Aki Solomos

Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.

Interview With WWII Veteran AMMP 2nd Class Bernard Nagel

WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel being interviewed by Aki Solomos May 23, 2015

WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel being interviewed by Aki Solomos
May 23, 2015

WWII Veteran Interview Series, 2015
In 1941, the Navy created a new branch called the Naval Air Transport Service.  At its peak in WWII, it had 26,000 servicemen operating on 540 aircraft, with its concentration of their force in the Pacific fighting against Imperial Japan.  After the war, the Defense Department combined the Air Force’s and Navy’s transport branches into a more efficient Military Air Transport Command.
WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel at the American Airpower Museum's Memorial Day Weekend event. May 23, 2015

WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel at American Airpower Museum’s Memorial Day Weekend event, 2015 -Photo courtesy of Colleen Donahue

Like many eager men and boys in the 1940’s, Bernard Nagel joined the Navy at the young age of 17 in 1943 and continued to serve until 1946.  As an Aviation Machinist’s Mate Propeller mechanic in the NATS, he worked on ‘the big boys’.  “When Pearl Harbor happened, a lot of us wanted to join, but I was too young at the time.  As soon as they allowed me, I started my service in Hawaii.  From there, I went on to the Philippines and Guam.”

I asked him what was it like while he was serving.  “We lived in tents as we went base to base.  And it was hot as hell!”  The types of aircraft he worked on were the Martin PBM Mariners, Douglas C-47 Skytrains, and Douglas C-54 Skymasters.

Martin PBM Mariner, 1943

Martin PBM Mariner, 1943

American Airpower Museum C-47 Skytrain 'Second Chance' on display for visitors. -Photo courtesy of Colleen Donahue

American Airpower Museum C-47 Skytrain ‘Second Chance’.
-Photo courtesy of Colleen Donahue

Douglas C-54 Skymaster

Douglas C-54 Skymaster

Grumman TBF Avenger

Grumman TBF Avenger

As an aviation and WWII enthusiast, I had to ask, “Which aircraft did you enjoy working on the most?”  “Oh, I liked them all.  But there was one aircraft I was most afraid of.  The TBFs.  I hated working on those ball turrets!  Pretty dangerous.  You can get stuck in there.”  Entering service in 1942, the Grumman TBF Avenger first saw action at the Battle of Midway.  With its designation as a Torpedo, Bomber, and Fighter aircraft, it saw most of its successes as a carrier-based torpedo aircraft, having seen action all over the Pacific including the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal.  Despite major losses in the beginning, it went on to serve the military until 1960.

“I didn’t see much action myself, but I do remember those hot tents, and working hard to keep those planes flying.”  As we spoke, each time he heard an airplane flying by, his attention turned toward the sound of the propeller as it roared by, remembering the times he worked on them.  Today, at the age of 89, he lives in a home in Hauppauge, NY.  No more tents for 2nd Class Bernard Nagel.

WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel admiring the aircraft display during Memorial Day Weekend, 2015. -Photo courtesy of Colleen Donahue

WWII Veteran 2nd Class Bernard Nagel admiring the aircraft display during Memorial Day Weekend, 2015.
-Photo courtesy of Colleen Donahue

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2 comments on “Interview With WWII Veteran AMMP 2nd Class Bernard Nagel

  1. GP Cox
    June 2, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this interview with one brave veteran who worked ‘behind the scenes.’ They rarely get the credit they deserve!

  2. Aki Solomos
    June 2, 2015

    Stay tuned for more to come! Will be posting my interviews with many other WWII veterans every few days this month.

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