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“War has a distinguishing thing: It’s something you don’t want to do again but it’s something that you’re proud you did.” (Video Interview, 48:44.8)

   Jack J. Valenti
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Jack Valenti [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps
Unit: 448th Bomb Squadron, 321st Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Wing, 12th Air Force
Service Location: Corsica; Ancona, Italy; European Theater
Rank: First Lieutenant
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Jack Valenti was working his way through college night school when he enlisted, one month after the Pearl Harbor attack. Though he had never flown, he had aspirations to serve as a pilot and became one, flying 51 bombing missions over Italy. Valenti and the crew of his B-25 never backed down from enemy fire. Only bad weather could deter them from their primary targets, but they always found alternative drop sites. In this 2003 interview, admitting he has never talked so extensively about his war experiences, he is honest about the fear he experienced on every mission and how his training helped him deal with that emotion.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (69 min.)
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Dropped out of college to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor; wanted to be a naval aviator but was turned down because of a heart murmur, but the Army accepted him; training at Shepherd Field a hellish experience. (03:58) His first solo flight in training; rough landing; explaining how to do acrobatics like a spin; training on bigger planes in California; wanted to be a fighter pilot but answered the call for multi-engine plane pilots . (05:29) Description of the B-25 bomber he flew over Europe; final combat training in South Carolina. (02:04)
Flying his first mission out of Corsica; missions: to clear the way in Italy for US forces making their way up the boot and to intercept enemy supplies coming through the Brenner Pass in the Italian Alps; dealing with his fear. (11:00) Feeling of being shot at and missed on his 51 missions; B-25 could be hit but still get you back to base; flying back after the war with primitive navigation equipment and extra “Tokyo” fuel tanks like the ones used in the 1942 Doolittle raid. (07:60) No thinking during the war about how many people he killed, but considering it later; though his plane flew lower and his bombs were more accurate, they could still miss the target; relief at the dropping of the atomic bombs. (03:22)
In graduate school at Harvard, everyone in his class were veterans, most of them combat vets; his view of war as an experience that tested him and prepared him for anything else that life would throw at him. (03:23) How his World War II experiences informed his view of the war in Vietnam; the essence of bravery lies in doing your duty; rarely talks about the war. (07:32) Two movies--Twelve O’Clock High and Memphis Belle--he thinks captured some of the experiences he went through; also liked Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, because it featured B-25 planes; never returned to his base with an undropped bomb. (03:31)

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  October 26, 2011
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