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Hometown Hero: Bob Schuh

Manitowoc native goes from assembly line to B-17 gunner in WW II. Faced close calls and remembers those who didn't make it home during commemorative flight.


CHILTON (WFRV) Bob Schuh was doing his part for the war effort in 1943. Just a year out of high school, he worked at an aluminum factory in Manitowoc making utensils for armed service members and wings for aircraft.
Then one day he received a notice of greetings from the President of the United States. He called it a cause for celebration compared to shift work.

"I was working ten-hours Monday through Friday. Eight hours on Saturday and 35-cents an hour I was getting," Schuh sad

Adding to Bob's sense of elation at being drafted was learning he'd been drafted into the United States Army Air Corps.

:"They claimed they only the highest scorers for the air corps. But I'm not going to say that's true or not.," he said while chuckling.

Color blindness prevented Bob from serving as a pilot, navigator or bombardier. Finally, he was chosen to be a "gunner" on a B-17, similar to the "Aluminum Overcast" operated by E-A-A. They were called "waist" gunners because they were in the middle of the aircraft and were key to defending the ship.

"And if you get two or three guys firing at the same plane, your chances of shooting it down are much better," Schuh said.

B-17 crews knew on each mission it was likely some bomber crews wouldn't be returning. After one mission to Berlin and the oil refineries at Bruch, Czechoslovakia, Schuh and his crew mates learned they came very close to not making it home.

"I saw at least eight planes go down in flames that day," he recalled. "When we landed, he said we were very low on gas. We were practically flying on the fumes."

Schuh survived, returned home earned an education degree, taught school and coached sports in Chilton. He and a group of Wisconsin B-17 veterans recently flew on the "Freedom Flight on the bomber "Aluminum Overcast". The 15-minute was a time of reflection and remembrance for Bob Schuh.

"And I thought of my lost comrades when we were flying. I said a few prayers for them," he said.

Local 5's Terry Kovarik has the story.
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