Anthony Ross Filling His Role in History: From Olean to WWII B-52 Bomber
Story by John Thomas Staff Writer
One day when Anthony (Bob) Ross was in grade school in Olean, the children were let out of school to go see a special visitor. Crowds lined up along State Street and waved as the motorcade sped by. In the back of one of the cars was none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who at the time was running for Governor of New York. As a boy, young Bob loved building and flying model airplanes. It was his love of aviation, which led him to work at the Curtis Wright plant in Buffalo building airplanes. Then came Pearl Harbor.
Within days of the attack, Ross went to the Army recruiter and asked to sign up. To his dismay they gave him deferment. In those very early days of the war, the army simply had no place to put a recruit who wanted to fly. “They put me on hold for a few months,” he tells me. But, within months the army had created flight schools and training facilities, and they called him up. He trained all over the South: Arkansas, Mississippi, and South Carolina. He graduated as a fighter pilot, “at the time they didn’t need fighter pilots, but they needed bomber pilots.” The Army assigned him to a B-25 bomber. Ross was part of the first group of pilots to take B-25s to the Pacific war theatre. They could only fly at night using celestial navigation, and had to strip down the aircraft so they could make the 2300-mile trip without running out of gas.
He got his first taste of war upon his arrival at Okinawa. “They said continue circling, ‘we haven’t taken the runway yet. You’ll get shot at,’” he says with a laugh. He would up stationed on Makin Island with the 41st Bomb Group, 47th Squadron, in the 7th Air Force. As the pilot of a B-25 he flew bombing missions over the islands held by the Japanese. “Our squadron had a special assignment. At the time it was top secret. We had a torpedo that we could drop with a wing. From 50 feet to 10,000 feet, we could fly it in to a bay, and have it circle until it hit something. Once it was released it flew just like a glider.” When the torpedo had flown close to its target, the wings would be jettisoned just above the water. It would then dive below the water and attack its target like a standard torpedo.
Once on a mission to bomb some Japanese aircraft carriers, his plane flew low to drop its torpedoes. “We were getting shot at pretty bad.” His plane was rifled with bullet holes, and they lost an engine. The B-25 only had two engines; so losing one was a real problem. They had to throw out everything that wasn’t nailed down in order to lighten the plan and make it back to base. “The whole plan was shaking,” but they managed to make it. The former pilot adds matter of factly, “We’ve been shot at many times.”
He served from 1942 to 1946, and when his enlistment was up, joined the reserves. Returning to Olean Ross took a job with the Clark Brothers (today known as Dresser) designing compressors. He worked there for forty years, until his retirement 30 years ago. He left the reserves in 1959, exiting the military as a Captain. His son Gary is part of the Weed Ross Insurance Agency in Ellicottville.
As we conclude our conversation, Ross recalls an event that happened during his service in the Pacific: “We were called out one day and told to fly in an escort for one of the Navy ships that was coming into Pearl Harbor.” The call had come with short notice and he had no idea what was going on. But the planes escorted the single Navy ship into the harbor. It turned out that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was on the ship. Many years after he had glimpsed the future president in the motorcade, in a manner of speaking, Bob Ross got to return the favor.
Story by John Thomas Staff Writer
Richard Zink, Executive Director of the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, started off the recent board meeting by bringing the board up to speed on several projects. To begin, the STW is just about to sign a contract with Kitchen Table Consultants for a study on the feasibility of creating a meat packing facility in the area. The group will study the market place, suppliers, and potential workforce for a plant. He then went on to say the Application Regional Commission has retained its full funding from congress for the fiscal year 2015. In addition some projects that were not funded in 2104 may roll over for funding this year. Final reviews will be in June. Zink said it’s his goal to work with as many municipalities as possible for funding.
Local Foods Program
The Local Foods program is moving forward. STW found they had to ‘incubate’ a group of 600 framers in NYS to get them familiar with the program. Zink said it was a challenge to get a group of farmers who ordinarily compete with each other, to come together for common goals. Now the farmers band together for insurance, legal services, and accounting. A pilot project was started to create more foot traffic for the farmers markets, and to align farmers with wholesale buyers.
With its ongoing project to bring broadband services to the more remote areas of Cattaraugus County, Mr. Zink reported that several parts of the county now enjoy better Internet service than before. He said they had provided iPads, computers and routers to five libraries in the county. As the weather warms and towers can be installed the rest of the rollout should go fairly quickly. By the end of the year everyone in the county who wants broadband service should be able to get it.