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, September 25, 2017


Dad peacefully passed August 7th, 2017 at 5:00 AM in our presence.
He was 101 years, 6 months, 5 days of age and was independent until the end.
He will be missed.

          1st. LT. John William (Bill) Smith
           Feb. 2nd. 1916 - Aug. 7th. 2017

             Recipient of  Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters

                Cadet Pilot Training in Alabama

                Welcome home from Europe

       Dad lived a full life and was as tough as nails until the end.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lt. Woodrow Cornelison, 486th. Bomb Group / 833rd. Bomb Squadron.

"We had a uncle, Lt. Woodrow Cornelison, get shot down in his B-17 fall of 1943. I don't know much about it or his aircraft."

                 Erik Cornelison

This statement was made on another sight I I went to work to get some details....

Lt. Woodrow Cornelison

Here is some info: .....Pilot in the 486th. Bomb Group / 833rd. Bomb Squadron. The plane they were flying when shot down:

Boeing B-17G-75-BO Fortress serial # 43-37948

Delivered Cheyenne 8/6/44; Kearney 20/6/44; Dow Fd 7/7/44; Assigned 837BS/487BG Lavenham 9/7/44; transferred 833BS/486BG [2N-T] Sudbury 27/10/44; {7m}
Missing in Action Merseburg 30/11/44 with Woodrow Cornelison, Herman Sigal, Ernie Glass, Bob Volkman, Melvin Adams, Ed Smolinski, George Scott, Bob Burchard (8 Prisoner of War); Billy Spieles (Killed in Action); mech fault, crashed Stolzenbach, Ger. Missing Air Crew Report 11153.

Lt. Cornelison was captured by German forces on 11/30/1944, and was eventually interned at Stalag Luft I - North III - Barracks 306 - Room 2. They were liberated on May 1, 1945 by American Forces, Russian Forces arrived May 2, 1945. Did not evacuate the Prison until May 12th. / 13th.

Cornelison's Crew

The aircraft the Cornelison crew flew was shot up by FLAK over the target at Lutzkendorf. Witnesses say the aircraft went down in the North Sea; however, Cornelison was able to set the plane between Borkener Lake and Stolzenbach, Germany. It is not clear if LT Spieles was killed in the crash, or in the air. The remainder of the crew survived and was taken prisoner. LT Spieles was later found in the burnt out wreckage of the aircraft. A volunteer gunner, Edmund Smolinski from the Howard crew, flew on this mission. (MACR 11153)

Buchard flew his last mission on November 25th, perhaps being replaced by Smolinski. Buchard's status is unknown. It is not known if LT Roberts was on this misssion.

Crew Info:
Name Rank Position First Mission Last Mission Status

Woodrow Cornelison 2nd LT Pilot 10/05/44 11/30/44 POW
Billy W. Spieles 2nd LT Copilot 10/09/44 11/30/44 KIA
Herman Sigal 2nd LT Navigator 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW
R. D. Smith (Robert) 2nd LT Bombardier 08/09/44 (?) 11/30/44 (?) UNK
Ernest H. Glass S/SGT Flight Engineer 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW
Robert E. Volkman T/SGT Radio Operator 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW
Melvin T. Adams S/SGT Gunner 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW
George L. Scott S/SGT Gunner 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW
Robert E. Buchard CPL Gunner 10/09/44 11/30/44 POW


090 10/09/44 "My Prayer" DB 43-38010 B17G
091 10/14/44 TS 43-38140 B17G
093 10/17/44 TG 43-37943 B17G
097 10/25/44 TN 43-38194 B17G
100 11/02/44 "Sleepy Time Gal" ND 42-98007 B17G
103 11/06/44 "Batchelor's Delight"TR 43-38027 B17G
105 11/10/44 TG 43-37927 B17G
106 11/16/44 "My Prayer" DB 43-38010 B17G
107 11/21/44 PD 44-6599 B17G
108 11/25/44 "Vermont Maid" ND 43-38246 B17G
109 11/27/44 NR 44-6599 B17G
110 11/30/44 PT 43-37948 B17G

Below are "Diary entries" (YMCA Log Book Entries) from a fellow Airman,
2nd Lt. John A. Kirkham in the same Prison Camp / Barracks as LT. Cornelison.

30 November 1944
Crash landed in vicinity of Erfurt. Captured at landing by Germans. Taken to Luftwaffe post. Relieved of 1 pound 15 sterling. Transferred same night ot Erfurt. Searched and confined at Erfurt. Injured Back and ankle.

2 December 1944
Left Erfurt for Frankfurt

3 December 1944
Arrived Frankfurt and marched to Oberursel and interrogated.

4 December 1944
Left Oberursel by train for Wetzler

4 December 1944
Arrived Wetzler (Dulag Luft)

10 December 1944
Left Dulag. Feet Frozen (or frost bite) en route

14 December 1944
Arrived Barth (Stalag Luft I)
Barracks 306 - Room 2 6484

9 March 1945
Typhoid Booster

30 April 1945
Dug trenches. Jerrys evacuating and demolishing installations.

1 May 1945
Americans take control of Stalag Luft I

2 May 1945
Russian forces arrive. Orders of Russian and American commands conflice. Preparations made for march to Rostockmade. Fences and guard towers torn down. Jerry warehouses ramsacked. POW's stream into Barth. Uter chaos.

3 May 1945
POW's allowed to stay. Chaos continues. Saw German suicide victims (3 women, 2 children). POW's leaving camp in large numbers against orders. Tents, fireplaces and various odd sights spring up. Reports and rumors of POW's being shot pour in. Flak school and Barth off limits but POW's ignore in some cases.

4 May - 6 May 1945
Chaos subsides gradually. Many are sick from overeating. POW's continue to leave but in smaller numbers. Fish, chickens, sheep, deer, eggs and food of all sorts pouring in. Food supply arrived. Swift evacuation promised.

7 May 1945
Russian show preformed for Kriegies. Singing, music and dancing. All excellent particularly the dancing. Groups consisted of Red Army men and women. Russian, English and American present. English contact made. An English officer promises air evacuation in a few days. Kriegies put on impromptu (First Priorities).

Fireworks display. Reports of and promised visit to concentration camps in area. Collection made for victims of German atrocities. Several fights in camp. Showers started.

8 May 1945
Oder more or less restored, visiting parties to airport started. Fireworks and bonfires WAR ENDS

9 May 1945
Walking trip to Barth, airport and concentration camp. Much filth and disorder. Talked to liberated French. Saw atrocity victims graves being dug.

11 May
First definite info on evacuation

12 May
Evacuation starts

13 May
Evacuated by B-17 (379 Gr) Flew over Rhur, Dusseldorf, Essen, Hamm, Gelesenkerchen, Cologne, etc. Landed at A-77, took truck to Rheims.

14 May
Saw Rheims catherdral from air. Flown to Le Harve by C-47's. Turck to Camp Lucky (RAMP Camp 1 St. Valery) Strike (Vittefleur). Utter confusion in camp.

17 May
Walked to Vittefleur

18 May
Ran into Les Hairson

21 May
Walked to Camp, Hitch-hiked to Le Harve

1 June
Paid 5000 Francs ($100.00)

9 June
Embarked at Le Harve (USS Hermitage)

17 June
Debarked New York - Camp Shanks

18 June
Fort George G. Meade - HOME

13th. Air Force, 5th. Bomb Group, 394th. Bomb Squadron.

I've been attempting to research my late Uncle Jim's WW 2 Bomb Group / Squadron but am not finding as much data available for the for the Pacific Theater Bomb Groups. The European Theater Groups seem to have been better documented than their Pacific counterparts.

Uncle James Carl Bussinger was a 1st. LT. Piloting a B-24. - 13th. Air Force, 5th. Bomb Group, 394th. Bomb Squadron.
Jim was from Plentywood Montana.



5th. Bomb Group


394th. Combat Squadron


 5th Bomb Group Little Queen Mary
B-24 13th A.F. 5th Bomb Group 394th Bomb Squadron Serial #44-40536
Sharpe 23 (Thomas Sharpe Collection)

I found the fate of the plane pictured above:
Serial # 44-40536 (5th BG) lost Jan 5, 1945, SW Pacific.
Missing Air Crew Report #11532
Scrolling through the Army Air Corps Aircraft Data Base I found that large numbers of 5th. Bomb Group B-24's were lost during the S/SW Pacific Campaign.


 B-24 Pilot 1st. LT. James Carl Bussinger and my Mothers younger sister, Janie (Fitzgerald) Bussinger.

I have not been able to find any specifics on Uncle Jim's service, other than he flew numerous combat missions and was with the 394th. Squadron until the end of the War. Jim passed away a few years ago and never spoke about his WW2 experiences with me.

13th Air Force
Constituted as 13th Air Force on December 14, 1942 and activated January 13, 1943.

The 13th AF served in the South and Southwest Pacific.

It was also known as the Cactus Airforce

Constituted as Thirteenth AF on 14 Dec 1942. Activated in New Caledonia on 13 Jan 1943. Served in the South Pacific and, later, Southwest Pacific, participating in the Allied drive north and west from the Solomons to the Philippines. Remained in the Philippines, as part of Far East Air Forces, after the war. Transferred, without personnel and equipment, to Okinawa in Dec 1948 and back to the Philippines in May 1949.

Commands. XIII Bomber: 1943-1946. XIII Fighter: 1943-1946.

Stations. New Caledonia, 13 Jan 1943; Espiritu Santo, 21 Jan 1943; Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1944; Los Negros, 15 Jun 1944; Hollandia, New Guinea, 13 Sep 1944; Noemfoor, 23 Sep 1944; Morotai, 29 OCt 1944; Leyte, 1 Mar 1945; Clark Field, Luzon, c. 1 Jan 1946; Ft William McKinley, Luzon, 20 May 1946; Clark Field, Luzon, 15 Aug 1947; Kadena, Okinawa, 1 Dec 1948; Clark AFB, Luzon, 16 May 1949-.

Commanders. Maj Gen Nathan F Twining, 13 Jan 1943; Brig Gen Ray L Owens, 27 Jul 1943; Maj Gen Hubert R Harmon, 7 Jan 1944; Maj Gen St Clair Streett, 15 Jun 1944; Maj Gen Paul B Wurtsmith, 19 Feb 1945; Maj Gen Eugene L Eubank, 4 Jul 1946; Maj Gen Charles T Myers, 1 Dec 1948; Maj Gen Howard M Turner, Jun 1949; Maj Gen Ernest Moore, 16 Oct 1951; Maj Gen John W Sessums Jr, 10 Oct 1952; Brig Gen William L Lee, 27 Aug 1954-.

Campaigns. China Defensive; Guadalcanal; New Guinea; Northern Solomons; Eastern Mandates; Bismarck Archipelago; Western Pacific; Leyte; Luzon; Southern Philippines; China Offensive.

Decorations. Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

Insigne. On a blue disc, bordered golden orange, a pair of golden orange wings surmounted in base by a white star charged with a red disc; all below the Arabic numeral "13" in white. (Approved 18 Jan 1944.)

A miraculous story about a 394th. Squadron Survivor:

Lt. Pete Konduros

B-24 Bombardier / mid-air explosion survivor Pete Gus Konduros was born in Anderson, South Carolina on April 27th, 1922. He was a student at Clemson University in South Carolina when Pearl Harbor was attacked. As an ROTC cadet at Clemson he was encouraged to remain in the ROTC program and to continue his coursework. In 1943, during his junior year, he was inducted into the Army as an infantryman. Through sheer luck and determination Pete managed to get transferred into the US Army Air Corp where he was trained as a bombardier in B-24’s. Pete was assigned to the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group, 13th Air Force and was shipped off to fight in the Pacific Theatre in mid-1945.

Pete had several brushes with death during his training and also while flying over ninety hours of combat during nine missions over enemy held territory. Pete was nearly shot down in an earlier mission but it was the events that transpired while flying his 9th mission that would change his life forever. It was during this 9th mission that Pete Konduros was quite literally blown out of his bomber when a flight of B-24’s on the same bombing run inadvertently dropped their ordinance into Pete’s bomber formation flying below.


The results were catastrophic. Two 1000 lbs. bombs with 0.10 second delayed fuses ripped through Pete’s B-24, exploded directly beneath it and, in an instant, Pete found himself in the forward section of the nose of the B-24. The rest of the plane was vaporized. Nothing remained of Pete’s B-24 except for the small section of the nose which he found himself in. Immediately Pete realized that he didn’t have his parachute on and his movement was limited by the centrifugal forces that were being generated as the nose section of his B-24 twirled and tumbled towards the Pacific Ocean below.


In what Pete describes as a miracle, he managed to get his flak vest off, his parachute on and, during the last precious moments before the nose section of the B-24 he was trapped in crashed into the ocean, he was able to get out and pull the ripcord. Pete was the lone survivor. All nine of his fellow crew members perished. He survived the explosion but he was not out of trouble yet. Still stunned from his ordeal, he bobbed in the water just offshore of Zamboanga, Mindanao in the Philippines. From his vantage point he could see, hear and feel the bombs from his flight of B-24’s exploding on a Japanese held airfield that was being targeted. He was just a few hundred yards away from the action and it didn’t take long for Pete to realize that by staying there he risked being a casualty of his own exploding bombs. Also, to be taken prisoner by the Japanese may have resulted in death. He decided to swim away from the shoreline and distance himself from the maelstrom. Pete swam through the wreckage of his own plane, he swam through the bodies of his fallen comrades and when he felt he was far enough away from the shoreline, he stopped and waited to be rescued…he hoped. Pete was fortunate enough to be spotted by a seaplane from the USS Phoenix.

Under covering fire from US Navy Corsairs, the seaplane rescued him and transported him back to the ship where he spent several days resting and recuperating.


Pete was delivered back to his base on Bougainville but, by then, the war in the Pacific was winding down and Pete was released from active duty in the US Army Air Corp on October 28th, 1945. After the war Pete went back to school, finished getting his degree and moved to Houston to work as a stock broker and started a family. Over time, photos of Pete’s rescue and, amazingly, his B-24 being destroyed by friendly fire were made available to him. They stand in mute testament to the 9th mission the Pete survived over sixty years ago.

Monday, September 5, 2016

S/Sgt. Roland Magee - Tail Gunner - 306th. Bomb Group - 368th. Squadron

My Wife recently received an old photo album of her late Father, 
J. Udall Magee.
He was a U.S. Navy Medic on Saipan and then Tinian
We knew his Brother Roland Magee tradically died in
 a motorcycle wreck in the 40's but knew nothing much more 
about his Brother Roland. 

This newpaper clipping was in the photo album revealed he 
was an 8th. Air Corps Gunner on a B-17. 
This knowledge got my interest so the afternoon 
was spent digging into archives and data bases.

With only his name and the date he was shot down
I started my search to find out more about Roland.
I began my search by looking for B-17's shot down on the
 given date of April 5, 1943.
Numerous data bases are available. Finding numerous B-17's
lost in april 1943
I recorded each aircraft serial # and then researched the
U.S. Air Forces Aircraft Serial Number data bases.
 Every aircraft designated for Military use is logged
on the data base...
sometimes some are not listed, or listed incorrectly.
Eventually I found he was a member of the 308th. Bomb Group.
With this finding I searched the "MACR"'s
(Missing Air Crew Reports) for the Group.
Eventually the "MACR" was located and more
details began to emerge.

The earliest MACR listed S/Sgt. Magee as "Dead", but that was later
 amended as "Wounded" after he was captured and interned
as a POW.
The newspaper article listed him as a "Ball Turret Gunner",
 but other documents listed him as the "Tail Gunner".
The "MACR" listed the B-17 Aircraft Serial Number as "42-24465".
Searching the Air Force Data Base I found that Aircraft # 42-24465
was not delivered to the Air Corps until after April 5th. 1943
so something was awry.....looking at the data base again
I checked Aircraft # 41-24465 and found the proper aircraft.
 I've found conflicting information in the past so this didn't
surprise me. 

Assigned 368BS/306BG [BO- ] Westover 17/8/42; Thurleigh
Missing in Action to the ERLA works in Antwerp 5 April 1943 
 with Pilot Robert W. Seelos (POW).
 Co-pilot: Alexander Kramarinko (Evaded - POW)
Navigator: William W. Saunders (POW);
Ball turret gunner: William H. Keskey (Evaded - POW);
Left Waist gunner: William E. Baker (Evaded - POW);
Right Waist gunner: Raymond E. Walls (Evaded);
Tail gunner: Roland Magee (POW);
Bombardier: James E. Murray (KIA);
Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Stanley P. Stemkoski (KIA); 
Radio Operator: Fred R. Hampton (KIA).
 Hit by Flak and shot down by Oblt Otto Stammberger (4/JG26),
 lost #1 engine and unable to feather, crashed in the Heikant
hamlet, 4km South West of Kalmthout,
North of Antwerp, Belgium. 
Missing Air Crew Report 15534

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Fortress
B-17E 41-24465 (306th BG, 368th BS, "Montana Power")
damaged by AAA, shot down
by Maj. Josef Priller in Fw 190A-5 of JG 26/Stab and crashed
at West Kapelle, Belgium Apr 5, 1943.
MACR 15534.  3 KIA, 7 POW                                

The Target on April 5th., 1943:  "ERLA Aircraft Works"
The industrial area of Antwerp, Belgium is the primary target
of this mission. More specifically the Erla 
aircraft and engine factories are the highest priority.
79 B-17s are depatched: 91BG (20); 303BG (21); 
305BG (18); 306BG (20). 64 of the 79 are effective on the target.
 The fighter opposition is fierce, 
especially on 306BG which loses 4 aircraft MIA.
It so happens that Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong 
has tagged along as an observer on the lead B-17 from 306BG.
The aircraft is damaged and several of 
the crew are wounded, but the aircraft manages to make it back
to England. BrigGen Armstrong later 
recounted the lead aircraft was attacked from head-on at least
25 times by the German fighters.

Early 1943 Group Photo so Wife's Uncle Roland is likely in there

Also found this little content on a 306th. Bomb Group Site:

"Roland Magee was Tail Gunner on B-17 #41-24465
 'Montana Power', shot down 5 April 1943 in Belgium. 
Prisoner of War (POW). He had lost his eye to a Flak fragment
during the attack. 
After landing in parachute, he was hidden by a farmer near
Loenhout (12km East of the crash place in Kalmthout, Belgium), 
where the Germans brought his Pilot Robert Seelos
to identify him. 
Also captured, he was sent to a German field hospital,
 from where he left around the end of April 1943 
to the Luftwaffe Interrogation Center at Dulag Luft, Oberursel.
From there, he was sent to Stalag 17B, in Braunau Gneikendorf,
near Krems, Austria, where he was in Barrack 36B. 
NARA POW records : “Returned to Military control 27 01 1945”. 
As many other wounded POWs, he was part of a prisoner
exchange program. 
Sent to Stockholm, Sweden, he boarded the “Gripsholm”,
a Swedish liner  transformed into a hospital ship and
arrived in New York on 16 February 1945 as one of 463 US, 
70 Canadian and more than 600 civilians repatriated from Europe. 
After being transferred to the Halloran Hospital,
Staten Island, New York, 
he got a furlough and was ultimately honorably discharged. 
Sadly, he died a few months later, apparently in a motorcycle
accident in California."

Sad to think he survived such a deadly situation in the Air Corps,
make it home from a POW Camp
only to die in a motorcycle accident as a civilian.
Interestly, his Brother J.Udall Magee repaired the
motorcycle and was involved in an accident soon after
getting it repaired.
 He gave the old Harley away.

Some 306th. Bomb Group Photos:


A flight of B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 306th Bomb Group
leave contrails behind as they fly in 
formation. B-17 (serial number 42-31539) is visible in the foreground.
Printed caption on reverse: 
'27814 USAF - with their contrails blending into the clouds below them,
these Flying Fortresses of the 
U.S. Army 8th Ari Force head out over Europe to blast
Nazi installations deep inside Germany. The large 
black burst in the centre of the photo is thought to be a ground fired
enemy rocket.
 Handwritten caption on reverse: '306th BG Thurleigh.'
(Roger Freeman Collection)
Two 306th Bomb Group B-17 Flying Fortresses collided 
in mid-air in heavy fog over Thurleigh airbase 
after returning from a mission; both were destroyed with all hands lost.

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.