Todd Pratt
An interview with Todd Pratt on his experiences in World War Two
by Candace Shaw

Todd Pratt lives in Needham with his wife. He sat down with me to share his experiences during World War Two as a bomber pilot. His experiences were positive because it gave him a chance to learn to fly, and afterwards he was able to go to college. 

The B-26 Bomber
“I always wanted to learn how to fly,” said Todd Pratt when I asked him what effect World War Two had on him. Mr. Pratt was a bomber pilot in World War II in which he flew a B-26 bomber, which was a fairly new plane at the time. The B-26 bombers were not the largest airplanes of World War Two, but they flew at an altitude of 10-12,000 ft and held four 500lb bombs. The B-26 bombers flew lower than the larger planes because they were used to target a specific location without damaging its surroundings. This type of bombing was called “tactical bombing.” This is different than the larger planes, which were used to cover a larger area instead of a pinpoint location. Mr. Pratt was sent on 65 bombing missions during his service in World War Two, and he (and his squadron) succeeded at all of them. Their targets were railroads, roads, and bridges. The purpose of this was to prevent Germans from moving materials and supplies to support their troops.
Mr. Pratt keeps this model of a B-26 bomber on display in his house

Starting out
Mr. Pratt graduated school in 1939 and began working at an insurance company because he was not able to afford to go to college. Mr. Pratt then began training to become a pilot in Louisiana. He began for two main reasons: because he had always wanted to fly, and because with the GI Bill, the government would pay the college tuitions of the veterans.

Earning his Wings
Training to become a pilot consisted of a number of different steps. Step one was to complete ground school, the academic part of learning how to fly an airplane and how an airplane works. The second step was primary flying school in PT-17 open cockpit airplanes. The instructor brought the students up one at a time and flew them in loops and spins. Many of the students got sick, but Mr. Pratt couldn’t feel more comfortable up in the air, “I thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” he said. Eventually he worked his way up to advanced, became a lieutenant, and received his pilot wings.

These propaganda posters are from World War Two and were used to convince people that the air force would win the war, and all the average person had to do to contribute was give money for more planes.

Life on the Ground
Mr. Pratt joined World War Two in 1943 when he was sent to an island off the coast of Italy called Sardinia. When he was on the ground living conditions were simple, but much better than that of the infantry. The pilots lived in tents, and there was a large tent for eating. They received better meals and more comfortable beds, and in his free time he would throw around a football or play a game of softball with his friends and fellow pilot, Joe Trapp. Sardinia was dry and gave him a high fever; his favorite place was in the plane where he felt most comfortable. Joe Trapp became Mr. Pratt’s friend in training, and was in his squadron during Word War Two.

Missions sent Mr. Pratt and his squadron to Rome, Florence, and France. In Florence, railroads were bombed with precision so that nearby historic buildings would remain unharmed; no civilians were killed in these bombings. His squadron spent several months in Corsica, also an island of the coast of Italy, before moving up to Dijon, France.

Dangers for a Bomber Pilot
Mr. Pratt’s plane was never shot down and he was never injured during his time in the service. The closest he and his crew came to serious danger was during his 3rd or 4th mission when his tail gunner was hit by a German fighter plane and severely damaged. Luckily, they were able to make a safe emergency landing. Mr. Pratt only witnessed two serious accidents during World War Two. The first was when German planes attacked a plane in his squadron. He witnessed the pilots and crew bailing out of the plane, but one of the crewmembers parachutes was on fire. The second was when he was landing his plane at an air base in Corsica. There had been bad weather and all bombing missions had been canceled for the day. A plane was landing and a 500lb bomb fell out of the plane and exploded. The crewmembers were killed but the pilot was okay. Mr. Pratt was lucky never to have faced a serious situation like these with his plane.

The Aftermath

After Mr. Pratt had skillfully and successfully completed his 65 missions, which was the standard number of missions for a B-26 pilot, he began delivering planes to various locations like New Guinea. The war was coming to an end and he describes the deliveries as “flying for fun.” He was out of danger because there was no longer an opposing force, and he was able to enjoy flying.

Mr. Pratt was discharged in October of 1945. He was awarded 13 air medals, which was an oak leaf cluster. The award read:

“Proposed Citation
Robert T. Pratt- First Lieutenant, Air Corps, 37th Bombardment Squadron, 17th bombardment group. For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights as a pilot of a B-26 type aircraft. While attacking the roads and railroad bridges across the Po River, Italy, in 12 July 1944, Lieutenant Pratt flew his plane with superior skill, Keeping in perfect formation enabling his bombardier to drop his bobs within the target area…”

Mr. Pratt said that pilots claimed bombing to be a highly significant reason for winning the war, but more so then than they do now. In addition to railroads and bridges, airplanes bombed factories where airplanes and ball bearings were made, which slowed down the production of airplanes and machines in Germany. “Without the air force the war wouldn’t be won. What we were able to do was very significant,” said Mr. Pratt.
After his service, Mr. Pratt attended Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. After he graduated he attended Tufts graduate school of international relations where he met his wife of 55 years, Nancy Pratt, who had graduated from Wellesley College. In 2003 Mr. Pratt visited an air force museum in Ohio where he posed in front of a B-26 bomber, his hand resting on his hip the same way he stood in front of the bomber over 60 years before.

Work Cited

Ubran Posters. 31 Jan. 2007 <http://

Rymer, Eric. "Planes of World War Two." History Link 101. 31 Jan. 2007

Pratt, Todd T. Personal interview. 9 Jan. 2007.

Lankford, William. "The Martin B-26 Marauder Medium Bomber." The Lankford Family
     Page. 31 Jan. 2007 <
     images_ww2>. Path: google; b-26 bomber crash.

International Poster Gallery. "world war II and the end of stone lithography."
     World War II Poster. International Poster Gallery. 31 Jan. 2007