On this Veterans Day 2012, a World War II veteran from Oklahoma talks about serving on a B-17 bomber

In addition to memories, Lloyd Mitchell — an Oklahoman who served in World War II — and others in his crew kept diaries.
by Bryan Painter Published: November 12, 2012

He recalls perfect visibility on July 4 of that year as they raided LaPallice, France, targeting submarine pens.

And then there's that moment 10 days later.

“We raided the air depot at LeBourget today,” he wrote. “There were 300 fighters up after us. We claimed five. The target was obliterated. We got two bullet holes in the nose.”

When talking of that, he said, “I would have given anything to be back sharecropping.”

Before and after

Even though he was no longer in southwest Oklahoma, Mitchell said his raising helped tremendously in World War II.

“When you grow up in poverty like we did, you learned to love work, and I really did,” he said. “I didn't mind working hard at all.”

After the war, he quickly went to college so he could get a good job and get to work as soon as possible.

From 1948 to 1973, he served as a real estate review appraiser for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Then he worked many more years in his own business as a real estate appraiser.

But his story isn't all about being Capt. Lloyd Mitchell, or about his business career.

In May 1942, he wed Mable Apple. Mounted on a wall close to his Distinguished Flying Cross is a picture of Lloyd and Mable with a 2-month-old Brooks in October 1943. They raised five successful children, Brooks, Martha, Sarah, David and Mark. The couple were married 50 years before Mable lost a battle to pancreatic cancer in 1992. He later married Nancy and finally retired when he was in his mid-80s.

Besides being dedicated to his family, Mitchell is strong in his faith.

He's served as an elder in four Church of Christ congregations over 33 years.

“I was talking with my daughter, Sarah, one day, and she asked me how I feel I got through this and so many people didn't,” he said. “I said, ‘Honey, I felt like God had other things for me to do, and after the war it was time to get at them.'”

Back to the painting

When Mitchell once again fixes his eyes on that painting, he begins to talk about July 28, 1943, just off the coast of Denmark en route to Oschersleben, Germany.

He could see two cloud layers coming together and was wondering if the lead plane was going to keep going into them. It did. And as soon as they were in, the two clouds became one, he said. Inside the massive cloud was 148 B-17s, and no one could see anyone.

He thanks God and the plane's pilot, Ruben Neie, for getting them out.

“Rube immediately jammed all those throttles forward, full-power,” Mitchell said. “He sent it to the left as steep as he could and luckily got us out.

“You know, praying takes priority at that point.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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