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Raynor and Stanford Letter

Letters from Bob Raynor and 
Raney Stanford to Howard Cohen


351st Sqdn. — Crew, as above, joined 100th on 3 Apr 1945

Letter from Raney B. Stanford to Howard Cohen (son of Isadore Cohen):

20 Dec 1944

Dear Howard,

I thought I might hear from you after I received a copy of a letter from Chas Beck of the 100th. I enclose a number of copies of photos I have of our crew. The Xerox you sent me was interesting also irritating. You can I.D. everybody from the photos I enclose, except for the guy between Joe D. and Bob R. in the back row, who is Frank Popoli (FRANCIS J. POPOLI), Navigator who is not I. (RANEY B. STANFORD). Through some machination I have never understood, I was swapped as navigator with the navigator from the crew of a weird, irresponsible pilot in another squadron, whose co-pilot also ditched him after 12 – 13 missions in late July, 1945. I fought with this guy thru every flight and complained to the squadron CO about, but was reassured to learn that in a few days, maybe a week, the group would be disbanded. The varsity chaps took the bombers home across the Atlantic; the rest of us were scattered across Germany and Europe. Joe, Bob and I went to a troop carrier in Paris.

We all crewed up and trained (OTU) at Biggs Field, east of El Paso, Texas, where we flew a lot, night and day. We went overseas on a funky Brit Liner, the P & O Lines, and were assigned to the 100th BG (Heavy), 13th Wing, 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force USSAFE. We flew three missions April 14 – 15 – 16 to Royan, France, east of Bordeaux on the Gironde Estuary; pockets of Germans left with the holding forces while the main armies swept east. There was no real resistance from air or ground, occasions with many things for which to be thankful. One of these trips was quite interesting as I realized long afterwards we were carrying jellied gasoline in receptacles that were actually P-51 wing tanks; an early form of napalm. Whoever pump-loaded the tanks forgot about the diminishing pressure at altitude however, so at 20 thousand feet the seams began to spread and the stuff began to ooze down the tanks. We were afraid to rub our fingers together, as the whole plane reeked like the inside of a Texaco refinery. We were really glad to toggle that mess out of the plane and be done with it.

The war ended for us one morn in late April, in the dark on the parameter strip, waiting for green flares from the tower for take-off. Thirty bombers turned 45 degrees from each other, running up the 1300 HP Wright-Cyclones, four to a plane; unforgettable thunder. But the tower fired red-red; mission scrubbed. We all whooped like the end of a football game; I threw maps all over the nose. Knew instinctively that we would never take off with bombs over Europe again. (We were waiting for a bomb line, west of which we would not drop endangering our own troops. 8th Air Force finally heard from 3rd Army, saying, “We don’t know where Patton is. He’s running east, winning the war. You guys go find something else to do.”)

Your father was very cheerful, chunky ebullient man who worked very hard. As Flight Engineer he crouched between the pilots every take-off and landing, calling out continuously changing airspeeds and monitoring the manifold pressures of each engine, so the pilots could concentrate on flying the big bird. (Big bird – ha. Raynor recently wrote me about seeing a B-17 parked by a B-52 at an air show, and in comparison the B-17 looked like a Piper Cub.)

The last photo here is of the cracked-up B-17 #128 mentioned by Beck in his letter to you. At the end of war we put in hinged plank doors over the bomb bay doors (designed to break open under impact of about 150 lbs), filled the bays with C-rations packed in flour to drop at low speed, low altitude to Dutch residents of Hague, Rotter and Amsterdam — people cut off from food stuffs when the German troops broke open the dikes to flood fields and impede Allied transports. We left the plank doors in; renamed ourselves the “100th Heavy Hauling and Light Trucking Group,” and spent the summer flying personnel and cargo about Europe. The May 15 accident occurred when we went to an old Luftwaffe field in Austria to fly French ex-POWs back home. Joe D. made a beautiful three point landing – about 50 – 60 feet above the runway. Sort of like pushing the ship off the roof of a shopping center. Stove in left gear through the wing panel, pretetzling props 1 and 2. I told Joe later that I thought he was “Momentarily taken aback.’ but Raynor powered 3 and 4 engines on the bounce, put the wheel over and brought the ship in (fortunately long runway) on the right gear. Smooth. I have been in three-point landings that were rougher than Raynor’s unicycle job at Höraching. He saved us all from bad stuff. For this reason, among others, I always send him a card at X-mas.

What happened to your Farther after the planes flew away in late Aug., ’45 I know not. Bob, Joe, and I went to a C-47 group in Paris, where the Army set up regular airline service to most of the major cities in France, England, Italy and Germany (no commercial air service yet). I came home in June ’46. Keep the photos as they are dupes of mine.

All the best,
Raney Stanford

Letter from Bob Raynor to Howard Cohen (Son of Isadore Cohen):

Howard Cohen
P.O. Box 397
Capitola, CA 95010-0397
Oct 31, 1994

Dear Howard:

I received a copy of the letter sent to you from Charles Beck of the 100th. Although your Dad and I were on the same crew for a short period of time I can give you what I recall. Our crew was formed at Biggs Field, in El Paso Texas about October 1944. We arrived at Thorpe Abbotts in England March 15,1945 and after more training and familiarization joined the 351st Squadron April 3, 1945. As hostilities were winding down, our vast war experience consisted of three missions to Royan France to bomb submarine pens.

After the war ended in Europe in May, only Joe, Raney and myself remained together. Your Dad and the rest of the crew went their separate ways. I lost track of him after that. Sometime in late 1960 I visited with Izz and his wife for a short time in Pittsburgh. Squirrel Hill I believe. Enclosed is a small snapshot taken in England. Top row: Raul, Earl, Raney, Joe, and myself left to right Bottom row: George, Frank, Ray and Izz, left to right. Also enclosed is a negative off your Dad in our B-17. Hope this will be of interest for you.

Best Regards
Bob Raynor

P.S. Your Dad was not aboard when we crash landed at Horshing in Linz, Austria.