I was born on March 17, 1919 in Fresno, California. My parents were Arthur W. and Gussie Welborn Martin. I was the seventh of nine children.
There were five boys and four girls. My mother was a homemaker, and my father was a farmer, raising cotton, figs, corn and grapes. I graduated as valedictorian from Roosevelt High School in 1937. I attended Fresno State College for two years and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley.After graduating from Berkeley, I went to Los Angeles to celebrate my graduation. While at a hotel in Los Angeles, a bellboy came running up to me with a letter from Uncle Sam ordering me to report to the draft board in Oakland California at 12:00 PM the next day. Uncle Sam had not forgotten me. I enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps.
I arrived in Oakland just in time to board a train that took me to basic training at Lincoln Air Base in Lincoln Nebraska. After basic training, I was assigned as a flight officer on a B-24 Bomber. I went through training at the flight school. At the Santa Anna Army Air Base in Santa Anna California, I was assigned co-pilot with a pilot named John Truer from Michigan. We organized the other eight members of the crew at March Field, in Riverside, California. We had more training at March Field before flying to Europe. We were assigned to the 15th Air Force, 456th Bomb Group. We flew to Cerignola Airfield at Cerignola, Italy.
On our first mission over Germany, we were flying at an altitude of 24,000 feet. We had just dropped our bombs on our target when we were immediately hit by German 88mm ground fire. One engine on the left side was hit, and we had to turn it off. The engineer transferred the fuel from the d
amaged engine to the other three engines to enable us to fly home. Then an engine on the right side was hit, and I turned it off. Both damaged engines were inboard.
We had gone from four working engines down to two. At this point we had to drop out of formation because we could not keep up with the rest of the group. We flew across the Alps at about 1,000 feet altitude, and then we proceeded across the Adriatic Sea. When we finally landed at Cerignola, Italy, we only had fifteen gallons of fuel left.
I flew 36 missions over Germany, France and Italy. Six of these missions, I flew as First Pilot. After the war ended, I traveled for a week. I took a flight with an English bombing crew to southern Italy to see the country. I got a ride on a gondola to the Isle of Capri. I hitchhiked and walked back to Cerignola Italy just in time to join my crew to fly back home to the good old U. S. A. Upon my return from the war in Europe, I met my wife Margie at the church I was ushering. Six months later we were married. Margie and I raised four great kids, two boys and two girls. We now have eight grandchildren, and I have made a good living in real estate.
I had some close calls during the war in Europe, but it was all worthwhile. I am proud to have served my country in the time of need.