Earl Wassom is a native of Blackwell, Oklahoma, and was attending Southern Nazarene College when WW II broke out. On August 9, 1942, he enlisted in the U. S. Army Aviation Cadet Program and reported to San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center where he was assigned to pilot training Class 43-K. Wassom graduated on December 4, 1943, Ellington Field, TX as a pilot and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
He was assigned to Liberal, Kansas, where he learned to fly the Consolidated B-24 Liberator four-engine heavy bomber. He picked up his crew and aircraft in Casper, Wyoming, and went immediately to England to enter the fight against Nazi Germany. He joined the 8th Air Force, 466th Bomb Group, and 785th Squadron at Attlebridge, England. During the next year and a half, Wassom and his crew flew 35 missions into Germany and occupied France. In late October 1944, his B-24 was converted to a gasoline tanker aircraft, and he flew eight missions into France to help resupply General Patton’s Third Army’s drive to help rescue American forces at Bastogne, Belgium. Wassom’s first and last mission was to the heavily defended German capital of Berlin.
For his action in Europe, Wassom received five Air Medals, the Purple Heart, four European Campaign Stars and ribbons and the Distinguished Unit Citation. His period of combat service was from September 1, 1944 through March 18, 1945. Wassom’s award of the Purple Heart was the result of having been wounded by enemy flak over Heligoland, Germany while returning to England from a bombing mission. A piece of steel burst through the cockpit’s left window near the no. 2 inboard engine and struck him in the shoulder. Fortunately, the shrapnel smashed into the thickest part of his parachute strap preventing a more serious wound to his shoulder. His co-pilot took over controls of the aircraft for return to base.
Wassom notes with great pride that the original aircrew remained intact for the entire tour of duty and completed their assignment together.
Upon his return stateside, Wassom was assigned to the Air Transport Command, Fifth Ferry Division and flew C-47’s, B-24’s, B-25’s, A-26’s and P- 38 fighters. He achieved the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Following his discharge from the Air Force in November 1945, Wassom returned to Southern Nazarene University and received his AB degree, and subsequently earned a MA degree from East Tennessee State and an EdD from Oklahoma University.
Dr. Wassom has been a clergyman, an educator, and an administrator. He retired in 1985 as Professor Emeritus & Dean Emeritus of Academic Affairs, Western Kentucky University.