WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Lynn Ikerd was a 16-year-old teenager in Flint, Michigan, when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio.
By that time, the young man had already decided he wanted to join the Army Air Force as a pilot.
“I enlisted because I wanted to select the service I wanted to go in. The Air Force, the Army Air Force because I had a teenage desire to learn how to fly,” said Ikerd. “That was in the early part of 1943.”
Yes, Ikerd, who KSN met earlier this summer as he visited the Warbird Squadron at the B-29 Doc Hangar, was still in high school, but he wanted to fight for his country.
“Our basic training was done on Miami Beach. There was a lot of hotels around. The army evacuated civilians. They did their military training in the streets of Miami Beach,” said Ikerd.
That was in the summer of 1944.
After that training was complete, Ikerd was sent to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, to learn how to fly the PT-29 primary trainer.
“After that, they transferred us to a basic flying school where they had a little bit more powerful airplane, and we learned to fly that one. That was in Garden City, Kansas, at that airfield there on the east side of the city,” said Ikerd.
Ikerd flew more basic training planes in Independence, Kansas, before he was transferred to Waco, Texas, for advanced training on planes built by Cessna and Beechcraft.
“We had a ceremony on March 11, 1945, and that was a ceremony in which we graduated, received our wings, and also received our rank of second lieutenants,” said Ikerd.
Ikerd was assigned to become a co-pilot on the B-17 bomber.
“That was our heavy bomber in Europe. That and the B-24, which was another big aircraft. As big as a B-17. And they had those in the Air Force, but we learned to fly them,” said Ikerd.
After flying only 70 hours in the B-17, the war in Europe ended.
“They wanted to move us into the B-29, which they used in the Pacific. They also used B-17s and B-24s, but they developed B-29s specifically to combat the Japanese because we had bases on islands. Like one was in Guam. And that was about maybe close to 2,000 miles away from Japan,” explained Ikerd. “So, they wanted an airplane, a big one, that carried a lot of gas and also carried a fair amount of bombs.”
The B-29s that Ikerd trained on were identical to Wichita’s beloved “Doc.” However, Ikerd never co-piloted the B-29 in the Pacific Theater.
“I’d only got about 15 hours in (training in the B-29) before the Japanese war ended. You know, they dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, and they surrendered. So, they didn’t need more crew or airplanes over there,” said Ikerd.
Ikerd, who still has a love for military and civilian aircraft, was honorably discharged in November of 1945 and attended Purdue University on the GI Bill. He graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
“I have really enjoyed the time because nobody was shooting at me. And anytime when you get over to a theater or a war theater, you could be injured or killed,” said Ikerd.
Ikerd worked for Cessna as a flight test engineer and a test pilot for 38 years. He retired 30 years ago in 1993. He will celebrate his 98th birthday on Sept. 8.
If you want to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Jason Lamb at email@example.com.