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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cadet Training

My Dad's first meeting with his first born son in Montgomery AL., Oct. 1943 while he was in Pilot Cadet Training.
Mom followed him around the country when she could afford it, which wasn't often.

Dad with a couple of his buddies during Cadet Training.
He was good friends with these guys, but lost track of them after leaving training, he was never able to find out what happened to either of them.
"Hal Orndorff & ?? Andreson
Dad nearly became a "statistic" while in training there. The old underpowered, heavy, 2 seat trainers took a lot of lives. He was in the "stall" maneuver and very near didn't get the plane back under control. He said he was WAY too low when he was finally able to get the plane into control. He figured he was within a couple seconds from "meeting his maker". During the last few seconds another low flying aircraft nearly collided with them.
Dad ended up with 250 + solo flying hours and was given the option to fly as a "Forward Observer" for the Army Artillery, or continue training and go into Navigation School, as the Air Corps was desperately short of Navigators. Luckily he chose the later and went into Navigation. In civilian life he was an accountant, so was a "numbers guy". ...good fit for Navigation.
Who knows, If he had gone out as a forward artillery observer in an unarmed "paper plane", he likely might not have come home.

R & R at the "Flak Castle"

During their "tours", airmen were given occasional "R & R' periods to have a few days off, away from the daily mission routine.
Becoming "Flak Happy" was a term used for "Combat Fatigue" when guys couldn't take any more. Dad only witnessed the breakdown of one guy throughout all his missions. During an intense bomb run with anti-aircraft bursts all around them, they took numerous hits on the aircraft. The Bombardier's oxygen mask was torn off his face by a chunk of shrapnel passing through the plane. Apparantly one of the other crewmen had a minor panic episode on that mission.
Dad said he was always scared on these missions, but just kept busy focusing on his job. "Anyone who said they were not scared was a liar", according to Dad.
Going on "R & R", they were sent to an old English Estate. The crews referred to it as the "Flak Castle."
Dad took some photos while on leave at one of the "Flak Castles".
Not sure if only officers were given "leaves" to these Estates or if lower ranking "Enlisted" men were given the same "R & R" locations.(?)
Dad said the entire crew were always treated as "equals", regardless of rank, amongst themselves. They had a "bond" that went beyond rank.

He sent these photos to my Mom in the States:
        [click to enlarge]

His main form of local transportation was on 2 wheels.

Not sure where this old estate was located or if it still exsists.

Big ass place.....

The Photo below was marked "Lowestoft" ...not sure where that was, so looked it up on wikipedia.....Suffolk on the North Sea Coast.


Crew #555 Orders for the European Theater:

Apparently the Crews flew over without any Unit Disposition. Their Bomb Group assignment must have been determined upon arrival to England. This group appears to have flown over with 4 aircraft. The Orders are dated July 19, 1944.
Crew #555 (Dad's crew - 1st. on list - Paul Bridgman - Pilot ) began further training immediately upon arrival and were flying bombing missions by the end of August 1944.

The crewmen were allowed $7.00 Per Diem each for their trip.

Pilot Paul Bridgman in England:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some photos

Recently came across this "Flak Map" of Germany which my Dad used during missions.

[click on photos to enlarge]

This newspaper - "Boston American" May 23, 1945. Dad marked himself on the photo. He ended up with all these other flyers heading for the Pacific Theater. He had completed his required missions, plus a few more so wasn't sent to the Pacific.
The photo was taken minutes after their arrival to the US. He said the Airfield was so crowded with returning aircraft that they barely had room to park.

I did find other flight logs which show he actually kept flying until September 1945. Some of his flights were aboard B-17's. Those flights were based out of a South Dakota Air Base.
I also found that he was promoted to 1st. LT. in late 1944.

 Photo of my Aunt & Uncle.
Uncle "Jim" Bussinger was a B-24 Pilot in the Pacific.
What a dashing looking guy he was. Kind of an "Errol Flynn" look about him.
Aunt Janie was my Moms' sister.

 My Uncle "Ben Badger" was also a Pacific Theater Pilot.
He flew one of these:
I'm not familiar with this aircraft.(?)

Between these 2 photos he has appeared to "gain" in Rank.

Uncle Ben in MT.