Joseph W. Cooper
1 Lt
U. S. A. F.
Korean War
Dates of Service: 03/08/1952 - 10/30/1956
WB-29 Navigator, 59th Weather Recon Sq

Joseph was born in Shreveport at home, the youngest of four children of G.H. "Jack" Cooper and Gladys Weatherly Cooper. The elder Cooper worked in the laundry and dry cleaning business. Joseph remembers no "financial hard times" for the family during the Depression. "I had a very, very nice childhood. I was spoiled rotten and proud of it," he quips. He recalls hobos marking houses of families who would feed hungry, wayfaring men. Joseph began violin lessons at age five. (He would later play in Shreveport Symphony and other symphonies in Marshall, Texarkana, and south Arkansas.) He was a member of the all-state high school orchestra, and also enjoyed athletics, especially baseball. Upon graduating from Fair Park High School in 1947, he enrolled on a music scholarship at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, where he was also a member of ROTC. He graduated in January of 1952 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. On June 5, 1952, he married a college classmate, Donna Broussard. (They would have two children.) Joseph was first based at Tyndale Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, where he served as a squadron adjutant in administrative work. He volunteered for flight school and was sent to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston where he trained as a navigator on a bomber. In spring of 1953 he was sent to Yakota Air Base in Japan (Donna accompanied him) where he joined 56th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. Aboard WB-29s he flew missions of 14 to 16 hours taking weather readings over Japan, Korea, Formosa, Taiwan and Okinawa. Another route took them up the Russian Kuril Island Chain to Siberia and back. Russian MiGs would "harass us" he recalls, but they never fired at the weather aircraft. He also flew into typhoons to take readings that helped determine the course and speed of the storms. The unit also went on "sniffing rides" to measure air samples that helped track atomic particles in the atmosphere from frequent testing. "I happened to be on the airplane that told the world that the Russians had detonated their first H-bomb," he remarks. He left Yakota in December of 1955, returning home with his wife and infant son on the USS General Billy Mitchell. He was based at Bartow Air Base in Bartow, Florida in a flight-training course. He left the service in October of 1956, and went to work at KRMB radio in Shreveport. He then was hired at Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation, and transferred to the home office in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He eventually returned to Shreveport to work with his father at his cleaners. He closed the business in 1989. Long a volunteer for Goodwill Industries, Joseph was hired onto the staff and has worked there for 19 years. As part of his duties he calls on companies for donations in Goodwill's commercial solicitation program.