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Soldier discusses military service after training at Sheppard Field

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
As each day passes, the United States loses more and more veterans of World War II.
Fate would have it that a Soldier would reconnect with a letter he wrote to his mother 63 years ago that was found in the wall of a home in Smith County, Texas - at least by a telephone conversation.

Jack C. Coursey, an 82-year-old resident of Tulsa, Okla., was a 19-year-old private in the Army Air Corps when he completed basic training at then-Sheppard Field. He said Wednesday he doesn't recall much of Sheppard, but not because his memory is slipping.

"I was there only briefly and didn't receive any leave time," Mr. Coursey said. "I do not remember anything of Sheppard at all."

He said the only thing that he could firmly recall while here was the drill instructors teaching the Soldiers "which was our left foot and which was our right."

The letter he penned more than 63 years ago was found in the home of Tommy and Kathy Thomasson while they were remodeling their home recently. It was sent to the 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs office.

Private Coursey completed basic training here in 1943 and shipped out to aerial gunnery school in Laredo, Texas, in April. He then went to Salt Lake City for follow on training before going to his first assignment in North Africa and Italy as a B-17 gunner.
"I've flown in every gunner position in a B-17," he said, including stints at the highly dangerous nose and ball turret gunner positions.

Mr. Coursey thankfully didn't have to confront too many enemy fighters after moving to the 8th Air Force in England. He said there were three or four that attacked the Flying Fortress, but the most worrisome flight was caused by flack damage.
"We came in a little too low," he said.

When he returned to the states, Mr. Coursey said he was put into an aviation cadet billet where he trained until the end of the war. He said when the war ended, he had enough "points toward him" that he chose to separate from the military instead of pursue it as a career.

Mr. Coursey said he didn't recall writing the letter, but when it was read to him, he said it sounded like something he'd write. He offered to let the 82nd Training Wing Heritage Center personnel place the letter in their archives.

After the war, he married and raised two children. Mr. Coursey said he worked in the automobile industry and retired after 30 years of service at a Tulsa auto dealership as the parts and service manager and also a mechanic.

He turns 83 in November.