San Antonio Express-News
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Sid Glenn
earned the Distinguished Flying Cross
on one of his 50 missions during the Korean War, but it’s not a subject he ever brought up — not even with his late wife.
Now 97 and far removed from the war, he still won’t talk about it. Ask him about sports, and that’s another matter for a man more than a few call “coach.”
It’s not that the mission stirs powerful emotions, though perhaps it does. The problem is he thinks it still might be classified all these decades since the bitter conflict involving North and South Korea, China and the United States closed on July 27, 1953.
Glenn came to Korea in a roundabout way, joining the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II and earning his navigator wings.
He just missed the final months of the conflict in the Pacific.
Discharged, he joined the reserves. But it turned out he was neither done with the military nor with flying.
When North Korea launched the war with a lightning invasion of the south on June 25, 1950, Glenn was called up to active duty and found himself in the thick of things, flying those missions as a Douglas B-26 Invader navigator- bombardier.
That’s when he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, given for extraordinary aerial achievement and heroism. It is the fourth-highest medal an airman can receive.
Glenn joined the Army Air Corps at 18 and just out of high school. It was January 1944, and the war had turned in the Allies’ favor. The year before, he’d taken a test to qualify for a specialized aviator program and passed it.
Trading sunny Los Angeles for icy Amarillo in the winter, he began his journey as one of more than 16 million Americans who joined the military in World War II, the most of any conflict in the nation’s history.
“I left the nicest place. I left sunny southern California for what was known as one of the coldest and wind-driven locations,” he recalled.
There he went through basic training as a flight crewman and was briefly posted in San Francisco before boarding a train and returning to the Texas Panhandle. College instruction was part of becoming a flight crewman, which in his case meant a stint at West Texas State College in Canyon, now West Texas A&M, just south of Amarillo.
The airmen had been told they’d spend six months in school, but the course was cut in half as he studied algebra. The time in college was a shakedown course of sorts, a test to see just how badly the fledgling airmen wanted to be flight crewmen.
A Philadelphia native, Glenn likened his time there to the way instructors might treat plebes at West Point, explaining, “Just to irritate you and see if you really want this thing.”
Next up was gunnery school and training aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in Las Vegas, Nevada, required for anyone who was learning to be a navigator or bombardier, and then navigator instruction in San Marcos, just across the street from what is today Texas State University.
Awarded his officer commission on Aug. 18, 1945, Glenn quickly found there was no war in the Pacific to fight. Given a choice of staying or leaving, he decided to remain in uniform and went to San Antonio, where he supervised physical training at Lackland.
It was a taste of things to come.
After leaving the Air Force in 1946 and joining the reserves, Glenn enrolled at Arizona State and played quarterback and defensive back for the Sun Devils from 1947-48. A couple of years later, he became president of the student body association at the school, but the biggest thing that came along was Lyda Louise Babb of Rock Springs, Texas.
Glenn and Babb fell in love.
They married on Nov. 7, 1947, her birthday. It was the first of two marriages.
“‘It was a magical choice because I met and married Lyda Louise Babb, an angelic and beautiful gal,” he wrote in a short biography.
The ceremony came after a football game that night and a round or two of beer shared by friends, although Glenn says he didn’t have any. Encouraged to get married, Glenn and Babb did just that, with a sheriff by the name of Love finding someone to preside over the vows.
“We kept it secret,” Glenn said, later adding, “I guess we didn’t want it known at the school.”
The subterfuge continued with their parents, though just why isn’t entirely clear all these years later. Both were studying at Arizona State College after Lyda transferred there from present-day Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Looking back, Glenn sees those college years as some of the most cherished and exciting times of his life as he played football on a scholarship with his wife at his side and then served as a freshman backfield coach after getting hurt. He was elected student body president in his senior year and selected “Outstanding Student-Athlete for the Class of 1950.”
“Lyda, she was everything to me,” he said.
They married yet again a few months later after Babb’s mother convinced them to do it, he said, adding, “She didn’t know we were married already.”
Still in the Air Force Reserve, Glenn earned a bachelor’s degree in education and physical education, and a master’s degree in physical education, in 1950. Sports remained a primary interest.
He was a head football coach in an Arizona high school and later athletic director and head football coach at a junior college. The college had a plus in recruiting athletes — a dormitory and dining hall, rarities in such academic settings.
All that stopped with the war.
Glenn was recalled to active duty as a navigator- bombardier and sent to Randolph AFB and then to Ellington — today a joint reserve base — for refresher training.
In time, Glenn was in Korea as the “nose navigator,” guiding the B-26 pilot through anti-aircraft fire. The job involved climbing underneath the cockpit into the Plexiglass nose of the plane.
It was a critical job because the pilot on the plane’s left side had severely limited vision. Glenn’s missions either involved reconnaissance or bombing enemy troops. Though he said very little about the mission he received the medal for, Glenn remembered it being over the Yalu River and that he believes his pilot earned a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.
Glenn was assigned to an air/sea rescue squadron after Korea but soon got new orders.
“This duty was interrupted to coach the Westover AFB football team, one of four Air Force bases with full-time football (tackle) programs,” he wrote in his biography. “We did do great at an 8-2 record and won the New England Conference championship.”
Glenn earned his pilots wings on Aug. 18, 1955, initially serving as an instructor in four different aircraft and, years later, in Vietnam, providing logistical support for Bob Hope’s famed USO tours, one of his jobs while providing logistical support for the war, often flying a C-124 Globemaster II.
Along the way, his coaching history led him to the Air Force Academy’s PE department as an instructor and eventually its deputy chief. He received a compassionate reassignment to Lackland’s Medina Annex after one of his five children fell ill. At one point, he was deputy commander for officers training.
A regular at San Antonio veterans’ breakfasts, Glenn said he doesn’t wear the medal and, in fact, keeps it in a box. That, perhaps, is what he does with the Korean War.
“He talked about playing football, Arizona State, being the student body president and then coaching,” said Russell Minor, head of groups in the area. “I think he can talk all night about coaching.”
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