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This profile was last updated on 6/10/10  and contains information from public web pages.

Stage Manager

The Milton Berle

Employment History

  • Air Force Reserves
  • Army
Web References
ZEPHYRHILLS - Len Gumley lifted ..., 10 June 2010 [cached]
ZEPHYRHILLS - Len Gumley lifted his legs into the cockpit and buckled his seatbelt.
The 90-year-old World War II veteran looked out at a small group of men and smiled.
"This is bringing back memories," Gumley said.
In moments, the glider that he and pilot Ron Sutton sat in was being pulled by a small airplane down the runway at The Tampa Bay Soaring Society off Sky Dive Lane.
The aircrafts lifted off and circled for several minutes before releasing the tow rope.
A New York native and Sarasota resident, Gumley wore a white cap with a small video camera attached to the bill, so he could film the flight.
In the war, he flew gliders for the Army Air Corps, but did not serve overseas.
He said his fellow pilots who did see combat were often sent on perilous missions, and several of his friends were killed.
He took Wednesday's flight, his first since his 75th birthday, in their honor.
"I'll be back up for my 100th - if they'll have me," Gumley said.
Gumley said he joined the Army in December 1941 because he was angry over the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and "wanted to kill Nazis."
After the war, he served 27 years in the Air Force Reserves and embarked on a decorated career in television production, starting as a stage manager for "The Milton Berle Show. He later managed CBS News Studios in New York, where he worked alongside broadcasting legends such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow.
In 1999, he was instrumental in the production of "Suicide Mission: Silent Wing Warriors," a History Channel documentary about glider pilots and soldiers, who often were sent on one-way flights behind enemy lines.
"I had a lot of survival guilt, and making that really helped me a lot," Gumley said of the documentary.
Gumley survived two crashes. The first was when the small Piper Cub airplane he was flying took a nosedive into the ground.
"The second was an actual glider," he said. "When I landed, the nose flew up and I flew out. It didn't kill me, but I was hurt pretty good. It ended my glider career."
If Gumley was at all nervous about going up Wednesday, it didn't show.
He cracked jokes with the pilots and told glider stories before climbing into the cockpit.
Longtime friend and fellow former newsman Don Blair accompanied Gumley to the airfield.
Before taking off, Gumley said a reunion for World War IIglider pilots is scheduled for October in Lubbock, Texas.
He said flying for the Air Corps was perilous.
"It was dangerous," he said. "When those (gliders) went into Normandy and places like that, maybe about a third of them came back."
Minutes later, the plane cranked up and the tow rope went taut.
Plane and glider took off, and Gumley was airborne again.
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