MADISON, Ind. (July 2004) Listening to Jack Fultz reminisce,
its easy to imagine the sound of roaring airplane engines that
must have enveloped the veteran during his stint as a top turret gunner
and radar assistant during World War II. The memories he shares are
as vivid as though they happened just yesterday, rather than nearly
six decades ago.
Fultz (far right kneeling) of Kent, Ind., served during World
War II in an Army Air Corps squadron based on the South Pacific
island of Ie Shima. This photo was taken April 18, 1944, on
the island, the same island where journalist Ernie Pyle was
While memories of war leave many jaded, Fultz, 81, refuses to let
his experience produce despair. He chooses instead to reflect on the
positive. This sounds funny, but my stint was like a vacation,
A native of Canton, Ind., Fultz entered the Naval Air Corps in 1942,
shortly after graduating from high school. He later transferred to
the Army Air Corps when an attempt at becoming a pilot was foiled
by his inability to interpret a series of long and short beeps representing
the military code language. For some reason or another, when
it came time to take those tests, I could not get code, said
Fultz, who recalled his disappointment.
In the AAC, Fultz was stationed in 1945 on Ie Shima, a tiny island
in the Southwest Pacific near Okinawa. The island, captured and controlled
by U.S. forces by the time Fultz arrived, was the place where renowned
Indiana journalist Ernie Pyle had been killed. Ernie Pyle was
one of my boyhood heroes. He was a writer, and I wanted to be a writer,
From Ie Shima, Fultz flew missions on board B-24 Liberator
Bombers. He was a member of The Sea Hawks, 63rd Squadron,
43rd Bombardment Group, 5th AAC (a.k.a. Kens Men), whose missions
were conducted against airfields and railways in Japan and against
the Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan.
For the most part, the missions on which Fultz flew were completed
without incident. Once however, after taking off with four missing
gas caps, Fultzs plane became engulfed in flames.
by Ruth Wright
Fultz (far right) with his war veteran friends (from left) Bob
Gaffney and Bob Hill.
The gasoline looked like a rain storm. The fumes were nauseating,
Fultz recalled. Thanks to quick action and skillful piloting, the
plane made it safely back to ground.
We just happened to be lucky, nothing happened to us,
Fultz recalled the missions he flew shortly after the atomic bombs
were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They told us to be careful
about fallout. We didnt know what fallout was.
Soon after, Fultz flew his last mission one that he looks
back upon with a sense of regret. Because of a dangerous gas leak,
his pilot decided to abort the mission. The crew jettisoned its bombs
and headed home for what Fultz said was the last mission of the war.
To this day, Fultz regrets being unable to complete the mission.
When the war was declared over, Fultz was more than ready to return
home. He was instead held back by a number of illnesses, including
jungle rot in his ears, jaundice and infectious hepatitis, which had
reduced him to just 110 pounds. It took a few months of recovery before
he could return stateside.
After returning from the war and being discharged from the Army in
1946, Fultz finished the education he had started before leaving Indiana.
He received, thanks to the G.I. Bill of Rights, a degree in journalism
from Butler University.
Newspaper editor, salesman, race car driver, radio station manager,
talk show host and substitute teacher were some of the positions Fultz
occupied in the years after hanging up his Army fatigues. He once
worked in Niles, Ill., for entrepreneur and pre-eminent golf promoter
George S. May at his Tam OShanter Country Club. The club boasted
a world-class golf course frequented by celebrities like Bob Hope
and Bing Crosby.
In the 1950s he raced sports cars at Indianapolis and other tracks
around the country.
Fultz keeps a scrapbook of his adventures. In it are pictures of several
celebrities with whom he has brushed shoulders over the years. One
he took himself is of a young and beautiful Jane Mansfield posing
with one of his acquaintances.
Also in the scrapbook are pictures of Fultz during his military service,
including one taken in Hawaii of him and his brother and fellow soldier,
Robert, shortly before Fultz shipped out. Robert Fultz owned for many
years the Fiesta restaurant in downtown Madison.
Retired, Fultz lives in Kent, Ind., with his wife, Phyllis. The couple
have one son, Rob.
Fultz spends some of his time working with the local Disabled American
Veterans group. Through it he has met Madison residents Bob Gaffney
and Bob Hill. Like Fultz, both men also served on Ie Shima Gaffney
as a B-24 Bomber pilot and Hill as a medic. The mens paths never
crossed at the time.
Hes a worker, Gaffney said of Fultz, with whom he
has become good friends.