Oliver Martin Owens Jr.

1919 - 2008

Army
WWII

Their Story

Oliver Owens Jr, known to most by his middle name Martin, was born January 21, 1919, the only child of Betty and Oliver Owens Sr. in Chicago, Illinois. His parents had both been born in Chicago and continued to call it home as O. Martin Jr. grew up, graduated high school in 1938, and attended two years of Ray Advertising School[1] Unfortunately, his hopes of a career in advertising were cut short as Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, causing the U.S. to join the efforts of the allies in WWII and eclipsing the dreams of Martin and so many other young Americans. In June of the following year, O. Martin Jr. enlisted into the U.S. Army Air Corps.

However, the members of the Owens family were no stranger to the struggles of war. Martin’s father was enlisted in the Army in 1918 during the prior World War and was discharged only a month before the birth of his son.[2] In a way, Martin was following in his father’s footsteps, risking his life and making great sacrifices for his country. Yet, unlike his father who likely battled in the trenches of WWI, Martin took to the skies, trained in the operation of the B-17 Bomber, the “Flying Fortress.”

The Sunshine Boys in front of a bomber

After boot camp and other rigorous training points, Martin was thrown headfirst into the horrors of war, stationed in Norfolk, England as a member of the 452nd Bombing Group.[3] The 452nd controlled Deopham Green, an airfield with one main 2000-yard runway and two compact auxiliary runways as well as living courters for around 3000 airmen.[4] These strips of concrete and bunk houses were Martin’s haven during his time overseas. Doepham Green ran a total of 250 missions, bought with the high price of 140 lost airmen. Martin, with the 730th Bomb Squadron (one of four squadrons in the 452nd) completed 33 of said missions,[5] flying over Germany, eliminating supply lines, hitting coastal defenses before the landing of ground troops, and bombing other strategic points throughout Nazi territory. The 452nd was even honored with a Distinguished Unit Citation after bombing and destroying an integral “jet-fighter base at Kaltenkirchen, northern Germany on April 7, 1945, under intense pressure from enemy fighters and anti-aircraft flak.”[6] It is unclear what exact B-17 team Martin was a member of, as there were dozens flying out of Doepham daily. However, evidence suggests that he likely flew in the flying fortress nicknamed “Lady Gay,” which sustained heavy instrument damages during a bombing run and was forced to perform an emergency landing in a field just outside of Ghent, Belgium, an extremely dangerous operation while in enemy territory. After the necessary repairs were made the team returned to England and crash-landed on Doepham Green, commended for their bravery and determination.[7] Members of Lady Gay were awarded both the Air Metal and the Distinguished Flying Cross on account of the momentous number of missions completed and the selfless sacrifices made throughout the process.[8]

Returning home to Chicago well decorated, Martin wed Wilma Walton in Oak Park, IL with whom he raised four children, three of whom are alive today. He later moved to Barrington, IL, and finally, Waynesville, OH where he passed away on December 29, 2008.[9] While many of the details of Martin’s past, in and out of the military, are unknown, his character shines through his actions, the honors recognized, and those whom he surrounded himself with. His bravery was a commanding force against the evil of WWII and his loyalty to his country brought him to be buried on the Rock Island Arsenal along side the warriors who fought the same fight.

References

[1]WWII Draft Registration Cards,” Fold3, 2012.

[2]U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” Ancestry.

[3]Martin O Owens Jr,” American Air Museum in Britain.

[4]Deopham Green,” American Air Museum in Britain.

[5]Oliver Martin Owens Jr’s Memorial,” Veterans Legacy Memorial (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).

[6]452nd Bomb Group,” American Air Museum in Britain.

[7]Deopham Green.” American Air Museum in Britain.

[8]Original WWII 730th Bomb Squadron B-17 ‘Lady Gay’ Tail Gunner Grouping,” International Military Antiques. “Oliver Martin Owens Jr’s Memorial,” Veterans Legacy Memorial (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).

[9]Wilma Lucile Walton,” Ancestry, accessed June 20, 2022.