Lovell native honored at Paris veterans home

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PARIS – Edward Bartlett a Lovell native, has been named Veteran of the Month at the Maine Veterans Home in Paris.

A veteran of World War II, he served in the Air Force from March 1942 through 1945. Schooled in Chicago as a radio operator, Bartlett was part of a 10-man crew that flew the B-17 long-range bomber (most famous is the Memphis Belle, the first to fly 25 missions). From 1942 to 1945, hundreds of bases covered England, serving as home for the 210,000 air crewmen of the U.S. Eighth Air Force.

Bartlett recalls being stationed just outside London, close enough to bicycle in and “check out the girls.” “We were young then,” he said. The bombers would leave England and “we’d pick up a fighter escort a certain distance out” from the coast and head toward Germany.

Bartlett said everyone was trained as a gunner along with their primary job. He admitted to trying out the ball turret, just to see what it was like. Surprisingly, it was “more comfortable than it looked,” he said.

When asked about luck, Bartlett laughed and said, “Oh yes…the time when bullets ripped right up between my feet, missing everything…and then there were other times…well, not so lucky.”

The task of the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator were dangerous, Bartlett said. Flight crews had the highest casualty rate of any armed service branch during World War II. Of the air crewmen stationed in England, 26,000 lost their lives and another 21,000 ended up as POWs. The Eighth also lost more than 6,500 heavy bombers and 3,300 fighters.

Between October 1945 and 1950, Bartlett was employed by John G. Deering and Son of Biddeford as a lumberjack. In October of 1950, he went into the Air Force Reserves as a technical sergeant, stationed with the 726th Tactical Squadron at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After his discharge on Dec. 22, 1950, Bartlett returned to southern Maine, where he was employed by Pratt and Whitney for 17 years.

He, his wife and family (four sons and three daughters) moved to Fryeburg, where Bartlett worked in the woods again, this time with three of his sons. He received his private pilot’s license, took up golf and learned to shoot pool. In warmer weather, he can be seen out on the home’s putting green.

Bartlett is a resident of the A unit at the Maine Veterans Home.

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