This I Remember... Personal Recollections
Of Some Who Served AtArdmore Army Air Field (1942-46)
Ardmore Air Force Base (1953-59)
Relatives or Others Remembering Events Relating To The Base.
email to gsimmonsRemembrances Of:
Captain Thomas A. Russ, Base Engineer
Brett Pharis' Father
Bob Ozment, Captain, (USN-Retired), Mill Creek Crash
Cpl. Joseph (Jack) W. McClanahan, Surviving Tail-Gunner, Mill Creek Mid-Air Collision
Paul Keenan, September 24, 1944 Crash
Melbourne Roy (Bud) Rieke, September 24, 1944 Crash
Caroll Hendershott, March 19, 1954 Crash
Waist Gunner Dick Wiley Remembers Two Scary Training Events Appreciation of Base History
William B. O'Heran, More Information
Ted Nurre, Short Time at Base
Lt. Charles Edward Brumback, Navigator, KIA
The Memorial Dedication and a Son and a Sister’s Visit to Crash Sites for Closure
M. K. Patterson, Navy Aerial Gunner
Lt. Ted Spurgeon, B-24 Pilot and POW
Dan Newsom, A Newsboy's Remembrance
An Early Arrival Airman Remembers Ardmore Air Force Base
Lee Evers, Base History, 1953-59
Cpl. Helen A. Fields, WAC
Jim Kyle, Newspaper Reporter
Remembering the Golf Course at Ardmore Air Force Base
S/Sergeant John W. Williams, Base Photographer
War Brides - The Effect of the War on the Other Half!
O. Phillip Kent, 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing
Lt. Unger Appreciated Combat Training at Ardmore AAFld
Lt. Earl Davis, Glider Pilot
An Ardmore Experience by an Unknown Airman
The Nelson Twins
FO/Lt. Emil M. Horkavi, March 14, 1943, First Fatal Crash
French Citizens Remember an Ardmore Crew
Sergeant Robert W. Farrington, 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing
Virginia Gilstrap Farrington, Civilian Employee
Beatrice "Jacko" Hoffman, Civilian Employee
Nellie Thompson Hull Remembers 1944 Crash and Employment at Ardmore Air Force Base, 1955
Lt. Storrs Clough, Co-Pilot, Crew 247 (Evan Williams' Crew)
T/Sergeant George J. Kallio, Flight Engineer Instructor
Lt. Bob Holiday, 487th Bomb Group
A Navigator Remembers His Training at Ardmore
Retired and Returning to Ardmore
418th HQ and Air Base Squadron, History
Webpages Related to the Ardmore Bases
"My Father, Captain Thomas (Tom) Arthur Russ, post engineer and my Mother, First Lt. Naomi LaNelle (Nelle) Chambers, a surgical nurse with the Hospital Detachment, were both stationed at the Ardmore Army Air Field in 1943-44. They were married in the base chapel March 30, 1944. Friends of my Dad secured an old hay wagon and horses, dressed up like "backwoods" men in overalls, straw hats, no shirts or shoes and transported my Dad to the chapel. One of the men carried a shot-gun and a sign on the back of the wagon read "He's gonna marry our little Nelle now!"
He transferred to AAAFld in late 1943 after serving at Forts Crockett and Travis, (Coastal Artillery), Galveston, Texas. At Ardmore he was in charge of field maintenance and was administratively in charge of "crash" crews. My Dad mentioned that if the crash crews could not extinguish the flames quickly, the magnesium wheel hubs would ignite and create large potholes which in turn caused damage to other aircraft when landing. He was proud that the crash crews from time of crash, investigation, removal of debris and patching of the holes only took 24-hours. There were a number of crashes on site, but most were minor. The crashes were classified unless there was no way to keep them from the public due to their severity. My Mother was at the base when the Martin Marauder B-26s were there prior to the B-17s. She remarked to some friends in later years that many or part of the crews survived the B-17 crashes but few of the crews on the B-26 "Flying Coffins" survived.
Another of Dad's duties was to find allowable jobs for the German war prisoners interned at the field. He used to talk about finding work for them in the wood shop repairing window sashes, doors or furniture. They also worked in the metal shop repairing latch sets, lock sets and kitchen equipment. They also did some work around the hospital fixing the roof, replacing glass and repairing a ward after a minor fire. We still have the ice cooler that the POWs made as a wedding gift for my parents.
The field commander allowed the POW's to have small vegetable plots to augment their rations. What the commander did not know was that the POW's also sold some of their produce to the service personnel and their families around the post. One of their customers was my mother (who was pregnant with my brother at the time), which was probably why my father turned a blind eye to this. If the commander had caught on to this trade, my father would have had a real problem! My mother, the fifth nurse in the front row of the Medical Detachment picture, was discharged in December 1944 and my father was discharged in late 1946 or 1947. He was assigned to closing of the field and served as a liaison officer to American Airlines until his discharge. American Airlines were going to move to the field after it closed. He was hired by American Airlines after discharge and assigned as air field maintenance chief at Idlewilde Airport in New York. In 1951 our family moved from Queens to Dallas. Dad's degree in architecture from Texas A and M resulted in his getting into the home construction business." Stan Russ, May 24, 2001
"Thanks for the information about the Ardmore Army Air Field website. I will share it with both my parents who were stationed there during WWII for nearly two years. I am sure they will be surprised to see someone has put the information together. I will see them over Thanksgiving and see if they have pictures or stories that you might find useful. Regarding your question about my December 12, 1999 post on the 453rd website guest book (B-24), I asked for information about S/Sgt. Terwilliger who was a close friend of my father while stationed at Ardmore. Through a series of contacts, I ultimately found him alive and well living in Florida. I called him and set up a surprise phone call for my Dad just before Christmas 1999. It was quite moving. They had both assumed each other had been killed in the war. They had not had any contact since 1943. Thanks for your efforts." Brett Pharis, November 15, 2000
I lived in Mill Creek, Oklahoma (Johnston County) during my growing up years - born 1936. I vividly remember the B17s flying over during their training missions. I thought the base was named after Gene Autry - or was there another base besides that? Anyway, during this time, two B17s collided over Mill Creek (my family had just sat down to supper). The noise, as one of the two planes came down, was a mournful, whining, whistling sound. The one that crashed had lost its tail section when another plane descended upon it while in a formation. The main fuselage sort of pancaked into an area about a quarter mile north of town. All the crew perished save for the tail gunner. He fell from the severed tail section and parachuted into a pecan tree about two miles from the crash scene. He was recovered by our local RFD mail carrier as I recall. My father and other townsmen went to the crash scene immediately and began cutting the crew out, using axes and other hand tools. They recovered all the bodies, at considerable risk to themselves, as none had any appreciation whatever for what explosives or fuel may have been on board. The military "authorities" arrived from Ardmore/Gene Autry quite a while after the crash. So far as I know, the Mill Creek men never received any recognition for what they did that day. I watched all this from a distance - my Dad being concerned for my safety, if not his own. I would have been between 8 and 10 years of age at the time. Dad was a railroad man, working all his adult life for the STL&SF (Frisco) Railway. Should you learn anything about this incident, I would appreciate hearing from you." Bob Ozment, Captain, (USNRET) February 26, 2001 Note:This crash occurred February 12, 1944. The rural mail carrier who rescued the tail gunner was Joe Austin. To our amazement, Bob Ozment and the surviving tail gunner, Cpl. Joseph (Jack) W. McClanahan met by an astonishing "small-world" encounter in February 2002. Be amazed with us by visiting this link.
"Fifty-four years ago I was the sole survivor of the 11 man crew involved in a B-17 formation collision, February 12, 1944, near Mill Creek, Oklahoma. I was a tail gunner assigned to Crew 853 (four officers and six enlisted men) undergoing phase training at the 395th Combat Crew Training School, Ardmore Army Air Base, Oklahoma. The following is an account of my experiences at Ardmore and as a B-17 tail gunner flying out of England.
We actually became a crew on a troop train traveling from Salt Lake City, Utah to Ardmore. The men on the train were given numbers, mine was 853. We went from car to car calling out the number until we found the other nine with the same number. We gathered in the car where our pilots were, got acquainted, and as enlisted men were told what to expect. Not knowing our destination, we traveled four days and nights arriving at Ardmore in the middle of the night.
We quickly began our three-month intensive training phase which included air-to-air towed target and air-to-ground gunnery practice, and simulated bomb raids, some as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bombardiers used smoke bombs to record and improve their accuracy.
On February 11, 1944, the rumor was that we had only two more training flights to go before going overseas. We participated in a low level bombing demonstration during the base "open house" held that day.
We were awakened early on February 12, hurried to the chow hall, then to supply where we checked out a heavy leather flight suit, Mae West vest, and parachute. From supply, we went to the briefing room where our mission for the day was discussed. We loaded on 4x4s and were taken to the flight line where we pulled the props through, then the engines of our B-17, 42-30481, were started. We taxied to the runway and waited our turn to take-off.
Our mission for the day was to fly to Matagorda Bay, just off the coast from Corpus Christi, Texas. We fired at tow targets for several hours, then headed back to Ardmore. As I recall, there were 13 B-17s flying in close formation. One B-17 with officer instructors brought up the rear and advised the pilots as to what to do.
We had been flying at 20,000 feet this day and as we neared home, we began to descend and turn at the same time. This is a difficult maneuver for a large plane to accomplish, especially if in close formation under turbulent air conditions.
We had a crew of eleven on-board. One of our regular crew of ten was absent due to sickness but we had two extras on this flight, an oxygen instructor and a bombardier instructor. Being the tail gunner, I had a clear view of all the planes behind us.
We were flying in a very close formation with planes on both sides and in the front and rear. We had let down to approximately 15,000 feet when the aircraft (42-30752) on our upper left slid into us. The two right engines cut our plane into two pieces just behind the radio room. The front of our aircraft went straight up for a brief moment knocking off the Plexiglas nose of the other plane which pushed us under them knocking off their ball turret. The pilots of 42-30572 managed to regain control, although heavily damaged with two right engines inoperable, they flew the 15-20 miles to the Ardmore base and landed safely.
As for me, I heard the loud crashing sound over the noise of the engines, then just as quickly there was no engine noise, just the sound of the wind. I didn't realize it immediately, but I had been thrown several feet backward from the tail-gunner's seat toward the front of the aircraft. Fortunately, my chest chute had also been tossed backward and ended up beneath me. Recognizing that I was near the tail-gunner's escape hatch, I opened it slightly and saw that we were in a spin, not knowing that the front of the aircraft was gone, but realizing that we were going to crash. I opened the hatch, stuck my feet out and clipped my chest chute to the harness which I was wearing. I wiggled my way out the narrow opening, let go, fell for a while and pulled the rip cord. I thought the chute would never open. I was on my back looking up and wondering how far it was to the ground when the chute opened. It jerked me into an upright position and I realized I was still a good distance from the ground.
It was about 5:30 in the evening and I realized I was coming down on a railroad track. Looking a bit farther down the track I saw an oncoming freight train that would meet me at about the same place and time that I would reach the ground. I slipped to one side and landed in a grove of pecan trees just as the train went whistling by.
I was upside down and tangled in my shroud lines when a man, young woman and a bird dog ran up to help me get untangled and out of the tree. The dog must have thought I was a raccoon as he kept wanting to get at me.
The man and young woman took me toward Mill Creek but before we got there we came upon the crash site and a large number of people around it. Men from Mill Creek had already extracted the bodies with axes and other tools. My crew members were lined up on the ground. It was a sight I will never forget. All my crew members dead except Gail Pleasant "Dixie" Mason, the one who didn't go February 12 because he was sick. (Dixie passed away several months ago on his 78th birthday. He was a special friend and combat crew member with me in England. )
The man and young woman who had rescued me asked if I would like to go into Mill Creek and set down. They took me to Mill Creek and left me at the drug store. An elderly woman asked if I would like to go to her house and have something warm to drink. While we were there drinking hot tea, the army arrived. I ran into the street and hailed down a MP in a jeep. After convincing him as to who I was, he got permission from his superiors to take me to Ardmore Army Air Base. He drove so fast that I asked him to slow down. He laughed that I was concerned about a jeep accident but slowed down.
Arriving at the base, we went directly to the briefing room where the crews were still assembled. We came through the back door behind the podium where Colonel Donald W. Eisenhart, the base commander, was asking questions about the crash. The MP finally got Colonel Eisenhart's attention who asked what we wanted. After learning who I was, he asked if I was OK. I explained that I had hit a limb with my foot and my ankle was swelling. He picked me up, put me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, placed me in his car and drove me to the hospital. The nurse checked my ankle and said I was going to spend the night in the hospital to get some rest. I told them I wouldn't stay. After a friendly argument, the Colonel took me to my barracks.
After he left, I hobbled outside to the shower building, cleaned up, put on my dress uniform and went to Ardmore. I already had a date scheduled with my girlfriend, Jessica Barnett. She was disturbed that I was late but after deciding I wasn't telling her a big story, she was all right.
The following day, I was told to report to the orderly room where I visited with four or five officers who told me to take a week off to visit with my parents in Duncan, Oklahoma about 75 miles west of Ardmore. I asked if Dixie Mason, the other surviving crew member, could go with me and they agreed he could.
When I returned to the base, the commanding officer gave me four choices as to what I could do. I could remain on the base as a permanent party; take an honorable discharge; re-enlist as a cadet or go overseas with another crew. I asked if Dixie could be on the same crew and was told he would be.
I will always be grateful to Lieutenant Dick Buttorff who put Gail "Dixie" Mason and me on his crew after transferring two crew members. We flew a B-17 to our assignment in England by way of Grand Island, Nebraska, Grenier Field, New Hampshire, Goose Bay Labrador, and Iceland to Prestwick, Scotland.
At Prestwick, the officers and enlisted men were separated. The officers went to Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, England. The enlisted men went to "The Wash" a shallow bay area off the Northeast Coast of England where we practiced gunnery for ten days.
We were reunited with our pilot and copilot at Thurleigh and learned that our navigator, 2/Lt Olin O. Odom, Jr and 2/Lt. Bertram Krashes, our bombardier, had been shot down a few days earlier. I found out after the war that both had been captured. We were assigned another navigator and bombardier and started missions as a crew.
I flew eight missions with Buttorff and was without a crew for six weeks when crews were reduced to nine men. During this time I flew on makeup crews. I was assigned to Baxter's crew and we flew as a lead aircraft for most of the missions. I never knew the crew very well. I stayed in the barracks that my first pilot Buttorff's crew was in. It wasn't because I didn't like the Baxter crew, I just didn't get close to any of the men. Buttorff's crew and myself had become the oldest crew in the barracks because many of the others had been shot down.
I flew four "all out missions" to Berlin, Germany, 3,500 planes in the air at one time---planes as far as you could see. We bombed Peenemunde, Germany where they thought the Germans might be working on an atomic bomb. I thought the tremendous explosion from the bombing was going to reach us at 35,000 feet.
The last nine missions were alternate flights to Frankfurt, Germany four times and to Leipzig, Germany five times. Twelve of the B-17s were from our unit, the 306th Bomb Group, 1st Air Division, 8th AF. We were flying lead and from my vantage point, I saw nine of the twelve planes of our group go down. We were hit by flack between our two right engines knocking both of them out of commission. The inside engine hung down at a 15-degree angle; the outside one could not be feathered. Baxter and the copilot did a miraculous job in getting the badly damaged B-17 back to England and landing safely.
The ambulances met us and took us to the hospital. We stayed overnight although none of us had been injured. They gave us a good checkup and we were granted a seven day "flack-leave" which I spent in Scotland.
When we returned to the base, we were told after about a week that we were going home although we had not completed all of our missions. We had been through enough.
My trip home was on an old victory ship, where as one of 25, we guarded 900 German prisoners. There were 54 ships in the convoy, including the Queen Mary. We encountered a storm which made most of us sick and added some time to the 14-day trip. The prisoners, with us as guards, were shipped by freight train to St. Louis, Missouri. From there, I reported to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, received new uniforms, etc. and took a 30-day leave, October 15, 1944, to my hometown of Duncan, Oklahoma.
After a short time at Santa Ana, California, I was reassigned to Amarillo Army Air Field, Texas where I signed up for the B-29 gunnery training school at Kingman Army Air Field, Arizona. My final days in service before the war ended were spent at Las Vegas Army Air Base, Nevada in gunnery training in B-29s.
On June 12, 1945, Jessica Barnett became Jessica Barnett McClanahan in the First Methodist Church, Ardmore, Oklahoma, a marriage that has lasted 55 years." Personal account from Joseph (Jack) William McClanahan, June 26, 2002 Note: Sergeant Joseph (Jack) William McClanahan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with several Oak Leaf Clusters for his contribution to keeping America free. Jack flew a total of 32 missions on the Buttorff, Baxter and makeup crews before returning to the United States.
"In the fall of 1944, I reported for phase (crew) training at Ardmore. Several of my new crew members were survivors of a B-17 crash a few months before, which I believe was the September 24, 1944 crash. Their names were Hazlitt, Dunn, Christopher and Armstrong, and they were bombardier, radio operator, tail gunner and ball turret gunner respectively. Hazlitt was not on the ill-fatted flight. Dunn, Christopher and Armstrong had parachuted to safety. As I recall, one or two crew members were severely injured or killed, and there may have been a couple of others who parachuted also. The injured or deceased men may have been the pilots, who apparently rode the plane down to the ground. I would like to find out more about this crash, including all the names of the original crew. The survivors, now a part of my crew, took quite a while to become relaxed crew members again. One in particular did not visit the cockpit until the day we flew over Labrador, on the way to Goose Bay and the UK. All in all, the crew was a good one and we flew nine missions together before V-E Day. If you can provide me with more information on this crash, I would be very grateful. Thanks and good luck to you." Paul Keenan, August 16, 2001 Note: The Keenan Crew flew with the 398th Bomb Group,Squadron 603. Sgt.Robert Armstrong, ball turret gunner, talks about this accident in a 2007 video. This crash happened September 24, 1944. According to the newspaper report, three died in the aircraft, with six parachuting, including those later on Paul Keenan's crew. The names of the ones who parachuted were not mentioned in the newspaper account. Actually, no one died in the aircraft. On the downwind leg of the landing pattern, number one engine blew a cylinder at 2000 feet and caught fire. The crew of nine parachuted with three dying in their leap to safety. The engineer accidently dropped his chute overboard and climbed on the back of the co-pilot. When the co-pilot's chute opened, the engineer lost his grip. The navigator's chute failed to open properly as only one side was hooked to the harness. For some reason, the top turret gunner-assistant engineer was last to leave the aircraft at an altitude too low for the chute to open fully. The aircraft exploded on impact. The crew included 2nd Lt. James E. Wilsey, pilot; 2nd Lt. Joseph E. Aaron; co-pilot; Lt. Stanley Parsell navigator; Cpl. Donald L. Cooper, engineer; Pfc. Melbourne Roy Rieke, assistant engineer-gunner; Cpl. Kermit W. Dunn, radio operator; Cpl. David D. Fowler, gunner; Pfc. George B. Christopher, gunner and Pfc. Robert D. Armstrong, radio-gunner. Fast Forward Note: Email received, March 2009, from one of Paul Keenan's daughters, informed that Paul died, July 18, 2008. He had remained active in the Air Force Reserve until the 1960s. Association with the Confederate Air Force in Texas (Commemorative Air Force since 2002) kept him in touch with aircraft of the WWII period, especially the B-17 that was an integral part of his military service. He passed to his daughters, the proud heritage of his and his crew's effort to preserve our American freedoms. Thank you, Paul Keenan, for what you did for all of us!
The following remembrances are excerpts from email and letters from Raymond A. Rieke, brother of PFC Melbourne Roy "Bud" Rieke, assistant engineer and top-turret gunner, who died in a parachute attempt from B-17G (42-102410), September 24, 1944, approximately 5-miles southwest of Ardmore Army Air Field. This is the accident referred to by Paul Keenan in the above remembrance.
"Again, I express my thanks and gratitude to you and all of the other persons who have given a great amount of energy and time to memorialize all those who died while serving at Ardmore. The granite monument showing the name of my Brother Bud and all of the others that gave their lives is truly heartfelt.
Too, I want to let you know I appreciate the Website, you and any others, have created to dedicate as a Memorial to all who served at Ardmore. It has been a truly Godsend for me, and others, to be able to learn more about the crashes at Ardmore that affected our loved ones.
I have enclosed copies of several items I found in my old files. Much of the contents had faded in memory, but now come back to me, like it was yesterday. Included is a letter written July 17, 1944 from Lincoln, Nebraska when Bud was at the 2nd Air Force Reclassification Center before going to Ardmore. He wanted to be permanently stationed at Lincoln, but could not get it approved. The letter was written on Kingman Army Air Field stationery where he was stationed before Lincoln, Nebraska.
After reading the letter, it was obvious Bud was not happy about being in the Air Force. He did not like flying and wishes he had been assigned to the Army Transportation Branch. Before going into the service, Bud was manager of a trucking company in Chicago, Illinois.
A copy of the telegram I received from Colonel Upham, Commanding Officer, Ardmore Army Air Field, is included. At the time I was stationed at Dutch Harbor, Aleutian Islands. I asked for permission from my Commanding Officer to attend my brother's funeral at Burlington, Iowa, our hometown, but was denied the privilege. Earlier in 1944, I had gone to Burlington because our mother was ill. This was given as the reason for my denial.
I was very unhappy about the denial, but because I was just a 20-year-old kid (still wet behind the ears), I accepted the denial and felt I couldn't do anything about it. Actually, in September 1944, there was very little going on (enemy action wise) at Dutch Harbor so my absence would not have affected anything. But that's the way it was, so I did not pursue my request any further.
The following are comments written to me in Dutch Harbor by my older sister in a letter mailed to me October 2, 1944. "Bud's body came in to Ft. Madison, Iowa on the Santa Fe Railroad accompanied by Bud's pal, George Christopher, who had trained with Bud as a gunner since they met in Arizona. He is a PFC and a twenty-year-old, a swell kid. George had a striking resemblance to Bud. I thought everything that had happened was just a dream and Bud was sitting there himself."
"George and I walked downtown together and went into Prugh's Chapel. I had some flowers I wanted to put by the casket. This has broken George up too, because he thought a lot of Bud, says they were just like brothers."
"Just think, that this flight was to be Bud's last flight, the fatal one."
George Christopher commented to my sister as follows, "Bud got airsick every time and had asked to be transferred to the ground crew. If the accident had happened just ten minutes later, the tragedy wouldn't have occurred. Bud was the only one who went down with the plane. Why he did not bail out, no one knows, except that Bud either fainted or was so sick he couldn't help himself."
George, (who was one of six crew members to parachute successfully), said he was knocked out cold when he landed and he was not going to fly anymore either. He had asked to be transferred to the ground crew.
My sister made the following comments about the funeral held in Burlington. "The ceremony at the grave was very impressive. The American Legion lined up on both sides during the time the casket was carried and the Iowa State Guard fired three rifle shots in tribute."
"The head of the American Legion gave a very fine speech; that Bud made the supreme sacrifice in giving his life for his country. The flag was rolled up and given to Dad. Three poppies were placed on the casket and a member of the State Guard played taps."
"During the service at the grave, George Christopher, Bud's pal, changed the blue service star on the service flag to gold as Bud was the first casualty of 186 members of our church, who had gone to serve their country."
I am very interested in locating George Christopher who would be 79-years-of-age now, so he may still be living. Do you have any idea of how I could find him?
Gary, I feel sure that I have a photograph of Bud and will send you a copy when I locate it. I will be pleased to see his photo on the In Memory Of link of the website.
I hope all is going well with you. Sincerely, Ray Rieke." Personal correspondence, August 3, 2003
Note: Ray Rieke's thoughts turn to remembering Bud Rieke on Memorial Day each year. He found an Internet connection to a story about the dedication of the Remembrance Memorial on the "ardmoreite.com" website, May 25, 2003. An email to the Daily Ardmoreite managing editor expressed his appreciation for the memorial and information on the Ardmore Army Air Field website about his brother's crash. Ray and I have communicated by email and letter several times since the initial contact. Pictures of the Remembrance Memorial were sent to Ray, as was an Accident Report on Bud's aircraft.
The Accident Report stated that the aircraft blew No. 1 cylinder on No. 1 engine at an altitude of approximately 2,000-feet as it was entering the approach pattern at Ardmore. A fire resulted immediately and the crew was ordered to bailout. Christopher and others left through the escape door near their stations. The forward crew also bailed out through their escape options. Three, including Bud, died in their attempt at parachuting. The flight engineer dropped his chute overboard in his attempt to put it on; he jumped holding to the co-pilot and lost his grip when the co-pilot's chute opened, falling to his death. The co-pilot suffered a broken leg in his jump. The navigator did not secure his chute on the right side of the harness and it did not open properly. For some unknown reason, Bud jumped last at an altitude too low for his chute to open sufficiently. The plane hit nose down and exploded on impact. Christopher and others of the crew were assigned to another crew and later went overseas. The pilot who received these men as crew members saw the website and inquired about details of the crash. The crash, as would be expected, affected these men as they became members of the new crew. However, they performed well in spite of their earlier experience of losing friends.
Ray Rieke shared two letters written to him by Bud, one written July 17, 1944 and his last, written late on the night of September 23, 1944, before his death at 11:30 the next morning. In the first letter written from Lincoln, Nebraska, Bud reported that he and his wife, Jean, had an opportunity to take a 14-day leave between his finishing gunnery school at Kingman Army Air Field and reporting to Nebraska for reassignment to a Combat Crew Training School prior to overseas service. They spent nine days in Chicago, saw some ball games, danced at the Melody Mill and Aragon Ball Room and generally had a good time. The remaining time was spent in Burlington, Iowa where Bud got to see his ailing mother.
He liked his temporary assignment at Lincoln, rigging parachutes, and had asked to be assigned as permanent party but that wasn't possible. He didn't enjoy flying!
He wrote that in not too many months, they would be having their first child and that money was in short supply. When Ray was home during their mother's illness, he had borrowed $20 from Bud's wife Jean. Bud asked if Ray could possibly repay them as soon as possible since Jean couldn't work now, they might have to borrow money from him. Twenty dollars in 1944 was a lot of money to a solder that drew $42 a month.
In his last letter of late night, September 23, 1944, Bud had been at Ardmore since the 19th of August and was flying and attending ground school on a tight schedule. His crew was flying on a six or seven day schedule leaving home at 3:00 AM and getting home at 3:00 PM and changing to a 12 to 12 schedule the next week plus several days of ground school in between. He got a day off about every 10 or so days. The crew would finish their training October 22 and expected to be in combat by mid-November. He was assistant engineer and fired the top turret, hoping to be a corporal by November and a sergeant by the time they shipped overseas. He and Jean lived in Ardmore and he was riding to work daily with another soldier. He had gotten the $20 money order from Ray and was grateful to have a little extra money. Jean was feeling all right and the baby would be born around February 1. They were living with a family in Ardmore; had their own bedroom and shared the kitchen and bath for $10 a week. He wrote that the family treated them like their own children. In his closing sentences, he stated it was late and he had to get up at 3:00 AM and be at the base by 4:00 AM. Bud died at approximately 11:30 AM the next day. The letter was never mailed. Jean gave it to Ray when he returned to the States following his assignment in the Aleutians. Bud and Ray had not seen each other in over two years.
After receiving the Accident Report, Ray wrote "After reading the Narrative Description of the Accident and statements of various crew members, I felt I was right there in the aircraft with Bud as the scene unfolded." Hopefully, after 59-years of limited information about Bud's death, Ray and other surviving members of Bud's family will have an additional measure of closure. Thank you, Ray, for sharing this part of your family's loss with us.
Note: If you have knowledge of where contact can be made with George B. Christopher (35627887), Kermit W. Dunn (35225108), Robert D. Armstrong (36466927), David D. Fowler (14183340) or other survivors of the crew, please email me as time is passing quickly.
The crash of the C-119 Flying Boxcar at Annapolis, Maryland, March 19, 1954, would have taken seven lives from the Ardmore Air Force Base except for the fact that one of the men who could have been aboard did not go. He let his Lord's Day responsibilities at First Baptist Church in Ardmore take priority over the trip. A/2c Carroll Hendershott, airframe repair specialist, 773rd TCS, was a close friend of the navigator and was invited to travel with the crew to Mitchel AFB, Long Island, New York by way of Maxwell AFB, Alabama and Bolling AFB, Washington, District of Columbia. Passengers were to be picked up at Maxwell and transported to Bolling AFB and Mitchel AFB. The navigator, Lt. Richard L. Roloff, 774th TCS, wanted Carroll to meet his parents who lived in Iselin, New Jersey during their weekend lay-over at Mitchel. Carroll realized that the choice he made for the weekend saved his life.
Another close touch with death happened later when Carroll, the crew and military passengers on the C-124 were on their way to Evreux, France in November 1954 for six-months temporary duty. After leaving Newfoundland, about 700 miles into the Azores leg of the trip, the fully loaded aircraft lost three engines due to carburetor ice. The design of the C-124, which loads from the front, made it impossible to jetson cargo to help maintain altitude. The C-124 descended to less than 1,000 feet from the ocean and they were prepared to "ditch" when two engines were restarted. By this time, a Search and Rescue aircraft had arrived and accompanied them back to Newfoundland. The third engine could not be started and was repaired during the overnight stay. Note: Carroll married an Ardmore girl and settled in Ardmore after his discharge. He is still active in the First Baptist Church. The dedication to his obligations in 1954 was apparently the factor that preserved his life to continue that dedication 49 years later. Fast Forward Note: Carroll and his son, Randy, were present at the Memorial Day dedication, May 26, 2003, probably thankful that his name was not on the granite monument.
Waist gunner, Dick Wiley, one of two surviving crewmembers aboard that day, remembers this mid-air contact 68-years later and another scary emergency landing on two engines. One aircraft’s vertical tail fin struck the open bomb bay door of the plane it came up under. The hit aircraft pulled up suddenly to avoid a wipeout.
“A full crew of 10 was aboard on the bomb training run over Range 5 near Pontotoc, Oklahoma. I did not see the plane come up at us. I just remember we went straight up in the air, not knowing what was happening. It was so fast! The pilot rang the emergency bell and I was at the waist door ready to jump. The waist, tail, ball turret gunner and radio operator were lined up behind me. I still had on the radio headset when the pilot yelled, ‘Don’t anybody jump, we have everything under control.’
After the incident, we were called to return to the field and land. When we came to the parking apron, my and the other waist gunner’s job was to get out of the ship and walk under each wing so the pilot could determine how close he was to the next parked ship.
The ship that hit us was supposed to have wing walkers also but did not stop to let them out to help park. When both crews lined up in front of their planes, a Colonel, maybe the base commander, chewed out the instructor pilot for that offence before he had a chance to say anything. He sure did jump on him! I felt sorry for the pilot for the “balling-out” he got. I still remember that vividly!
It was a very close call! We were very lucky that our pilot, Lt. Evan Williams, and co-pilot, Lt. Storrs Clough, saw it in time.
Another close call came on our return to Ardmore after spending the afternoon at high altitude over the Gulf of Mexico firing .50 calibers at towed targets. Late in the afternoon we headed back to Ardmore. It was around Christmas time in 1944 and getting dark. We were a little south of Dallas when all of a sudden, two engines shut down. We headed for Love Field, the nearest place for an emergency landing.
We came up Main Street, just above the stores, and all the Christmas lights were on. When we reached Love Field, all of their fire engines were near the runway to greet us. We landed safely and they put us up overnight while they tried to find the problem with our ship’s engines. They couldn’t find any so we took off in the morning, a little nervous because there had been a problem!
As an extra safety feature, we climbed to a higher altitude than normal for the short distance between Dallas and Ardmore. The engines were running fine until we were about 50-miles south of Ardmore; the two engines began cutting out again. Our flight engineer, Cpl. Al Niksa, began switching fuel between the two problem engines that kept going on and off. We called Ardmore to declare an emergency landing!
We landed on two engines with Ardmore fire equipment and an ambulance waiting on the line in the event of a crash landing. Another check for problems was performed by maintenance who did not find a specific mechanical problem. They concluded that since the aircraft was one of the newer ones on base, the problem was probably caused by a gasoline vapor lock similar to what happened to automobiles under certain conditions. Regardless, it was a scary situation! Personal account, Cpl. Richard (Dick) Wiley, waist gunner, Crew 247, Dec. 2, 2013.
"I read with interest your web site. I had heard bits and pieces of history about Ardmore through the years, but never knew it had such a rich military history. I am currently in the 185th AS here at Will Rogers. I am a Flight Engineer on the C-130H. Our main mission during war time is to insert cargo and troops into the war zone, and we do this by air to land, or airdrops. Every other week we do airdrops into Ardmore. These mostly consist of training bundles filled with sand, with a parachute attached to simulate either cargo or personnel. At least once a month we drop what we call actuals, which are 3,000 pound pallets. Leading up to these drops, we fly 45-minute routes to simulate us flying into a combat zone, avoiding threats along the way before making the drop. All are done in either a two or three ship formation. All of us fulltime flyers take turns working the drop zone ground crew in the middle of the field. This consists of taking wind readings on the surface and aloft, and passing this info onto the crews flying. We also mark off, and score all of the drops. The next time I fly over or work on the Drop Zone crew, I will certainly think about all of the Airmen who have trained there and given their lives in defense of our great nation." Brent Crozier, MSG, 185th Current OPS. June 28, 2001 Fast Forward Note: The noticeable absence of the C-130Hs, usually seen flying in the Ardmore area on a regular biweekly basis, was due to their assignment to assist in the Iraq Freedom war.
"The Lieutenant involved in the B-26 crash near Norman, Oklahoma was later flying missions over Europe according to the book I have on the 394th Bomb Group that flew B-26's in France. I honestly don't know about gliders at the base. I have the impression that they did not have gliders there. My wife, who worked out there, can't remember. She and a fellow 1941 Ardmore High School graduate were hired by the Russ Mitchell Construction Co. at their Gilbert Building office in Ardmore. When the head honcho arrived from Houston, he selected her to be his secretary and sent her and the friend out to his base office in an old farmhouse on the air base property. There is a pretty good chance they were the first female employee's on the air base. Occasionally, she and another friend would borrow the timekeeper's horses and ride to a small restaurant in the town of Gene Autry for lunch. She was introduced to Gene Autry when he visited the base in 1942. At that time, she was working for Major Ralph Bruneau in the personnel section at base headquarters. Shortly thereafter, she resigned from the base and joined the Federal Savings and Loan office in Ardmore where she worked until she agreed to marry me and resigned in the fall of that year.
I washed out of the air force cadet program on my 33rd-hour check; the main reason was that I was a lousy pilot, too mechanical. I had soloed at 11-hours, but didn't progress fast enough in war time. It probably saved my life, but at the time it was a major disappointment as you might imagine. Instead, I was sent to radio school and ended up on Tinian monitoring the radio equipment of the B-29's on the flight line. One of the hardstands on which we parked our planes was borrowed by the 509th Group and they dug the loading pit on it for the Enola Gay, which as everyone knows, dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. So you can see, I had a most interesting time in the military." William O'Heran, September 24, 2000 Note: Mr. O'Heran was one of the early responders to supply information about a B-26 crash near Norman, Oklahoma. He has been an email encourager during the search for information and, as a history buff, has supplied details not otherwise available. He came to Ardmore in 1949 and worked with a major oil company as a geologist through 1958. His wife's father established Sprekelmeyer Printing in Ardmore in 1923. They printed "Carrier Wings," the base weekly, during 1953-58. Fast Forward Note: Deepest sympathy to Bill O'Heran and family in the April 2, 2002 death of his wife, Jean. Fast Forward Two: Bill had a birthday July 7, 2003. His children and grandchildren proclaim their love and appreciation for him on this Internet webpage.
"GARY....I AM SORRY THAT I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ASSIST YOU WITH YOUR WORTHY RESEARCH. I WAS STATIONED AT ARDMORE AFB IN 1954 AND ONLY FOR 5-6 MONTHS WHEN AN OVERSEAS ASSIGNMENT CAUGHT UP WITH ME AND I WAS TRANSFERRED TO GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR. I WORKED IN BASE OPERATIONS AND THE FIRST TIME I EVER HEARD OF PERRIN AFB WAS WHEN AN F-86 FROM PERRIN MADE AN EMERGENCY LANDING AT ARDMORE. OUR FAA COMMUNICATIONS FOR BOTH PERRIN AND ARDMORE WERE ON THE SAME LINE....WE COULD TALK DIRECTLY TO EACH OTHER. I REALLY WASN'T STATIONED THERE LONG ENOUGH TO HAVE MADE ANY MEMORABLE FRIENDS THAT I COULD REFER YOU TO CONTACT....KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND LOTS OF LUCK. I CAME BACK FROM GOOSE BAY AND WAS ASSIGNED TO PERRIN AFB, SHERMAN, TX WHERE I WORKED BASE OPERATIONS. I STAYED AT PERRIN FOR 10 YEARS. TED NURRE" July 26, 2000 Note: Mr. Nurre was an early responder as I searched for information about AAAFld/AAFB. He had seen my post on the Perrin AFB Guestbook.
"My grandfather's crew trained at Ardmore at the end of 1943. They went on to fly with the 381st Bombardment Group, 534th Bomber Squadron, out of Ridgewell, England. The crew was shot down on April 19, 1944, 7 KIA, 2 POW." Scott Burris, January 13, 2001 Note: Scott and Doug Smith through a labor of love, have a webpage, Project 44, which covers the life and death of their grandfather, 2nd Lt. Charles Edward Brumback, navigator, on the April 19, 1944 flight.
This story, Honored for the Ultimate Sacrifice, appeared in the Daily Ardmoreite, May 27, 2003, following the dedication of the Remembrance Memorial monument, May 26, 2003, at the Ardmore Industrial Air Park. Leah J. Simmons, Lifestyles Editor, authored the article. Steve Behien, long-time staff reporter and photographer, provided an accompanying photo, not included.
”It is the close of a long journey for Wilson, one that started when he was 15 months old. There are still more miles to be traveled, but for this leg of the trip, he has long-awaited closure.
Wilson and his wife, Betty, stood among the dozens of spectators Monday morning at the Ardmore Industrial Air Park as they listened to Memorial Day speakers talk of duty and sacrifice and remembrance. And they listened intently until they heard the one thing that brought them here -- the name of Sgt. James R. Wilson, 25, Hattiesburg, Miss. -- Wilson's father, who died on Dec. 15, 1943, when his B-17 crashed at 6 that morning after taking off from the Ardmore Army Air Base, killing 11 others aboard.
Chiseled a few lines above James Wilson's name on a monument dedicated to servicemen and women who died in training accidents while serving at the Ardmore Army Air Base and Air Force Base was another name especially significant to two other long-distance visitors -- Flight Officer/Lt. Emil M. Horkavi, 30, of Gary, Ind.
In the front row of the Memorial Day crowd, seated next to Gold Star Mother Carmeleta Addington, was Genevieve Hogan, who came to Ardmore from Independence, Mo., with her son, Jim, seated a few rows behind her. In the crisp, cool breeze, with sun peeking through clouds above, the Hogans thought of their brother and uncle who was one of the first two men killed in flight fatalities at the Ardmore base.
Following services Monday for those who died in training here, the Hogans and the Wilsons were surrounded by well-wishers and media personnel who wanted to offer some comfort or offer to tell their stories.
The day before, on a quiet Sunday, Jim Hogan and his mother visited the same spot at the air park, alone this time, with only the thoughts of their own journey and its conclusion.
Mrs. Hogan was 15 years old when her brother, Emil, died in Ardmore. “All I knew was he was killed in training," Mrs. Hogan said. "And we knew it was on March 14, 1943, but that was about it. We've done a lot of research since finding out more, and we got autopsy reports."
Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Oklahoma National Guard adjutant general, speaks Monday to a Memorial Day audience at the Ardmore Industrial Air Park. Jim said the bulk of the family's information came in an unusual way. His sister conducted an Internet search one day on the name Horkavi and stumbled upon a Web site created by Ardmore resident Gary Simmons. Among pages of history on Ardmore's air bases, she found her uncle's name. She immediately e-mailed her brother, who called Simmons. "He told us more about the crash than we had ever known," Jim said. "I came out here in February 2002 and met Gary and he took me out to the crash site and brought me to the memorial that was out here dedicated to another crash. It was interesting to finally see and hear about what happened and fill in the gaps."
According to Simmons' information, Horkavi was giving Flight Officer/Lt. Frank M. Dimond, 29, a check ride to reinstate him to flying status. The Aeronca L3-C light training plane they were in crashed in a field off what is now Mount Washington Road.
"He was drafted and was in the infantry," Mrs. Hogan remembered about her brother's military service. "He had his pilot's license before he was in and they found out he was a pilot and put him into the Air Force. Back then, you couldn't get any information about the crashes.” she said. "When the privacy act was lifted, I sent for information on my brother and I got the autopsy report just a couple of months ago."
Now that the Hogans have seen the place where Emil died and the monument dedicated to those like him, they will continue their historical journey to preserve what they have learned for others. "My mom and I will probably consolidate our information and pass it out to other family members," Jim said.
"I'll put it in an album and pass it around to family," Mrs. Hogan said. "I have a 94-year-old sister that's older than Emil and she'll want to see it. There are four sisters and two brothers still living. This will mean something to them."
Seated across a wrought-iron table with his wife, Bob Wilson listened to the Hogans tell their story and thought of his own -- very different, yet similar in so many ways. Wilson lost his father, before he ever got the chance to know him. And all his memories, recollections, stories and history are all from someone else, but they belong to him, too.
Coming to Ardmore to visit the memorial and the place where his father's plane crashed helped Wilson fit together pieces of the story of how his father died. And a manila folder filled with copies of documents and papers about his father contained a rather unexpected link to a new acquaintance.
Simmons introduced Wilson to Joyce Key, who told him she was 15 years old when his father's plane crashed near the house where she lived at the time.
"We lived a short way from the crash," Key told him. "I think my dad was the first one to get to that crash."
. Wilson opened his folder and took out a copy of a witness statement written by W.R. Gable back in 1943 after the crash. "Yes, that's his writing," Key said as she read her father's account for the first time.
Wilson told her that the plane his father was in lost an engine in the early-morning takeoff and crashed, killing 12 crew members. "These records are very detailed," he said. "It shows the pilot had 552 hours in the air and they assigned fault for percentages. They charged (the pilot) with 25 percent fault of the accident. For years, you knew nothing and just now, this kind of information is becoming available."
Key told Wilson her family lived about 1 1/2 miles from the crash site. While her father rushed to the accident, "I was too afraid to go," she said. "It was so close to our house it woke us up. I can hear the crash right now."
Monday afternoon, Wilson and his wife had more sightseeing -- historically speaking -- to do before returning home to North Carolina. He reflected about his trip to Ardmore, where a 15-month-old boy lost his father, but later found a little peace to ease the pain.”
"We'll go down and photograph the crash site and see some of the other places we've talked about," Wilson said. "I think it just closes a circle, for me, anyway. That's what's important." Fast Forward Note: Bob Wilson and wife, Betty, flew from North Carolina to be at the Memorial Dedication. Bob was editorial editor for the Durham, Herald-Sun at the time. After the dedication we visited the crash site about a mile south of the Remembrance Memorial Park. We asked permission to go to the site from the rancher and wife that presently utilized the property. They were gathering cattle and not aware that a plane had crashed there in 1943, many years prior to their births. The exact site of impact was difficult to define as no physical evidence of aircraft material remained in the bottom land area that floods on occasion. A local resident, who as a youth visited the site a few days after the crash, had taken Simmons to the area several days prior to the memorial dedication. He, in his 70s, still lived within a half mile of the crash site. Pictures and GPS readings were taken in the site area. Bob hoped to be able to visit at a future date anticipating that metal fragments of the aircraft or remains of detonating ammunition might be found.
"While attending Ardmore High School in 1943-44, I worked at Levine's Men's Store located on west Main Street. Levine carried military clothing and accessories. The store, on weekends, was packed shoulder to shoulder, as was Main Street, with GI's from Ardmore Army Air Field, Camp Howze, Gainesville, Texas, Perrin Field, Sherman, Texas, as well as Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, Texas. In June 1944, I graduated from Ardmore High School and joined the U.S. Navy Air Corps. After Boot Camp in Jacksonville, Florida, I was sent to Aviation Radio School in Memphis, Tennessee. From there, I was assigned to the Purcell Naval Aerial Gunnery School in Lexington. Oklahoma. While there, I found that I was eligible to receive flight pay if I could find somewhere to fly from. I went to the Ardmore Army Air Field and they allowed me to fly on a B-17 training mission. It was quite an adventure. From that experience, I knew that I never wanted to be a tail gunner since a trip to the tail suggested that the tail was about to fall off. I may be one of very few Navy men that ever flew out of the Ardmore base on a B-17 combat crew training mission.
When I trained at Purcell, they had firing ranges with 30 and 50-caliber machine guns, rail mounted turrets with shot guns and used visual training aids. I was scheduled to ship out and an instructor from Ardmore, named Pruitt, asked if I would stay as an instructor. I had scored well since I had learned to handle a gun at an early age and knew to lead a target and what trajectory was. My classmates, mostly Northeners, had never touched a gun.
My class went on to pre-operations and ended up in the Pacific. I stayed at Purcell for another two months as instructor. By the time I made it to operations, my crew was assigned to Air/Sea rescue, so once again I missed overseas duty. I flew as a radio operator in a Lockheed PV-1 Ventura, referred to as a "flying gas tank," due to its 950-mile range capability. VJ Day occurred sometime later ending my military experience." M. K. "Bud" Patterson, personal correspondence, August 8, 2005 Fast Forward Note: The 2,400 acre Purcell Naval Aerial Gunnery School, activated in 1942, was located east of Lexington, Oklahoma but carried the name of a larger town, Purcell, located 15 miles southwest of Lexington. There were no aircraft to train in, turrets with 30 and 50-caliber guns were mounted on flatbed trucks and the men learned to hit moving targets (clay pigeons) by using shotguns equipped with machine gun ring-sights. It appears that training methods progressed as the school developed according to reports from men who where there at different times. When World War II ended, the Gunnery school was closed and the land was deeded to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health. For several years, the Griffin Memorial Hospital, which housed several hundred mental patients, was located on the property. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, was opened there in 1977. The last original building remaining from the Gunnery school is the Bachelor Officer Quarters. After scheduled renovation, it will house a museum and DOC offices.
There may have been several military personnel who were able to qualify for monthly flight pay at Ardmore by spending time at the controls of a B-17. Though stationed elsewhere and a B-24 pilot, Ardmore native, Lt. Ted Spurgeon, relates his opportunity to do so in 1944.
" Pilots had to have four hours flight time each month to receive their flying pay. I was on leave from phase training prior to going overseas and did not have my required time for that month. I went to the Ardmore Army Air Base and told them of my troubles. Since one of the co-pilots was on sick call, I was assigned to fly as co-pilot in his place. We flew for 5 hours on a gunner training and bombing training mission. I found that the co-pilot had a lot less to do in a B-17 than on a B-24 that I was used to. I did get to fly half the mission from the co-pilots side." personal correspondence, April 8, 2006 Fast Forward Note: Spurgeon learned to fly before entering the Army Air Forces. While in Ardmore High School, he worked part time at the Wilson Newman tin shop earning seven dollars a week. Six of the seven dollars was passed on each week to John or Veda Heasty, flight instructors and operators of Ardmore Airport that was located at that time near Springer, Oklahoma, eight miles north of Ardmore. Following graduation from Ardmore High School, Spurgeon enlisted in the Army Air Forces, October 28, 1942, as a potential air cadet. He trained at San Antonio, San Marques, San Angelo, Coleman and Lubbock, Texas in primary, basic and advanced training aircraft, Aeronca L3s, Fairchild PT-19s and Vultee BT-13s. He qualified as a multi-engine pilot in Cessna AT-17s, Curtiss AT-9s and underwent combat crew phase training in Consolidated B-24s. He went overseas, January 8, 1943, and was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group (Heavy), 701st Squadron, 8th Air Force, Tivitshall, England.
Spurgeon flew his first mission as co-pilot to gain combat experience. Bomb runs were made to Leipzig, Magdeburg, Berlin, Berlin and Fulda. On his sixth bombing mission to Leipzig, Germany for the second time, about a minute after coming off target, his B-24 lost a wing due to an anti-aircraft hit to a wing spar. The plane fell immediately into a tight spin. Centrifugal force made escape impossible until the plane broke apart at the waist, stopping the spin. Spurgeon, the co-pilot and nose gunner had been issued seat pack parachutes the day before and had them on prior to the wing loss. Others of the crew of ten had chest pack chutes which they kept nearby to strap on in case of an emergency. These never made it out of the doomed aircraft. Spurgeon was last of the three to exit and landed in a rural area outside Leipzig.
He hurriedly hid his parachute in a nearby haystack. Almost immediately, he was spotted and chased by angry Germans. Outrunning them for a distance, he was cut off by a small, compact car and realized he couldn't evade them any longer. When the pursuing Germans caught up, he was struck on the head with a pistol and knocked to the ground. Loaded into another car that arrived, he was taken into Leipzig where he was shown the damage done to their city. On the way to Leipzig, a young German soldier in the car was wanting to light his pipe and no one had a match. Ted handed him his cigarette lighter and when the soldier handed it back, Ted motioned for him to keep it. Arriving in Leipzig, angry citizens who were just coming out of hiding places, proceeded to kick and strike him. They placed him against a tree and called for a firing squad while continuing to abuse him. The young pipe smoker interceded, striking several with his rifle butte, put Ted back into the auto. The gift of the cigarette lighter probably saved his life.
Spurgeon was taken to a military base where he spent the night. The next day, two older German soldiers took him to Duglag Luft near Frankfurt-on-Main. Before boarding the train, he escaped his guards but returned to them when he discovered all the station exits were heavily guarded. He was at Duglag Luft for a short time, then with 30 others collected there, was shipped by locked boxcar three days without food, water, heat or facilities to Nurnburg. After about two months there during the cold German winter, they walked for 14 days to a new camp at Moosburg near Munich, sleeping in fields, barns and churches along the way. Rations on the march and at Moosburg consisted of a cup of thin soup and a slice of bread per day. Dysentery was a major health problem. Red Cross food packages containing Spam, M&Ms, powered milk, crackers and coffee were received a couple of times a month. These ten pound packets were shared by two people.
Spurgeon was kept with other officers including Americans, British and Serbs and participated in digging an escape tunnel. Before the tunnel was completed, General George Patton arrived one "fine morning" with his pearl-handled 45 and tanks. After a speech thanking them "for their service", he presented them with a loaf of bread and departed.
Ted and others were transported to an air field at Landshut, then to Camp Lucky Strike, Cherbourg, France, a large "tent-city" staging area for all released POWs. Cherbourg had been decimated by US bombers prior to D-Day. Initially, the prisoners were sparingly fed soup, potatoes and a piece of chicken five times a day to avoid health problems from overeating. While there Ted visited with a "one-of-a-kind" released POW who had been an aviation cadet at Victoria, Texas. Out over the Gulf of Mexico on a gunnery training flight, the cadet saw a surfaced submarine. Thinking he would have a little fun and buzz the sub, he was the recipient of the big surprise. The submarine was a German vessel whose crew got some gunnery practice and had the last laugh. They shot him down and took him prisoner.
After returning to the US, Spurgeon learned that the nose gunner and co-pilot that bailed out before him were also taken prisoner.
Back in the States, Ted was assigned to retrain in B-29s for possible assignment to the Pacific Theater. On his way to Florida for rest and relaxation, the good news came that the war was over.
On September 18, 2006, Ted became the 11th Hall of Honor inductee selected for this honor by trustees of the Military Memorial Museum, Ardmore. A large assembly of friends, veterans and family were present at the Ardmore Convention Center to show their appreciation for Ted's contribution to preserve our freedom.
"When I was in the 9th grade, I had a paper route delivering the "Daily Oklahoman" to Ardmore residents. The man I worked for delivered the paper to the Ardmore Army Air Field's several newspaper "stands" or "racks" at various locations on the base. He asked if I wanted to go with him one morning and I accepted his invitation. It was my first opportunity to visit the base. If my memory serves me correctly, it was in the fall of the year. We left Ardmore before sunrise and arrived at the west main gate before the sun was above the horizon. The west entrance was located on what was probably the highest elevation of the base. From there the road dropped gradually to the east, leveling out a few hundred feet from the flight line. From there to the Washita River that defined the east boundary of the base, the land was level as you would expect where aircraft took off and landed.
We were cleared by the guard to proceed and to my amazement, all that was visible in the low areas was a thick blanket of smoke that covered all but the uppermost levels of the large hangers and the tall control tower on the flight line. The barracks were all single story units. Most of them were covered as if they weren't there except for the several large standpipes attached to a few buildings. Truly a strange sight that I remember these many years later.
We had no problem in seeing where we were going as we drove into the low area, except there was a haze like you encounter in a thick fog. We put the papers in the rack inside a building of some sort and in stands elsewhere on the base. I don't remember if the papers were for sale individually or he just supplied a certain number each day on a prepaid arrangement with base authorities.
I also did caddying at the Dornick Hills Country Club north of Ardmore and had the opportunity to associate with several of the officers and enlisted men from the base. The Club was leased to the Army Air Field Officers and they had an enlisted man that lived there instead of on base. I got to know him fairly well. Families of the officers and their guests used the golf course and enjoyed the swimming pool so I got to know some of them also. Unfortunately, the main club building burned one night, taking the life of a 19-year-old civilian employee, Bobby Lively. The corporal jumped from the burning building breaking his leg and I never saw him again. Fast Forward Note: Due to suspicious circumstances, the corporal was charged with murder by the civilian District Attorney. He was tried by a military court at the base and was acquitted of the charge.
I also remember B-17s flying over at high altitude and you could hear an occasional burst of a machine gun. Probably frowned on by the military but a temptation for the gunner. I don't know if there were discipline procedures applied when this happened or not. As a kid, fascinated by the military aircraft and young crewmen, I suppose in today's young people's vocabulary, I would have considered it "COOL!" Personal account from Dan Newsom. March 2005 Note: Mr. Newsom saw an atmospheric condition that might have occurred several times during the base occupancy. It was the result of the base using coal for all occasions where heat for warmth or fires for other needs were necessary. Two large coal yards were located along the railroad on the south portion of the base. The 1953-59 Air Force Base had access to natural gas. Fast Forward Note: Dan Newson, our friend, departed this earth after a short illness, July 17, 2008. Our sincere condolences to his wife, Betty, and children. I appreciate the sharing of his early remembrances of the base and its personnel as a newspaper carrier and caddy at Dornick Hills Country Club and Golf Course.
A contingency of 60 airmen from Memphis were early arrivers in June, 1953, numbering near 250 by early July prior to official activation, September 1, 1953. An earlier “Guest Book” contact by one of these airmen stated: “I was one of the first to arrive from Memphis to activate the base. There were weeds growing in the runways, no landing lights, control tower abandoned. I was the Base Operations dispatcher. I did "follow-me jeep" duties with my '52 Chevy. Thanks for the memories.” Don Hill Seymour, IN
Lt. Colonel Joseph L. Stotler was the assigned liaison officer and acting commander during this time.
One early arriver, S/Sgt. Roy Locke, brushes away the cobwebs of 60 years and remembers some events related to Ardmore Air Force Base.
“I have several fond memories of my time there. When we first arrived the dining halls were just beginning to open so a group of us would go to Gene Autry to eat lunch. Needless to say the locals were not geared for the influx of customers and I recall some of the ladies bringing in extra pies and cakes through the back door of this tiny café. I did a lot of fishing at Lake Murray, washed my 1947 Ford at Turner Falls, and did not hang out on Caddo St. but did go to the Alibi road house on the south side of town. I lived in the barracks when I first arrived and the second story floors were warped out of shape. I was told the rains came before the roofing contractor completed his work. Later I moved my family out there, rented a one room apt since as an E-5 and $250.00 month pay that was the best I could do. I was transferred to Germany in the fall of 1954 and have not been to Ardmore since. I am sure I have other stories just need to try a total recall. After all Gary I am 82 years old. I currently live in Columbus, MS. Regards, Roy Locke” Personal communication, Jan. 18, 2014
The first ten soldiers assigned to the WWII base before quarters were available lived with three Ardmore individuals who opened their homes to them.
“Recall is slowly coming in. For a while I was the supply Sgt. for the 463rd Food Service Squadron and since we were required to keep field equipment available for deployment, storage space was limited. Our storage building consisted of a WWII cement foundation, once a latrine with drains lightly capped with a small amount of cement. A four foot high wooden frame on the foundation had a twelve man squad tent stretched over it. I think it was one of the hottest days of the summer and my co-worker was doing some work in the building. He kept coming in my office complaining about the odor. I suspected some of the cement caps had been torn loose but after sniffing inside the tent flap, I determined it was skunk odor. It turned out to be a mother skunk with some small ones. I asked him if he knew how to get rid of them and he said ‘No problem.’ I am sure the method he used would not set well with the animal cruelty people. More later.”
The following remembrances shared by Roy were previously published in the Lamar Democrat, Vernon, AL (The Oklahoma Jinks) and The Oxford SO and SO, a small book of 25 stories published quarterly in Oxford, MS, A Long Way Home (By Thumb).
The Oklahoma Jinks “Sometime in the spring of 1953 the Air force requested my presence at Ardmore AFB, Oklahoma along with a few others. We were in the process of transferring the 463rd Troop Carrier Wing from Memphis Municipal Airport to Ardmore. I was with an advanced party approximately 60 personnel. The Wing has recently acquired C-119 flying boxcars or as some referred to as flying coffins. Ardmore AFB was activated sometime during WWII but had been closed for some time. Many old buildings still existed but new ones were under construction. I resided in the barracks until the move was completed so then I could move the family there. I had recently purchased a 1947 Ford two door from a used dealer on Lamar Ave. in Memphis. The Blue Mountain, MS banker told me I could drive that car so long as I sent him $43.00 a month for 18 months. The car needed four new tires but I could not afford them. In 1953 an E-5’s pay was not much. I consulted with my older brother as to where was the best place and lowest price for new tires. Without hesitation he told me of a place on East Popular in Memphis that sold tires for $10.00 each just like new. They were installed on new cars at the factory, driven to the auto dealers and refitted with a better grade. I purchased two and had them put on the rear wheels. I left the car with my wife and caught a flight back to Ardmore.
Sometime in the early fall I came back to get my family. I left Blue Mountain, MS with a pregnant wife and a two year old daughter, just enough gas money for the trip and everything I owned either on the back seat or in the trunk. The rear end was so low it looked like I was running moon shine out of Cold Water Bottom, MS.
I was cruising along sometime after dark just east of DeQueen, Arkansas, chain smoking Chesterfields trying to stay awake and “BAM” the left rear tire blew. I suspected I had hit something in the road. Unload the trunk; get the spare on with my trusted bumper jack. Those things should have been banned with the Thompson Sub Machine Gun, they were almost as lethal.
Back on the road again until a few miles east of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. And “BAM”, the other rear tire blew. It was just after daylight and very cold. As I pondered my next move a sweet older lady called down to my wife and said, “You and that baby get up here before you freeze to death. My husband is on his way down to see if he can help.” Never knew what an angel looked like but this had to be one. He took me in to town to buy a used tire and tube, got it mounted and on the road again.
The baby was due in late December so my wife felt she needed to be home near her mother so in early December we are on the road back to Blue Mountain. Some 20 miles west of hot Springs, Arkansas, I told my wife to get her purse because we needed gas. She checked the back seat and no purse. She had recently cashed her $91.50 allotment and that was our going home money. My payday was used for rent, utilities, food and I was broke. I had less than fifty cents in my pocket. I was terrified. No bank account, no credit cards, did not know anyone for hundreds of miles. I had heard you could wire money through Western Union but knew nothing about it.
My gas gauge was showing empty. I stopped at a small store and asked for a pay phone. The man stepped outside, pointed and said, “Right there.” I didn’t see it and he finally explained it was inside the old house. I knocked on the door and this lady yelled, “Its open!” I told her I wanted to make a collect call to Ardmore. She said, “That will cost you a dime.” I paid her and gave her my landlord’s number. She plugged in a few jacks and said, “When that phone on the wall rings, you pick it up.” I told him, “Get all the money out of my wife’s purse and wire it to Hot Springs.” I felt I had enough gas to make it. I still didn’t know if I was going to pull this off. What if Western Union in Ardmore is closed, what if I can’t make it to Hot Springs. I had a huge knot in my stomach, there were too many “what ifs”.
When I reached the city limits I asked someone where Western Union was. He said, “You are on the right street, about six blocks.” When I saw the sign all I could think of was this going to work; it was my only option. I went inside and asked the lady if she had anything for me. The teletype was running. She checked and said, “It was coming in right now.” What a load off my shoulders. She handed it to me; I signed for it and asked her if she would please cash it. She firmly stated they didn’t do that but there was a liquor store on the corner that would.
I came down those steps smiling waved the check at my wife and felt 10 foot tall. I had pulled this off. I knew a higher power was watching over me. I waltzed in the liquor store flipped my check on the counter and said, “Would you cash this for me?” He said, “Yes, be glad to but you will have to buy something.” Now this was the last thing I needed but I was beyond desperation. So I bought a bottle of some kind of rot gut and walked back to the car. My wife saw me with that bottle of liquor and all h--- broke loose. She firmly stated our predicament and I was out buying booze. I suggested she not utter another word between there and Memphis. I recall something about getting a hamburger near Little Rock. My son Roger was born on New Year’s Eve at Ripley, MS. He and I are both retired from the Air Force. Fast Forward Note: When Roy telephoned his landlord to unlock their house (behind the landlord’s) and send the money in the purse by Western Union, the landlord did not have a key. Roy told him, “Break in and I will pay for the damage!”
Roy remembers going home in 1953 in his story, A Long Way Home (By Thumb). “As a youngster, bumming rides or hitch hiking, as it was called, was my primary mode of transportation. Usually from my home in Victoria, MS to Byhalia, Holly Springs, Olive Branch or Memphis, TN. It was safe, fairly easy and all I could afford. The last time I had to travel like this was in the winter of 1953.
I was stationed at Ardmore, OK. My wife was pregnant with our second child. She wanted to return home to Blue Mountain, MS and have the baby in the Ripley Hospital. The bank of Blue Mountain and I had recently become partners in a new 1954 BelAir Chevrolet purchased from Chip Barwick dealership in Memphis, TN. This set of wheels was blue and white with large hub caps, fender skirts, hot water six, stick shift and a pretty nice ride for $1,900. In those days the radio and heater were considered extras so I had an Arvin heater and manually operated Philco radio installed. I had surely reached my limit with a $63 monthly car payment for 24 months so a push button radio or a deluxe heater was out of the question.
In early December, my wife drove home by herself and I was to follow near the end of the month. At the time I was an E-5 (Staff Sergeant) and it took a month’s pay just to cover the basics such as rent, utilities and food. No phone, could not afford that $6.00 a month. As a result, this left me without any traveling money but I had seen hard times before so this did not concern me too much. I had my pay record with me and I knew I could get a partial pay at the AF depot in Memphis. So on the 30th of December I started my journey.
I had a friend drive me out to Highway 70 at approximately 3 PM. It was cloudy and a little snow falling. I was in uniform, overcoat and all, but it was still cold. I started getting rides, sometimes a few miles and some for quite a distance. One I recall in particular was well after dark. This lady was driving a 1948 Ford with a leaking manifold and the gas fumes were so bad I thought she would kill us both. Plus she had as much makeup on as Tammy Faye Baker. Between the perfume and exhaust fumes, I coughed and chocked the ten miles I rode with her. It turned out she worked in a road house on a lonely stretch of Highway 70 near Durant, OK. I was hoping I could get a ride before some of those boozed up cowboys came out and offered me one. Also the weather was miserable. It had gotten much colder but I was thankful the snow had stopped. It was not very long before I did get a ride to the next town. My ultimate goal was to reach Memphis. However I was concentrating on the next town only. The entire route was along Highway 70; no Interstates back then.
I got rides to Madill, Durant, Hugo, Broken Bow, OK and DeQueen, AR. Then my luck improved. A man and his wife picked me up and carried me to Hot Springs. She insisted that he take me to the east side of the city as it was unlawful to bum rides inside some city limits.
I crawled out of that warm car and thought I would freeze to death. The temp was in the teens with a north wind and it was four o’clock in the morning. I had traveled approximately 275 miles in 12 hours of hitch-hiking. Not bad. Now the only thing moving was my teeth chattering. I could hear noises up in those hills. It was either house cats, bob cats or wampus cats. And then it happened. Two angels appeared out of nowhere disguised as Hot Springs city police. Their chariot was a nice warm police car. They had me get in the front seat to thaw out and asked where I was going. I told them Memphis. They asked if I had any money and I told them I had six dollars and eighty cents. I knew the bus ticket to Memphis was four dollars and sixty cents. Then they wanted to know when I ate last. I told them I ate a noon meal at the Mess Hall at Ardmore the previous day. They bought me a huge breakfast; saw that I got a ticket to Memphis. I slept to Little Rock and finally arrived in Memphis late on New Year’s Eve. My son Roger was born that morning. I finally made it to Ripley late in the night. Ain’t God good! “
"I appreciate your page on Ardmore AFB. It holds a lot of memories for me. I was assigned to the 5l6th Troop Carrier Wing at Memphis, Tennessee in March 1952. I transferred with the 463rd to Ardmore on August 31, 1953. I was discharged on January l7, 1956. A week later I began employment in the Civilian Personnel Office and worked there until the base closed on March 31, 1959. In September of 1957 the operation of the base was transferred to 838th Air Division with the 463rd then consisting of the Wing Hq Squadron and the 772, 773, and 774 Troop Carrier Squadrons which later went to Sewart AFB. The base remained under the 838th until it closed. As I recall, the 16th Troop Carrier Squadron was on duty at Ardmore AFB but had their home base elsewhere." Lee Evers, November 18, 2000 Note: Mr. Evers had the unique experience of being part of the 516th at Memphis, then coming to Ardmore with the 463rd to serve as airman and civilian employee till the base closed. He later worked with the Social Security Office in Ardmore until retirement. He has been a helpful source of information. Fast Forward Note: My friend, Lee Evers, died. November 16, 2002, after a long-time bout with Raynaud's Disease and Scleroderma. He had recently found a 1953 map of Ardmore Air Force Base which he allowed me to copy. It helped identify all of the base buildings on the photographs used in this webpage. I returned his map a few weeks ago and asked him to email a humorous story he related earlier about an officer "dressing down" an enlisted man while on duty. The story will go untold, Lee didn't have the opportunity to complete it. Our deepest sympathy to his wife, children and grandchildren. Lee had many friends and will be greatly missed.
"One funny story---en route to Oklahoma by train from Georgia in 1944, Ethel Levine, also a tower operator, and I drank from a water fountain at one of the stops. Both of us came down with bad cases of enteritis and reported to the hospital on arrival at Ardmore Army Air Field. She was released the next day, but I stayed there for almost a week. When I reported for duty in the tower, I found that I was working with a young man whose widowed mother had married my widower uncle. I had not known him previously but when he mentioned his home town, I remarked that I had an uncle who operated a restaurant there. I learned then that my widowed uncle was his stepfather. A small-world-event with a surprise.
The young man demanded to know why a 'nice girl' would be in the military. I said "There are all kinds in the WAC, just as there are in the real world." He explained, "You know what I mean---one of the girls you arrived with is pregnant. She was put in the hospital immediately on arrival." Of course, the story he had heard referred to me! I WAS NOT PREGNANT!!!" Helen Fields Mendel, June 10, 2001 Note: Corporal Helen A. Fields served as an air control tower operator at Ardmore and Enid Army Air Fields (OK) during WWII. She and many WACs were assigned to the Army Airways Communication System (AACS) that worked towers throughout the US. The author's contact with Helen was the result of a post on a military webpage bulletin board that she had made several months earlier. She was attempting to locate a fellow WAC Ardmore tower operator, Ethel Levine. She had remained in contact with several of the AACS personnel for several years after the war---but time, distance, and the priority of raising their families had diminished their contacts. Helen married a former Army Air Corps fighter group member following the war and prior to his death, attended many of the close-knit reunions of his former unit that served in North Africa, Italy, Sicily, Germany and France. To date, she has not located Ethel Levine.
"I just discovered your web page devoted to the base and it brought back many memories! From late 1954 through late 1955, I was the primary reporter for the Daily Ardmoreite, and the base was part of my beat. The Public Information Officer, Capt. Francis N. "Curly" Satterlee, became a close friend, and arranged for me to accompany an ATC unit on its rotation to Europe in the spring of 1955. I left from the Ardmore base, met the rest of the group of journalists making the trip in Greenville, South Carolina. We landed at Greenville just before a short but heavy hailstorm. The C119 was so badly damaged by the hail that it was not flyable, so we had to take another ship up to Roosevelt Field (the same airport Lindbergh had used, presently a shopping center) in New York. That gave us an overnight stay in New York City, the first of my two visits there. Bill Morgan and I took advantage of the opportunity to see Cinerama, which at the time was touted as the future of movies. Today's IMAX theaters are much better! The next day we boarded a C-124 transport that took us to Europe.
In our 10-day junket, we visited NATO HQ at Versailles, a number of AF installations in Germany and France, the Verdun battlefield monument, and spent one weekend in London. Then back home again by way of the Azores. It was something I'll never forget.
Captain Satterlee also arranged for me to attend the first public flight display of the C-130, at the Lockheed plant near Marietta, Georgia.
Curly had photographs of that single fatal C-119 crash on March 19, 1954 in Maryland. The plane was not recognizable at all. He told me that the investigators believed the plane had flown into a tornado funnel and disintegrated in the air. Note that this was long before the accurate tornado tracking technology we have today, and it was known that tornadoes were aloft in the area at the time of the crash.
Curly himself was the victim of one of those non-fatal accidents you mention. When I first met him he was still on crutches, a year after the crash, but eventually made a full recovery. He had borrowed the base commander's small plane, a T-11(C-45), to get in his required flying hours for the month, and a sudden wind gust flipped him into an inverted position almost immediately after takeoff. He came down upside down just off the end of the runway, and considered himself very lucky to have survived!
I recall that Curly told me some of the Ardmore pilots with the 16th Troop Carrier Squadron practiced dirt landings with the YC-122s by touching down short of the main runway. Initially, the tower operators didn't know what was going on, and sounded the crash horn when they saw dust clouds rising where moments before a plane had been landing." Jim Kyle, February 16, 2002 Note: Jim Kyle kept Ardmoreites up-to-date with base activities during the year he was with The Daily Ardmoreite. He moved to greener pastures with the Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, later becoming a computer software developer and professional technical writer. More about Jim on his website..
"I returned from a tour in Korea during the "Police Action", as the politicians called it, in late 1953. My first assignment after a 30 day furlough was Ardmore Airbase, Ardmore, Oklahoma. My gosh, I thought I had come to the end of the real world but soon got use to the Okie customs. I remember the 9-hole golf course that someone mentioned in "This and That". It was located north and east of the main gate and went quite a distance east almost to the flight line. When we were assigned extra duty, it would be to help tend to the course --- water, rake sand traps, pick up cigarette butts and perform general care; it was a well-kept course and I can remember those who played it said it was very good. I believe at the time I was there it was used by military personal only. The building that I worked in (communications) was at the far north end of the golf course and we had in it an old BC-610 transmitter and receivers which we maintained and serviced for those air force personal who used it. It was the local MARS station (Ham Radio)." Richard "Rick" Feiler
"I used to caddy on that course for Sam Clendenin for the total of .75 cents for 18 holes, about three hours worth of work. But Sam would have a pull cart so it was easy and he would buy me a pop after every nine holes. I think that the steel bridge that was between hole #8 and #9 fairway is still there." Doug Williams Fast Forward Note: The course was leased from the City of Ardmore and maintained for civilian use for several years after the base closed. Doug was involved during this period. Both "remembrances" appeared in "This and That", June 19, 2008, Vol. 12, Issue 595, a weekly e-mail newsletter by Butch Bridges, Ardmore.
"Ardmore Air Force Base was the final military assignment of my enlistment. I reported to Ardmore in October 1954 after serving in Korea. I figured that since I had been to Korea, I would be a "one of a kind" airman that others would look up to for fresh war stories. However, I found out quickly that several of the officers and airmen at Ardmore had been there too. Many of the 463rd personnel were reservists that had been called back to active duty with the former 516th Troop Carrier Wing at Memphis, Tennessee. When it was deactivated and the 463rd was activated, quite a few chose to remain on active duty in the Air Force. Some of the older ones had also served in WWII so my stories would not be very impressive.
I was assigned to the Air Base Group as one of five photographers that worked closely with Captain Francis "Curley" Satterlee, Base Information Officer. Our responsibilities included taking pictures of interest of base "happenings" for use with news stories in the base weekly paper "Carrier Wings." We also used photographs to record equipment problems, aircraft damage when necessary and record pictorially various AF/Army exercises where the 463rd was involved transporting troops, supplies and equipment in the US or elsewhere.
After a few misunderstandings with Captain Satterlee, we both recognized each other's peculiarities and personality differences, allowing us to work together with few problems. We became good personal friends during this time and respected each other's professional abilities. In later years, he would visit if he happened to be in the Ardmore area.
I was recommended for promotion to Staff/Sergeant and appeared before a review board. I was wearing white socks which drew their attention immediately. They asked if I was promoted would I continue to be guilty of being out of regulation dress. I told them "I have a foot problem that requires white socks to help get rid of the infection. If it requires white socks to be able to perform my duties, I will continue to be out of uniform." Apparently they approved of my answer as I got the promotion.
While at Ardmore, I traveled with one of the squadrons to San Juan for a six-week assignment moving a US Army regiment, men, equipment and supplies, from one end of the island to the other. One of the rewards that I remember from that experience was that on our return to dry Oklahoma, some of the crew members brought their limit of one case of whiskey home with them. Most crews took advantage of this opportunity. The photographer somehow arrived home with two cases.
A couple of days before Thanksgiving 1954, Captain Satterlee gave me short notice to join a C-119 crew already waiting on the ramp. Their assignment was to pickup and deliver pre-fabricated buildings that were to house radar equipment to the Grand Bahamas. Satterlee was needing pictures of the project to satisfy a disturbed 18th Air Force General who had not been supplied pictures of an earlier military project in which the 463rd was involved. Captain Satterlee accompanied me to the waiting aircraft and told the pilots and crew to "make sure he gets whatever is necessary to get the pictures."
We flew to Hensley Field, Dallas, Texas and picked up a crate containing a complete pre-fabricated radar shack. From Dallas we flew to Cocoa, Florida where we refueled for the trip to the Bahamas. We landed at an isolated landing strip where the building was off-loaded and almost immediately we were off at around 1 PM for Cocoa, Florida for fuel and then on to a snow-covered Ardmore. Arriving around 5:00 PM, I called Captain Satterlee and told him the mission had been scratched and I didn't have any pictures. With this news, he didn't exactly exhibit a "Thanksgiving" spirit but changed disposition quickly when I told him I had pictures for the General---Mission Accomplished!" Personal account, John Williams, 2003 Fast Forward Note: The building delivery project was called "Flying Building" mission. The Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcars" were used to deliver 10 crated pre-fabricated buildings (20-feet by 48-feet) weighing 10,358-pounds each. They were packed in 200-cubic-feet boxes, one per aircraft.
Following discharge from the Air Force at Ardmore AFB in 1955, Williams worked for the Daily Ardmoreite for five-years as a staff photographer. He and wife, Rosanna, established John Williams Photography in 1960, operating this successful enterprise until December 2003 when they retired.
John wanted to join the USAF as soon as he finished Guthrie High School (Oklahoma) but was discouraged by others due to an eye problem. He had gained some knowledge of the Army by being in the ROTC his sophomore, junior and senior years at Guthrie, the only high school in Oklahoma with an ROTC program in the early 1930s.
The purchase of a camera and employment at the camera shop gave him early photographic experience. Later, applying for admission to the USAF, May 29, 1951, he passed the eye exam by reciting the letters more from memory than sight (and maybe uncovering the good eye a little). Finishing basic at Sheppard AFB, Texas, he was told that there were no openings for the AF Photographer School. If he couldn't be a photographer, he wanted out. A superior officer realized John's determination and past experience after reading letters of recommendation that John had from former civilian employers. The captain designated John as an AF photographer based on his civilian experience. He was used as a clerk typist for a while waiting for an assignment to become available. Good at that also, the M/Sergeant wanted to hold on to him as typist until John began to have "unexplainable" typing problems with a lot of mistakes. A photographer slot soon opened at Wright-Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. From there he was assigned TDY to Eglin Field, Florida, then permanent party at Eglin until he was shipped to Korea, October 1953, reporting to Ardmore, October 1954.
John enjoyed his time in the USAF, especially his time at Ardmore Air Force Base. Reminiscing, he wondered if he should have made it his career.
John and Rosanna were of great help in furnishing information about the 1953-59 base. John, having served there plus his later contact with the base through the Daily Ardmoreite as staff photographer, was very helpful. They provided personal pictures and access to the base yearbook not available from other sources. Williams Photography provided free-gratis pictures taken May 26, 2003 of the Remembrance Memorial Dedication at the old base. John departed this earth, Tuesday, October 27, 2015 after a long bout with cancer. His contribution to preserving history as a professional photographer is much appreciated! "Thanks" John and Rosanna!
Hundreds of wives and sweethearts journeyed to Ardmore and nearby area communities to be with their loved ones during WWII. Their stories are varied based on their individual backgrounds and how the military life affected and changed their lives.
The “free life style” and promiscuous actions of 21st century individuals of similar ages is much different today. The 40’s were the days when the word “pregnant” was not mentioned in most families in the presence of children or maybe even adults. Living together outside marriage was almost non-existent. It happened but few did it openly. It was not acceptable. Girls that became pregnant outside marriage quietly left town to stay with their parent’s relatives or friends. The baby was aborted, adopted, given to someone or raised by relatives more often than its biological parents.
We learned of one account of two young women of the 40s who traveled to Ardmore to be with their soldier husband and husband to be. Part of this story falls within the “small world” category as they were recently reunited 60 years after the fact. The following summary of this account is the result of information from two newspaper stories, email correspondence and a Guestbook entry by one of the women.
“I am preparing a scrapbook on my husband's service in the U. S. Army Air Force in WWII for our children and grandchildren and in doing so I was pleased to find the website "This I Remember."
My husband, Sgt. Cloyd E. Baker, Jr., was with the 588th Bomb Squadron, 395th Bomb Group, when it was transferred to Ardmore from Ephrata, WA in October 1943. I came from Shelby, OH to be with him and we looked forward to spending Christmas together. We had a nice room with a family named "Tennyson" there in Ardmore and I had taken a job with the J. C. Penney Company when one day, with no prior warning at all, his unit at the base was alerted for overseas duty.
Almost immediately they were sent to Pyote, TX for final overseas briefings and the issue of new clothing and by Christmas Eve he was on his way to Camp Kilmer, NJ and I was back home in Ohio with my parents. My husband was no longer with the 395th when he shipped out, but was assigned to the 23rd Depot Repair Squadron, 2nd Air Depot Group of the Ninth Air Force. He served at Kingston Bagpuize, UK, Villacouplay in France, near Liege in Belgium, and at Detmold, Germany until he came home in the summer of 1945.
Although we were not at Ardmore but a few weeks I have wonderful memories of the people there and the kindnesses shown to both of us. Mr. Baker passed away in 2005, but we had a good life with two children and two grandchildren who are a comfort to me now.” Juanita M. Baker, March 14, 2008, Guestbook entry. (Note: The house where the Baker’s lived while in Ardmore was located, photographed and a digital picture was sent to Mrs. Baker. Willis Tennyson, former owner, long deceased, served two terms as sheriff of Carter County, 1943-47.)
A couple of years after the Guestbook entry, Juanita Baker, with whom I had maintained email correspondence, sent two stories published a few years earlier in the Ashland Times-Gazette. The writers, Patricia Long and Kay Marallo, supplied the Gazette with information about occupants of the Brethren Care Village where her 1943 rail traveling friend and husband lived. Both Gazette articles tell the young women’s WWII story and can be viewed here. Fast Forward Note: Mr. James Thomas Lotz, 87, had battled cancer for several months but died from injuries sustained, October 7, 2010, when he came upon stalled traffic at a construction area on Highway 42, near Ashland, Ohio. He left the highway to the right to avoid the stopped autos and hit a tree. He died 12 days later, October 19, 2010, as a result of the accident. His wife, Ladonna, 85, was also injured but recovered.
Both young brides spent the wartime separation from their husband soldiers in Ohio. Returning home to reside with her parents, Juanita Baker worked at the US Army Air Forces, Wilkins Air Force Depot, Shelby, Ohio, a supply depot not far from her home.
While overseas, Sgt. Baker was with the ground crew of P-47 aircraft assigned to the Ninth Air Force in Europe. Immediately after V-E Day, they were moved to a former German airfield near the village of Detmold in northwest Germany to prepare their equipment, and themselves, for duty in the Pacific theater. Prior to the unit’s move to help end the war with the Japanese, he was granted a 30-day leave, returning home to Ohio to be with his wife and family members whom he had not seen in two years. Before returning to his unit the War ended and with thousands of others who served their country as citizen patriots, he became a civilian again.
Sgt. Baker, in addition to receiving bronze stars, the good conduct medal and theater ribbons was the recipient of the prestigious Soldier’s Medal, given in recognition for helping save the life of another under non-combat conditions. He was involved in rescuing a pilot from a burning aircraft that crashed while landing at an airfield in England. As a civilian, husband and father, Cloyd Baker, provided for his family as a skilled carpenter until retirement. After their children reached school age, Juanita worked with a Shelby, Ohio, insurance company 32 years until retirement; a dedicated trait reflective of many who grew up in the 40s.
In the words of Juanita Baker in a recent email: “It all began with a chance meeting at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station here in Mansfield between a soldier's wife and a "soon-to-be" soldier's wife! Wonderful memories, even if they do bring the tears sometimes!”
"I was with Headquarters, 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing from September 25, 1943 - May 4, 1944. The purpose of the Wing was advanced training for bomber groups going overseas. This training included classroom instruction, cross country flights ( Ardmore, Dalhart, Texas, and Pyote, Texas) and night navigational missions. Classroom instruction included Link Trainer, familiarization with aircraft instruments, aircraft identification, and radio communication. Classes graduated every five weeks.
As each group went into latter phases of its training at Ardmore Army Air Field, the next group in line to move to Ardmore would send its maintenance squadron ahead in order to acquire experience by assisting in aircraft maintenance for the older group. As a result, when the flight echelon of the new group arrived at Ardmore upon departure of the previous group, the maintenance squadrons had acquired sufficient experience to enable them to keep their own group's aircraft in the air.
I worked with Staff Sergeant Weldon Simmons and we were in the Statistics and Logistical Section of the 46th Wing. The work consisted of keeping records and statistics on the planes and bomber crews assigned to the 46th Wing for advanced training. I was a Sergeant at this time. While there I became acquainted with a number of individuals, namely, Staff Sergeant Weldon Simmons, Lee Rathbun, James Ewing, Bill Mirechi and James Coffee.
Do you have any history of the 46th Wing after leaving Ardmore Army Air Base? Did this unit become another entity later? When I left Ardmore Army Air Base, I went to Overseas Basic Training Center No. 10, Greensboro, North Carolina, then to Headquarters, 90th Photographic Wing Reconnaissance, San Severo, Italy. I was in Italy two years.
I have two pictures relating to the base, one of Lt. Colonel James R. Luper with Sgt. Max Baer, World Heavyweight Champion and his brother, S/Sgt. Buddy Baer, professional prize fighter. The other is of Operations Room A-2, Headquarters, 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing. They will be mailed to you. I am not aware of what might have happened to Lt. Colonel Luper after his service at Ardmore.
The above data is as I remember the Wing and persons I worked with." O. Phillip Kent, Personal Correspondence, January 7, 2005. Fast Forward Note: On January 4, 1944, after leaving Ardmore, Colonel Luper took command of the 457th Bomb Group from Colonel Hugh O. Wallace. The 457th left Grand Island, Nebraska, January 17, 1944, for England. On October 7, 1944, Luper was flying with Captain Al Fisher's crew on a bomb run as Air Group Commander when they were hit killing Fisher and five others. Luper and three parachuted and became POWs. After the war, he became Chief of Security for the Strategic Air Command. While returning from an inspection tour in 1953, his Douglas B-26 crashed in icing weather conditions at Omaha, Nebraska killing all aboard. There is very limited information about the 46th BOTW following the war. It transferred to Colorado Springs in early 1944 with General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. as commander. He was replaced by Colonel Ralph E. Koon, April 15, 1944. The 46th BOTW was deactivated August 9, 1946 and disestablished October 8, 1948. It was re-established August 31, 1993 and activated September 8, 1993 as the 46th Operations Group.
"I flew the '5-Grand' (5,000th B-17 manufactured) over. Had a good trip, plenty of instruments though. We really split up at Replacement, I ended up as the only Ardmore crew to be sent to this outfit. We went right to work and I wouldn't call more than one of my missions a real milk run. Have in seven now and really feel like an old veteran. Have limped home on a couple of occasions---one with two and a quarter engines. Funny how a man's ideas change about flying these kites when he gets here. Although we didn't suffer any damage to the ship outside of termites, I consider my second mission the roughest. We were really hit by fighters---sure am proud of my crew. They are even more on the ball than when we were there (Ardmore). I want to pat you men on the back. Since flying next to other crews, I realize now that you have given us the best possible training for combat. Sure appreciate it. Must have done some good too, for we were chosen to be a lead crew. The CO called me in, said I had the best damn crew that he has seen come over in some time. Thanks to you men. Can't give any new suggestions for we fly much as in Ardmore. Only on oxygen a hell of a lot longer." November 4, 1944 Fast Forward Note: The 5,000th B-17G was 43-37716 delivered to Cheyenne, Wyoming (Casper Army Air Field), May 15, 1944 and assigned to Kearney Army Air Field, Nebraska, August 30, 1944. From there it was flown by the above pilot/crew to England where it was assigned to the 388th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group, Snetterton. The aircraft was signed by all the factory workers. The many signatures on the aircraft reduced its flying speed by 5 knots. Surviving the war, it returned to the US, June 14, 1945, and, unfortunately, was scraped.
More of the Story: The 1st Lt. Edward C. Unger crew had completed their combat crew training at Ardmore and was to report to Kearney Army Air Field, Nebraska, for assignment of an aircraft to ferry overseas. Arriving on Sunday, July 2, 1944, they saw the much publicized B-17, Five Grand, parked on the ramp. With nothing to lose, Unger and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Richard L. Jacobson, both from Seattle, Washington, asked that it be assigned to their crew. Both had relatives that worked for Boeing including Lt. Jacobson’s 74-year-old grandfather. Their signatures were on the aircraft. The next day they were informed the Unger crew had been selected as ferry crew for Five Grand.
Prior to departure, an open house ceremony was held in the Big Depot Hanger where C. V. Little, representing Boeing, presented a log book to Lt. Unger that contained the history of the building of Five Grand. Little stated, “When the Five Grand goes into combat, it takes the fighting spirit of all the men and women who built it.” Lt. Unger accepted the log book and introduced his crew to the audience.
The crew included: Lt. John H. Belay, Joliet, Illinois, navigator; Lt. W.Y. Molar, Jr., San Antonio, Texas, bombardier-navigator; Sgt. Walter W. Griffith, Anaheim, California., Engineer; Cpl. Lewis Sendek, Jr., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania., assistant engineer and right waist gunner; Sgt. Jack K. Boyce, Dallas, Texas, radio man; Cpl. Anthony T. Guercia, New York City, ball turret gunner; Sgt. John B. MacBride, Narberth, Pennsylvania, armorer-gunner and left waist gunner and Cpl. Robert A. Bohyer, Lima, Ohio, tail-gunner.
Unger and his co-pilot later became P-51 pilots and were known as Mutt and Jeff due to the tallness of Unger and shortness of the co-pilot, Jacobson. Their aircraft were named “Mutt” and “and Jeff". Fast Forward Two: Lt. Unger served later in Korea and Vietnam and retired as a Colonel. He served as CO of the 326th Air Division, 19 July 1968-6 January 1970, Wheeler AFB, Hawaii. He died April 1992 and is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California, plot U0177A.
"I enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939 after completing college. After I reached the rank of Sergeant, I was given the opportunity to become a pilot. I met the qualifications and took primary flight training at Visalia, California in a Ryan PT-16 (We called it the Maytag Messerschmitt.), basic at Chico, California in a Vultee BT-13 and advanced flight training at Montgomery, Alabama in a North American AT-6. When we finished our training, we were not given officer commissions but remained Sergeants---and were known as "Flying Sergeants." Later, the men who went through similar flight training were called "Flight Officers" and many were used as instructors when WWII came along. One of the better known personalities who was a "Flying Sergeant" and later "Flight Officer" was Gene Autry. According to reports, he flew transport aircraft in the China-Burma-India area in WWII. When WWII began there was an urgent need for glider pilots and I was assigned to take glider pilot training. Some people volunteered to do that, but I was assigned to glider training.
I was transferred to Clovis, New Mexico where I began transition to gliders. Training was with light powered aircraft such as Aeronca L-3s and Piper L-4s. My first training assignment was to climb to 500-feet, cut the engine and make a "dead-stick" landing. After several hours in powered craft, we then trained with Sweizer TG-3A dual-control sail planes at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This phase was probably my most enjoyable flying experience. We were towed a few miles from the base, cut loose and were to fly the glider home. They had about a 20 to 1 glide ratio. After several hours in the true glider we went to the larger military troop and cargo type, the Waco CG-4A. This training was done at Dalhart, Texas.
After completing glider training and getting my Lieutenant bars, I was assigned to the 1st Troop Carrier Command at Bowman Field, Kentucky. After some time there, I was transferred to Sedalia Army Air Field, Missouri. One of our many ferrying assignments while at Sedalia was to bring a CG-4A glider from Detroit, Michigan to Ardmore Army Air Field. We picked up the glider and I flew it from there behind a C-47 tow-plane. We stopped at several fields for fuel and an over-night stay on the way to Oklahoma. When we reached Ardmore, I landed the glider on the parking apron; we stayed overnight and left for Missouri the next morning. I remember thinking I was sure glad I wasn't stationed at Ardmore. The base was still under construction, morale seemed to be bad and things didn't seem to be very well organized.
As fate works sometimes, in a few weeks I was given orders to report to Ardmore Army Air Field on February 23, 1943 as a glider pilot. I came alone by train and got a room in the Whittington Hotel, the closest hotel to the depot that I could find---about a half-block from the tracks. I reported to the field in three or four days.
I remember my time at Ardmore as being something short of a pleasant experience. What I had perceived on my first visit to deliver the glider, was now my lot also. Morale was still below par and my attitude didn't improve the situation. We were a glider pilot training unit, the 418th Glider and Troop Carrier Squadron, but for some reason I did not participate in glider pilot training during my time there. We marched, policed the area, laid around the barracks, did callisthenics and other things soldiers do---but unfortunately while there I did not advance my skill as a glider pilot. I was never on the flight line where we had a few light planes and the CG-4A, but they were not being used in training during my stay.
It seemed to rain most of the time. The wood-plank sidewalks near the barracks had sunk into the softened soil and didn't do much of a job in keeping you out of the mud. Our barrack, located a few hundred yards inside the west entrance, then south, was partitioned into six to eight men bays. A coal-fired iron stove provided the heat. The showers were in another building some distance from ours. By the time you finished showering and walked backed to the barracks, you were dirty again. Maybe the weather was part of the reason we weren't flying.
The 418th received orders to report to Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky. On April 6, 1943, all of the glider pilots boarded a special train that was sent to the base and we put the Ardmore experience behind us." Earl Davis, personal account, February 2, 2002. Note: Lt. Earl Davis was sent to Langer, England October 13, 1943 from Baer Field, Indiana with the 435th Troop Carrier Group. In England, he became proficient in flying the larger English Horsa glider, and on a very early D-Day, piloted an Airspeed Horsa loaded with a jeep, 105 Howitzer, ten rounds of ammunition, and eight fully equipped airborne artillery troops behind enemy lines. They left England around 12:30 AM as part of Operation Neptune and landed in a field beyond the Normandy beach at 4:00 AM, June 6, 1944. In the total darkness, they crashed into a hedgerow, severely injuring the co-pilot. One of the soldiers was killed by ground fire penetrating the Horsa during their landing attempt. Due to a buckled skid in the damaged glider, it was impossible to unload the Jeep. Participating in the battle for three days, Davis and others marched 800 to 1,000 German prisoners back to the secured beach where Earl boarded a ship and returned to his unit in England. American glider pilots were to return to their units at first-chance to be available for additional combat duties. Before the War in Europe ended, he participated in landings in Holland (Operation Market Garden---a bridge too far on the Rhine near Arnhem), Operation Dragoon in Southern France and the Battle of the Bulge in Germany (Operation Varsity). After the war ended, the 435th returned to Baer Field, Indiana, August 5, 1945. Earl's Ardmore experience introduced him to the woman he later married in 1945. They moved to Kentucky, his native state, for two years, returned to Ardmore in 1947 and raised their three sons through the ensuing years in southern Oklahoma. Fast Forward Note: Earl, 96, took his final flight from earth, December 17, 2015, ending the positive influence of another of the "Greatest Generation".
"My uncle, Flight Officer/2nd Lieutenant Emil Michael Horkavi, 30, was one of the first two men killed in aircraft crashes at Ardmore Army Air Base. Emil's folks were able to get very little information concerning the crash even-though my aunt visited later with base authorities.
My mother was 15-years-old when the accident happened March 14, 1943. I was not privileged to know Uncle Emil but heard of his ultimate sacrifice from my mother and her family members. The remembrances and pictures they had of Emil were shared with the eight siblings in my family as we grew up. The web page has given us information we did not know and will help preserve his memory.
Before being inducted into the military, Emil and his partner, Charles Lightfoot, operated a Standard Oil service station in Gary, Indiana. They learned to fly and purchased a Stinson airplane. My mother remembers Emil flying over the family home on Sunday afternoons. With the advent of the war, Emil was inducted in March 1942. He trained in Louisiana as an infantry soldier and was later stationed at Stuttgart, Arkansas. Learning that he was already a pilot, he was selected or given an opportunity to become a glider pilot.
Completing glider pilot training, Lt. Horkavi was sent to Sadelia, Missouri awaiting overseas shipment. Possibly due to his age and the urgent need for pilots, he was chosen to be an instructor of glider pilots and was transferred to Ardmore Army Air Base in the fall of 1942. One of his responsibilities was to give check rides to student pilots prior to their solo flight. He also gave check rides to pilots who for some reason had been removed from flight status and were being reinstated. According to his duty schedule, on that fatal Sunday afternoon he was evaluating 1st Lieutenant Frank Morse Dimond's skill in making emergency landings. For some unknown reason, they crashed into trees just short of a field where a landing would have been possible. Both apparently died instantly. The plane was spotted by another aircraft from the base approximately two hours after the crash.
Emil's father, Michael, died in 1949; his mother Anna died in 1973. Both were immigrants from Hungary. He had seven brothers and sisters, six still living following the death in 2001 of his oldest sister, Helen, who visited the base for information in 1943. Emil had visited his family two weeks prior to the accident.
We are grateful that Emil and others will be remembered on the remembrance monument soon to be erected at the Ardmore Airpark. Being able to visit the site of the crash recently gives some finality to me and members of Emil's family." Jim Hogan, Missouri, a nephew. Note: I recently had the privilege to meet Jim Hogan and take him to site of the March 14, 1943 crash. A farmer who owns the land near the site joined us.
A few weeks earlier, the 88-year-old man who was operating a sawmill damaged by the crash, took the farmer and I to the scene. Later, Mr. Hogan and I visited the sawmill operator and his wife at their home near Gene Autry. Mr. Hogan took photographs and heard first hand what the sawmill operator knew of the crash.
Tragically, the sawmill operator died of an accidental shotgun blast June 21, 2002 as he exited his rural home to eliminate an armadillo. He had previously had a stroke which mildly affected his speech and walking ability. Our sincere condolences to his wife (now deceased), children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Fast Forward Note: Jim Hogan and his Mother, Genevieve (Genny) Hogan, Emil's sister, visited Ardmore, May 25-26, 2003, to attend the Memorial Day, Remembrance Monument dedication. Jim took her to see the site of Emil's fatal 1943 crash. Hopefully, her visit here will help, in some small way, to bring additional closure to their families' loss.
“In May, 1943, the 394th Bomb Group was organized and trained in the United States until February, 1944, when the men went overseas as a unit.
Boreham, Essex, England was the first stop and from there, they went to Holmsley South Airfield near Bournemouth. Bournemouth is a straight line across the English Channel from Normandy and there on August 7, 1944, the men of the 585th Squadron of the 394th Group, led a mission aimed at the destruction of a railroad bridge. This was their specialty. They were known as The Bridge Busters.
Immediately after making landfall, the lead plane, a Martin Marauder B-26 was inundated with heavy and accurate flak from Germans hidden in the trees. French observers at the site reported that the plane then turned, attempted to return to home base but went down on the Duval estate which was occupied by the German army. General Michel Duval, son of the owners, was, at the time, fighting with the Free French in Italy.
In its downward path, the plane plowed through a hedgerow on the estate and at that point, the hedge has never grown back.
The French people retrieved the bodies of the Americans, carried them to their local church, Notre Dame of La Boissiere, and buried them in the small cemetery adjoining the church. Each day, fresh flowers were placed upon the grave until the men were returned to the United States to be buried in the National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.
Fifty years later, these men were still remembered by the people of La Boissiere, who dedicated a monument to them at the original grave site, and each year on August 7 have a special mass, for the American crew, in the little church.
Names inscribed on the granite marker are: Frank Drapola, T Sgt.; Albert Kahler, S Sgt.; Clinton Lee, Major; Richard Parsons, lst Lieut.; Donald Short, S. Sgt.; Bjarne Tangen, Capt.; Arthur Thornton, 2nd Lieut.; John Waite, Sgt.
At the bottom of the marker are carved these words “ Souve Nez Vous”--Remember.
All trained at the Ardmore Army Air Base. All remembered by the people of Normandy.” Sally Gray, December 4, 2006
Fast Forward Note: Sally Malloy Gray remembers because she was a young war bride who lost a husband, Captain Bjarne Tangen, the bombardier of the ill-fated B-26 destroyed by enemy flak.
Sally worked as a reporter with the Daily Ardmoreite and met Captain Tangen while the 394th was at Ardmore. A daughter was born to this marriage and was only six-weeks-old when the dreaded telegram with Bjarne’s “missing in action” news was received. His death was confirmed a year later.
Several years later, Sally married an Ardmoreite and from this union two children were born. Through the years, the family has been active in civic affairs, ranching, and the oil industry. Sally continued her association with the newspaper at various times, is a free-lance writer and the author of several books, the latest being “Territory Town:The Ardmore Story.”
In the late 1990s, the daughter, Terry Fitzgerald, who lives in Ireland, had an unsatisfied longing to know more about the death of the father she never knew. She had recently received some 1940s mementos her mother had kept for a half-century. Included was a wedding picture of her dad (left), mother and unknown Colonel among other items representing memories of that time.
Among them, a penciled note on the back of a 1950 Louisville hotel receipt, ”Mme. Duval, Chateau de la Boissiere, par Lisieux,” its reason for being there, erased from memory by 50-years of "life that went on." The cryptic note became a key to the crash location. Someone attending the burial ceremony at Louisville probably passed the information to Sally; perhaps a relative whose loved one was also aboard the aircraft.
An English friend, who had an interest in military history, joined the daughter's efforts. With input from others, the crash location was thought to be on the Duval estate near La Boissiere, Normandy, France---the answer to the penciled notation of 1950.
A Parisian friend of the daughter, Mme. Sylvia Courturie', who was to vacation in the Normandy area, contacted a friend who lived in Normandy. This individual checked the telephone directory and found a listing for General Michel Duval. A visit with General Duval by the Parisian friend, with news of a possible visit by Sally and her daughter, resulted in a personal invitation from the general, encouraging them to visit.
General Duval had mentioned in a September 1998 letter to Sally’s daughter, that two nuns had visited the original grave while he was home on leave. One was the sister of 2nd Lt. Arthur Thornton, navigator. She left a picture of her brother but did not know the identity of the other crewmembers. She was probably present at the reburial at Louisville and might have been the provider of the crash location.
General Duval’s mother had kept a journal recording each day’s events during the German occupancy of their chateau. The detailed account of the B-26’s last flight and the caring action of La Boissiere citizens dominated the entries around August 7th. General Duval had the original journal copied, and Mme. Courturie' translated it into English.
A cross had identified the grave the French people honored daily with flowers for over five years. One day the coffin was no longer there. Without fanfare or public notice, soldiers from US Army, Graves Registration, removed the remains for interment at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky. The ceremony was held June 22, 1950, with members of the crews' families in attendance. The common grave is located in Group Burial, Plot 1 191 192.
The cross was taken inside the church many years ago as a remembrance of the grave it identified. The three “dog tags” which had been found at the crash and attached to the cross had provided a thin thread of identity.
The anticipated visit of the wife and daughter of one of the airmen, prompted the general, the mayor, and a marble mason, Jacques Motte, who witnessed the crash as a 14-year-old, to obtain names and prepare a monument to occupy the space where the grave was formerly located. A memorial mass and monument dedication was held at the church cemetery in November 1998. Sally and her daughter removed the American flag to reveal the monument.
Many of the villagers who had provided the flowers and remembered the day the Americans arrived had passed to their rewards. The monument and annual mass serve as a reminder to the generations that follow, of the high cost of freedom paid by strangers---for strangers.
Note: Captain Bjarne C. Tangen, was one of the original members of the 394th when activated at MacDill Field, May 1943. He had previously served 16 months (December 1941-March 1943) in the Aleutian Islands with a detachment from the 21st Bombardment Squadron. Stationed initially at Cold Bay, they later moved to Umnak farther down the Island chain. They initially flew Douglas B-18s, then received the new, unproven Martin B-26B "Marauder" to be among the first to gain combat experience in the B-26. They flew missions, when weather permitted, to engage Japanese carriers, aircraft and supply ships in the area. When reassigned, the Aleutian detachment reported to MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida and became part of the 394th when it was activated.
Major Clinton Lee, pilot, and Captain Tangen, were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously, for "heroism or extraordinary achievement above and beyond the call of duty while participating in an aerial flight." Captain Tangen had previously been awarded the Air Medal and several Oak Leaf clusters. Fast Forward Note: Sally Malloy Gray died unexpectedly, Friday, October 1, 2010, in Mercy Memorial Hospital, Ardmore. Our good friend, author and documenter of area history will be greatly missed by her family, many friends and the community. Thank you, Sally, for the footprints you left in southern Oklahoma.
"ARDMORE, OKLAHOMA-Combat Crew Training: This is the place where crews were trained to operate the B-17F. We practiced bombing on various bomb ranges, took cross-country flights to learn about navigation, had ground schools such as those on the various aircraft systems, spent time on the firing range, learned to fly formation, and other things.
One night we were to practice night flying. With an instructor pilot aboard, and a few miles west of home base, we got lost in some very stinky weather with thunder, lightning, and severe turbulence all around.
A word about navigation in those days, there was no such thing as airborne radar, VOR, ILS, nor all the multitude of aids we have at our disposal today. All we had was a low frequency, radio compass which homed in on various AM ground stations. There were airways to and from major cities identified by lighted steel towers spaced about every ten miles or so. Also, there were low frequency radio range stations about with A and N Morse coded signals which gave an indication that you were in one of two quadrants of the station.
On the night in question, we came upon one of those light lines. We didn't know where it would lead, but followed it anyway knowing it would end up at some major intersection.
There was a sentence we had to memorize as cadets that went thusly: "when in doubt every good man finds his position by known ways" (or something like that). The object being that each tower would flash a light in Morse code of the first letter of one word in that sentence, and from that an indication could be had as to how far it was to the next major intersection. The range signals or radio compass signals were of no use because of the static. After a while a welcome sight came into view, that being the lighted red horse on top of a skyscraper. Oklahoma City!
We set up an approach for the runway at Tinker Army Airfield. The wind suddenly switched 180 degrees, but being committed, we had to land downwind. As a result, we ran off the opposite end of the runway and got stuck in the mud.
While waiting to get pulled out of the mud, we went to operations and I met an old classmate of mine from advanced flying school who just happened to be Officer Of The Day that night. He said, "Come with me, I want to show you something". "Okay". He led me to a hangar guarded by MPs with Thompsons. We went in and I saw the biggest airplane beyond imagination. It was a B-29 Superfortress. My first thought was "That thing is too big to fly".
They got our ship out of the mud, so we gassed up, and when the weather cleared, went home.
Another time, we had to participate in a bomber formation and were down around Abilene, Texas. A bunch of P-47 fighters swarmed us. I remember seeing one fly into the slip stream of one of our B-17s. He got flipped over and fell out of control. I am sure he must have recovered because we had plenty of altitude. But I thought that was a funny sight." Note: This account was copied from an Internet webpage in the early phase of gathering information relative to Ardmore Army Air Field. Regrettably, the source has been lost. If you happen to know, please advise by email.
"ARMY AIR FIELD, Ardmore, Oklahoma, March 10, 1943 - The Nelson twins from Dawson, Texas are together again. When S-Sgt, Howell B. Nelson and his brother Sgt Harold O., both 22, enlisted July 1, 1942, at Corsicana, Texas, they were together only 10 days at the reception center Camp Wolters, Texas.
Howell was transferred to Sheppard Field for his basic training, then went on to become an aerial gunner at the AAF school, Las Vegas, Nevada. Harold went from Wolters to Camp Barkley, where he was assigned to the medical detachment. On January 13 of this year the twins were reunited, Harold being transferred to the army air field, Ardmore. Howell was transferred to Ardmore from Ephrata, Washington, November 1942. "Now we'll stay together," says Howell, "I guess we'll both continue in the army."
Howell, headquarters training section, is an aerial gunnery instructor. Harold, air base section (418), is attending the sight and turret school on the field and hopes to be reclassified as a gunnery instructor so he can catch up with Howell.
Howell seems to come first in the family picture - he was born first, October 3, 1921, and outranks his twin, being a staff. "I never pull my rank because it wouldn't do any good," he admits. "And, besides, Harold's clothes fit me." The twins were born in Dardanelle, Ark. Both parents are dead but they were reared to manhood by and uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Kaizer, Dawson, Texas. They have two brothers and two sisters.
The sergeants have blond hair, blue eyes, weigh 160 pounds each and stand five feet nine inches. About the only distinguishing mark on these identical twins is Harold's dimple when he smiles. Both prefer outdoor sports and farming. They are inseparable even to their social life. In Fort Worth, Howell and Harold met two girls and have been going with them ever since. "We were only separated in the army," says Howell. When it comes to change of stations Howell again has the edge. He has been at Salt Lake City, Geiger Field, Ephrata, Walla Walla, and Great Falls." Note: This newspaper article printed in the Navarro County Texas Genealogical and Historical web site remembers two of their soldier citizens who served at Ardmore. We have no further information about the Nelson twins as to whether they survived the war.
"The military portion of my life started with induction into the Army Air Corps in January 1943. After a brief stop at Camp Perry, Ohio, then on to Kessler Field, Mississippi for basic training. While there, a bout with mild pneumonia and acute cerebral meningitis prevented me from completing basic with my group. After recovering, I was transferred to the Army Administration School at Arkansas State College, Jonesboro, graduating June 1943. From Arkansas by way of Salt Lake City, Utah, my first assignment was at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona with the 70th Airdrome Squadron. Two moves from there with the 70th Airdrome Squadron to Fairmont Army Air Field, Geneva, Nebraska in August 1943, then to Galveston, Texas in September 1943 where I was classified as a "clerk typist." I learned about hurricanes on the south Texas coast by waiting one "out" for a few days in one of the local school buildings.
On October 14, 1943, I reported to Ardmore Army Air Field and was assigned as clerk typist with Training, Section E, 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing. The base was in full-swing training B-17 combat crews under direction of the 395th Combat Crew Training School.
Remembrances at Ardmore include the good meals prepared and served under direction of mess Master/Sergeant Denny Fitts. I remember the family-style gatherings of our small group in our mess hall. If you needed seconds or thirds, Sergeant Fitts would accommodate you. I also remember that on occasion I took advantage of the "everybody drives" ignition switch on Section E jeeps parked in the area and taught myself to drive. A practice probably frowned upon at the time but, hopefully, not a punishable crime these 60-plus-years later.
After approximately 18-months at Ardmore , I shipped from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on the good ship "Mauritania" for Liverpool, England, then from Southampton to France to join the 563rd Signal Air Warning Battalion. While there, I spent time in Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and France with a side-trip to Czechoslovakia. Later, I was reclassified as "chaplain's assistant," drove the Chaplain's jeep and helped with services using a portable organ. While in Austria, I had the opportunity to play a hand-pumped, big organ in a very old Austrian church. On a trip back to France with the Chaplain, I had the chance to stay a couple of days with a French family. On the way back to our station, I had my first "coke" in a long time in Luxembourg, and learned of the death of President Roosevelt. As a Sergeant, I was stationed at Bad Nauheim (a very small town) and Wiesbaden, Germany with the European Air Transport Service, managing a locater file with three German civilians as helpers.
My trip back to the United States was via an old Kaiser Victory ship, "General Squire.” The ride was rough but no one complained---we were on the way home!" Robert Farrington, personal account, July 4, 2003 Fast Forward Note: Sergeant Robert Farrington was discharged in April 1946, having spent three years, three months and three days in the service of his country. While at Ardmore, he assisted another AAAFld serviceman, Staff/Sergeant Dick Fisher, in establishing the Sunshine Mission, a church-planting endeavor of the First Baptist Church of Ardmore. Sergeant Fisher preached at the small mission and Bob led the music. He also led music in revival services at Dickson, Gene Autry, Wilson, Fox and Ringling. He met his wife-to-be, Virginia, while attending the FBC at Ardmore. She later became a civilian employee at AAAFld. In 1947, the little mission became the Northeast Baptist Church and continues to exist today as Trinity Baptist Church these many years later. The Farrington's attended services at Trinity on their visit to Ardmore, May 2003, and were recognized for their input to the early history of the church. Fast Forward Note: After discharge from the Army, Dick Fisher was pastor of several churches in the Oklahoma City area. He died November 28, 2007 after many dedicated years in the ministry. He and Bob were present when Trinity celebrated its 50th anniversary, May 18, 1997.
Civilian Farrington returned to Ardmore following the war, married Virginia in 1946 and became the first song leader of the new congregation. A few years later, the Farringtons returned to his native state of Ohio, following employment and ownership of several businesses in Ardmore. Like the "swallows of Capistrano," the Farringtons return on an annual basis to Ardmore to visit relatives and acquaintances. Both were present Memorial Day 2003 at the dedication of the Remembrance Memorial at the Airpark. Thank you Bob and Virginia for your "footprints" in the base history. Fast Forward Note: My friend, Robert "Bob" William Farrington, 85, died, Friday, June 13, 2008, in Marymount Hospital, Garfield Heights. He had been a resident of Northfield, Ohio, for more than 42 years. Bob and wife, Virginia, supplied copies of "Bombs Away", the field weekly, a source for much of the history of Ardmore Army Air Field. His friendship and their visits to Ardmore will be greatly missed.
"After passing my 'civil service test', I became a civilian employee at the base in the spring of 1945. My first assignment as 'clerk typist' was at the Air Corps Supply facility doing mostly mundane tasks that fall to 'new comers' such as typing, helping fill out forms for pay-roll, delivering papers and other things to nearby buildings. The supply building was located on the far southeast side of the base.
At some point, I was transferred to the base hospital for a temporary stay of three days doing transcription work for some doctors, then to one of the hangers to work in the Air Tech Supply office with one of the WAC military personnel. Taking orders over the phone for items I was totally unfamiliar with in this very noisy atmosphere was a somewhat stressful experience. I enjoyed working with the young lady (WAC) who was very helpful and kind to me.
After a time there, my folks decided to make a move to California. I was given papers to transfer to March Air Field, Riverside, California, if they were hiring new personnel. At the time I reported, they were not hiring. As it worked out, my family did not stay very long in California and moved back to Oklahoma. By then, VJ day had been declared and the base in Ardmore was closed.
My employment at Ardmore Army Air Field was altogether a good experience. I am proud to have been a very small part of the base history." Virginia Gilstrap Farrington, personal account, July 4, 2003 Note: Following her return to Ardmore, Virginia worked for Ardmore law firm partner, Wilson Wallace of Champion, Champion and Wallace. She met Sergeant Robert Farrington, then a Corporal, during his assignment at AAAFld as a result of his attendance at First Baptist Church and involvement with helping establish the Sunshine Mission on old Highway 70. She played the piano at the mission while he led the music. They were married in April 1946. When the mission was constituted as the Northeast Baptist Church, May 1947, Bob became its first song leader. They both left "footprints" in Ardmore's military and religious past before finally returning to Ohio where they raised their family.
“I worked as a civilian employee in the aircraft repair section at Ardmore Army Air Field during late 1943 to mid-1944. My aunt had previously made application for employment at the base and went for an interview. I went with her and was asked by the interviewer if I would like employment also. Jobs were not that plentiful around Ardmore and the pay at the base was better than most places in the area. I considered it a good opportunity, especially since I had not filled out an application.
I went to work the next day in the aircraft maintenance and repair section. As I remember, this department was located in the large building on the south edge of the flight ramp. My responsibilities included patching holes in the fuselage; painting and repairing anything that could be fixed, including fabric-covered flaps, ailerons, and rudders. Most of the B-17s at the base had been in service elsewhere before assignment here. They were in almost constant use since training crews flew on a 24-hour schedule. Minor mishaps, such as clipping another plane or a parked vehicle while taxing, kept us supplied with something to do. I remember that someone, somewhere, had patched a hole in the fuselage with a Prince Albert tobacco can.
During my time there, I recall going on the ramp to see a B-17 that had been involved in a mid-air collision the day before. It was heavily damaged as it had cut the other aircraft in half with the propellers on its right wing. The rear section of the right wing was damaged when the other aircraft’s tail fin caught momentarily in the wing’s rear edge. The Plexiglas nose was badly damaged and there was evidence of blood on the damaged propellers.
The other B-17 crashed near Mill Creek, Oklahoma, killing ten crewmembers---all, except the tail gunner who parachuted without injuries from the separated tail section. A bombardier instructor and oxygen instructor were flying as extras that day.
Another fatal crash that I remember happened about a quarter-mile south of the base while I worked there. Engine problems during take-off and an attempt to return to the base, resulted in the loss of the crew of 12. Training was dangerous; the men were young and inexperienced with the heavy aircraft. A relative of mine, who was a base fireman, worked that early morning crash.
Work at the base gave me a feeling of being involved in the war effort and an opportunity, as a civilian, to help keep the planes flying.” Beatrice “Jacko” Hoffman, personal account. November 2005.
“In 1944, I would have been 9 years old, soon to be 10 in November of that year. My family, C.J. (Bunk) Thompson and Thelma Cooksey Griffin Thompson, three siblings and I lived at what is now known as 7359 Refinery Road. Daddy bought the 80 acres in the Fall of 1941 from Will Rich. During the war, as I recall, several planes from Ardmore AAF crashed around our place, not directly on our farm, but to the west and south of us. I do recall one crash in particular when we all watched the parachutes falling as the plane was going down. My mother was looking out a west-facing window with tears streaming down her face. I'm sure she was thinking of the lives lost in the crash, but, also thinking about our oldest brother, Charles (Chock) Griffin, (Lt. Col., USAF, Ret) now deceased, who was a pilot flying bombing missions out of England at the time.
When it was obvious one parachute was landing in our field, Daddy and my sister Pauline, who was 13 at the time, ran as quickly as possible to the site, found an Airman and his parachute tangled in a tree. Daddy cut the cords enough to free the man and helped him down. I do not know where the Airman went from there. I've never heard that part of the story. It is possible, but only a guess, that he may have made his way south to the site of the crash, which would have been probably half a mile or so. I would love to hear his side of the story as to where he went after being rescued from the tree.
Daddy brought the parachute home. You would have to know my mother, the original Earth Mother, to know she would never let something that valuable go to waste. She cut out, with her home-made, improvised patterns, and sewed blouses for my sister and me. I remember them vividly and thought they were beautiful. It was a creamy, off-white color, and must have been almost impossible to sew. She made narrow ruffles for the front and collar edge, by doubling the fabric so there wouldn't be any raw seams. She "French-seamed" every seam to preclude raveling. We wore them with pride!”
Fast Forward Note: The soldier who was removed from the tree, September 24, 1944, was the radio operator, Cpl. Kermit W. Dunn. He tells of his experience in his statement to the Accident Investigation Board: “I had been up in the nose of the ship shooting bearings. The pilot called over the interphone and said we would be going down in about five minutes, so I went back to the radio room. I had just got in the radio room and heard something like a small explosion and something fly against the plane. When I looked out the radio window I saw number one engine on fire. Putting on my chute, I went back into the waist. The armor-gunner was on the interphone and he heard the pilot say to get out, then the buzzer started ringing. I was standing closest to the door, so I gave the emergency hatch a pull and kicked out the door and went out after it. We must have had an altitude of approximately 2,000 feet, then I didn’t do any counting, I just held my eyes open and watched the ground and the plane. When I knew I was free of the plane I pulled the ring. I saw two boys come out and then I saw one chute not open. Then I landed in a tree. I was hanging about 20 feet from the ground and a farmer helped me down, so I started toward the plane. I had seen it hit. Almost as soon as it hit it exploded. By the time I arrived most of the boys had been found. I left my chute and harness in the tree”. Kermit W. Dunn, Cpl. Radio Operator-Gunner, Air Corps, 35225108
My contact with Nellie Thompson Hull results from a chance mention of area air crashes to Wesley Hull, (Rear Admiral, NOAA, Ret.) while at the Military Memorial Museum, Ardmore. Admiral Hull is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the MMM. He related that his sister-in-law saw a plane crash near her home when she was a youngster. As he talked, he dialed her Texas number, handed his phone to me and said “She’s on the phone, ask her about it.” I had known, Ron, her recently deceased brother and had met her younger brother, Bob, but had no idea that Admiral Hull had contact with the Thompson family through his brother, Bob, Nellie’s husband. Another small world happening! I was already familiar with the, September 24, 1944, crash that took three lives of the nine as they parachuted from the burning B-17G “Flying Fortress” near the rural Thompson home. I had visited with Ron, the youngest Thompson, several years earlier to ask if he knew the exact location of the crash. He was aware of the crash and thought his older brother, Bob, might know the location. Bob had an idea of the general area but never visited the crash site. He wanted to go that day but his dad did not want him to see death at a young age. The older sister, Pauline, now deceased, might have remembered the location.
The contact with Nellie revealed that she had worked at Ardmore Air Force Base in 1955 as Secretary to Brig. General Cecil H. Childre, Base Commander, 1954-1957. She relates that experience and events leading to it as follows:
“When my husband Bobby graduated in May 1954, from Oklahoma A&M, we came back to Ardmore to look for work. He was looking for a job as Vo-Ag teacher, but with the draft hanging over his head, no schools were interested in hiring him.
I soon was employed by Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, as secretary to Lex James, Manager. Bobby went to work for Bob Fraley Lumber Company. After several months of uncertainly, wondering when the draft notice would come, Bobby decided to volunteer for the draft. After requesting his name be put at the top of the draft list, the notice soon arrived. He reported in April 1955, to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, for basic training.
Knowing there would be a time I would be joining Bobby, and thinking I might be able to work at Chaffee, I decided to take the Civil Service exam in preparation. In late July, 1955, I took the exam on the second floor of the Ardmore Post Office Building on a Friday afternoon, and on Monday morning I received a call offering me a temporary appointment as Secretary to General Cecil Childre, Base Commander, Ardmore AFB. His secretary was taking maternity leave of 5 months. I thought that would be excellent experience for me, and the length of service would be just right. With some regret at leaving the Chamber after 15 months, I accepted the position in August 1955. After one week of training, I was on my own.
I worked for General Childre and Colonel George Norman, Base Executive Officer. Sgt. Germany was the Sergeant Major, if I remember correctly, and sat in our front office. Airman Maxwell was personal aide (I'm sure he had a more proper title) for General Childre, standing outside the door waiting to do his bidding. All of them were extremely patient and kind to this little naive country girl.
I had never worked for the government before. The work was hard and more complicated than anything I had ever done. Every document had to have four or five copies, using carbon paper and, obviously, typed on a manual typewriter. I think we received a copy of every document the Air Force put out and all had to be filed. From all accounts, I did the job well. At least that is what I was told.
One of my duties was to take minutes of the weekly staff meeting on Friday afternoon. All Wing Commanders, Group Commanders, Hospital Commander, Wing Judge Advocate, Chaplain, etc. sat around a big, u-shaped table, and gave their reports in turn. Colonel Norman helped me tremendously with remembering names and telling me what to record and what was "off the record". When the conversation would get a little out of hand, he would say, "Gentlemen, remember we have a lady present." I remember General Childre as being very reserved and serious, as would be expected of his position and Colonel Norman always with a smile on his face. He loved to laugh and tease.
I had met several of the officers while at the Chamber, which made my transition a little easier. I remember Captain Francis N. Satterlee (later to be Major Satterlee) very well. As Public Information Officer, he spent a lot of time at the Chamber with Mr. James, and was especially close to Mac McGalliard, of the Daily Ardmoreite. It seems they were always popping in at the Chamber. Captain Satterlee walked with a cane for a long time because of a broken leg sustained in an earlier plane crash near the base. He was friendly and outgoing, and fun to be around.
When my appointment was over in January 1956, my husband had finished Basic Training and was assigned to Radio School, still at Chaffee. He had been granted permission to live off base, so I joined him in Fort Smith. The timing had been perfect for all concerned. I worked two months for a radio station in downtown Fort Smith while waiting for a position to open at Fort Chaffee. I finished out the year in the Special Orders section at Chaffee, then left in December at the birth of our first child. Bobby was discharged in April 1957, and we returned to Oklahoma, to again look for employment.
Bobby was hired by Continental Emsco, an oilfield supply company in May 1957, and worked 38 years before retiring in 1995. His work took us to several places in Oklahoma and Kansas, then finally to Texas in 1989, where we still reside.” Personal correspondence, Nellie Thompson Hull, 2013.
Thank you, Nellie, for your remembrance of an aircraft accident that affected your family and for relating your employment experience with upper echelon leaders of Ardmore Air Force Base.
"There are three occasions which stick in my memory of our training at Ardmore during November 1944-February 1945, the most momentous being a mid-air collision. We were on a practice, low-altitude bombing mission, in formation, with an instructor pilot in the lead ship. He apparently was on auto-pilot, which he was not supposed to be. We were above and behind him. Suddenly I noticed, from the co-pilot seat, that he was coming up under us. I yelled to Lt. Evan Williams, pilot, to hit the War Emergency power, which gave us maximum power, and at the same time I hauled back on the controls. We avoided a possible wipe out of both planes, as one of our open bomb bay doors was struck by the top of his tail fin. We both landed safely, whereupon a full colonel leaped into our plane and started to read the riot act to Evan. I quickly interceded and told the colonel that it was not our fault, describing what had happened. As we exited our plane, the colonel had the instructor pilot in a brace against his plane and was bawling him out vociferously, ending in his southern drawl: 'Yo' might as well pack yo bags, mistuh!'
Another time, we were out over the Gulf of Mexico where our gunners were practicing shooting at a tow target. All of a sudden, one engine failed for no apparent reason. By juggling the gas from one tank to another, we got it going again, when lo and behold, another engine would quit! Evan asked the navigator, Lt. Bob Scott, for the heading to the nearest airport and he gave us Love Field, in Dallas, a good distance away. Switching tanks and losing altitude all the way, with sometimes only one or two engines functioning, we called in for an emergency landing at Love and barely made it with a direct approach to the nearest landing strip. I credit Evan with great skill in getting us in. We spent the night there after calling our base in Ardmore. The next morning we were told they could find nothing wrong with the plane and we could take off for Ardmore. We were skeptical, so we climbed as rapidly as we could to 20,000 feet so we could coast into Ardmore if necessary. Sure enough, the same pattern started all over again, but with all that altitude, we made it easily back home. We were told later that it was vapor lock---but we wouldn't touch that plane again if assigned to it. Pilot's privilege!
The other occasion took place when we had an instructor pilot aboard, flying the left seat. In preparing for take off, he figured he was such a hot shot, back from overseas, that he didn't need to bother with the check list. He opened the throttles and started roaring down the runway---and veered off the runway into the mud. One important part of the check list is: "Lock tail wheel." Failure to do this caused the tail wheel to swivel us off into the area off the runway. We never saw him around again either! All the instructor pilots were returnees from combat, having completed their missions, so some of them thought they were a little better than they were!
Another interesting thing happened to me while at Ardmore. I ran into Captain John Storey, a classmate of mine from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and had a nice reunion with him. He was a pilot instructor there. While he was overseas flying combat in Europe, he was featured in LOOK magazine, as having been hit by flak or a bullet, I forget which, right over his heart, but was saved when his metal covered prayer book in his shirt pocket stopped it! This happened in the summer of 1943. I read about it when I was in Cadet training at Lubbock, attending Texas Tech." Storrs Clough, personal account, April 22, 2003. Note: Storrs Clough, co-pilot with the Evan Williams' Crew (Crew 247-Ardmore, Crew 65-England), and four remaining crew members and wives visited Ardmore, October 2002, for the first time since training here as a combat crew 60 years ago.
Storrs and wife Terry, were married in the base chapel, December 5, 1944. The chapel was moved into Ardmore in the late 40s and is now the Memorial Christian Church. While in Ardmore, the crew visited the church and met the present pastor. Storrs and Terry reflected on that happy occasion of 1944 and something predicted that didn't come true. "I recall that when we were married at the old chapel on the base, the priest was not very encouraging, telling me that it probably wouldn't last! Wish I could locate him and invite him to our 60th next year! Guess he didn't know that we had known each other since high school."
Since the early 1950s, the ten-member crew, now reduced to four, has been meeting at some agreed location in the US every five years with one trip to their duty station in England. Their ages ranged from 77 to 86, thinking this might be their last get-togather as a crew, they and their wives, returned to Ardmore---their beginning. The remaining members of the crew at the reunion included: Evan Williams (deceased, 2005), pilot, Storrs Clough, co-pilot (deceased, 2011), Norman von der Embse, radio operator, Al Niksa, engineer, (deceased), and Richard (Dick) Wiley, waist gunner.
The mid-air contact mentioned by Storrs occurred, February 9, 1945, approximately 14-miles northeast of Ardmore. The aircraft that came up under their aircraft, B-17G, 42-102409, was B-17F, 42-30781, piloted by Lt. Joseph A. Diele, instructor pilot. An attempt was made to obtain the complete details on this mid-air contact but the Accident Investigation Board report could not be found initially in the Maxwell AFB Historical Records. However, it was found later listed as a minor accident. It appears that the majority of the 1945 incidents reported from Ardmore are not available. This may be due to the ending of the War in Europe, May 8, 1945, before all the material from the various accidents, state-side and overseas, was compiled. The relief brought to all at the end of the War. September 2, 1945,(August 14, 1945, Japan surrenders) might have lessened the importance of completing the job.
Storrs' children surprised him with a Father's Day flight in a SNJ (AT-6) AMERICAN WARBIRDS aircraft.
"My service time at Ardmore Army Air Field was from October 1943 to October 1944. I was assigned as a flight engineer instructor with the 395th(222nd) Combat Crew Training School, coming to Ardmore from Ephrata Army Air Base with the 395th Bombardment Group (Heavy). Prior to Ardmore, we were training replacement combat crews in B-17Gs at Ephrata, Washington. As these crews finished phase training, begun at Ephrata, they were the first replacement combat crews from the Ardmore base to be assigned overseas.
A short review of my military service from enlistment in the Army Air Corps, September 1, 1940, to discharge in October 1945, will explain my background and why I was a training instructor at Ardmore. After enlistment, my basic training was done at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Following that, I was assigned to Westover Field, Massachusetts, with the 34th Bomb Group. At that time, the 34th was comprised of the 4th, 7th, 18th and 391st Squadrons; each squadron had only one B-17. The Group had been constituted, November 20, 1940 and activated, January 15, 1941.
While at Westover, I was sent for instruction at the New England Air Craft School in Boston (Boston University). The school was fairly close to Fenway Park and we could hear the cheering when ball games were being played. We were billeted in a nice hotel so it was not bad duty. At that time, the military did not have many of their schools organized and underway.
Later, I was pulling KP on the weekend at Westover, when the news of the Japanese attack, December 7, 1941, reached us around 3 PM. We were all in a state of shock; no one knew what was coming next. The Pearl Harbor attack became an instant geography lesson, as most of us had never heard of the place. I was subsequently given a rifle and assigned to guard a hole in the fence along the base perimeter on that cold, rainy, pitch-dark December night. I don’t remember whether I had ammunition or not!
In a day or two, things began to happen. Aircraft of various designations began to arrive at Westover, B-18s, B-10s, PT-17s, and others, some old enough to be antiques. Our shores were unguarded; the Navy was elsewhere, badly damaged and shaken by the attack. As the shock subsided at Westover, aircraft of the 34th were initially assigned to patrol the shorelines of the east coast. Later, the 34th was given the responsibility of training aircraft crews and furnishing instructors and cadre for organizing other Groups as men volunteered or were inducted to serve their country.
While at Westover, I was shipped to Las Vegas Gunnery School, Nevada, for training as an aerial gunner. Most of our training was done at Indian Springs Gunnery Training Camp, north of Las Vegas. By this time, the school was graduating as many as 4,000 gunners a week. We received intensive training using techniques that would now be considered crude, such as firing shotguns at clay pigeons. We also flew as trainee gunners in single engine, tandem, open-cockpit aircraft gaining experience by firing at targets towed by B-10s.
After graduating, I returned by train to Westover to find that the 34th Bomb Group had been transferred to Pendelton Field, Oregon. I boarded the train again and headed for Pendelton. The trips by train took nine days and I almost forgot how to walk.
I was fortunate to advance in rank rapidly after rejoining the 34th, going from Private to Staff Sergeant, skipping the grades in-between, and after 30-days, I was promoted to Technical/Sergeant.
Pendelton Field was situated on an area higher than the surrounding terrain. We noticed that B-25 aircraft on the base would set their brakes, rev up their engines a short distance from the end of the runway, then try to take off prior to where it ends and the terrain falls away. Those that didn’t make it, floated down the hill, gained flying speed and flew off without mishap. We found out later that the B-25s were Jimmy Doolittle’s Unit practicing take-off from an aircraft carrier.
Winter weather conditions at Ephrata Army Air Base, Ephrata, Washington, our next assignment, prevented us from flying as much as needed so they sent us to Great Falls Air Base, Montana. When we arrived there, the snow was stacked 12-feet high along the runways, not an improvement! Later, we went to Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona, before being assigned to Geiger Field, Spokane, Washington, in July 1942. Our next training assignment, early December 1942, was back to Ephrata Army Air Base. While there, we were temporarily sent to Sacramento, California, after a scare along the coast of California by Japanese submarines. On another alert, our crew flew coastal patrol for two weeks, from British Columbia to California, out of McChord Field, Tacoma, Washington. We used coded light signals that changed daily to return to land through a narrow aerial corridor at Grays Harbor, Washington.
The 34th Bomb Group left Ephrata in mid-December of 1942 for training assignment at Blythe Field, California, then back to Ephrata. Some of the training personnel with the 34th were assigned to the 395th Bomb Group that was involved in phase training B-17 replacement combat crews at Ephrata. I was one of that training group. Pilots, bombardiers, navigators, flight engineers, radio operators and gunners were assembled there after finishing their specialty training elsewhere to undergo three months of intensive classroom and flight training. My responsibility was training flight engineers prior to our moving to Ardmore in October 1943. I received my flight engineer experience through on-the-job training in the B-17.
Ardmore was a new base and all the structures were single story, unlike some of the older established bases where I had been stationed, that had two story buildings. I noticed when I first arrived that the buildings were tied down at the corners, supposedly to help secure them in high winds and tornadoes. The quarters at Ardmore were much better than the hutments we had at Ephrata.
After arriving, we immediately noticed that the young women of the area were especially beautiful. Having grown up elsewhere with a particular ethnic group or with mixed groups, such as Finnish, Portuguese, Italian or others, most of those women had features unique to that nationality. Granted, there were eye appealing girls there too. However, the girls here were different and lovely to look at. In fact, my wife of 58 years was selected from these lovely ladies.
Assigned to Flying Training Section A at Ardmore, I continued to train flight engineers in the classroom and sky. Flying, almost daily, with individual crews on local training flights and on practice bombing missions to selected cities throughout the United States. We would join up with B-17s from other bases, sometimes as many as 60 or more in the formation. I never got to know any of the Ardmore crews personally as I flew with a different one each day. The crews trained at Ardmore for three months and were assigned overseas when their phase training was completed. They usually were granted a short furlough, then reported to Grand Island, Nebraska, to reunite as a crew. Some crews flew B-17s overseas while others shipped out of Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, on a troopship bound for England or elsewhere. Most crews were assigned to 8th Airforce Groups in England." George J. Kallio, personal account: January 11, 2006
Fast Forward Note: T/Sgt. Kallio was one of nine siblings born to immigrant parents who came to America from Finland in 1904. His parents met on the boat and were married a short time later. Settling in Peabody, Massachusetts, they later moved to a small Finnish community on the tip of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. His parents could not speak English until later in life. The children had a difficult time as they started school, as they neither understood nor spoke English. The family moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, when George was 14. Gloucester citizens consisted of Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, English nationalities and others. George’s father worked all his life in the granite quarries of the area.
While stationed at Ephrata, T/Sgt. Kallio and three others of his crew, Captain Edwin W. Brown, pilot, 2nd Lt. William V. LeSeur, co-pilot and Staff Sergeant Mark H. Lowe, Jr., radio operator, parachuted, February 3, 1943, from B-17F (42-29535) near the Washington-Idaho border (Fairfield, Washington area). The crew of four had been assigned to pick up a B-17F at the Army Air Field, Great Falls, Montana, and ferry it to Ephrata. While flying by instrument flight rules, two engines failed while Captain Brown was unsuccessfully attempting to fly out and over an unpredicted severe snow blizzard containing winds in excess of 50-mph with near zero visibility. Vacuum operated instruments became inoperative; altimeter and airspeed were frozen even though pitot heat was on. Radio communication was also disrupted due to snow static. Captain Brown ordered the crew to bailout at an estimated altitude of 14,000 feet at 2230 PWT. Brown had 680:25 hours flying time with 245:20 in B-17s. LeSeur, the co-pilot, had 0 hours in a B-17 and had never flown as a co-pilot in a B-17, probably using this flight to build transition hours prior to being assigned to a training crew.
Kallio landed in the crotch-deep snow near a row of trees. The first thing he did was eat a mouthful of snow to sooth his extremely dry mouth, the result of fright. He walked up a hill and soon found protection from the elements in a nearby cattle shelter. Covering himself with his parachute to keep warm through the cold night, he drew in breath through his nose and expelled it through his mouth into his fleece lined flying jacket to help with body warmth. Around 6 AM, he saw a beam of light reflecting off the cloud base and walked to the farmhouse emitting the light. The farmers of the area had been advised to shine any available spotlight into the clouds in hope the downed airmen would see them. When Kallio knocked on the door, the farmer greeted him with "They are looking for you!" Fortunately, the farmhouse had a floor furnace which Kallio immediately occupied. He was given a hearty farm breakfast by the family and was picked up later as 15 miles of snow-blocked road was opened for ambulance access. The first question the ambulance driver asked was "Do you need a change of underwear?" All the other crew members had been rescued earlier and Kallio had been listed as missing. The radio operator who bailed out immediately behind Kallio was found six miles from Kallio. He had been dragged through two barb wire fences and had numerous lacerations. The pilot, who had minor injuries, had landed near a filling station and was rescued first. Kallio did not know where the plane finally crashed as he heard no sound and assumed the pilot set the auto pilot prior to leaving the plane as the last occupant. The aircraft crashed approximately two miles north of Fairfield, Washington. It struck a 7,620 volt power line as it went down disrupting service to Fairfield, Rockford and Spangle for several hours. Witnesses said they heard the unmanned aircraft, with definate engine problems, as it descended in wide circles over Fairfield. It crashed 300-feet west of the farmhouse of S. J. Buob after making three or four circles, each lower than the other, according to Mr. Buob.
Kallio was assigned to Great Bend Army Air Field, Kansas, after leaving Ardmore in October 1944 to retrain from B-17s to B-29s. There was a shortage of B-29s and his crew trained a group of navigators in B-17s from a base 28 miles southwest of Havana, Cuba, near the town of San Antonio De Los Banos (22 52 17N-82 30 33W). They did this for a week at a time then returned to Great Bend for a week. Picking up more navigators at Great Bend, the process was repeated. The navigators had to find small islands in the Caribbean or assigned targets elsewhere, by using only celestial reckoning.
In late 1945, Kallio was transferred to Harlingen, Texas, for a short time and then to Laredo, Texas to begin B-29 transition training. Shortly after arriving, the war ended. He was discharged at Amarillo, Texas, after serving five-plus years of his three-year enlistment. While at Laredo, Kallio was marching a group of men to class when a staff car stopped and someone called "Sgt. Kallio!" Wondering who would be calling him from a staff car, he approached to discover it was none other than Captain Edwin W. Brown, now Colonel Brown, pilot of the ill-fated B-17 that crashed near Fairfield, Washington in 1943. Fast Forward Note: Captain Edwin W. Brown and others from the 395th Bomb Group became cadre of the 401st Bomb Group when it was activated, April 1, 1943, at Fort George Wright, Spokane, Washington. The Group trained at Great Falls Army Air Field, Montana, July 1, 1943 to October 18, 1943, when they were assigned for combat duty with the 8th Air Force at Station 128, Deenethorpe, England. Arriving overseas, November 2, 1943, their first combat mission was November 26, 1943. Captain Brown was the first commander of the 613th Squadron and served later as Deputy Commander and Air Executive Officer of the 401st, advancing in rank to Major prior to January 1944 and Lt. Colonel sometime prior to March 1944. He led the first 401st raid to Berlin, March 6, 1944, their 32nd mission, and was leader of several bombing missions prior to his recall to Washington, DC in March 1944.
Dottie, his financee' and Ardmore native, rode the train to Great Bend after he was transferred there from Ardmore. When she arrived, a Justice of the Peace located a few blocks from the depot married them. Not a church wedding but maybe it qualified, as the Justice of Peace's last name was Moses. After discharge, George and wife, Dottie, moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, where they lived for several years. George became a commercial artist through determination, four years of night school, and support from the GI Bill. Moving to California, he was fully employed in that field for 50 years retiring in 1985 and returning to Ardmore. Dottie died in 2002 after complication of an abdominal condition. He served for a period of time as a Charge of Quarters volunteer at the Military Memorial Museum in Ardmore.
George spends a portion of his time producing unique pen ancd ink drawings that he "embellishes with color from acrylic paint, pastel chalks or pencils." "The Daily Ardmoreite" made others aware of his skill in its December 3, 2006edition.
Help Please!!! Mr. Kallio would like to find relatives of the family who fed him breakfast and gave him family fellowship until the military arrived to pick him up. He does not remember their name or where they lived in relation to Fairfield or one of the nearby towns. Sixty-three years tssed but with your help, perhaps this will be possible. If relatives of S. J. Buob are still in the Fairfield area, perhaps they would know. We would also like to know the "rest of the story" on co-pilot 2nd Lt. William V. LeSeur and S/Sgt. Mark H. Lowe, Jr., radio operator, as to whether they survived the War or not. An Internet account of B-17 pilot, Lt. William LeSeur, assumed to be the same person, made an emergency landing in Dubendorf, Switzerland, retracting the landing gear while moving to damage the aircraft. Crew members destroyed secret equipment prior to the Swiss boarding the aircraft. The crew was probably detained until the War was over. contact gsimmons. YEA!!! A welcomed response to the above request was received October 12, 2006. A granddaughter of S. J. Buob, Fairfield, Washington, found the Ardmore web site while searching for information about Fairfield's annual Flag Day celebration. The story of the B-17 crash on her grandparent's farm had been related to her throughout her growing-up years. After many emails between the Buob granddaughter, Claudia Buob Hagen, Gary Simmons, the website compiler, and the flight engineer, T/Sgt. George Kallio, a book by Claudia Hagen, titled, "The Night A Fortress Fell To Fairfield" has been published. A book signing and official release of the historical account of the crash and its effect on the Buobs and the community, was held, July 21, 2009, at the Fairfield Museum. A large crowd of area residents were in attendance. Appropriately, the design and art work of the book cover was done by George Kallio, who as a civilian, worked as a commercial illustrator and artist for 50 years. By the way, Fairfield old timers remembered that George was given breakfast, warmth and rest at the Wesley Cornwall farm after spending the night in the snow. Fast Forward: My friend, George Kallio, departed this earth, June 19, 2013, after a few months stay in a rehab center and nursing home where he continued to decline in body but maintained a clear, sharp mind till the last breath. He died 6 days short of his 93rd birthday. Thank you, George, for the flight engineer skills you passed to others and the dedicated service you gave to your country. You will be missed!
Combat Crew Training "After some leave I found myself in Ardmore, Oklahoma where I became copilot on a real B17 crew. My pilot was a former P38 instructor and another natural pilot, Jack Fishman (later Jack Stanley). My navigator was Norman Andrew and my bombardier was Chuck Klingensmith. I also remember Harold Rector, engineer, and Joe Maurer, radio operator. Then there was waist gunner Harold Hill, tail gunner Roland Van Nostrand, and another gunner, Melvin Englsebe.
I don't know why I have to tell you all my faux pas, guess I just want you to know I was only human. This one was a dilly. I had just met Jack and we were about to take my first B17 flight along with an instructor pilot. I had had no experience with chest pack chutes, so I proceeded to pick mine up vigorously—by the red handle. Naturally the chute popped out and made a big pile of silk for everyone to see. Redfaced, I was given another chute. Fortunately, my first landing in a B17 was so smooth that the instructor complimented me. I don't think I ever made another landing that good. The rest of my stay at Ardmore was routine—a lot of flights to practice formation flying, bombing, even air-to-ground gunnery. One time we were flying at low altitude to check our compass and another B17 came at us on the same course and at the same altitude. Our combined speed of 300 mph didn't give us much time to turn off, but we both correctly turned right. You learn to live with little incidents like that." Note: Part of Bob Holiday's military experience from the 487th website.
Ardmore Army Air Base, Ardmore, Oklahoma. Ardmore was a B-17 Bomber training base. Here is where I picked up the crew that I was to fly with across the ocean and sometimes in combat. At this time, an attempt will be made to describe a B-17, the duties, location and rank of each crew-member, number of guns and essential equipment.
To the author, the B-17 is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. Each model of the B-17 was different in some ways, but the principal difference was the B-17G had a two-gun turret under the nose of the aircraft. The B-17 was a four-engine, single-wing plane. Its engines were piston driven and used PROPELLERS! There were two wheels in the main landing gear that retracted. One small wheel below the tail did not retract. Starting from the front of the plane, the first part was called the "nose". In the "nose", were the positions for the bombardier and navigator. In combat, it was not necessary for a bombardier to be in every plane. Most of the time this position was occupied by a sergeant, who was known as a "toggaleer". This name was due to his having a toggle switch to drop the bombs. If the plane did have a bombardier, the "nose" would contain a bomb sight. The bombardier and navigator were officers.
Under the "nose" was the twin gun turret. The guns were fifty caliber machine guns. Controls for these guns were inside the plane and operated by the bombardier or toggle operator.
For the use of the navigator, there were the usual navigational instruments, astrodome, altimeter, air speed indicator, temperature, etc. If the navigator had a machine gun, it was stuck out the side of the “nose”. The navigator was not able to do much shooting because of his duties of navigating and the location of his guns. It was the added duty of the navigator to fly the plane, if the pilots were disabled.
Back of the "nose"(about one-fourth the length of the plane) was the flight deck. This was the position of the pilots and engineer. Just as today, pilots would command and fly the plane. The engineer would aid the pilots. The pilots were officers; engineers were sergeants. In addition to aiding the pilots, engineers operated and fired the top turret. The top turret had two, fifty caliber, machine guns.
Beyond the flight deck (another one-fourth of the length of the plane) was the "bomb bay", where the bombs were carried in the plane. Our normal load was fifteen five hundred–pound bombs.
Just back of the "bomb bay" was the radio operator’s room. Here was located the radio equipment for voice and Morse code broadcasting and receiving. The radio operator was a sergeant. He had one fifty caliber, machine gun, stuck out of the roof of his room. This gun had a limited range of fire. A hole was cut in the side of this room. When the plane was under anti-aircraft fire, the radio operator would empty great quantities of “chaff” (small metallic strips-similar to fake icicles used to decorate Christmas trees) through this hole or "window". These strips would jam the ground radar and prevent accurate anti-aircraft fire.
In back of the radio room (another one-fourth of plane length) was the "waist". Here were the "waist gunners". One fifty caliber, machine gun, was placed in a window in each side of the plane. There were two gunners and they were sergeants. Their duties were to SHOOT!
Under the "waist", hanging below the plane was the "ball turret". Inside the ball turret was the gunner. His duty, like those of the "waist gunners" was to SHOOT! Most ball gunners were sergeants. The turret had two fifty caliber, machine guns.
Last, but not least, in the tail of the plane was the "tail gunner". I considered this position to be the most dangerous of all! Tail gunners were sergeants. The tail had two fifty caliber, machine guns. Their duties were the same as the other gunners-SHOOT!
There were ten crew-members and twelve, fifty caliber, machine guns.
I was assigned to an Officer’s Quarters and upon entering the building I noticed that there was water all over the floor and walls. Someone told me that two crazy pilots had a water-fight that morning and afternoon. These crazy people turned out to be my pilot and co-pilot. Our reception was mutually warm, and in fact, these two people came to be very close to me. The pilots names were Henry Greenville and Alexander Guidotti.
The next day we were introduced to the rest of our crew: the radio operator, engineer, gunners, and a bombardier. The bombardier trained with us in Ardmore, but did not go overseas with us.
Our training in Ardmore was to become acquainted with the B-17 Bomber and with bombing and navigation techniques of the aircraft and the equipment we were going to be using in combat.
Part of the training of navigators was to learn how to operate the bombsight. It was the navigator’s duty to take over and do the bomb aiming in the event the bombardier was injured or killed. One of the large hangars on the base had been setup to actually practice bombing without ever getting into an airplane. On the concrete floor of this hangar, there were little boxes on wheels that could be moved around. On top of these boxes was a target. The student bomber sat on a large mobile platform, about twenty feet high, that had a bombsight on it with chairs, benches and other equipment. The platform was connected to, and operated by, the bombsight itself.
At the beginning of the bombing course, this wheeled target would be placed in a stationary position. The student would back off about a hundred feet or so, look through the bombsight and pick up the target. Guided by the bombsight, the platform would move over the target. The bombsight would compute the exact instant of "bombs away". On "bombs away", a plunger would shoot down from the bottom of the platform, onto the target, making a mark, to show the probable hit. It was like being in an amusement park with high-tech games.
In the advanced bombing, the target would be moving. The student would move his platform in a curved line to intercept the target. It was done very accurately.
After ground training and bombing technique, we took to the air to do, actual bombing. First, the bombardier had to do some night bombing. This was done by taking off at night, climbing to twenty-five thousand feet, then flying into northern Oklahoma to a lighted bomb target. This bomb target consisted of white lights in a cross with a red light in the center of the cross. Naturally, the aiming point of the bombsight would be the red light at the center of the intersection of these white strings of lights.
Taking off from the air base at night, and climbing to twenty-five thousand feet, I set a course for the designated bomb target in the north. Shortly before my estimated time of arrival, the bombardier said, "I’ve got it. There it is." We then turned to the bombing pattern and started our bomb run on this target. A few seconds before the bombs were to be dropped he called me and said, "look there." I looked down and there was a moving light coming from the top of the string of lights going down toward the red light.
He immediately turned the bombsight off! We had almost bombed a little city in Northern Oklahoma. We were not dropping high explosive bombs. Our bombs were filled with sand, but they did weigh some forty pounds. An explosive charge was in the tail for spotting purposes. Needless to say, we were both rather shaken, because it looked as if we might have bombed Uncle Joe’s filling station or Mom’s chicken restaurant. There’s no doubt but that there would have been hell to pay, if we’d dropped a bomb through any one of them. As strange as it may sound, that little city looked exactly like our bomb target and was not very far from the location of our proper target. We didn’t bomb it and all was right with the world at that time.
The second time we had a bombing incident, I was arrested; as was my bombardier instructor. Here’s what happened: It was now my turn to do the bomb aiming. We took off on a clear, sunshiny afternoon with maybe ten or fifteen practice bombs in the plane. I was in the bombardier’s position because I was "bombing". We flew to the target at an altitude of twenty-five thousand feet, identified it properly this time, then swung around and came into the pattern for the bombing procedure. My bombardier instructor set the racks for single bomb release, altitude, elevation, speed, whatever that was necessary to be set and we opened the bomb bay doors. As we were going down the bomb run, I had the target in the bombsight. On "bombs away", I felt the plane jump which would be unusual for dropping just one bomb. From our radio, we heard this yelling from the ground observers. We were ordered to immediately return to base. We had dropped all our bombs at one time! We immediately went back to base and landed. When we landed there were the military police. They arrested my instructor and me! We were taken to jail for interrogation. It was considered an outrageous crime to drop all bombs at one time. They were strung out over the countryside and not confined to the target itself.
Everything turned out well because they sent someone to examine the switches on the bomb release mechanism. It was found that the racks had been set, properly, for a one-bomb drop, but it had malfunctioned and dropped them all. Needless to say, we were released from arrest and that was the last we ever heard of that.
On another occasion we were flying at night with no particular flight plan or schedule. Mostly, it was just getting in flight time. On such occasions, I would navigate to Dallas, look at the “Red Horse” and go back. On this night, it was an uneventful, time- consuming flight. We had been up, maybe four or five hours and I knew we were very close to the air base with no need of any navigation. I decided that I was going back in the waist where the gunners had some coffee and rolls. While I was back in the waist drinking coffee and eating a roll, I was aware that the plane was coming in for a landing. We touched the runway and came to a sudden halt. We were on the active runway, but we weren’t moving. I looked out the window and here came all the ambulances and the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles just screaming out toward the center of the field. Oh, boy somebody’s in trouble! Well, it turned out that somebody was US. We landed with only one engine running. The plane had lost three engines on the final approach. We were lucky to have made the field. Even a four- engine bomber doesn’t fly too well on one engine. This was spooky! The emergency vehicles thought that we were going to be in a lot worse trouble than we were. As it was, no one was injured, the plane wasn’t injured, and finally they had to get a tractor to pull us into our parking area. Note: The "Red Horse" was the "Flying Red Horse" atop the Magnolia Building in Dallas, Texas. It was a large replica of the horse in Greek mythology known as "Pegasus". At one time it was on top of the tallest building in Dallas. It was the emblem of an oil company and a long time Dallas landmark. At night it was lighted and revolved on its base. In the 1940’s, it was visible for miles and was one of the first things you would notice on the skyline.
The planes that we were flying had many, many hours on them. They weren’t in very good shape and the maintenance wasn’t very good. Frequently, when we would go to fly, there would be something wrong with the plane and the pilot would refuse to take off. We would have to go get another plane or wait for another day. This maintenance problem was not true in England. During the combat operations, the maintenance on our aircraft was absolutely marvelous. In England, I never flew in a plane that could not make a mission because of a malfunction.” Note: This writing by Lee Bane was copied from the website that gives Bane’s remembrances of his WWII training and combat experience. Since his combat crew training was completed at Ardmore prior to his overseas assignment, his account adds information to preserve the history of Ardmore Army Air Field (Base). Thank you, Lt. Lee Bane, for recording your remembrances!
When Charles McCoy Shannon, Jr. finished high school in Zebulon, North Carolina, May 1955, he decided he would join the United States Air Force before looking for a civilian job or being drafted. He was assigned to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX where he underwent basic training. Completing basic, his first assignment was Ardmore Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Traveling alone by Santa Fe Railroad’s "Texas Chief", he arrived at Ardmore a couple of days before he was to report for duty at the base. The Ardmore depot was about a block northeast of the Whittington Hotel, the closest place to rent lodging for a night or two. After securing the room, "Chuck", as he was called by family and friends, decided he would take a walking look at nearby Ardmore. Remembering that his mother, when she learned he was going to Oklahoma, had told him he would have to be careful that there were a lot of Indians in Oklahoma. As fate would have it, Chuck walked north from his hotel across Main and proceeded north along Caddo Street. Caddo Street, since Ardmore’s early days was known as "Bloody Caddo", a named earned by reputation of someone being shot, stabbed or otherwise beat up weekly after attendance in one of the several bars along the way. In Charles own words, "I hadn’t walked a block until a bleeding, drunken Indian who had been stabbed fell out the door to the sidewalk at my feet. Scared me to death!" Charles' Ardmore assignment was a chief administration clerk. He became a public affairs superintendent during his 20 years of service at other stations including Offutt AFB, Nebraska, MacDill AFB, Florida and a tour of duty in Vietnam. He had attained the rank of senior master sergeant many years prior to retirement, September 1975. Fast Forward Note: While at Ardmore he met, fell in love and married, December 1, 1957, Ardmore native Elizabeth Ann Hoffman. After retirement, they returned to Ardmore to raise their children. Early on, he served as manager of Lake Murray Lodge, later became safety manager for Michelin Tire for several years. He was hired by the Oklahoma State Workers Compensation Department and became a well-known, dynamic speaker as he traveled explaining the program to Oklahoma employers and employees. Chuck, in retirement, became an accomplished wood carver of wooden spoons and wooden pens, cherished by those lucky enough to receive one as a gift. He died unexpectedly, August 11, 2015, in Mercy Hospital during a sudden, short illness. To add to the families grief, his wife Ann’s mother, Beatrice "Jacko" Hoffman, 96, an Ardmore nursing home resident, died earlier during the same August 11 night. Funerals were Friday, August 14 (Jacko) and Saturday, August 15, 2015. ("Jacko" was a civilian who worked in the aircraft repair section at Ardmore Army Air Field, WWII. Her story is listed in this section.) Chuck, like hundreds of Airmen stationed at Ardmore Air Force Base, 1955-1959, took Ardmore maidens as brides. When their service time was over they selected Ardmore as their place to retire. Many became respected leaders in city functions, established businesses and educated their children in Ardmore’s school system. Thanks, Charles, for becoming part of the Southern Oklahoma tribe!
In September 1943, the 418th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron observed its one-year anniversary since organization at Stout Field, Indiana. Major Edward J. Walz, CO, prepared a booklet giving the history of the unit. The names of the enlisted men, their hometown and state were given. Selections from this publication give us Major Walz' remembrances of the past and thoughts on the future of the unit.
"23 September 1943---TO: Enlisted Men of the 418th.---The occasion for this valuable little booklet is the first anniversary of the 418th BH & AB Sq. now stationed at Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Many discouraging incidents have taken place during this year of existence. After having been well organized and efficient in its duties, it was torn apart by the transfer of more than half its personnel to other organizations. Seldom did a Commanding Officer keep his assignment as such, for a period of more than two months.
In spite of all difficulties, each man in our Squadron has kept plugging with a will to do the job and do it to best of his ability. I thank and hope, this commandable spirit will carry our Squadron with the highest of honors through all missions it is called upon to perform. Signed---Edward J. Walz, Major, A.C., Commanding"
The Squadron History within the booklet is written as the birth and growth of an infant. "In the birth columns of War Department registers there appeared on 23 September 1942 a baby boy, spawned by its mother, Headquarters 1 Troop Carrier Command, Stout Field, Indiana and its father, General Order #20, AAB, Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky. The baby boy was christened: 418TH BASE HEADQUARTERS & AIR BASE SQUADRON, under the laws of T/O 1-422.
On the first day it saw the light of day it reached out and clutched in its fingers one enlisted man, assigned to its care.
Badly in need of capable leadership for growth, it attached unto itself Captain T. C. Carr, AC, on 2 October 1942, for the purpose of assuming command and 2nd Lt. Charles G. Lear, AC, its Squadron Adjutant. Now the young child began to grow rapidly and by 1 November 1942 it had surrounded itself with 138 enlisted men and 9 Officers duly assigned and 2640 enlisted men and 9 Officers attached.
But now Captain Carr, having faithfully performed his job, turned the guiding reins over to 1st Lt. John T. Snyder on 20 November 1942. Tired of its birthplace, the rapidly growing child was transferred to Army Air Base, Ardmore, Okla. arriving there on 21 November 1942 with a complete entourage of 262 enlisted men and 13 Officers assigned together with 30 enlisted men and 4 Officers attached.
On 14 December 1942, 1st Lt. Warren C. Wood, AC, took charge and found himself on 1 January 1943 with 282 enlisted men and 36 Officers assigned, 18 enlisted men and 2 Officers attached. Now the child was really shooting upward for by 1 February 1943 it claimed as its own 469 enlisted men and 45 Officers assigned with 61 enlisted men and 353 Officers attached on 1 March 1943.
Adoption of a new father took place on 2 March 1943. This father was Major Glenn I. Pierce, AC. The young boy was going to learn to be a glider pilot and obtained added strength from the Glider Detachment, 1 Troop Carrier Command. Growing taller, the young boy now found itself surrounded with 715 enlisted men and 51 Officers assigned; 47 enlisted men and 740 Officers attached.
Now came a major change! Under authority of ( April 4, 1943 OB-1-AFDPR-M April 5, 1943) Third Air Force (April 12, 1943) General Order No. 132-Ag 320.2, our young man came under the wing of the Third Air Force.
Changes transpired rapidly. On 2 May 1943, 1st Lt. Eward W. Verbarg, AC, assumed command. By now the boy's strength had dwindled to 247 enlisted men and 47 Officers assigned and 109 enlisted men and 4 Officers attached.
Still more changes were in the immediate offing. On 1 June 1943, Major Edward J. Walz, AC, picked up the reins dropped by Lt. Verbarg. Again the boy had lost weight and was found to have only 213 enlisted men and 41 Officers assigned and 139 enlisted men and 6 Officers attached. Still further reduction of personnel continued and on 1 July 1943, only 116 enlisted men and 27 Officers were assigned and 113 enlisted men and 8 Officers attached. The loss continued still further and 1 August 1943 we find our young lad with only 109 enlisted men and 28 Officers assigned plus 125 enlisted men and 7 Officers attached.
Fickle Fate now dealt another hand and the cards showed possession of our boy to be under the tutelage of 2nd Air Force, effective 20 August 1943.
We leave our young boy at this point but we might add that he has proven a precocious rascal for his early training has been filled with many and varied lessons from which he will profit and benefit. To this end he should be a son worthy of those who founded him and while his ultimate goal is not clearly marked, from his birth to this his first birthday, he has proved himself a healthy member of the 'Best Army in the World' and follows the rule of 'The difficult we do immediately, the impossible will take a little longer.' GOOD LUCK 418TH!!!!!"
Note: Several webpages furnish information about crews or individuals who trained at Ardmore prior to overseas duty. Since each gives additional history about Ardmore, they help us remember---and warrant a link from this page. As other websites are found, they will be added to help tell more of the total story. A few of these follow:
A boyhood friend, Joseph W. Campbell, remembers T/Sergeant William P. Mitchell, Jr. with a webpage memorial that helps us remember the sacrifice he made May 29, 1944 by giving his life to defend and preserve our freedoms. T/Sergeant Mitchell was a radio operator-gunner who trained with Crew 864 at Ardmore, November 1943-March 1944.
Second Lieutenant Charles E. Harris,B-17 pilot, relates the experiences of his crew from assembly in September 1943 at Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington, to transfer of the Ephrata 395th Bombardment Group in early October 1943 to Ardmore for additional phase training. Following approximately three-months of day and night instruction by battle proven veterans, the crew was dispatched overseas in a B-17G, early February 1944. Harris records the missions flown by his crew out of England in this detailed, lengthy account that is recommended reading. Fast Forward Note: Lieutenant Harris retired from the USAF as Colonel Harris.
Another detailed account is given by B-17 tail gunner, Ron McInnis, who was part of Crew 343 that trained at Ardmore in 1944. He takes us through his combat crew training at Ardmore and the crew's combat experiences in Europe. Please take the time to read this record of wartime history.
A son, Raymond E. Rodgers, Jr., remembers his father, Chief Master Sergeant Raymond E. Rodgers, from his entry in the US Army in 1938 to retirement July 31, 1969. As part of his long military career, Sergeant Rodgers served at Ardmore Air Force Base, August 1955 to December 1958 when the 463rd transferred to Sewart AFB, Tennessee. While at Ardmore, Master Sergeant Rodgers became one of the first selected airmen in the USAF to be promoted, September 1, 1958, to Senior Master Sergeant (E-8).
Lt. Robert P. Felgar, Jr., relates his WWII experiences to journalist John Bryant, remembering his phase training at Ardmore prior to overseas duty. An excerpt from the story, "Shootdown to Stalag: A B-17 Pilot's Saga"follows:
"Bryant: Where did you begin training in the B-17? Felgar: Initially in Roswell, N.M. I remember it took a lot of physical strength to fly the aircraft. There was a huge spring in the rear, and we had to overcome its resistance to land. Some of our boys began to buzz cattle, causing lots of problems for the ranchers who would occasionally lose some of their herd. They would call the base to complain, but some say it took finding a few bullet holes in our aircraft to dissuade us from bothering the cows any further! Later in our training at Ardmore, Okla., we practiced strafing with our .50-caliber guns on large white panels stretched on the ground.
One day a lady called the base -- in great excitement, of course -- to call off those planes shooting at her laundry on the line! We practiced flying in formations a lot in Ardmore, which I learned later was critical to survival and bombing accuracy when we were flying for real. Of course, we had our chances to learn from our errors, too. We practiced bombing at night, and once we hit an electrical substation with practice bombs that had a small explosive charge. I never thought night bombing was very accurate, and I believe the results in Europe proved that.
I remember one training mission where we flew all the way from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico and back. That mission and others like it helped us get a feel for how to use terrain features below to verify our courses and to appreciate how long we might have to spend in the air. Even though we were getting better, our training was still dangerous.
Once I was walking along the side of our field and I saw two B-17s collide. One went right into the ground, and everyone in the crew was killed except the tail gunner who -- amazingly -- walked away. The other airplane just flew away, and I assume it landed safely somewhere. We saw these things happen too often, but you just had to continue going ahead without dwelling too long on them.
At this point in the training, a full 10-man crew was assigned to my aircraft so that we could begin to work together. We had to be ready to deploy on very short notice, so it wasn't a big surprise when we suddenly moved to Kearney, Neb., in March 1944 and found shiny, new B-17s waiting ready for us to fly to England. I remember the damage done to the base officers club when we learned expected bad weather would prevent us from flying our planes to England, and we would go by sea instead. The guys in our unit acted out of frustration and left some unhappy permanent staff there when we left on our train for Camp Kilmer in New Jersey." Note: The collision of the two aircraft Felgar mentioned could have been, and probably was, the accident of February 12, 1944 over Mill Creek, Oklahoma where the tail-gunner, Cpl. Joseph (Jack) W. McClanahan parachuted and ten died. The planes were in formation at 15,000-feet but were approximately 15 miles from Ardmore. The time of contact was approximately 5:30PM (Central War-Time)(4:30PM Central Standard Time). There would have been ample sunlight as the sun set at 7:10 PM (6:10 PM CST). The surviving aircraft landed at Ardmore immediately after the collision. Weather condition was clear. Could Felgar have seen this accident from Ardmore? If you have information about the collision Felgar mentioned (if it was not the February 12 accident), please contact by email.
An unusually young combat crew at Ardmore was selected as "Crew of the Week" and featured in the weekly base paper "Bombs Away." They adopted the name Brown's Clowns and were remembered by a website that depicts their experience as they flew combat missions out of England.
Another former B-17 pilot, Don Miller, whose crew assembled and trained at Ardmore, has an oral history account of his WWII experience during training and combat. His Flying Fortress crew's contact with Gene Autry's Flying A Ranch was a bit unique!
If Don Miller's account whetted your appetite, read (one a day with your vitamin) what 52 other WWII veterans related to 5th and 6th grade students at the Nieman Enhanced Learning Center, Shawnee Mission, Kansas. A "Salute" to the students, teachers and veterans for preserving a part of our American heritage!!!
Lt. Lee Strong Bane, navigator, tells his experience while at Ardmore as a combat crew member. This part of his military experience was copied from the Internet and follows. Take the time to read the detailed account of his experience from enlistment to discharge, while fighting a war in between, at this website.
"Ardmore Army Air Base, Ardmore, Oklahoma. Ardmore was a B-17 Bomber training base. Here is where I picked up the crew that I was to fly with across the ocean and sometimes in combat. At this time, an attempt will be made to describe a B-17, the duties, location and rank of each crew- member, number of guns and essential equipment.
To the author, the B-17 is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. Each model of the B-17 was different in some ways, but the principal difference was the B-17G had a two-gun turret under the nose of the aircraft. B-17 was a four-engine, single- wing plane. Its engines were piston driven and used PROPELLERS! There were two wheels in the main landing gear that retracted. One small wheel below the tail did not retract.
Starting from the front of the plane, the first part was called the “nose”. In the “nose”, were the positions for the bombardier and navigator. In combat, it was not necessary for a bombardier to be in every plane. Most of the time this position was occupied by a sergeant, who was known as a “toggaleer.” This name was due to his having a toggle switch to drop the bombs. If the plane did have a bombardier, the “nose” would contain a bomb sight. The bombardier and navigator were officers.
Under the “nose” was the twin gun turret. The guns were fifty caliber machine guns. Controls for these guns were inside the plane and operated by the bombardier or toggle operator.
For the use of the navigator, there were the usual navigational instruments, astrodome, altimeter, air speed indicator, temperature, etc. If the navigator had a machine gun, it was stuck out the side of the “nose”. The navigator was not able to do much shooting because of his duties of navigating and the location of his guns. It was the added duty of the navigator to fly the plane, if the pilots were disabled.
Back of the “nose”(about one-fourth the length of the plane) was the flight deck. This was the position of the pilots and engineer. Just as today, pilots would command and fly the plane. The engineer would aid the pilots. The pilots were officers; engineers were sergeants. In addition to aiding the pilots, engineers operated and fired the top turret. The top turret had two, fifty caliber, machine guns.
Beyond the flight deck (another one-fourth of the length of the plane) was the “bomb bay”, where the bombs were carried in the plane. Our normal load was fifteen five-hundred–pound bombs.
Just back of the “bomb bay” was the radio operator’s room. Here was located the radio equipment for voice and Morse code broadcasting and receiving. The radio operator was a sergeant. He had one fifty caliber, machine gun, stuck out of the roof of his room. This gun had a limited range of fire. A hole was cut in the side of this room. When the plane was under anti-aircraft fire, the radio operator would empty great quantities of “chaff” or “window”(small metallic strips-similar to fake icicles used to decorate Christmas trees) through this hole. These strips would jam the ground radar and prevent accurate anti-aircraft fire.
In back of the radio room (another one-fourth of plane length) was the “waist”. Here were the “waist gunners”. One fifty caliber, machine gun, was placed in a window in each side of the plane. There were two gunners and they were sergeants. Their duties were to SHOOT!
Under the “waist”, hanging below the plane was the “ball turret”. Inside the ball turret was the gunner. His duty, like those of the “waist gunners” was to SHOOT! Most ball gunners were sergeants. The turret had two fifty caliber, machine guns.
Last, but not least, in the tail of the plane was the “tail gunner”. I considered this position to be the most dangerous of all! Tail gunners were sergeants. The tail had two fifty caliber, machine guns. Their duties were the same as the other gunners-SHOOT! There were ten crewmembers and twelve, fifty caliber, machine guns.
I was assigned to an Officer’s Quarters and upon entering the building I noticed that there was water all over the floor and walls. Someone told me that two crazy pilots had a water-fight that morning and afternoon. These crazy people turned out to be my pilot and co-pilot. Our reception was mutually warm, and in fact, these two people came to be very close to me. The pilots” names were Henry Greenville and Alexander Guidotti.
The next day we were introduced to the rest of our crew: the radio operator, engineer, gunners, and a bombardier. The bombardier trained with us in Ardmore, but did not go overseas with us.
Our training in Ardmore was to become acquainted with the B-17 Bomber and with bombing and navigation techniques of the aircraft and the equipment we were going to be using in combat.
Part of the training of navigators was to learn how to operate the bombsight. It was the navigator’s duty to take over and do the bomb aiming in the event the bombardier was injured or killed. One of the large hangars on the base had been setup to actually practice bombing without ever getting into an airplane. On the concrete floor of this hangar, there were little boxes on wheels that could be moved around. On top of these boxes was a target. The student bomber sat on a large mobile platform, about twenty feet high, that had a bombsight on it with chairs, benches and other equipment. The platform was connected to, and operated by, the bombsight itself.
At the beginning of the bombing course, this wheeled target would be placed in a stationary position. The student would back off about a hundred feet or so, look through the bombsight and pick up the target. Guided by the bombsight, the platform would move over the target. The bombsight would compute the exact instant of “bombs away”. On “bombs away”, a plunger would shoot down from the bottom of the platform, onto the target, making a mark, to show the probable hit. It was like being in an amusement park with high-tech games.
In the advanced bombing, the target would be moving. The student would move his platform in a curved line to intercept the target. It was done very accurately.
After ground training and bombing technique, we took to the air to do, actual bombing. First, the bombardier had to do some night bombing. This was done by taking off at night, climbing to twenty-five thousand feet, then flying into northern Oklahoma to a lighted bomb target. This bomb target consisted of white lights in a cross with a red light in the center of the cross. Naturally, the aiming point of the bombsight would be the red light at the center of the intersection of these white strings of lights.
Taking off from the air base at night, and climbing to twenty-five thousand feet, I set a course for the designated bomb target in the north. Shortly before my estimated time of arrival, the bombardier said, “I’ve got it. There it is.” We then turned to the bombing pattern and started our bomb run on this target. A few seconds before the bombs were to be dropped he called me and said, “look there.” I looked down and there was a moving light coming from the top of the string of lights going down toward the red light. He immediately turned the bombsight off! We had almost bombed a little city in northern Oklahoma.
We were not dropping high explosive bombs. Our bombs were filled with sand, but they did weigh some forty pounds. An explosive charge was in the tail for spotting purposes. Needless to say, we were both rather shaken, because it looked as if we might have bombed Uncle Joe’s filling station or Mom’s chicken restaurant. There’s no doubt but that there would have been hell to pay, if we’d dropped a bomb through any one of them. As strange as it may sound, that little city looked exactly like our bomb target and was not very far from the location of our proper target. We didn’t bomb it and all was right with the world at that time.
The second time we had a bombing incident, I was arrested; as was my bombardier instructor. Here’s what happened: It was now my turn to do the bomb aiming. We took off on a clear, sunshiny afternoon with maybe ten or fifteen practice bombs in the plane. I was in the bombardier’s position because I was “bombing”. We flew to the target at an altitude of twenty-five thousand feet, identified it properly this time, then swung around and came into the pattern for the bombing procedure. My bombardier instructor set the racks for single bomb release, altitude, elevation, speed, whatever that was necessary to be set and we opened the bomb bay doors. As we were going down the bomb run, I had the target in the bombsight. On “bombs away”, I felt the plane jump which would be unusual for dropping just one bomb. From our radio, we heard this yelling from the ground observers. We were ordered to immediately return to base. We had dropped all our bombs at one time!
We immediately went back to base and landed. When we landed there were the military police. They arrested my instructor and me! We were taken to jail for interrogation. It was considered an outrageous crime to drop all bombs at one time. They were strung out over the countryside and not confined to the target itself. Everything turned out well because they sent someone to examine the switches on the bomb release mechanism. It was found that the racks had been set, properly, for a one-bomb drop, but it had malfunctioned and dropped them all. Needless to say, we were released from arrest and that was the last we ever heard of that.
On another occasion we were flying at night with no particular flight plan or schedule. Mostly, it was just getting in flight time. On such occasions, I would navigate to Dallas, look at the “Red Horse” and go back. On this night, it was an uneventful, time-consuming flight. We had been up, maybe four or five hours and I knew we were very close to the air base with no need of any navigation. I decided that I was going back in the waist where the gunners had some coffee and rolls.
While I was back in the waist drinking coffee and eating a roll, I was aware that the plane was coming in for a landing. We touched the runway and came to a sudden halt. We were on the active runway, but we weren’t moving. I looked out the window and here came all the ambulances and the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles just screaming out toward the center of the field. Oh, boy somebody’s in trouble! Well, it turned out that somebody was US. We landed with only one engine running. The plane had lost three engines on the final approach. We were lucky to have made the field. Even a four- engine bomber doesn’t fly too well on one engine. This was spooky! The emergency vehicles thought that we were going to be in a lot worse trouble than we were. As it was, no one was injured, the plane wasn’t injured, and finally they had to get a tractor to pull us into our parking area.
NOTE: The “Red Horse” was the “Flying Red Horse” atop the Magnolia Building in Dallas, Texas. It was a large replica of the horse in Greek mythology known as “Pegasus”. At one time it was on top of the tallest building in Dallas. It was the emblem of an oil company and a long time Dallas landmark. At night it was lighted and revolved on its base. In the 1940’s, it was visible for miles and was one of the first things you would notice on the skyline.
The planes that we were flying had many, many hours on them. They weren’t in very good shape and the maintenance wasn’t very good. Frequently, when we would go to fly, there would be something wrong with the plane and the pilot would refuse to take off. We would have to go get another plane or wait for another day. This maintenance problem was not true in England. During the combat operations, the maintenance on our aircraft was absolutely marvelous. In England, I never flew in a plane that could not make a mission because of a malfunction."
Lt. Leonard Davis, navigator, 487th Bomb Group, Station 137, Lavenham, Suffolk, United Kingdom, completed his combat crew training at Ardmore. His crew and 55 other crews from Ardmore, departed by train, June 30, 1945, for Kearney Army Air Field, Nebraska, where they were assigned B-17s that they flew to England. His combat experiences after departing Ardmore are detailed in this website. Lt. Bob Holliday, also completed combat crew training at Ardmore and was probably among the 56 crews from Ardmore that flew with the 487th Bomb Group. His story can be found on the 487th website.
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