S/Sgt. 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
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
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
Link To Crew Information