Lt. Joseph Lombardo named honorary captain

Lt. Joseph Lombardo was named honorary captain of Coginchaug Football team’s Oct. 27 Homecoming game.

Lombardo served in the Army Air Corps as a navigator on B-17 Flying Fortresses that flew bombing missions from England deep into Germany during World War II. He enlisted at age 18 in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program just months after he graduated from Middletown High School in 1942.

Lombardo received two years of intense and diverse training before being shipped to the European Theater. After basic training he was sent to the University of Pittsburgh for Aviation Cadet training. In the summer of 1943 he was subjected to a week of psychological and written exams to determine how his talents could best serve the Air Corps. He was selected to train as a pilot and was sent to Maxwell Field in Alabama to begin his pilot training.

For over a year, Lombardo flew hundreds of hours training as a fighter pilot. However, in May of 1944, due to heavy losses suffered in combat, the need for heavy bomber crews became critical and his entire fighter class was reassigned to heavy bomber duties. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the San Marcos navigation school, and was sent to Rapid City, SD for training in preparation for assignment overseas. Lombardo’s crew trained in B-17s during the winter of 1944 before they were deployed to Europe in a 44 Ship convoy.

When he arrived in England, Lombardo was assigned to the 833rd Squadron of the 486th Heavy Bombing Group. German resistance persisted until V.E. day and the 486th lost nine aircraft in April 1945, the last month of the European war.

After the war, Lombardo earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He returned home and began his career with Raymond Engineering Laboratories in Middletown where he eventually became the executive vice president. After his career at Raymond Engineering, Lombardo worked as a bank executive and municipal consultant and, at age 65, while still active in business, he possessed the ambition to get a master’s degree in social studies at Wesleyan University.

Lieutenant Lombardo is a life-long Connecticut resident and his children and grandchildren still live nearby. His son Michael graduated from Coginchaug High School and played left field for the 1972 state championship baseball team.

Lombardo is also an old friend to Connecticut high school football as he spent 15 years as an official for high school games throughout central Connecticut.

Lombardo described how his military service shaped his life.

“I’ve had a productive life, but I know that my business career pales when I compare it to the unforgettable three years that I spent in the Air Corps,” he said. “Those years did much to prepare me for what lay ahead of me. The self-confidence that I gained as a young airman has stayed with me forever.”

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