The skies over the Romanian oil fields of Ploesti were black with B-24 bombardment on that fateful August 1, 1943. Gilmer's Flight Officer James Rex Lindsey had completed the bombing raid-"Operation Tidal Wave". His battle damaged B-24, named Hadley's Harem, was unable to complete the return flight home to Tripoli, so he had to ditch in the Mediterranean Sea off the south coast of Turkey.
Hadley's heroic flying saved seven of the crew while he and the cockpit crew perished.
His remains were still inside the cockpit when fishermen discovered the wreckage in 1994. He was 22 years old. Gilmer finally paid homage to a fallen soldier returning in memorial services on January 11, 1997.
Relics from WWll aviator Rex Lindsey's downed B-24 bomber are on loan to The Flight Of The Phoenix Museum, by his family, Mary Kathryn and Grafton Don Lindsey. The flight gear recovered about 50 years after the crash of Rex Lindsey's plane near Turkey's south coast includes an A-8B oxygen mask, T-30 throat microphone, a B-4 life preserver, an HS-33 headset for an ABN-B-H-1 radio receiver, an A-11 leather flying helmet, B-3 goggles, leather flying boots, rubber overshoes and a leather map case. Feature Story: Return of a Hero.
8th Air Force aircrew carried passport photos in the event they were shot down over Europe. The French resistance would make new documents for the downed airmen to help the escape and evasion effort. This photo of Richard Potter was made in the early summer of 1944.
Air-Force B-17's pounded German opposition with millions of tons of bombs in thousands of gut wrenching missions over this hostile land. Lt. Richard Potter played an instrumental role as Group Lead Navigator for the 384th Bomb Group on numerous missions in 1944 and 1945. Potter was leading the raids over Dresden, Germany13 days before his 23rd birthday. Potter earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in combat, but the medal was never awarded. Finally, in 1998, Lt. General Phil Ford, Commander of the Eighth Air Force, visited the Gilmer Rotary Club and personally awarded Gilmer civic leader Dick Potter the DFC he had earned 53 years earlier.
Gilmer's Billy Machen was the first U.S. Navy Seal killed in action in Vietnam. He was 26 years old. Navy Frogmen are legendary for their fierce hand to hand combat and their heroics.
A Seal Training Base in California now bears the name, Camp Billy Machen, in honor of this Gilmer High School graduate - a brave soldier, and a great American.
Learn the story of Fox Stephens, Gilmer's own, a WWII fighter pilot who became one of America's foremost test pilots. As test director and first military pilot of the Lockheed Skunkwork's SR-71, on May 1, 1965, the Silver Fox and his fellow crew members stunned the world aviation community and brought down long standing Soviet speed and altitude marks.
The SR-71/YF-12A averaged 2070 mph over a 17km straight-away course, then held 80,257 feet to establish new world records for speed and sustained horizontal flight. Upon retirement in 1998, the SR-71 was still the fastest and highest flying operational aircraft in the world.
Ensign John Mack Dean, a naval aviator training for jet fighter pilot duties as a carrier pilot during the Vietnam era, perished in his North American T-2 "Buckeye" trainer on March 26,1969.
He would have been 23 years old on April 3, 1969. We honor and show appreciation to Ensign Mack Dean and to the families of all the other young men and women from the local area who served our country in uniform.
Mack's mother, Jane Dean, was honored as " Gold Star Mother " for Upshur County on Memorial Day, 1997.
Sgt. Travis E. Watkins, U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient, was mortally wounded in Korea, and fought to the death defending his fellow soldiers. For his heroic actions, he has been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His service will be honored and recognized on March 28, 2015 at Gladewater Memorial Park in Gladewater, TX.