Tonight’s Veteran Salute learned about persistence and commitment early on.
In his younger years as a Boy Scout he would sell in total 400 dozen donuts to pay for a trip that toured the northeast.
But scouting wasn’t Joe Oliver’s only passion.
Joe also had a passion for football.
He said he would give up scouting to pursue the game and still regrets it to this day.
However, a busted knee during a game in his senior year would end his hopes of playing for OU.
That’s when his life took another turn.
“It didn’t keep me out of the service, but it kept me from playing additional football,” says Joe.
The military came calling.
Joe had been dating his now-wife for about a year when the war broke out in 1941.
He would finally convince her to marry him before he took a deal from the government that guaranteed Joe could keep his job with the Kress Company if he enlisted in the military.
So Joe enlisted in the Army Air Corps and train to be a turret gunner and was told he’d then head overseas.
“The trucks came,” says Joe. “We were all lined up. The trucks left. We were left. Everyone of us. Two barracks went to England. They found our orders in England.”
Joe’s barrack was left behind and told to wait another 30 days for more orders.
He wound up in Shreveport, Louisiana attached to a B-25 squadron.
“It was the first time I actually got into a power turret in an airplane. I was tickled to death. And I sat there, it seemed like all day but I went over that thing from top to bottom because the rumor was we’d end up being a gunner overseas,” remembers Joe.
But instead of heading overseas, Joe would take part in establishing a school to train more aviators.
Joe himself would be in charge of setting up a gunnery school.
He remembers a fellow instructor begging various commanders to take him overseas with them.
“Well, he went over. Six weeks later we got a letter from him he says, ‘Boys if you can stay where you are…they shoot real bullets over here!’,” says Joe. “We never heard from him again.”
Joe returned home in 1945. He and his wife had two kids and Joe went back to work for the Kress Company.
He’d later go into sales, working in insurance and real estate.
Joe and his wife still live here in Wichita and have been married for 76 years.
“The secret honey is you say I kiss an angel every morning. And I haven’t missed very many,” smiles Joe.