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WWII bomber jacket tells a story of service

As Douglas Naversen of Jacksonville pulls on his father’s bomber jacket, he says, “It fits me like a glove.”

Naverson adds that a son and daughter loved to wear it to middle and high schools in Medford — when leather bomber jackets were trendy.

But one family member, Army Air Force Lieutenant Enoch Naversen, loved it best, wearing it as navigator on 30 harrowing World War II missions, bombing Nazi Germany from a B-17 ... and living to tell about it.

Enoch’s B-17 “Flying Fortress” was called “El Lobo II” and shows a cocky, slavering cartoon wolf, its tongue hanging out, with 30 bombs painted below the animal — one for each trek over the English Channel to decimate the factories, docks, warehouses and harbors of Germany.

The whole crew got their flight jackets painted in London with the same cartoon. It was labeled “Lobo II” because, presumably, an earlier Lobo became a casualty of combat. After the war, Enoch wanted to wear the jacket, but not the bellicose image, so he scrubbed it off with turpentine.

In recent years, Naversen found an artist to restore it, using a photo provided by the plane’s captain, Richard Fitzhugh.

“When I was growing up, I looked up to him but, to tell you the truth, I didn’t realize how perilous his missions were,” says Naversen. “Bullets from German fighters were flying around inside the plane. One nicked his arm (a wound sufficient to get the Purple Heart), but he never reported it. I am very lucky to be here.”

Enoch’s missions ran from June through December 1944. He was in the lead bomber in a large formation, so the 10 crew members got to go home after 30 missions, Douglas said. The other aviators, behind the more vulnerable lead plane had to fly 35 missions. Enoch’s wife was expecting a child during that time and, after the war, had three more ... including Douglas.

Framed photos depict the warhorse plane, its crew and a long list of its targets, starting with a big ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt.

“That one was important. Without ball bearings, the whole war machine comes to a stop,” says Naversen. “Flying these missions, they would get out of bed at oh-dark-30 — the morale had to be very bad.”

Like most men in WWII, Enoch didn’t talk much about the war; but did keep a diary, which his son still has. His father went on to a career in the Air Force, as navigator in the C-130 cargo plane and giant B-52 bomber of the Cold War. He often flew in and out of Vietnam during that war, says Naversen, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Naversen, who has studied the Second World War in some depth, says missions were much more dangerous the year before his father got there, with the U.S. losing up to 26 percent of it bomber force in the worst day.

However, he adds, just before his father got there, America began flooding the skies with the powerful P-51 fighter, and soon “Germany was running out of fuel, planes and pilots and we had positive air superiority,” averaging only a 7 percent loss daily.

This greatly improved Naversen’s chances of growing up in an Air Force family, eventually attending the Air Force Academy, where he learned they would put 2 percent of students through medical school. Naversen became a dermatologist, served in the Air Force in that role and moved to practice here in 1982.

His dad wanted him to continue the tradition in aviation, but Naversen skipped a generation. His son is now a pilot with Allegiant Air, based in Florida, flying the Airbus 320.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Dr. Douglas Naversen has his father's helmet and mask from when he served during WW ll. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune
Dr. Douglas Naversen wears his father's bomber jacket at his home in Jacksonville Saturday. Naversen's father flew 30 missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune