Freedom Fighters: Henry "Hap" Plummer - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Freedom Fighters: Henry "Hap" Plummer

Posted: Updated:

By Joan Hallmark - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Henry "Hap" Pummer has been flying planes for the past 66 years. At the age of 87, he may well be the only World War II P-38 pilot still flying with a current license.

As a fighter pilot in World War II, Hap Pummer flew his P-38 lighting on 43 combat missions. The death and wounded toll was so high in one 12 month period, that there was a 100% turnover in his 370th fighter group. Numerous publications record Pummer's exploits.

Hap was shot down while flying his P-38 and spent seven months as a POW.

Ironically Pummer had joined the Air Corps in July of 1940 to learn airplane mechanics. But, it was fighter piloting that he was destined for.

"Most of our work was tactical, down on top of trees shooting up trains and shooting up tanks and shooting up gun positions and those kinds of things," he explained. 

Flying low presented special dangers.

"You're vulnerable to all kinds of ground fire because everybody can reach you because you're down there," he said. "Consequently our losses were high."

It was on Pummer's 37th mission over France that he was to find out just how vulnerable he was.

"I was flying a guy's wing and I was behind him so he got hit a little but I got hit worse," he said. "They came out of the overcast and they blew me to pieces really. [I] lost both engines and all the covering.

"Did you have to jump out or did you have ejection seat," I asked Pummer.

"Oh no," he replied. "[We had] no ejection seats. You have to manage on your own."

Jumping out of P-38s posed additional problems because of its tail design.

"That doesn't leave you much room to jump, does it?" I said.

"No," he replied. "So you have to jump from there to there in between."

"Now, you hit in a kind of, you call it, no man's land in between the two lines," I said to Pummer. "What happened then?"

"That's where the French women pulled me up and took me in their house to hide me, hide me from the Germans."

Badly wounded, Pummer doesn't remember much after that except the women were able to get him to American military. The next two and a half months were spent in the hospital before Pummer returned to flying.

"Normally people won't go back after they're shot down," he said. "I did."

Only two months after Pummer returned to combat, the unthinkable happened. Again, on a mission over Germany.

"They hit me with the third salvo and it was all over. The airplane was on fire and I had to get out."

But, after opening his canopy, getting out wasn't all that easy.

"As I hit the wind it pinned me and I put my foot on the control wheel and pushed it over real hard that way and it shot me out."

Pummer was taken captive by German soldiers immediately and was to spend the next seven months as a Prisoner of War.

"General Patton himself drove through and said, 'Men, you're free men today,' and they pulled down the German flag an put up an American flag.

Hap Pummer retired from the Air Force in 1963 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He still flies and keeps his pilot-instructor license current, not for the excitement of flying, he says he's had plenty of that, but because flying is just in his blood.

If you or someone you know served our country in combat, we'd like to hear from you. You can write us at Freedom Fighters, P.O. Box 957, Tyler, TX 75710.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  • East Texas NewsMore>>

  • Texas man's life celebrated in Lufkin Mural

    Texas man's life celebrated in Lufkin Mural

    Friday, August 1 2014 12:20 AM EDT2014-08-01 04:20:32 GMT
    Source: KTRE StaffSource: KTRE Staff
    Durell Gray is one of a few people whose picture graces a wall in downtown Lufkin. His picture sits at the corner of Frank and First Street.So how did the now 86-year-old man get his picture painted on a wall scene by hundreds every day? It all started while Gray worked as a lineman for the Lufkin Conroe Telephone Company. He said one day he received a letter in the mail from his employer asking for his help."They contacted us asking us if any lineman had picture with their gear on," Gray sai...More >>
    Durell Gray is one of a few people whose picture graces a wall in downtown Lufkin. His picture sits at the corner of Frank and First Street.So how did the now 86-year-old man get his picture painted on a wall scene by hundreds every day? It all started while Gray worked as a lineman for the Lufkin Conroe Telephone Company. He said one day he received a letter in the mail from his employer asking for his help."They contacted us asking us if any lineman had picture with their gear on," Gray sai...More >>
  • Puppies found in hot car, up for adoption

    Puppies found in hot car, up for adoption

    Thursday, July 31 2014 8:36 PM EDT2014-08-01 00:36:40 GMT
    The six pit bull puppies found in a hot car on Monday will soon be put up for adoption.More >>
    The six pit bull puppies found in a hot car on Monday will soon be put up for adoption.More >>
  • Hudson couple builds family home out of Styrofoam

    Hudson couple builds family home out of Styrofoam

    Thursday, July 31 2014 8:10 PM EDT2014-08-01 00:10:51 GMT
    The start of the Cockrell's family home The start of the Cockrell's family home
    A Hudson couple is taking a unique spin on home building by using an environmentally friendly method to build their family home.More >>
    A Hudson couple is taking a unique spin on home building by using an environmentally friendly method to build their family home.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
KTRE logo

KTRE

358 TV Road,
Pollok TX 75969

FCC Public File
publicfile@ktre.com
936-853-8639
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and KTRE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.