Bob Dean was a twenty-year-old rising senior at Cornell in 1950. When the Korean War started that summer, he was training with his ROTC class at Fort Bragg.
“I recall for the early part of the training, we had a heck of a good time,” said Dean, now 88. “We did not take it seriously.”
Dean was learning the basics of artillery leadership, including aerial observation. He was delighted to be the first in his class selected to go up in a small plane over the ranges to practice adjusting artillery fire from the air.
It was his very first plane ride.
Holding a map on his lap, Dean and his pilot circled the ranges.
“I looked left, I looked right, and about this point I realized I wasn’t made for airplane flight,” said Dean. “I wasn’t feeling well at all.”
Moments later, he threw up all over the map, bringing the flight to a premature end.
Back at the barracks, his peers were eager to hear about his adventure.
“All my friends were there saying, ‘How was it? Was it wonderful?’ I said, ‘It sure was,’” he laughed. “I lied quite a bit for the next day or so.”
Two years later, while serving in Korea, Dean had the chance go home a few months early if he was willing to fly in an observation plane.
“I wasn’t,” he recalled. “So I stayed the whole year in Korea because my attempts to learn to fly had failed me so badly.”
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.