November 11, 2012 - Honoring Our Veterans



My Dad 1920-2003

 Dad was an officer and bomber pilot in the Air Force during WWII, discharged as a major.  In February of 1944, he lead the 392nd. Bomb Group in the first bomb drop on Berlin.  For this, he received the Presidential Citation, which was presented to him by General James Doolittle.  The mission had begun a week before, but the crew had to turn back when the temperature in the plane dropped to -70F, freezing the airplane instruments.  The crew suffered from the cold, but also from burns received from heating coils that had been put in their clothing. Dad was also the recipient of the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Dad flew many missions during WWII, but the one he remembered most was Mission #62.

Mission #62
9 April 1944
Field Order 225
Target: Tutow

Again, for the second mission running, the Group was to sustain heavy casualties in aircrew members and aircraft. Briefings for (33) aircrews were held between 0310-0430 hours with (31) taking off beginning at 0720 hours. Up front, the 579th Squadron was leading with Major Keilman in the lead ship as Command Pilot. Weather in the Group assembly area was extremely poor and difficulty was experienced in forming the mission aircraft. Major Keilman managed to assemble approximately two Sections consisting of (19) aircraft and proceeded on course but formation flying was impossible to maintain with any integrity because of enroute weather conditions. Approximately (60) miles north of the Fresian Islands at position 5416N-0449E, Major Keilman in the lead was left no choice but to give the recall word because of weather problems encountered. His two Sections returned to Wendling, landing around 1130 hours. 

In the meanwhile, Captain Barnes of the 576th with Lieutenant Jackson as lead Bombardier had been briefed to lead the third Section of (12) Group ships flying high right squadron off of the 44th Bomb Group out of Shipdham. Captain Barnes managed to form up with some ships of the 44th, but unable to locate the main formation, he proceeded on course having not received the recall order. As a result of the extreme difficulties all units were having in formation assembly due to weather, Captain Barnes’ formation finally numbered (26) aircraft by stragglers from other Groups joining his group of 392nd ships. Just south of Lualand Island, this formation was attacked by (30) FW-190 and ME-109 aircraft with the attacks being concentrated on the straggling aircraft just joining the formation. An estimated (10) ships were lost from these with the remaining (16) under Captain Barnes pressing on to the target, bombing it with incendiaries with fair results. A good fire pattern was observed over the aiming point. The aircraft lost on this raid numbered (3) one of which crash landed on return with no aircrew injuries. 

In the 578th, (my Dad's) crew in #485 suffered a mid-air collision with a 389th Bomb Group ship over Dereham. Eight (8) crew members were killed in this collision with Dad (the pilot) and his copilot surviving the crash, though the copilot had broken legs.   

578th pilot 2/Lt  (my Dad) was flying plane #41-29485, which suffered a midair collision over England during formation with a B-24 assigned to the 389th Bomb Group at Hethel, B-24J #42-99982. According to the Report of Aircraft Accident, "The collision between [the two planes] occurred during the process of Division Assembly prior to an operational mission. Aircraft #982 was hit by aircraft #485 at approximately mid-fuselage from an angle of about 90 degrees on the co-pilot side. Aircraft #982 was flying in the #2 position of the high right element of a 12 ship squadron at an approximate altitude of 7,000 feet. Both waist gunners of aircraft #982 were able to execute successful parachute jumps, but they did not, however, see the other aircraft involved in the collision and therefore cannot help in a statement of the cause. The nine other crew members [in #982] were killed in the ensuing crash. The assembly was done under instrument conditions through a thick overcast. Weather conditions at the time of the accident were reported as follows: Visibility 2500 yards; surface wind South 6 mph; 7/10 low cloud at 5000 feet, 2/10 middle cloud at 12000 feet. It is believed that neither pilot nor any member of crew was able to see the other aircraft because of weather conditions until it was too late to avoid the collision."



All crew members were lost, with the exception of the copilot and my Dad (back row, second from right).


I remember meeting that copilot when I was about 5 years old, and both of his legs had been amputated.  Dad seldom talked about the incident, it was such a painful memory.  He did say the approaching aircraft was trying to enter the formation when it hit the back of Dad's B-24.  There was no way to save his crew.  All of those behind the cockpit had been killed, with the exception of one.  Dad had the horrible memory of seeing him at the door of the cockpit, covered in burned and burning flesh, screaming.  Knowing they were unable to save their crew member, Dad and his copilot bailed out.  The copilot's legs were nearly severed by a propeller, while Dad only suffered miner shrapnel wounds.  Less than a week later, Dad was assigned another crew and another bomber.  There was no time off for mourning the loss of his crew during this terrible time of war.

* Wendling is a former World War II airfield in Norfolk, England. The airfield is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) west-northwest of East Dereham.  Opened in 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield, being the home of the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force 392nd Bombardment Group. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Wendling




Mr. Granny about 1955 (served in the US army 1954-1956)


Grandson, presently a Paratrooper in the U.S Army


A cold day for the Veterans Day parade!

 Alicyn has a good vantage point from her Mom's shoulders.


Then finds a warm spot on Granny's lap.


Alicyn tips her fire hat to the brave men and women who serve our country.


30 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post, Annie's Granny, and for the stories and photos that show the "real people" element of this holiday. Your Dad was a strong man. Mr. Granny and Grandson, thank you for your service!

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    1. John, I have added a bit to the blog. I found an updated version of the mid-air collision of WWII.

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  2. Granny, what an amazing and sobering story about your father. I am very interested in WWII history and this story illustrates the extreme sacrifices our servicemen face. The fact that your dad was reassigned to another unit and not sent home is amazing to me. Happy Veteran's Day to you and your family.

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    1. Kris, I have records showing aircraft #485 crashed on April 9, 1944, and seventeen days later, April 26, he was piloting another mission in aircraft #028. There may have even been missions between those two that haven't yet been transcribed. His whole story about how little flight training he had before they handed him that big bomber to pilot, and sent him over the ocean, was really interesting, but scary.

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  3. My great aunt was engaged to a man that was flying a mission over China in WWII. His plane was shot down. Over the years all the rest of the crew was recovered. She always waited for him to come back, but he was never found. My great aunt has long since died, but I was told the story when I was a kid. I always thought it so sad.

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    1. That was a sad time, Daphne. Mom and Dad were married just before he went overseas (he was actually my step-dad, but I considered him my Dad). I sneaked into her personal stash of love letters once....pretty interesting, LOL! I remember him bringing her a bottle of Chanel No. 5 that he purchased when he was in France, and she was so thrilled.

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  4. I enjoyed the story and photos of your father, Granny!

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    1. Thank you, Greg. I wish I had asked him more about it, and written down his stories.

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  5. Amazing story of your dad's, how wonderful to have it for future generations! Great photos all! Thanks to all the veterans in your family and to the rest of you supporting them day in and day out!

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    1. Erin, I have so much information on his service records the text wouldn't all fit in my genealogy program! I had to put half of his notes in my sister's notes.

      I just heard today that my grandson is going to be deployed again.

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  6. What a wonderful way to honor your dad, husband, and grandson! I remember that we could never touch dad's shoulder to wake him or we might end up dead. He was so conditioned to fight/kill upon waking that we had to wake him by yelling to him from more than an arm-length away.

    Every year I have my kids call their great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle to thank them for their service. I have found out that it means so much to them to hear that. Especially my dad, because he was actually spit on when he arrived back in the States after his tour in Vietnam.

    My grandfather is such a logical, practical man. Last year when we called him, he proceeded to tell each child about the horrors of his war experience in WWII, in detail. It was quite graphic for such young ears, but it fascinated them. I think it was important that they hear war is not like a video game or movie. He told of years of nightmares. War goes beyond the actual tour of duty. We never forget to thank a serviceman when we see one in uniform. The kids actually look forward to it.

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    1. Langela, I remember my Dad having nightmares that woke him up. It was a hard time for those guys, and most of them were so young. Dad could have made a good career of the service, but the day he got his discharge papers he hitchhiked home. He couldn't get out of there and home fast enough, he wouldn't even wait to take a train! He never got on another airplane in his whole life, either. He hated that I married a pilot, and his fears came true when my first husband was killed in a plane crash.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed reading about your dad. My dad was two years older than yours with two children already at the time of WWII. He volunteered to serve as a chaplain and was sent to the Pacific where he served in Fiji and New Caledonia. He didn't really share any stories with us that I can recall. He might have with my older siblings when he returned. I was born in '50, #4 of 6 kids.

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    1. Marcia, Dad came back from his missions overseas when I was 5 years old, and we lived in California for a while when he was stationed in Victorville. I remember the copilot that had his legs amputated visiting us there. I do wish Dad had shared more of his stories, but I can understand how they brought back memories of a time he would rather forget.

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  8. Brings it all home. Thank you.

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    1. David, it's an honor to have had him as my Dad.

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  9. That is amazing. Thank goodness your dad survived. I was wondering if you know that happened to A Growing Tradition. I was going to email you but for some reason my computer won't let me.

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    1. Peggi, I (and several others) have tried to get hold of Thomas, but no answer. I am concerned, as it's not like him at all. I do hope he and his family are OK.

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    2. Thanks for the reply. I hope he is ok also.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your Dad's story! And it looks like your family have continued an honorable calling. My Dad is also a WW2 vet, he made it into the Pacific zone as a 17 year old in the last year. Navy for 3 years, then army for 3. It was in Germany during the occupation that he met and married my German mother. We owe a lot to all those brave military men and women over many generations.

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    1. We certainly do, Nutmeg. My birth father was in the Navy, but my parents divorced in 1941 so I wasn't around him to hear his war experiences.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your family history. It's fascinating and interesting to hear your own history of a stepdad in the armed forces and losing a hubby per dad's fears. I am sorry to hear it and glad you have Mr Granny. Now tell him to get your tiller started and stop complaining. lol

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    1. Amy T., how did I miss your comment? As you probably know by now, son John got the tiller going :-)

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  12. Thanks for sharing, whilst horrible these stories must be shared, and Nov 11th (it's called Remembrance Day in Australia) is a good day to pay tribute. Jess

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    1. Jetsetterjess, it is a good day to pay tribute to our heroes.

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  13. I can't believe how big the girl is getting!! Trying to catch up with posts. It's been a long, long time.

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    1. Ribbit! Ribbit! You are alive! Where have you been? You have been missed, you know.

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    2. Life has simply gotten in the way. Between grading, my work, the kids' homework (now that they're both in school), the new dog, the car accident - I've just gotten burned out. The summer garden overwhelmed me and I didn't do a fall garden. Actually, I've still got to go out there and clean up the summer garden. Rest assured, I'm here. I'm well. I'm glad to see y'all are all still good and that EG is posting again. See you soon. Alex.

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    3. Car accident? Did I miss something?

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    4. No, it happened in August. I just might put a post about it up tonight. It has a marginally happy ending.

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