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“Blow-Out” In Palm Springs

By Jan Riddling & Mike Faley
Splasher Six, Winter 2002
Cindy Goodman, Editor

Bright California sunshine flooded Palm Springs as a mini-reunion was held January 17 & 18 at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Museum Director, Sharon Maguire and her entire staff did a wonderful job in accommodating the 39 Veterans, their families, and friends. Representing the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts, England was Ron Batley, Museum Curator and his wife, Carol Batley, Museum Volunteer & Richard Gibson, Museum Trustee. Although Cindy Goodman was unable to attend, present were Jan Riddling, Mike Faley and Greg Hatzenbuhler of the 100th’s Historical Staff. Paul West and Harry Nelson, two of the three Web Masters were present, with Charlie Cole regrettably unable to attend.

On Saturday, Mike and Greg started early on getting their displays in order. New displays included the medals, uniform and A-2 jacket of Charlie Gunter (350th Bomb Squadron Navigator), 482ndBG patch and Crew photo from Burke Hyatt (crew flew 13 missions with 100th BG before being transferred to 482nd), Lead Crew patch and photo from Herb Grand, Earl Benham’s “Hard Luck” A-2 jacket and Jack Kidd’s uniform. The 918th Living Memorial (Kevin Gray, Dave Webster, Brian Thraikill,) also had a display including a complete (3d) replica of a Combat Box, a replica B-17 cockpit, Norden bombsight and the remarkable sound of Kevin’s soundtrack of aircraft fly-by’s and WWII music. Eyes could not help but look up at the aircraft sounds and toes taped at the 40’s music that filled the area with wonderful nostalgia.

The events started at 11am with the standing-room-only showing of the new documentary “B-17 Flying Legend”, by Mark Frijo. This documentary includes many 100th BG photos and video footage supplied by the 100th Bomb Group Foundation. In the afternoon the hanger was filled with over 600 patrons who couldn’t wait to hear the stories of “The Bloody Hundredth”. John Lynch gave the welcome, the colors were presented and John led the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremonies were turned over to Bob Wolff, President of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation, who introduced Group Navigator, Harry Crosby writer of “A Wing and a Prayer”.

Harry gave an interesting talk on the often-surprised reaction people have when they realize that Veterans of the 100th did survive the war after all! Harry also mentioned some of the famous missions in which the 100th was involved. Next up was 418th Navigator Ernie Warsaw, the only survivor of “Picklepuss”, (the plane involved in the legendary “wheels down” incident) touched humorously on some true communications between pilots and crew chiefs. Question from pilot… “Something loose in cockpit.” Answer by crew chief… “Something tightened in cockpit.”Question from pilot… “Number three engine missing.” Answer by crew chief… “Engine found on right wing after brief search.” The crowd love it, and Ernie told us that they were from actual maintenance requests submitted by the US Marine Corps pilots and written replies from repair crews…SNAFU in other words. Frank Murphy, 418th Navigator on the Cruikshank Crew, spoke next and gave us an insightful look into his flying career and life as a member of the 100th in a POW camp. He mentioned that when he arrived at Stalag Luft III he remembered hearing “What took you so long?” shouted from other POW’s. Frank was roommates with Richard Carey and Pinky Helstrom to name a few. Frank wrote a wonderful and highly recommended book on his experiences with the 100th Bomb Group called “Luck of the Draw”. Henry Cervantes (349th Pilot) gave an interesting look into his life with the 100th and beyond. His new book”Piloto Migrant Worker to Jet Pilot” chronicles his long and vivid career with emphasis on the mission April 7, 1945 (Buchen) when “E Z Goin” was rammed by a German pilot. 351st Bombardier Joe Straus talked of being assigned to the 100th on December 24, 1944 and completing 31 missions, while Jack Robins (418th Radio Operator ) spoke of his mission to Berlin on 6 March 1944 where 15 out of 30 aircraft were shot down. Jack was a POW for 14 months. Bob Wolff (418th Pilot) was our last speaker and held the crowd intently as he told of his remarkable story of going over the Alps on the August 17, 1943 mission to Regensburg.

John Lynch then introduced the members of the 918th Living Memorial Group and those from the Memorial Museum in England. All the Veterans with the 100th were asked to stand and the crowd gave them a huge round of applause. The program concluded with the retiring of the colors. The 80 degrees plus temperatures combined with clear skies were perfect for the hanger doors to be thrown open as the B-17 “Miss Angela” took to the air and flew with all her glory for a crowd of 300-500 people. Her fly-by’s, with those four deep throated engines, were a definite thrill enhanced only by the “Little Friend”, a P-51 that flew a beautiful display of that aircraft’s abilities.

In the evening, approximately 150 people gathered at the Billy Reed’s Restaurant for a delicious meal and lots of visiting, while Sunday was a gorgeous day to gather leisurely at the Museum. All too soon it was time to say “Farewell until next time.” When the 100th gathers it is always a “blow-out” and this was no exception. Based on the list of those who signed in, we had 39 Veterans. Thanks to all the wives, family and friends who attended…your presence was greatly appreciated.

100TH VETERANS IN ATTENDANCE Bruce Alshouse, Richard Anderson, Joseph Armanini, Earl Behnam, Don Bradley, Bill Brown, Andrew Burkhart, Rinaldo Bussino, Henry Cervantes, Harry Crosby, Douglas Drysdale, Rick Erickson, Don Friedman, Hal Higgs, Gene Jensen, George Keller, Gayle Leonard, Dale Long, John Luckadoo, James Mack, Warren McCoy, Frank Murphy, James Olmstead, Joe Orendoff, Jack Ogg, Dan Radice, Glenn Rake, Bill Roche, Leon Schwartz, Danny Shaffer, Robert Shoens, Philip Soto, Keith Sprague, Dave Talichet, Robert Tienken, Richard Tunncliff, William Veal, Charlie Wilson, Bob Wolff, Bill Woods.

FAMILIES AND OTHERS The 19 Friends and Family of Irene and Richard Carey, Carley, Lexie, Emily and Curtis & Eva Wilson, Robert Larson, Sergio Trejo, John Kolacki, Marilyn Barbarita, Ray & Dolly Cary, David & Virgina Steele and Bruce & Jeanne Swinehart, 918th Living Memorial Group Ron & Carol Batley & Richard Gibson, Paul West & Harry Nelson Jan Riddling, Mike Faley & Greg Hatzenbuhler.