After a difficult start to his service time, 90-year-old Jack Swalley has stories from a varied and interesting career in the military during World War II.
He was drafted in 1942 and inducted into the military in December of that year.
He began his military time in Tulsa, going on active duty on Jan. 7, 1943. From there he went to Fort Sill, where he received his clothing and got on a train for Miami Beach, Fla. There he was interviewed to see what would be the best fit for him in the military. They had the opportunity to pick three areas of interest. He was put into the Army Air Force with orders to be a gunnery.
Before being deployed, Swalley was in his hotel and as he walked through the lobby, the supply sergeant was in there playing darts and threw a dart through Swalley’s left eye.
Swalley spent three months in the hospital. The first 15 days he laid flat on his back and on the 15th day the doctor took the patch off to see if Swalley could see.
“The doctor couldn’t believe how well I could see,” he said. “I could fly and everything after that.”
After being released from the hospital, Swalley went to Mississippi to attend airport mechanic school. He attended a C-47 engineering specialist school.
After completing the school, Swalley returned home on leave before going to Sedalia Air Force Base (now Whiteman) as part of the 442 troop carrier 303 squad where he was attached to the 82nd Airborne. He trained with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg before being moved to several other bases. Eventually he boarded on the Queen Mary to head to Europe on March 8, 1944. He landed in Glosgow, Scotland then went to Nottingham and Bridgewater where he trained until D-Day.
On D-Day he was on the lead plane of paratroopers that was deployed.
“I went as an aerial engineer,” he said. “We were lucky, we never lost a plane on D-Day.”
His training as a flight engineer qualified him as an assistant crew chief to evacuate injured soldiers from Normandy and take them back to the hospital in England.
While Swalley made it safely through, the plane with his crew chief and radio operator was shot down coming back from Holland.
Later, Swalley helped evacuated Indians from concentration camps back to Athens, Greece.
In 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, Swalley recalls sitting on the line waiting for a couple of days before they could take food and ammunition in to those who were trapped.
From there, he was attached to the 82nd Airborne on the Rhine River, where he helped haul USO shows from Brussels to the 82nd Airborne.
Page 2 of 2 - “We were right on the Rhine River and parked the plane in a cow pasture,” he said.
He said they would buzz down the river so the soldiers would know they were there and come pick them up once they had landed.
On one of those trips, Swalley remembers hitting a lot of pigeons, and he had to pick pigeons out of the engine after they landed.
Swalley returned home on the Monticello on Thanksgiving Day in 1945. They landed at New York, then he was taken to Camp Chaffee, Ark., and was discharged. He returned to his home in Oklahoma.
“I was pretty fortunate,” he said. “Other than the eye, I cam through real good.”
Following his time in the service, Swalley worked for Black Marshall Oil Company, which became National Cooperative. He worked until he was 81 when he hurt his back picking up his wife after she had twisted her knee.
After that, he and his wife moved to El Dorado to be near their children.