COMMENTS & NOTES
Air Traffic Control at Thorpe Abbotts: A
Story of David Wolman’s Service
By Matt Mabe, 100th BG Historical Team
During the 100th Bomb Group reunion this past October, we had an opportunity to talk with David Wolman, who
served as an Air Traffic Controller at Thorpe Abbotts during 1943-1945. Of note, the Dulles Reunion was 96-
year old Wolman’s first, and he attended with his daughter Nancy.
A summary of Wolman’s service during World War II is detailed below.
David Wolman was born in Brooklyn, New York, and
was drafted in 1942. After completing basic training,
Wolman learned there were openings in the control
tower operations field, and he elected to pursue that
job path. Wolman subsequently attended a sevenweek
training course on control tower operations near
Champaign, Illinois, and he also completed radio
operator school at Truax Field in Wisconsin. In early
1943, Wolman was sent to Hunter Army Airfield in
Georgia, where he received advanced training and he
also installed radio equipment in B-26 Marauders.
Wolman arrived at Thorpe Abbotts in August 1943, where he was assignedas an Air Traffic Controller with the
412th Air Service Group and he held the rank of Corporal. Wolman worked for Captain Vincent Biondino,
Group Communications Officer, and Lieutenant James Pound and his work station was on the ground level of the
control tower. Wolman remarked that his fellow flying control members were “all good fellas”
to work with. The flying control personnel worked in the tower during the course of three different
shifts, and Wolman primarily covered the day shift. Wolman’s duties on any given day included keeping
a log book of planes and recording other occurrences near the runway area. On the day of a mission,
the pilots would check their radios with Wolman or with the respective Air Traffic Controller on duty in the
tower as their planes lined up on the taxiway, and the tower was referred to over the radio as “clearup”.
Wolman remarked that it was an “incredible” sight to see all the B-17s line up and take off fora mission.
During the actual mission, Wolman remained on duty and monitored the radio inthe event a plane had to
return to the base early. In anticipation of the group’s return to base after a mission, Wolman
vividly recalled seeing Colonel Thomas Jeffrey and other senior officers standing against the railing on
the second floor of the tower, counting the returning B-17s.
During the landing process, there was no unnecessary radio chatter. As aircraft returned, Wolman would
communicate with the pilot or co-pilot and advise if they were “cleared to land” and he would direct them
on which runway to land on. If there were any injured airmen on board, the pilot would communicate
that information to Wolman, and themedics would be notified to be ready. Additionally, if the approaching aircraft
advised Wolman of a mechanical issuethat may result in the plane missing the runway or making a hard landing,
the fire department on base would be dispatched immediately. Wolman was also on duty at the control tower
during some of the 100th’s most difficult missions, such as the October 10, 1943
mission to Munster. Wolman said it was always tough to see only a few planes come back from a
particular mission, and he recalled one instance that lingered with him in which saw the tail section of an
incoming B-17 that was badly damaged and he later learned that the tail gunner had been killed.
Wolman’s busiest and most memorable experience at Thorpe Abbotts came on June 6, 1944, D-Day, when
the 100th Bomb Group flew three missions. Wolmanwas awoken at 0500, and was directed to immediately
report to the control tower. Wolman said the pace of operations during that time “remained busy”, and
Wolman worked exhaustively for the next three days. During his time with the 100th Bomb Group,
Wolman also assisted with the weekly Jewish service on base. There was only one chief rabbi for the 3rd Air
Division, therefore there was not a rabbi permanently based at Thorpe Abbotts. Wolman would help
conduct the Jewish service on Friday evenings, and a photo of that service, which shows Wolman, can be
seen in the Contrails book.
After the war, Wolman returned to New York where he worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
as an Air Traffic Control Specialist. Wolman remained in contact with his former Lieutenant,James Pound, for many
years, and Wolman maintains fond memories of his time with the 100th. Wolman and his wife Gladys
were married for 66 years, and he currently lives with his daughter Nancy on Long Island, New York.