The Jesse Wofford B-17 Crew

 

 

by S/Sgt Joe R. Urice
351st Squadron - 100th BG - 8th AF

Related Page: Jesse Wofford Crew Page


 

CREW ASSEMBLY

Air Force personnel were coming in to reassignment centers from all areas. In my case, I had received a delay in route leave after completing gunnery school (class 44-27) at Las Vegas, NV on 18JULY44 and was to report to McDill Field, Plant Park, Tampa Fl. on 3AUG44.  W.O. Leonard C. Frumin was coming from navigation school at Selman Field, Monroe, La. (Class 44-11). Davenport was coming from Warrensburg, MO where he served briefly in Troop Air Transport. Just prior to that he had been in Charlotte, SC in an experimental program that was testing the use of a 75 mm cannon mounted in a B-25 nose. He evidently arrived in Tampa approximately 10June44, as he did not get assigned to a crew for nearly three months after arriving there. During that time he was housed under the stadium of a baseball field. Upon my arrival there I was sent to a huge open hanger structure that contained what seemed to be hundreds of unassigned enlisted men personnel. There were cot arrangements for us and we lived out of our barracks bags. I have no idea what took the process to drag out for weeks, [ I was at this camp approximately 30 days] but we were there to be assigned to aircrews.

We evidently had opportunities for evening passes into Tampa because several individuals reported going to the Flamingo Club there. At that time Tampa still had electric streetcars and that was an efficient means of transportation around the area, and in addition there were several good movie theaters available. As we continued to be unattached personnel, and in order to avoid details like possible KP, I volunteered for a work detail at the base's baseball field where some dozen of us would do routine grounds management work such as liming the base paths [between bases] plus raking out and leveling the infield----routine maintenance. The base had a sizeable covered grandstand (painted green) but I never learned who or what teams played there.

This delay of assignment lasted for several weeks and finally a full crew was assembled and transferred to Avon Park, Fl. on 2SEPT44.  None of those selected for this crew had previously known any other selected individual and all were from many diverse home locations and backgrounds.  The crew assignment was as follows:

2nd Lt. Jesse L. Wofford Pilot Single & from Jackson, MS b.6June22) --
2nd Lt. Kenneth R. Carr Co-Pilot Single & from Chicago, IL b.? --
W/O Leonard C. Frumin Navigator Single & from NYC, NY b.21Mar21 02-015-30602-015-306
Cpl. Algie L. Davenport TTE Married & from Rossville, GA b.4May23 --
Cpl. Reuben (NMI) Laskow Radio Single & from Middle Vlg., L.I., NY b.8Nov19 --
Cpl. Carl E. Lindstrom Armorer Married-One Child, from Mpls, MN b.11Mar18 --
Pfc. Norman F. Bowman Gunner (WG) Single & from Mpls, MN b.15March25 --
Pfc. Raymond R. Uhler Gunner (BT Single & from Wooster, Ohio) b.? --
Pfc Joe R. Urice Gunner (TG) Single & from Taft, TX b.1Mar24 38-557-853

From reading other crew histories, it would normally appear that the officer [Pilot, Copilot and Navigator] assignments were made initially and the enlisted men were assigned later. Obviously the TTE, the Radio and the Armament gunner assignments were automatic because of their previous training. My personal opinion is that the other three gunners were positioned strictly by height [e.g. the shorter man in the ball turret and the taller man in the waist area]. I saw one interesting initiative made by two of the enlisted gunners near my bunk. They had developed a close friendship and decided to go to the base Chaplain and ask if he would intercede for them so they might be assigned to the same crew. They did get on the same crew.

FROM PLANT PARK AF, TAMPA, FL. to AVON PARK AF, FL.

On 2SEPT44 the new Wofford crewmembers left Tampa and arrived at Avon Park in central Florida by ground transportation. The base was carved out of a tall pine forest. Here we would train for many weeks to be a flight crew. The enlisted men were housed with double bunks in an almost empty wooden single story barracks that had outside wall covering of tar paper for insulation and that was typical of many of the barracks there. The weather upon arrival was very uncomfortable and was extremely hot and humid. One of the very necessary pieces of G.I. equipment was a mosquito net. Fortunately within about two weeks the climate conditions changed completely and the weather became very pleasant and remained so throughout the duty there. There was one exception---this was the hurricane season and one approached from the Caribbean area, so all planes were ordered flown to Hunter Field, GA. for their safety while the enlisted men were left on base. Fortunately, the storm center moved in another direction so the conditions did not become severe.

The aircraft at Avon Park were B-17s. If anyone had given it any thought it should have been obvious immediately that our future overseas duty would be in the ETO [European Theatre of Operations] area but I doubt if any were that astute. The B-17 is a large bomber powered by four 1,200 HP Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone nine cylinder radial air cooled motors. It had a large surface wing [1420 sq. ft] with a wingspan of 103 ft, 9 inches, a length of 74 ft, 9 inches and a height of 19 ft, 2 inches. Cruising speed was 160-170 mph and empty weight is given by various sources as 36,135 lbs with a range of 2420 miles. Each wing would contain three self sealing inboard gas tanks and nine smaller outboard tanks allowing for total fuel of 2780 gallons [bomb bay tanks would add another3600 gallons]. [See: "The Flying Fortress" p314 by Edward Jablonski]. The B-17 had been in constant development and change since its inception in 1934 with the latest combat model being the B-17G. That model was first put on the production line in July1943 and it continued to be updated throughout its existence. [See Airliners.net]. Three companies built this aircraft and those were Boeing, Douglas-Long Beach and Lockheed-Vega [Vega was a subsidiary of Lockheed] and these three corporations manufactured a total of 8,680 B-17Gs. The B-17G was originally was equipped with 13 guns but later versions eliminated the Radio man’s upper roof window gun. This reduction occurred starting with the models B-17G-105 and 110 in the Boeing line, B-17G-75 to 85 in the Douglas line and the B-17G-85 to 110 in the Vega line. This "G" model entered service in late 1943 with camouflage [olive drab] paint but all paint was deleted starting in January1944. The Cheyenne tail gun mounting started with Boeing’s B-17G-80, with Douglas’s B-17G-45 and Vega’s B-17G-35 and this version made the A/C length five inches shorter.

As we began training, I have no written record of what seemed to be everyday flights. This post was where I believe we came together as a crew both in training, flying familiarity, teamwork and in gaining an esprit’ de corps’.  Here was the beginning of the closed ring where a crew became a unit within itself. Most fortunately, all members of this crew were congenial men of good character and personality. Close relationships were developed that were helpful in later combat situations and even into later civilian life. Several of the crew had two to three years of university hours by the time they entered the armed services so on the average it was a reasonably well educated group for that period. For example, of the background that I know, Laskow had attended CCNY, Lindstrom had attended a Minnesota school, I had spent two years at the University of Texas, Frumin attended the University of Pittsburgh and Wofford had attended Millsap University [?]. To my knowledge everyone had at least completed high school, perhaps some just barely before being taken into the armed services. Bowman had transferred out of an infantry company, a 200 man unit at that time, because, as he said, "there are better places to be". Most importantly, I wouldn't trade the opportunity that allowed me to be with so many fine individuals as were on this crew.

I was promoted to corporal on 1OCT44 shortly after coming to Avon Park. I assume the other two gunners were also promoted. The other three EM probably became sergeants since they were already a stripe higher, as Laskow had been to radio school, Lindstrom to armament school (Lowery Field, Denver) and Davenport had been to engine school (Amarillo Army Air Field). If there had been absolutely no other reason, promotions were always most welcome because at that time privates came into the services earning only $50/month and about $6.40 (depending on age) was deducted for a $10,000 life insurance policy and PFCs received only a slightly larger amount. [In the early years of the draft privates were paid only $18/month]. Even with that limited $50 income, enlisted men were pushed to "buy bonds" and I was later, at discharge, thankful that each month I did buy the $25 bond (thru payroll deduction at a cost of $18.75). As is well known, enlisted personnel received free uniforms and food. From 1941 to 1944 the base EM pay scale was as follows: (RE: Splasher Six-Summer 2004-p.21)

  • Private $50.
  • PFC $54.
  • Corporal $66.
  • Sergeant [probably $77].
  • S/Sgt. $96.
  • Tech Sgt. $114.
  • Mst. Sgt. $138

These rates were for EM with less than three years service. Being on flight status added another 50%. Overseas service added another 20%.

From 1944 to 1945 the pay scale was as follows:

  • Private $52.50.
  • Pfc. $56.70.
  • Corporal $69.30.
  • Sergeant $81.90.
  • S/Sgt. $100.80.
  • Tech Sgt. $119.70.
  • Mst. Sgt. $144.90.

Obviously grade was important and involved more than just the money increase because the Army is all about grade and the benefits and responsibilities that go with more advanced grade.  Army payday was the last day of the month and I remember the long pay lines enlisted men stood in to receive this monthly pay. Enlisted men lined up alphabetically and, in turn, arrived at the pay officer's table, recited name and dog tag number and got paid in cash. I never experienced the time when the alphabetical order of that pay line was reversed so I was always among the last of the line. I don't think, as I remember, the mandatory officer salute was given in this situation. The lines were similar to EM chow lines, which is where the term "chow hound" derived it's origin in that there were always eager beaver guys that most frequently managed to be near the front of that line. An interesting question is how did an enlisted man receive his pay if he flew on a combat mission that day? Also, I have no information as to whether officers had a similar "pay line" nor can I fully furnish any officer pay rates. [RE: Mike Faley reported that the 2nd Lt. pay rate was $175 with other supplemental additional additions, but uniforms, mess arrangements, etc, were his personal responsibility.]

Besides the actual training flying time the crew did at this base, there were also navigation exercises up and down the length of Florida (Lake Okeechobee was always an obvious landmark). I never will forget tossing a heavy wooden .50 caliber ammunition box out the A/C’s side door while flying over what seemed to be endless stretches of marshland in southern Florida and as a consequence almost hitting the only farm house within miles and miles. There also was air to ground gunnery practice with live ammunition from a 0.50 [inch] caliber Browning machine gun. Even procedures seemingly as simple as intercom discipline had to be acquired and learned (we were equipped at this point in time with the "strap on" throat mikes and that allowed the hands to be free.). On one practice flight, the pilot determined to see how high this B-17 would climb and he finally topped out at 31,000 ft which, from what I've read, is beyond the normal altitude ability of that specific aircraft although some specifications on late models indicate a 35,000 ft altitude ability.

On a different flight, the pilot accepted the challenge of another B-17 pilot who said Wofford couldn't maintain close formation with him. Wofford proceeded to stick his plane's right wing into a very close proximity to the lead plane's waist window and kept it there in all flight veers. I thought our pilot was crazy but obviously he could fly a plane at a high skill level.  Additional ground training involved further classroom instructions on different aspects of flying and combat procedures (but we never heard about the Me 163 or the Me 262 German jets until long after getting into overseas combat missions. Neither did we get any parachute training, other than shown how to put on a parachute harness properly, or any ocean ditching training. I don’t remember ever knowing the area containing a life raft compartment.

Further ground training at Avon Park occurred as the enlisted men were scheduled through many opportunities for shotgun and .45 caliber pistol firing. The pistol range shooting was at stationary targets at approximately 15 or 20 yards distance while the shotgun clay pigeon trap training was at moving targets from various tower angles. The shotguns were especially equipped with the three ring "rad" sights (similar to those used on B-17 machine guns at that time) so further experience was acquired in how to properly lead a target in motion. This type of training paralleled the proper combat technique necessary to fire while in the air from a moving base to a moving target such as an approaching enemy fighter. The "rad" gun sight was on all tail guns with which I was associated, but present information indicates that a reflector type of sight was being installed in B-24s and the newer B-17Gs [even in the tail] in the last months of the WW2. This was a small square box mounted on the gun and which had a lighted aiming circle exposed in the box interior. I have no recall of having this new sight in the tail guns on any mission but the top turret guns had those from the beginning according to Davenport [TTE]. 

Naturally all this crew was in good physical condition and there were several good athletes among them. That naturally led to spirited regular physical training touch football games at Avon Park within the crew (officers and EM). This competitive nature among the crew even later carried over at England where competitive Officer vs. EM games of softball were arranged after VE Day.

The enlisted men frequently had access to passes into the small, quiet, rural town of Avon Park. On weekend nights, Lindstrom, Laskow, Bowman and I would go out to the only nightclub in the area, The Blue Lagoon, for drinks and conversation. It was a pleasant, quiet and large open area building framed so that a large portion of it extended out over the lake. One night while there, Laskow proposed that if we survived the missions we were headed for in the future, he personally would throw a party for us. To make it 'official", he wrote the arrangement on an identification card he carried and then signed it. We never did hold him to that arrangement but I would like to hold that paper now. The EM crew was given a four day pass during this training period and as a result the above mentioned four went to Miami, FL from 10NOV44 to 14NOV44, and stayed in a very nice small motel where the lady manager-owner gave us great seasonal room rates. Those four of us had three cheap commercial pictures taken in Miami on that pass. That foursome took for granted that there would be drinking while on pass, but there was a general understanding that anytime one could not drink and still remain a gentleman, he would not drink. That rule was never broken.

An unusual coincidence happened early on my arrival at Avon Park AF, in that as I was cutting across an open area, a soldier hailed me and asked if I wasn't "Joe Urice". He was Gene Midyett who had been 1st chair clarinet and band drum major in the Elk City, OK band when I was also there. His assignment, among other things, was to lead a dance band on the Avon Park base. As it turned out, during my army time, only Midyett, along with Robert [Bob] N. Allert #38-557-829 and James.O. Baker #38-557-850, who were inducted from Taft, TX at the same time as I was, were the only individuals from my pre-army life that I ever saw in the AF. However, none ever served together again after basic training.

One of the events that helped solidify this new crew occurred with a completion of training party given by Wofford's mother who had come to Avon Park to host the event. Someone had even arranged transportation to the club in an AF truck vehicle. We knew we were headed overseas someplace but most of us knew not where and it didn't seem to be that great a concern at the time.

FROM AVON PARK AIR BASE (FL) TO WALES (UK):

After completion of training at Avon Park Air Field, (Highlands County) the Wofford crew transferred to Hunter Field, Savannah, GA. on 20November1944. We remained there for several weeks while being issued new flying equipment and clothing and finally received a new B-17G just prior to leaving the base. The crew did no flying at that base. The only time a total crew picture was ever taken was by a local Savannah firm at the base and it is the one presently shown in the 100thbg.com web site. There were two different "takes" developed. Evidently different photographer companies were used at that base since the Wofford crew picture has a different company name on the back than does the one of the Gris Smith crew taken a few months later that shows the exact barracks background [RE: John Joseph O’Leary, Jr.].

It became obvious that there was a very nimble and clever thief in the EM's barracks as many soldiers were losing money during the night. The enlisted men were bunked in a double story wooden barracks in which, supposedly, only transient troops were billeted. Enlisted men were allowed off base each evening if desired. This also was the base where evidently a master baker cook was stationed since the bread served there was outstanding and also the aroma from the base bakery permeated the local atmosphere.

While I was in Savannah, my Mother was somehow able to secure an airplane ticket to fly from Oklahoma City for an overnight visit. Getting that ticket in those highly rationed and travel restricted times was just a bit short of a minor miracle.

On 11Dec44, the crew flew to Grenier Field near Manchester, N.H [Note: see picture in the supplement of my base pass showing the mis-spelling of "Greneir"]. This visit developed into only an overnight stop. Grenier Field [originally Smith Field and then Manchester Field] was renamed on 22Feb1942 for 2nd Lt. Jean Bonet Grenier who was killed in a 16Feb1934 crash of an Army B-12 in Utah while flying a mail route. Grenier had originally been a resident of Manchester. [See: "Grenier Army Air Field in WW2" by Tom Hildreth].

We then flew on the next day on 12DEC44 to Goose Bay, Labrador (on the Hamilton River). Goose Bay Field by November1941 had three 7,000 ft runways. Upon landing, and then entering the small field airport building, some of the local permanent party ground pounders thought it humorous in the typical old time army manner (e.g. "you'll be sorry, etc.") of greeting newly arrived troops by advising that the normal G.I. meal served at that base was moose meat. We EM were bunked in a large, but well insulated, single story army barracks. It became obvious that this building quality was needed as the base almost immediately became snowed in for several days and it deeply covered the ground and even drifted as high as to the bottom of the barracks's windows. On one of the clear days, Wofford ordered all the enlisted crewmen to go to the flight line and sweep and shovel the piled up snow off the plane's wings.

There was a base theater and a large good quality gym on the base and I spent many hours each day playing pick up basketball with other gym rats of other crews. Our crew individuals from northern states [Lindstrom, Laskow and Bowman] checked out ice skates and attempted without success to teach the southerners to ice skate on the nearby small frozen pond.  Also, again during this down period, the two Minneapolis gunners, Lindstrom and Bowman, taught several others to play cribbage during barracks time. Most of us, especially myself, had previously never heard of the game but it was one that I continued to play for years afterwards and also taught others. 

On 19DEC44 we left Goose Bay and flew in a loose line formation with other B-17 crews for Reykjavik on the southwest side of Iceland. There had been an extra large gasoline tank installed in the bomb bay (unknown capacity) that was as large as the bomb bay. I have always assumed this was needed for sufficient extra gasoline for this over water flight. I have read from other accounts that this trip was approximately eight hours duration. Conversely, I have mentally speculated that there was the possibility that this plane was just ferrying extra tanks and fuel to be used in the UK for other purposes as regular tanks allowed for 2780 gallons. That would seem a reasonable assumption since many of out later combat missions were of this general time span and additionally we carried approximately 5,000 pounds of bombs when on a mission. Some of the B-17 North Atlantic routed planes also carried mailbags intended for the ETO but that was not our duty this trip.

I have since read that one of the German ploys to give US navigators extra difficulty with compass readings in that near North Pole magnetic environment was to send interruptive compass beams from U-boats. I've not heard Navigator Lenny Frumin speak of this, however, on this flight. Flying that day was below the oxygen required altitude [10,000 ft.] and the southern tip of Greenland could clearly be seen as we passed over. There is an interesting story that has now become known whereby an earlier flight of several P-38s and a B-17 were attempting this same journey during WW2 and were forced to emergency land on the snow surface at Greenland. In the 1990s a civilian group was able to recover and restore to flying condition one of those P-38s [now renamed as "Glacier Girl"]. When recovered, that P-38 had sunk 200 ft below the surface and had to be recovered piece by piece.

Moanin' Bowman spent much of the flight curled up in one of the superb arctic sleeping bags that had been stored in the plane if needed for some possible emergency. Among other items  loaded at Goose Bay were glasses to prevent snow blindness. I have often wondered what happened to all that type of equipment, included the B-17, after being delivered in the UK. The logistics for material handling and redistribution for the Air Force in the UK would be a most interesting subject.

We made a daylight landing at an airfield on the southwestern side of Iceland at Reykjavik, Iceland. Other crews have indicated that the primary landing field was Meeks Field but there was also another one at Reykjavik, the Patterson Field. Our crew left most of their personal items on the plane on the flightline. That was somewhat of a mistake as any whiskey, any radios, etc, disappeared during the night.

Iceland had achieved its independence from Denmark in 1918 and had attempted to stay neutral at the beginning of WW2. However, a base at Iceland was vital to the British so they occupied Iceland on 10May1940 in order to secure an Iceland base. Iceland finally officially agreed to an Allied base on the terms that it was to be manned by the US rather than Britain and consequently the US landed troops on 7July1941. This agreement later led to the UK and the US also using other Iceland ports to assemble convoy surface vessels for sailing to Russia and the UK. The Meeks Field is now known as Kefjavik Airport.

On 21Dec44, we departed southeastward from Iceland and flew north of neutral Ireland and once passed there we flew south over the Irish Sea to Valley, Wales (UK). [See: the "rafvalley.org." web site that was furnished by Simon Beet of Thrope Abbotts. That web was used as the source of the following information]. Valley is actually better identified as "RAF Valley", Station 568, and it had been a RAF base for many years before and also after WW2. This web further states that Valley became the "terminal point for transatlantic flights by American aircraft being delivered to the RAF and to reinforce the United States Army Air Force Squadrons based in England." It further reports that " Already, inbound aircraft from across the Atlantic had been delivered to the station on occasions and in July 1943 the first American personnel of Transant 1005 moved into the Valley and began preparing for the arrival of their compatriots and setting up a control centre to handle the large number of aircraft movements anticipated." The base was used as an eastward inbound A/C base for Canadian and US planes from Oct43 to Sept45, but after VE day, the A/C begin going in the reverse direction. If I properly understood this web information, there were 2500 A/C that went back west through Valley to North America between VE Day and Sept45. This RAF base is located nearby the town of Rhosneign on the west side of the Isle of Anglesly, which is on the north coast of Wales off the Irish Sea. See the supplement for the detailed color maps showing the Isle and also the runways.

It was dark by the time we got to the Valley base EM mess hall but several cheerful Welsh women mess personnel had a warm meal waiting for the EM. Their warm drink was hot tea with a full spot of milk and that was a great taste on that cold night. (Note: We were later advised that English produced milk was generally not pasteurized so it was better to avoid it. However, I'm not intending to suggest that what had been served to us that night was not pasteurized).

After being issued the regular English three "biscuits" which were to serve as our bunk mattress, we were directed to an empty barracks with double bunks. These biscuits were similar to firm square cushions and probably were in the general dimensions of 2½ ft. square and 5 inches thick. One source stated that these were filled with excelsior, but most likely many different materials were utilized. These cushions were stuffed into a thick cloth "sack" which was then placed on the bunk frame and used as a mattress. In addition, we received two wool British Army blankets, which were not totally unlike the olive drab [color] US Army issue but were blue in color. The barracks was unheated and that was one long night since it became uncomfortably cold. [NOTE: the flight logs of Navigator Frumin do not coincide exactly with the dates I have given above which were from my personal notebook.]

The next day, 22Dec44, it became obvious that we no longer had access to the new B-17G we had ferried to Wales. These ferried B-17s were accounted for by requiring the pilot to sign for the plane when received at Savannah and then he was given a receipt for it when delivered in the UK. We now boarded a passenger train and were taken to Stone, in central England that was a US troop re-placement center. The distance to Stone was a 100 mile [by straight line] trip from Valley. Stone is a small town between Manchester and Birmingham, and is, more precisely, positioned almost midway the 16 mile distance between the two English towns of Stoke on Trent and Stafford.

At Stone the enlisted men were separated for the night and bunked in individual rooms and regular beds along with the regular occupant, who in my case, was a permanent party soldier. I recall that he loaned me his G.I. mess cup for the evening meal since the mess hall claimed to have no individual drinking vessels. Since Stone was responsible for the staging and quartering of vast numbers of transient EM, I still find that SOP [standard operating procedure], even today, highly strange.

On 29Dec44 we left Stone and, after having passed through Cambridge without stopping,  arrived by an English passenger train at Diss, approximately 21 miles south of Norwich in the County of Norfolk [East Anglia] in eastern England. This journey was [by a straight line] a 140 mile trip. In fact, I don't recall getting off the train the entire trip across England. A map of Eastern England seems to show that the railway runs generally in a southerly direction from Norwich to Diss for 21 miles and from Diss it is another [approximately] 95 miles generally south through Stowmarket, through Ipswich, through Colchester and into London. These English narrow gauge trains were quite comfortable and, additionally, those cars were equipped with plunger shock absorbers between cars which helped minimize the "slack" jerks (within the couplings) normally expected from American trains upon starting their roll. The English had a "third class" and a "first class" seating arrangements, but I personally never saw that latter class.

This "Diss" location prompted many new arrivals to claim they said, in their censored letters home, that they told their family where they now were located by the tired old phrase of  "diss is it".  At that time and place, all enlisted men’s outgoing letters were required by regulation to be censored and signed for by a crew officer. I doubt if any of the Wofford crew officers were ever burdened with that chore by their EM on the letters that were mailed back to the US as we "censored" our own mail.

 Arrival at 100th Bomb Group:

The crew arrived at Diss by train late in the day of 29Dec44. We were picked up at the small rail station by a 100th BG 6X6 truck and driven to the airbase in the open (no canvas cover) rear bed. Even with our heavy G.I. overcoats, the wind was uncomfortably cold on that trip. We checked in and the enlisted men were assigned to a 351st Squadron Nissen hut directly across the narrow street from the orderly room. The hut had been partitioned in half with two six man [total of 12] flying crews in each end. There were three double-stacked wooden bunks on both of the long sides of this half hut. My estimate at this present date [based on the following Kaplan report which sound reason to me] is that the room was approximately 30 ft long and perhaps 16 ft wide and wired for electricity (but no water). [See: "Bombers" by Philip Kaplan, p.210, who reports that these huts were 16ft wide, 30 ft long and 8 ft high and were built on concrete slabs.] Electricity was of different voltage (220 V) than the standard 110V in the U. S. so therefore a basic transformer or resister was necessary to operate items such as American radios, etc. Heavy cloth curtains covered the windows on each side as well as at the door in order to comply with the nighttime "black out" rule necessary in England. In the middle of the room stood a British small metal coal burning stove about three feet in height, which was named a "slow but sure" "Turtle". There was one EM crew (6 men) already previously assigned to this hut area so the Wofford six EMs picked out an open bunk and made efforts to settle in. Little did we know that we would share the hut with this crew for only two nights.  Lindstrom was in the lower middle bunk [had a window beside it] next to the orderly room side, I was in the lower bunk across the room just opposite him and Davenport was in the upper on my side next to the hut middle partition. There was a small rack, at head height between the ends of each bunk, used to hang an individual's clothing plus each man had a standard G.I. footlocker. From my bunk I could look out the window at night and see the mission alert box that was sheltered at the Orderly room front door. That small box had three small colored lights:---red [for no mission], yellow [for stand by], and green [for a scheduled mission]---with the box facing the street side and indicated the mission situation for the 351st squadron for the coming day. There was a cold water shower in an unheated latrine building for the 351st Squadron’s area (and winter weather in Thrope Abbotts is cold). It was about 75 yards from our hut door and back in a line with the rear end of the orderly room and separated from it by a long open area. Just behind the orderly room were concrete shelter trenches for protection from a possible air raid. In some other areas these shelters were made of brick.

Some of us would bicycle to the 418th Squadron area to use its shower room since it did have hot water. The 351st didn't get hot water showers until after VE Day that coincidentally occurred about the shortly after the date that Col. Harry Cruver became 351st C.O.  I always gave him credit, perhaps undeserved, for this upgrade and told him so later. He had a fine outgoing personality. At the 100th Little Rock and Ft Worth Reunions I was fortunate to become personally acquainted with him by asking him to pose for a picture with two of the Wofford crew, Frumin and Bowman. He seemed delighted to meet some members of his WW2 command. He was in the process at the time of attempting to I.D. each flying crewmember of the 351st as well as gathering a more complete history of missions. Shortly after his WW2 assignment to the 351st, a "beer bust" was somehow arranged, with him in attendance, in the open area at the air raid trenches at the back of the orderly room.

The next day after arriving on the 100th base we started getting checked in and learning our way around this widely dispersed base. Because of this dispersed layout, all G.I.s seemingly had acquired English bicycles in order to get around and about the base. Evidently there must have been an efficient used bike market on base because soon all our crew had his own bike with Laskow and Lindstrom sharing a dual [bike built for two] bike. I paid someone 10 Pounds (English money that was then the approximate equivalent of $40 US) for a bike and promptly cleaned it up and painted it white for easy recognition.

On 31DEC44, the 100thBG flew a mission to Hamburg, Germany and lost 12 planes for that effort, including the crew with whom we were sharing the hut. We didn't yet even know their names or what crew they were on. About dark on the 31st, 1st Sgt. F.T. Bauman (351st Sqd.) came in, gathered each of the downed individual's clothes and personal items, stuffed them into the heavy removable cloth mattress cover, gathered them all and left without ever saying one word.  "CONTRAILS’s" records that on the Hamburg mission of that day there was 23 enemy planes destroyed, that 12 of the 100th A/C were lost and 111 US flyers were also lost. No comment was made on bomb results on the oil refinery target. [See the supplement for one recital of the mission.] I now note that those heavy losses of that date did not stop the 100th from continuing to fly as "CONTRAILS’s" mission list (p.132) shows that the Group flew missions on January 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th & 10th.  E. F. [Tim] Hooper's [TG] diary record, which is also in the supplement, reflects that he was on this 31Dec44 Hamburg mission and noted heavy flak and fighters. Hooper [who was born in Algona, IA] unofficially joined up with our crew starting with the 100th’s Little Rock Reunion since his crew had basically been divided up into different crews after arriving at the 100th. Interestingly, even without many of his original crew or pilot, most of his missions were flown on the same B-17F, The Skipper 11, which had the crew chief Ken Lemmons. Lemmons wrote the book, "Kenneth A. Lemmons Story" and he and Hooper ended up after WW2 living in the same town, Rockford, IL. Hooper has been a worthy addition.

The Gerald Brown enlisted men personnel were then moved into our barracks and they were already veterans of several missions and eventually finished their required tour and rotated back to the US. The total Brown crewmembers are shown in the supplement data. This also was a very outgoing crew, and they stayed in communication among themselves throughout their post-WW2 lives. Clarence Kellogg [TG] of that Brown crew was from Oklahoma City, Ok and agreed to carry a pack of my crew photographs [taken by Davenport] back to the states with him and then turn them over to my parents who were now also living in Oklahoma City. His family lived close to the Canadian River on the SE side of downtown. Bud Vieth [R] of the Brown crew has been a legal advisor officer in the 100th organization in the post war years. Veith later was to compile an outstanding Gerald Brown Crew history notebook dated August1990. It was during this period that the storied Gordon Sinclair was also bunked in our hut [in the top rear bunk on the street side] and who, as an enlisted man, flew as a Tail Gunner and later as a Navigator  (thereby obtaining a Master Sergeant rank---see supplement data]. That position transfer for him has often been credited to Squadron C.O. Harry Cruver. Other than the above mentioned #1 "unknown crew" in our barracks, the following were the other EM crews with which we shared this hut at different time periods. They were quartered there in the order shown below (crew members of each are shown in the Supplement):

#2 EM Crew: (The Gerald Brown crew) [Arthur Jacobson [CP], Ralph Bayer [N], Joseph Dye [B], Walter Peters [TTE], Gifford D. Vieth [R], Roland Douglas [BT], George Vogiatizis [WG], Wayne Page [WG], Clarence Kellogg [TG]. Bud Veith was later to serve many years with the 100th Association board.

#3 EM Crew: (The Robert C. Ellis crew) [Francis G. Beedle [CP], W.F. Kreamer [CP], Wallace H. Polansky [N], Cecil W. Giberson [TTE], Keevin Moriarty [R], John A. Cockerham [TOG], Russell G. Kendig [TG], Frederick J. Randleman [WG], Howard O. Weber [Radar]. Cecil Giberson [TTE] of this crew found lumber and made a semi-reclined chair with arm rests which all the hut crews enjoyed and which was used as a prop in several crew 351st area personnel pictures.

#4 EM Crew: (The J.L. Evans crew) [Jack E. Stoffregen [[CP], Robert N. Fenton [N], John S. Garvan, Jr. [B], Marion VanCleave [TTE], Delford L. Johnson [R], Francis R. Bernard, Jr. [BT], Robert L. Ross [WG], John C. Wasson [TG]. Wasson’s claimed nickname was "Big Stick" for his pre-service baseball experiences.

The 100th Bomb Group (#139) was in the 3rd Bombardment Division and 13th Combat Bombardment Wing. The four different Squadrons of the 100th were the 349th, the 350th, the 351st and the 418th. [RE: Michael Faley: "each squadron was assigned two letters to signify the squadron. XR-349 BS, LN-350 BS, EP-351 BS, LD-418 BS. The number below the Square D (on the tail of all 100th A/C) is the serial number of the aircraft. The letter below that is the call letter for the aircraft. This letter would also be on both sides of the fuselage after the Squadron I.D. (e.g. LN-X). "] The Commanding Officer of the 100thBG from 9May44 to 2Feb45 was Colonel Thomas S. Jeffery. The C.O. from 2Feb45 to 23June45 was Colonel Frederick Sutterlin. The C.O. from 23June45 until closing was Lt. Colonel John B. Wallace. Their military styles and personalities are very ably defined in Harry Crosby’s book "Wing and a Prayer". Who these officers were was of little personal significance to our flying crew enlisted men, as we had no contact with them or any of the other officers of the Group except to see them at a briefing. We never saw an organization chart of the Group. The only officers to visit our EM barracks (to my knowledge) during the combat era were Lenny Frumin (Nav) and Bob Ellis (P), whose crew was assigned to our hut then. Other than the above mentioned one time visit by 1st Sgt. Bauman on 31Dec44, no other personnel who were not nearby EM flying crews were ever in there. One thing this reflects is the close binding of individual EM crews in that they were an internally sufficient unit.

The EM crews in the other end of the hut at this time had a stack of good band records (78rpm) and a turntable and we interchanged somewhat with them. Someone in that same side also was from Texas and he had installed a flagpole at the roof peak over that door to fly a Texas State flag. There was a Red Cross club on the base and also a NCO Club but we rarely ever went there until after VE Day. There was also a base movie hall and a small flying EM library. Mission strike photos were often posted on that bulletin board there. Hooper still has several of these original photos. Another of the valued available items was the receipt of the "Stars And Stripes" newspaper that was delivered to our hut six days/week. All the men in our hut read every word, every day. I recall that on one of our hut crews there was one guy that would regularly start reading the various news items to the group. He seemed oblivious to the fact that we all had the same paper. In spite of similar antics, there were rarely any serious personal problems among these closely cloistered men.

The book "The Mighty Eighth" reports that the 100thBG was the inspiration for the movie "Twelve O’Clock High" [see pp.171-5]. Navigator Harry Crosby, who later wrote his own book "A Wing and a Prayer", gives a running description in "The Mighty Eighth" book of the 100th’s shuttle mission to Regensburg and then onto Africa. In explanation of the "Twelve O’clock High" movie’s later development, it reports that Lt. Col. Beinre Lay was in the CP position on this mission and also was charged "to draft a first hand account of the events, etc". "Based on what he saw, Lay would later co-author the screen play for the film "Twelve O’clock High " [along] with Sy Bartlett, another 8th staff officer."

Unknown to me until after our first mission was flown on 13JAN45, I was promoted to Sgt. on 10JAN45. Frankly, before and during that first mission, that lower corporal rank had been a concern to me since I had assumed that if our A/C got knocked down and I was captured with only a corporal’s rank, I wouldn't be put into the Luftwaffe's Sergeant's POW camps but would be put into one of the lesser non-Luftwaffe camps. It's strange about these odd little details that worries us unnecessarily. That should have been the very least of my concerns. The actual real danger that is involved on a combat mission cannot be understood until one actually flies on one. I think this is one the factors that results in many veterans being very reluctant to discuss their military memories with those who have not also experienced those similar situations. I have a close friend of some 55 years [Harold Wheat] and I didn’t know until recently that he had been in several WW2 front line infantry struggles in Europe. However, when one is among one’s own flying crew, that same reluctance to discuss combat events rarely occurs.

I have no record of the date, but not overly long after we came to the 100th, and probably after we had flow a couple of combat missions, the crew’s enlisted men were given a two day pass. To my dying day surprise, since I personally had been quite anxious to see any place that was without olive drab, I became the only one in the crew that took advantage of this overdue pass opportunity. Not having any knowledge where to go, I went north by train to Norwich and spent my new found freedom there. Among the great attractions in that historic city was an old stone castle that had been converted into a museum and it had unique display items from a long gloried British past----e.g. coats of arms beyond description, etc. In essence, it was a small, brief glimpse of medieval England and it historic grandeur. Recent readings would indicate that Norwich became a "2nd Division B-24 town" as many of their bomb groups were stationed nearby. There is now a permanent 2nd Division museum in Norwich.

It is noteworthy that the town of Diss [population of 6000] was off limits to white Anglo personnel until Spring, 1944 as there was a Black personnel US Engineering unit stationed in that area [See "Memories and Stories of the 100th Bomb Group" by Robert Tienken—p. 38]. In our several months in the Diss area, I recall going to that town only three times. Once I was in a pub and twice I went to a church there on Sundays. The highly elevated pulpit in that attractive building has always been a scene I haven’t forgotten. The pub was obviously a family oriented operation but as I recall there was a partition across the public area and I believe that one side was a "men only" area.

Another unforgettable experience, but not of the same high distinction, was my routine every two weeks visit for a haircut from the UK barber [one chair only] located "somewhere" about the base. As he would cut my hair, he would chat non-stop in an accent in which I could not understand even one word. On occasion, just to appear friendly, I would throw in a "yeah" once in awhile. Strangely enough in my visit there after being on base a bit more than three months, I suddenly clearly understood everything he said.

THE MISSIONS BEGIN

One of the introduction classes that the crew attended in the early days at Thrope Abbotts was a talk by Robert (Rosie) Rosenthal, a Major, I think, at that time, and probably assigned to Group Operations since he had been reassigned from 350th Sqd C.O following being shot down on 10Sept44 and then able to return to base. He gave a briefing to the new personnel to indicate what might be expected on upcoming missions. In the middle of his presentation, a V-1 buzz bomb flew directly overhead and he stopped talking and followed the sound with his eyes until it was gone.

There was also a required short exercise at the base gunnery building where actual machine guns and powered turrets were available for training. At some point, each of us was issued several dime-sized compasses for possible use if we happened to go down behind enemy lines. Most concealed these in various linings of their regular flying coveralls and jackets.  "Escape" photos of flying personnel were made at this time in which "faked" photographs were taken showing us in civilian clothes. There are many examples of photos of individuals shown by that type photo in the "CONTRAILS’s" flying crew sections.

At the base PX crewmembers were allotted seven candy bars and seven packs of cigarettes (both at five cents each) per week. An officer named Al Paul had the PX responsibility as he is frequently mentioned in 100th BG literature. How this rationing system was controlled is not known but it evidently was a workable procedure. Since I didn't smoke and Lindstrom was a heavy smoker, I would trade my cigarettes for his candy, straight up. In fact, Lindstrom often  woke in the middle of each night for a cigarette break. Laskow and Bowman had a similar trade off. Just prior to his tour, Davenport had quit smoking cigarettes [from a two pack/day basis] and now only smoked a pipe. The restricted ration on matches at the PX was not a real concern to smokers as most had Ronson or Zippo lighters. Smoking of all types in these times and also during earlier generations was widely accepted.

I have no records now of our base pre-mission training flights, but several were made around eastern England prior to our first mission that occurred within approximately two weeks of our arrival at the base. At this point an individual's official tour number of combat missions was set at 35 but there must have been flexibility in this requirement since several sources note that various individuals were not required to go the full route. The 8th AF had changed the tour total effective 19March44. Re: Michael Faley:  "From June 1943 to March 19,1944 the tour of duty was 25 missions. From March 19,1944-July 1944 it was 30 missions and from July 1944 to the end of the war it was 35 ". The flying crewmen that got caught in this number changeover crunch were upset to say the least.

On 10JAN45, the loud sound of a plane in trouble somewhere above the 10/10th dense overcast was heard. Suddenly an out of control B-17 broke through the low ceiling and came careening straight down to earth (See Supplement email by Davenport in that the plane broke out of the overcast "at approximately 500 ft "). It is recorded that it hit the base bomb dump and explosions were heard for several hours. This was reported to be a plane from another Bomb Group and it was also reported that all crew had previously bailed out. "Century Bombers" says that this happened at 09:00 and the A/C was carrying two 2000# bombs and coming down at a 45 degree angle. My recollection, as was Algie Davenport’s, that the plane was falling straight down in a flat fluttering motion rather than at an angle.

On the 13Jan45 the crew flew its first combat mission, which was to Mainz, Germany with the objective to bomb and destroy a Rhine River bridge located there.

 Prior to any mission there were many details to which a flight crew needed to attend, and this description does not presume to take into consideration all the command team decisions or all the service units’ contributions that are necessary to get a mission started. When the enlisted night CQ came around (often at 02:30—03:00 AM) to rouse out the enlisted men who were scheduled to fly that day, the flight crew members would quickly complete any necessary personal ablutions, and then make a trek to the mess hall where they would be given a better breakfast than normally available and which would always include fresh eggs cooked in a way that was personally ordered. Then all flight crews would file into the large mission-briefing hut. About the time everyone was settled, the Group CO would enter from the rear of the room and everyone would jump to attention. As I recall, the CO at that time wore knee high cavalry boots so somehow I always assumed he was a Texas A&M graduate. After the CO made a few comments, a staff officer (S-2) would then pull open the large ceiling high curtain that hid the huge map of Europe and on which a ribbon would be pinned that indicated the flight path from base to target for the mission of the day. When some awesome target was shown, such as Merseburg, Hamburg or perhaps Berlin, there would always be a loud spontaneous "groan".  Most I think were quietly hoping for some "milk run" mission and certainly not a deep penetration flight into a known well defended area. After a short discussion from a staff officer who would outline the several flight directives such as the weather report, bombing altitude, IP and RP points, projected flak alleys with the anticipated AA gun numbers and locations and as well possible German fighter opposition, the men were generally dismissed while the pilots and navigators got further mission details, position and time plats and maps issued to them.

Some few, like myself, would then go to the chaplain's quarters, and he was never up at that hour, in order to receive a short blessing and prayer prior to proceeding. I never flew without that spiritual assistance. I appreciated Chaplain Capt. G.F. Teska’s availability.

Next it would be necessary to go to the Quonset huts where parachutes, "mae wests" and nylon electrically heated two piece suits were stored (between missions) and the crews would check this equipment out. Pilots normally would receive seat pack parachutes while others with more working space would have chest packs. Also available were "escape" packages in a soft plastic tightly sealed container holding inside a silk map of Germany, hard candy, etc. A 6X6 truck would ordinarily then take the crew to the predetermined aircraft hardstand. The A/C crew chief and other support crew of that hardstand would have the plane preloaded with fuel, a bomb load and gun ammunition. Also available were flak vests and helmets for each man.

Normally the gunners would then go to the crew chief's tent to pull the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns [invented by John Moses Browning about 1919 and modified many times afterwards] for his plane position and proceed to install them. (See: "Splasher Six" in the Summer 2005 issue--p.18) Effective range was said to be approximately 3,500 ft. with a rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute. [Models with heavier barrels used by ground troops had a potential of just 550 rpm]. This 750 rpm rate of fire was not a practical number as gunners had been regularly instructed during gunnery school to fire only in very short bursts so not to burn out a barrel with extended firing. One source reported his continuous firing of 20 seconds totally ruined a barrel. The M2 aircraft model weighs 61 lbs, is 37 inches long and has a muzzle velocity of 2840 fps. Each round was 5.47 inches long and weighted 1.71 ounces {48.5 grams}. I have found limited sources of information as to B-17 ammunition supply but one authority gave 6380 as the total rounds on board for a 13 gun ship, which averages to 500 rounds per gun. Several other sources paralleled this same 500 round/gun ammunition theme. Another source reported that the waist guns were later supplied with 600 [up from 400] shells per gun [there was one gun on each side]. If these are dependable numbers, and if an aircraft model Browning fired the reported 750 rounds/minute capability, then it would appear that a gunner had less than one minutes total firing time before any possible reload might be made. That total seems unusually low and a bit unreasonable in hindsight. This 750 per minute potential rate of firepower would allow a twin gun station [e.g. TTE, BT, Nose, TG] to fire at a rate of 1500 rpm. Careful aim and round preservation therefore needed to be a prime concern for a gunner. These .50 caliber shells were identified by color with armor piercing {black}, tracer (red), incendiary (blue), and armor piercing incendiary {silver}. It should be noted that German fighters had us outgunned since their propeller A/C mounted 20mm cannon and the Me 262 jet mounted 30mm cannon. Fortunately at this point in the air war the 8th AF had P-51 fighters with wing tanks that were capable of covering the bomber stream all the distance to the target and back.

In the winter months on each 100th hardstand there usually would be a hot stove warming the crew chief's large pyramid tent and a worktable would be available for gun or equipment work. After the A/C’s engines were flight-tested and warmed, the ground crew would top off the gasoline "Tokio" tanks in order that the plane's tanks to be totally full for the upcoming mission.

At a predetermined time and place, the A/C would line up on the taxiways and runways to await the green flare gun signal to begin takeoffs in the predetermined order. On rare occasions a red flare would be fired indicating a scrubbed or stand down on the intended mission. I recall waiting in the plane on the taxiway for one mission and fully expecting to see a red flare at any time because a heavy snowfall was in progress. I was emotionally jolted and highly surprised to see a green flare light up the sky and to realize that the mission was "on" in spite of the local weather. Often the weather could be positive at the target while poor at the base. And then sometimes the weather people were wrong.

Each pilot would take off with full throttle and zero trim tabs into the night darkness [especially in the winter months] and starts the gradual ascent to Group formation. Many, many other planes were occupying that same general Eastern England’s airspace while seeking out its proper formation as they grouped into assigned flying position. I never personally saw anyone refuse to go in his turn to fly, regardless of the target and his own personal uneasiness about the whole affair but there were reported instances of nerve failure. Most individuals were under considerable stress in this environment and I was aware of one enlisted man (not on our crew) that would start drinking as soon as he finished a mission and would still be "woozy" at the next morning's mission, but he went each time. On reaching the hardstand he would quickly start inhaling oxygen to 'sober up". Seeing a crew finish it's tour and then watching the great sense of relief settle over them that same night when they began to realize they would be flying no more combat missions was an interesting experience. However, in "Memories and Stories of the 100 Bomb Group" Robert Tienken notes instances of flying refusal.

A readable summary of a B-17 mission and crew procedures can be seen in "B-17 FORTRESS AT WAR" by Roger A. Freeman. Also, The 303 BG had published detailed position requirements and procedures (See Supplements) but these data were not seen at the enlisted gunner’s level at the 100th (to my knowledge.). A good source of information that covers descriptions and the names of most WW2 A/C of all the belligerent counties is "AIRWAR" by Edward Jablonski. However, its index is an illogical maze in any attempt to track detail. A fundamentally sound book for B-17 airplane details is the "Flying Fortress," also by Jablonski. My copy of that latter volume was originally owned by 2nd Lt.Walter B. Cummings, a bombardier of the 100th. The 100th BG web reports that he joined the 100th BG on 26May44 as part of the crew of 1st Lt. Austin F. Dunlap and was assigned to the 350th Sqd. After ditching in the sea on a flight, Cummings suffered a broken back and was returned to the US and he was replaced on that crew with another bombardier on 7July44. Much later Cummings was elected as Mayor of Kerrville, TX.

In these early days on the base a crew began hearing some new vocabulary---words such as "Kidmeat", "Poobah", and "Rubberband", each of which was to designate a position of a given squadron within the Group formation. Each plane was lettered and identified through the use of the "Phonetic Alphabet" and was the early year’s foundation for air control [e.g. "A" for "able, "B" for "baker", "C" for "charlie", "D" for "dog", etc.]. Additionally the phrase that this is "the poop from Group" always popped up. Also "buncher" surfaced, and then there was the famous military "Catch 22" phrase to examine if an individual had a "need to know". Tail gunners were not often on the "need to know" list.

I want to express, for future clarification, that each crewmember could possibly see a different action situation from what another crewmember might see while on the same flight and A/C because of his viewing position. For example, at the tail area the TG saw different events on occasion that those in the nose didn't and vice versa.

Wofford Crew Missions:

1) 13Jan45---Mainz, Germany. (#248) [Saturday] (Target---Bridge) When we arrived at the hardstand, the plane there was an older B-17G, and our plane formation position was tail end Charlie. This assignment was, most likely, because we were a new crew to the Group. "Century Bombers" [p. 176] reported that "in atrocious weather the Group took off the icy runway" and at target "where thirty one ships released sixty one tons of bombs". After take off and climbing to Squadron and Group formation altitudes, the bomber stream headed generally southeast toward this intended target. The 100thBG was in the 13th Bombardment Wing of the 3rd Division of the 8thAF. The 95thBG and the 390thBG were also in the 13th Wing and they alternated turns in leading the Wing. At this period, each Group usually flew only three of its four squadrons (of 12-13 A/C each] but later, as the war neared the end, a Group might fly all Squadrons with varying plane numbers. Normally, If a regular squadron consisted of 12 aircraft, then this would result in a Group mission total of 36 A/C more or less with the three Groups [95th, 100th & 390th] totaling approximately 108 aircraft, more or less. A routine B-17 bomb load might consist of ten 500 pound explosives that had stabilizing fins on the rear and a propeller arming devise on the front end. Armament gunner Carl Lindstrom would save a cotter pin and bomb tag for me on each combat mission when he armed the bombs for target drop and I would then I.D. it as to mission and date, etc.

Upon reaching the English Channel on this Mainz mission and gradually continuing to gain altitude, the pilot alerted everyone to test fire his gun(s). The plane was equipped with the following Browning 50 caliber machine guns: (1) Togglier-armorer-gunner (Lindstrom), being in the nose, had a power operated twin gun turret fixed beneath the plane's nose that was capable of covering 180 degrees to the front; (2) the navigator (Frumin), also in the nose area, had access to a gun at shoulder height on each side of the nose and actually had only a limited shooting angle; (3) the top turret engineer gunner (Davenport) had a power operated turret that mounted twin guns which could cover 360 degrees across the top side; (4) the ball turret gunner (Uhler) had a power operated enclosed lower ball with twin guns capable of covering 360 degrees from the aircraft bottom side; (5) the waist gunner (Bowman) had access to a single gun on each side of the Plexiglas windows; (6) the radioman (Laskow) originally had access to a single gun mounted on the top window of his cabin and pointed toward the rear (See: Michael Faley, 100thBG Historian notes the radioman’s gun had gradually been eliminated starting in 1944 so there was no radio position gun in B-17s at this time---see additional information on this subject below); and (7) the tail gunner (Urice) had twin manually operated guns on swivels with ammunition belts feeding into each gun from a side supply storage area. Michael Faley also reports that each gun was furnished with an ammunition belt nine yards long, from whence evolved the saying "the whole nine yards". The TG’s guns were able to cover 180 degrees to the rear (up and down as well as left and right.). The guns had a three concentric rings (rads) aiming sight, which was used to help mentally determine the lead distance necessary to be used in firing at a target and depending on the angle approach of an enemy fighter. The power operated turrets [e.g. TTE] were operated by an electro-hydraulic system built from a Sperry Gyroscope #645473E design. Emerson Electric manufactured some of these turrets.

I had an interesting conversation with 100th Group Navigator Harry Crosby at the 2005 100th BG Reunion concerning the instructions he offered his navigators about using these 50 caliber guns. His instructions were "to leave those gun alone---you are a navigator, so navigate".

Every 5th round was a tracer and on no mission of ours was all the ammunition supply depleted. The later model B-17G tail positions were equipped with the "Cheyenne" turret, as it is identified by Roger A Freeman's book, and which was a considerable improvement in defensive and visibility aspects from the B-17F. Freeman reports that this turret nomenclature came about as a result of the first one being developed at Cheyenne, WY. Most crewmembers carried a shoulder harness mounted .45 caliber pistol under his flight jacket and a straight blade G.I. knife strapped to his leg. Rather than the G.I straight blade, I carried a custom made straight blade knife sent to me by my uncle, Buck Dendy, who said it had been made by an old Indian chief in eastern Oklahoma.

Since a cold wind draft funneled backward through the fuselage to the tail section, that gunner’s spot could be very cold.  With plug in electric suits over "long john" two piece underwear, then another layer of a coverall flying suit (cloth material) and then a A-2 or B-3 flying jacket on the outside, the effects of the cold temperatures could be managed. Additionally, we were issued tight fitting silk gloves to be worn under a knitted cloth glove and then all that under an outer fleeced lined leather glove, which I don't recall often using because of the bulkiness in operating a gun. Some of us who also were inclined to be a bit superstitious always made certain that items  worn on previous missions, such as my extra long wool scarf, etc., were with us when we left the ground. In order to protect my neck from the intense cold [which in a later flight dropped to minus 75 degrees {-75F} ] I wore this wool scarf wrapped several times around my neck and would also turn on the red signal light [Aldis lamp] mounted on the bulkhead just behind my head. That light was certainly not intended for heating purposes but it helped. This lamp is defined on Army Air Force.com as a "signal light" or "biscuit gun" used from the tail of a lead A/C to signal the formation. It evidently played little part in 100th operations as I was never instructed to use it on any flight. Flares fired from Very pistols by the TTE from amidships were the normal A/C formation signals [other than those spoken by radio transmission and that was not a normal combat mission "SOP"]. The 303rdBG had written instructions as to the Aldis lamp’s use in their pilot’s operational procedures. Air Transport gliders and their C-47 tow A/C noted their use in various reports. These signal lights had been in long standing use for signaling in the British Navy and the RAF for many years using the Morse code.

Internal ice formation on the tail gunner's windows was another regular problem on the older B-17s at low temperature altitudes. From the other crew bunked in our barracks, I learned to carry a scrapper plus a lemon so I could rub the juice on those rear windows to assist in reducing the ice buildup. The windows in the tail section of these older planes were not large anyway and visibility was further reduced by the area’s framing partitions of the glass. An additional concern at these colder altitudes, from a gunner's visibility standpoint, was the dense contrail cloud trailing from each plane and that was formed by the engine exhaust condensation from all planes. Another regular winter procedure was the need to routinely massage the oxygen mask intake hose in order to break up any ice that might have formed there from moisture in the breath.  Anoxia could occur very quickly if tube blockage should occur. With very few exceptions our bombing altitudes were always in excess of 22,000 feet (and on one mission we bombed from 27,500 ft. because of the extra high cloud level) and oxygen was advisable anytime when flying above 10,000 feet. Obviously, the crew would spend several hours on oxygen while on a mission. 

On this Mainz bombing run, the target was visual with little or no clouds (0/10th) and as we approached the target [The Gustavsburg Bridge] from the Initial Point (IP) the Rhine River could be seen from the 23,000 ft. (approximate) altitude. Flak over the target area was heavy with plane damage caused by flak causing holes in the tail and nose areas. While over flak areas, I always wore a flak vest and a steel flak helmet and also hooked one snap of the parachute harness to the parachute so it would be quickly available in the event of sudden severe plane damage. A study in 1942 revealed that 70% of wounds received by 8th AF crews were the result of flak shrapnel so flak suits were issued. By 1Jan44 13,500 flak suits had been issued to 8th and 9th AF Forces. These flak suits were probably the model M-1 [weight 18 lbs.] and had a rip cord that allowed the entire suit to be quickly removed when pulled. It was when we started receiving flak for this first time that I suddenly totally realized for the first time that I had put myself in harm's way and thought "hey, these guys are trying to kill us !!! " That's the classic "too little, too late" situation.

The book, "CONTRAILS" shows claims of 0--enemy aircraft destroyed, 0--US planes lost, 0--- 100th men lost.  NOTE: on future mission statistics from this book, only the respective number for each category will be shown with no description phrases.  These numbers are specifically for the 100thBG only except the "enemy aircraft" category are for any German planes destroyed.) The book also reports bombing results were "Good". A review of other missions in that book show the different "RESULTS" definitions as EXCELLENT, VERY GOOD, GOOD, FAIR, POOR, MISSED, RECALL, HIT T.A., BELIEVED GOOD and HIT TARGET.  It must be assumed from this that there must have been some subjective decisions made as to "bomb results". See the "Tactical Reports" in the supplement for other assessments of bomb strikes. Also normally available were strike photos taken on a bomb run and a more precise evaluation of damage could be assessed. "Century Bombers" says that the bomb load that day was twelve 500# bombs and further adds that William Appleton [P] in Heaven Can Wait" reported heavy flak over the target and also later at the Prince Willheim Canal. Wofford’s navigator, Frumin, listed flight time as 7 hours and 45 minutes (07:45).

2) 14Jan45---Derben (#249) [Sunday] (Target---Oil Storage) Wofford’s plane assignment that day again was an olive drab A/C. I believe this was the mission where the bomber stream was routed far up the North Sea before we entered German airspace west of Hamburg. Briefing had indicated that this path should allow clear passage between two large flak zones. There were no clouds. However as soon as we crossed the coastline into Germany, heavy intense flak could be seen from the tail position and fortunately it was tracking behind and below our B-17 [in our tail in charlie position]. As flak bursts tracked closer toward us, the 100th bomber stream veered slightly to the right and the German AA ceased firing at the 100th. Normally I would never be able to see the Group behind us, but this was a clear day and that trailing Group was nearer than usual and very visible. The German 88 AA batteries were able to zero them as to elevation and four B-17s went down immediately. My startled reaction was that in no way could a big powerful B-17 be blown down that quickly, but it happened. My recent research showed that the unlucky Group was the 390thBG as they lost 9 A/C that day primarily from the 568th Squadron. (See Supplement for 390thBG list of lost A/C.). The 95thBG reported no losses that day. "Diary of an Air War" by G. Zijlstra further discusses the 390th problems but he does not mention the four A/C lost to flak at the coast. It says the following: "One Squadron of the 390thBG was lagging behind because of supercharger problems in the lead A/C of this Squadron." "Moreover this Squadron was some 2,000 ft behind the rest of the group, and here the Germans had more luck". "All eight Fortresses were brought down one after another". Frankly, I doubt the total correctness of this account because of what I saw at the coast to the front Squadron and also because these total losses of nine came from two different squadrons [568th [7] and 571st [2]] and not just one Sqd. Of course it must be taken in consideration that I do not presently have data to show which was the lead 390th Squadron on that mission. [Re: Supplement for their 390th A/C losses.] For further clarification as to distances maintained between Groups on missions, I was fortunate, as stated earlier, to be at a dinner table in Pittsburgh, PA with Harry Crosby’s son and Harry Crosby, a 100th Group navigator. He recalled that the scheduled time spacing between Groups was two minutes or approximately six miles. I would therefore assume that the 390 BG was closer than this standard distance since I was able to see them so clearly as we entered Germany.

We saw our first German fighter prior to the IP. A lone German fighter floated for a brief time in the nine o'clock level position to our plane. Shortly after I called it out over the intercom to identify it as a "bandit ", the fighter dipped his wing to the right directly toward our plane on a classic fighter pursuit curve from that 90 degree vector angle (a three rad ring shot). It was obviously a FW 190 and quite remarkable in that it had a large red propeller hub. He started firing as soon as he turned inward and I was so naive and green as a war conditions gunner that my first reaction was to ask myself  "why is he flashing his wing lights at us?". When I finally woke up and realized that what I was seeing was the flash from his wing guns and that had caused a section of each wing leading edge to appear as a bright blazing light. They never explained that phenomenon to us in any gunnery school----they only taught what a gunner should do when firing his own 50 calibers. I’ve since been informed that FW190s of the time were normally armed with two MG 151/20 mm cannon in each wing [each capable of firing 740 rpm] plus a nose machine gun.

Flak caused, among other damage, a nine inch (in diameter) hole in the right horizontal tail section just outside the tail gunner's position. After landing, Davenport ask me if I had seen the hole when it happened and when I replied "yes," he made the comment that "he would have mentioned it earlier during flight but he didn't want to scare me". Strangely enough, at that time I hadn't really given it serious thought but as missions continued, flak did become a very high concern. Nothing else was ever said again about that comment and rarely was a mission discussed after crew interrogation by S-2, and that would occur immediately following our return from a mission.  Customarily we were offered a "zero" paper cup (the flat type) full of scotch prior to interrogation. "CONTRAILS"reports were 6---0---0---EXCELLENT. On p.93 of that same book, it is reported that 50 FW 190s and I 109s hit the Group on this mission but I didn't see those many as they were evidently after other squadrons. I would assume these "boogies" probably later picked out the 568th Squadron of the trailing 390thBG since it was obviously already disrupted from the early flak damage at the coastline.

Frumin [Nav] listed flight time as 07:15 hours. The "Century Bombers" [p.176] says that the 100th was "led by Major Davis Lyster and David Raiford with the lead navigators of Carl Rossel and Charles Scott". It continues that Arthur Juhlin recalls "the primary target was an underground storage depot at Derben just outside Berlin." His bomb load was 6-1000 # bombs and the bombing altitude was at 26,800 ft. He listed flying time of 08:30 hours. Billy Bittle recalls no flak at the target. "Diary of an Air War" by G. Zijlstra [p.386] says that on this Sunday mission *the 8thAF sent 841 bombers with the 3rd Division going to Derben to attack oil refineries and that the 357th Fighter Group preceded that bomber stream. On the flight to the target, at Brandenburg, the P-51s intercepted a high group of 60 Me 109s at 32,000 ft covering a lower group of 70 or more FW 190s at 28,000 ft. These latter attacked the bomber stream in a frontal formation of eight fighters abreast but the P-51s were able to divert them in a battle lasting 30 minutes. Zijlstra further relates that another fighter group, the 353rd FG, picked up these Derben mission B-17s on their return flight home somewhere in the Hamburg area and proceeded to intercept 110 other enemy fighters again preparing to attack the 100th B-17s bomber stream.

3) 17Jan45---Hamburg, Germany. (#250) [Wednesday] (Target---Oil Storage). We had been briefed to expect perhaps 1000 AA guns over the target and flak was indeed extremely heavy but much of it was exploding a bit below our aircraft. Prior to takeoff several bales of aluminum chaff had been placed in the waist area and Bowman [WG] had been instructed to drop a small amount of this "chaff" per minute from the IP onward to the target through a small chute in the left waist skin. However, he became really active in shoving it outside at a very fast clip. But, as he said later, "if a little chaff could help, then a whole lot should be better".  Evidently he was correct. Most likely in 1943 the British became the first to utilize these aluminum strips for radar disruption but they termed it as "windows". Author Robin Neillands in "The Bomber War" [p.99] quotes German fighter pilot ace, Paul Zorner, as saying the British were using "dapple" [chaff] in August, 1943 in their night flights.

The mission time was 71/2 hours with bombing altitude of 25,000 ft. with a temperature of minus 42 degrees. News reports show a total of 700 bombers and 350 P-47s and P-51 were on this mission--- (See: E.F. Hooper diary) Navigator Frumin listed flight time as 07:00 hours.

Hamburg was one of the targets that had been hit repeatedly during WW2 by the RAF and the USAAF with bombs and incendiaries, but the Germans were still very capable of putting up enormous barrages of 88 mm cannon fire at a bomber stream. The 88mm Flak 18 [FlugzeugAbwehrKannone] was the first of this series of German cannon. The original design was made by the engineers of the Krupp Company of German at Sweden’s Bofors works in 1931 in order to evade the provisions of the WW1 Versailles Treaty. Production was started in Germany in 1933 with later modifications developing the gun through the Flak 41 series. It was capable of firing 15-20 round per minute and these guns usually operated in unit of four or eight guns. Each shell would explode at a predetermined altitude. Germany never developed a true proximity fuse or variable time fuse for these 2 1/2inch shells. By January1944 Germany had 20,625 of these guns available [See: B-26gunner.com]. Often the AA units would "box" the area just over the target which resulted in a bomber stream being forced to fly into flak. Unexplainably by me, the different anti aircraft bursts could be any color, red, black, white, orange or whatever. Other than Hamburg, there were several other targets such as Berlin, Merseburg, and several locations where AA guns in these large numbers could always be expected. Additionally, rail mounted flak cannon or other mobile units, could be moved into position by the Germans and appear in unexpected places. In other words, anticipated flak alleys were not always safe. Although the Krupp manufactured "88" [8.8 cm] Flak 41 cannon was the backbone of the German Anti aircraft defense, they also developed the 10.5 cm Flak 38/39 cannon [4.1 in] capable of sending a 32 lb. shell to 37,400 ft at the rate of 15 rounds per minute. In addition to the stationary 10.5s there were 116 of these larger cannon mounted on railroad flat cars so they might be mobile. Germany had 2020 of these larger Flak guns at the end of the war to supplement the 88 cannons in addition to their 12.8 cm and 15.0 cm Flak AA cannon [See: "Weapons and Warfare", Vol. 3, pps.323-4]

Presently it is now known that the German Luftwaffe was not at its former greatest destructive strength at this stage of WW2, but they were still extremely worthy antagonists and would make a determined attack in force at given times. [See above reports of fighter attacks on the Derben mission.] Further, German Me 262 jet fighters were now making their presence known and they had much higher speed capability at 600 mph than the 400 mph P-51s [but which had vast numerical superiority]. It has become evident after WW2 that there were many factors working within Germany that didn't allow the most efficient use of their Luftwaffe. (SEE: "A History of the Luftwaffe" by John Killen). One factor was the direct, upward and inflexible chain of command that required direct reporting to Hitler and that procedure was commonly used throughout the German military. Hitler had assumed total command of all Germany’s armed services by 1938 and he, at the beginning of his total power control program, required all German Military Officers to pledge total allegiance to him personally. He was "Der Fuhrer". Hitler's ego and personality were most likely at the root of many of his decisions that were to prove adverse to Germany's best interest. Another deterrent was the internal struggle for personal power advantage among several of the German Generals and Field Marshals. Additionally Reichsmarshal Hermann Goring became a very ineffective Air Marshall and the different Luftwaffe staff units did not totally cooperate among themselves. Another factor was the increasingly chronic shortage of oil and aviation gasoline available to Germany. Further, many of Germany’s finest and most experienced pilots were expended in earlier theatre operations such as in trying to bomb Malta [Malta was referred to in pre-WW2 history books as part of "the life line of Britain"] and it’s naval support shipping in the Mediterranean. Also in other ventures the power of the Luftwaffe was seriously weakened in assisting the Africa Corp, in striking at the US "Torch" invasion of North Africa, in resisting on the eastern ground front against the Russians, in expending great numbers of assets in the Battle for British skies and in continuing efforts to stop the British RAF in it’s night bombing and the US 8th AF in it’s daylight raids on the western front. (See: "The Life and Death Of The Luftwaffe" by Werner Baumbach). The new German pilots coming into the system were said to be not as thoroughly trained and were rushed prematurely into duty. (See: "The First and the Last "by Adolf Galland). German production methods, however, had made gigantic advances and Germany manufactured a far greater number of planes in the last two years of WW2 than they were capable in the earlier years. Therefore aircraft production was not the limiting factor to German aerial resistance capabilities. Germany had taken many of it’s factories underground to protect itself from Allied air attacks and were using massive numbers of foreign "slave" labor personnel to staff its programs throughout the Third Reich.  (See: "The Rise And Fall Of The Luftwaffe" by D. Irving). Post-WW2 reviews also indicate that one of the glaring German decision errors was the extremely late effort to utilize the advantages of the ME 262 jet as a defensive fighter rather than as a bomber [as a offensive weapon] as Hitler had insisted it be used. Offensive weapons were Hilter's main thrust and wish and would not authorize defensive weapons. (See: "JG 26" by D.L. Caldwell)  A fundamental American achievement was the 1944 introduction into the European theatre of the P-51 fighter, with its speed, range, numbers and its pilots, which greatly assisted the Allies to achieve control of German airspace. "CONTRAILS’s" mission report for Hamburg was 0---0---0---EXCELLENT.

4) 20Jan45---Heilbronn. (#251) [Saturday] (Target---Bridge {MY S.T.}) . "Century Bombers" [p.177] reports that on the night of 18-19Jan45 that "60 mph winds" brought more snow and the mission of 20Jan45 took off on snow covered runways. "Primary target was a railroad bridge over the Rhine River at Breibronn" "Due to the weather we were unable to hit it and attacked the secondary instead" {or} Heilbronn" which was 25 miles south of Stuttgart. As I recall, this was the mission that our bombing altitude was 27,500 ft. because of the high and dense cloud conditions. [Arthur Juhlin reported bombing at 28,000 ft. because of the weather]. Temperature at altitude was minus 75 degrees. Billy Bittle reported ""due to the chaff, the flak was 5,000 ft. low."

After bombs away, weather problems, anoxia of Wofford [P] [because of a frozen oxygen mask tube] closely followed by anoxia of the navigator and TTE caused Carr [CP] to take the plane down through the very dense clouds. He wanted to get quickly to a lower altitude so that those afflicted personnel could recover from their lack of oxygen. A person deprived of oxygen at these high altitudes would die very quickly. Fortunately we finally broke into clear visibility but were at an extremely low altitude and found ourselves flying down a valley between two mountain ranges. Carr landed at a fighter strip with the typical perforated steel strips. In taxing the plane he ran off the strip and half buried the left wheel in the soft ground. Three local farmers appeared to watch, and since one had a shovel, one of the crew tried to dig around the wheel and promptly broke the handle leaving the farmers worse off that they started. The crew spent the night there and then flew back the next day to the 100th base and once again encountered high altitude dense clouds and an extremely low ceiling. As the pilot lowered through the overcast in order to break in the clear, the togglier [Lindstrom] swears that we were so low that waves from the North Sea were slapping the A/C’s nose. After pulling back up and flying inland (west), the pilot fortunately found a break in the overcast directly over the base. The pilot later wrote that there was no doubt that Davenport [TTE] had saved Wofford’s life by coming this assistance during his anoxia difficulties. "CONTRAIL" reports were 0---0---0---FAIR. Mission time was 7 hours with a bombing altitude was 26,000 ft. with a minus 51 degree temperature- (RE: E.F. Hooper diary). Frumin [N] listed flight time as 08:10. "Stars and Stripes" (Monday-- 22Jan45) printed "in severe weather conditions 800 bombers with 500 fighter escorts "hammered" rail yards at Aschaffenburg, Heilbronn and Mannheim."

5) 29Jan45---Kassel, Germany. (#254) [Monday] (Target--Tiger Tank Factory)-Visual target with light flak. "CONTRAILS" reports were 0---0---0---GOOD. "Century Bombers" [p.179] says "The 100th left at 08:00 and were led by Major Cruver and Captain Gerald Brown from runway 10." "All the radar equipment in three lead ships became inoperative but bomb results were good." "Lead navigators were Carl Poesel and Julius Krepismann." "The 100th was commended for being the only Group to hit the target" "Diary of an Air War" by Zijlstra [p.394] says that a total of 93 bombers went to this target. I happened to be in Kassel a few months after VE day, and saw that the entire inner city was almost completely leveled. The buildings had been of brick construction and now none  had more than approximately four feet of height remaining. I have no knowledge what effort (bombing or artillery) caused this destruction, but a review of the 100th mission list shows Kassel as the target on four separate occasions. This is the area (Hesse) that furnished many of the German Hessian mercenaries that fought for the British during the revolution of the American colonies in 1776. "The Stars and Stripes" (30Jan45) said that 1,150 heavy bombers hit railroads at Hamm and Kassel where also was located the tank factory (the Herschel and Sohn works] that made Tiger and Panther tanks. It also reported that 700 fighters escorted the 8th AF. "Century Bombers" reported that the high Squadron hit the secondary target of the marshalling yards at Bielsfeld. Frumin [N] listed flight time as 07:25 hours. Frumin's records also show the crew flew a total of 70:05 hours in January1945.

6) 3Feb45---Berlin, Germany. [Saturday] (Target---rail marshalling yards)---the German AA crews threw up heavy accurate clouds of flak from IP through the target. The Germans had constructed fortress like "Flak Towers" (with AA gun positions on each of the four corners) in Berlin and other major cities [such as Hamburg, etc.] to provide protection for their big AA cannon so that continued firing could occur throughout a bomb raid. Robin Neillands in "The Bomber War" [p.137] offers that the Third Reich had constructed 28 of these enormous towers in Ludwigshafen alone. These flak towers served a double purpose as air raid shelters for the civilian population. Starting in 1943 [p.139] many of the German flak cannon were operated [or served as helpers to the regular soldiers] by the teenage "Hitler Youth" [Flakhelfer] who had been born in 1926/7 which would make them 16 & 17 years old. Germany was to enlist much younger boys and extremely overage men into the regular Wehrmacht as it had lost an extremely high number of military age men during the war.

The target area had been totally overcast during the early bomber group bomb runs, but it became approximately 2/10th clear as the 100th hit the IP. The sky was filled with flak bursts and "Contrails" reported many rockets along with the flak. We didn't stay aloft over the target long enough for me to confirm that rocket report. Our plane was hit at "bombs away" and it immediately fell, probably, 5000 feet (but Frumin estimated 1000 ft). The sound of the hits of these numerous flak fragments was similar, as has been often described,  "as rocks hitting a tin roof ". Our fall occurred so quickly, and the fact that I see no other planes caused my initial thought to be "that flak had knocked down all the other planes around us". That observation was almost accurate, as the I00th did quickly lose four A/C in that barrage. No one in our crew was hit but one motor went out immediately and another was feathered by time we reached the German coastline. The plane was struck by numerous fragments throughout the entire structure. Coming away from the target, we were obviously flying under 10,000 ft. as we were off oxygen and struggling to maintain altitude. I saw no US or German fighters all the way out but Algie Davenport [TTE] has reported that one solitary P-51 flew along with us while we were over German territory. We passed just to the west of Heligoland and saw what appeared to be activity there, but no flak or fighters ever appeared.

At that point, Wofford passed the word to toss all guns and ammunition overboard other than the top turret and tail guns. Flak vests, helmets and internal plane armor were all taken loose and tossed overboard. Carr [CP] proposed that we fly to Sweden, but Wofford was determined to try for England even though he was basically flying on only two motors and had limited ability to hold altitude. In addition there was concern if sufficient fuel was available to reach England. A possible ditching location was plotted and as we flew over that point several Air-Sea Rescue boats were circling below. Wofford managed to fly the battered B-17 to the 100th Base and later was  awarded a DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] for the effort. We always considered this mission to Berlin as our crew’s most stressful one.

As mentioned earlier, the 100th lost four planes over the target including the lead ship [44-8379] with Major Rosenthal, who actually survived and later returned once again to base. Also lost were A/C # 44-6500 with Orville Cotner [P], A/C # 42-102958 with Richard Beck [P] and A/C #44-6092 with Walter Oldham [P]. SEE: "Century Bombers" [p-181]."CONTRAILS" reports were---0---4---36---GOOD. "CONTRAILS" also gives a detailed report of this Berlin mission [pp.121-140] and a summary of those pages shows the following information—this was a 1000 A/C effort by the 8thAF with the 100th sending 38 A/C and was also leading the Division (with Rosenthal as Command Pilot by special approval of 3rd Air Division Headquarters/Col. John Bennett. The 100th BG was followed by the 95thBG and then the 390thBG in their usual positions that day. Take off was at 07:30 am. Assembly altitude was 10,000 ft. at 08:53 and the early flight weather over the target was 10/10th overcast. The bombing altitude was 25,000 ft and the weather over the target suddenly cleared. Over the target four B-17s went down quickly (as reported previously) and other A/C were hit (including the Wofford plane as mentioned on p.162.) It was apparently a 08:30 hour mission. However, Frumin [N] listed our flight time as 09:30 hours since A/C speed was considerably slowed by operating with less than full power.

This Berlin mission is very interestingly described in "FLYING FORTS" (pg.433) by Martin Caldin. "Stars and Stripes" of 5Feb45 reported that 1000 B-17s bombed Berlin (on Saturday, 3Feb45) and that 19 bombers and five fighters were missing. "Diary of an Air War" by Zijlrstra [p.396] gives a very insightful comment on the Allied bombing strategy of that era. It says that " At a conference in Malta on 30 January, just prior to the Yalta Conference, it had been decided to support the massive Russian advance in the east by the full weight of the Allied heavy bomber fleets." "This support was to be obtained by bombing transportation centers through which Germans transferred their armies from west to east and thus prevented the Germans from supporting their crumbling eastern front." "Many German towns in the eastern part of the Reich were already over-crowded by the refugees fleeing in advance of the Russian troops, and it might very well be possible to raise panic and confusion in those cities by heavy bombardment and eventually hamper the movement of reinforcements." "Second on the priority list [oil was still in first place] came cities like Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Cottbus, Chemnitz, and several others." This comment and possible strategy statement would indicate that the Allied reluctance to bomb civilian populations had now changed. Zijlstra later says [p.397] that of the 1033 B17s of the 1st and 3rd Divisions, there were "twenty one Fortresses blown from the sky". He also says that it is believed that at this time the German Sixth Panzer Army was passing through Berlin on its way to the eastern front. This loss of 21 8thAF B-17s is also shown in "Flying Forts" by Martin Caiden. [p.433].] See: Again see "Flying Forts" by Caiden who also reports this Sixth Panzer movement. This Malta Conference Allied strategy as declared by Zijlstra, if true, would parallel General Sherman’s philosophy [of US Civil War fame] of "war is hell’ and again not only just for soldiers but also for civilians.

As mentioned earlier, our crew was most thankful to be safely back on the ground following this totally exhausting effort to Berlin. As crews will, we always planned to get together on each future February 3rd, but like many good similar intentions of other occasions by many others, that  reunion never happened.

 7) 15Feb45---Kottbus, Germany (#259) [Wednesday] (Target---Rail Road Marshalling Yards) SEE: "Century Bombers" [p.183] said that "Major Neal Scott led the Group and also the wing with the primary as an oil refinery at Bohlen but found a complete cover over the target. So the 100th went "to the secondary of marshalling yards at Kottbus. It was bombed on radar instruments. Time was 9 hours.

This target is south of Berlin and therefore was a long effort. Flak was light but several rockets trailing thick contrails were seen from the tail. We were forced to land at a fighter base and spent the night near Brussels. We did go into the suburbs of the town that night. As the four of us Lindstrom, Laskow, Bowman and Urice] approached the small local bar, Rube Laskow assured us that with his CCNY taught French class knowledge he could order drinks. However, there was not any common understanding between he and the barman but drinks were somehow arranged. The streets in that same area were basically empty.

We flew back to the 100th base the next day. This was the sixth time in seven missions flown that we were unable to return along with the Group. That accounting does not include an aborted unknown mission and date caused by a faulty #2 engine failure with a bad oil leak after already formed up at altitude with the Group. We returned to England that next day following the Kottbus raid and flew at a non-oxygen altitude (I estimate at 5000 ft.). The weather was clear except for [perhaps] 5/10th scattered clouds some 2,000 ft above us. We were requested (or required) to make a 360 degree circle while still over the English Channel while approaching the cliffs of Dover. Shortly afterwards, I was sitting in the tail section thinking that I was fully alert and knowledgeable of the need to be watchful since German fighters had been known to pick off stray bombers such as ours in similar situations. Suddenly I became aware that there was a RAF Spitfire sitting just barely off our plane's left horizontal tail section with his prop directly opposite my TG position. It was so close that I could easily see the pilot and his every movement. I have absolutely no idea where he came from. Suddenly he just was there. I alerted the crew by intercom and after a minute or so of looking us over, he gave a right hand wave, flipped the Spit to the left and downward and was gone. This event makes a person very aware that a 160-170 mph cruising speed bomber can't match up with a 400 mph fighter. In this same vein, TG Hopper has indicated some of the same type experience. On one of his combat mission he noticed small cannon fire [probably 30mm] bursting around his sector but he could not locate any fighter. Suddenly several fast Me 262s appeared directly from the rear and flew on through the Squadron. He marveled at the appearance of its cannon fire long before seeing those German jet fighters.

At this stage of our tour, it appeared as if our combat mission time was going to be a long, long tour of duty and we would have many dangers to overcome. Winter flying had further added many extra problems. Hopefully, with much good luck and hopefully, with some degree of skill, we would finish in one piece. However, unknown to the enlisted men at that point, this was the last mission we would fly for approximately a six week period as we would now to go into lead crew training. "CONTRAILS" reports for the Kottbus mission were---0---0---0 with bomb results not shown. "Stars and Stripes" said the 8thAF were supporting the advancing Russian Armies by sending 1,100 bombers, covered by 450 fighters, to attack Dresden (B-17s), Magdeburg (B-24s) and the rail center of Cottbus (B-17s). It further says that Cottbus sits on the main rail lines running from west and central Germany to the eastern front. Fifteen bombers and six fighters were reported missing. Frumin [N] listed flight time as 08:20 hour. He listed total February45 crew flight time as 35:35 hours.

Note: Frumin flew as navigator with another crew (not known at this time) to Frankfurt, Germany on 17Feb45. He listed flight time as 06:45 hours. In "CONTRAILS", that mission is shown as Giessen with the target as railroad marshalling yards. Results were 0---0---0 with poor bombing results. The book "Century Bombers" says that the Group was assigned to "a jet engine plant at Frankfurt, but went on to attack the marshalling yards at Giessen with poor results". Weather was a problem. During assembly the weather had been so bad that several planes were obligated to jettison their bombs when the planes’ controls froze".

I think there is a slender possibility that Frumin flew this day with the Gerald Brown (P) crew (since Brown’s Navigator, Ralph W. Bayer, is shown to have been KIA 10Jan45 while flying with the J.J. Dodrill crew) and Brown did fly on this Frankfurt mission].

LEAD CREW TRAINING:

What can I say other than at this stage the crew probably needed a mental break and some time to unravel. As events unfolded, our reprieve from flying missions lasted for a six-week period and may have actually been the difference in making it through to VE Day and not doing so. There were new crews that came into the 100th at approximately the same time that we did and ended up completing 30 or so missions before VE Day.

Not being used for German target practice for a while was a very positive factor and not being on call for missions every day because of now being a lead ship was another very positive factor. Additionally, it seemed that fewer serious difficulties occurred on our later combat after we  became a lead crew.

Nevertheless, personnel changes were required at this point. The CP (Kenneth Carr) was replaced by a Command Pilot (that individual normally varied on each mission). The ball turret gunner (Raymond Uhler) transferred to the spare gunner category when he was replaced by a Radar Operator (Warrant Officer M. Wells]. A Bombardier (Lt. Alfred V. {Pat} Paterno) was also added causing Lindstrom {togglier-armament) to be switched from the nose position to the waist gunner position and that switch caused regular WG gunner (Norman Bowman) to also be placed in the spare gunner category. Spare gunners were even quartered in a separate hut, which happened to be just out the front end of the Sqd.Orderly Room. So the original EM now had two empty bunks in their hut. Overall there were three personnel-position changes made in the original crew. As a spare gunner flying with other crews, Bowman was later trained as a "spot jammer" where he sat across from the radioman and operated a devise to jam the radar of German AA guns. At times, he also served as night CQ. Bowman had been our dog soldier----he knew where to go to trade for fresh eggs from local farms, he knew where to go to arrange to get the crew's clothes washed, etc. He had developed contacts.

It would be appropriate at this point to note my identification information for the new crew radar operator, Warrant Officer M. Wells. This man’s identity was found on one of Colonel Harry Cruver’s photos of the 351st Sqd’s crew availability blackboard list. Oddly enough he is shown under the ball turret category even though the listed Wofford crew plane of the day {Brass Hat] is a PPF aircraft and had no ball turret. He is listed in none of the 100th BG’s web site personnel data bases or in the Contrail personnel section. I can find no additional references to him other than shown twice in my letters back home indicating we played bridge as partners.

In training again, the crew seemed to fly almost every day, which allowed the different crew  specialists to learn to coordinate, practice and train in their new techniques, procedures and responsibilities. The gunners, as I recall, were just mainly getting flying time. I do vividly remember the vast open fields of eastern England as being one solid sea of bright yellow colored vegetation during these warmer months. I believe this color may have come from fields of mustard plants. Different delays in training occurred in that the first radar operator trained did not prove satisfactory so another training period was begun for the second man. Following that delay, Davenport reported that the new Bombardier [Paterno] then needed to have warts removed from his hand so another delay occurred. That delay became longer to allow further healing since Paterno’s hands had then become sensitive to the cold temperatures of high altitude flying.

An advantage in being a lead crew was being granted three day passes each two weeks (rather than two day passes). All passes taken by the crew after my alone "first-pass" trip to Norwich, were taken together and to London, an approximately 90 mile trip by train from the Diss station. On arriving at the huge London rail center [Liverpool Street Station] we would take a taxi (and London was well served by taxis, double decked motor buses and subways) so as to check into the enlisted men’s Red Cross Hotel at Piccadilly Square. The London subways, or the "tube", served the dual purpose of being bomb shelters as well as a means of efficient transportation.

Normally our first stop would be to the step-down from street level pub and bar of the well furbished Piccadilly Hotel. This room was finished in rich, dark wood paneling with very comfortable booth-like units generously spaced through out the pub-bar. The drink was always Scotch. At "call time" in late mid afternoon, we  perhaps would seek dinner at the elegant street level restaurant at this same hotel where the fare was always appealing, but limited in variety, and served quite formally. Brussels sprouts were always available anyplace in London and I recall squib also always being on that hotel's fare. Restaurant musicians were usually in performance there on a small raised platform and they primarily played string instruments. Or perhaps we might go to the small off Piccadilly Circle restaurant that Laskow found where the main entree was advertised as beef.  Fish and chips could be found in pop-in quick serve spots in many areas.

England had mandated a food rationing program but restaurants were practically exempt and were open and available to the general public. Their prices were quite reasonable and in hindsight were probably on a price controlled basis. According to the "British Records Association" publication, a three course meal in a restaurant would cost only 9d. It further added that individuals were rationed on tea, meat, butter, eggs and sugar. Items such as coffee, vegetables, potatoes, fruit and fish were never rationed but most often were in short supply. I recall Bowman relating the eating of a meal at a London family’s home early in his tour, and without understanding the strictness of their rationing system, ended up eating most the family’s egg ration for the week.

Laskow also had a fantastic knack for finding great off the beaten path clubs and one time we went to the second story small bar that featured, of all things, cold lager beer---not the typical British warm half and half, and with a piano player no less. Ice was a novelty in England.  Another of his clubs finds was on the second story of a bombed out larger building where a portion of the second floor had been refurbished into a club. This particular club catered to both blacks and whites. Another time he located a spot that was frequented by theater--actor clientele. Uniformed ATS British women were numerous in London but rarely did I see British soldiers. London in WW2 was a great city with many faces. There were civilians and soldiers of all branches on the street ready to buy any and all American cigarettes with which anyone was willing to part. There were German Luger pistols and small .25 caliber handguns frequently for sale on the streets. Getting on the excellent subway system [the tube] and then just popping off at a random stop was an event most likely to uncover a unique district and atmosphere. On one such event, I became caught up in a queue at a small shop and ended up buying a Rolls Razor, a hand sized steel rectangular box containing a regular size man's razor with a built in self-strapping device. I learned that it was much in demand in London at that time. On another side journey, I stumbled upon a small record recording establishment where I "cut" a five minute record disc consisting of just general personal conversation. I mailed it to my parents in the US (and this happened with no illusion of being censored mail).

Frequent entertainment was available at the cinemas or at the live stage performances that were plentiful in the theatre district. I still vividly recall the stage version in early 1945 of "Blithe Spirit" as well as the zany antics of Danny Kaye in the cinema role of Walter Middy. The theater buildings of both stage and screen types was not shabby but almost opulent. Most frequently there would be queuing, all very reserved and patient, of British civilians waiting for the next show time. While waiting, most often they would be entertained by street musicians strolling in groups of three to five (always men). One especially good trio was led by a suburb straight horn soprano sax player, (the first one I had ever seen and is an instrument made very popular by the New Orleans master musician, Sidney Bechet.). London was a quick fix to block out the "other world" of airplanes and airspace.  But in due time, a soldier was expected back to duty and now it was the time and place as our crew had now been qualified for lead crew combat missions. We were called out on 3April45. 

Frumin [Nav] listed total crew flight time in March45 as 43:40 hours. However, he shows total lead crew training flight time as 70:05 hours.

8)  3April45---Kiel (#281) [Tuesday](Target was submarine pens and docks). This is the first mission Wofford flew as a lead PFF crew and the B-17 was now equipped with a ball radar unit (in lieu of the ball turret). Wofford’s Squadron lead information is the following: Re: Jack O'Leary ---D Sqd.in Plane # 44-8849--EP J-#7 hardstand (no nose art)---Command Pilot was Captain Melvin Kodas (who evidently had originally been assigned to the 351st of 100th as a Copilot on 17July44 and who had also been the crew pilot for Tim Hooper [TG] on Hooper’s mission #2 and whose mission diary is shown in the later supplement)--Take off time was 07:30am and ETR at Base was 13:42 pm or a 6 hour & 12 minutes mission--- The 100th flew all four Squadrons---IP bombing altitude was 25,000 ft. A new combat crewmember, W/O Wells, was the radar operator who worked with a small blip screen in the same cabin as the radioman with both continuing to be facing forward on the left and the radar man on the right cabin side also facing their forward bulkhead. That cabin was immediately to the rear of the bomb bay and the cabin had a front and rear partition. Each of them had a chair and a small work area table. This lead crew personnel change discussed earlier had Wofford and new crew members Bombardier Lt. Alfred V. Paterno and radar "mickey" operator (Warrant Officer Wells] coordinating the bomb run with radar assistance from IP and until the Norton sight could pick up the target which has been listed in several missions at approximately 8 miles out. Paterno operated a Norton Bomb Sight on the bomb run from the IP and his bomb release would precipitate each of Wofford's Squadron's toggliers to release his own plane's bombs. I believe that Lindstrom [now WG] continued to have the assignment of arming the bombs by removing the cotter keys and tags in the bomb propeller assemblies before reaching the IP. "CONTRAILS" reports for the day were---0---1---10.  Again there was no bomb strike report shown. Frumin [N] listed flight time as 06:45 hours. That A/C loss was evidently the crew of Pilot William E. Baldwin in A/C #43-38892.  (MACR #3717) (See: 100th Web Site) The Stars and Stripes reported that 750 bombers, escorted by 650 fighters, "rumbled through thick clouds over Keil to hammer three U-boat yards at the German naval base." It said that the various missions were aimed at the Deutschewerke, Kriegmarinewerfte and Germaniawerfte yards, the latter a Krupps works, all working on 110 ft., 240 ton U-boats. The paper also shows picture of abandoned German A/C on the ground that had been left to advancing Allied armies. It was additionally reported by author G.Zijlstra [p.437] and also by others that large concentrations of German merchant shipping were in the harbor at this time as were the German naval ships "Admiral Scheer [a battleship], the cruiser Admiral Hipper and the cruiser Emden.

9) 5April45---Nuremberg, Germany. (#294) [Thursday](Target---Railroad marshalling yards). See: "Century Bombers" [p.194] "There was a ceiling of 300 ft. and about 500 yards of visibility on take off. We didn’t reach the top of the overcast until we reached 25,000 ft."

Flak over the target was very heavy with the weather clear over the target, which resulted in visual bombing. Visual also meant that the German antiaircraft 88 cannon gun crews could also see the bomber stream and would not totally need to rely on their radar tracking devices. The Squadrons started breaking up on the return as they tried to fly into the clouds. The Tactical Report of the strike from the 13 Combat Bombardment Wing as shared by John O'Leary Jr., read that weather visibility cleared to 2/10th over the target after being 6 to 7/10th and that four squadrons were available on the mission and included 34 A/C and 4 PFF A/C. That report further reads that photographs taken by the trailing 95thBG showed three separate fires, which were the result of 100th Squadrons C and D's bombs. The report continues to say that on return the formations were broken up into small units because of dense clouds. That report further showed that there was one A/C loss (#636).  Another A/C (#865} was shown as "Failure" due to electrical failure. The100thBG report by the Station Actg. Engineering Officer, Captain William D. Cliff, shows A/C#38313, #8334, #37972, #8719, #38383, #6505, #8834, #37994, #38821, and #32092 were in squadron repair for flak damage (Cat. A) while A/C #8512 was in Squadron and Sub Depot for flak damage (Cat. AC). No mention is made of the A/C #636 that was listed as lost by Wing. However, "Century Bombers" [p.194] says that on the return "B-17 43-37636 piloted by Robert Estes and CP Frank Marchum " was last seen when A/C 636 went into the clouds when the formation broke up.  "CONTRAILS" reports were 0---0---0---MISSED. The AAF Data Base show a bit different results of " O---1---9 " with bomb results of excellent. Mission bombing altitude was 24,700 ft. with some clouds to 26,000 ft and mission time was 8 hours---RE: E.F. Hooper diary). Navigator Frumin listed flight time as 07:40 hours. Stars and Stripes reported that on 5April45 1200 8thAF bombers and 600 fighters struck various targets in Southern Germany.

10) 6April45---Leipzig, Germany. (#295) [Friday](Target---Railroad marshalling yards). "Century Bombers" says that the 100th Group took off at 05:45 with each plane carrying 34—150 pound bombs, two M-17s and maximum gas load. James Lantz in a PFF A/C said there was no flak or fighters. Lantz broke out of the clouds at 500 ft. on the return trip.

The flak that I saw was less intense than at Nuremberg and listed (my assessment) as "light". Bombing was by radar. CONTRAIL reports were---0---0---0. Once again there was no bomb result report. "Diary of an Air War" by Zijlstra writes "215 of the bombers hit Leipzig through10/10th clouds." "Stars and Stripes" reported that 650 bombers hit marshalling yards at Leipzig (hit by B-17s) and Halle (hit by B-24s) in central Germany. It also reported that M/Sgt. Hewitt T. (Buck) Dunn (of the 390th BG), an EM togglier, TG and TT gunner, became a 100 mission "iron man" on 6April45. Navigator Frumin listed flight time as 08:45 hours.

12April1945---On this day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Vice President Harry S. Truman was sworn in as President of the United States.

11) 14April45---Royan, France. [Saturday](Target: Gun emplacements). This type of target was to be hit on four straight missions. On this mission Command Pilot Melvin Kodas was in the co-pilot position in the right side seat of the flight deck (that position could be chaired by a different officer each trip). Re: Jack O’Leary---Wofford led a 100th Squadron again in a PFF B-17. C Sqd. in the "Low" Position in Plane# 44-8849---EP J---#7 hardstand (no nose art) & with mission flying time of 7 hrs. & 35 minutes. All four 100th Squadrons flew this mission---Assembly altitude was 5500 ft at 06:57 am with base altitude of 17,000 ft.---The original plan was the following: Take Off at 07:30 with base ETR at 13:30 or 6 hours flying time, but other original data shows flying time of 07 hrs. & 35 minutes.

Frumin [N] listed flight time as 07:40 hours. There was no observable flak from my tail position and bombing was visual. "CONTRAILS" reports were 0---0---0---EXCELLENT. {According to the 100th Web Site, this was Lt. Albert Kirsling's [P] crew's first combat mission---not with Wofford).  "Stars and Stripes" printed on 16April said "Using a new type fire bomb for the first time, as well as thousands of tons of high explosives, 8thAF flew more than 2450 sorties on the weekend (14April & 15April) to Bordeaux". "On Saturday's mission [the 14th], 1150 B-17s and B-24s struck at defended areas with 3,500 tons of demolition bombs. There was no enemy air opposition." "Diary of an Air War" [p.445] says that there was a mishap when 3rd Division B-17s dropped incendiary missiles and that these struck some 389thBG’s B-24s below them, thereby resulting in losing four B-24s that crashed and also leaving one heavily damaged.

Many sources now are reporting the overwhelming air superiority of the Allies fighters that "roamed the skies at will and strafed anything that moved". Almost unbelievable numbers of German A/C were being destroyed on the ground and, other than that received from the JG 26 Me 262s, there was little German air resistance.

12) 16April45---Bordeaux, France.  (#303)[Monday](Target- Gun emplacements). Again there was no flak over the target. Bombing was visual. "CONTRAILS" reports were 0---0---0---MISSED. CONTRAILS show this mission as Royan (once again for the third day in sequence--the 14th, the 15th & 16th) and not Bordeaux as a target and I have no explanation for this name discrepancy other than this area was a general objective. {RE: 100th WEB, Lt. Albert Kirsling also flew this mission---not with Wofford). The Data Base however shows the BG flew this day also against ground defense guns but shows a target of Point-de-Grave with no losses and with "Missed" bomb results. "Stars and Stripes" reported "450 unescorted bombers hit Point-de-Grave on the west side of the Gironde estuary in cooperation with the French Army moving against the corned Germans at Bordeaux." It should be noted that several sources indicate that naptha bombs were used on these bypassed German gun emplacements.

General Carl Spaatz also announced today that the strategic air war of the 8th and 15th AF was now over and it would now operate as a "tactical" unit to support ground armies’ objectives.

Navigator Frumin listed flight time as 07:05 hours. He shows the mission named as Ponte-de-Grave.

13) 18April45---Staubing. (#305) (Target---railroad marshalling yards). RE: Jack O'Leary: Wofford led again in a PFF A/C. (REJack O'Leary ----B Sqd.---Plane # 44-8824--M-- #17 hardstand {with nose art lettering of "MIKE" painted diagonally upward across A/C's nose in large block letters}—Lt. Sammy S. Gunn was Command Pilot and possibly he might have joined the 350th and the 100th on 4March45 as CoPilot on the Ray E. Blohm crew. The100th flew three Squadrons totaling 26 A/C plus 3 PFF A/C. --Take off time was 8:10 AM on Runway 28. Assembly altitude was at 4500 ft. with a base altitude of 22,000 ft. and base ETR of 17:30 for a mission time of 9 hrs & 20 minutes. --- Jack O'Leary further advises that the primary target was originally "Tabor" but the secondary target of Staubing was finally chosen.

Again there was no flak observed by me over the target. Bombing was visual, but Squadron B made a 2nd run over the target after having traffic interference by a B-24 flight on the first run. Squadrons A and B missed the target. The Tactical Report of the 13 CBW (reports bombing altitude was 25,000 ft. with 6-8 /10 over the target with occasional tops of 16,000-18,000 tops. That report shows no A/C losses. Wofford’s Navigator, Frumin, listed flight time as 09:05 hours.  "CONTRAILS" reports were ---0---0---0---GOOD to EXCELLENT (depending on the Squadron). "Stars and Stripes" of 19April45 reported that there were 750 Bomber A/C on this day along with 600 fighters with little resistance by the Luftwaffe." Five bombers and one fighter were missing. It continued to add "Nearly 1000 RAF bombers hit Heligoland in the afternoon". In this same edition it was also reported that war reporter-writer Ernie Pyle had been killed in the Pacific on Ie Shima Island, which is three miles from Okinawa. Frumin’s records indicate that total April45 Wofford crew flight time was 08:45 hours.

This Staubing mission was the last of our credited combat missions although [as previously stated] we had one aborted mission [as noted previously] flown at some point during the first seven missions time period (target and date unknown) because of losing #2 engine (with a severe oil discharge). We had joined the Group at altitude and were heading for Germany.  In addition we also flew at least one and perhaps two chowhound missions. (See below). Since we rarely flew the same A/C twice in a row, little crew energy went into developing a plane name. However aircraft nose art received much publicity so the crew name "One Time" had been chosen months previously. This name was derived from a common expression of the time of "OK, we’ll try it one more time!!!!! " That name was never painted on any of our aircraft.

This Wofford lead crew that completed combat operations on VE Day did not suffer any casualties or wounds. However, two of the original Tampa, FL members, S/Sgt. Raymond R. Uhler (BT) and Lt. Kenneth R. Carr (CP) unfortunately were both KIA while flying with other crews on different dates and missions. Both are buried in Europe. Uhler was taken down on 18March45 by a direct burst of flak in amidships while flying with Pilot Edward P. Gwin on A/C "Sweet Nancy ll " (43-38861) on a mission to Berlin (See Gwin Crew Data in the supplement). He is buried at Netherlands Cemetery at Margraten in Plot H, Row 13, and Grave 3. Carr was taken down on 7April45 on a mission to Buchen while flying with Pilot Arthur R. Calder in "Andy's Dandys" (42-97071) 418-LD-P (See Calder crew data in supplement). It was reported that an enemy fighter (it was reported in one place as a Me 109 and another as a FW 190 and another by a Me 262) struck Calder’s B-17's wing and sheared it completely off and neither plane could recover. He is buried at Ardennes Neuville-en-Conde Cemetery at Plot A, Row D, and Grave 20. These losses through the sacrifice of life at a young age will be long remembered and deeply regretted. As Shakespeare is reported to have said, " a person is not really gone until he is forgotten" (sic)!!!

Chowhound Mission:

On 1May45, according to author G.Zijlstra [p.456] drop areas were on two airfields, the racetrack at the Hague and also an open space near Rotterdam by a total of 396 B-17s at 500ft altitude The 2May45 Stars and Stripes "Extra" issue announced that Adolf [Adolph] Hitler died 1May45 (Tuesday) in Berlin. It also reported that on that day there were 1800 tons of food dropped in Belgium by 400 B-17s and Lancasters of the RAF.

Wofford's bombardier, Lt. Alfred V. Paterno, was on the chowhound mission of 2May45 [Wednesday] with the 100th BG and is shown in "CONTRAILS" as one of three named navigators that day and they dropped food parcels at white crosses marked on the ground. There is no hard evidence that Wofford’s crew was on either of these first two drops. One group dropped its food load into The Hague's racetrack. There are some confusing dates and descriptions in the different versions of these chow hound missions as well as for their number in the various books and reports. It has been written that there were no drops by the RAF on 4May due to the bad weather and I believe that also is true of the 8thAF. So the drops were probably made on the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd, the 5th and the 6th of May45. A more readable understanding is probably in Harry Crosby’s "Wing and a prayer" [pp.312-314 and 316-317] where he indicates some drops were made as early as 6April45.

1) 3May45---Bergen, Holland. [Thursday] Wofford led a Squadron in a PFF B-17. (C Sqd. in Plane # 44-8916--LN R--32 hardstand with Capt. R.J. Albrecht [of 418th] as Command Pilot--100th flew four Sqds.--Re: Jack O'Leary.) "Century Bombers" [p.201] by Richard Le Strange, reports that this flight to Bergen consisted of 20 B-17s and it released 37.7 tons of food while another flight of 21 planes of the 100th dropped the same amount on Hilversum, Holland. Further, it reports that this latter flight had a report made by Allen Gaskin as "some restrictions applied, with nothing to go after 11:55 and salvo load British supplies in burlap sacks from 400 ft…. No opposition expected.... forty enemy planes in area to protect shipping so take guns."

This food drop mission to Bergen by Wofford was flown with full crew with all guns installed and loaded and at a low altitude of 400 ft. The people on the ground were plainly visible. The Wofford A/C’s bomb bay had been filled with staple foods of all types (I specifically remember slabs of bacon). I now realize I have no knowledge as to how this type of bomb bay load was released and dropped but I recall no parachutes or "containers" seen in our bomb bay and so I must surmise our drop was similar to that reported by Gaskin as a "salvo". A total of 400 8th AF plane were involved along with 500 RAF bombers.  "Century Bomber" (p.201) reports drops occurred at 400 ft over an airfield in another drop. However, in a different action on May I,  "Century Bomber"  (p.200) describes this"dropped the parachute containers on the large white crosses which were used to mark the target".  

Although the regular Wofford crew bombardier, Alfred V. Paterno, flew on that 2May45 drop (see Century Bomber.) I have no evidence to show that Wofford or the rest of his crew was on any other May flight than the 3May45.  The Wofford plane on 3May neither received nor saw any flak toward us but it has been reported that a few crews observed light gunfire. I recall 100th individuals claiming to have received fire and as a result they were awarded a one combat mission credit. I have no verification of this verbal conversation. A truce had been declared with Germany within this specific area of Holland near Amsterdam so these food drops might be made without German opposition in order that the critical civilian food shortage there might be relieved. The drops had been delayed for several days waiting for German approval.  

The Hilversum drop area was a 3 hour and 25 minute flight---another drop was made on 6May45 at Alkmaa, Holland with a flight time of 2 hours and 50 minutes—[RE: E.F.Hooper's diary]. 

Frumin’s navigation records show total crew flight time in May45 as 51:00 hours.

  • He shows June45 flight time as 69:05 hours.
  • He shows July 45 crew flight time as 37:25 hours.
  • He shows Aug45 total crew time as 43:00 hours.

Len Frumin left the crew on 19Sept45 to become Navigator for a General "Woods" (or possibly "Woodbury") on a refitted C-47 and when that General returned to the US, Frumin was transferred to Munich, Germany.

I need to mention Kenneth R. Pfister [a CP] because of his possible later connection with Wofford [P]. I had sought Pfister about 1992 and located him in Marco Island, Fl. where he had moved after leaving Dover, De, where he had been in the insurance business. My original reason for searching for him was I had been seeking the person who had been Wofford’s radar control man and, while looking in "CONTRAILS’, I recognized Pfister’s picture. [I had no name for the radarman at that time]. So I located and called Ken Pfister thinking that he was that missing radarman. However, he told me that he had been trained as a fighter pilot [and not radar] and that he had been assigned to the 100th after taking B-17 training at Amarillo, TX. My guess after our several communications is that he may have been assigned at some point to the 351st crew of Lt. James R. Dotson as a CP. Pfister’s letter of 19Jan94 to me said [among other detail] that "I remember my original crew that I flew overseas with". "Look at "Century Bombers" [p.196] re: B-17# 43-38963—Pilot L.Bazin/CoPilot James Dotson". "Jim was my first pilot." He was a multi-engine instructor." "April 10, 1945 was our first mission and they split our assignment and Jim flew with Lt. Bazin." "I and my crew flew with a pilot ‘Dobson’ [or name similar]". "So I remember that first mission—lots of Me 262s and thick flak over the target plus our togglier froze from fear and never let the bombs go, so we had to go around." "I saw Jim go down". "There is more to this tale---I’ll tell you some time." Then Pfister’s later letter of 16Dec94 said ""Being a replacement copilot and then losing Jim Dotson [P] on his first mission was a difficult way to [approach] combat---[the] result [is that] I did not get to know the [different] crews."

I have recently searched the history of Dotson on the 100th Web and learned he was KIA on 10April45 while flying as spare duty CP with Lt. Lawrence L. Bazin [P] [in # 43-38963]. #963 was hit by a Me 262 on that Berg-bei-Magdeburg mission of that date and was lost. I don’t know with whom Pfister might have flown with [see above comments from his letter] on that 10April45 mission, but I have read someplace about a pilot reported that his togglier "froze" but I can’t relocate that remark at this time to verify the pilot. To the best of my knowledge, I do not believe that Pfister flew any combat missions with Wofford since as lead pilot Wofford would be assigned a Command Pilot in the right hand seat. I was always in the TG position on all of Wofford’s combat flights so Pfister would not have been positioned in the TG slot as a formation observer. Although it should be noted here that many Copilots did take that position in certain Group lead A/C so having a copilot there is not a totally unusual situation. Additionally, regular Wofford crewmembers Davenport and Frumin have no recollection of him on a combat mission. Further, I have gone through the pilot list on the 100th personnel data list and scanned reasonably closely all the pilots with names beginning with the letter "D" [since Pfister thought that his 10April45 mission pilot might have been someone with a name like "Dobson"]. I found nothing. I have no positive information as to his possible combat missions. My recorded flying association with Pfister evidently occurred after VE Day when Wofford became an operations officer and turned his crew over to Cullimore [P] and Pfister [CP]. Sgt. Harold E. Johnson [of Stamford, TX] was also added as ball turret gunner to Cullimore’s crew [which as Cullimore terms it, "was his second crew"]. It also should be noted here that there is only limited information available on Harold E. Johnson" in the 100th BG web data base but I have several references to him in my letters back to the States. The web states he originally served on the Orville K. Broyles crew as a ball turret gunner.

THE NEXT STAGE

VE Day was officially declared as of 8May45, following the German broadcast of surrender of the German armed forces on 7May45 (Monday) by order of Adm. Karl Doenitz, and also the signing of an unconditional surrender document by Col. General Gustav Jodl (Stars and Stripes edition of 8May45 --Tuesday).

In that same edition the War Department (US) announced the four preliminary point values that were to determine the priority of discharges. They were as follows:

  • Service credit--based on the total number of months of Army service since 16Sept1940 (when the draft law was passed).
  • Overseas credit based on the number of months served overseas.
  • Combat credit--based on first and each additional award to the individual of The Metal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier's Metal, Bronze Star Metal, Air Metal, Purple Heart and bronze service stars or battle participation stars.
  • Parenthood credit-- which gives credit for each dependant child under 18 years old up to a limit of three children. This plan was to apply specifically to discharges made prior to the end of hostilities with Japan. However manpower needs in the Pacific in the ongoing war against Japan would be paramount.
  • The point system as adopted by the Armed Service is as follows and was named "The Advanced Service Rating System" [THE POINT SYSTEM].

    • One point for each month of service. [between 16Sept40 to 12May45].
    • One point for each month overseas. [between 16Sept40 to 12May45].
    • Five points for the first & each award :[ DCS, LM, SS, DFC, SM, BS, AM, PH ].
    • Five points for campaign stars worn on Theatre ribbons.
    • Twelve points for each child [under18 years] up to a limit of 3 children.

    The WW2 combat operations have now come to an end. In the Horace Varian History [p.1], Storm Rhode writes a Group WW2 summary as "It’s first combat mission was flown on 25June1943 and it’s last on 20April1945. Total missions of the 100th were 306 not including six food drop missions to the Netherlands in May 1945. Total credited sorties were 8630 and total bomb tonnage: 19,257 tons, plus 435 tons of food dropped on food missions." "In this period of combat, the 100th lost 177 aircraft missing in action plus 52 lost in other operations for a total of 229." The 100th’s most costly missions were: Regenburg, 17Aug43 [10], Breman, 8Oct43 [7], Munster, 10Oct43 [12], Berlin, 4Mar44 [15], Berlin, 24Mar44 [9], Ruhrland 11Sept44 [11], and Hamburg 31Dec44 [12]." The 100th Historian, Michael Faley, has determined these early reports of B-17 loss numbers need to be revised on several missions as follows: to nine from 10 at Regensburg and up to 12 from 11 at Ruhland. Additionally, he notes that 8 A/C were lost at Merseburg on 29July44. His research and reviews are greatly appreciated.

    I personally want to give thanks to my family for their support and concern during this combat era, to my crew for their many contributions and to God and Jesus Christ for the protection and comfort they offered me.

    Now would begin the long drawn out process of closing down the 100thBG Base and the relocation of its personnel and equipment for return to the US or possibly on to the Pacific theatre of operations. With these decisions unfolded and made by those unknown, faceless persons that we would never meet, crews began to be split up and communication from higher levels for enlisted men became very limited. It became a totally different atmosphere.

     

    The earned points for an individual's service record and background were now the topic of the day.(ju).

    England Russia Italy Shuttle Mission

    by Harry H. Crosby

    Harry Crosby, 100th Group Navigation, tells what happened when a conscientious and romantic young flyer wanted to round out his tour of missions. He paid a high price as told in this story, for his promotions to Major.

    At one point in the air war, the high command decided that rotating leadership was a waste of training. A command was handed down that anyone with the rank of Major or above could not go home after flying his missions; instead he would be reassigned somewhere in the E.T.O., which usually meant an almost enforced volunteering for a second tour. In my case I was only a Captain but since it was believed, rightly or wrongly, that I knew something about lead navigation the Powers Up there neatly solved the question of how to keep me on duty by grounding me after my twenty-second mission.

    When the England – Russia – Italy shuttle mission came along, I had been on the 8th Air Force’s longest mission to the north, Trondheim, Norway, and to the south, the Regensburg shuttle to Africa. Although, I would have preferred to take the longest mission west, to the United States, I wanted to round out my record of being probably the only flyer who went on all three of the truly long ones.

    I convinced Tom Jeffrey that I was necessary on the mission. Most importantly, I pointed out that the mission there and back would still not bring my total up to twenty-five and they’d still have me around.

    So it was settled. I could go.

    All night long, crewmen gathered equipment "to last a week." Ordnance, Engineering, Armament, and Operations busily prepared for a maximum effort.

    What a scramble! Toothbrushes, bug repellent, field rations, an extra blanket, changes of underwear and sox, hurried conversations…"Where is my escape kit? How much money shall I take? Should it be English, American? How much is a ruble? How cold is Russia? Did you hear that Major Revegno, the Engineering Officer, and Captain Bowman, the intelligence Officer, are going? I wonder how these ground officers will feel with feet in the air. How can I get all this junk in one bag? Be sure to have our dogtags. If we get past Germany we still may have to prove ourselves to the Russians. I hope we don’t have to crash land around the Russian lines. I’ve heard that Russians are in a hurry to shoot. What kind of hat should we take?" No chance to get any sleep tonight – too much to do."

    The 0130 briefing was orderly, swift, and with a strange note of festivity perceptible. Besides the usual views of the target, briefings about the group, wing and division rendezvous, and reports of enemy resistance, there were also words to be said about which Russian ranks to be saluted. On the blackboard was a space for the estimated time of our return. Colonel Bennett, the air executive, jokingly inserted July 4 in that space, little realizing how prophetic he was.

    Each ship had some particular item to take care of for the group. Some groups carried the engineering kits, some the field rations, others the luggage of the P-51 Mustang pilots who were going to escort us all the way. The plane whose safe arrival was most desired was the one which carried our entire supply of toilet paper.

    At take-off time there was a taxi accident, which dashed the hopes of two crews for this jaunt. Naturally, the only officer who spoke Russian was on one of these crews.

    We flew the northern route to Germany, climbing northeast to a point above the Friesian Islands, then heading due east as though to southern Denmark. We penetrated the German coast between Flensburg and Bremen. Of course, although we were miles from it, Bremen threw flak and smoke screens all over the place.

    As Group Navigator, I flew each time with a different lead crew. On this crew the pilot was Captain Richard Helmick, a nice-looking, quiet, Glendale, California, boy, in a particular hurry to finish up and get home. I think there were a girl and some awfully nice parents involved. The bombardier, Captain Gregory, was one of our squadron Bombardiers, addicted to puns, but with a good record behind him. The Command Pilot was Captain Joe Louis Zeller. I hadn’t known Joe very well before but I found him a good guy, an endless source of entertainment with his old-soldier ability to tell a story well and more or less accurately.

    The enlisted men were a good lot. Sgt. Madden, the engineer, was sort of the official number one man. The radio operator was small, competent, peppy Sgt. Kelly. Curled up in the ball turret was Sgt. Methurst, a friendly, gentlemanly boy, anxious to know the Russian people. On every crew there’s an "Oley." Our Sgt. Olsen was a sturdy blond Scandinavian, the type who always has his own equipment and can help find everybody else’s. The crew had also found another jewel. To help service the planes in Russia, each crew took along a ground crew chief. Ours was Sgt. Picard, who fitted into the crew from the first time he flashed his smile. The fellow who came over the target last (Tail Gunner) was Sgt. Schwope, the brunt of much of the crew’s horseplay.

    From the German coast on, the wisecracks subsided. Gunners soured the skies for fighters. If they were friendly we relaxed. By now we were on oxygen and in our heated clothing. With all those wires, if you turn around twice in the same direction you feel as though an octopus has you. There is a maze of interphone cords, oxygen tubes, electric heating lines, and parachute harness all tangled about you. Every fifteen minutes or so I gave a position report: "There’s Kiel off to the left. We’re in the middle of the enemy twin-engine belt. Keep your eyes peeled. "Or: "There’s Brandenburg. We’re fifteen minutes from the I.P. Some P-51’s are due. Watch for them." Occasionally the bombardier requested an oxygen check and each crewmember called in to let us know we were okay.

    During the trip to the target, the most impressive sight was our glimpse of Berlin. As we passed by, we all vocally pitied the poor devils that drew it as their target for the day. There was the usual cloud of flak to wade through, and there’s no rougher job. We saw a few B-24’s go down as their turn came.

    Then everything was forgotten. There was the I.P. and we were on the bomb run. The ship ahead fired the proper flares and we relayed the signals back. The bombardier and I strained our eyes for checkpoints into the target. Bomb bay doors came open. The pilot and command pilot fought to get into the best possible formation. The better the formation, the better the bombing pattern and the more destructive. Then too, enemy fighters tend to stray away from a tight formation. If anyone wisecracked now he was told rudely to get off the interphone.

    The groups of our wing were in trail, the lead bombardiers synchronizing on the target. The corrections to course were rocky and the pilots found it difficult to keep our squadron in place. There was a tense order every once in a while like "More manifold pressure," or "Watch number three engine, it’s running hot…"

    Then …"Bombs Away!" The bombardier hit the switch. Lights on his instrument panel flashed. The plane jerked upward as the wings were suddenly released from their 6,000-pound burden. A sudden turn to the left, eardrums cracked as we lost altitude to confuse the flak. Bomb bay doors were closed.

    The flak, black, ugly, and angry, grew worse. We’d been over these gunners for twenty minutes, and many of the planes were racked by bursts.

    The Mustangs were eager for a fight. We could hear them chattering over the radio as they looked for opposition. In eastern Poland they found it. Just as we passed a few miles south of Warsaw, the skies changed. Huge fair-weather cumulus piled up high and awesome. From behind them suddenly careened a flight of enemy fighter’s. ME-109’s!

    After seven and a half hours the bomber pilots had relaxed to loose formation, but at the first sight of the enemy they snapped back into position like the snap of a plumb line.

    The Mustang pilots yelled with delight and dove after the bogies, ratio about eight to one, P-51’s to ME-109’s. Seven bogies went down and the rest went home.

    Visibility cleared as we crossed the Dnieper River, and we saw plenty of evidence that War had been to Russia. From the Polish border to central Russia every hill had a slit trench and every plain, a battlefield.

    The trip’s duration was just about the limit of our fuel duration. When we reached Kiev, four planes had to peel off and land. Our maps were unsatisfactory and the radio facility just as bad, so finding our field was difficult. The relief was tremendous when after about eleven hours of flying we landed at our destination.

    An American Master Sergeant and a Russian enlisted man met each plane. For all we knew he was a general, so everybody saluted everybody else and shook hands all around. We were gathered up in army trucks, taken to a tent headquarters for interrogation and indoctrination by Colonel Witten, the 13th Wing Commanding Officer. Then we were caravanned to the town where we were quartered and deposited before a battered schoolhouse. Half an hour later we were asleep.

    The first day we had a chance to look over the town. We found the people friendly and eager to know us. We found the statures of Lenin and Stalin and the Red banners all over town.

    That afternoon a problem developed. German reconnaissance planes droned over the fields. There was little or no antiaircraft protection for our newly constructed fields. Our few Airacobras with Russian pilots were not sufficient defense. So Colonel Witten and Colonel Jeffrey had a brilliant idea. Shortly before dark we took off and flew, low enough to escape the German radar screen, to other airports distant enough to be safe. It was this idea that saved us. That night raiders dropped a flare over the deserted field and bombed under that chandelier for an hour and fifty minutes.

    When we landed, darkness prevented our seeing much of Kharkov while we were trucked to our barracks. We did notice that about every mile a gate and a sentry blocked the road. I don’t know what the words meant that flew back and forth between the driver and the guard. But I do know what the word "Stoy!" from the sentry meant, since it proceeded our being brought to an immediately wheel-sliding stop. An American soldier stationed in Russia had told us. "The one word you’ve got to know in Russian is "Stoy!" That means halt, and when you hear it, brother, you freeze! If you move an eyeball the guard sends a bullet either over or through your head, and I don’t think they care which." So we had exploited the word. When a truck driver delivered us to our plane we’d "Stoy" to stop him. Before we learned to "ed-dee" to get the truck in motion again we improvised an "Un-Stoy," but it never seemed to work.

    When finally we arrived at our barracks, Russian soldiers motioned us to our rooms.

    About this time a Russian soldier stalked into our boudoir and started jabbering. Russians had been making a practice of stalking in and out and jabbering, so we didn’t pay too much attention to this fellow till someone shouted, "Hey! He’s talking English!" Sure enough… it wasn’t good English, but I noted the pleased expression that came onto his face when his words began to sift through. We learned later that some five years ago he had studied English in the institution at Stalingrad. Recently, in a conversation around a vodka bottle, he had boasted of his prowess, and immediately he had been selected as the official interpreter. We could see that he felt pretty well bound to deliver, but a bit shaky about the outcome.

    With our interpreter we trooped down to their dining hall. We had spaghetti and Spam in sour milk, coffee with sour cream and rocklike sugar, dessert with sour cream, and pictures of Josef Stalin. Afterward we lingered around the table talking about the strange situation that found boys from Iowa, Nebraska, California, Pennsylvania, and all over gathered around a plate of borscht in Russia. Another subject under discussion was the apparent healthiness of Russian women.

    The girls who were waiting on our table seemed to think that our remaining there indicated approval of the last item on the menu, a kind of fruit tea, so they started bringing more of it. The tea was made, I diagnosed, by pouring tepid water on dried-apple slices, a fresh berry or two, a pear peeling, and some little tiny seeds. The results tasted like warm water with a slight fruit flavor. And they kept bringing it to us. The routine went something like this: The first cup we drank, the second we struggled over and finally downed; the third cup we poured into the empty cups of the fellows who had left. This all illustrates how hard we were trying to maintain Russo-American friendship.

    On the next morning we started looking for a place to shave and clean up, and learned that a huge basin, much like a horse trough, had been filled with water for us. This community project worked satisfactorily for those who didn’t mind ice water. At the trough we saw another evidence of Russian hospitality. Girl soldiers stood by the trough, and cupping their hands, poured water over our hands as we washed. They were everywhere doing for us whatever they were able to find to do. And what a healthy lot they were!

    Colonel Witten had established his headquarters at one end of the building, and nearby was a bulletin board, which announced that we were free until 1300 at which time there would be a general meeting for all personnel.

    Outside our quarters was a great open yard. Into this yard went the Americans to see the Russians, who were already there to see the Americans. About fifty Russian soldiers were stationed nearby to aid us. Some were truck drivers, cooks, interpreters, and the like, while others were placed there as guards. Many of them were boy-soldiers about twelve years old with rifles longer than they were tall.

    Most of Russia was in the army. Boys of ten can carry water and ammunition and in Russia they did it for the army and in uniform. Girls can fight, and in Russia they did it, savagely.

    From our own fellows who spoke Russian or Ukrainian and from our interpreters we were hearing strange stories of what total war meant to Russia. We were told that all of the soldiers, men and women, who wore a certain red medal, had been in the Battle of Stalingrad. All the civilians had gone through the forty-five day siege of Kharkov. This part of the country had actually been through two wars, the scorched earth policy of the Russians as they retreated before the Germans and then, eighteen months later, the terrific battles that drove the Germans from Russia. After two years the people were finally getting enough to eat. The clothes most of them wore were still inadequate.

    We met one rather plain-looking girl, forgot about her and then looked all over the place to photograph her when we learned her story. Early in the war she had fought in the lines. She had been sent to flying school, become a pilot, and had shot down sixteen German planes. She had parachuted from stricken planes five times. On her last leap something snapped in her leg and she was through flying. Back to the infantry she went, was given a commission and placed in command of a company at Stalingrad. Then she fought behind the German lines as a guerilla. Finally she was given leave, a sort of rest cure. How was she spending it? By doing manual hard labor, swinging a sledge, working with a crew that was building our airport.

    Even the boy-soldiers had killed Germans, stopped tanks and been wounded by German grenades. One of the middle-aged women who cleaned the dining room had killed a German soldier molesting her daughter. All the women workers were frontline nurses home on leave.

    Russia was the only place yet that I’ve found to be like Hollywood’s version of it. It was just like "Song of Russia" without Robert Taylor. In Russia people actually gather on the street corners and sing. Soldiers, off duty, congregated for singing and dancing. At such times the girl-soldiers become just girls and the result is pairs. Soldiers got up singly to do whirling knee kicking, jumping dances that brought out yelps and "ki-yi’s" from the spectators.

    On this particular morning the Russians had quite a show going for us. They did solo dances and a couple of Russian hoedowns and then they paused. They had performed; now they wanted us to entertain. Since no Americans volunteered we just sat in embarrassed silence. Finally an accordion player tried an American fox trot. Some of the Russians men danced with the girls but they were obviously short of men because the couples were mostly girls. They looked beseechingly for more partners and even asked some of our soldiers to dance. At first our boys were a bit shy and refused, but soon couples of Russian-Americans were dancing as though it was done every day.

    Russian girls seemed to follow dancing partners quite well though the floor was mud and they all had on heavy army boots. They were all so sturdy and stalwart that when it came to a decision as to whether we were going one way or another the Americans usually just went along. As for me, I was always off balance because of the female anatomy.

    I suppose I should come right out with it; If you were to ask ten fellows who made the trip what the most outstanding feature was they saw, I know that eight of them would say, "Russian busts!" They’re tremendous. All through this discourse I have referred discreetly to the fact that Russian girls are healthy. The reality that I have been dodging is that Russian brassieres must start at size 40 and build up from there. For the first two days all the fellows did was observe the sights, and what a job it was to keep from whistling.

    At a meeting called by Colonel Jeffrey, we learned we had been fortunate to get away from our original base so that when German raiders destroyed that field our planes were safe. But the other half of our task force had not been so fortunate. They had been blasted by the German bombing. When the Germans left after two hours of bombing and strafing; only three of our bombers we left. The Luftwaffe had almost entirely destroyed a complete combat wing!

    It was bad enough to have lost so many planes, but there were other problems. The only fields in Russia long enough for us to lift bombs off were masses of craters.

    Since the Germans knew where we were, we couldn’t stay there for long. Sometime or other our small remaining force would have to make a break for it.

    While our leaders were deciding what to do, we kept pretty close to headquarters. For one thing, we were restricted to certain parts of Kharkov. We couldn’t see the heavily bombed parts. We couldn’t trade with people. We couldn’t take pictures except near our headquarters.

    The Russians are pretty close-mouthed about a number of their secrets. We learned from the Master Sergeants who serviced our planes, that once we Lend-Leased a P-39 to the Russians they immediately modified it and no American was permitted to see it again. Also we were denied entrance to the armored C-47’s the Russians were flying.

    In front of our quarters, without benefit of language, our soldiers and the Russians were exchanging souvenirs. Our boys wanted Russian money for their Short-Snorters and the Rooskys wanted cigarettes. The Yanks were trading a package of Luckies, Camels, or what they had, for one ruble. Uptown the Russians would have paid two rubles for one cigarette. Insignia traded about even.

    In the late afternoon Colonel Witten walked across the yard with his new find, a satisfactory interpreter. This one was a double-threat. Besides knowing her English - or American, from Brooklyn to the Solid South – she was a mighty cute girl, even if a bit sturdy along Russian lines. When Colonel Witten introduced me to her I was so accustomed to talking about the Russians right before them that I blurted out, "She’s a neat number Colonel." She floored me with a "Thanks Captain," reply.

    Jr. Lt. Maja Crootz was a gem. From a military angle she was an asset in every way. She knew how to work telephones. She knew all the people connected with Russian and American liaison. People did what she told them to do. She was tireless, efficient, and bustling with initiative. Yes bustling.

    And with all of this Maja Crootz was just a nineteen-year-old girl. She was a split personality if ever there was one. She could be a busy soldier for a while, but there were too many good looking, exciting American soldiers around to be that for long, so she would switch into the coyest of femininity at the slightest pretext. In one minute she would show us briskly how she could field strip a rifle, and in the next she would demurely ask one of us to brush off the bench for her. She was a born flirt. She had learned that the word "Brooklyn" in answer to any question would panic her audience, so she said she had learned English in Brooklyn, gone to school in Brooklyn, been born in Brooklyn and so on. She did a lot of good. She increased our vocabularies. She would answer any question when she got to know us. She quite definitely liked to be surrounded by men and no question was too frank. She had been studying English at the University of Moscow in preparation for going into the diplomatic staff. Since she hoped some day to be at Washington, D.C., she took all our addresses and promised to visit us, apparently having the same misconception of the size of the United States that all foreigners have. She was thrilled by dialects. When Captain Bucky Mason trotted out his best Alabama "Hush my mouth and stuff it with yams," she squealed with delight.

    Colonel Witten and Colonel Moller kept us pretty well informed of our situation. At one of the frequent meetings, the two told us that our base would soon be repaired. At another we were informed that communications had been established and it was again possible for us to get bombs and fuel. And then at the final meeting we were alerted for a mission for the following day. We were to leave Kharkov that evening and go the nearby field where our planes were parked, sleep until dawn, then return to main base, and be briefed while our planes were being fueled and loaded with bombs.

    Kharkov gave us a grand farewell. All the women who had them wore gaily-colored dresses. Some of them dug up rogue and lipstick. They all hurled roses at our tracks. Little girls gave us bouquets. The entire populace called not merely goodbye, "Do spedanye," but also Farewell till we meet again, "Poka du solvestra," if my phonetic spelling is anywhere near correct.

    For me that short flight back to our main Russian base was a nightmare. Although I had nearly a thousand hours in the air I still got airsick if I had not eaten properly or if I were not scared stiff. For the millionth time since I joined the Air Corps, I regretted that I hadn’t joined the infantry. I remember that as a cadet I had retched into twenty-six paper sacks in twenty training flights. Why on earth hadn’t I quit then when I had a chance? Airsickness is like seasickness only there are fumes of the engines to help nauseate your and there’s no rail on a plane – only the flak helmets. The flight took forty minutes. I tried to die four times and succeeded in turning inside out twice.

    At the base it was evident what an attack we had missed. The runways had been repaired but the field itself was pitted like the side of a colander. All the time we were there the demolition squads were exploring delayed action and dud bombs.

    That day we rested. That evening we flew again at low altitude to another town that had an airfield. For supper we had C-rations. Yet that supper clings to my memory. It was cold, so we ate in the waist of the plane. It was dark, so we turned on one little flashlight. Nobody said very much. We would ask for a biscuit or some meat, then sit quietly and eat it. We would see a hand reach into the arc of light. Pick up something and withdraw. There was only breathing, or a quiet word or two. Outside was Russia. Tomorrow was Italy. We were very young. The United States was far away. We had seen so much, fought so long.

    Next morning we took off for Italy and bombed a marshalling yard in Poland on the way. There had been one hitch. At taxi time our number three engine cut our completely. For a while it looked as though our hopes for a mission that day were dashed. We should have been disappointed. Actually we all felt a guilty surge of elation. We saw visions of our one single plane being held back a day, then having to got back by the ATC route, maybe to Teheran, Cairo, and Casablanca. There would be hotels, expense money, and good food, a regular tourists’ trip. But Sgt. Picard climbed out and changed a whole bank of sparkplugs in ten minutes, a superhuman feat which gave us plenty of time to catch the formation. I don’t think he understood at all the coolness which greeted him when he crawled back into the plane.

    The mission was as uneventful as a mission can be. We hit our target. The flak was bad. We lost no bombers but one plane lost and engine. Capt Mason was on that plane and having a high time. We all heard him call by radio to Colonel Jeffrey’s plane and ask to talk to Major Revegno, our doughty old ex-Marine pilot, now our engineering officer. When Major Revegno answered, Mason said, "Hey, you old coot, you better have your hammer and nails ready. This duck I’m riding is about to fall apart."

    Like all pilots, those in heavy bombardment liked to show off. Just as we crossed the coast, our small force, the representatives of the 8th Air Force in England, really started packing the planes into the best formation they could fly, to impress pilots of the 15th Air Force in Italy. Each wingman poked his wing into his flight leaders waist windows and held it there. Naturally everyone else on the crew was scared stiff, but the pilots were happy.

    We landed at the base of a bombardment group that happened to be the one formed back in the States just ahead of ours. I knew most of the old flying personnel who by then had gone home after finishing their tours. But the ground personnel were able to tell us about them and how they had fared.

    We stayed there a week. During our stay we swam in the Adriatic, visited numerous coast towns, and went for a ride in a British MTB boat. We flew over Rome and visited Naples. We saw Vesuvius. We saw Naples. We drank Italian wines with Italian girls. We piled into bed at about two in the morning; two hours later we were awakened and told we were flying a mission with the 15th Air Force.

    As sleepy as I was, I knew something important was happening to me; I would get another mission. With the one on the way home I would have my twenty-five. Through no fault of mine I would finish my tour and get to go home. I hoped for a milk run.

    It was a milk run, and all the 8th Air Force boys joshed the 15th Air Force types that they had it so good. I kept whistling to myself the entire mission, which was so easy we did not even go to altitude and put on our oxygen masks.

    All the way back to Thorpe Abbotts I kept rejoicing that my promotion had never gone through. Since I was a Captain and my tour was over, I could go home. When we got to England the White Cliffs never looked so good. When we passed London I told it goodbye. I was on the way home.

    When we got back over Thorpe Abbotts Jack Kidd was in the control tower. When he came on the radio I heard his voice. I called out to him, "Jack," I said excitedly, "I got in an extra mission. I am sorry, but I now have twenty-five. I will have to go home."

    His voice came back clearly, "No, you won’t, Major."

    "Red" Bowman

    by Two Friends

    Marvin Bowman, Group Intelligence Office, probably was better known than most Commanding Officers. His briefing and interrogation of crews brought him close to them and he was widely known and admired by ground personnel. He remained a 100th Grouper until the end of his life, rarely missing a Group gathering.

    Marvin ("Red") Bowman, consummate New Englander, Harvard graduate, newspaper reporter and editor, accomplished musician, World War I Air Corps pilot, and 100th Group S-2 (Intelligence) Officer, became a legend in his own time.

    The 100th first came to know Red when, from the days in Kearney till he was promoted in England, he was the Group Public Relations Officer, his job being to send news through channels and out to our home towns. Most military releases were barren: "Private Tom Smith was recently promoted to Private First Class. He is stationed at Wendover, Utah." Not so with those that Red Bowman sent out. Since he told what we were doing, most of his stories did not get printed. One story, for instance, told about a crew gunner who, when flying over his hometown of Minneapolis, decided to send a note for his parents. He tied it to a monkey wrench and dropped it into the heart of the city. Military censors returned it to the 100th, commenting frostily that the United States would be safer when our bombing crews were in Europe.

    No one could tell a story as well as Red did, and from his wild accounts we came to know that he was the son of a New Hampshire Congregational minister. Once, when he was very small, Red’s mother sent him out of the house to keep him out of the way of the Ladies’ Aid Society. Red strolled around town for a while until, suddenly besieged by what he called "Summer Complaint," he made an unscheduled deposit in his training pants. Undisturbed, he took off his pants and headed for home where, arrayed along his front porch, he saw the nice ladies in their broad brimmed hats and white starched fronts. At this point he did become embarrassed and nervously began to twirl his besmirched pants around over his head, at ever-increasing speed. Thinking back, with a gleeful smile on his face, he would conclude, "you know, I got every one of them!"

    At nineteen he graduated from Harvard, being released early to join the fledgling Army Air Corps. He earned his wings as a pilot and was sent to join the Eddie Rickenbacker Squadron, just as the war ended. After the war he returned to San Antonio, Texas, where he had taken flight training, and accepted a position as a newspaper reporter. When Army brass tried to suppress what was happening to Billy Mitchell, Red would have none of it. His articles about Mitchell’s convictions about heavy bombardment and the subsequent court martial attracted nation-wide attention and started Red up the ladder of a journalistic career which made him the editor of the largest Sunday newspaper in the United States, the "Boston Sunday Advertiser."

    When World War II started, Red put on his rusty old pilot’s wings and returned to the service. He graduated from Intelligence School at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was assigned to the 100th, first as 350th S-2, and then, when his newspaper experience became know, as Group Public Relations Officer. In England one of his jobs was placating Thorpe Abbotts neighbors, irate about the loss of chickens to a Husky Dog, "requisitioned" during an Icelandic stay by a 418th bombardier. Red grimly accepted the importance of the dog, Meatball, as a squadron mascot, and admired the dog’s impeccable taste. "Meatball," he said, "never eats just an ordinary chicken. Every farmer who comes to us with a claim always demands top price because, once again, Meatball has eaten only prize poultry."

    During his forays as Public Relations Officer, Red learned that one of the most serious disruptions of the surrounding countryside was the absence of male voices for local singing groups. He was the conductor of the Base Octet and began recruiting basses and tenors for church choirs and musical groups. He himself sang at Dickelburgh Church and at the Corn Hall. On one occasion in Diss Red agreed to direct an abbreviated version in of Handel’s "Messiah." On the night of the event, the lead soprano was ill. Interested in good music, many of the 100th attended the performance, and were amazed to hear Red singing the soprano part in falsetto.

    When he became Group Intelligence Officer in charge of briefing flight crews before missions, his sense of the dramatic made the early morning sessions into real productions. He turned the curtain so it opened in England and slowly revealed the route and destination. As he opened it slowly the crews whistled as they followed the red line into Germany. On the first Poland mission, Red drew the curtain aside so slowly and theatrically that the whistlers ran out of breath before Red got to the remote target.

    Interested in seeing what the air war was like, Red flew five missions, including the Russian shuttle, and earned the Air Medal.

    During his briefings Red always came up with a quip or a salty observations that brought uproarious laughter from the taut airmen. His suggestions about how to act if shot down usually included advice about how to get along with frauleins or madammoiselles, advice deeply valued . Speaking French and German fluently, Red could explain how to ask girls certain questions.

    After the war, Red returned to the newspaper business and with his wife, Masha, kept close track of his 100th friends. When Bucky Cleven attended Harvard Business School he found at the Bowman’s his home away from home. During frequent reunions, Red’s stories grew and grew. He would hear one story and at the next meeting tell his version of the story, usually with an enlarged cast of characters, and a saltier punch line. Instead of asking, "What time is the party?" he would inquire, "What time do the revels begin?" His memories of the war included many people whom he did not admire. Knowing what to expect, 100th Groupers would ask, "I wonder what happened to old__________?" and Red always replied, with a joyful gleam in his eyes, "Maybe the old son of a bitch is dead!"

    During his last year in Boston, Red spent much of his time in the hospital. A 100th friend, seeing him apparently in a coma, connected to life with oxygen hoses, intravenous tubes, and electronic checking devices, tried to be cheerful. "Red," he said, "I bet this is something you would not wish even on an enemy." One eye came open, and it had the old Red Bowman gleam. His lips moved, and his friend barely heard, "On some of the bastards I would."

    Red loved the language with a passion. He could recite volumes of Shakespeare and Milton. When the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published, Red was almost made ill by the loss of some of the grand old passages. He heaped contempt upon a modern writer with, "He doesn’t even understand the sequence of tenses."

    In his last years, to avoid the Massachusetts winters, to be near his children, and return to the scene of his early newspaper triumphs, Red and Masha moved to San Antonio. When word went out that Red was failing, his many friends realized that soon an era would pass. When he died some of the richness went out of our lives.

    Varian History

    Missions and Memories of a WWII Bomb Group

    Introduction
    by Harry H. Crosby

    Late in 1945 I was talking to a young pilot who had just been assigned to the 100th Bomb Group. Although he was supremely, even brashly, confident about himself and his crew, he was worried. Yes he was afraid. He said that when he was in the States training, he had already heard of the Bloody Hundredth, the hard-luck outfit of World War II. He had heard the story of how the Luftwaffe was waging its own special war against our Group. He told me stories about our Group, most of which I, from one of the original crews who had come over on May 31, 1943 had never heard. The Bloody Hundredth was already the group about which legends were developing. Fittingly, ironically, and sadly, that young pilot became a part of the legend. His crew arrived on the base in the afternoon, were assigned to their barracks, rousted out the next morning for a mission before they had unpacked their bags, and were shot down. He was from then on known as The Man Who Came to Dinner…

    I have always been amazed that I was so late in coming to know Horace. As Group Navigator I flew only when the Group led the Division or the Eighth Air Force, which meant that whereas other flying crewmen could finish a tour and go home, I had to stay. Since I was in the flying echelon I spent most of my time with flight crews, who would come, stay few weeks, and then either get shot down or go home…At the time Horace was the Squadron Adjutant of the 350th and therefore lived at the Squadron site. It happened, however, that he had just been promoted to Group Adjutant and would be looking for a barracks in the "WAAF Site," where headquarters personnel were quartered. (I should add there were no WAAFs there) I therefore introduced myself to Horace and told him of my problem. Since he was looking for a room anyway the new Group Adjutant moved in with the Group Navigator. It was, on my part, a wise decision.

    As Group Adjutant and later as Ground Executive, Horace knew everyone and was a friend to officers and enlisted men alike. Horace was the man who could get stuff done, whether it was finding a bricklayer to build an oven for a new bakery, or making sure that a corporal was treated fairly during a court-martial. When he left the 350th the officers and men chipped in and bought him a fine silver cigarette case. He received a Bronze Star for the job he did at the 100thand he deserved it. Of all the great men I met during World War II, I have always considered him one of the most impressive.

    Horace never left the 100th. He attended two reunions in Brooklyn soon after the war. When we held the 1969 Reunion at Andrews Field in Washington, D.C., Horace served as chairman. Since then he has been co-chairman of the 100thGroup’s informal association. As such, he carries on a voluminous correspondence with the members. Every time one of the old gang hears about the Group and writes to join, Horace writes a note bringing him up to date…

    The anthology is his idea. He has been keeping the records and the correspondences, and does not want the legends, and the history to die. At first I was not impressed with the idea, feeling that the old stories could to be fitted into any kind of coherent, meaningful collection. I was wrong…I am sure I speak for all of you when I thank the man who brought them together. Another job by Horace Varian for the 100th .. a job well done.

    Harry Crosby
    1979

    Forward

    This book is an anthology and nothing more nor less than that name implies: a collection of selected writings by members of the 100th Bombardment Group (H) and by others about the Group. It is not a history of the Unit and there may well be areas of the Group’s life which are not touched upon. Nearly all the material was written spontaneously between 1942 and 1978 with no thought of publication. Only a few of the shorter pieces were written at our request to include persons or subjects we felt important.

    Only after assembling this material did I realize that the writers represent a remarkable cross-section of those who made up the 100th: enlisted men and officers, flyers and ground pounders; and few who didn’t belong to the Group but whose paths crossed ours. … Without assistance from many people, I would never have been able to prepare this book for publication. Harry and Jean Crosby rescued me from many areas of inexperience. Norma Swenson took many hours from her busy life to proofread the entire collection and to help shape the book’s title. John Archer, the 100th’s staunch English friend, who knows more about the Group than do most of its member, has contributed two articles to this collection. Many more have contributed greatly and I welcome this opportunity to express warm appreciation for such unstinting help and encouragement from so many people.

    It may be that all Bomb Groups were much alike. Certainly their day to day lives and missions were similar. People who were in other Groups and know of our friendships, the visiting, the reunions, and the continuing esprit, tell me the 100th must have had something different. It did.

    Horace L. Varian

    The Hundredth in Review by Storm Rhode

    Though the 100th’s operational loses were spectacular, they gave rise to grossly exaggerated figures. In a effort to restore perspective, the Editor of "Splasher Six" in 1978 asked Storm to write this report.

    Our bittersweet memories of WWII encompass history, drama, adventure, tragedy, romance in some cases – so many items in the full spectrum of life at war in flak-blackened skies coupled with life in the pleasant English countryside. Most 100th veterans probably would enjoy some data from those days that they can think about, throw around, argue over and harbor for the future. The Bloody 100th Bombardment Group (H) was a very effective strike force which became renowned for spectacular heavy losses at intervals during combat operations involving intensive fighter – bomber battles, heavily defended targets, and extremely cold and foul weather. Its first combat mission was flown 25 June 1943, and its last on 20 April 1945. Total missions of the 100th were 306 including 6 food drop missions to the Netherlands in May, 1945. Total credited sorties were 8,630 and total bomb tonnage: 19,257 tons, plus 435 tons of food dropped on food mission. The average life of a B-17 in combat with the 8th Air Force was 11 missions. In its period of combat 1943-45, the 100th lost 177 aircraft missing in action plus 52 missing in other operations for a total of 229. Our gunners claimed 261 enemy aircraft knocked down, 101 probably destroyed and 139 possibly destroyed. This included a number of ME-262 jet fighters in the later periods of the war. The 100th’s most costly combat missions were; Regensburg, 17 Aug 43 (10), Bremen, 8 Oct 43 (7), Munster, 10 Oct 43 (12 out of 13 put-up), Berlin, 4 Mar 44 (15), Berlin, 24 May 44 (9), Ruhland, 11 Sep 44 (11), and Hamburg, 31 Dec 44 (12).-. the 100th was third in total losses, but the first two Groups (91st and 96th) had longer combat tours. The 100th in WWII was a great adventure for all of us and one in which we’re proud to have served, yet humbled and sad in remembering our many friends who didn’t come back – Heroes, all.

    As a final note of interest, our old outfit later became a B-47 jet bomber unit at Pease AFB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. John Robinson, Squadron Commander of the 418th in the 1945 period, was Operations Officer in the 100thBomb Wing at Portsmouth. Then in the mid 60’s the B-47’s were phased out of the USAF and the 100th became the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, equipped with U-2’s. Its B-47 Jet Bombers never saw the war in Southeast Asia during 1965-73 but many of its old-time veterans, including this writer, did.

    The Beginning
    Reprinted from "Contrails"

    Near the end of our stay in England a group of enlisted men, with backgrounds in publishing, began assembling,inI word and picture, material for the widely distributed "Contrails, My War Record." The book was completed within a year of the end of the War. These excerpts tell of the training phase of the Group in the States and the somewhat painful transition to overseas assignment. We do not know who did the actual writing.

    On October 27, 1942, the Japanese sliced through the thick jungles of Guadalcanal, opening a major attack…In New York, the Times headlined the news that the Red Army was still holding in Stalingrad….Presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie spoke to the nation, urging the opening of a second front…A page three cut divulged that Nazi airmen were harassing English villagers...London had had two alerts.

    There were men who were bored that day. At Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, the headquarters clerks read their local papers, yawned and turned out Special Order Number 300. The 100th Bombardment Group (H) came into being. It was small and inconsequential. So were all things in the beginning. By far the majority of the men were civilians in uniform, hardly indoctrinated in the business of war. There were a few veterans of peacetime service to disseminate military wisdom and procedure, though the 100th soon evolved a way of life which was frequently at variance with old army tradition. On November 1, 1942, the cadres entrained for Walla Walla, Washington…Inevitable, there was considerable confusion as the budding group adjusted itself to its first duty station.

    Men from other training centers began to swell the ranks of the group twofold within the first three day self existence. The four bombardment squadrons began to fill out. Commanding the squadrons were 1st Lts. William W. Veal, 349th; Gale W. Cleven 350th; John B. Kidd, 351st and Robert E. Flesher, 418th. Each had an Engineering Officer, Adjutant and Supply Officer as well as other administrative and technical officers.

    it was not too difficult for the men of the 100th to span the three miles and give Walla Walla the once over. They found a reasonably hospitable, prosperous and quite undistinguished small city, set in fertile, flat and monotonous regions of tilled fields. The town contained the usual complement of resources for soldiers’ enjoyment: a well-equipped Service Club and an ample number of saloons, purveying only the feeble brew permitted by Washington state law.

    The sound of four-engine bombers were heard on the base for the first time. Straight from the Boeing factory at Seattle, four new Flying Fortresses, B-17’s of the latest series (F), were delivered and divided among the four squadrons. These were the implements with which most of the personnel were to become more familiar than the family car. Now, very few had ever been near a B-17, much less inside one.

    Almost coincidental with the arrival of the first planes, the 100th received it’s original aircrews, one to a squadron. The 349th was headed by Lt. Oran b. Petrich; the 350th by Lt. Norman H. Scott; the 351st by Lt. Roland T. Knight and the 418th by Lt. Everett E. Blakely.
    Practice flights began immediately. The crews needed this familiarization course, needed to get the feel of their big airplanes. The pilots and co-pilots had logged some time in B-17’s, as had some of the aerial gunners and engineers. The ground crews, most of whom were graduates fresh from technical schools which had given little practical; training on B-17’s, approached the monsters in eager ignorance. The airplane mechanics, communications men, armorers, ordnance men, all found that their long school training was but a beginning, a scratch on the surface of the work required. The men swarmed over the planes locating positions, straining, grunting, swearing, knocking their heads against every projection and removing several square feet of skin from the many available knuckles.

    It was typical of the character of these men that within a matter of weeks, the freshman mechanics', and armorers and communication men were servicing their battleships of the air with the nonchalance, if not quite the efficiency, of veterans on the line.

    Even in this early phase of the group’s flying experience, the work of the maintenance crews was competent beyond expectations. The planes flew as often as the weather permitted – which was an average of one day in three – without an accident. As the first month of existence raced to a close, the group had shaped up remarkably. The four aircrews were getting in considerable flying time despite the adverse weather, the ground crews were beginning to handle their tasks with some assurance.

    Thanksgiving of 1942 at Walla Walla was celebrated with a splendid feast, and the variety and quality of delicacies could hardly have been improved upon. Toward the end of the month, a rumor mill, working overtime as it did throughout the war, ground out information as to the location of the group’s next base. Those with the inside dope were unhappy at the prospect, for they knew it would be Wendover Field , a spot at the edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert on the Utah-Nevada line. Wendover was well known as a desolate. Primitive camp and in the opinion of many men, only the army with its vast knowledge of the country, could have chosen so barren a place.

    Wendover Field was found to be as unattractive and uncomfortable as anticipated. Living quarters for men consisted of long, low, tar-paper shacks, crowded with double-decker bunks and heated by pot-bellied stoves, which consumed vast quantities of soft coal. The quarters and shops were continually tracked with clods of white, hygroscopic goo that dried like concrete and clung forever to anything it touched.

    Flying, obviously, was what the group had came to Wendover to do, and fly it did … about twenty hours our of each twenty-four. The original air echelon of four airplanes was joined by new crews waiting at Wendover. These, with others which arrived during the first week on the new base, brought the 100th air strength up to thirty-six crews and additional aircraft were delivered throughout the month, until the group was operating twenty planes. It was beginning to look like an outfit. New men for the ground sections were also waiting the group when it arrived. These men came from various parent groups and pools; some were from the Hundredth’s own parent organization, the 29th Group, at Gowen Field.

    The training at Wendover was a rough grind, both in the air and on the ground. Four practice missions were scheduled daily, and each was more than five hours average duration, which left less than an hour between flights for the mechanics and armorers to service and re-arm the planes. Most daylight missions covered bombing and gunnery, while the night flights took care of bombing and navigation. Combat crews, numbering more than the planes available, took turns flying. In some ways the facilities for training at Wendover were excellent; in others they were highly inadequate. There was good flying weather, an excellent airdrome, and ample supply of all essentials and a perfect bombing range on the vast salt flats. Perhaps the most serious lack was that of air-to air gunnery practice. For some reason, no tow-target shooting was provided during the group’s first session at Wendover.

    Christmas of 1942 descended with a sudden flurry of packages and thoughts of home. It was officially marked by sumptuous dinners at the squadron mess halls. The 349th, in full spirit of the season, decorated their feast with a great vase of carved ice in which actual red roses, imported from a Salt Lake City hothouse, were magnificently incongruous in the barren desert where not even cacti could find sustenance in the salt-crusted earth.

    On December 28, Captain Minor Shaw of S-2 left Wendover as head of an advance party, composed of one officer from each squadron. Four days later, on the first day of the new year, 1943, the entire group, less the airborne contingent of approximately 175 men in eighteen planes, set out for the new base…Sioux City, Iowa. The flying party took off the following day and arrived in Sioux City by way of Tucson, Arizona, and Pueblo, Colorado.

    The rail travelers occupied two troop trains, the first of which pulled out of Wendover shortly after daylight. Despite the fact that there were a great many big heads among those who had welcomed in the new year, it was a happy bunch. The men were delighted to leave the desert.

    The eyes of the troop trainers failed to register the increasing frost on the windows, and upon arrival at Sioux City, the initial nine degrees below zero blast had a definite sobering effect. It proved to be one of the warmer days. There was glazed ice on the ground, interspersed with patches of snow. On the concrete apron and runways of the airdrome, the ice was a solid two inches thick – making a fine, vast skating rink, but a treacherous place for flight operations.

    Living conditions, as well as working facilities, were superior at Sioux City. Barracks were comfortable and not overcrowded. The post afforded all the desired conveniences and minor luxuries. Sioux City itself was a soldier’s Promise Land. A city of some 100,000 population, its hotels, bars and places of amusement were well up to accommodating the 100th. The people were hospitable, and the city had escaped the war boom with all its congestion and shortages. It was a liberal town, with an almost frontier atmosphere of tolerance and conviviality. The 100th gave it their stamp of approval. There were plenty of bright lights, and the men were attracted to the Glass Hat Bar of the West Hotel, the Rathskeller, and the Oasis, distinguished by Egyptian décor and fine food. On the rougher side of the ledger, the Beer Cellar and the Alamo were tailored to the tastes of a goodly number of the 100th. For late suppers the Savoy was popular, but Charlie’s Steak House was the supreme spot for sheer pleasure of the palate. No one seemed to lack for dinner companions.

    There were days on end when the thermometer never rose above zero. One morning at daybreak the official thermometer at base weather registered 30 degrees below zero. In spite of the temperature the Group’s training moved ahead. The program for this supposedly final phase called for three practice missions daily. Stress was put on navigation, formation flying and included bombing and air to ground gunnery on the ranges in the wilds of the Dakotas. Two missions were daylight flights and the third was always flown in darkness, all this when weather permitted. Several days passed during which all the available engine-heating equipment failed to warm the engines sufficient for them to start. Other missions were scrubbed because of severe snowstorms. All told, the planes flew but half of the scheduled missions and the aircrews added little to what they had absorbed in the month of intensive training operations at Wendover.

    Although the ground crews did not have the volume of work they had at Wendover, the weather made their tasks arduous. On the open flight line, the men endured polar temperatures coupled with strong winds. There were a good many cases of frozen extremities, particularly fingers, noses and ears. Few cases of frost bitten feet were reported. It was a tribute to the sound health of the group, as well as successful army attempts to protect the health of the men that, aside from frostbite, there was an extremely low rate of illness due to exposure. There was a mild epidemic of mumps, and a serious set of lectures on the V.D. scourge.

    Four days after the group arrived at Sioux City, the officers of the group knew that the outfit was not slated to go overseas after finishing up at Sioux City. General Olds, the patron saint of heavy bombardment, gave the word at this time the 100th was scheduled to be broken up. The news was quite a blow, but Colonel Alkire’s quick and effective verbiage, plus his high standing with General Olds, saved the group and got it transferred to Kearney, Nebraska. Colonel Alkire went to Kearney in order to meet with the good townspeople with regard to hosting the group. The morning of the Colonel’s arrival he was met by members of the Chamber of Commerce, merchants, member of the local churches and the dean of a local college. Arrangements were made for clubs to host men of the 100th, and the incidentals of welcoming a bomb group were ironed out. A remark from the Dean of the college and the Colonel’s reply closed the meeting with laughter all around. "How can I protect my girls?" asked the Dean. Colonel Alkire’s instant reply was; "You take care of your girls and I’ll take care of my boys."

    Colonel Alkire assembled the outfit in the theater and related the entire story, not without personal disappointment in his tone. There were men who felt relieved, there were others who felt let down. To spice what promised to be a dull future, he proposed that all officers of the 100th launch a moustache-growing competition during the three months that the group was to stay at Kearney. The gentlemen sporting the poorest lip draperies at the end of that time were to host a dinner for the more hirsute. Needless to relate, this contest sprouted some ghastly growth as well as some hitherto unsuspected talents in whisker culture.

    The men of the 100th went back to packing for Kearney. The packing was well along toward completion for what was thought to be an ocean voyage. It was hastily finished for the overnight journey, and in late afternoon of January 30ththe first units entrained for Kearney. The aircrews left by rail and plane to different bases scattered over the Western United States. Some went to Blythe, California, Walla Walla, Washington, Boise, Idaho, Pocatello, Idaho, Casper, Wyoming, Pierre and Rapid City, South Dakota and Ainsworth, Nebraska. It was to be three months of almost suspended animation. Theoretically they were to instruct green crews; actually for the most part, they were concerned with the passage of time and flying enough to keep from going stale. For the ground echelon at Kearney there was plenty to occupy their time. The one story pine barracks were as the builders had left them littered with the debris of construction. The job of cleaning up buildings and grounds required several days. The barracks were not at primitive as those at Wendover, and were eventually made into comfortable quarters.

    The town of Kearney was, of course, the first and most important objective of the pleasure-bent Century Bombers. Civilian buses made a route through the base at regular intervals, and they were invariably jammed to the doors. There were many eating and drinking places, but few were the bistros of class or attractive atmosphere. The ubiquitous Oasis, the Windmill, and the incredibly-named Arabian Nights were among the most patronized bars. One first class hotel, The Fort Kearney, and the Midway, a rambling shabby hostelry, did capacity business day in and day out, while a few broken-down rooming houses catered to the overflow. One of the most memorable of Kearney’s institutions, not excepting the State College, were the fantastic Nifty Rooms, which catered to the hopelessly un-enterprising.

    Momentous news for the 100th broke in mid-February. Furloughs averaging nine days (depending on travel time to the particular hometown) were authorized. The first vacationers left February 15th, and other followed on their heels, until virtually all members of the group had enjoyed what was to prove a farewell visit home.

    Toward the end of March, when belief solidified in the ranks of the group that it would never go overseas as a unit, word began to circulate that Col. Alkire’s assurance at Sioux City was to be fulfilled. On March 30th, the first of a series of showdown inspections was held, and the men carefully laid out their worldly GI possessions to be checked. Two weeks later the combat crews began to trickle back to the group from their places of hibernation. They were issued new planes and equipment. On April 20th, all of the original crews, thirty-seven in number, took off on a mission to Hamilton Field in California, led by Colonel Alkire. This trip was designed as a checkout on high altitude formation flying, but was hardly a fair test, in view of the fact that the crews had little experience in this type of missions, and were stale from three months of comparative inaction. This mission was a great disappointment and proved unfortunate for the entire group, for it cost them their highly esteemed commander, not by a flying accident, but by influencing his removal from command of the group. All but three of the planes completed the mission, which included a flight out over the Pacific Ocean and a climb to 30,000 feet, much higher than a large majority of the crews had previously flown.

    From April 21st to 26th while the mission was away, the soldiering on the base was intensive. There were daily drills and inspections, two showdown inspections, a shelter tent-pitching exercise (few of the men had ever seen a pup tent erected) and a formal retreat and a parade on the apron. The group groaned though calisthenics’ in the morning for the first time since the early days at Walla Walla.

    The air echelon returned to Kearney dejected at the showing that had been made. Group Headquarters learned officially on April 26th that Colonel Howard M. Turner, a former Washington staff officer and assistant to General Arnold, had arrived to assume command. The men were informed by Alkire himself, at an assemblage in the gymnasium. It was a typical Alkire speech, in which there was no word-mincing and no excuses. "I am being kicked out because of alleged incompetence," said the Colonel. "It may be that the charge is just, but I am depending on you men to vindicate me in the end. You are going into combat soon, and I have every confidence that your conduct will prove I wasn’t such a bad leader, after all." Perhaps there were no actual tears shed by his listeners, but there were many a tightened throat among the men he had treated with consideration and to whom he had been so accessible. There were doubtless many silent resolves to uphold Pappy’s faith in the group when the outfit finally hit action. How well such resolves were kept is a matter of record in the combat history of the 100th.

    On May 1st, 1943 the air echelon of forty planes and crews took off for Wendover, where they spent twenty days of advance training. The non-flying contingent left Kearney for Camp Williams, Wisconsin, for a week of hectic training in warfare ala infantry. The men lived in tents pitched between the oaks and pines. They dug trenches, fired on the range with M-1 carbines and Thompson’s, handled explosives and climbed mountains. On May 9th, with quickening tempo, the ground echelon sped to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, the great port of embarkation. For more than two weeks, there were clothing inspections, issues, barracks bag packing and unpacking, roll calls and passes to New Brunswick, Elizabeth and Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and to the Empire City, New York. Men returned to camp just often enough to renew their passes and duck out again through the hole in the fence, where the bus line had instituted a regular stop. It was a last fling with a vengeance, and the men sopped up enough bright lights and bourbon to last for a long time.

    On May 26th, the earth-bound personnel of the outfit boarded trains at Kilmer, made a miserable, cramped trip to Jersey City, ferried across the Hudson River and after hours of waiting in the pier shed, filed aboard the former Cunard White Star Liner "Queen Elizabeth," now His Majesty’s Ship. All through the afternoon of the 26th, that night and following morning, troops and supplies poured into the vast hull. Close to 0100 hours on May 27th, tugs nudged her hull out into the stream and the Queen pinged her prow for open sea. Few men of the 100th saw much of the sailing, since they were restricted below decks.

    Going down to the sea had none of the glamour of a Masefield poem. The sea was placid; new rumors quickly made the rounds as the converted liner knifed it’s convoy-less way to a pin point across the Atlantic. The deck guns boomed out in practice flurries, the men munched crackers between the far-spaced meals, and small whitecaps danced from the giant’s path. Finally the ship nosed into the Firth of Clyde and nestled against the Scottish seaport of Grenoch. The sun was climbing over the railroad station as the 100th Bombardment Group arrived in the British Isles. Mist-saturated rays licked at the surface of the river and stirred clouds of lazy stream which ascended and descended. The world seemed placid and unhurried … like the seagulls gliding and wheeling in their element. The men bustled and grumbled as the harbor slowly awoke to the momentum of a new dawning. Hills rolled softly into the backdrop as a Scottish band on the dock broke into the morning with a rendition of "Take Me Back to New York." The men shouldered their bulging barracks bags and set foot to land. Before the train drew out of the station, they received their first spot of English tea, the war time concoction minus even a hint of sugar. They tasted, grimaced, drank, and were aware they had been deposited into a rigid war-time economy.

    Sleep was difficult that first night – the first night most of the men had ever slept on soil other than that of the United States. They felt an ocean removed from home, and it was a lonely feeling. The trio of straw-filled biscuits which substituted for a mattress provided something far less than comfort. There was much twisting and turning until night closed in on a base at rest. The group remained at Padington just long enough to enable the men to receive their indoctrination into the ways and means of life in an English town. Northampton was a long stone’s throw away, and contained streets which taxed the ingenuity of GI drivers by their narrow, twisting routes. The British , a long suffering people of eternal optimism, possess a genius for understatement. A grueling two-mile hike up a winding hill and down narrow alley become, by some magnificent cerebral imagery – "Oh, it’s just a few turns off the first turn to the right – you can’t miss it." From Padington, the men left for their final destination. Diss was a point on the East Anglican map in the county of Norfolk. Thorpe Abbotts was a tiny hamlet tucked away behind the base, unobtrusive except for the fact that it lent an ancient name to modern arms.

    On July 20th, 1943, the men stood at attention in front of the curved huts of Headquarters. The ceremony was brief. The men in blue, representing the Royal Air Force, officially turned over the base to the United States Army Air Forces. Squadron Leaders Lawson and Blomfield representing the RAF performed the ceremony. Colonel N.P. Harding, our new Commanding Officer, acted on behalf of the USAAF. Royal Air Force Station Thorpe Abbotts was now USAAF Station 139. It was now official and a matter of record. The 100th had taken over.

    Butch Rovegno

    by John Herlihy

    Every bomb group has its characters and some of them become legendary. One such was Butch Rovegno, an almost professional southern, Butch had a warm personality and a rich sense of humor. As each new Group Commander arrived, Rovegno staged and energetic public relations campaign for his line crews. That he gained the respect and affection of hundreds of men a generation his junior speak much of the man he was. Butch and his wife, "Mommie," entertained many 100th Groupers after the war at Bolling A.F.B., where they were stationed. Butch died in 1970.

    John I. Herlihy (349th Engineering Officer)

    After the 100th Bomb Group had finally reached England and was well established at Thorpe Abbotts, the news came around that Eugene Rovegno was appointed the Group Engineering Officer. Major Rovegno was not an original member of the 100th as were the four of us out of the Chanute Field Cadet Class of 42-4, who were the Squadron Engineering Officers and all recent college engineering graduates in our early twenties. Major Rovegno was a transfer from the Service Group, a World War I pilot, and a long-time reserve officer. Initially there was no particular reaction on our part since as individual squadron engineering officers we merely wanted to continue to be left alone, each with the responsibility to supervise 100 mechanics in the maintenance and repair of up to 18 aircraft.

    But it was not possible to ignore Butch Rovegno for very long. He was the same age as our fathers (one of who was and Air Corps maintenance engineering officer in France in World I}. His visits to the squadron engineering sections were frequent and not in the formal military manner. He had not come to give detailed instructions and to be critical. He was affirmative. He always had time to be friendly and conversational. He always seemed to a round to be helpful.

    In connection with each of the combat missions, Major Rovegno was invariable in the control tower at both take-off and landing time to answer questions from pilots in the air about engine or aircraft equipment problems.

    Butch organized and directed "Rovegno’s Rangers," who were trained to use their heavy duty tractors to pull any misguided or distressed planes out of the English mud or, if necessary, any disabled plane off the runway with a minimum of delay. He was able; good-naturedly to tell the young pilots to eat more carrots to improve their night vision to keep the planes out of the mud. He always seemed able to unite the efforts of the combat crews and the ground crews and make us all feel that were important contributors to the team effort. He received permission to fly on one of the combat missions and returned with a piece of flak as a souvenir, which he insisted carried his serial number.

    There was one occasion when Butch Rovegno over reached himself. About midway through our tour of duty, someone established a volleyball court. The game became very popular and he couldn’t resist joining his younger associates in an enthusiastic, hard fought match. As a result, he spent the next week walking around the base with a badly strained back at a 45-degree angle and with his volleyball career laid to rest.

    When Colonel Fulkrod, the Division Engineering Officer, visited our base, Major Rovegno proved very able in providing a warm welcome with appropriate conversation, food, and pictures; and proceeded to do a first class sales job on the merits of our maintenance engineering performance.

    Butch Rovegno wanted to be with people and activities. He was quick to organize and direct the bingo games and any other activities or diversions that would make life more interesting. He had an outgoing personality, frankness, and openness that gave him a natural ability to communicate readily and effectively with all levels and personalities. His enthusiasm for the job we were doing was contagious and he never seemed dismayed by the long separation from his normal life with is family and friends. He was a morale builder in showing us all how to retain our balance and sense of humor. His ability to promote communications let to a spirit of cooperation and teamwork that made a substantial contribution to the effectiveness to the entire Group.

    Butch Rovegno is warmly remembered by all of us who were closely associated with him for his spirit, enthusiasm, courage, good humor, and friendly interest in each of us individually. We honor and respect his memory and the 100th will not forget him.