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Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Aviation), Martin W. Bowman . A well balanced book that begins with a look at the development history of the B-24, before spending nine out of its ten chapters looking at the combat career of the aircraft in the USAAF, the US Navy and the RAF.
Wendling England Aircrew, Ground Crew & POW Stories
The following stories were complied by the researchers of www.b24.net. These stories and diaries were either submitted by one of the crusaders, their relatives, complied from other publications, or taken as narratives from the crusaders. There are several more stories under each of the Stalag Lufts in the POW Research section.
Flying the Northern Route to England - Richard Hoffman, Ball Turret Gunner, 579th Squadron, tells his story flying from Alamogordo, NM to England.
Flying the Southern Route to England - Burrell Ellison, Pilot, 576th Squadron, tells his story flying from Morrison Field, FL to England.
Manny Abrams, Navigator, 579th Squadron - THE INVISIBLE LIBERATOR - We were not invisible. We were simply sitting on the wrong airfield and talking to the correct control tower. So - after another embarrassed takeoff (if such is possible) we made a new landing on the correct airfield, and came to our final stop on the apron in front of the tower.
Various Eye Witnesses to the Crash of Alfred - At about 2:30 p.m. I heard the sound of an aircraft and then saw a B24 Liberator approaching low over the sea. The bomber was very obviously in trouble, with al least two of its four engines out of action. As it cleared the cliff top and began flying inland, it veered to the left, almost as if the pilot was trying to turn hack and crash land in the sea, close to shore. However, during the turn, the crippled bomber lost height and its right wing struck trees at the edge of a wood on rising ground, an area known locally as Pretty Corner.
M/Sgt. Ernie Barber - 578th Crew Chief - The Diary of Ernie Barber from the beginning to the end of the war.
M/Sgt. Ernest Barber - ( as told to Greg Hatton on Sept 16, 1989 ) Another one of Greg Hatton's great interviews. M/Sgt. Barber was a crew chief for the 578th squadron. He came to Wendling with the original cadre of the 392nd.
Staff Sgt. Bert M. Beals - Nose Gunner - The mission Diary Bert Major Beals Jr on the Slayten Crew. Covers his missions from September 25, 1944 through April 20, 1945. Submitted by his son, Zachary Beals.
Berlin - April 29, 1944 - Annette Tison shares her in depth research of the 29 April 1944 mission to Berlin flown by the 8th Air Force on April 29, 1944, with an emphasis on the role of the 392nd Bomb Group. After several years of research on The Wyatt crew, including her uncle, 2Lt Douglas N. Franke.
Staff Sgt. Jim Blanco - Engineer 579th - As a member of Bell's crew I remember quite vividly the experience of that day. The mission started about 2300 hours of 19 June, when the C.Q. came to roust us out of our sacks with the usual info of breakfast and briefing times. After breakfast, briefing. I still recall the feeling in the pit of my stomach, because the excess trace line of our route in and out of the target area was not visible on the floor. This meant a long haul. The first two missions, or maybe five, it's still an adventurous experience. After that you start to sober.
Landon H. Brent - I flew thirty one missions with the 392nd bomb group 578th bomb squadron
Guy D. Carnine - Colonel Bernt Balchen's B-24 Airline - 578th Sqdn
Captain Bill Cetin - Lead Bombardier, Cassell crew as dictated to Mary (Rocky) Rothrock in January, 2000 This diary begins with Bill's notes on the Friedrichshafen raid on March 18, 1944 and continues with his missions notes through January 16, 1945. Rocky Rothrock, close friend and post war neighbor, was a gunner with this 579th crew.
2nd Lt. John B. Cihon - Nose Turret Gunner - This is the journal of 2nd Lt Cihon being shot down on "Poco Loco", during the Gotha mission, February 24, 1944 and his time in as a POW.
Robert D. Copp - Pilot AC # 27491: "Pregnant Peg" April 29, 1944 - One of the original crews from the 577th squadron and possibly, the only one to complete the tour of twenty-eight missions. This story is an account of the Berlin raid, April 29, 1944. This raid lost eight planes out of eighteen for the second highest lost ratio in the 392nd history.
Staff Sgt. William B. Dowling - 578th Crew Chief - The Story of William Dowling from being drafted to discharge.
Ray J. Dunphy - 578th Navigator - This is an excellent diary of the 392nd missions from December 13, 1943 through July 12, 1944.
Charles E. Dye - Charlie Dye was an Ammunition Officer with the 1825th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company - Well written story of his time from graduating from Ordnance Officer Candidate School on January 31, 1943 to coming home on the Queen Mary arriving at New York Harbor Pier 90 on June 20, 1945
Charles Dye and Guy Spinelli - LOADING THE BOMBS - We inspected individually every bomb that came in to the bomb storage area, referred to fondly as the "Bomb Dump." We inspected each bomb to ensure that the threads, the nose and tail fuse, the fins were all right so that there would be no problem inserting the fuse in the tail fin.
Burrell Ellison - OUR CREW - Pilot 576th Sqdn. Excellent written story on the first crew to finish all of their missions in the 576th Sqdrn.
Victor Ferrari, Navigator, 578th Squadron - What Happened To Ferrari And Roberts After Their Bomber Crashed is a story of what happened to them after being shot down on 13 November 1944 and bailing out. Great escape and evasion story.
2nd Lt. Douglas N. Franke - Wyatt crew AC# 42-7510: "El Lobo" April 29, 1944 - Douglas' brother, Robert, tells the story and the circumstances of the Wyatt crew who were all killed in the Berlin raid, April 29, 1944.
John Gilbert - John recalls several interesting events when his family moved to the Wendling base after their home at Unthank Road, Norwich, was destroyed in the heavy bombing raids on that city in April 1942.
Col. Lawrence G. Gilbert - ( as told to Greg Hatton on Sept 16, 1989 ) This is a well written account of how the 392nd was formed and it gives great insight of the operational and logistical challenges that could only be told by Col. Gilbert, the base C.O. at Wendling.
S/Sgt. Oliver Guillot - Waist gunner Kaminitsa crew, 576 sq. S/Sgt. Oliver Guillor relates his experience with the 576th, his last mission and life in Stalag 17b. Submitted by Greg Hatton.
2nd Lt. George Graham - Co-pilot Kaminitsa crew - Down 29 April 44, There are so many things that I think of now that I had forgotten these past years. Some days, out of a clear blue sky, I'II think of a thing that happened which I hadn't thought about in thirty years. I flew 9 missions with Kamenitsa's crew, but I had 22 missions all together.
1st Lt Gordon L. Hammond - Pilot, 579th Squadron - This "Statement or Report of Interview of Recovered Personnel" provides details on 1st Lt Hammond's last mission (April 22, 1944) and his imprisonment at Stalag Luft III.
Navigator Robert J. Harron - 577th Squadron - Schuster Crew - The Story of Navigator Robert Harron, KIA January 28, 1945, Mission #231, after a collision with 577th Sq. Dodd's plane over target.
S/Sgt. Hyman Hatton - waist gunner, Ofenstein crew. B24.NET POW researcher, Greg Hatton, interviews his dad on September, 1974, a 392nd POW from the Offenstein crew. One of the best historical documents of life at a WWII POW camp.
Final Thoughts from Ruth Hatton - One evening in July, 1945, Hy called me from Halloran Hospital on Staten Island it was the first time I had heard from him since he became a POW. He had not changed his mind about marriage and wanted to come to the west coast as soon as possible: "Let's get on with our lives."
2nd Lt Milton Henderson - CoPilot on the Gotha Mission. - Another pass just after bombs away and they got #3 engine and set it on fire. Number 4 engine was un-feathered in hopes we could keep up with the Group, but since it had no oil, it promptly ran away. Johns put the airplane in a steep dive to try to blow out the fire #4 tachometer had wound around beyond the numbers-screaming away.
Hugh Malcolm Hinshaw - HEAVEN TO HELL - Malcolm Hinshaw's story about being shot down and a POW
Box cars to Barth: S/Sgt. Hyman Hatton (392nd BG) - Camp evacuation from Luft 4 to Luft 1 January 1945 as told by S/Sgt. Fred Weiner (44BG).
2nd Lt. William Kamemitsa - Part 1 - Pilot AC# 41-100371 One of the most colorful stories I have read of the life of a very articulate and interesting 576th Sq. pilot. This story begins with his training in the US through the Berlin raid, April 29, 1944. Lt..
2nd Lt. William Kamemitsa - Part 2 - Lt. William Kamenitsa down April 29, 1944. Kamemitsa was POW at Stalag Luft 3
Lt. Jack Kaplan - An airman's experience in combat. This is a interview by Miriam Zverin of Lt. Kaplan and his experiences at Wendling as a navigator for the 577th.
Col. Myron Keilman - Friedrichshafen, A MOST DISASTROUS MISSION, March 18, 1944.
Col. Myron Keilman - The Gotha Mission, THE BIG WEEK, February 24, 1944.
Col. Myron Keilman - UNLUCKY HARRY, Col. Myron Keilman remembers Harry.
Col. Myron Keilman - THE BOMBING OF SWITZERLAND, April 1, 1944.
S/Sgt. Vitold Krushas - Engineer-Top turret Offenstein crew. When we came home, we were still 24 or 25 years old. We got home and it was all an experience. You've had a rough time in the Army, but somehow you were enjoying this stuff. We didn't know our lives hung in the balance, every time we took off in training. We didn't realize that it was always that way and it will be that way with generation after generation no matter what war. When they tell you" One out of five of you aren't going to come back". It's not going to be your crew. It will be one of the other planes:" Not me! Too bad fellas one of you isn't coming back".
John Krejci - Right waist gunner Kaminitsa crew and former president Stalag 17b organization. - "I got torn loose from my machine gun and drawn up straight. I figured: "We're down what's the sweat?" Just about that time, the nose dropped down and I sailed clear across the length of the fuselage. right straight through until I pancaked against the front bulkhead, behind the front cabin. By golly, I looked over and Ollie Guillot was right there on the other side of me. Archie Young looked up and saw two people sailing over his head and he said he saw us both pancake into the bulkhead about the same time. "
Sgt. Maurice Lampe - Letters and documents describing the Whitemore crew's final mission on 23 June 44
T/sgt. Robert Longo, Waist Gunner Rogers' crew, Down April 29 1944 Luft 1, 4 and 6 - "The fighters only made one pass. The bullets went right down the middle of the plane. The bombardier, Kane got killed I heard him holler when the fighters first attacked us. Eddy Gienko, in the top turret, had his flak suit hanging up there and said he could hear the bullets hitting it. Two bullets hit Bob Danford, the ball turret gunner. One bullet hit me in the back, but it didn't do anything it just went in and came out again through my leather jacket. The whole ship was ablaze, so I called them over the intercom and said, " Everything is hot back here!" The co-pilot, Dick Weir, heard me and says: Bail out. "
T/sgt. Robert Longo, Above the Clouds at Thirty Below . The before, during and after war memories of Robert "Smiley" Longo as told and written by Max Pottinger. Over 130 pages.
Joe Maloy - Sgt. Joe Maloy (BT) describes the Shere crew's final mission and his bail-out.
Lt. Col. James R. Maris - OUR UNFORGETTABLE MISSION - 578th Sqdn, Mission 23 was worth every "Penny" of it! - "Engineer to pilot, engineer to pilot: Our number one engine has been blown off the wing. Number three is stripped of its cowl and supercharger There's a three-foot wide hole in the left wing between engines one and two. The bomb bay doors are crushed in. And we've got a bomb hung up on the shackles in the bomb bay. "
Lt. Col. James R. Maris - THE SMALL SQUARE OF STEEL - When checking the B-24 next day, a hole in the left side of the cockpit was identified as the place where the shrapnel penetrated the airplane and, very fortunately, had struck my flak jacket. The doctor assured me that the shrapnel would have gone into my heart if it hadn't been stopped by that small square of steel. (I've kept the small section of flak vest and shrapnel and they're now part of my collection of memories from my B-24 days.)"
Jim Marsteller's search for info on his uncle's death. - This is the incredible story of Jim's search on the March 18, 1944 Friedrichshafen mission. His uncle, Jim Morris, was the engineer on the Books Crew, who was killed in action when the B-24 bomber crashed near Hart, Germany, March 18, 1944. Many authors and historians have commented that his research is one of the most extraordinary efforts ever made on a single WWII mission.
The John McCormick Story - This article explains why S/Sgt John E. McCormick is buried in the Dutch town of Zoetermeer and describes why he is still remembered and honored there more than 61 years after his death.
Bill McGuire, son of Lt. William C. McGuire, 579th Sq. - SECOND GENERATION AUTHOR/RESEARCHER SPEAKS OUT. This interview not only tells the story behind the book, "After the Liberators," but also underlines why discovering the facts about WWII history and of the sacrifices of our fighting men continues to be important for all of us."
William McGinley, Tail-gunner B-24 "Sally Ann", 579th Squadron - THE STORY OF HIS CREW AT WENDLING. "Our crew, commanded by Lt. Stukas, had arrived at Wendling on October 15, 1943 as one of the early replacement crews and had completed eight combat missions when, on January 29th, 1944, we were awakened in the very early hours for our ninth and what eventually turned out to be our last mission."
George W. Michel, Radio Operator/Gunner, 576th Sq. - THE SIG ROBERTSON CREW'S 10TH MISSION ON 11 JULY 1944 TO MUNICH, GERMANY. The excellent written story of being shot down over Germany, trying to keep the airplane airborne out of enemy territory, the crash and capture, then the Switzerland internment and final escape of George Michel.
S/Sgt. Jack A. Money - Diary of Missions of S/Sgt. Jack A. Money 8th Air Force, 392 Bomber Group, 579 Bomber Squadron October 4, 1943 to March 18, 1944
Jack Morris - Navigator, 576th Squadron, July 7, 1944 - On their 32nd Mission, flying B-24J 42-94772, the 392nd They were shot down after bombing an aircraft factory in Bernberg. Jack and crew ended up in POW camp, Stalag Luft 3.
Francis Nashwinter - MY MEMORIES - 578th Sqdn, Francis Nashwinter's memories - written 2001.
Lt. Leo Ofenstein, 392nd BG/576sq. KIA 29 April 44 - A tribute by his son and brother. - "In the violent skies over Berlin, two men held a badly damaged B-24 aloft through shear determination. Because of them, five crewmen escaped the flaming aircraft and had a chance to bail out. Three generations later, the names Leo Ofenstein and John Wall are still revered by the families of those who survived. "
Margaret Meen-Parker, English schoolgirl, WHEN THEY ARRIVED, I WAS NINE - There are so many memories of the airfield at Wendling, both happy and sad: being given "lifts" home from school, sitting on the crossbar of the GI's bicycles sadness in the classroom at Wendling School when we learned that planes had not returned the excitement and relief as we watched the stragglers, badly-damaged solitary planes, at first appearing as tiny specks above the distant horizon,
Oak Mackey's Life Story, "My Army Air Force Story" . Written 60+ years after his discharge. While stationed in England with the 392nd BG he kept notes about each of his combat missions and after returning wrote a larger version. This story is 60 pages of well documented events of the 392nd BG and Oak Mackey's experiences.
Oak Mackey, "Crunch Landing" at Seething . Without any thought and perhaps with instinct, I pushed full left rudder that caused the airplane to slew around to the left and we touched down in a sideways attitude. The landing gear snapped off, the two outside engine propellers broke off and went cart wheeling across the airfield. We slid sideways on the fuselage for a long way on the ice and snow it seemed like forever.
Ted Parsons, RAF Detachment - The RAF personnel were just as much involved with the tense atmosphere of an impending deep penetration mission as the American ground and flight crews were. At that time it seemed as if the war could go on for several years and the grim sight of severely battled-damaged and crashlanded B-24s and the occasional RAF Lancaster bomber brought that home most forcefully.
2nd lt. David Purner, Navigator, Ofenstein crew, Down on 29 April 1944, Mission: Berlin - "When we were hit, I knew where we were - I had just logged a position report because it was a good pinpoint - the weather was clearing up but I couldn't see Hanover. "
Diary of Lt. David Purner - This diary starts with his application for cadet training in February 1942, enlistment on April 4, 1942, arrival Wendling on March 24, 1944, shot down April 29th, 1944, captured May 1, 1944 and sent to Stalag Luft III. Forced march to Nuremberg in January 1945, then to Moosburg in March 1945 followed by the POW camp liberation by Gen. George Patton on April 29, 1945. This historical account ends with some vivid reflections of the POW life.
"Double Trouble Mission Notes" A firsthand account by S/Sgt George J. Reade George J. Reade was a young 19 year old from Brooklyn, NY, when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was one of four brothers three served in Europe and the fourth in the Pacific. All returned safely home at the conclusion of the war in 1945. These are George's first hand contemporaneous notes from his 28 missions aboard "Double Trouble" with the 392nd Bomb Group, Squadron 578. They were contributed by Audrey-Ann Byron and Michael Reade.
The combat diary of S/Sgt Theodore A. Rausch - 26 TRIPS TO HELL - The 26 missions of the H.W. Miller crew from December 1, 1943 to March 24, 1944.
Lt. Jim Reynolds (cp) - Final mission of the Hummel crew, down 23 March 1945 (Wesel Mission). "In the last 81 hours, I had flown from England to Germany, been shot down, wounded, captured, rescued, hospitalized, hitch-hicked across part of German and Belgium. then flown back to England."
S/Sgt. Robert H. Richards - The RW gunner on the Beuchler crew, completed 20 missions between July 11 and Sept. 12, 1944. S/Sgt. Roberts spent the winter at Luft 4. In Feb. 1945, he took part in the forced march across Germany that ended in Halle, Germany on April 26
James M. Ross - OUR TURN NEXT - as told to his son, James E. Ross The complete history of a WWII Crusader from induction to the missions he flew , to being shot down, to being captured, to life in 3 different POW camps and death march survivor, to liberation and discharge. This is the story for all educators to know the life of a WWII soldier.
Everett F. Satterly - The history of the engineer of James Sibley's crew of the 578th Bomb Squadron.
Birdie Schmidt Larrick - THE WAY IT WAS, Reminiscences About the American Red Cross Aeroclub at Wendling by Birdie Schmidt Larrick. Birdie was the ARC Program Director at the 392nd BG from December 1943 to early 1945. She was so well-liked that one of the Group's planes was named in her honor. This story and the many photos that accompany it provide a picture of life at the 392nd that is not otherwise documented.
Birdie Schmidt Larrick - The American Red Cross Aeroclub At Wendling, A brief history and stories of the American Red Cross Aeroclub from the 20th Century Crusaders book in four sections.
Sgt. Bernard Sender - 579th Turret Mechanic - Sgt. Sender tells about the day-to-day life of a aircraft mechanic at Wendling.
Louis M. Stephens - A SHORT SAGA - Our crew flew 7 more missions before being shot down September the 9th 1944 on a mission to Maintz, Germany. There were two explosions that destroyed JAW-JA-BOY immediately after going over the target. Bill Riddleberger and I were blown out of the aircraft by the second explosion which was the only way we could have gotten out.
Robert Tays, Pilot, 578th Squadron - FERRY CREW - Ferrying damaged B-24s from France back to England.
John G. Thiel - Sgt, Radio Operator/Gunner, 576th Sqdn - "I was a radio operator gunner on B-24s with the 576th squadron of the 392nd Bomb group flying out of Kings Lynn (near Norwich) England. I flew 30 missions and we were shot up and crashed on the last mission after dropping supplys to paratroopers in Holland. We also flew on D-Day. I have a list with dates etc. of every mission we went on plus a diary. I have many stories I could tell. "
S/Sgt. Jackson A. Tupper - His memories of as the Assistant Engineer on Lt. Burrell Ellisons Crew in the 576th B.S. 1943 - 1945
Bob Vickers Crew - The Niagara Special Legacy - The crash, the crew and the return to France This is the story written by Keith Roberts, Vickers Crew Navigator, about the crash and the events that took place when the crew returned to the crash site in 1998.
2nd Lt. John Wall (KIA 29 April 44) - Mrs. Carol (Wall) Williams remembers her brother - "My prayer is that this story will not glamorize the event of war. Words can never express the feelings families have when their young men are sent out to kill or be killed. no matter how noble the cause may seem to be for there is no winner as the cream of that generation dies. Only by living through this period can anyone really feel the pains of war:"
"Farmer" From London Becomes Part Of Bomber Interior Clear-Out Crew - by David Ward - "As time passed, I was asked to clear out the Liberator's interior after returning from raids. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and was issued a "service bicycle." We then cycled over to collect a "bombing up" truck, a vehicle which was a type of tractor without a cab, supported on a chassis which ran on caterpillar tracks."
"Waugh Crew" In his manuscript, "Not Forgotten. " Doug Willies recounts "The Story of the B-24 Crew Who Were The First To Fly "Ginger", The Last To Fly "Alfred" And How they were Remembered Fifty Years Later." It describes the men who were part of 2/Lt Colby Waugh's crew, their training, their missions, their fatal crash near Upper Sheringham, Norfolk, England, on 4 January 1944, and the memorial in the village that honors them. Doug's extensive research was done "In gratitude for the Freedom that we enjoy today."
Wyatt crew - Dedication & Memorial April 29, 2004 - Annette Tison and family travel to the crash site of her uncle of the Wyatt crew and dedicate a memorial there. This is a great testimony of individual research combined with placing a memorial to the crew 50 years after the fact. This story should inspire others searching for information on a loved one lost in the war and what can be done to remember them over a half century later.
Stanley C. Zybort - Aircrew SGT - The last flight of Zybort and the events of being shot-down and a POW. - Taking one handful after another throwing the chafe out of the opening. I plug in my head set and reported to the plane Captain what had happened. Armetta is out of action. He looks shell shocked. In a daze! I'm throwing out the chafe. Split seconds later the flak hits the plane. A hole just to the right and slightly below me. A blast of orange and black fire ball is seen out of the hole. I bounce up. I'm hit. The calf of my left leg burns. My flight suit is ripped where I was hit.
Last Mission of RAF B-24 Liberator EW277
Before I write this guide, here is a forward to outline how it all came about:
A neighbour asked me to find out what happened to a relative of his, Sgt. Frank Cooney, from the 178 Squadron, RAF Volunteer Reserves who died in 1944. With help from Yorkshiretyke WW2, I found he had flown from Foggia No 1, Celone, Italy.
Following searches on the web, I found Malcom Charlish whose site was very helpfull and with assistance from Linzee WW2, all the pieces started to fit together and the story was taking shape.
THE LAST MISSION OF EW277
On the 13th June, 1944 some 90 planes, part of the 205 Group, were taking off on a mission to bomb the railway yards at Munich.
32 - Wellingtons - 231-wing
13 - Wellingtons - 236-wing
22 - Wellingtons - 330-wing
10 - Pathfinder Halifax's - 614 Squadron
13 - Liberators - from the airfield at Foggia No 1, Celone, Italy (including number EW277).
The crew of EW277 are as follows:-
Sgt. Stephen Thomas Geraint Gill : Pilot
RAF number - 1452957.
Sgt. Patrick Cameron : Air Gunner
RAF number - 573311.
Sgt. Robert McLean : Air Bomber
RAF number - 1671314.
Sgt. Malcolm Charlish : Flight Engineer
RAF number - 2202796.
Sgt. Frank Cooney : W/Op/Air Gunner
RAF number - 1684744.
Two members of that fateful mission I still have to account for namely, Billing and Craig, however, I have found the following entry for June, 1944 in the POW Camp Stalag Luft 7, Bankau, Nr. Kreulberg, Upper Silesia, Poland.
Camp L7 146 : A. W. Billing
RAF number - 1355714.
Camp L7 155 : P. H. Craig
RAF number - 1578239.
This may or may not be the answer to complete my search, however, until it is confirmed then I shall keep looking.
On the 14th June 1944, EW277 did not return from its mission and was listed as missing in action. It was not until after the war had finished, when the Americans returned to recover their lost servicemen that the 5 crew members from EW277, mistaken for Americans, probably because both countries flew Liberators, were removed from their burial place in Furtenfeldbruck, Germany to St. Avoid in France. Later when the mistake was found the five were then moved once again to Choloy Memorial Cemetery, Nr. Nancy, France in collective grave 4 (1-5) where they now lie at rest.
My personal thanks to Malcolm Charlish, Linzee from WW2, Yorkshiretyke and also Tom Cranmer from 205 Group (Middle East and Italy) of 44, Gorringe Valley Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN20 9SS. Telephone : 01323 484 824 [e-mail tomcranmer205ATtesco.net]
Full permission has been given to supply the personal details included. Without their valued help I would never have been able to piece together the chain of events and of course, to pass the information on to my neighbour who started me off on this search in the first place.
Other Airmen and Aircraft on the same Mission
EW266 (L for Love)
W/Cdr. Steele, Sgt. Holmes, F/O Edwards, F/S Richardson, Sgt. Perryer, Sgt. Heizby, F/S Davies.
EV974 (D for Dog)
Lt. Van der Merge, F/O Bootham, Sgt. Blunt,
F/L Lindsey, F/O Wood, F/S Basten, Sgt. Halsall,
KG828 (F for Fox)
P/O Blanckenburg, Sgt. Garner, F/O Davies, Sgt. Pain,
F/S McGuffie, F/S Symes.
EV961 (C for Charlie)
Sgt. Nichols, Sgt. Dirch, Lt. Shtein, Sgt. Elgar
Sgt. Hampton, Sgt. Penhaligon, Sgt. Woodsford.
EW260 (B for Baker)
Lt. Rosenthal, Sgt. Brown, Lt. Steel, Sgt. Cam,
Sgt. Horell, Sgt. Wilson, Sgt. Garbut.
EW233 (H for How)
F/L Eardley, Sgt. Watson, Sgt. Dalrymple, P/O White, F/O Rasmuslen,
F/S Farnish, F/S Sutcliffe, Sgt. Bulgen.
EW139 (G for George)
W/Cdr Smythe, F/O Melton, F/O Ohrt, F/O Anselmo,
W/O Griffin, W/O Fedorchuk, P/O Johnstone, Sgt. Jones.
EW106 (U for Uncle)
Lt. Knight, Sgt. Graves, F/S Green, Sgt. Allen, F/S Holdup,
Sgt. Paul, F/S Bradshaw.
EW277 (W for William)
Sgt. Gill, Sgt. Charlish, Sgt. Craig, Sgt. Cooney, Sgt. Billing, Sgt. McLean, Sgt. Cameron.
EV022 (V for Victor)
Lt. Hoskin, Sgt. Scott, F/S Warner, Sgt. Exton, Sgt. Cooper,
F/S Hoshbaire, Sgt. Oxford.
EW231 (R for Roger)
Sgt. Rush, Sgt. Cowan, Lt. Nurmay, Sgt. Coates, Sgt. Green, Sgt. Dobie, Sgt. Hillson.
EV959 (T for Tare)
Lt. Gibson, Sgt. Durie F/S Ellis, Sgt. Young, F/S Heel, Sgt. Jones,
BZ947 (N for Nab)
F/O McNaughton Sgt. Johnstone, F/O Ellis, W/O Brothers, Sgt. Pratt, F/S Barrington, Sgt. Mitchell
May the 5 Crew Members of EW277 be remembered and left to rest in the Choloy Memorial Cemetery, Nr. Nancy, France.
Written by Jim Deluce
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B-24 Liberators over Tours, 1944 (2 of 2) - History
The B-24 was built like a 1930s Mack truck, except that it had an aluminum skin that could be cut with a knife. It could carry a heavy load far and fast but it had no refinements. Steering the four-engine airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot's muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain. Breathing was possible only by wearing an oxygen mask -- cold and clammy, smelling of rubber and sweat -- above 10,000 feet in altitude. There was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or even 50 degrees below zero. The wind blew through the airplane like fury, especially from the waist gunners' windows and whenever the bomb bay doors were open. The oxygen mask often froze to the wearer's face. If the men at the waist touched their machine guns with bare hands, the skin froze to the metal.
There were no bathrooms. To urinate there were two small relief tubes, one forward and one aft, which were almost impossible to use without spilling because of the heavy layers of clothing the men wore. Plus which the tubes were often clogged with frozen urine. Defecating could be done only in a receptacle lined with a wax paper bag. A man had to be desperate to use it because of the difficulty of removing enough clothing and exposing bare skin to the arctic cold. The bags were dropped out of the waist windows or through the open bomb bay doors. There were no kitchen facilities, no way to warm up food or coffee, but anyway there was no food unless a crew member had packed in a C ration or a sandwich. With no pressurization, pockets of gas in a man's intestinal tract could swell like balloons and cause him to double over in pain.
There was no aisle to walk down, only the eight-inch-wide catwalk running beside the bombs and over the bomb bay doors used to move forward and aft. It had to be done with care, as the aluminum doors, which rolled up into the fuselage instead of opening outward on a hinge, had only a 100-pound capacity, so if a man slipped he would break through. The seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, the co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew, even though most flights lasted for eight hours, sometimes ten or more, seldom less than six. The plane existed and was flown for one purpose only, to carry 500 or 1,000 pound bombs and drop them accurately over enemy targets.
It was called a Liberator. That was a perhaps unusual name for a plane designed to drop high explosives on the enemy well behind the front lines, but it was nevertheless the perfect name. Consolidated Aircraft Corporation first made it, with the initial flight in 1939. When a few went over to England in 1940, the British Air Ministry wanted to know what it was called. Reuben Fleet of Consolidated answered, "Liberator." He added, "We chose the name Liberator because this airplane can carry destruction to the heart of the Hun, and thus help you and us to liberate those millions temporarily finding themselves under Hitler's yoke."
Consolidated, along with the Ford Motor Company, Douglas Aircraft Company, and North American Aviation -- together called the Liberator Production Pool -- made more than 18,300 Liberators, about 5,000 more than the total number of B-17s. The Liberator was not operational before World War II and was not operational after the war (nearly every B-24 was cut up into pieces of scrap in 1945 and 1946, or left to rot on Pacific islands). The number of people involved in making it, in servicing it, and in flying the B-24 outnumbered those involved with any other airplane, in any country, in any time. There were more B-24s than any other American airplane ever built.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies. But don't ask how they could have won the war without it.
Copyright © 2001 by Stephen E. Ambrose. All rights reserved. Converted for the Web with the permission of Simon & Schuster.
The Crew Of The B-24 Liberator “Star Valley” – Downed Behind Enemy Lines
Saturday, February 5 th , 1944, in a remote part of central France lies a village called St. Leonard En Beauce, around 30 miles North of the largest town in the region, Blois. A beautiful morning with the snow still on parts on the ground, the day beginning very clear, but cold. The children in the village are in school for only a few hours, and looking forward to enjoying the rest of the day later.
The area, as well as the rest of the country, have been under Nazi occupation for nearly four years now, and the sound of Allied bombers are in the distance to the west indicate that one day soon, freedom will drive out the occupiers for good.
Thousands of feet up into the sky in this area is the B-24 Liberator known as the “Star Valley,” which is on their eighth of 25 scheduled missions, now on their way back to their base in Shipdham, East Anglia, England. Their job today is to bomb a Renault works manufacturing plant near Tours, in the Loire et Cher region. Now returning north, all the ten crew members are looking forward to getting back and enjoying a drink at the bar.
Suddenly, without warning, a flight of German aircraft approaches, in which one Focke Wulf FW 190, takes a shot at the Star Valley. The plane itself, in the back of the wing formation, becomes the target of the German Pilot, Kurt Buhligen. One member of the crew, left waist gunner Kenneth Hall, mistook the plane for an American fighter, and tried to contact it. By the time that the plane began to fire on the Liberator, Hall did not have time to react and stayed frozen next to his weapon. The right waist gunner, Warren Klein from Detroit, Michigan, called Joseph Morin, who was the tail gunner, to try to shoot down the airplane coming at it. Meanwhile, in all the confusion, the plane was hit in the number two engine, which began to catch on fire Klein tried to get through to the pilot of the plane, Carl Bohnisch from California, to ask for support.
Bohnisch, meanwhile, was trying in vain to keep the airplane from spinning, while Morin in the rear of the plane was firing like crazy. Now, without warning, the plane’s tail began to malfunction, and Morin realized that it was time to get out of his position and move to the front, to find someone else on the crew to communicate with the possibility of having to abandon the airplane. He met up with Klein at the back hatch for a few moments, when the plane began to spiral as Bohnisch could no longer hold it steady. Klein jumped out of the right side of the airplane in a haze as rumors have always emerged that he could have been assisted by Morin. Ball Turret Gunner Eugene Edgerton from Connecticut, was in Klein’s mind to assist as well, but since the position was almost impossible to escape from, Klein had no chance to run over and assist him. Edgerton was not the only airman that never had a chance many in the front of the airplane could never escape as the plane’s plummeting G-force would make them unable to escape.
Meanwhile, in the village, the children jumped out of their seats as a load motoring noise began to head towards the earth. The inhabitants of the village who had been looking at a bunch of planes heading towards the west, viewed a plane reducing speed and seeing flames coming out of the left side of the aircraft. With all the confusion, parachutes began opening out: perhaps a reported three parachutes being seen. A giant black cloud was very visible followed rapidly by a huge explosion quickly dissipating over the next door village of Sigogne.
Immediately a German aircraft is spotted flying quickly over the town from a position of east to west. Rapidly, most of the eyewitnesses began to realize that there was a huge wreck located in the farming area of Monchaux, just south of Sigogne. The mayor there, known simply as Monsieur Redouin, grabbed his bicycle and peddled to the crash site.
Returning to the village, Redouin indicated that bodies had been taken out of the airplane with the assistance of townspeople that were lined up and covered in their parachutes. The mayor had taken the identity of the flyers in which the burns from their bodies all made this more possible. He asked the inhabitants to keep their dogs away from the area and not have them go wandering off.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A
Later in the afternoon, the son of the mayor of Sigogne and others went to see the remains of the crash site, where they found the wreckage of the plane broken up, along with the motor which was pulled off. In addition, a propeller was lying far away under the detached motor and half-buried into the ground. One person found a brown leather bag under the mass. The ground was littered with metal, machine gun cartridges, pieces of wreckage, such as the small electric motors, which is used inside this bomber.
The visit did not last long, as finally following all this trauma, the German soldiers in this area approached in military trucks that might have come from Blois. Afterward, the Germans moved the bodies of the nine flyers to Blois and put them in a hut, sealing them in. The doctor there identified the bodies but only found five had name tags on them. They were then placed in coffins and moved near the west wall of the Basse City Cemetery in Blois where they were given full German military honors. Following the end of the war and for the next 20 years, many of the families of the victims had the option of returning their bodies back to the United States.
Lieutenant Harald Spink was finally laid to rest in Nebraska, while Lieutenant James Ede was returned to Kentucky with Hall being honored in Massachusetts. Adjutant Bernard Ohler and Bohnisch were for many years in France until late 1940 were when they were returned to Maryland and California, respectively.
For Edgerton, Lieutenant John Giffin, Adjutant William Leverich, and Morin, were buried with full honors at the American Military Cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy, France.
For the pilot of the Focke-Wulf, Buhligen, it was just not a lucky kill he had been honored at the Berghof just one month later by Adolf Hitler, and downed 104 allied aircraft during the war. Buhligen joins only a handful of German aces that shot over 100 planes during the conflict. Buhligen was finally captured in 1945 by the Russian army and served six years in a gulag until he was released in 1950. He lived a full life until he died in 1985 at the age of 65.
As for Klein, his was the only confirmed parachute that escaped the danger on that day in February. He managed to land in a disused quarry and was discovered by a villager, Mr. Leroux, who took him to his residence to clean up his wounds. Only a short time later, the Germans arrived and apprehended Klein, taking him to the hospital in Blois before moving him to a prisoner of war camp in Sagan, Poland. Before he was taken away, Klein managed to pencil his name on a war calendar at Leroux’s house. Klein has transferred to two more P.O.W. camps afterward before being liberated on May 1 st , 1945. Klein returned to the United States and eventually married, having a family with three daughters and two sons, before dying of heart failure in 1975 at age 52.
Monument of the crew. Photo credit: Mark Gero
For the next 50 years, nobody else paid attention of what happened that day. Many who had been involved in this incident, went to their graves realizing there was really no closure on what was the conclusion of the Star Valley episode. Finally, on May 8, 1995, a town researcher made a speech on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, did finally the story of these ten crew members came back to life.
On the same date in 2014, some members of a reunion committee of the crew members marked the unveiling of a brand new monument honoring the Star Valley, which replaced the old version next to another monument, dedicated to the French soldiers killed that lived in the village during the first and second world wars.
But not every family member of the crew attended.
In 2016, this author attended the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14, in which being the second cousin of Airman Edgerton, became the first member of his family to be honored something that his late grandmother and his mother, who knew Edgerton like a son and a brother, honored very much. He was taken a tour of the village of St. Leonard En Beauce, by the town historian, Jean-Claude Bigot, Corrine Chaillou, secretary of Yves Chantreau the major and his wife by having lunch with them and their friends, and even speaking French at the local celebrations later that afternoon, with gifts of wine, cards and lot of friendship.
Which can show that story of the Star Valley can come full circle and never fade away in the annuals of history.
Check Out the July 1944 B-24 Plane Crash Site
Join Master Hiker, AJ, on a hike to the July 1944, B-24 Liberator plane crash site and learn more about one of the two B-24 crashes in the Franklin Mountains. Our hike is done in conjunction with the El Paso Hiking Group.
This is a fairly short hike, but over rough terrain with some scrambling and loose rocks (scree) in a couple of areas. No one will be left behind, this is a group endeavor. The hike distance is about 2 miles round trip at the most, and should take 2-3 hours depending on group size and ability.
You will visit the site of a B24 Liberator that crashed on July 13, 1944 The landing gear pictured above is still on the hillside, as is other wreckage. Hiking to the canyon will be up a ridge and down into an arroyo, then up another arroyo to the memorial plaque. Some history will be discussed of the site, and the events that have occurred there.
Start time is 7:30 AM. However, please show up a few minutes earlier so we can organize and introduce ourselves. Start time is early to stay out of the heat as much as possible. Items needed: Water, 2 liters minimum. Strong hiking shoes, this is an off trail area, so loose rocks and bushes abound. Cactus, thorny plants, and lechugilla are prolific here as well. Gloves and long pants recommended. Sunscreen, good hat for protection from the sun. This hike is on the east side of the mountains, so there is essentially no shade. Parking is at the intersection of Kentucky and Memphis streets, there is a lot of neighborhood parking in this area, be respectful of the neighborhood please, do not block driveways or alleyways. (MAP)
Bring a mask and plan to social distance. You will not necessarily need to wear the mask while hiking. But please have one available for other situations.
How Ford's Willow Run Assembly Plant Helped Win World War II
President Roosevelt stunned millions of listeners when he announced during a May 26, 1940, fireside chat that government must “harness the efficient machinery of America’s manufacturers” to produce 50,000 combat aircraft over the next 12 months to confront the “approaching storm” of global war. FDR’s goal exceeded the total of all planes built in the U.S. since the Wright brothers’ 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, and he challenged the aviation industry to match that number in succeeding years. As he spoke, the country had fewer than 3,000 warplanes in its arsenal, most obsolete.
The president and his advisers were convinced that long-range, high-altitude heavy bombers would be the decisive weapon in a war dominated by air power and industrial muscle. Their shopping list included 12,000 of these aerial battleships to attack Germany’s heartland, hammering military installations, bridges, factories, rail yards, fuel storage tanks and communications centers. The “heavies” of choice were the B-17 Flying Fortress from Boeing Airplane Co. and the B-24 Liberator from Consolidated Aircraft.
The B-17 had a six-year history of design, development, testing and limited production. The twin-finned, high-winged B-24 with its dual bomb bays and tricycle landing gear debuted in 1939 as a repurposed land model of Consolidated’s bulky flying boats. Handcrafted versions were pressed into service in England, but the San Diego company lacked resources and methods for high-volume production of the largest, most complex airplane ever designed. Still, aviation industry leaders scoffed when the War Department chose Ford Motor Co. to mass-produce Liberators.
Automobiles of the era had 15,000 parts and weighed around 3,000 pounds. Sixty-seven feet long, the B-24 had 450,000 parts and 360,000 rivets in 550 sizes, and it weighed 18 tons. Skeptics dismissed mass production of a plane this enormous and advanced as a carmaker’s fantasy that would crash and burn when repeated design changes disrupted assembly lines and junked expensive tooling. “You can’t expect a blacksmith to make a watch overnight,” sniffed Dutch Kindelberger, president of North American Aviation.
Ford proved them wrong, not easily nor entirely, during a 2.5-year production run in a 3.5-million-square-foot factory built over Willow Run Creek near Ypsilanti, MI. The massive plant turned out 8,645 Liberators vs. 9,808 manufactured by four factories of Consolidated, Douglas Aircraft, and North American Aviation. Together they produced more of the slab-sided behemoths than any American warplane ever.
At peak production, B-24s sheathed in 4,200 square feet of bonded aluminum rolled out the door every hour. Four 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines assembled by Buick Motor Division shook the earth as the newly minted war machines cast aloft on test flights. The ungainly aircraft flew faster (300 mph) than the sleeker B-17, carried heavier payloads (four tons of bombs, later increased to six tons), and had greater range (3,000 miles).
Rugged and versatile, Liberators served in every theater of the war with 15 Allied air forces, stalking and destroying German U-boats in Atlantic shipping lanes, “flying The Hump” from India over the Himalayas to bring critical fuel and supplies to the besieged Chinese army, and dropping special agents into France and the Low Countries to organize sabotage operations against Nazi occupiers. Winston Churchill called his specially outfitted B-24 the Commando.
The Whole Plane or Nothing
Ford production chief Charles Sorensen, driving force behind the B-24 program, possessed a crusader’s faith and fervor in the primacy and benefits of mass production, and had the bona fides to back it up. A rough-hewn, hard-charging martinet, “Cast Iron Charlie” played a principal role in conceiving and designing the world’s first moving assembly line at Ford’s Highland Park plant bordering Detroit. He went on to oversee operations at the company’s River Rouge complex where 100,000 workers could produce 10,000 cars a day, from raw materials to finished products. The 60-year-old production czar viewed mass production of B-24s as the crowning achievement of his career.
During a January 1941 inspection tour of the Consolidated San Diego plant with Edsel Ford, gentlemanly 45-year-old company president and son of cantankerous autocrat Henry Ford, Sorensen belittled the operation’s deliberate, labor-intensive procedures. “There was no sequence or orderly flow of materials, no sense of forward motion, no reliance on machined parts,” he said. “They were producing a custom-made plane put together as a tailor would cut and fit a suit of clothes. No two were alike.”
Sorensen stayed up all night formulating a B-24 assembly process on the backs of Coronado Hotel placemats. His sketches embraced the two fundamentals of mass production: standardized, interchangeable parts and continuous, orderly flow punctuated by stops at assembly stations where workers and machines performed repetitive tasks.
By 4 a.m. he had configured floor space and time requirements for sequential assembly of the plane’s principal sections, each fabricated in choreographed progression through separate, self-contained cells. Sections included center wing, outer wings and wing tips, fuselage, nacelles, flight deck, nose and tail. Overhead cranes would hoist completed sections onto the final assembly line for joining into a finished aircraft, the same way cars were put together, but on a grand scale in a massive new plant.
Sorensen reviewed his concept at breakfast with Edsel, who responded enthusiastically to its vision and boldness and initialed it on the spot, as did Henry II and Benson, his two sons accompanying him on the trip. They presented the plan to Consolidated President Reuben Fleet and George Mead, procurement director for the Advisory Council for National Defense, who countered with an offer to produce a thousand sets of wings. “We’ll build the whole plane or nothing,” Sorensen barked, accompanied by the audacious claim that Ford would assemble new B-24s every hour.
The whole plane it would be, with the agreement that Ford would truck B-24 parts and finished sections called knockdowns to Consolidated plants in San Diego and Fort Worth and to Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa. Consolidated maintained control over design changes and so did the Army Air Corps (retitled U.S. Army Air Force in June 1941). Ford had no say in the matter production chaos ensued.
For the next six months, Sorensen shuttled 70-man teams of engineers and draftsmen back and forth on 2,300-mile trips from Ford headquarters to the Consolidated works in San Diego to immerse themselves in B-24 design, engineering, parts and components. To their dismay they discovered that engineering drawings for the big bomber were useless—incomplete and filled with discrepancies and unfamiliar signs and symbols. An unknown number dwelt in the memories of plant foremen.
Cast Iron Charlie had two Liberators flown to Dearborn where they were dismantled piece by piece. A thousand-member tool design group worked around the clock seven days a week for almost a year to create three-dimensional schematics of the plane’s 30,000 separate components, generating five million square feet of blueprints in the process. Their work guided custom designs of 1,600 machine tools and 11,000 fixtures, some 60 feet tall, that would stamp, mill, drill, broach and grind parts to thousandths-of-an-inch tolerances, each with repeatable precision.
The Most Enormous Room in History
While this was unfolding, Sorensen retained renowned industrial architect Albert Kahn to design a factory that would adapt Ford’s automotive assembly techniques to mass production of a giant aircraft. The worksite Sorensen chose was a 1,875-acre Ford-owned tract that had been a farm camp for boys whose fathers were killed or disabled in World War I. Kahn had designed the Rouge and hundreds of other manufacturing facilities over a long and storied career. Not given to understatement, he proclaimed that the one-level superstructure would be “the most enormous room in the history of man.”
He may have been right. More than 3,200 feet long and 1,279 feet across at its widest point, the plant’s 80-acre interior exceeded the Empire State Building’s floor space by 20 percent. One pundit referred to it as “a sprawling mass of industrial ambition.” Folklore has it that Henry Ford decreed that the eastern perimeter of the windowless, L-shaped edifice not spill over into Wayne County, home to Detroit and all those rascally Democrats and union organizers.
Construction began April 18, 1941. Thirty-eight tons of structural steel, five million bricks, and six months later, the $65-million colossus began churning out parts while equipment was still being installed and roof and walls remained unfinished. The first section of an 850-acre airfield adjoining the plant opened three days prior to Pearl Harbor, signaling the Liberator’s primary war mission: long-range flights over Pacific waters to bomb networks of enemy-held islands stretching from Australia and Guadalcanal to the Japanese mainland some 3,000 miles distant.
Media coverage hyped by Ford and military publicists wove extravagant tales of a mammoth industrial citadel where 100,000 dedicated workers would produce hundreds of Liberators each week to roar across the oceans and obliterate enemy sources and seats of power. Before the first employee was hired, the factory stood as a national symbol of America’s fearsome production prowess.
Reality proved otherwise. No B-24s were mass-assembled until the final weeks of 1942, more than a year after the plant opened, when 56 came off the line. Deemed unfit for combat, they were assigned to training bases, reconnaissance patrols and transport duties. Expectations were crushed and the sarcastic appellation Willit Run gained wide circulation. Sorensen blamed delays on doing business with the government, treading through a maze of conflicting priorities and regulations, rancorous labor relations and wildcat strikes, housing shortages and erratic delivery of essential materials.
All true, but he didn’t mention the hard steel dies he authorized, the same types used to slam auto parts into shape, damaged and defaced the softer aluminum, a metal comprising 85 percent of B-24 content. Dies and machine tools were tossed out and redesigned, wasting precious time and millions of dollars.
The housing shortage Sorensen complained about arose from his choice of a sparsely populated rural setting 30 miles west of Detroit’s labor pool—“an island in Michigan mud,” as one writer viewed it. Every available room within miles was rented, including those with eight-hour shifts called hot beds. Long car rides from Detroit over lumpy roads and in overcrowded buses discouraged thousands of employees who left for jobs closer to home. Many fled after their first day, traumatized by the smell, constant clanging and motion of machinery, and overpowering size of the place. Those who stayed hunkered down in tarpaper shacks, tents, garages, and beat-up trailers and jalopies.
Using lumber from hundreds of trees cut down to clear the site, contractors built temporary dormitories for single men and women, trailer parks, and prefabricated flat-top housing for families that, by the end of 1943, could house 15,000 employees. The War Department pitched in with funds for the Detroit Industrial Expressway, linking the city to the plant. Years later, that stretch would become a section of I-94.
Few new hires had ever been in a factory, so Ford built the Aircraft Apprentice School on the grounds to familiarize these industrial novices with tools and techniques of high-precision aeronautical manufacturing. Up to 8,000 students per week completed training and reported for work. Among them were farmhands, secretaries, housewives, schoolteachers and grocery clerks.
New housing, better roads and professional training alleviated Willow Run’s employee retention dilemma, but didn’t solve it. A typical month saw as many workers quit as were hired, and 8,200 more were drafted into military service.
Twelve thousand women stepped in to fill the void, each paid the same 85 cents an hour as their male counterparts for nine-hour morning or afternoon shifts. Blacks and other minorities were welcomed and so were immigrants. High school graduates worked the line next to 70-year-olds. Dwarfs, whose physical stature had limited prewar employment opportunities, toiled inside wings, fuel cells and other confined spaces. Out of sheer necessity, Willow Run’s 42,500-member workforce became a model of diversity for future generations.
Rivet gun operator Rosemary Will from Pulaski County, KY, appeared in a Ford promotional film, personifying thousands of women in the nation’s defense industry, collectively known as Rosie the Riveter. Rosemary was among 200,000 southerners who flocked to southeastern Michigan for factory jobs, including 9,500 employed at Willow Run. Hundreds bought their first pair of shoes upon arrival.
Plane Per Hour Pinnacle
The Air Force dictated more performance and safety upgrades for B-24s than any other American warplane. Modifications resulted from lessons learned in fighting fronts and from the need to modify the plane for its multiple roles. Changeovers required onerous delays and costly retooling. Sorensen protested that Willow Run could not function under these strictures. Mass production of B-24s must rely on continuous assembly flow, or they couldn’t be built at all.
The two sides reached an accommodation during the first quarter of 1943. Willow Run stepped up outsourcing of parts production and subassemblies to almost 1,000 Ford factories and independent suppliers while focusing on building B-24s in more predictable designs that minimized shutdowns. Completed planes flew off to field modification centers for fixes, upgrades and customizing. Fifty variants of the aircraft were dispatched to allies throughout the world from these sites.
Production steadily increased, reaching the magical plane-per-hour pinnacle in mid-1944 while accounting for half of all B-24s assembled that year. Manufacturing costs were slashed as man-hours per plane plummeted. It was an historic but ephemeral achievement. Overstocked with B-24s, the Air Force already had canceled contracts with Douglas Aircraft and North American Aviation and would terminate Consolidated Fort Worth by year’s end.
When Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, only 7,400 employees remained on the Willow Run payroll. The plant closed June 28, ending the Liberator’s brief but epic run, along with Ford’s presence in the aircraft industry. The company resumed automobile production within a week.
A technological marvel for a new age of aerial warfare, the B-24 was now obsolete. Some 2,500 were parked in an Arizona desert awaiting the day when their aluminum skin and innards would be smelted into ingots for production of coffee percolators, toasters, pots and pans, and myriad other consumer and industrial products to satisfy the ravenous maw of America’s peacetime economy.
Kaiser-Frazer moved into Willow Run and built civilian-style Jeeps, Henry J sedans, and C-119 cargo planes until going under in 1953. General Motors took over and produced transmissions until 2010, when the company declared bankruptcy and moved out. GM’s Chevrolet Division assembled rear-engine Corvairs in a converted warehouse on the grounds during a 10-year run beginning in 1959.
Willow Run Airport became a Midwest destination for passenger airlines until the late 1950s. Warren Avis, a decorated B-24 pilot in the 376th Bombardment Group, opened the nation’s first airport rental car service in the terminal and grew it into Avis Rent A Car Systems. The airport is now home to cargo airlines, charter flights and corporate jets.
A ghostly, decaying reminder of the industrial and military history echoing within its cavernous expanse, Willow Run was demolished in 2014. A 175,000-square-foot section, where B-24s were gassed up and towed out the door, was spared for the future home of the National Museum of Aviation and Technology. In the meantime, visitors to the Yankee Air Museum at the airport can see how the “blacksmith made a watch” and helped win a war.
Transportation history for an electronic age is underway at Willow Run at the American Center for Mobility, where carmakers, suppliers and high-technology companies have banded together to research, develop and test driverless cars that communicate with one another and with traffic signals to avoid accidents and adjust traffic flow. The center includes a proving ground where smart cars react instantly to all manner of potentially dangerous and problematic situations. Unlike menacing B-24 Liberators that took off from the same spot, these silent vehicles are on a mission to save lives and prevent destruction.
Tom Rebel of Burnt Store Isles, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. said, “I wanted to be a bomber pilot. I wanted to fly the biggest thing they had.” He ended up piloting a four-engine B-29 “Superfortress,” the largest bomber mass-produced in the United States during World War II.
Almost 63 years after a bombing raid in a B-24 “Liberator” over German oil refineries in Romania, former Tech. Sgt. Jay T. Fish of Englewood, Fla. received the Distinguished Flying Cross in an elaborate award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2007 along with the other eight members of the bomber’s crew.
Long-Term Military Aircraft Storage Facilities After World War II
Military aircraft played a key role in the United States's victory over enemy forces in World War II.
Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters stacked vertically at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas after World War II (Photo courtesy of Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum)
However, once peace was assured, the military found itself with a huge surplus of aircraft. The United States had manufactured about 294,000 aircraft for the war effort. Of that number, 21,583 (7.34%) were lost in the United States in test flights, ferrying, training accidents, etc., and 43,581 were lost en route to the war and in overseas operations.
By 1944 the U.S. Foreign Economic Administration began a program to scrap certain obsolete, damaged and surplus military aircraft overseas. Following the war, estimates of the number of excess surplus airplanes ran as high as 150,000. Consideration was given to storing a substantial number of airplanes, but the realization that the expense to store them was too great . many needed to be sold or scrapped.
Some U.S. military aircraft overseas were not worth the time or money to bring back to the States, and were consequently buried, bulldozed or sunk at sea. Most, however, were returned home for storage, sale or scrapping.
What to Do with Tens of Thousands of Surplus Aircraft: Salvage or Long-Term Storage
Within a year of the signing of peace treaties, about 34,000 airplanes had been moved to 30 locations within the U.S. The War Assets Administration (WAA) and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) handled the disposal of these aircraft.
The RFC established depots around the country to store and sell surplus aircraft. By the summer of 1945, at least 30 sales-storage depots and 23 sales centers were in operation. In November 1945, it was estimated a total of 117,210 aircraft would be transferred as surplus.
A study was conducted to determine the most cost effective way to dispose of planes it was determined that too many man-hours were required to dismantle planes for parts, and the cost for storage areas for the parts was too high.
So the method of "salvage and melt" was adopted. Main components such as engines, armament, instruments and radios were removed from each plane. The remainder of the aircraft was cut into pieces, and pushed in a large furnace, or smelter. Aluminum was the prime metal sought after, melted and poured into ingots for sale and shipping.
Airlines procured a number of transport planes, primarily DC-3 and C-54 aircraft, for building up their post-war inventories of commercial airliners.
Others planes were transferred to civilian control, or to the Air Forces of allied countries. A few, such as the "Enola Gay" and "Bockscar" (see photo below), would be preserved for display in museums.
The remaining planes were classified as 1) "obsolete" or 2) "eligible for the strategic aircraft reserve". The jet revolution made many aircraft obsolete, including the P-38, B-17 and B-24, among others, while planes like the B-29, A-26 Invader, and C-47 were destined for the reserve.
Planes were then assigned an airport, at places like Kingman and Walnut Ridge for short-term storage and subsequent disposal, or Davis-Monthan or Pyote for longer-term storage.
Long-Term Storage of World War II Aircraft for Future Usage
In early 1945 the Air Technical Service Command (ATSC) began to research locations suitable for storage of excess military aircraft. Air field near coastlines subjected aircraft to mold, corrosion and rust. Locations in the north were subject to snow storms and other inclement weather. Eventually, workable storage locations were identified.
Most obsolete planes were transferred to one of 28 storage locations, including these eight large disposal facilities:
- in Arizona in Arkansas in California
- Altus in Oklahoma
- Albuquerque in New Mexico
- Clinton Naval Air Station, Oklahoma
- Searcy Field in Stillwater, Oklahoma
- Victory Field in Vernon, Texas
Longer-Term Military Aircraft Reserve Storage Facilities
By 1947 the WAA had disposed of about 65,000 aircraft. However, some aircraft would be stored in reserve and retained for future return to active duty.
Victorville Army Air Field, August, 1943
Planes were stored at several locations across the country, including Victorville in California, Pyote in Texas, Warner Robins in Georgia, and Davis-Monthan in Arizona.
Victorville AAF in California
Victorville Army Flying School was constructed between 1941 and 1943 as a flight training school, located 8 miles northwest of Victorville, California, and about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
It was renamed Victorville Army Air Field in April of 1943. After the creation of the United States Air Force, it was renamed Victorville Air Force Base in January of 1948, and later to George Air Force Base in 1950 in honor of Brigadier General Harold Huston George.
In October of 1945, flight operations ended, and the base was placed on standby status and used for surplus aircraft storage, primarily B-29 Superfortresses, AT-7s and AT-11s.
George AFB was closed by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 1992 commission, and now is a successful and active facility for business and industry, known as the Southern California Logistics Airport.
Pyote Army Air Field in Texas
This field was located west of Midland, Texas, east of Pecos, and north of Fort Stockton, along present-day Interstate 20. It was built for bombardment crew training in 1942, and named Pyote Army Air Field.
B-29 Superfortresses in storage at Pyote Air Force Base, Texas, 1946
After the war, control of Pyote Air Force Base was transferred from the Second Air Force to the San Antonio Air Tech Service Command and became an aircraft-storage depot. During this time, the base served as a storage facility for as many as 2,000 aircraft (B-29, B-17, B-25, A-26, C-47, and others), including the "Enola Gay". Due to the large number of snakes at the site, it was often called "Rattlesnake Bomber Base".
During the 1950s the base was abandoned. The remaining large hangars gradually disappeared over the years. Today only runways and a few ruins mark the location of the base.
Warner Robins Army Air Depot in Georgia
In June 1941, after much competition, the War Department approved the construction of a depot in middle Georgia peanut-farm country near the Southern Railroad whistle-stop town of Wellston.
Warner Robins Army Air Depot, 1944
Construction began in September 1941 on the new depot 15 miles south of Macon, Georgia.
In January 1942, it was named "Robins Field" in memory of Brigadier General Augustine Warner Robins. In October 1942, the depot's name was changed again, "Warner Robins Army Air Depot."
The rapidly growing town of Wellston changed its name to Warner Robins in September of 1942.
Warner Robins Army Air Depot eventually assumed overall command of the Air Service Command's installations in the states of Georgia, South Carolina, a portion of Florida, and North Carolina. Warner Robins supported approximately 6,500 Army aircraft in this area with depot maintenance and supply.
The depot's complement began a steady decline after the war, and by March of 1946 only 3,900 employees remained. In the post-war era, the depot assumed the task of storing surplus war material and thousands of vehicles. The depot also cocooned and stored 250 B-29s. In February of 1948, the airfield was re-designated Robins Air Force Base.
In addition to its normal mission, the depot returned most of the stored B-29s to active service during the Korean War. During the war, Robins AFB overhauled and modified B-29 and F-84 aircraft as well as repairing F-80 and F-86 fighters. In 1951, the Air Force began a $3.5 million construction project. When this project reached completion in 1952, the Air Force made Robins AFB a permanent installation.
Today, Robins AFB remains an active base.
Litchfield Park / Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR)
This facility in Phoenix, Arizona was originally constructed during World War II as a naval air facility known as NAF Litchfield Park, and later renamed Naval Air Station Litchfield Park.
In 1941, the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation offered land to the U.S. Defense Plant Corporation. The U.S. Navy used the land to build aircraft flight decks and established a U.S. Naval Air Facility to test fly and deliver aircraft. This necessitated the construction of a landing field, hangar and runway. The Goodyear facility was used to modify AAF twin-tail B-24 Liberators for use as Navy PB4Y-1 aircraft, and to accept delivery of Navy single-tail PB4Y-2 Privateers.
Its primary role following the end of World War II was that of long-term storage and preservation of obsolete or excess U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. Its location in the dry desert was an ideal location for long-term aircraft storage.
Entrance gate to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Home of the 36th Air Division, as seen in this historic postcard
At one point, more than 5,000 aircraft were in storage. The Korean Conflict brought the airfield back to active duty in the 1950s. By early 1958 the inventory was down to about 2,500 aircraft. In 1965, the Defense Department decided to consolidate military aricraft storage. Thus, 800 aircraft at Litchfield were moved to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson either by air or by truck for storage, and another 1,000 were salvaged.
Following the closure of NAS Litchfield Park in 1967, the city of Phoenix purchased the airport for a general aviation facility. Today, the airport is home to several private companies offering aircraft maintenance and commercial pilot training, and serves as a reliever airfield for Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
By May of 1946, more than 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains had been moved to Davis-Monthan. In addition, about 30 other aircraft were stored that were destined for museums, including the "Enola Gay" and "Bockscar".
B-24 Liberators over Tours, 1944 (2 of 2) - History
The 465th Bomb Group was part of the
55th Wing of the 15th Air Force in Europe
The Group consisted of the
780th, 781st, 782nd and 783rd Bomb Squadrons
Flying B-24 Liberators out of Panatella Air Base, Italy.
1) To destroy the German Air Force in the air and on the ground.
2) To participate in operation &lsquoPointblank&rsquo (code name for the Combined
Bomber Offensive) which called for the destruction of German fighter aircraft
plants, ball bearing and rubber plants as well as oil refineries, munitions
factories and sub pens and bases.
3) To support the Battle of the Italian Offensive attacking communication
targets in Italy along the Brenner Pass Route and in neighboring Austria
4) To weaken the German position in the Balkans.
As the war progressed more objectives were set for targets associated with preparing for the Invasion of Southern France which would take place on 15 August 1944.
Attacking marshalling yards, dock facilities, oil refineries, oil storage plants, aircraft factories, and other objectives in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans.
On two different missions - to marshalling yards and an oil refinery at Vienna on 8 Jul 1944 and to steel plants at Friedrichshafen on 3 Aug 1944 - the group bombed its targets despite antiaircraft fire and fighter opposition, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation
for each of these attacks.
Other operations included bombing troop concentrations and bivouac areas in May 1944 to aid the Partisans in Yugoslavia attacking enemy troops and supply lines to assist the drive toward Rome, May-Jun 1944 striking bridges, rail lines, and gun emplacements prior to the invasion of Southern France in Aug 1944 bombing rail facilities and rolling stock in Oct 1944 to support the advance of Russian and Rumanian forces in the Balkans and hitting troops, gun positions, bridges, and supply lines during Apr 1945 in support of Allied forces in northern Italy.
In the year the 465th was engaged in combat the Group successfully accomplished the mission assigned. It helped knock out Germany&rsquos refineries, aircraft and munition factories as well as shooting down a number of Nazi Fighters in the sky. It also participated in knocking out strategic gun positions in France paving the way for the invading US 7th Army.
Moved to the Caribbean area in Jun 1945
The Group was inactivated in Trinidad on 31 Jul 1945.
The 465th had helped to make history.
It had destroyed what it was designed to destroy,
with skill and precision.
&bullIn Combat from 5 May 1944 to 26 April 1945&bull
&bull Flew 191 Missions over Southern Europe
&bull Shot down or destroyed 97 German Aircraft.
&bull Dropped 10,528 Tons of Bombs
&bull Awarded two Presidential Citations for Bombing and Gunnery Accuracy
&bull Awarded eight Battle Stars for Air Offensive Campaigns
&bull Participated in the last Heavy Bomber raid over Nazi Germany in WWII
American Theater, Air Combat, EAME Theater, Air Offensive,
Europe, Rome-Arno, Normandy, Northern France, Southern France,
North Apennines, Rhineland, Central Europe, Po Valley,
Distinguished Unit Citations:
Vienna, Austria, 8 Jul 1944 Germany, 3 Aug 1944