NEWLY ARRIVED - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th
Just our luck," complained Vinny Fratelli, co-pilot of
The Russian Lady. "We finally get here, and the base is empty!
We could have - no, SHOULD have been up there with them if that nitwit hadn't
screwed up our orders!"
"Easy, Vin, the war's going to be going on for a while, we'll get our chance," their aircraft captain Lieutenant Andrews replied. "At least things are calm for the moment, and we've got the chance to meet the ground crew and get used to the lay of the land around here."
"And find out where the craps game is, right boss?" grinned Sgt. Lynch, the radioman. "Can't forget what's important, can you?"
"You've got that right, Spanky," replied Andrews. "You've got that right."
It was Fratelli who had dubbed Sgt. Lynch as 'Spanky'; he looked just like that kid from 'Our Gang', but he was funnier. Always had a story that could keep the guys laughing, thought Andrews. Fratelli had pretty much given everyone in the crew a nickname; no one really minded, except for Sgt. Meyers, the engineer. He had hated his nickname at first - 'Twitchy'. He liked it a little better after Lt. Vachon had suggested calling him 'Squirrel' instead. Andrews smiled at the memory.
"You're like de leetle squirls we used to shoot in de' woods," said Vachon at the time, in his bizarre, quasi-French accent. "Oh, dey were tough to heet, you know? But I ged 'im, all de' time I get 'im. Maybe I ged you next!" Rather than risk getting shot at by Vachon, Meyers decided that 'Twitchy' was better than 'Squirrel', and stopped arguing.
"Well, enough hanging around here," said Andrews, "let's get our gear stowed and check out our bird."
As he picked up his bag, his thoughts went up to the guys in the sky. 'Hope they're all OK' he thought. 'I'd like to meet them all.'
Background Info on 2nd Lt. Roger Thornhill, new
Navigator, Old Crow Express (submitted by Phillip Zaragoza, 318th
Roger Thornhill was born on 5 April 1923. He was an only son who lived with his Dad in Flint Hill, Virginia. His mom had died giving labor to him and his dad never remarried.
He had always wanted to see the
world and when he was small, he used to sit down during a rainy day when there
was nothing to do and spend hours looking at maps. He had always wanting
to see Europe. He used to image the people he would meet and the kinds of
amazing things he would see if he went to any of these places.
As he grew up he became friends with Peter Watson, a fat boy that had moved in next door. And a girl named Lisa McKnight, she was tall and skinny. Peter had been his best friend, and during high school Lisa had become his girlfriend. During his final year in high school Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. And then it seemed that everyone was enlisting to be in the army.
He had told his dad that he too wanted to enlist in the army. His dad decided that it was time to tell him that he had been in WW1, in the Trenches as a foot soldier. He had seen his best friend Jimmy Ross jump into a hole, during a shelling, filled with mustard gas without his gas mask on. Frank told Roger the horrors of war. He told him this because he knew that Roger was determined to join the army, and he wanted Roger to know what he was getting into. That it was not just fun and games, People died.
The stories that Frank told Roger made him change his mind about going the infantry. But Peter was still determined to enlist into the infantry and he did so. But Roger chose instead to become a navigator. Since he knew how to read maps and somewhat enjoyed looking at them, it seemed that at least this way he would be able to stay out of danger (he believed), and still contribute to the war effort. It seemed odd that he was the only one in his class that chooses to be a navigator. The others had flunked pilot training or been drafted there and had to choose between bombardier training or navigator training. He passed the navigator training in the top of his class.
Just before he got shipped out he was permitted a 2-day leave to visit his family. He spent all of his last day with Lisa. He proposed to her under the big tree down in downtown, it was where they had there first date, she said yes and they spent the night together. In the morning he told her that when he got back they would get married.
Once over seas he was shipped to England where he stayed there for a week. And then he was shipped to Tunisia where he flew his first two missions with the 99th Bomb Group. There he got his first taste of what was war like. He would have stayed there but he got the flu before his third mission and they did not allow him to go. His 17 crashed in enemy territory and all were killed. The higher ups decided to ship him to another Bomb Group because it would not have been good for moral. So he was then shipped to the 88th BG on 15 December 1943.
DINNER, 16 December 1943 - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th
"I thought these guys would be a little friendlier" said 'Spanky'
Lynch quietly, jerking his head to indicate the other bomber crews in the Mess
tent, "You'd think they'd want to meet the new guys."
"Wait a minute!" said 2nd Lt. D.C. 'George' Hawkins, "YOU can think?"
Spanky feigned a look of deepest insult while the rest of the crew had a good laugh. Then he said, "Well, I thought maybe they'd be a little more, I mean, that they'd need to let off a little steam after the mission, you know?"
'Twitchy' Meyers spoke up. "You know, Spanky, these guys are tired, they've been flying all day. Not all of them sleep on the job like you do!" The table roared with laughter again. Spanky put on his best 'Aw, you guys' look. "Geez," he grumbled, though he was smiling, "make ONE mistake and you never hear the end of it."
"Then again," spoke a quiet voice to Andrews' right. It was Albert Seaton, the Port waist gunner. He was so quiet, Andrews had actually forgotten that he was there, "it's probably because they lost a couple of planes on the mission today. One of them was from our squadron, too."
They ate the rest of the meal quietly, trying not to think too much about the lost planes, or the one that had come back without a nose and short a couple of crewmen. More than one of them thought 'what have I gotten myself into?'
Lt. Kingsley's crew chief MSgt. Elias Presley examines the Princess Lilikoi
"Ahhh, Jesus, Lieutenant! Look at this mess you came back with! My nice shinny plane is FUBAR!"
"You want me to WHAT, sir??? Get it fixed? By when???"
<Places one of his hands over his face and mutters under his breath>. Ahhhh, Sweet Mary, Mother of God, please take me now! "Lieutenant, I'm a mechanic, not a miracle worker. I think you need to talk to the Chaplain, sir. He's got connections with the big man upstairs."
"Alright, alright, lets see what we got to do . . . Damn it! . . . ball turret smashed, a fuel tank needs to replaced, have to strengthen and repair the wing roots on BOTH wings and on one of the tail planes. Compared to this mess, the rest of the repairs is going to be child's play!"
"I'm not promising you anything, sir. You'd better think about asking to use one of the spares. Or you'd better hope this crappy weather lasts for another two weeks!"
"Okay, you lazy gold bricks! This plane is not going to fix itself, ya know! Get the lead out! NOW! Lets go people! There's a war on if you haven't heard!
Friday, 17 December in the 316th Squadron hut.
Getting out from the cold rain, Lt. Paul Griffin
opened the door to enter the squadron hut. After shaking off most of the
rain water, Griffin walked up to the squadron commander's desk, all the while
wondering what the CO wanted to see him about.
Standing rigid in front of the desk, Lt. Griffin spoke clearly. "You wanted to see me, Captain?"
Captain Dan Tanner looked up from his desk and smiled. "Yes, I did, Paul. Relax, and take a seat."
Sitting down in the chair opposite of Tanner, Paul Griffin asked, "So, what's this about, Captain?"
"As you know, I lost a flight leader when Sterling and his guys bought it over Albania."
Griffin nodded, recalling the Sofia mission yesterday. Ben and his crew never knew what hit them when their plane blew up, Paul thought to himself. At least it was a quick way to go.
"Plus, Cody is gone and Tom Joss is going back home because of his injuries. So, I'm gonna need another experienced flight leader," Tanner said and he paused for a moment before finishing. "And between Mac, Coleridge and you, I decided that you drew the short straw, Paul."
Paul was surprised but he then realized that Tanner was right. He and Tanner were two of the 'old guys' still left from the Walla Walla days. Griffin could only answer, "Sure thing, Captain. You can count on me."
"Good," Tanner replied. "Here's the plan. Whenever this storm front clears, for the next mission I was planning on having Ben leading the squadron, to see how he handled it. But now, I'm going to lead while you get broken in leading the second flight. Later on, you'll get some experience leading the squadron."
Paul quietly took in Tanner's plan for the squadron formation
on their next mission and his new found responsibility.
"Since I want to break in the new guys as slowly as I can, they won't be in the lead flight," Tanner explained. "I'll lead Mac and Coleridge," Tanner continued, "and you'll lead the new guys. It doesn't leave you much time to get the new guys up to speed on how we do things around here, but the Colonel tells me we're going to go when the weather cooperates. I know it's a lot, but I'm depending on you to replace Ben." Having finished his outline, Tanner asks, "Any questions Paul?"
"Yeah, when does the new crews get in?" Griffin asked.
"Personnel tells me they should be here tomorrow morning."
A few moments later outside officer's club . . . (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th Sqn)
Paul walks back to his hut and sees Dan Adams, his co-pilot, exiting the officer's club. He changes his direction and saddles up to Dan, ushering him back inside the club.
"Dan, I wanted to let you know we have been given job of leading the 2nd flight since Sterling's gone . . . What do you want Dan . . . it's on me".
Dan nods to the enlisted behind the bar and two whiskeys are placed down . . . "Paul, I knew this was coming and you of course can count on me . . ."
"Great, I need both training support as well as help in getting our crew and the new crews both up to speed and boosting moral as quickly as possible . . . any thoughts?"
"Well," says Dan taking a long pull on his drink, ". . . I think doing things to keep they guys occupied would be preferable to having them dwell on the recent losses. . ."
"I couldn't agree more, Dan." Paul looks quickly around, "I going to drop a letter to my classmate Sandy . . . I mean Fr. Thompson, seeing if he has any ideas either. . . Well, as it is, I'm having a meeting later tomorrow as kind of a 'get to know' for the new crews and working over some drills . . . perhaps we even should work on gunnery . . . God knows we could use some help on this too."
"Sir, you can count on me . . ."
"I knew I could, Dan . . . Now, tell me how the guy behind the bar knows your drink . . . we've only been flying now for less than two weeks . . ."
Dan answers Paul with just a big, wide knowing grin. After finishing his drink, Dan watches Paul leave and turns back to the bar for another drink . . . his shoulders, if someone was watching seemed to slump . . .
As Paul Griffin walks back to his tent, his thoughts are on Vermont and his wife. Gonna try to get some more writing done on my letter to Sarah . . . Not to late now.
MORALE - (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th
From: 1st Lt. Paul Griffin
To: Fr. Sandy Thompson - 318th base chaplain
Date: December 17, 1943, 23:20 hours
Three planes in less than 2 missions and over 20 guys killed right off the bat. Capt. Tanner does not even know I'm writing to you as he is busy writing letters to families of airmen lost on this last mission.
I'm not sure if a movie or hot chow is the thing; perhaps we need to run drills squad by squad or get a pep talk from one of the big guys.
It's nearing Christmas and many of the crews are wondering (after only 2 missions) if this is it for them. Not great attitude to go into battle with.
My crew is doing okay, and I've just been given 2nd flight leader status in 316th with at least two new crews. I'm concerned that this fear will spread like wild fire throughout the whole Group.
I've scheduled a meeting with all 3 crews for tomorrow (12/18) at 16:30 hours in back of the mess tent to answer questions and plan out our training for the next few days. If you are able to drop by, I think it would be in the best interest of the men.
Sandy, we need some help here and I'm not sure how much more bad news we can take, as a couple of the crews have not reported in.
Sandy, we just have got to do something to take the mens' minds off these losses. I know you have been given the honor of being the unofficial Morale officer on this base.
I also know that just because we went to school together doesn't mean I can ask
special treatment, and if this was just for me, I know you'd kick my butt.
I'm asking for the men. We need to get back into a fighting spirit and I'm
running out of ideas.
Of course, first round of drinks would be on you. That's a good start
Letter to Paul Griffinís wife, Sarah - December 18, 1943 (submitted by
I know you wonít get this until after the New Year, but Merry
Christmas darling. I miss you more today than yesterday, and after the
close scrap we had today, I know you were praying for me and my crew.
This war is going to be a long one, and a really hard event on many families, but I want you to know that I am doing not because I have to but because I want to. I know that may not make a lot of sense but Hitler and his gang MUST BE STOPPED and we are working hard to make that happen. There is nothing more I would love than to be home with you and little Amy but if we donít stop this thug and his henchmen here and NOW we can never be safe.
Fifty missions seems like a long way away to get back to you. We already have had some deaths in our unit, and one of my guys is going home due to wounds suffered in the line of duty. Our plane is the first one to have a guy get a medal other than the purple heart and Iím so proud of my fellows; all of them are so brave and yet each one is scared as hell each time we go up.
This new year of 1944 will see a great many changes, but my love for you is strong and I can feel your love and prayers. The lucky penny that you gave me before shipping out has become our ďgood luck charmĒ, as well as our planeís namesake.
I will try to write every chance I get, and I get your letters too, although the base mail has still not as good as the olí US of A postage service. Those chocolate chip cookies you sent for Thanksgiving arrived yesterday . . . I bet they smelled so good baking in our kitchen back home. I got to taste one before the guys devoured the whole batch. Iíll keep the tin for your letters since the faint smell of cookie is still inside side and nothing reminds me more of you than your baking. When I get home, I want a big apple pie with a huge hunk of Vermont cheese on the side and tall glass of milk from one of our cows.
Speaking of cows, is Luke able to help with the milking like we worked out? I know our dairy farm is still not as big as your cousin Henryís but with 20 head of cattle it must be a chore for just the two of you. Lukeís a good man, just a little slow, but he should be able to do the heavy stuff.
Got to get some shut-eye as Iím really worn-out but keep me
and the guys in your prayers and Iím counting the days when we will be back
together. We may have one more mission to go before our Christmas here but Iíll
keep safe for both of you.
All my love,
Training Regimen, December 19, 1943 (Submitted by Paul Scheepers,
It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and no missions were posted for the day. Crews around the base were taking it "easy" . . . some of them at least.
"BANG! We've been hit!" shouted a figure holding a stop-watch
and a clip board, "everyone bale out!" From a distance it seemed a little
comical, as the crew of B17 Little Missy all flung themselves out of
their escape hatches and onto the tarmac! There was a collective groan as
Spencer Kennedy yelled, "Again, do it AGAIN! Men! I can't stress the importance
of a quick exit in an emergency situation! Weatherbottom you especially!
Now men stay calm and focus on your escape routes!"
This went on for some time and began to attract some attention as other crews gathered round to view the spectacle; there was some sniggering and jeering. Purple faced Spencer rounded on the onlookers yelling something about them all meeting their deaths due to lack of training. Hurriedly the milling throng dispersed leaving Kennedy to his own carefully worked out training regimen.
THE TENT - (Submitted by Paul Scheepers, 317th Sqn)
It was after midnight when a great yell went up from a nearby
tent. "BLOODY HELL!" boomed the voice, Spencer startled, rose from his cot
and peered out into the darkness. He could just discern the convoluted
shape of something struggling in the collapsed remains of a tent.
"GODDAMMIT TO HELL," came the unmistakable voice of their squadron CO, Montague.
What's all the noise about came a rather annoyed demand from within Spencer's tent, "It was Milton. I say Milton come and look at this!" said Spencer grinning, it seems as if old stogie has collapsed the tent on himself! He was looking a bit worse for ware when we left the officers' club earlier this evening". Milton rose like a flash to see his arch nemesis, rolling about the folds like some great walrus, a broad smile flashed across his face then was gone.
A group of shadowy figures were hurriedly leaving the scene whispering and giggling to themselves, Spencer decided not to pursue them, a bit of harmless fun! The men needed to unwind from time to time. Spencer returned to his cot trying not to laugh out loud as Montague yelled profanities to no one in general as he desperately tried to free himself from the enveloping folds.
Bugs Bunny Bond Rally - Submitted by Phillip Zaragoza (318th Sqn)
"The 88th BG Movie Matinee is open and is playing "Bugs
Bunny Bond Rally". And there is
more to come."
"Thank you Lieutenant Anderson for finding that enjoyable cartoon. And while the projectionist is getting the next reel set up, I'd like to add that buying bonds is like giving your country a loan to help fight against the Axis. Every bond that is bought allows the good old USA to buy the weapons it needs to help end this war that much quicker."
"Okay, they say we're about ready. I hope it's a Hope and Crosby picture . . ."
THE TENT, continued - (Submitted by Paul Scheepers, 317th Sqn)
Shamus stomps off to the movie tent. Can't sleep . . . he was using his tent as a sheet anyways. He grabs a beer from the barman and settles down to watch. Thinking alternatively between hoping that this tent doesn't come apart at the seams and finding some suitable way to get his own back on the Good Old 317th sleep disruptors.
Private thoughts of the surviving Darkwatch crew as they paid their
last respects to the two crewmen lost on the Sofia mission - Submitted by Paul
2nd Lt. Ulm, Co-Pilot: If I have to fly again, I'm going to lose it. Last time was too close.
2nd Lt. Cuevas, Navigator: They think it's my fault that Keefer bought it, but it could have been me as easy as him. And I didn't see a lot of them shooting the way I was.
Tech Sgt. Johnson, Radioman: None of this would have happened if we had just stuck to the schedule.
Sgt. Disbrow, Ball Gunner: This fills me with rage.
Sgt. McGuire, Port Waist Gunner: Could've been worse.
Sgt. Sadat, Starboard Waist Gunner: I've been hit twice on two missions. This is a death ship. I have to get out of here.
Sgt. Tieger, Tail Gunner: This isn't what I had in mind when I asked for more responsibility.
1st Lt. O'Connor, Pilot: Better them than me.
Sergeant Carlos Carter's (tail gunner, 318th Squadron) letter to home after the Sofia Mission, December 16, 1943
(submitted by Phillip Zaragoza. 318th Bomb Squadron)
Boy am I tired, we just came from a mission and the krauts hit us harder then before. We lost Mark. Remember Mark the guy I told you about? He was a good guy, well yeah, we lost him today. But don't worry about me I take my lucky penny, the one my dad gave me before he passed away, every time we go up, so I should be ok. I drilled a hole in it now so I can put it around my neck.
Anyway, Two days ago Bobby Norton (he is our Radio Op, yeah, he has the same name as my little bro, maybe that's why I get along with him he reminds me of my brother) and me waited until Tim Madison fell asleep, then we walked over to him and started writing on his face. Ha-ha. Damn it was so funny especially when he woke up the next morning and started walking around base. I'll say he did not find out until around noon when someone finally told the poor bastard. I don't think he knows for sure who it was, but I have a feeling that he suspects it was me. That was funny, I only wish I had take a picture of him, aw well, tell Bobby to behave. Love ya Ma, gotta go.
With love, your son
P.S. Oh yeah, we are also planning to get Justin tonight. We gotta keep them on there toes and if we have fun while we are doing it so be it, someone has to do it, right? Well, Mom, Love ya. Bye
Lt. Colonel Lamb's Letter to a Next-of-kin.
It is with deep regret that I must inform you that your nephew, 1st Lt. Benjamin J. Sterling, has been declared missing in action and is presumed to have been killed in action on Thursday, 16 December 1943.
While leading a flight during a mission, Lt. Sterling's squadron came under heavy enemy attack. From eye witness' accounts, Lt.
Sterling's plane was seen taking hits in the center of his plane during the fighter attack when his plane exploded in mid-air. There were no chutes seen and all crewmembers on his plane are presumed to have been killed.
While under my command, Lt. Sterling exhibited the highest standards of leadership and courage while participating in aerial combat with the 88th Bombardment Group. His leadership and courage are in keeping with the best traditions of the Army and the Air Corps. He will be missed by all members of his squadron and the group.
If I have any more news on your nephew's status, I will inform you immediately.
Again, you have my deepest sympathies and sincerest condolences on your family's loss.
Lt. Col. Michael Lamb
88th Bombardment Group (H)
SCRAP HAPPY DAFFY - Submitted by Phillip Zaragoza (318th Sqn)
Now playing "Scrap Happy Daffy" at the Movie Tent.
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