Wilsonville veteran participates in night raids over Japan
Every two minutes, a B-29 Superfortress departed on a mission to bomb Japanese oil refineries.
Charbonneau resident Dale Long, 97, flew in five missions as part of strategic bombing raids from June to August 1945 to obliterate Japan's oil resources.
Long served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II from 1942-46 and completed three years of navigator and air gunner training, though his position was a navigator. He entered the U.S. Army Officers Reserve Corps in 1946.
During WWII, Long became a second lieutenant and flew in the 315th Bombardment Wing, 357th Bombardment Squadron, 331st Bombardment Group as part of a 10-member crew.
Long entered the Army in 1942 and was sent to many different areas, including Texas and Nebraska, where he trained with the new B-29 bombers — and met Vivie, the love of his life.
When Long was deployed from Nebraska in 1945 and was sent on his first bombing mission as a navigator, Long said he felt antsy.
"It really bothered me," he said.
But after the first mission was finished and he'd been shot at a few times, he relaxed: "I lived. That was about the end of it, (and) it didn't bother me anymore."
The B-29 planes were painted black so aircraft searchlights couldn't locate them. Long remembers a near-aerial collision during one of his crew's missions.
Long told the pilot to look out of the window. A Japanese plane was unaware of the B-29 and flew only 50 feet away, right in front of the crew's plane. Long remembers seeing the faces of the men in the other plane.
The last mission Long went on was to bomb an oil refinery in Akita Prefecture. Once the mission was complete, his crew was told to head back — the war was over.
Before Long was discharged, he went on final last missions for a supply drop in Japan.
During his service, Long's crew received an Air Medal from President Harry Truman. Long's awards also included an American Theater Service Medal and an Asiatic Pacific Service Medal with two bronze stars.
Despite his wartime activities, the Oregon native's real pride and joy was his late wife, Vivie.
Long said he didn't ask Vivie to marry him, but instead asked her to wait until the war was over because he didn't want her to become a widow.
Though it took him a year to return home after the war because there weren't enough ships to bring the troops home from overseas, he eventually married Vivie in Texas, just days after being discharged from the Army Air Forces in Fort Lewis, Washington.
He and Vivie were married for 71 years and together they had two children, Marise and John.
"It's an honor to have a father who is still with us, who served in World War ll and it's fun to hear him tell about his recollections of that time," Marise said.
Long grew up in Lebanon, Oregon, on his family's farm, and after the war he attended the University of Oregon to become an architect. (Long had originally attended Oregon State University for two years to study chemistry prior to being drafted into the war).
Both of Long's children were born in Oregon. Long worked in various architectural firms throughout the country before moving his family to Tacoma, Washington, entering into his own architectural business, Home Designers Inc. Vivie worked alongside him as his secretary, running the business side of the company.
Long moved to Charbonneau in 1991 and designed his Charbonneau home for the couple.
"I was pretty much on my own. I liked that," Long said of his career.
Vivie died in 2017, but Long remains in the home his wife loved dearly.
Long said he felt relieved after the war was over.
"I'm proud of my service and that's it," he said.
"We forget in our time now, especially generations before ours, what it was like to be alive in that time," Marise said. "I try to imagine for both of my parents who were in their late teens, early 20s when Pearl Harbor was bombed and we entered the war on two fronts and men in particular, but women too, were sent overseas. Many gave their all. Both my dad and my husband's father, who served in Europe, too, survived and that is why we are here and I have children and grandchildren. It was their sacrifices that allowed our country to continue and to prosper and flourish, and that's why they're called the Greatest Generation."
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)