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A senior at 25

John Biege, Fort Dodge, U.S. Air Force

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
World War II Air Force veteran John Biege, who now resides at Friendship Haven, reflects on his time in the service.

World War II U.S. Air Force veteran John Biege, who lives at Friendship Haven, was the senior member of the crew on his B-29 during his enlistment from 1943 to 1945.

“I was the oldest in the crew,” he said. “I was 25 years old. Two were 18, the top and the tail gunner. The rest were under 25 except me.”

He already had a life started before he was drafted.

“I had been married and had a child,” he said. “I was working pretty darn hard for about 19 dollars a week.”

When he got his notice, he reported to Fort Snelling in Minnesota with a group of friends from the area for his intake.

“I went up to Fort Snelling with a group of guys that I played with, drank with and had a lot of fun with,” he said. “When I got there, I said I want to go into the Army. The guy said, ‘you’re going to be a pilot and I’ll sit here until you do, too.'”

The pair looked at each other for a few minutes.

“I said I guess I want to be a pilot then,” Biege said.

He didn’t quite get to do that.

“They said they had enough pilots,” Biege said. “They needed gunners, so we became gunners.”

He trained at Lowry Field near Denver, Colorado.

Then he got to work with a whole different aircraft, the P51 Mustang fighter at a different base.

“That was the best fighter in the world,” he fondly recalled. “Once we put in the Rolls Royce engines. We were training pilots, they were young, 19 or 20.

“After six months or so, they sent us back to Denver because the B-29 had just come out, it had remote fire control, you put your sights on the enemy craft and it compensated for it.”

His last day flying was a marathon.

“We flew seven hours and never got out of the pattern, it was landing and takeoff, landing and takeoff,” he said.

He didn’t make it overseas.

“The war ended within about two months,” he said. “We were scheduled to go to Guam.”

He continued to fly after he left the Air Force.

“I flew more hours after the war than during,” he said. “I had about 500 hours in my own plane.”

He’s also jumped out of a few perfectly good, perfectly functional aircraft.

“I’ve got about five or six jumps,” he said. “The last one was when I was 92 years old.”

Biege is 102.

After the war he spent his working career in the meat packing industry.

He started with the Wilson Co. where he stayed for six years, then went to work for Hormel.

“I worked for Hormel for 38 years,” he said proudly. “I started as a laborer and finished as a corporate production supervisor.”

He ended up in Fort Dodge when Hormel sent him from their Austin, Minnesota plant to the Fort Dodge plant.

“They wanted me to do some experimental work,” he said. “It was supposed to take a week. After I went back they said go down for another week. That lasted 21 years.”

The company put him charge of another part of the plant.

“They said you’re now in charge of all the canning. I said I don’t know anything about canning. They said you sure will in a hurry,” he said.

He was married at 21 to Dorothy Evanson.

“We were married 11 days short of 73 years,” he said.

They have two daughters.

Dianne and Susan.

“The baby is now 75,” he said. “The other one is 77. They told me, ‘dad, we’re getting old too.”

He’s moved beyond great grandchildren to the next step.

“I have three great great-grandchildren,” he said. “The latest was born about two weeks ago.”