Ruptured Duck Nose Art

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Corporal Roger Lovelace

Corporal Roger V. Lovelace


From the CCG “Picture”,
California Canners & Growers
Summer 1967-

“He Missed 30 Seconds Over Tokyo Bay By a Day…but Roger Lovelace, CCG’s Chief Plant Engineer, went on to win the DFC and 14 Air Medals for 76 Missions over Europe.

A man who trained with the Doolittle Raiders but missed their famous Tokyo flight because of a freak, last-minute accident is an executive of California Canners and Growers. And when the Raiders held their 25th Annual Reunion in Alameda in April, Chief Plant Engineer Roger V. Lovelace cut up old flying touches with his former buddies, including Lt. Gen. James Doolittle.

Some of them he had not seen since late March of 1942. On the final day of training in Florida Lovelace was riding in an auto which was wrecked, and suffered a broken back. While he lay in a hospital, the Raiders flew to Alameda Naval Air Station where they boarded a carrier—“The Shangri La” mentioned by President Roosevelt when he announced their Tokyo raid of April 18, 1942.

After seven months, Roger made a full recovery and ultimately went to England where he flew 76 bombing missions—including two on D-Day—in B-26 two-engine bombers. He was the gunner radio operator. But the Doolittle group held his affection.
One of the many books written about the raid, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” was the work of Roger’s pilot, Lt. Ted Lawson. An accomplished artist, Roger dubbed the Lawson plane “The Ruptured Duck” and painted Donald Duck on the fuselage. Lovelace was only 18 when he joined the Air Force in 1940 out of his Portland Oregon, home. “I had no money to go to college and I couldn’t find a job, so I thought I’d go in for three years and get it over with.”

Actually, with the war on, he served five years gaining rank of technical sergeant and picking up the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal 14 times and a collection of other honors. Seventy-six missions- a man-sized accomplishment in itself considering the maximum for most American bombing crews in Europe was 50- has given Roger a wealth of recollections. He has particular reason to remember returning to England in the fall of 1943 after a strike on a German air base in France. They limped home in a B-26 riddled with almost 250 flak holes, with the pilot reassuring his craft they could make it. A crash landing wiped out the aircraft but the men survived unhurt.
“Afterward the parachute foreman asked- “-who’s the top turret gunner?” I told him I was.
“ ‘I’ve got a souvenir for you,’ he said. He handed me a piece of shrapnel as big as my little finger that he’d dug out of the center of my parachute pack. I still have that fragment at home.
“And that was the one time I ever had asked permission to bale out! Somebody upstairs must have told my pilot to turn me down.”

The GI Bill of Rights, for which his service qualified him, sent him through the University of Oregon (B.S. 1950). He took additional studies in engineering at San Jose State, Foothill College and U.C. Extension. He and his wife, Margrette, were married in 1949. After working in construction several years Roger joined a CCG predecessor, Richmond-Chase, in 1957 as an engineering draftsman. He advanced to chief draftsman in 1959, and to chief plant engineer in 1965. The gods of battle, Roger figures, must have had a soft spot for him. In all his wartime aerial exploits he never was more than scratched “and then not enough to earn a Purple Heart!”
His only wartime hurts resulted from the auto accident—which occurred off-duty—and that hasn’t slowed him. Roger is a determined golfer (“a determined golfer…that’s the guy who never gets below the high 80s but still won’t quit”) and also is a bowler and hunter.
Of the Raider’s 25th Reunion ex-top gunner Lovelace said-- “many of my old friends stayed in the Air Force. The rank they have achieved is unbelievable. Men I knew as corporals and buck sergeants now are lieutenant colonels and colonels; and 1st lieutenants and captains are brigadier generals and major generals.”

Besides his responsibilities for directing engineering work throughout the CCG system he is former vice president of the Santa Clara County Chapter of the American Institute of Plant Engineers, vice president of his local Toastmasters, and vice president of the St. Timothy Lutheran Church Council in San Pablo. The Lovelaces and their son, Richard, 14, live in Richmond.

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