Melbourne Ellsworth Lonergan


A Mitchell County native and World War II veteran will be honored in the City of Maples with a special ceremony this Independence Day weekend.

The late Melbourne Ellsworth "Bud" Lonergan, who served on a B-29 Bomber crew in Japan from 1943-45, will receive full military graveside services Friday, July 5, 2013, at the Osage City Cemetery at noon.

M.E. "Bud" Lonergan (standing at right) is pictured here with his B-29 bomber ground crew in 1944

According to sons David and Larry Lonergan, their father actually passed away last July in Waterloo, but he wanted to make Osage his final resting place, where his tombstone at the cemetery is etched with a B-29 bomber and enshrined with a plaque honoring his service to the country during World War II. His remains will be interred inside a B-29 piston.

"This Friday would have been his 91st birthday," explained Larry. "We celebrated his life in Waterloo last July when he died, but we thought it would only be appropriate to hold a special service in Osage on this special week. As for the B-29, dad identified with that airplane. He loved it and had great pride in knowing it inside and out," said David.

Champion-Bucheit Funeral home and Osage American Legion Post #278 will be conducting military memorial graveside services for Lonergan. Pastor Paul Brown, Osage Baptist Church will perform the committal service.

Lonergan, who was born to Frank and Lillian Lonergan on July 5, 1922 in Osage, had a rich local heritage which stems back to the early pioneer days. He was the fifth of seven children in the family to be born here.

His grandfather, Patrick Ellsworth Lonergan married Amy Catherine Skinner in November 1885 at Osage and the family was here for many decades.

Prior to his service to the country in World War II, Lonergan attended grade school in Mitchell and attended Otranto High School before leaving classes in 1938 to work with his father on the Pete Hanson farm.

His father, Frank, was killed by lightning in late July of 1939 in a farm field north of Otranto.

After the accidental death, Lonergan went to work with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program until he went to Waterloo 1941. From there he was drafted into the United States Armed Forces in October 1942 at CampDodge.

Because of his skills as a auto and truck mechanic during his time in Waterloo, he was selected to go to Air Force and spent five months in airplane mechanic school in Amarillo, Texas, where he worked on the legendary "Flying Fortress."

"We were introduced to the brand new B-29, a well-protected secret at that time," wrote Lonergan in his memoirs, which his sons have kept for many years. "What a great plane - just an engineer's dream. It had the first pressurized cabin, 18 cylinders in each engine, a wing-span of 97 feet and was capable of carrying 10 tons of bombs. You could take it about 12,000 miles fully loaded."

After doing his best to work all the bugs out of the new aircraft with this fellow experts, Lonergan and his fellow B-29 crew arrived in Saipan in November of 1944.

"We started the bombing of Japan immediately - we worked day and night on 100 to 110-degree heat," wrote Lonergan. "About every night, the Japs would pull a raid on us from Iwo Jima. They would go so far as to ram the B-29s on the ground. It was tough."

Lonergan said his B-29 team ran missions about every other evening and lost many planes on the trips to and from Japan.

"But we did a hell of a job," he wrote. "Along with the other crews in the area - the jelly gas bombs and the 'blockbusters,' I believe we had Japan on their knees."

"After the atomic bomb was dropped and the war ended, everyone wondered what would happen next," Lonergan added. "Eventually, we would all get to go home and we all prayed for no more wars."

Lonergan would reach the rank of Staff Sergeant before coming home from World War II, and told his sons, he was proud to serve his country.

He was also proud to be from Iowa. He returned to Waterloo, and was in the service station business for many years and Manager of the Shell Oil bulk plant in Waterloo.

"Dad so identified with his B-29 experience in World War II that he worked as a mechanic most his life," said Larry. He could have gone to work for Boeing but couldn't leave his beloved Iowa."

Larry and David took their father Bud Lonergan on an Honor Flight to WashingtonD.C. in April 2008 so he was able to see the World War II Memorial. During the trip, he shared some of his memories with his sons.

"My dad showed me the dollar bill he kept in his wallet through World War II - he said he kept it so 'I'd never be broke,'" recalled Larry. "Then he gave it to me and it is one of my prized possessions."

"Dad told and taught us much from his World War II experience and he was proud to have served this country he loved," said David.

Lonergan and his wife Vaudys had four children who will be coming to services this Friday in Osage. They include Larry Lonergan of Oceanside Ca.; Pamela Krikke of Holland, Michigan, Jane Lonergan, of Mesa, Ariz. and David Lonergan of Phoenix, Arizona.

A family picnic will take place in the Osage City Park following services at the cemetery.

  July 02, 2013 - by David Namanny Press-News Editor
    Mitchell County Press website, July 2, 2013