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S/Sgt. Rodman Z. Reade
722nd Squadron
Rodman Z. Reade

Rodman Z. Reade

Rodman Z. Reade spent his early years in Los Angles California, the only child of a demanding and emotionally distant working single mother.  Perhaps as a result of his less than ideal childhood he developed a passion bordering on reverence for the written word.  Although not a natural student dad managed to graduate form the prestigious Webb School in Claremont, California and after that attended Occidental College.  During summers he worked at Yosemite National Park where he discovered a life long love of nature and the great outdoors.  

When America entered the war dad was a supervisor at and aircraft factory in southern California that was deemed vital to the war effort and thus exempt from the draft.  None the less he volunteered and was admitted to Officer Candidate School where he promptly washed-out due to difficulty dealing with authority.  From there he found his way to the position of radio operator and waist gunner on a B-24 in the 450th Bomb Group.  Having been born on November 5th 1914 S/Sgt. Reade was undoubtedly one of the oldest flight crew members in the unite.  However his advanced age, pushing 30, didn't prevent him from completing the required 51 combat missions without being shot down or suffering so much as a scratch.  In fact his entire crew made it back without serious injury, an achievement that many considered downright miraculous.  Curiously his war time letters home to friends weren't even about the war.  Instead dad wrote about literature, music, art and theater.  

I came along later in my dad's life, but he was always physically fit and never really lost his youthful appearance and so I didn't feel that I had an "old" dad.  What was it like having a former Cottontail for a father?  He was anything but spit and polish.  During the 60's, when I was a young boy, he bought a second hand VW van, painted flowers on it and we'd drive from our home in Palo Alto to San Francisco to play at being hippies.  I'd like to stress that Dad never expressed any animosity for the enemy.  He considered war to be a misunderstanding between nations and wouldn't let me watch the TV show Hogan's Heroes because he felt it was disrespectful to the Germans.  

For all this dad seldom talked of the war.  He tried to put it behind him but was never at peace with it.   The war, and his boyhood, haunted him always.   I tried to understand and, on occasion, he attempted to answer my questions.  I asked if he wasn't afraid.  Dad replied that during his time at the aircraft factory in California a friend and co-worker asked to borrow his power drill.  My dad lent his friend the drill not knowing that it was defective.  Not half an hour later his friend lay dead, electrocuted by that faulty drill my dad had just handed him.  Dad's point was you can die anywhere and at anytime.   I pressed the point and asked what was the scariest thing that ever happened to him.  He replied that on his very last mission a 20 mm shell struck his plane only a few feet above his head peppering the top and sides of the fuselage with countless tiny shrapnel holes but, as incredible as it might sound, there wasn't a mark on him!   Dad credited his survival to the skill of his pilot and to luck; nothing else.  As far as he was concerned divine intervention played no part.   

Dad passed away on May 15th, 1994 and was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.  A life long atheist, there is no religious symbol on his marker.  Instead it bears the emblem of the 15th  Army Air Force.  As of this writing on December 2016 S/Sgt. Reade's widow, Gloria Reade of Palo Alto California still misses her husband dearly and thinks of him daily.  I'm sure my father would consider that his greatest tribute.

Information courtesy of Gordon Reade, son of S/Sgt. Reade

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