Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
Date of birth: Aug. 14, 1920
Dates of service: 1943-1968
Hometown: Remlap, Ala.
Lives in: Portales
Branch: Army-Air Force
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit and specialty: 71st Troop Carrier Squadron, C-47 pilot.
After discharge: Corpus Christi, Texas
In his words: As a young boy on his family’s Alabama farm, Gamble would dream of flying while watching his neighbor fly overhead in a small plane doing stunts.
“I always wanted to fly. I wasn’t driven because I didn’t have any resources to do anything about it,” he said.
When war set in and young men all over the country prepared for the draft, Gamble’s dream became possible.
The first time he went up in an airplane, Gamble flew as an observer with an instructor behind him piloting the plane.
“He (the instructor) did everything he could think of and I got sick and messed up the plane. I had to clean it up when we got back down,” he recalls.
He said the instructors pushed the men to their limits during the training.
“His job was to find out whether I was serious (or not), and (if I) had the qualities it would take to fly,” he said.
Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Gamble found himself training to fly C-47 transport planes, which primarily were used for troop transport and evacuating the wounded.
With nurses onboard to treat the injured, they would quickly drop supplies, load the wounded, and return to the air. The wounded they carried were usually in bad shape; those with less-threatening injuries were transported by truck.
During one mission, Gamble’s plane was hit in left wing, causing one of the engines to shut down and forcing a hair-raising, emergency landing at a British base.
From day one, Gamble said, “We knew that there was a lot of possibilities that you would crash, but most of us made it back.”
Gamble retired from service in 1968.
World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: