459th ARW heritage is exemplified through 758th Bomb Group navigator Reid Waltman

  • Published
  • By Julius Lacano, 459 ARW Historian
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing
More than 2.4 million men and women served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. One of those Airmen was Reid Waltman. While a Junior at Rutgers University, he joined the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet on October 23, 1942, and received his commission as a second lieutenant in April 1944.
Having arrived in Italy earlier that month, Reid took part in his first mission on September 21, 1944. He and the rest of the 758th Bombardment Squadron, were assigned to attack a railroad bridge near Tizafured, Hungary.
Reid’s missions began with a 3 a.m. wakeup followed by a truck ride from his squadron’s bivouac area to the 459th Bombardment Group’s headquarters for the mission briefing and breakfast.
After takeoff, on a plane that was cramped, cold, and uncomfortable, the crew would take their assigned positions. The forward nose gunner, bombardier, and navigator (Reid) crawled through a narrow tunnel to the front of the plane. Simultaneously, the waist, upper turret, and belly gunner loaded their weapons and did a quick test fire.
Reid spent the entire mission, about seven hours or more, standing at a fold-down desk checking the aircraft’s gauges and making the computations needed to reach the target and return home.
As the bombers approached their target, they flew through a sky filled with exploding shells. The crews watched helplessly as surrounding aircraft fell earthward due to enemy fire. After dropping their ordnance, the bombers turned for home, their crews hoping to see “Coffee Tower” again.
While many of Reid’s 50 missions were massed raids in which hundreds of planes took part, he also flew on solo missions that pitted his lone bomber against the Axis. Often conducted during periods of bad weather, these missions were extremely hard on the crews.
Reid, a trained geologist, found work with an oil company after the war. He married and had six children between surveying potential oil sites across North America. He published his war diary, 'Somewhere in Italy,' in 2019 and passed away at the age of 99 in 2021.