Before Star Trek...Gene Roddenberry Was a Bomber Pilot

Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) obtained his pilot's license through the United States Army Air Corps-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program. He enlisted with the USAAC on December 18, 1941; then posted to Bellows Field, Oahu, to join the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group, of the Thirteenth Air Force, which flew the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. 

On August 2nd, 1943; Roddenberry's Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, 41-2463, "Yankee Doodle", of the 19th Bomb Group, then to 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group, crashes on takeoff due to mechanical failure at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, Bombardier Sgt. John P. Kruger and navigator Lt. Talbert H. Woolam are killed.  The official report absolved Roddenberry of any responsibility. After wartime, Gene became a plane crash investigator for the US military.


In 1945 Roddenberry began his civilian career flying for Pan American World Airways, including routes from New York to Johannesburg or Calcutta, the two longest Pan Am routes at the time. 

On June 18, 1947. Gene's Clipper Eclipse was forced to crash land in the Syrian desert. After impact, Roddenberry managed to drag injured passengers out of the burning aircraft and led the group to get help. Fourteen people died in the crash; eleven passengers needed hospital treatment, and eight were unharmed.

Gene Roddenberry resigned from Pan-Am on May 15, 1948, deciding to pursue his dream of writing, with a particular interest in the new medium of television, and Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Thursday, September 8th, 1966; Star Trek the original series first aired from 8:30 to 9:30 as part of an NBC "sneak preview" block (The Original Series) debuted in the U.S. on NBC, beginning the voyage of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and her crew.

10 years later...On the 17th of September, 1976; The prototype reusable Space Shuttle Orbital Vehicle, was rolled out into daylight for the first time at the North American Rockwell plant in Palmdale, California.
There to greet her, were the crew of NCC-1701, The USS Enterprise, along with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. The reason this TV cast was there to greet the orbiter was because she carried a very special name...The Enterprise. 
OV-101, was originally planned to be named Constitution and unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17th, 1976, but after a letter-writing campaign by Star Trek fans who bombarded then President Gerald Ford,  It was finally decided that she would carry forth the name of the famed Starship Enterprise. 
Gene Roddenberry flew west on October 24th, 1991, leaving us with our dreams of space flight and inspiration as his final gift. 
His funeral, attended by hundreds of friends and fans alike, and with words spoken by Patrick Stewart, the ceremony was finally closed by two kilted pipers playing "Amazing Grace" as a four ship fly past performed the missing man formation to bid farewell to an aviator, and the man that gave all of us a reason to look to the stars, where no man has gone before...

"Star Trek says that it has not all happened, it has not all been discovered, that tomorrow can be as challenging and adventurous as any time man has ever lived."

Gene Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991)



1 comment

  • Gordon Permann

    No mention of his long-lost friend, his co-pilot from the war? Roddenberry often worked his name into scripts and telecasts, hoping that someone would connect him with the man he served with in the South Pacific. In the quickly moving days of the post-war demobilization, he slipped into obscurity and all Roddenberry could do, is periodically include someone named “Khan” into his programs.

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