Oral History Interview with George A. Tolleson Page: 1 of 1
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VETERAN: GEORGE A. TOLLESON
HIGHEST RANK/GRADE: STAFF SERGEANT
INTERVIEWED BY: BRENT CARLISLE
At the age of 19, George Tolleson left Lodi, Texas, for basic training at Wichita Falls after being drafted by the
Army. George was transferred to the Air Corps after completing his basic training and flew to Harlingen in
South Texas for gunner training, then to March Field at Riverside, California for overseas training. At Mayther
Field in Sacramento, California, the crew was put together for a brand new B-24 heavy bomber. The pilot was the
only other person from Texas and the oldest crewmember at age 24. He had already been a trainer for fighter
pilots. The crew began training at night in California. During one training exercise, George noticed an engine
was on fire due to pilot error. The pilot adjusted the fuel mixture and the fire dispersed. George felt that this was
the best training he received. He was then assigned to be a nose gunner, meaning he was in charge of guarding
the nose of the plane with two .50 caliber rifles.
The training was completed and the bomb bays were filled half with guns and ammunition and half with beer
and whiskey. From Sacramento they flew to Honolulu, which was the last paved airstrip the crew would see for
25 months. Canton Island was their next destination. The island was so small that the runway went the full length
of the island. It took three passes before they made a successful landing. They refueled and left for the island of
Tarawa. Here they were loaded with bombs, given coordinates, and aerial photographs of their destination. New
Guinea was their target--a jungle area with a bridge target in the middle of it. There were rumors that "head
hunters" were in the target area, and they were told to be prepared in case they crashed.
New Guinea was the place of his most memorable moment of the war. There were no flight laws overseas,
so when a pilot flew in, stunts were expected. A P-38 Lightning came in doing some of the most impressive aerial
acrobatics he had seen. When he pulled up next to George's plane, they noticed the word "Tex" on the side of his
plane. Tex crawled out of his fighter wearing boots, cowboy hat, and to top it off, two pearl handled .45 pistols
in side holsters.
After completing their campaign in New Guinea and Las Negroes, they flew to the Samoan naval base in the
Philippines. They consistently bombed the oilfields of Borneo and Balik Papan (sic) that was heavily fortified.
Normally 25-100 bombers flew each mission. Here they faced the "ak-ak" guns of the opposition, and at least one
bomber was lost on every mission. They flew every other day and sometimes at night. Occasionally, they would
fool the "ak-ak" guns by using foil to confuse the opposition's radar. They flew several missions to Borneo and
Formosa (Taiwan). These took 15-17 hours round trip. Rubber tanks were used in two of the four bomb bays for
the extended trips.
George flew a mission to Formosa the day after Hiroshima was bombed. They dropped no bombs, but took
pictures and were instructed to neutralize the ground troop movement. They flew three more missions before
At the end of the war, George was put on an A-20 twin engine plane that was smaller, faster, and more
maneuverable. He later boarded a ship in Japan, and 15 days later landed in Seattle, then went by train to El Paso
where he was discharged at the age of 22 with 6 bronze stars and a rank of staff sergeant.
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Tolleson, George A. Oral History Interview with George A. Tolleson, text, Date Unknown; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth884687/m1/1/: accessed July 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Lee College.