Tuesday, March 25, 2008


A-26 Invader

Completed Tour of Duty with 65 Combat Missions
Pottsville Journal, February 1945

First Lieutenant James Madenffort, 26, Pottsville recently completed a tour of duty as a bombardier navigator with a U.S. Ninth Air Force 669th Attack Squadron, A-26 Invader group in France. His 65th mission the 13th of December was flown against the defended village of Tomdorf, Germany. Despite dense cloud cover which hampered all observations the bombs were dropped onto the enemy positions in the town. Lt. Madenfort, who has received the Purple Heart Medal and the Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters
The A-26 which he flew on:
The A-26, the last aircraft designated as an "attack bomber," was designed to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc/Boston. It incorporated many improvements over the earlier Douglas designs. The first three XA-26 prototypes first flew in July 1942, and each was configured differently: Number One as a daylight bomber with a glass nose, Number Two as a gun-laden night-fighter, and Number Three as a ground-attack platform, with a 75-millimeter cannon in the nose. This final variant, eventually called the A-26B, was chosen for production.
Upon its delivery to the 9th Air Force in Europe in November 1944 (and the Pacific Theater shortly thereafter), the A-26 became the fastest US bomber of WWII. The A-26C, with slightly-modified armament, was introduced in 1945. The A-26s combat career was cut short by the end of the war, and because no other use could be found for them, many A-26s were converted to JD-1 target tugs for the US Navy.

From the 669th Squadron Web site actions that lt. Madenfort was listed in.

August 1944
The first mission, on the 4th, was an attack on the Beauvals marshalling yard. All through lines and choke points were severed by several direct hits. Major Napier, Lt. Madenfort, B-N, led the flight.
The sixth was another two-mission day. In the morning, Major Napier led the second box of a formation attacking the last remaining bridge across the Seine River at Cissel. Capt. Huff was a flight leader, Lt. DeMun, Lt. McQuade, led the window flight. Bad weather forced the formation to return from the target area. The same crews returned in the afternoon to attack the same target. On the bomb run, Lt. Madenfort was hit in the face by flak so the Major Napier's flight did not bomb. Capt. Huff's flight, however, scored an excellent. The flak was intense and four planes were lost. Severe battle damage forced Lt. Blomgren to crash land at Tanguere - - - none of the crew was injured. Lt. Jack P. Smith also crash-landed at Tanguere due to flak damage. His brakes were shot out, and, when his plane nosed in at the end of the runway, it was washed out. None of the crew was injured.
The first mission, on the 4th, was an attack on the Beauvals marshalling yard. All through lines and choke points were severed by several direct hits. Major Napier, Lt. Madenfort, B-N, led the flight.
That afternoon the radar installations in the Bois du Pierre were the targets. Again the results ranged from good to excellent, the bombs hitting around the chateau probably destroying or damaging it. Major Napier, Lt. Madenfort, B-N, and Capt. Huff, Lt. Kupits, B-N, led the second and third flights of the first box. Just one of those things happened, though, and although it looked like our bombs hit their mark, photo reconnaissance showed no evident damage to the installations.
September 1944
Again in the morning of the 3rd, the bombers failed to bomb because of weather. The target was Brest. Capt. Huff and Captain Hulse were flight leaders. That afternoon only 12 planes could drop on another attack on Brest. Capt. Peck, Lt. Madenfort, B-N, led one of the flights that bombed with fair results.
November 1944
The following day, the 18th, Lt. Greene, Lt. Nichols, B/N, led a flight in an attack on the Breisach Railroad Bridge. Although their bombs did not destroy the bridge, they damaged the approach so badly that the line was now unserviceable. Captain Peck, Lt. Madefort, B/N, had trouble with the bombsight releasing the bombs on three attempts over the target. They finally decided to make a run on the town of Gebweiler. The bombs were released this time with excellent results. It was through this town that the 6th Army Group made its advance a couple of days later.
January 1945
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSSES were awarded to Captain Hugh A. Monroe, First Lieutenants James Madenfort and Jack F. Smith, and a gunner, S/Sgt. John E. Wilson. (Exhx # 1-3, Jan, 45). Besides Air Medals, Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Hearts to flying personnel, (Exhs #4-14, Jan, 45), ground personnel received awards.

B-26 Marauder

Bailed Out Of B-26 at 9,000 Feet
Pottsville Journal, February 1945

At 9,000 feet, Staff Sergeant James F. Smith, Pottsville a B-26 Marauder gunner in the 495th Bomber Squadron. surveyed the situation and then without hesitation, dove out of the B-26 waist window into the ice and snow. Returning from a mission over Hellenthal, Germany, on December 12, in support of the U.S. First Army, a flight of “Silver Streaks” medium bombers ran into extremely rough weather. The icy temperature caused the plane Smith was riding into a bank when the controls locked. Seeing the helpless Marauder headed for another ship in the flight, and knowing she was out of control, Smith bailed out. The Pilot Lt. John Havener, jerked back at the controls which broke free a split second before disaster. The bomber , no longer paralyzed zoomed over the other ship avoiding a collision, The 24 year old gunner landed safely in the vicinity of Lieger, Belgium. Smith has been decorated with the Air Medal and eight oak leaf clusters.

Check out the web site WWW.b26.com and the story entitled “Time Over Targets” given to the site by the brother of James E. Smith.

Flies 65th Combat Mission
Pottsville Journal February 1945

1st lieutenant Joseph W. Gould, Pottsville has flown his 65th combat mission in the Mediterranean Theater of operations. He is a bombardier with a B-25 Mitchell Bomber Group out of Corsica.

Crew Positions on the B-17

B-17 Top Turret Gunner Served In Three Different Branches Of The Service
Pottsville Journal, February 1945

For the third time and third branch of service, three stripes now decorate the sleeve of Frank Farone, Pottsville. He is presently a top turret gunner in a 15th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress squadron based in Southern Italy. The 24 year old land, sea and air veteran enlisted in the Navy on July 20th, 1937, and after a few months in the Caribbean aboard the destroyer ‘Schenck” was chosen to be a member of the initial crew of the Enterprise when she was commissioned at Norfolk, Va. He joined a fighter squadron on the floating airdrome, and, in the course of maneuvers and cruises throughout the Pacific, worked his way up to the grade of Aircraft Machinist Third Class. Equivalent to a buck Sgt. In the Army. After his discharge from the Navy in July 1941, Farone became a man behind the gun working in a defense plant in Eridge, Conn. On March 28, 1942, he again signed up for active duty, this time in the Infantry. He was assigned to the 77th Division, since famed for its exploits in the South Pacific, and while on maneuvers from coast to coast, rose to the position of squad leader-which made him a three striper once more. In November of 1943 he transferred to the Air Corps, relinquished his Infantry rating. He left the U.S. on January 5, 1945 and became a member of the veteran 15th AF Flying Fortress squadron that has seen service in England, Africa and Italy during two and a half years it has been overseas. He once again holds the rank of Sgt.

Wow what a career, I would have loved to talked with this man!

B-24 Gunners Position

B-24 Gunner Promoted to Staff Sergeant.
Pottsville Journal, 1945

Carl W. Weber, 22 Auburn an aerial gunner on a B-24 Liberator, has recently been promoted to Staff Sergeant. He is authorized to wear the Distinguished Unit Badge as a member of a Heavy Bombardment group which has been cited by the War Department for “outstanding performance of duty while in armed conflict with the enemy” Since his arrival overseas in August of last year he has been in action over such important targets as the enemy airdromes, bridges, oil storage plants in Rumania, Austria, Italy, France and Germany. He s stationed in Italy.

2nd Oak Leaf Cluster Awarded To The Air Medal.
Pottsville Journal , 1945

S/Sgt. Lewis J. Shank, Schuylkill County has been awarded a second Bronze Oak Leaf cluster to his Air Medal for meritorious service as a member of a combat crew of a C-47 Troop Carrier Skytrain.

While researching info on Sgt. Shank I found this memoir that he wrote about his service.
On a file on the internet… http://www.msveteransparade.com/CWO3%20Lewis%20Shank%20Memoirs.doc

CWO3 Lewis Shank Memoirs – told in his own words

My story of World War II

This is the memoirs of Lewis J. Shank, born in Ringtown, Pennsylvania on December 21, 1923. I graduated from Ringtown High School in the spring of 1941 at age 17.

I was the second son to enlist in the service- due to my age; my father had to sign for him to join the United States Army Air Corps in November 1942. My older brother, Lavern, had joined the United States Army Air Corp in 1940 at the age of 21 and my younger brother, Tommy, was at age 12 still in school. Lavern had lost his life at Bataan in the Philippines and I was eager to due part duty.

I was sent to the United States Army Air Corps Miami Beach Training Center in November, 1942 for Basic Training.

After Basic Training, I received orders to transfer to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the five month Radio Operators School.

Next I was stationed to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a few months and then assigned to the Headquarters Squadron 437th Troop Carrier Group. As we started our training, we found out that they only had six Piper Cub planes for all the students to train with. They hadn’t received the C-47 planes that we were to train with. We received one each day that passed until we had planes enough for each squadron.

I was assigned to the Communications Officer for Headquarter, Lt. Smith. My duties as a Corporal were to formulate the flimsy – a procedure book that the radio operators would use to communicate with the ground. I flew a couple of months without flight pay, for the TO & E (Table of Operations and Equipment) because TO & E position was not allowed to fly and I was doing both.

Each day Captain Rice, the Communication Officer of the 85th Group would come by and visit with my boss. Captain Rice and I got to know each other. Lt Smith was leaving and I told Captain Rice of my displeasure about pay and how my buddies were getting promoted and I was still a corporal doing both jobs with no extra flight pay. He told me to ask for a transfer and he would put me on flight pay promoting me to Sergeant as soon as possible and did just that. I made Staff Sergeant within months.

The 437th Group was sent to Knobnoster, Missouri, near Sedalia where we learned how to fly missions and practiced how to tow gliders.

Next we were transferred to Pope Field, North Carolina, where we started to carry paratroopers and tow loaded gliders.

While training we were notified that we were going overseas and would leave in a few days. I was very eager to go overseas, but I wanted to see my parents before I left. We were told that one person was to be picked as honor guard and that person would receive a three day pass. So I read the Army Regulation book on the procedures for Inspection of Guard Duty for the best dressed solider in formation. As we were packing and marking our clothing and personal items, I turned as said “I want that three day pass and will challenge that person that is picked!” I made sure that my uniform and personal items were in excellent condition each day. It worked out that my name was picked and I did not have to challenge anyone. I went home on my three day pass.

We traveled from Pope Field to Homestead, Florida, near Miami, for further flight training and then on to England.

The trip to England was made over several legs. Homestead, Florida to Puerto Rico to Trinidad to Georgetown, South America, to Belem, Brazil, to Natal, Brazil, to Ascension Island , in the Atlantic Ocean, to Accrue, Africa, to Liberia, Africa to Marrakech, French Equatorial, North Africa and finally to Ramsbury, England

After we arrived in Marrakech, we spent several days sightseeing. We lived in tents near a pool house and date grove owned by the local Sheik. The weather was hot during the day a cold at night (highs in the 90’s and lows in the 30’s). The Atlas Mountains were within 30 miles of the base. All I know is that we needed plenty of blankets!

One night three of us decided to go to town where we ran into some soldiers of the French Foreign legion. We went to a bar and after a few beers and glasses of wine we exchanged hats. We had a good time, but to this day I can’t figure out what I did with the Legionnaire’s hat!

Another time, I remember one very tragic moment. We could hear planes taking off. A B-17 would take off every five minutes then a C-47 followed by a B-24. This went on all day and night. The B-17 and B-24 were protection for the unarmed C-47’s as they flew across the ocean to England. We were on the briefing room on the second floor of the Operations Building as one group took off. As the B-24 took off, it got to about 300 feet and blew up. Later it was discovered that the electric motors had brushes that cause fuel fumes to ignite and cause the plane to explode. The B-24 had DC motors in the bomb bay and carried extra gas in the cargo to cross the ocean. Gas fumes gathered and caused an explosion. I wonder how many men and plane were lost because of this problem.

In Brazil we acquire a monkey. He was a real mess. Once he got into a box of gum from the navigators table and got it all over the plane. If you mad him mad he would urinate in his hands and throw it at you. Other times he would swing on the static line in the plane. We were not allowed to take him to England. As our plane was being inspected before leaving Marrakech, we hid him in the wheel well. Our crew chief, Sergeant Sullivan, pulled out the wheel chalks and slipped to monkey under his jacket and boarded the plane. Later he tore up the pictures of the men and we were ordered to get rid of him. So we gave the monkey to the paratroopers.

In January 1944 the 437th Group arrived in Ramsbury, England. We began training for all types of flying. The radio operators were training in the use of the British flimsy. We received a new flimsy each day containing a new code every day. This was a great idea as the enemy would not have time to decode them. The 437th group trained, towing gliders and dropping paratroopers for six months working up to the invasion of Normandy

Close Calls before D-Day

We use to take off with planes loaded with paratroopers and fly out over the English Channel just to shake up the Germans. We would have all the Troop carrier Groups in a line at about 1000 feet. One night we were near reading, England, and the Germans were bombing the town. They dropped Chandelier Flares and lit up the whole sky. When they saw the C-47 they started show at us. About the same time a group from the 436th squadron was flying at the same elevation and turned in front of us. This was a hairy experience for all of us!!! While passing each other, their landing lights came on and we flew through each others formation (about 80 planes in each group). Miraculously no planes were lost and all returned safe.

Another time we took off for a night mission in clear weather. About 10 pm the entire island was covered by a snowstorm. I was in the first formation of six planes to return to base and made it safely to the ground. Planes were all over the sky trying to locate the airfield. We shot flares for a couple of hours to help get them down safely. I know that some planes didn’t make it and others were scattered all over England. What a night!!! I know my heart was in my mouth and I sure puckered up. I have often wondered how my pilot, Dunko, got us on the ground in one piece. David “Dunko” D’Armond was my pilot. We were together from the start of the war and he was a damn good pilot. We had other crew members, co-pilots, navigators and crew chiefs, but we stayed together throughout the war.

Another night we were loaded with paratroopers and a jeep trailer. We had just added a new co-pilot and he wasn’t use to the flap and landing gear controls being so close to each other. On coming in to land, “Dunko” asked for flaps up and the co-pilot had not locked the landing gear control. He reached down and pulled up the wrong control. I was about half asleep and then the props stated to eat up the runway. I could see the trailer was coming through the cabin. You do a lot of thinking and praying when you are sliding down the runway. After we got the plane back from maintenance, I sat and cut the piano hinge off our cabin door. This took me several hours for the pin was as long as the door. Dunko came in and asked “Where’s the door?” I told him, “I took it off. And -- I was never going to be pinned in my seat as the door swung in toward me – and it wasn’t ever to be put back on again!!!!” I was determined to come home in one piece.

Normandy Invasion

It was about the first or second of June when were we sent to the 436th Group. All the way to Membury, England about 10 miles from Ramsbury. We were taken to the auditorium and given all our briefings on the invasion of Cherbourg, France. We were shown all the 25 divisions, 20 of which were American. The rest were English, French, Canadian, and Polish. But we were not told when the invasion would happen. That was “Top Secret” and we were under guard from that point until we were to leave.

We were directed to a truck after the briefing and taken to the Officer’s Mess Hall to eat. We were sent by groups of eight to wash, shower and shave while being guarded my MPs. Our days were spent playing cards, watching movies and attending religious services. On the day they came in and gave us paint and brushes and ordered us to paint stripes on the wings and tails of our planes, we knew this was it.

The paratroopers were sent in later. We took off about 10:30 pm on June 5th for the Invasion of Normandy. The weather cooperated and was crystal clear over the English Channel.

Above us were the British Sterling Bombers which were to drop paratroopers made of straw and rubber as a diversion. Above them you could see the fighter plans making lazy eights to keep up with us. We flew on the south side of Cherbourg Peninsula so not to fly over our invasion ships. They would have shot at us not knowing it was the invasion force.

Our C-47 carried paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division and dropped them at 2:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944. The first night over 1000 American and British planes with more than 19,000 paratroopers were towed to the battle field. The next day, we towed the English Horsa glider that carried 30 men and dropped them during combat in Normandy. Later on the planes would land to pick up wounded men, bodies and prisoners. Back in England the squadron had about 150 nurses that would fly in the C-47’s to take care of the wounded on the flight back to England. Lewis and the other flight crew member would aid the nurses on the flights to base.

On the fourth or fifth day, the planes flew ammunition in, landing on a metal runway on Omaha Beach. Here we saw a large bulldozer being used to dig a ditch to bury 20 to 30 truckloads of U.S. and British soldiers. We learned later that over 9,500 bodies were moved about 2 miles to a cemetery in Normandy.

After Normandy in August the group went flew to Montalbo, Italy, for the support of the invasion of Southern France, where they dropped 5,700 paratroopers. In September 10 planes were lost in about 10 minutes during the invasion of Holland where we conducted four drops.

Battle of the Bulge

Late in 1944 the German began a large counter offensive that is now called “The Battle of the Bulge”. Our troops were fighting in bitter cold, snow and ice. The fog was so bad troops and supplies had to be trucked in. Finally we were able to fly. Our mission was to re-supply the encircled city of Bastogne. The C-47’s loaded with bundles of supplies reached Bastogne two days before Christmas and dropped supplies in the snow. My plane made two drops before Christmas and two after Christmas. On the third mission, we had very bad weather and were forced to land at Drew, France. As we landed at the field, one of our tires was shot out and we went down the runway on one tire, we made it down safe. As the crew chief, Brett, and I changed the wheel it was cold a hell. One thing that I will always remember is the way our P-47’s pilots would dive down on the guns that were shooting at us on our missions. They were marvelous and so brave.

I also remember fly over Bastogne at 400 feet. The fields were all white with snow. When we dropped the supply bundles, the men on the ground would swarm out like flies to recover them. It made me feel so good to help them.

When the relief of Bastogne was over, the Group moved the gliders and equipment to A-58 in France about 30 kilometers east of Paris. Once again we were in the job of re-supplying the troops. One of our missions was carrying gasoline to tanks out of gas at the Marginot Line. About six cans were placed on pallets and dropped from 300 feet without a parachute. Some of the cans would explode when they impacted the ground but enough survived to refuel the tanks.

After this we flew to Dublin, Ireland and had self-sealing fuel tanks installed on our aircraft. This was the first armament our planes received.

The next mission was Wesel, Germany and the Battle at the Rhine River. The planes pulled two gliders each. This was a very successful mission conducted with the British Airborne and our 17th Airborne resulting in the captured of the bridge.

I can not tell you how much I admire the glider pilots. They had to be both pilots and infantry at the same time. Remember they flew in plywood planes without engines or armament and hard to fight on the ground after they landed.

Last Day of the War

On the last day of the war in Europe, we were flying into Leipzig, Germany with gasoline and to pick up freed American POWs (Prisoners of War). As we were on our final approach to land someone shouted on the radio “Bandits”. (Bandits meant enemy aircraft.) I looked out the dome and saw two German FW-190’s behind us. I thought “the last of the war and we have had it”. To my and everyone else surprise the FW-190’s flew past us and landed on the grass. After we landed the American POW’s ran out and surrounded the German planes. We found out later the German pilots were fleeing the Russians. The first plane contained the pilot, his wife and their baby. The second plane had the pilot and his wife. The POW’s were very happy to see us.

After the war Ended

I had meet Queenie in England during training and fell in love. I did not want to marry while the fighting was still going on. After the war ended, I went back to England to marry her.

MSgt Cook and I had both met English girls and we both went back to marry them. I arrived on Friday and had five days to plan the wedding. Queenie went one way to make arrangement at the reception hall and I went another. Her father sent me to a flower shop. When I got there, I gave the lady owner my order. She took it all down and said “that they would be delivered”. When I asked for the bill she said, “That there was none”. It seems her son had been a RAF flyer killed during the war and this was in “remembrance of him”. This was one of the most heart rendering things to ever happen to me…
What a gracious and wonderful lady she was. I thanked her. How this touched my 21 year old heart. I remember thinking “There are some beautiful people in this world”. We spent our honeymoon in Torquay, England.

I retuned the A-58 where we started to haul Russians to Leipzig, Germany and Czechs to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. One day I was told I had enough “points” to go home. I was given my choice of staying with the Army of Occupation in Europe, go home to the USA, or go the Pacific campaign with 437th Group and fight the Japanese.

I was sent to Paris to the LeBourge Airport where I was being processed and then I was to be sent to Antwerp to catch a ship home. Queenie was one of the first 17 English war bribes to be sent on the Queen Mary to the USA. I was in the processing out area when “they” came in. I was told that “we” needed aircrew to fly home Group planes that had been left behind. The 437th Group had something like 100 aircraft. Some had been flown out already. Some had been damaged, many very severally, and had been left behind.

On the Trip Home

I was put on a crew where I only knew the crew chief. We went back to A-58 and picked up the “Wreck”. We had five passengers who were Fighter pilots that had done double tours of at least 150 missions. Now they got to go home is “style”. We retraced our route home. Back to Marrakech as the first stop. Here the planes engines were give their 100 hour checkup; the engines had over 1000 hours on them.

After leaving Marrakech, we flew over the Atlas Mountain which stand over 8,000 feet high. We blew out an engine and dropped to 3,000 feet. Ahead were hill with peaks over 3,500 feet. We began to throw out all the equipment possible. Even the our pilot a Colonel took off his coat and helped. As we threw out the jeep loading ramps, one of them hit the tail and damaged the elevator. The plane when down. I radioed Atar Base who sent a B-25 to pick us up. When we landed at Atar Base one of the strangest event occurred. As I got off the B-25 the MSgt in charge was standing there. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I come from a small Dutch farming town in Pennsylvania. There standing in front of me was Sgt ham Faust from my own home town. Ham and my older brother, Lavern, run together before the war. He lived about a quarter-of-a-mile from my grandmother’s farm. What are the odds of something like that happening? As we stood there gathering our wits, we realized… We had thrown the Colonel coat that had $800 in it out with the jeep ramps. He kept chewing us out until the navigator told him “Your ass is here isn’t it”. The B-25 took us to Dakar where we transferred to a C-54 plane for home.

I wish to explain that I never shot or killed anyone, but I saw the most death and destruction in a year and half than most people. The credit of the war should go to those brave paratroopers and glidermen. It was such an honor to carry them to battle and then from bring them back to try to save their lives. Any war is won by the person there on the ground.

My children have always wanted me to write about WWII. So here it is to the best of my knowledge. As time goes by I will add to this.

C-47 Type S/Sgt Shank Flew, Un-armed and Un-afraid

Being Reassigned After Combat Tour
Pottsville Journal, 1945

S/Sgt Robert M. Pope, 22, of Pottsville is at a Miami Beach, Fla. being reassigned after seeing action in an active duty B-17 Squadron. He flew as a B-17 ball turret gunner and photographer in the European theater.


T/Sgt George Dikun Awarded Third Oak Leaf Cluster To The Air Medal
Pottsville Journal, 1945

Technical Sgt. George Dikun of Pottsville has been awarded a Third Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal “For meritorious achievement in accomplishing with distinction aerial operational missions over enemy occupied Continental Europe.” He is an aerial gunner of a B-24 Liberator, Eight AF, England, and has participated in bombing missions over Kassel, Cologne and flew in support of General Patton’s Third Army at Metz. He entered the service November 13, 1941.
M/Sgt Dikun is interred at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Dikun, George, b. 04/26/1919, d. 10/20/1996, US Air Force, MSGT, Res: Pottsville, PA, Plot: 10 0 911, bur. 10/24/1996

Glider Pilot Learns The Ropes
Pottsville Journal,

Flight Officer Joseph L. Bowler of Tumbling Run, Schuylkill County recently arrived at A U.S. Strategic Air Force Base in England and received a Brief orientation course to help him adjust to a life in a combat zone.
There is a book entitled “War Stories” By Bart Hagernan That contains a short story about Flight Officer “Cannonball” Bowler. Making a combat glider landing.

Bombardier's View on a B-17

B-17 Lead Bombardier Earns Distinguished Flying Cross
Pottsville Journal, December 21, 1944

First Lieutenant John Androkitis bombardier, Port Carbon, has been awarded the coveted Distinguished Flying Cross. Androkitis, a B-17 Flying Fortress Bombardier, received the DFC for outstanding performance of duty during the great aerial attack on the synthetic oil works at Politz, Germany, October, 7th He was lead bombardier of one of the formations that participated in this assault on Germany’s fast dwindling oil reserves. A very intense anti aircraft barrage was encountered over the target and the objective was obscured by a highly effective smoke screen. Despite these obstacles, however, Lt. Androkitis used a triangulation method to plot the position of the aiming point and dropped his bombs into the smoke. Subsequent damage assessments indicated that the bombing by Lt. Androkitis, and the bombardiers in his formation who dropped on his command, was very effective and the target suffered extreme damage and was probably destroyed.
The 21 year old flier is a veteran of 29 aerial attacks on Germany and besides the DFC he wears the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. A graduate of Port Carbon High School, Lt. Andokitis was employed in Philadelphia before entering the service on June 27, 1942.

On this mission 142 of 149 B-17s hit the oil refinery at Politz; 17 B-17s are lost and
106 damaged; 2 airmen are KIA, 17 WIA and 171 MIA. Escort is proivded by 93
of 108 P-51s; they claim 7-0-3 aircraft; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA).

B-24 Liberator

B-24 Pilot Lieutenant Andrew Shellick Flies 50th Combat Mission.
Pottsville Journal, December 21, 1944

Lieutenant Andrew Shellick, Minersville has flown his 50th mission in aerial combat as a pilot of a B-24 Liberator Bomber. He is a member of a veteran 15th AAF flying in the 450th BG(H) 723rd Squadron that is playing a leading role in the strategic bombing offensive against the Reich. In course of rounding out 50 missions, he has taken part in such important operations as the attacks on Ploesti, Romania oilfields industrial areas of Vienna and Munich and Friedrichshafen. He also participated in the pre invasion hammering of coastal installations and gun emplacements in Southern France.
For meritorious achievement in sustained activities, Shellick has been awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. He is a graduate of Minersville High School and prior to entering the Armed Forces in September 1942 was a machine operator for the Aluminum Company of America, N.J. He earned his commission in February, 1944 receiving flight training at Bennettsville S.C. Shaw Field Sumter S.C. and Stewart Field, West Point New York.

Ball Turret B-24

Pacific Theater………………………………………………

A Ball Turret Gunner on B-24 Liberator “Miss Lace”
Pottsville Journal, February 1945

As a member of the famed 11th Heavy Bombardment Group of the 7th A.A.F. Corporal Walter B. Hoffman, St. Clair has been commended by Major General Robert D. Douglas, Jr. Commanding the 7th A.A.F. in the Marianas , for his part in the “Campaign which has taken a large section of the Pacific from the enemy’s hands.” The 11th Air group has participated in almost every major move of the great offensive that has rolled the Japanese back more than 3,000 miles to their own front yard. “The valiant record of your group is the valiant record of its men. Both as a unit and as individuals,” the General Said.
He graduated from St. Clair High School in 1939 and entered the service in October 1942. He has been with the 7th A.A.F. in the Pacific since June 1944 and is a ball turret gunner on the 11th Group Liberator “Miss Lace”.

*It is interesting to note that the ball turret was the worst crew position on the aircraft. The confining sphere fastened to the underside of the aircraft required a small statured man an agile occupant immune to claustrophobia and to be brave enough to be without a parachute close by. The turret moved in a full 360 degrees, providing an excellent vantage point underneath the aircraft and covering all enemy aircraft that tried to attack from below.

Flew 70 Combat Missions in China Burma Theater
Pottsville Journal, !945

The Air Medal has been awarded to M/Sgt. John F. Brommer 26, Pine Grove an aerial engineer with a troop carrier squadron of the Tenth AF, in Burma, who has chalked up 70 combat missions totaling 213 hours during his two year’s service in the India Burma Theater. A graduate of Pine grove High School, Sgt. Brommer was an independent coal miner prior to entering the armed forces over eight years ago.

Pilot Earns 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster To The Air Medal
Pottsville Journal, 1945

The second oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal has been awarded to Lt. John E. Zerbe, 22, Valley View a combat cargo pilot serving in the 10th Air Force in Burma. He has chalked up 168 combat missions totaling 670 hours during his eight months of service in the India-Burma Theater. He also holds the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Aerial Gunner is Awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross
Pottsville Journal January 4, 1945

Staff Sergeant Robert H. True, Pottsville a gunner on a 7th AAF bomber, in the Marianas, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for aerial operations against the Japs in the central Pacific. Presentation was made by Col. John J. Morrow Commanding Officer of the 7th AAF Service group at a base in the Marianas.

Sunday, March 23, 2008



Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

While doing some research at the Schuylkill County Historical Society recently I came across some interesting stories written during World War 2 in the Pottsville Journal and Republican. I want to share these wonderful stories that attest to the courage and the service of country that so many Schuylkill Countians have done in the performance of their duty to our country.
There are so many interesting stories to relate that I find I must break them down into different parts. The first part I will write up will be on the Army Air Corps during the war. Aviation has always been one of my favorite subjects and I never knew we had so many men in the Air Corps during the war. These staggering statistics tell the story of what these men endured during the war.


In the May 6th 1942 addition of the Pottsville Republican was this story

For a hazardous and technically difficult flight in a bombing plane from Washington, DC to the Netherland East Indies during which their plane was subjected to an aerial attack by Japs and struck by lighting, a Pottsville boy and seven other members of the crew have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. War Department.
The recipient of the award is the first of its kind to be awarded to a county soldier during the present war. It is Staff Sergeant Errol W. Wynkoop, son of Mr. And Mrs. Roy Wynkoop of 421 East Arch St. Pottsville.
The citation doe not say when the action took place, but his family believes it was in early January. Since he was home on New Years. In subsequent letters he has written that he saw a bit of action.
The plane was piloted by 1st Lieut. Richard T. Kight of Lubbock, Texas. The citation says that Kight and his crew were subjected to an aerial bombing raid at Palembang, Java, during which Kight directed his crew and took every precaution for their safety and that of the ship. An additional hazard was met on the crossing in the form of a sever electrical storm during which the ship was struck by lightning and burned in several places. First Lt. Kight worked tirelessly to keep his ship in good flying condition and brought both the ship and crew safely back to Washington, his mission an urgent and vital one successfully accomplished.
Wynkoop has been in the Air corps six years, having enlisted upon his graduation from Pottsville High School in 1936. He was first sent to Chanute Field, Ill. Where he learned radio. From there he went to Chicopee falls, Mass. Where he received promotion to Staff Sgt. Since that time he has been at Morrison field, West Palm Beach, Fla. And within the last week is believed to have been sent to Australia.
His mother is proud of her son, and is not surprised that his family have heard little of his exploits. “Buddy” as she calls him, was always modest.
Sgt. Wynkoop is just another of the famous Wynkoop’s from Schuylkill County. It will be remembered that his great grandfather was Col. George C. Wynkoop famous for his raising the 7th Pa. Cavalry. And his grandfather was Nicholas Wynkoop Killed in action at Gallatin , Tenn.
It is hard to find out what their mission was while in the Netherland East Indies but doing a little research I found this info.
The first B-17 Flying Fortresses to be based in Australia were 14 early model Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bomb Group which had been evacuated from Del Monte air field in the Philippines. They began arriving at Batchelor airfield in the Northern Territory on 17 December 1941. Some of the more war-weary B-17's were sent south to Laverton in Victoria for major overhauls. These B-17's started to fly bombing missions against Tulagi and other targets in the Solomons from their new base in Townsville. They would also drop supplies to allied forces in the Celebes. They would either stage through Port Moresby or Batchelor for these missions.
“By New Year's Day 1942, eleven B-17's flew to a new base at Malang in Java. Their main target then was Japanese shipping. These B-17's were reinforced in January 1942 by some LB-30 Liberators and some new B-17E's of the 7th Bomb Group. These aircraft were later withdrawn to Batchelor at the end of February 1942.
B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2460, piloted by 2nd Lt. C.H. Millhouse, had arrived in Australia on 15 January 1942 via Africa. Both of these B-17E's had operated in the Philippines with the 7th Bombardment Group before being evacuated back to Australia and transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group.
On 17 February 1942, ten B-17 Flying Fortresses of a US Navy Task Force in "Southern Bomber Command" arrived at Archerfield airfield in Brisbane. These ten B-17's were part of a group of twelve B-17's that had flown from Hawaii via Plaine de Gaiacs, New Caledonia. They had spent a number of weeks in Hawaii prior to this long flight. On the final leg from Plaine de Gaiacs, two of the B-17's flew directly to Townsville in north Queensland through a tropical storm and landed at Townsville on 19 February 1942. These two were piloted by Captain Lewis and the other by Harry Spieth. Dick Graf was Radio Operator on Captain Lewis's aircraft. Three other B-17E's of the US Navy Task Force had earlier flown from Hawaii directly to Java.”

P-51 Mustang


The next Exciting story deals with Lt. John S. Keesey from Pine Grove. A fighter pilot who flew P-51 Mustangs in the 368th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Lt. Keesey flew on this particular story the P-51B-10 42-106581 named “Tootser”.
The story entitled, An Eighth AAF Fighter Station, England. A slight youngster from Pine Grove Pa, who flies’s a Mustang fighter on escort with our bombers over Europe racked up a score of five Nazi aircraft blasted by his guns in two days.
He is Lt. John S. Keesey, 20 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Keesey, Pine Grove, R1, and official reports list his two day bag as two FW-190’s destroyed; one FW-190 probably destroyed; and two more damaged heavily. He has already been awarded the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster for combat missions.
Describing one of the dog fights in which he was engaged, Lt. Keesey reported his squadron was attacked by approximately 55 enemy aircraft over Dreuz, France.
“At about 17,000 feet 25 Nazi fighters dove under us and split up as we turned into them” he said. “We followed them down to about 3,000 feet when they pulled up into some clouds. We pulled up after them and just about then 30 more enemy ships dove on us from above the clouds.”
“I passed through the new attackers head on. I began blazing away almost immediately and saw my slugs tear into three of them. One of the three had a burst of hits on his fuselage and about the canopy which I believe must have killed the pilot. I report that one as probably destroyed, the other two damaged.
“They were firing at me as we passed head on and I recall seeing some of their shots striking my right wing.
“After we had passed, I glanced over and saw one of the FW-190’s on the tail of a Mustang which was trailing smoke. I rolled over to the left and took an angle shot at the Nazi, saw a few strikes from my burst.
“The Mustang that was being attacked went into a steep spiral with the FW-190 still stuck on his tail. I latched myself onto the tail off the FW-190. We went down to 100 feet. He spotted me back there and began turning violently, but I managed to stay with him, firing al the while.
“I began getting more strikes on the enemy plane and noticed he was trailing smoke. I was down to one gun by this time, having fired so much ammunition during the earlier stages of the fight.
“We were in a turn at about 100 feet above the ground, when I fired my last burst, watching hits on his wing and in the fuselage near the cockpit. The slugs must have wounded the pilot because the plane slipped out of the turn and hit the ground in a dive. When he hit the ground his left wing and tail section were torn off. He bounced back up and finally crashed about 200 yards from where he first struck.”
The day before while escorting bombers to Munich, Lt. Keesey fought with a Nazi pilot for about five minutes over Munich itself until the enemy bailed out under a rain of strikes on his ship.
Lt. Keesey, husband of Mrs. Louise R. Keesey, W. Mill St. Pine Grove, is a 1941 graduate of Pine Grove High School.

Keesey would finish out the war as a Captain having flown 68 combat missions.
His unit was the 359th Fighter Group 368th Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed the 'Unicorns', the 359th FG was one of the last groups to arrive in the UK for service in the ETO with the Eighth Air Force. First seeing action on 13 December 1943, the group initially flew bomber escort sweeps in P-47s, before converting to the ubiquitous P-51 in March/April 1944. Throughout its time in the ETO, the 359th was credited with the destruction of 351 enemy aircraft destroyed between December 1943 and May 1945.

Here is another report of the dogfight on August 8, 1944.
“Flying P-51 CV-V 43-106581 named Tootser. From ER: Lt. John S. Keesey was leading the element, White Three, in Capt. Forehand's flight. After providing bomber support in the vicinity of Dreuc, France they began letting down in an easterly direction to strafe. At approx. 17,000 ft 25 E/A dove under us, coming from 7 o'clock. We turned into them and they all split S'd .... At about 15,000 ft. I saw three of them at 3 o'clock. They were about 1,000 ft. above us then.... I called them in and then turned into them in a slight climb. Just at the time we turned, approx. 30 more E/A dove at us from out of the sun. They were at approximately 25,000 ft. At this time the first E/As came at me in a diving turn. I passed thru them head on. While going thru I fired at several of them and distinctly remember getting strikes on three of them. On one of these I got strikes on the fuselage and about the canopy, firing from about 15 degrees to starboard of the E/A's nose from head on. The pilot was probably killed. I claim this one as probable. On the other two I had strikes on the wings. These I claim as damaged. One of the E/A got 3 strikes on my right wing. After I passed the last one, I noticed that two of the E/A had already turned and were coming at me in a climbing turn from 7 o'clock..... I started rolling out to the left and before completing my roll-out I saw an E/A on a 51's tail at about 3 o'clock and about 2,000 ft. below. Just then the E/A began firing and the P-51 started trailing smoke. ... At this time the P-51 started down in a steep spiral and the E/A split S'd to the left and dove straight down. I used full bore and approximately 2800 RPM to stay up with him. ...he made a slight turn left and went thru some clouds. I followed right thru and when we broke out at about 5,000 ft I was right on his tail with my airspeed 600. He started his pull out at 4,000 and leveled off on the deck with streamers pulling of his wings...... I then fired a burst and discovered I had but one gun firing - my other three had jammed. I turned with him for about two mins. and fired short burst when I got a good head. I had no trouble turning with the E/A but at one time I hit his prop wash and flicked. He then had the advantage but I got it back when I did a little climb and sucked it in. I then fired another burst and he began trailing thick smoke. ... I then fired another burst and saw strikes on the E/A's cowling so I left my sight drift back and got strikes along the fuselage. At this time he flicked out of the turn and hit the ground in a dive. I tried to fire as he flicked out of the turn but my only gun had jammed. When he hit the ground his left wing and tail section tore off. He bounced back up and finally crashed about 200 yds from where he first hit.... The combat took place at about 100 ft. I claim this E/A destroyed. Lt. Keesey was awarded 1 FW 190 destroyed and 3 FW's damaged. Also on that day Lt. Willis J. Cherry flying yellow four was lost and became a POW Somery France.”
The 359th Fighter Group
Station:East Wretham (USAAF Station No. 133) 19 October 1943 to 2 November 1945
Station Callsign:
Group Callsign:
Wallpaint to 22 April '44 then:
Chairman (A Group)
Cavetop (B Group)
Ragtime (C Group)
(No Squadron Callsigns in C Group)

Fighter Pilots Who Served. From Schuylkill County

There were other fighter pilots from Schuylkill County who flew P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs to include;
Lt. Clyde (Nebby) Beheny from Orwin who was flying P-47’s.
Lt. Peter Chowansky, from Frackville who graduated as a fighter pilot on May 23, 1944 at Luke field, Arizona. He entered the service in January , 1943 at the time of this report July 1944, he was stationed in Portland Oregon.

Local Pilot tests “G” suits.

Lieut. Bernard Greenfield isn’t always the man flying the best airplane who comes out on top in air battles against the Luftwaffe, according to Lieut. Greenfield from Pottsville together with other Eight Air Force P-51 Mustang fighter groups in England, In almost all cases agree the the airmen, the victor is the best trained flier using the best combat flying equipment.
One such type of equipment now being worn by American pilots in the European Theater of Operations is the new “G” suit.
Used in combat since October 1944, by the 353rd Fighter Group with which Lt. Greenfield belongs, the “G” suit is lauded by pilots for its ability to prevent dangerous “blackouts” and “grayouts” ordinarily resulting from the effects of centrifugal force on the blood flow during high speed maneuvers.
According to unit histories Lt. Greenfield flew P-51 D 44-72845 “Lil Miss Boomerang”. In the 350th Fighter Sqdron. 353rd Fighter Group.

Bomber crewmen who Flew In the European Theatre From Schuylkill County

The Air Medal Awarded to many Schuylkill Airman

Tsgt. Richard Krecker

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Krecker Pottsville, was reported as missing in action over enemy occupied territory since March 16, 1944. He was a radio operator gunner who has been awarded the Air Medal and two oak leaf clusters. Sgt. Krecker was one of the first boys in the county to bomb Berlin. He has been in the service since November of 1942. It was later reported he was safe back in England.

Brownmiller Wins Air Medal

An Eight Air Force Bomber Station, England. Staff Sergeant Ronald E. Brownmiller, 19, of Pottsville has earned the Air Medal, for “Meritorious Achievement, coolness, courage and skill” in aerial warfare. Sgt. Brownmiller is a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress participating in Eight Air Force bombing attacks on targets in Nazi, Germany.
He is a member of the 34th BOMB GROUP MENDLESHAM, ENGLAND
a unit of the Third Air Division, the Division cited by the President for its now historic England Africa shuttle bombing of Messerschmitt aircraft plants at Regensburg, German.
Before entering the Army Air Force Brownmiller was a student at Pottsville High School.

View from the top turret engineers gunner position B-17
Awarded His Third Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal

TSgt. Austin Brommer of Friedens burg has been awarded the third oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal., equivalent to the fourth award of the medal, for “Meritorious achievement” on bombing attacks over Germany. The Airman displayed’ Courage, coolness and skill” while serving as top turret gunner with the 490th Bomb Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress Unit of the Eight Air Force commanded by Col. Frank P. Bostrom of Bangor Maine. He entered the Army Air Force in February 1940.

B-24 Liberator

Gets Air Medal
December 21, 1944

Staff Sergeant Clarence M. Krammes from Cressona, an Eight Air force waist gunner on the B-24 Liberator “Modest Maiden has just recently been awarded the Air Medal.
The citation in part reads: “For meritorious achievement in accomplished aerial operational missions over enemy occupied continental Europe. Sgt. Krammes actions reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”
The presentation was made by Col. A.W. reed, commanding officer of the 491st Heavy Bomb Group of the second bombardment Division stationed in England.
Sgt. Krammes has flown nine combat missions, participating in attacks on Karsruhe, Hamm, Ulm and military installations in support of ground forces. Sgt. Krammes has been in the Army thirteen months. He received his wings at Laredo, Texas and completed training at Chatham Field, GA.
Sgt. Krammes belonged to a famous B-24 Bomb Group:
491st Bomb Group.
http://www.usaaf.com/8thaf/index.htm )
Squadrons of the 491st BG:
852nd Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
853rd Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
854th Bombardment Squadron -Heavy
855th Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
Assigned 8th AAF: 1 January 1944
Wing/Command Assignment:
2 BD, 95 CBW 5 May 1944
2 BD, 14 CBW 14 Aug 1944
2 AD, 14 CBW 1 Jan 1945
Combat Aircraft:
METFIELD 25 April 1944 - 15 August 1944
NORTH PICKENHAM 15 August 1944 - 4 July 1945
Group COs:
Lt Col Carl T. Goidenberg: 12 Feb. 1944 - 26 Jun. 1944.
Col Frederick H. Miller: 26 Jun. 1944 - 16 Oct. 1944.
Col Allen W. Reed: 20 Oct. 1944 - 18 Jun. 1945.
First Mission: 2 June 1944
Last Mission: 25 April 1945
Missions: 187
Total Sorties: 5,005
Total Bomb Tonnage: 12,304 Tons
Aircraft MIA: 47
Other Op Loses: 23
Major Awards:
Distinguished Unit Citation: 26 Nov. 44: Misburg
Claims to Fame:
Highest rate of operations of all B-24 groups.
Early History:
Activated 1 Oct. 1943 at Davis-Monthan Fd, Ariz. Moved to Biggs Fd, Texas 11 Nov. 1943. Most of ground unit transferred to B-29 groups. Group transferred less personnel and equipment to 2BD Hq. as of 1 Jan. 1944 Apparently planned for 14CBW and North Pickenham designated a base in Feb. 1944, but in view of advanced state of training of 492BG 491BG rescheduled for Metfield. Four established groups in 2BD ordered to raise and train an additional squadron ground unit each one of the five ground echelons in each group then selected for 491 BG. These transferred to Metfield on 25 April 1944. Aircraft continued training in US, moving to Pueblo AAB, CO. in early Jan. 1944. Began movement overseas on the 21 April 1944 via Florida, Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar an' Marrakesh.
Subsequent History:
Redeployed US June 1945. The aircraft left 17 June 1945. Ground unit sailed on Queen Mary on the 6th of July 1945 arriving in New York 11 July 1945.

Completes 35 Combat Missions

T/Sgt. Ellis E. Miller,
23 of Hegins has arrived at Army Air Forces Station No-2 in Miami Beach for reassignment after completing 35 combat missions as a B-24 Radio Operator gunner in the European theater earning the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Flew 60 missions in C-47’s.
Pottsville Journal January 25, 1945.

Staff Sergeant Albert V. Hupka, St. Clair a radio operator in the veteran 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Group Italy has been awarded the Air Medal and four oak leaf clusters to the Air Medal for “Meritorious achievement in aerial flight against the enemy”. Sgt. Hupka has sixty combat missions in an unarmed, unarmored, and unescorted C-47 type aircraft to his credit. Most of these operations were made over the Balkan Countries in direct support of Marshall Tito’s Partisan forces. A large number of these flights were landings on small hastily improvised airfields, deep in enemy held territory, at night and with only a row of fires to light the landing strip. Getting through to the objective called for the greatest degree of skill from each member of the crew on these missions, for the Balkans present rugged terrain, difficult flying weather and constant danger from enemy night fighters and flak. Sgt. Hupka entered the Army in June of 1943 and served overseas since January 1943.

Top Turret of a B-24 Blows Apart in Flight
January 25, 1945 Pottsville Journal.

Even in the best regulated war, accidents happen. Just ask Cpl. Francis X. Donahue, 22, Port Carbon. On January 10, Cpl. Donahue, a top turret gunner with a heavy bomber crew flew a long range mission deep into Austria with his veteran B-24 Liberator Squadron. High over the Adriatic Sea on the way to the target, Cpl Donahue climbed into the top turret of his bomber to test fire the 50 caliber machine guns. Then the trouble began. While still in the turret he heard the Plexiglas crack and felt the bitter cold air of high altitude rush against the back of his neck. A gaping hole appeared in the turret. Fortunately he was uninjured by the flying glass fragments. Explanations none of them entirely satisfactory sprang from every quarter. Some opinioned that a flaw in the glass had been cracked by the rush of cold wind. Others guessed that an empty machine gun shell from a bomber further ahead in the formation had struck the turret. “The rest of the trip was a cold one. There was nothing we could do to stop the cold air from rushing in that hole, “ said Donahue. Donahue is a graduate of St. Stevens High School, he entered the Army Air Corps on June 21, 1943. And attended gunnery school at Harlingen, Texas.

B-17 Radio Operators Position

Airman Promoted to Sergeant
January 25, 1945 Pottsville Journal

Thomas F. Toth, 21 of Pottsville has been promoted to Sergeant while stationed with the Eighth Air Force. He is on a Bomber station in England flying as a radio operator and gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress “Lady Gay”. He entered the Air Corps in August 1943.

Fighter Pilot Held as Prisoner of War
January 29, 1945 Pottsville Journal

2nd lieutenant George Leymeister of Orwigsburg who is reported missing over Germany since November 18, is now reported a prisoner of the German government. He is a fighter pilot and has been overseas seven months.

Three Countians On Board Same Aircraft Shot Down over Germany and Made POW’s
Pottsville Journal January 29, 1945

T/Sgt. John McMenamin formerly of Pottsville and now living in Auburn is reported missing over Germany since November 21. He is now listed as a POW of the German Government. He is a radio gunner aboard a bomber. S/Sgt D. Griffith Morgan and S.Sgt Eugene Minchoff, both of Pottsville were aboard the same bomber when it went down. Minchoff was also reported a prisoner. NO word has been received about Morgan, but it is hoped he will turn up safe.
I found this story which relates to this accident on a POW web site.
On their 12th mission (11-21-44) to bomb the Luena Oil Fields near Meersberg, Germany, their B17 was hit by FW 190 German Fighters. They bailed out and were captured immediately. Jack was ordered to swim across the Saale River by a large number of Gestapo. He was taken to Stalag Luft IV prison camp near Gros-Tychow in Poland (by crowded boxcars). They were kept in near starving conditions until they were evacuated 2-6-45 to escape the advancing Russians. They began a forced march (some refer to it as "Death March" because so many lives were lost because of starvation and very little medical help). They were liberated when the prison guards surrendered to U.S. troops at Halle. Friend Eugene Minchoff, Quarryville, PA who was on this mission, verified this to authorities. Gene is now the only living member of this crew.
398th Bomb Group that was based at Nuthampstead in England.

The Three Crewmen of the B-17 Nutty Huzzy. 44-8348..603 rd on the mission to Merseburg Germany 11/24/44
John McMenamin T/sgt. Radio Operator Gunner POW
Eugene Minchoff S/Sgt Tail Gunner POW
David Grifith Morgan S/Sgt Right Waist Gunner POW

Almost Ditched in the North Sea
Pottsville Journal January 24, 1945

When the last of their bombers four engines started sputtering 25 miles from the English coast, Sergeant Richard W. Laubenstine, 20 year old B-17 Flying Fortress engineer and top turret gunner of Cressona and his crew faced the grim prospect of ditching their bomber in the icy North Sea 300 feet below.
Sgt. Laubenstine and his crew had made a game bid to make it back to England after heavy German anti aircraft fire had literally ripped their plane to shreds and disabled three engines during an Eighth Air Force attack on key Nazi oil refineries at Hamburg.
Suddenly in response to their SOS a reply came back from a British air sea rescue launch. In the tense moments that followed the commander of the British rescue launch coxed the bomber crew on. “Its too cold for a swim, lads stay up there and follow us in, we’ll set you down on an emergency landing strip.” Laubenstine and his crew jettisoned everything in the ship that wasn’t bolted down. Lightened the bomber stayed in the air and safely crashed landed at the emergency base.
Formerly an electrician at the Middletown Air Depot, Sgt. Laubenstine serves with the colorful 390th Bomb Group which holds a Presidential Citation for skill and daring in action. And also shares in an other Presidential award held by the Third Air Division, of which it is a unit, for the epic assault on key aircraft plants at Regensburg, German in August 1943.

The History of the 390th Bomb Group
Constituted as 390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 15 Jan 1943 and activated on 26 Jan. Prepared for combat with B-17's. Moved to England in Jul 1943 and assigned to Eighth AF. Operated chiefly against strategic objectives, flying many missions with the aid of pathfinders. Began combat on 12 Aug 1943. Five days later, attacked the Messerschmitt aircraft complex at Regensburg and received a DUC for the mission. Received another DUC for a mission on 14 Oct 1943 when the group braved unrelenting assaults by enemy fighters to bomb the antifriction-bearing plants at Schweinfurt. Participating in the intensive Allied assault on the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944, the organization bombed aircraft factories, instrument plants, and air parks. Other strategic missions included attacks on marshalling yards at Frankfurt, bridges at Cologne, oil facilities at Zeitz, factories at Mannheim, naval installations at Bremen, and synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg. Sometimes flew interdictory and support missions. Bombed the coast near Caen fifteen minutes before the landings in Normandy on 6 Jun 1944. Attacked enemy artillery in support of ground forces during the breakthrough at St Lo in Jul. Cut German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Hit airfields in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945. Flew last combat mission on 20 Apr 1945. Dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the week prior to V-E Day. Returned to the US in Aug. Inactivated on 28 Aug 1945.
568th: 1943-1945.
569th: 1943-1945.
570th: 1943-1945.
571st: 1943-1945.
Geiger Field, Wash, 26 Jan 1943
Great Falls AAB, Mont, 6 Jun-4 Jul 1943
Framlingham, England, Jul 1943-4 Aug 1945
Sioux Falls AAFld, SD, 12-28 Aug 1945.
Col Edgar M Whittan, 26 Jan 1943
Col Frederick W Ott, 21 Apr 1944
Col Joseph A Miller, 17 Sep 1944
Lt Col George W Von Arb Jr, 23 May 1945
Maj John A Angotti, 26 Jun-Aug 1945.
Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.
Distinguished Unit Citations: Germany, 17 Aug 1943; Germany, 14 Oct 1943.

Prisoner in Stalag Luft No. 4
Pottsville Journal January 11. 1945

Staff Sergeant Charles Yokitis is a prisoner of war in a German Camp known as Stalag Luft 4. He filed an express message with the Red Cross to inform his family. His mother received the word in the form of a cablegram and while sponsored by the U.S. Gov’t it is activated by the International Red Cross. It read, “I am well and hope you are the same. Feeling fine as a POW, Write soon.
Sgt. Yokitis is from Port Carbon. He was declared missing last May 29 and it was not until September 9 that his mother received word that he was a prisoner of war. From September until the message arrived they had no word of the fate of him.
He enlisted on January 2, 1942 and received his training at Orlando Fla., Texas Buckley Field, Colorado and McCook Nebraska from where he left for overseas in March, 1944. He saw action in Italy, and Africa and flew 11 missions before he was shot down over Austria.
In researching more on Sgt. Yokitis I found out that he flew in the 783rd Bomb Squadron on a B-24H-tail number 42-52589 named “Moby Dick” and was shot down on Mission Number 16 with the target as Atzersdorf a factory complex. The mission time was 7:15 .

Airman Flies 50th Mission
Pottsville Journal January 4, 1945

Staff Sergeant Walter C. Freiler, Pottsville has recently flown his 50th combat mission with a veteran Corsica based B-25, 321st Bomber Group 445th Bomb Squadron 12th A.A.F.
Flying as an engineer gunner in his 6 man crew on a B-25 Mitchell bomber, Sgt. Freiler has flown on missions carrying out widespread attacks against the enemy in France and Italy. On August 15, he was out over the beachhead on Southern France as his group flew a mission in support of the landing armies. This was the sixth amphibious operations support by his group.
Switching back to Northern Italy, the group turned the heat on communication targets in northern Italy. On September 22, Sgt. Freiler was in a formation which destroyed 300 feet of the Cittadella road and railroad bridge in what was called the most destructive attack ever carried out by the group against a bridge.
Sgt. Freiler has sampled deadly Flak defense surrounding the Galliate area of northern Italy but has come through unscathed and on the October 20th mission, he watched bombs from his formation smash Galliate Bridge in perfect precision bombing.
Lately Sgt. Freiler has participated in a number of successful attacks against enemy defense areas around Faenza and Bologna in support of allied troops fighting there. His group has set a world record in precision bombing accuracy of better than 90 % over a three month stretch.
I found this interesting little story about the Galliate Mission.
The Group's most spectacular operation during this period was a raid on the Galliate Bridge, during which a fierce barrage of anti-aircraft fire damaged 30 of the 44 participating B-25's. In spite of the ground operation every plane in the formation reached 100% accuracy, thereby insuring the establishment at that time of an all time Army Air Force accuracy mark.

Also in September of 1944 the 321st Bombardment Group which Freiler flew with established an Army Air Force record for bombing accuracy by placing 90.4% of all bombs dropped within the target circle. A bombing circle with a 200 yard radius and the objective in its center is the scale used to determine accuracy. This record was maintained at exactly the same percentage for a two months period during which time this Group dropped 1,820 tons of high explosive each month on enemy strong points North of Rimini, Italy.

Sgt. Freiler was also listed as having flown a mission on New Years day, January 1, 1945. The boys of the B-25 Billy Mitchell group of the 12th AAF took off in light snowfall; the veteran Corsica-based medium bomber group attacked a large enemy ammunition dump in northern Italy. When the bombs hit their mark there was a violent explosion which hurled smoke and debris thousands of feet into the air.

Flies as A Co-Pilot On B-24’s
Pottsville Journal January 1945

2nd Lieut. William J. Calhoun, 21, of Mechanicsville has arrived in Italy and has taken up duties with the 15th A.A.F. Heavy Bomber Group the 456th . He is trained as a co-pilot on B-24 Liberators. He is in a group commanded by Col Thomas W. Steed. The group has flown more than 170 combat missions against strategic targets in southern Europe and the Balkans.

Earns Oak Leaf to the Air Medal
Pottsville Journal January 1945

Second Lieutenant Bruce W. Evans, 22 a pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress, has recently been awarded the oak leaf to the Air Medal. He is from Pottsville. He is flying out of England.

Spends Time On R&R
Pottsville Journal January 1945

Lt. Harry E. Sanner, Minersville recently enjoyed a “recess” from aerial war fare at an Air Service Command Rest Center, on an English Sea side resort hotel where America’s Airman who provide aerial cover for the advancing allied armies in Germany may relax between missions. Lt Sanner has flown 10 missions. After seven days he went back tohis combat station.

Glider Pilot Earns Oak Leaf Cluster to The Air Medal
Pottsville Journal February 5, 1945

2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Neumister, St. Clair has been awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight of the U.S. Troop Carrier Forces. He engaged in intense aerial activity as a glider pilot with this group in the re-supply of Allied Armies advancing along the entire Western Front and in air evacuation of casualties.

Bomber Crews who flew in the China Burma and Pacific Theatre from Schuylkill County

Sergeant Cyril J. Rowland, USAAF
The husband of Betty (nee Boyle) and father of two-year-old James Cyril of 56 E. Greenwood Avenue, Lansdowne, Cyril was also survived by his mother, three brothers and three sisters, all of Connerton, Pennsylvania. He entered the Army Air Corps in September 1942, where he became a radio-gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber assigned to the Pacific Theater. While flying his sixth mission on November 22, 1944, over Negros Island in the Philippines, his plane failed to return. Sgt. Rowland entered the service in 1942 and received his basic training at Scott Field where he was later assigned as an radio instructor operator. His last know station was flying B-24’s out of the Dutch East Indies

On July 3, 1945 this article appeared in the Pottsville republican:

When their B-29, the “ Mary Ann” with two engines dead and a third functioning with only a portion of its full power, had to take to the water, off Kyushu, ten of its 11 crew members were rescued by submarine. One of those rescued was Sgt. Albein A. Donoris, Minersville, who was the operator of precision instruments on the plane.
Two of the crew members had been seriously wounded in the fight which preceded the water landing. One was the commander of the B-29, Lieut. Penn, San Francisco who died, and the other was a sergeant from Colorado.
Another Superfortress, seeing the distress of the Mary Ann fell out of formation and contacted a submarine directing the sub toward the “Mary Ann” and the plane to the sub. Thus the submarine was able to pick up the survivors after the acting pilot landed it tail first in the water. All but one Lt. Penn were rescued.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Captain Henry A Smith Indian Fighter

Captain Henry A Smith National Indian War Veteran.

This is Henry A. Smith as a Private in the 1st U.S. Artillery. He is in his full dress uniform and helmet.



This story is about Henry A. Smith, known for many years as Captain Smith the Indian fighter. Although the title Captain had nothing to due with his rank in the military, it was a name he acquired because he always wore a cap, and some how Cap got changed to Captain over the years. This little tid bit was told to me by long time Orwigsburg resident Mrs. Laura Kauffman who knew Cap Smith as a child. She also told me all the children in the town were afraid of him, because he had this real big mustache and looked scary.
At any rate Cap or Captain Smith was a veteran of the Indian Wars from 1888-1895. He was a proud member of the National Indian War Veterans organization.
In 1944 Cap gave an interview to Herrwood E. Hobbs, well know historian and writer from Pottsville. Following is Herrwood's interview.
Rocket, guns, robot planes and radar are all right for the battles of World War II but there’s nothing like a good old Gatling gun, some carbines and six shooters for fancy fighting.
That’s the way Captain Henry A. Smith, Orwigsburg, a veteran of the last great Indian War battle in the United States feels about it.
Captain Smith-nobody calls him anything else-is one of the last of a little known veteran’s organization, the National Indian War Veterans, and every inch of him lives up to any conception of a real live Indian fighter.
Dressed up in his blue coat and hat of the N.I. W.V., Captain Smith somewhat resembles the fast thinning Civil War veterans. The brass buttons on the coat flank two tiny insignias bearing the motto,” Primus Aut Nullus,” ( First or Nothing).
“And that’s just what our outfit was-first or nothing, “ recalls the Captain twirling a moustache that might have been a first cousin of the one owned by General George Custer whose defeat at the hands of sitting Bull at the Little Big Horn wasn’t the last of the major Indian battles.
The Captain also wears a round service medal awarded veterans of the Indian Wars and the official badge of the N.I. W.V Association, red with blue stripes. All add significance and color to the genial fighter of the red skin who was not such a bad fellow after all in the Captain’s opinion.
“The United States Indian was not used right by the government, “indignantly declares Captain Smith. “They put the Indians on barren land on which even grass hoppers couldn’t be raised.”
“The Indian was a good fellow and one could become chums with some of them. If an Indian had to take sides against an old friend he’d always find a way to give you a warning before he went out after you, “he recalls.
The Captain doesn’t overlook some of the fancy tortures inflicted by the Indians on their hapless soldier captives, though. Some of the tortures and atrocities described by the veteran are obviously unprintable.
Captain Smith served two three year enlistments from 188 to 1895, with the U.S. Army. During that period he, he found much time to make observations of the vanishing American-that is between marching through knee deep snow, lying on cold ground in sub zero weather at night during campaigns and existing on coffee, hard tack and sow belly, “plus anything you could pick up off the land.”
He relates that he saw Chief Sitting Bull at least a dozen times and William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) as often.
“Sitting Bull was shot and killed in 1890-ironically by the Indian equivalent of military policemen, in a melee after the white man’s government had ordered him seized. The slaying occurred a short time before the battle of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29 of that year. Captain Smith was in that battle.
“There had been some trouble with the Ghost Dances-a sort of Indian religious ceremonial and the Indians had been committing depredations after some fanatics stirred them up, “ The captain called on his remarkable memory.
“One third of the U.S. regular Army was in the field that winter. We marched some 200 miles with our mule trains and the snow was up to our knees. “The Indians were pretty well set for us. In some respects they were better armed than we were. There were five hardware stores in Rushkill, Nebraska, right across the South Dakota border, selling Marlin and Winchester rifles to the Indians.”
We had a regiment of infantry, four regiments of cavalry and our light battery of ten pieces, four guns, three and two tenths inches, and six mounted guns. I was one of the gunners on the heavy guns.”
“The battle lasted from sunrise to sunset and when it was finished we had practically wiped out the entire tribe. Even after the cease firing order came, some of our fellows kept firing on Indians trapped in the ravine. They got a medal of honor for it-So I’m told!”
“ Even at that, the day would have been lost if it hadn’t been for the colored cavalry-yes we had quite a few colored outfits and the Indians hated them like sin. When our Indian scouts signaled for reinforcements, the colored riders jumped on their horses, some without boots, saddles and bridles and galloped into battle.” They saved the day.
Wounded Knee was the last of the great Indian battles. Trouble after that time was sporadic and not to serious. But some Indian sympathizers insist that Wounded Knee was not a battle but a massacre, setting the number of red skins killed at 200 women and children and only 90 men.
Outstanding in Captain Smiths’s recollections of the Indians was the Sioux squaw. “They didn’t fight but they were assigned to guard the prisoners. Nobody ever escaped on them. They also practiced some torture on the captives and when the battle came painted themselves as hideously as their braves did,” he recollects.
Soldiering in the uncertain South Dakota weather was a rigors trial. “We once marched four days while it snowed constantly-as fine as Epsom salt-and never saw the sun. 12 miles away it hadn’t snowed at all, “He recalls.
The captain will discreetly admit taking a swig or two of Indian “Firewater” while he was in the Badlands. His appraisal of the liquor was “pretty good”.
Captain Smith was born on Independence St, Orwigsburg. After a short lived education, he went to work in J.T. Shoener Shoe Factory at the age of 13, earning a dollar a week. When he wound up his army career, he came back to Orwigsburg in 1895, organized a cadet Corps and went to work as a stationary engineer. He had a stroke in 1930, but shows no sign of debility.
He lives at 300 Independence St. with a half brother, William Alfred Dietrich. Another half brother, Charles F. Dietrich, live in Middletown. His wife, the former Ida M. Seifert, is dead. The couple had no children.
Captain Smith is addicted to the pipe smoking, “the stronger the better, “but also enjoys a cigar. Gifted with a rare sense of humor and geniality, he is beloved by all of Orwigsburg.
Though obviously prouds of his Indian War record, Captain Smith lays no claims to being the only county veteran of this trouble. At his instance, a check up reveled that Joseph Staudenmeir, Spruce St. Ashland, father of Atty. C.W. Staudenmeir, also fought the Indians in the late years of the last century. Mr. Staudenmeir is in his nineties.

Captain Smith was a member of the 1st. U.S. Artillery.

The battle or massacre depending upon how you view history that Captain Smith participated in at Wounded Knee on December 29 is so controversial I will let the reader decide for themselves what they think was right and what was wrong. I always take an open eye to history and place no judgment on either side primarily because I was not part of the event. I have inserted a few web sites that I found on Wounded Knee for the reader to look at.





Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Schuylkill Countians in the War on Terror Part 2

A new method of GI art, called "Barrier Art".
In Vietnam we drew pictures on our Hats flight Helmets and Helmet covers. Now on Cememt Barriers.

This is one of my favorites. I am always amazed at the message the GI can get out!
Very fitting for the Reservist!
"One Weekend a Month My Ass"

Here are some more Photos from Lt. Col Frank Piacine.

Schuylkill Countians Serving in the War on Terror

Men and Women of the 378th CSB

Lt.Col Frank Piacine Capturing Sadam's Head!

In today’s war on Terror there are many Schuylkill Countians who have put their life on the line for us at home. In this little blog I want to share some photos my brother in law Lt. Col Francis Piacine, known to family members as “Frank” took while serving in Southwest Asia.
Frank’s military lineage of his family has had members who have served this country since the Revolutionary War. One relative served as a Drummer Boy at General Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. He had others who served in Captain Wills Cavalry from Berks County during the Rev. War. His Great GGGrandfather was wounded in the head during the Civil War while charging a rebel battery at Parker’s Store, Virginia in November of 1863 while serving with the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Another member was a First Defender in the National Light Infantry and then joined the famed 96th Pennsylvania Infantry and was killed while charging rebels at Salem Church, Near Fredericksburg Virginia. His Grandfather served in the Army during World War 1. His father Francis (Choc) Piacine served with the engineers in World War 2 in the Philippines and New Guinea.
Frank A Penn State Grad, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 101st Airborne Division and served on active duty with that Unit attaing the rank of Captain. He then served with the United States Army Reserve. After twenty years of service Frank retired as a Lt. Col.
During his time in Kuwait and Iraq he was the Commanding Officer and served with the 378th CSB Battalion an Army reserve unit from Ft. Indiantown Gap. His battalion mission was to provide combat support to the other fighting units in the war. He helped with a staging base for the men and women, moving in and out of Iraq.