104-year-old former Eglin Crew Chief talks Doolittle Raiders, working on the B-25 Bombers

I’ve conducted a great number of interviews since starting Get The Coast. Some are simple and straightforward, while others you know will stick with you forever.

  • Last Friday’s interview with Jack Helms is one of those forever interviews.

Fort Walton Beach Chamber CEO Ted Corcoran got wind that there was a former Eglin Crew Chief who worked on the Doolittle Raider B-25 Bombers still living in Niceville. He was going to meet him, and invite him to the Doolittle Ceremony this coming Monday, and asked if I would be interested in filming an interview.

It was a BIG YES from me.

At 104-years-old, Mr. Helms was full of energy from the moment we arrived. He was genuinely thrilled to have us in his home. I couldn’t get the camera setup fast enough before he and Ted started talking about the Doolittle Raiders and his role with working on their famous planes.

In the interview, Helms confirms that Field 3 (now known as Duke Field) was the area used for training. He says they painted lines on the field to mimic the runway of a ship so that the Raiders could practice their takeoffs.

  • He also tells the story of a Raider “having a good time” over the Gulf when his right prop hit a wave. Mr. Helms goes into great detail on what it took to get it fixed by midnight.

(Oh, and Jack also tells us his secret to being in such good health at 104.)

I’ve never had an interview quite like this before and I’m so thankful that Mr. Helms allowed Ted and I to capture it forever.

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