Ira A. Pearson
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 11/01/1942 - 7/7/1945
Radio operator, B-26, 9th Bomb Wing

Born in Gibsland, Louisiana, as the eldest of eight children, Ira grew up on a farm and recalls picking cotton as "very hot and very excruciating and very tiring." His "night work" included milking cows and feeding horses and mules. He finished high school in Bryceland, Louisiana, in 1941 and volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Forces in November of 1942. Lacking the necessary college credits for flight training, Ira instead was intensely schooled as a radio operator and gunner. ""I found out later that they were pushing us too fast because they were needing crews," he recalls. "So they were giving it to us hot and heavy so to speak." Assigned to a B-26 at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, he flew overseas and was placed in the 322nd Bombardment Group at Andrews Airfield in Braintree, England. On his first mission he "threw window," tossing out bundles of aluminum strips to disrupt enemy radar. He later flew missions against German V-1 rockets. He recalls a D-Day briefing held at 2:30 a.m. "We went and you never saw the amount of stars that was shining on shoulders. We knew something was going to happen," he says. He flew three raids that day, and recalls seeing "wall to wall ships. They were all orderly, all in formation, all steaming together, all headed in one direction. France." His group was sent to France on October 1, 1944, and based at Beauvais-Tille where they lived in tents in an apple orchard. Ira was wounded on Christmas Day of 1944 when an eighty-eight millimeter shell "blew up right under my gun position and knocked us out of formation." He stayed in the Fifty-Sixth General Field Hospital only a few days. "I still pack the shrapnel. They didn't get it out," he says. He resumed flying, completing fifty-seven missions, far beyond the original limit of twenty-five. "Then they increased it to thirty. Then they increased it to fifty. Then they said, `You fellows fly as long as you can,'" he recalls. His voyage home on an LST took seventeen days. He was discharged on July 7, 1945 at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Ira studied accounting at a business college in Shreveport on the GI Bill, and then went to work for the Veteran's Administration.