North American Aviation Field Service Representative Charlie Odis Gates
Charlie Odis Gates was a civilian Field Service Representative for North American Aviation (NAA). Gates was stationed on Corsica in 1944 where he worked with the Air Maintenance Division of the United States Army Air Force Service Command in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (AAFSC/MTO). Field Service Representatives monitored any defects or damage to NAA aircraft (B-25s and P-51s) resulting from normal use, combat, crashes, etc. Although civilians, Gates and other Field Service Representatives wore USAAF uniforms so they would not be tried as spies if captured by the enemy.
Charlie went by his middle name, Odis. He was not an engineer nor did he complete college. Not unusual for his day. He was a trained company technician knowledgeable about the B-25. He eventually worked his way into NAA supervision overseeing engineers. Charlie (Odis) was adept at managing people.
One story Odis shared was about the 319th Bombardment Group which transitioned from Martin B-26 Marauders to North American B-25 Mitchells in November of 1944 at Serraggia, Corsica. The B-26 was known as the “widow maker” for several reasons including it could not keep keep up with its formation on a single engine making it an easy target for German fighters. Aircrews mistrusted Odis' claim that the B-25 could keep up with its formation on a single engine. Later, while returning from a mission, all of the B-25s including some on single engine, made it safely back to their base. The crews were overjoyed converts to the Mitchell.
Photos and History from Odis Gates: (provided by his daughter Peggy Gates Hughes and son-in-law John Hughes)
Odis and his wife Marguretta (Peggy) were married for over sixty years at the time of his passing in March of 2001. During the war, Peggy also worked at NAA, pounding out bomb bay doors for the B-25 Mitchell. She passed away in December, 2008 at 90-years-old. After a short break following the war, Odis returned to North American Aviation working for the “Autonetics” division, which later became “Rockwell.”