other side of the river.’ We saw a bunch of Germans wanting to surrender (they had just been shot at by Russians and were scared). We stepped out to stop them, said, ‘give us your pistols and belts,’ and they did. We went back across the river and seeing another German and I walked up and asked for binoculars and his Lugar, ‘please.’ He gave them to me.” Gerald Scotch-taped his parents’ name and address on a German helmet and still laughs that “it actually got to them in the U.S. by mail.”
After the war in Europe ended he was supposed to go to Japan, but his unit was disbanded. The Navy was looking for liaison pilots so he applied and was accepted. However, while he was still in France the first atomic bomb was dropped, ending the war in the Pacific, so he didn’t go to flight training. Later, while commanding a gun battalion in 1st Cavalry Division in Korea his position was overrun by North Koreans and he was wounded again – shot in the hip. For the remainder of his time in service, Gerald returned to Fort Sill, using his combat experience as a gun instructor.
Linda: Gerald still wanted to fly, so after the service he received some training. He logged 60 hours, but a new civilian life – work and family – came first. His trip to Washington, D.C., provided free through the Honor Flight Network, gave him an opportunity to visit the memorials there, to reflect, and be honored and thanked.
We’re saying good-bye to over one thousand World War II veterans every day. Time to express our thanks is of the essence. This series on Honor Flight Network shows just one of many important ways aviation is part of good things bigger than itself. Visit www.HonorFlight.org.