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Mission Palm Springs

By Mike Faley
Splasher Six Volume 35, Winter 2004, No. 4
Cindy Goodman, Editor
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Mission Order: No 3 100th Bomb Group (H) Mini Reunion
Date: Jan 15, 2005
Target: Palm Springs, California
Briefing: 1500-2400 hrs 14/01/05
Start Engines: 0700hrs
Take Off: 1000 hrs
IP: 1300hrs
Strike Report: 1330hrs
Return: 1700hrs
Debriefing: 1800hrs
Dinner & Drinks
Lights Out: 2400

Hack watches, on my mark it will be 1500hrs Friday Jan 14th 2005

This was the third time the 100th Bomb Group has descended on the Sunny hideaway of Bob Hope and Hollywood’s elite. But we were not here for glitz, but to rekindle friendships and make new ones, to greet new members and to help children find the memory of their lost parent. Palm Springs had all of that and more. Bob Wolff (with the support of his wife Barbara) is the organizer of this semi annual affair that has turned into more than a mini reunion. We had 100 people at this event with 25 Vets in attendance.

It starts with check in at the Howard Johnson Inn in Palm Springs on Friday, Jan 14th; everyone congregates in the lobby, waiting to greet those arriving. You just have about enough time to check in, drop off your clothes before you rush back to the lobby to hear the stories, meet old friends, get the computers up and running and the video cameras out. The clock is ticking and you don’t plan on missing a story.

Richard Carey’s daughters (Jeanne and Joan) along with Ron and Carol Batley are the first to greet this writer. The Carey Family carry on their Father and Mother’s (Irene, we still miss you) commitment to the 100th Bomb Group and this reunion is no different; they are here to represent on behalf of the Family. The Batley’s are the heart and soul of that esteemed group of English men and woman who take care of The Thorpe Abbotts Tower Museum, the Best 8th Air Force Museum in England!

They brought with them Gary and Michelle Hancox the “next generation” of Tower Museum keepers. Next up it is a who’s who of Vets, and friends alike; Keith and Ellen Sprague, John “49 Missions” Gibbons, Rinaldo Bussino and his Son, Don “Duck” Bradley, 350th BS combat photographer with his great photo book, Albert Freitas original cadre, DeMarco Crew (the man has eluded this writer for 4 reunions, not this time!), Bob Tienken, 350th BS Adjutant with his wife Barbara. Bob was original cadre and brought his new book entitled “Memories and Stories of the 100th Bomb Group”. Accompanying them was Richard Gibson, another member of the esteemed Thorpe Abbotts Tower Museum.

The room was buzzing when Jack Deborde, (waist gunner on Hong Kong Wilson’s crew) walked into the room carrying his A-2 jacket for “Bachelor’s Heaven”. He had met with Curtis Wilson in Las Vegas a month earlier and wanted his Jacket and its history preserved. Curtis suggested he donate it the 100th BG Foundation, which Jack did. This jacket will be on display at our reunions, air shows, and 8th Air Force events and ultimately at Thorpe Abbotts Museum in England.

This was just the start and already the information and historical artifacts were being brought out. We saw Lead Navigator Lt Gillison’s “Terrible Termite” A-2 jacket which his daughter Susan Dickey brought out, we met Cory Emberson, daughter of Lt Col Emberson-351st BS CO, brought her Fathers paperwork and photos and filled us in on all his history. She flew into Palm Springs just to meet the men who flew with her Father and her enthusiasm was infectious the whole weekend. Ralph Larsen (son of Norman Larsen-Lt Joe Martin Crew) was working the tables for stories and is always a pleasure to see at our functions. He wears his Fathers A-2 proudly and is a fine testament to the future of this group’s “next generation”.

Our gang was increased to over capacity when the Web team came in; Charlie Cole, Paul West, Harry Nelson with two vets in tow, Dewey Christopher (351st Line Chief) and Gayle “Tex” Leonard (toggeler). With computers up and photo scanner working, the historical team and web team started getting the history down while the stories flowed.

During this time, Mr.” Crew 13″ arrived-Earl Benham along with Doug and Martha Drysdale, Chas and Polly Gutekunst, and Hank Cervantes. A real historical treat came when 3 members of Lt Sherrard’s Crew arrived-Bill Cully (CP and Pittsburgh reunion chairman), Navigator and our Foundation President, Ralph Badley and his wife Barbara, and waist gunner Raymond Reddy. Bill and Sue Brown, and Richard Ayesh came next.. Last to arrive was Kevin Gray and the 918th BG Living Memorial group with another Brit-Ron Leigh (the man who bought and donated the wing piece of WAAC Hunter to the TA Museum) in tow. The stories went long into the night and ended sooner then we all would have liked. The clock struck midnight and day one was gone.

Saturday Jan 15, 2005 is early rise and setup at the meticulously clean and pristine Palm Springs Air Museum. Thanks to the courtesy of Museum Director Sharon Maguire, we have had the pleasure of hosting all three of our mini reunions at this amazing air museum. With our 100th BG display up (with the Help of the 918th BG Living Memorial) the doors open at 10 AM and the Vets start making their way in for the 1PM Program. Bob Tienken set up a table to sell his book “Memories and Stories of the 100th Bomb Group” which is sold out before closing time! Ralph Bradley is in for a shock, his uniform has been cleaned, pressed, and is on display in “ready for review” condition (told you Ralph it would look like new when we got done). Our 100th BG flag and banner are up in the main Hangar along with 300 chairs and the podium. This room fills up fast with young and old, and a few “stragglers” make an appearance for the first time, David Tallichet, Charlie “Hong Kong” Wilson and his wife Connie, Jack Robins, Joe Straus from “Kodas Kids”, and Joe Keenan. The surprise is the arrival of Crew 13 copilot Jack Ogg with his wife Gwyn. He should have been home in bed after just getting out of the hospital; instead he came to see his friends. Jack, thanks for coming, it would not have been a mini without you and Earl representing for “The Flying Dutchman”. Corri Hill, Granddaughter of Jack Justice also made her first appearance at a reunion. Her Grandfather was a close friend of Cowboy Roane and Paul West really wanted to meet her to get more info.

At Noon, Ron Batley put on a great power point program on Thorpe Abbotts showing the Base “Then and Now”. This 20-minute presentation was shown twice and was packed for both showings – great job, Ron! At 1PM the Palm Springs CAP presented the Colors and John Lynch started his program on the 100th Bomb Group to a packed house of 500+ people. The moderator was Robert Wolff and the speakers included Foundation President Ralph Bradley, David Tallichet (talking about his new 100th BG Restaurant that will open this spring), Jack Robins (ROG on Lt Barton Crew, shot down at Berlin March 6th, and his POW experience), Ron Batley (encouraging people to visit Thorpe Abbotts Tower Museum) and myself.

After an hour of stories the program concluded and everyone stepped outside to see the second part of the program, the flying of the Palm Springs Air Museums B-17G “Miss Angela”. Boy, were those sweet flyby’s, brought tears to the eyes of the Vets and many questions from the youngsters who watched it fly. What a day, Real Heroes and a flying B-17 all in one place. Pinch me, this can’t be real! A big thanks to Tony Terraza from the PS Museum for his attention to detail in making the program at the museum go off without a hitch. At 5 PM, everyone headed back to the hotel to freshen up for the dinner at Billy Reeds just 50 yards down from the hotel.

Cocktails at 6, dinner at 7, sounds like we needed a COQ with this schedule. Dinner was packed, Bob Wolff, with his wife Barbara, gave a wonderful speech along with his Sons (believe there were 16 members of the Wolff family present). Everyone loved the food and drinks and we never thought the night would end. The goodbyes and see you at the hotel in the morning brought this to a close and the clock was winding down. We took over the lobby at the hotel one last time and Albert Freitas brought the only historical record on the DeMarco Crew with him to be scanned into the website. His stories were great; sharp-witted and his memories clear as a bell. Thanks, Albert! John Gibbons told us about taking that 88mm flak shell in “Miss Irish” and a little known story about the 300-mission party (your secret is safe John).

The Batley’s, Sue Dickey (who met a Vet who witnessed her Dads plane being shot down on Feb 3, 1945), Cory Emberson, Paul West, Rinaldo, Ralph, Charlie, Harry, and a host of others did not want this night to end because the last few days were magic but the clock came to its final tick, or should I say, they kicked us out of the lobby. Morning brought the sadness of goodbyes but the resounding battle cry of “See you in Pittsburgh”.

That is the cry we want all of you too hear. Call everyone who served in this great organization and lets get them to Pittsburgh. Let’s make Pittsburgh the biggest reunion we have seen since Long Beach! Only YOU can make that happen, Pilots, call your Crews, Bill Carleton and Bill Clift, call the Engineering people, Armament, etc, have Bud Frum call people, he is persuasive. We need Rosie, Crosby, Jeffrey, Kidd, Cleven, Veal, Wallace, Henington, Lyster, and the Bussino’s, Freitas, Bruce Richardson, and yes, John Miller too. Finally, we need all the Families- Harding, Emberson, Barr, Gulick, Lemmons, Carey, to name but a few. This is the 100th Bomb Group, “the best damn group in the 8th Air Force” – let’s show them a reunion to top all reunions.

Michael Faley
100th Bomb Group Photo Archives
100th Bomb Group Historian

P.S. My apologies to anyone I missed, your presence at the reunion was just as important as anyone mentioned in the article.