I was always drawn to airplanes and flight. As a youngster I built and flew model planes. I recall that when I was eight my mother could not find me—I had ridden my bicycle to Roosevelt Field, four miles from my home in Hempstead, to observe the planes.
In 1940 I started working at Grumman Aircraft and used my first paycheck for flying lessons. In January 1943 I enlisted in the air force for pilot training and graduated in January 1944 as a fighter pilot. At the age of 21 I was flying a P47 Thunderbolt in the 12th Air Force, 86th Fighter Group, 527th Squadron and saw combat in Italy, France, and Germany. My plane, part of a flight of four aircraft, carried two 500 pound bombs and eight 50 caliber machine guns mounted on the wings.
Our mission was to bomb and strafe trains, trucks, bridges, airfields, and enemy troops. At times we were called to support front line troops by bombing nearby targets, often hidden tanks, that stymied the advancing troops. Almost always we came under heavy anti-aircraft fire, which took its toll of our planes and pilots. On one mission in Italy we were assigned to bomb a small bridge and then find targets of opportunity to strafe with machine gun fire. We were hampered by a heavy fog which reduced visibility to only one mile. We spotted a troop train and were firing at the engine when I found myself flying dangerously between smoke stacks that I had not noticed and narrowly missed hilling. We did manage to hit the troop train and set it on fire.
On that same mission we spotted six German tanks on a road. As I was diving toward the tanks, and now only ten feet over the ground, I spotted a two story house next to the target. Pulling up fast, I missed the house by only a few feet. This “target fascination” — where you focus so intently on a target that you fly into it—was a common danger fighter pilots faced. When I returned to base after this harrowing experience, I appealed to the flight surgeon to send me to rest camp. In all I flew 112 missions and received a Distinguished Flying Cross, twelve air medals, and many campaign medals.
I now am a volunteer in two museums on Long Island devoted to the history of flight. One museum, American Air Power, located on Republic Airport in Farmingdale, has twelve vintage World war II planes, including the P 47 Thunderbolt, the type that I flew. Cradle of Aviation on Mitchell Field features the history of aviation on Long Island.
It has an IMax Theater and a non flying P 47. 15, 638 P 47s were built but only six still fly.
Read the March 2007 VIEWPOINTE of Boca Pointe article - PDF format
In 2006, the Library of Congress started a "veterans Project. Veterans for all walks of life, all branches of service were interview to preserve their "own words" history.
Ben was interviewed in September of 2006 at the Northport VA.
Dedicated to our Dad.. Lt. Benjamin Rosman
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