Carl Emmons West
Carl Emmons West was born November 16, 1932, in Huntington, West Virginia, son of Doy and Gladys West. Carl had a twin sister, Mary Lou. Other siblings included Eleanor and Ray. Carl grew up In Jackson County where his father was a salesman in a hardware store and his mother taught in a one-room schoolhouse.
Carl graduated from Ravenswood High School where he played the snare drum in the band; it was said he loved to wear the uniform so much that he would attend out-of-town performances without informing his family. In 1949, Carl played in the National Future Farmers of America band in Kansas City.
Soon after graduation in 1950, Carl enlisted in the Air Force. He became a tailgunner on B-29s in North Korea. By October 1951, the B-29s were being shot down with regularity by the MiG-15s defending North Korea, and the Air Force began using the B-29s as bait for the MiGs, hoping to lure them into battle where they could be destroyed by F-86 fighters.
On October 23, the day of his death, Carl, a replacement on an 11-man crew, was taking part in one of those missions. His assignment that day was waist gunner, which meant manning a .50-caliber machine gun located on the side of the fuselage in the middle of the airplane. The exact mission of the B-29 was the bombing of a North Korean Airfield. Robert Futrell, author of The U.S. Air Force in Korea, wrote, “It was a holocaust. It was one of the most savage and bloody air battles of the Korean War.” The battle was dubbed “Black Tuesday.” The B-29 was hit by a MiG-15, resulting in damage to one of the right wing engines. Seven crew members bailed out, four of whom survived. Carl West was not one of them. Emil Goldbeck, the airplane’s bombardier, speculated that perhaps Carl chose to take his chances with the airplane.
Carl’s body was never recovered, but on December 31, 1953, he was declared dead. His twin sister had a plaque made and placed at the foot of her parents’ graves in Ravenswood Cemetery.
West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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