McMullen, Mel

Mel McMullen was born June 5, 1925 in southern California, growing up in the Los Angeles area.  He had two brothers, and both parents were employed; his father was a master welder, and his mother became a phone operator when the boys were grown.  With that, they were insulated from the worst effects of the Great Depression, though Mel remembers seeing the Hoovervilles and food lines of the era.  When the war came, Mel was in high school, and he recalls learning of the Pearl Harbor attack – and seeing the wartime newsreels at the movies.  His older brother was already in the US Army Air Corps, and Mel opted to do the same, hoping to be a pilot.  He was selected as a gunner instead, and sent to gunnery school in Las Vegas, where he was crewed up on a 10-man B-24 Liberator bomber crew.  They were sent to Miami Beach, Florida and sent overseas; en route they found out they were on their way to China where they’d become part of the 14th Air Force.  They flew via Brazil, Africa and Yemen en route to China.  Once there, it became their task to bomb Japanese targets in eastern China, which could include “flying over the hump” of the Himalayan Mountains.  In addition to the brutal weather conditions, Mel and the men in his crew faced the normal realities of any bomber crew, including flak, though they were lucky in that they did not see enemy fighters by that time in the war.  They also had the chance to experience some of China, namely in visits to Kunming.  The war ended with the atomic bombs in August 1945, and Mel was back home that December.  Upon his return he met a young defense industry worker named Jennifer who had rented a room at his mother’s home.  They married the next summer and went on to raise their own family and play their role in postwar America.  Mel and Jennifer have remained very active and have traveled the word and remained dedicated to the cause of remembrance.  In that regard they have visited China on a number of occasions, where they have worked to maintain the memories of the Flying Tigers and Sino-American cooperation and friendship.  Crestwood students were able to zoom with Mel and Jennifer in April 2024.