Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: January 24, 2013

John Gilcrest and Chuck Sapper

Two former B-17 Pilots: John Gilcrest and Chuck Sapper

John Gilcrest was born in December, 1923 in Oakland, California, becoming a fourth generation Californian and resident of the Bay Area. While attending high school, he served a four-year private apprenticeship in clock and watch repair.

Upon graduation from high school, he enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps and entered its pilot training program. He became a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot and aircraft commander. With his crew he flew 28 combat missions with the United States Eighth Air Force, bombing German industrial and infrastructure targets.

After the war, he attended the University of California at Berkeley. In 1948, he married Mary Ann Holser and established the family home in Lafayette, California. He graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil and structural engineering.

Following graduation, John began a 36-year career with Kaiser Engineers, a division of Kaiser Industries Corporation, an international engineering and construction company. He held successive positions in project management, eventually becoming a division manager responsible for all of the Company’s engineering and design work for the United States Federal Government, including NASA, the Department of Defense Agencies, and the U. S. Postal Service.

A noteworthy project John managed was the design of NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing Program Mission Control Center at the Johnson Spaceflight Center at Houston, TX. His professional memberships included:
-- The American Society of Civil Engineers
-- The Society of American Military Engineers
-- The American Defense Preparedness Association
-- The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

John retired in 1986. His past volunteer community service included Rotary Club programs, coaching a local community Youth Association baseball team, and serving as Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop. His son and all four grandsons each achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

His personal interests have included traveling, woodworking, gardening, hunting and fishing, and when younger, backpacking through much of the California Sierra Nevada.

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Charles K. Sapper was born in November 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school there, he completed 1.5 years of college on a scholarship at the University of Chicago before being drafted into the US Army in 1943.

He applied for pilot training and entered Ground School at Maxwell Field, Alabama. From there, he completed Primary at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Basic Training at Bainbridge, Georgia, Advanced Multi-Engine Training at Athens, Georgia, and crew training in Salt Lake City, Utah, before deploying to Framlingham, England, home of the 390th Bomb Group.

His subsequent military service:
-- May 1944-Sep 1944 World War II as a B-17 Pilot
-- 1951-1953 Korean War as a C-46 Pilot and Airbase Personnel Officer
-- 1967 Vietnam War recalled as Commander, 2nd Air Postal and Courier Group:
-- 1968 retired as a Colonel.

After World War II, he skipped getting a Bachelor’s degree and in 3.5 years earned a Masters in Social Science awarded at the University of Chicago in 1949. In January 1951, he married Paula Lee of Dublin, Ireland. They have three children and one grandchild.

In Portland, Oregon he taught:
-- 1949-51 Elementary School
-- 1953-55 High School Social Science under a Ford Foundation Experiment with --- Advanced Placement students (IQ above 120) with 20 per class.

In 1966, he earned a PhD in Higher Educational Leadership from the University of California at Berkeley.

His faculty experience at Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California:
-- 1955-1960 Instructor
-- 1960-1980 Evening College Administrator
-- 1980-1991 Dean of Instruction

Military Awards and Decorations:
-- Distinguished Flying Cross
-- Air Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters
-- Two Presidential Unit Citations
-- European/North Africa/Middle East Campaign Ribbon with four battle stars
-- WWII American Victory Ribbon
-- National Service Ribbon