George Klein grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. War clouds were gathering during his time in high school, and George took ROTC classes as a student. When he finished his senior year in early 1943, he enlisted immediately in the Army Air Corps. George took part in basic training at Kessler Field in Biloxi, MS.
Along with other members of the 20th Air Force, he embarked for the Pacific theater, making the transit from Seattle to Pearl Harbor with hundreds of other servicemen on board the troop transport Mormac Dove.
From Pearl, George steamed to the Western
Pacific, seeing action on Kwajalein, Eniwetok and the Marianas. He earned the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as a crew chief for 12 enlisted men, fueling and arming B-29 bombers. Typical of the urgency of the war in the Pacific, George’s crew worked 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. On January 19, 1945, the air base at which George served was attacked by Japanese bombers during a daring daylight raid. The ammunition dump at which he and his crew were loading 500# bombs was hit and George was one of many injuries. (In fact, more than 160 American servicemen were killed in that raid.) He was repatriated to Scofield Barracks Hospital at Pearl Harbor where he recovered well and was ultimately returned to duty in the Western Pacific. George and his crew were on duty on the island of Tinian in the Marianas when the Enola Gay took off from Tinian to bomb Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
George recalls his very best moment in World War II taking place on a February day in 1946 when he and hundreds of other returning veterans steamed into Long Beach, California, seeing the American shores they had missed so much.
Interestingly, while George’s wartime wounds of course qualified him for a Purple Heart, he did not receive one at the time. During the first administration of President George W. Bush, George’s granddaughter, Becky, worked in the White House and mentioned this oversight to First Lady Laura Bush. Shazam! George was invited to the White House in 2005 and presented with his long overdue medal by the President himself! Proud granddaughter Becky and other family members beamed at his side.
These days, George makes his home in Louisville, Kentucky. He enjoys reading and writing and remains a very proud American.