Crew # 555

Crew # 555
Crew # 555 - planes flown: DAMIFINO , DIXIE, LET ER RIP, TIMES A WASTIN

1st. LT. J. William Smith

1st. LT. J. William Smith

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Get them Home"

B-24 Educational Video:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

In rememberance of Pilot Lt. Melvin Westbrook

SEP. 2, 1922-DEC. 22, 2014

Melvin "Mel" Westbrook, of Turlock, was born into a farming family in Genoa, NE. He died at age 92 on Dec. 22.
Mel moved to Turlock in 1940 where he worked as a carpenter for H. A. Hubbard. During WWII he joined the US Army Air Corps, and as a B-24 pilot he flew 35 missions over Europe "on the books" and two OSS missions "off the books."
He was proud of his country and of his crew, only one (Richard Chapdelaine) of whom now survives him. Richard was a Tail Gunner who Mel considered to be the brother he never had. Mel loved to tell war stories and his family heard them almost daily. One of his favorite expressions was, "I got a million of 'em!"
Mel was an excellent carpenter, and after working all day he spent evenings and weekends building the house he and his wife, Barbara, shared together for over 50 years. Other hidden talents included his penchant for growing the best Stockton red onions, snowmobiling, playing guitar, a huge love of the outdoors, hunting (he was an excellent marksman) and fishing, and dancing.
Mel also loved his friends and community, where he involved himself in activities all over town. He was an active member of the Turlock Kiwanis Club, VFW and American Legion. He assisted in delivering pumpkins to local elementary schools, ushered at the fair, made enchiladas with the Soroptomist Club, and worked with the Arrowhead Club.
He had a smile and handshake for everyone, and as a member of the "greatest generation" he will be missed.
Mel is survived by his wife, Betty Westbrook, son Chris (Sheila) Westbrook, daughter Anne (Jim) Walls, step-children Byron, Joyce, Mark, and Joyce Anderson, Kari Doo, and one grandchild. His first wife, Barbara Westbrook, and son Kevin Westbrook, preceded him in death.
A visitation will be held at Turlock Funeral Home on Fri., Jan. 2, from 3 to 7 p.m., with funeral services to be conducted at the same location on Sat., Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. Private interment will take place at Turlock Memorial Park.

Dad flew as Navigator for Pilot Westbrook during their final months in the European Theater. This timeframe included the O.S.S. Missions into Neutral Sweden. Lt. Westbrook also piloted their final flight from England to the United States in late May of 1945. 

      Westbrook with his Bomber Crew:

      "Civilian" Westbrook (2nd. from Right) in Sweden in early 1945 during layover on an  O.S.S. clandestine supply mission.

Dad commented favorably to Mel's piloting skills during one especially harrowing night flight into Stockholm Sweden. While being "tracked" by a German radar equipped night fighter, Mel took the unarmed bomber down to wave top level over the North Sea to avoid the deadly advisery.
During another of these night missions the weather was terrible, with unbelievable cross winds. As Dad gave Mel navigation corrections, Mel could hardly believe the huge course changes Dad (Navigator) was dictating to him. Always the "Crews Pilot", Mel trusted Dads' Navigation skills and he followed the given course corrections getting them safely to their Swedish Airstrip.
Complete trust of your crew mates was an essential of survival.

Time marches on, the WW2 Veterans List quickly grows smaller. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nose Gunner William E. Gilbert

"Gil" Gilbert, Aerial Gunner, Crew #555, 466th. Bomb Group, 785th. Sq.

"Gil" with Pilot Paul Bridgman (center) and Ball Turret Gunner Allan Miller

"Gil" on right with Crewmates out for a little golf.

William E. Gilberts Flight Jacket:

"Gil" (standing left) with Crew #555 mates and a couple of the ground crew.

Photos courtesy of John Gilbert

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tail Gunner Raymond "R.E." Weckerly - "Weck"

another Crewmen located
Received an e-mail this AM from the Nephew of Raymond "R.E" Weckerly, affectionately known as "Weck" by the other crewmen. He is alive and well and living in Delaware. My Dad will be happy to know that "Weck" is still with us. 

Tail Gunner "R. E. Weckerly" - "Weck"

"Weck" in his position

Photos courtesy of John Gilbert

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Miracles or Luck?

Some background about Airman William E. Gilbert of Crew # 555.

William "Gil" Gilbert joined the L.A. Police Force directly after leaving the Air Corps.
He served with Law Enforcement until his retirement.

One of the stories my Dad told me was of a crewman having his oxygen mask knocked of his face by a piece of AA shrapnel coming through the aircraft. The lucky fellow was Gil, and he was unscathed. He found the chunk of shrapnel lodged in the body of the plane. He retrieved it, and his son has it to this day.

During one long mission the Tail Gunner, Airman R.E. Weckerly, moved from his position to stretch his legs for a minute, at that precise moment a German 88 mm anti aircraft round passed upward through the aircraft's body, passing right between his legs. The rounds fuse must have been altitude controlled as it exploded well above the plane after passing through the fuselage. Weckerly was shaken but didn't receive so much as a scratch.

Miraculous that these guys came through unscathed..... or just luckier than many. In those situations a fraction of a second would have meant the difference between life and death.


According to Gil's son, when the crew arrived at Attlebridge England they had to choose a Quonset hut for their quarters. They found an entire hut empty and decided to take it. As they were getting situated another Airman came in and told them that the Hut, #13, was to be avoided as other crews had been billeted there and not returned from Missions. The Crew must have figured that having the entire hut to themselves was better than worrying about superstition, they stayed and had the entire hut to themselves.

Each hut was only rationed a small supply of coal for the heating stove so most huts were like refrigerators in the damp, wet seasons. Dad's told me more than once about being the coal "supplier" for the coke stove. They were given a weeks allotment which would last no more than a couple of days and were not happy about being cold all the time. Dad was a wiry fellow at 27 and found that the Coal Supply "Depot" was secured right near hut # 13. He made "night runs" over the fence and kept their coal supply buckets full and the stove a cook'in. Others would visit hut #13 and comment on how damned nice is was in there compared to the other huts. Dad would just smile and tell them "they rationed carefully".
Dad is the most honest soul whoever walked the earth, but his "liberation" of a little of Englands coal supply has not played on his conscience.


Produced matte of "DAMIFINO"

Tail gunner R.E. Weckerly in position on "DAMIFINO"
A good sense of humor must have helped.

Photos courtesy of John Gilbert

Sgt. Corodon Norton Crew #555 - 785th, bomb Squadron

Top Turret Gunner, Sgt. Corodon Norton, or "Stud" as he was nicknamed by his crew mates:

A few years ago, Norton's son contacted me and informed me that his Dad, Corodon, was still alive and well, living in Florida. I was able to connect him and my Father together via phone. Their "reunion" was brief as both are seriously hearing impaired, likely a result of their Air Corps Service.

"Stud's" nickname didn't stick for his civilian life, as one would suspect. He was known by his friends as "Buzz" after the war.
Viewing a number of "Studs" photos, I really get the sense that he must have been quite the character. His loose posturing is much different than all his peers....kind of a "James Dean" look about him.

The photo below was taken shortly before their departure for England in 1944.
They flew the "Northern route" to Newfoundland / Iceland before arriving in Scotland.
The majority of their combat flight training was as a developed stable crew, which bonded them into a tight "family". Each depended on the others to perform their jobs.

The seriousness of the "business at hand" is apparent in their faces after a few missions:

"Stud" standing on left.

Corodon Norton, William Gilbert, Elijah Porter, R.E. Weckerly

I've lost contact with the Norton Family, I wish them the best and sincerely hope that this post finds "Stud" alive and well.

"Stud" Norton assisting(?) a ground crewman:

I attempted to identify the aircraft from the serial number on the tail, but it comes up with a B-24 from a different Squadron. Possible that it was a transient aircraft, or the tail ID number was different than the USAF Serial Number.

These men entered the Service as kids, beat the odds and served with determination.

Photos courtesy of John Gilbert.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Men & Planes of the 466th. Bomb Group

466th. Bomb Group B-24 "Nose Art"

Notice that nearly every aircraft has a "plate" attached below the Pilots / Co-Pilots windows.
These were light steel plates installed to provide a bit more protection from shrapnel for the Pilots..... for what it was worth.
Considering the thin aircraft skin could be penetrated easily by an ink pen, anything helped.

"Blockbuster" - Declared war weary after losing two engines on the bomb run on the 12 Aug 44 mission to Mourmelon-le-Grand, France, and landing at Beccles, Suffolk, where it was repaired. It flew no more combat missions and was eventually salvaged by BAD 3, Langford Lodge, Northern Ireland.

"Chris's Crate" - Flown to England as an original aircraft by 491st BG / 853rd BS (T8 -L). Transferred before flying any combat missions to 466th BG / 784th BS (T9 T). Transferred to 785th BS (2U V+). Ditched 23 Feb 45.

Later assigned to 406th BS (NL) as J6 U and RZI from Harrington on 8 Jul 45.

"Dumbo" - Lead Formation Assembly Ship
The D style nose has been grafted on to this H model. It became the second assembly ship.


"Gran Slam"

"Duffy's Tavern"

"Parson's Chariot"
Transferred from the 491st BG immediately after arrival in England.

Before Name and Nose-Art were Applied

"Nobody's Baby"

"Merchant of Venice"

"The Lemon"....I wonder if it was a "Ford" Produced B-24?

"What's Cookin' Doc?"
Originally 8/491/855 (V2 Q+). Transferred before 14 Jun 44 to 466th BG.

"The Falcon"
Crashed 8 Jan 45 on return from a mission to Wittlich about 1000 yards WNW of Shipdham airbase, after making one low level pass over the airfield and running out of fuel, it lost about 10 ft of the right wing in a tree, hit a haystack, went through two hedges and into an ice-covered pond, coming to rest in the pond, having stopped some 75 ft from a cottage. The nose was crushed and the left wing was torn off. Salvaged 9 & 10 Jan 45.