Allen R. Mooney originally enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945, and later transferred to the newly formed U.S. Air Force. He enjoyed a 21-year career as a crew chief on B-47 and B-29 bombers with the Strategic Air Command.
When Allen Mooney was 14 or 15 years old, his Uncle Homer went into the U.S. Navy.
“He was in World War II right from the beginning,” Mooney said. “I saw him in uniform, and I envied him.”
Mooney also wanted to get off his father’s New Hampshire poultry farm, so at 16 years old, he went to the nearest Navy recruiting office with some slightly altered identity papers and tried to enlist.
“They told me to go home and grow up,” he recalled.
When Mooney turned 17 the next year, he got his parents’ permission and went back to the recruiting station. This time, the U.S. Navy welcomed him without question.
“I was young and I just wanted to do my service,” he said. “I wanted to help my country.”
Mooney entered the service on April 18, 1945. Trained as an aircraft mechanic, he was assigned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville where he was to work on F4U Corsair fighters and other planes, but he didn’t stay long. By the time he arrived at his duty station, Japan had surrendered.
“They cancelled operations because the war was over,” he said. After a year and two months, Mooney was transferred into the Navy Reserve. “We basically didn’t have anything to do, so they kicked us out.”
Mooney decided to put his skills to use by joining the newly formed U.S. Air Force. His time in the service included a memorable encounter with Gen. Curtis LeMay, the architect behind Allied strategic bombing campaigns during World War II.
Mooney was at an airfield in England, fueling a plane. LeMay came striding out of a hangar, smoking a cigar. Mooney told the general he might want to put the cigar out; the whole field could catch fire.
“It wouldn’t dare,” the notoriously gruff general barked.
Mooney would spend the next 21 years in the Air Force, serving as a flying crew chief on B-47 and later B-29 bombers with the Strategic Air Command.
Early in his career, he was flying on a B-47 back to Dyess Air Base near Abilene, Texas, from Guam. The plane had missed its refueling tanker over the Pacific Ocean and was running on fumes when the pilot had to abort the landing at Dyess because of a faulty approach.
“The tower said they would send a tanker up,” he said. “We said, ‘Don’t bother. We’ll crash by the time they get to us.”
Mooney recalled sitting on the edge of his seat as the pilot turned the plane and lined it back up on the runway. The engines sputtered out just as the wheels touched down.
“We had a good pilot and got on the ground,” he said. “Everybody was waiting on us and we had a big celebration.”
Seventeen years ago, Mooney met his wife, Margaret, and moved to West Columbia, where their home is served by Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative. He died on June 26, 2012, and was buried with military honors at Ft. Jackson National Cemetery.