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At 18 and having grown up picking cotton on the family farm in Montague, Harold Shockley was ready for adventure.

“I was a poor boy on a cotton farm, and I tied up a pair of mules and went to war,” he said.

His father signed up for service in World War I and arrived in Fort Worth on VE Day. His uncle served World War II, and he had two sisters who were nurses in WW II, a brother who was an aircraft mechanic and another in the signal corps in Korea. Going to war was like going into the family business.

Almost three-quarters of a century later, Shockley still loves adventure, although today it is an “adventure” to crawl up in the tractor to feed the cows on his Hamilton ranch and to keep his surveying business active. At almost 92, he shows few signs of slowing down.

The young man, fresh off the farm with the ink barely dry on his high school diploma landed first in Mineral Wells at Camp Walters, where he received “lots of shots” and was made to march five miles with a pack on his back.

“A lot of them didn’t make it,” he said. “We learned to wear our uniform, salute and march, then we went to Sheppard Field at Wichita Falls for basic training, where we learned how to handle a rifle and pistol on a firing range.”

From there he went to Harlingen for aerial gunnery school, then to Clovis, New Mexico, where he was assigned to a crew for combat training.

“Then we went to Wichita, Kansas, to pick up a brand new B-29 Superfort and flew to India and joined the 444th bombardier group,” he said.

He flew 15 missions with the 444th out of Dudkundi Airfield, India, to Burma, Singapore, Taiwan and over the Himalayan Mountains.

The crew of 11 left India to the Marianas Islands and flew 20 missions from there to Japan.

Most of the missions gave the young man a sense of adventure and excitement, of helping out the war effort, but some haunt him still.

As the tail gunner, Shockley hung from the plane in a windowed pod. The Japanese made their bombs in homes, so the 444th was tasked to burn some cities.

“We were burning houses,” he said, “and I thought of all those women and children we were destroying too.”

Shockley’s best buddy was transferred to another flight and his plane was shot down. He parachuted out over Japan and was killed by civilians angry about the bombing of their cities.

“I was scared,” he said. “It was kind of boring back there all by myself, sitting in the back of the plane waiting for someone to shoot at you.

“Then all at once it would get exciting when we got over the target. There would be puffs of smoke and fire and they would be shooting at us!

“One night over Tokyo, I got caught in a search light,” Shockley said. “They were shooting at us, and a Japanese night fighter slipped in on us.

“I could hear his gunfire, and I was surrounded by windows. Those searchlights made the windows like mirrors. I couldn’t see a thing.”

Bullets hit the plane and hit the crawlway.

“The bullets came two feet from me,” Shockley said, “and shrapnel and splinters from the crawlway injured my legs.”

The injury earned him a Purple Heart.

His last mission was flying over the USS Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay to show support and celebration on Victory over Japan Day, Sept. 2, 1945, as the Japanese officially surrendered to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, officially ending World War II.

In addition to the Purple Heart, Shockley earned six Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After World War II, he left the army air corps and went to Texas A&M University on the GI Bill. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in civil engineering and went back into the service in 1952 because of the Korean War.

It was during his A&M years that Harold met Faye.

“We went to play University of Texas, and I had a cousin who lived there,” he recalled. “He worked at the bus station, and Faye was his girlfriend. He was busy, so I took her to the movie and got to hold her hand.

“She was very beautiful. She still is.”

As a second lieutenant, Shockley was no longer a tail gunner but was trained as a navigator. He flew KB29 refueling planes from Bergstrom Air Base, and eventually ended up in Newfoundland flying C54s to resupply a geophysical research team on a floating ice island near the North Pole.

“It snowed 274 inches that winter,” he said. “When we would go to the officers’ club, Faye and the other ladies wore galoshes and carried their high heels over their shoulders.

“There were snow plows all the time, and chains on our cars.”

He retired from the Air Force in 1974 while stationed in the Panama Canal Zone.

When he and Faye returned to Texas, all he knew was he wanted some land.

Faye was from Austin and Harold from Henrietta, so halfway between they found a ranch and a new hometown and moved to Hamilton in 1970.

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