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WWII Vet: Happy To Leave 'Worst Place You Can Be'

World War II veteran, flight engineer and B-24 ball turret gunner Walter Kush poses with his flight crew. Kush is at the left end of the front row.
Greg Allen
/
NPR
World War II veteran, flight engineer and B-24 ball turret gunner Walter Kush poses with his flight crew. Kush is at the left end of the front row.

This Veterans Day, we're hearing from some of those who served in America's wars. Walter Kush is hale and healthy today at 86, but he was just a teenager in World War II.

Kush, who lives in Key Largo, Fla., was a flight engineer assigned to a B-24 crew that flew bombing missions over Austria, France and Germany.

In an old sepia-tone photograph, Kush is one of the few in his crew who's smiling — even though he had one of the most dangerous jobs on a bomber: suspended in a glass and metal bubble on the plane's underside — the ball turret gunner.

"That ball turret gunner is probably the most precarious thing in any service," Kush said. "That's the worst place you can be anytime, ever, anyplace."

Asked about his experience, Kush recalls his first mission, when he saw a B-24 explode in midair:

"I said, 'Whoa.' I thought, 'Oh my God.' I said, 'What the heck am I doing up here?' " Kush said.

"I made a vow that day for two things. I made a vow that says I'll never worry, and I'll never wait in line. And believe me, I don't do that."

When it was finally time for him to return to the United States after the war, Kush said, "I wasn't too concerned about expecting a big homecoming and all this. I was so glad to be home, who wants anything like that?"

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