Famous Veterans from Texas: Gene Roddenberry

Famous Veterans from Texas: Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry is a name as famous as George Lucas, and even if you don’t know who he is you’ve heard of his work; Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry was born in El Paso, Texas back in 1921 and grew up in the L.A area.  Gene almost died when he was a lad when his family’s home caught on fire in the middle of the night.  Luckily a nearby milkman saw the home on fire and woke up the family before anyone received any permanent injuries.

Following in his father’s footsteps Gene studied police work for a number of years before finding his interests drifting towards airplanes. Thinking the best way to become an experienced pilot he joined the Army Air Corp in 1941, and was in flight training when the bombing at Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II.

Gene soon found himself as a second lieutenant and was ordered into combat in the southern pacific. Though he was barely an adult, Gene was behind the controls of the B-17 Flying Fortress. He flew bombing missions throughout the entirety of the war and was involved in multiple heavily fought air battles over Bougainville and even the Munda invasion.

It was during the war that Gene started looking for an escape to take his mind off of his daily anxieties and settled on writing.  It was during these days that Gene started writing adventure stories based on his flying experiences, and sold them to flying magazines.  Gene also started writing poetry, which too found its way into publications, even The New York Times.  By the time the war ended Gene had flown 89 combat missions, and had a number of publications to his name.

Upon returning home Gene continued to fly but this time as a commercial pilot for Pan Am Airways. During his time as a commercial pilot his plane caught fire midflight and crashed in the middle of the Syrian Desert. Gene was the most senior surviving pilot and through his leadership was able to organize basic medical aid for the remaining survivors, contact a local Syrian military outpost, and contact Pan Am to send help.  Gene received the Civil Aeronautics commendation medal to add to his collection of World War II awards.

Writing though had developed from a wartime hobby and part-time job, to a love and passion that increasingly took more of Gene’s time.  When Gene first saw Television though he immediately knew that it would dominate the industry, but not without good writers. Without thinking Gene immediately left his career as a pilot and went back home to L.A. to try and find his way as a writer. Though Gene did everything he could he just wasn’t getting enough work to support him and his family solely on his writing. Gene decided he had to join the L.A. police department.

Though Gene was a police officer he continued writing under a false name, “Robert Wesley” for a TV series called, “Highway patrol” a police drama which Gene used his own experiences to help flush out stronger stories.  But it wasn’t until 1966 that Gene’s imagination developed Star Trek.  Little did he know that his hobby, developed in World War II to help ease the stress of combat, would develop into a beloved science fiction show that would inspired millions.

Thank you Gene for your service to our country.