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February 19, 2012
Volume IV, Issue 2
JOURNAL OF EHLE REBER
Daily Diary of An Original 303rd Bomb Group Pilot
Part 3 of 3
Part 1 — Part 2
1Lt Ehle H. Reber was one of the 35 original pilots in the 303rd Bomb Group and one of nine assigned to the 427th Bomb Squadron. We recently discovered his comprehensive daily diary, documenting his experiences from late in training until his crew was lost on January 23, 1943. This historic journal is a 100-page, handwritten account of events from August 29, 1942 to January 22, 1943. This is the 3rd and final part of the journal. Part one and Part two were published previously.
Sincere thanks to Ryan Bartholomew, President of the Malin Historical Society for providing a copy of the transcription of the journal, along with some photographs, and allowing their publication. Also, thanks to Tim Conver, son of Milt Conver, for providing additional photographs and assistance.
Part three continues the tragic history of the very early war, and concludes with one more crew making the ultimate sacrifice.
Dec. 14/42 Monday
Nothing new. Lt. Stockton off on 48 hour to London. Goetz goes tomorrow and then I'll probably go over France and the old homestead will be quiet. For once. Gave my plane the once over. Painted my fourth bomb on the fuselage and now she's all set for the fifth. I hope our gunners do better jobs on the next raids. Group got only two on Rouen (Romilly) raid. 306th bagged 14, so they reported (?). May have mission in the morning, but weather looks pretty bad. Flew SBA with Capt. Cole this morning. Worked fair, found out later we didn't let equipment warm up enough. Received two boxes today from home. Clayt & Lee and Mother & Dad. Gifts were really swell.
Dec. 15/42 Tuesday
Nothing new. Weather still foggy and rainy. Scheduled to fly a little formation, but a minor repair job was needed on my radio so I stayed on the ground. Upper turret gunners are getting a little practice with the plane on the ground. A couple of cubs dive down on the planes and the turret gunners track them. 2 x 1000 loaded for raid scheduled for tomorrow. Weather looks bad. Will probably be called off. Goetz to London on 48.
Dec. 16/42 Wednesday
Raid called off on account of weather. Weather bad. Received confirmation that my tail gunner has received credit for downing an ME109F. Sgt. Blankenship, Asst. Engineer and ball turret operator and Sgt. Jurosek, tail gunner, both claimed the plane. They flipped and Sgt. Jurosek won so he is credited with the victory. That means he will receive the Air Award medal. One more raid and I am supposed to receive one. We are going to paint a black swastika on the 4th bomb. Party in the evening. I brought Doris from Cambridge. We had a good time. All 48 hour passes have been cancelled as there are quite a few venereal disease cases from the 427th in the hospital. Stock back at noon.
Dec. 17, 1942 Thursday
No flying today. Weather still foggy and rainy. Perhaps it is for the best as there were a lot of hangovers this morning. Goetz back at noon. Lloyd and I lose our 48 hour passes due to restriction to the post. Will resume again probably around the 1st of January. Mission maybe tomorrow.
Roommates Bill Goetz, Don Stockton and Ehle Reber
Dec. 18, 1942 Friday
No mission. Went into Cambridge. Goetz, Stockton and I had our photograph taken. Bought a Christmas tree. I guess we'll have a regular Xmas after all.
Dec. 19 Saturday
The "Jerry Jinx" appeared in the Daily Herald today. Mitch and Swindle were in the photo. We went into Cambridge and got our photos. They came out surprisingly well. Doris helped us shop for Xmas tree decorations, electric bulbs and everything. I bought Goetz and Stock each a Christmas present. Mission scheduled for tomorrow. It is the Romilly Air Depot. The target we started out for the last time. Maybe we can get to it this time. We hope anyway. (This damn GI ink).
Dec. 20/42 Sunday
As usual, here it is Sunday and another raid. We have now had 3 of 7 raids on Sundays. We took off at 1000, reached the Channel at about 1200. Unfortunately, my #2 turbo-regulator went out on me and I had to turn back after hitting the Channel. I was certainly disappointed. Lt. Swindle was acting squadron bombardier and was with Maj. Sheridan. We came back and landed at 1330, after stooging over England trying to find the field. My navigator had a tough time finding our position, as we had to let down through an overcast. The rest of the boys came back from the raid OK. They did a pretty fair job of bombing. Goetz, Robey and I all had to turn back because of mechanical trouble. Goetz's turbo blew up and punctured his right tire. When he landed he ran off the runways and sunk into the mud. Very little damage was done other than the tire, tube and turbo. Lt. [Oliver] Witt, 359th, was forced to land in the Channel and no word has been heard from him yet. Major Romig and Capt. Calhoun landed at Bovingdon with a badly shot up aircraft. The crew bailed out before they made their crash landing. All OK. B-24's gave the bombing formation trouble as they kept busting up the B-17's formation and by not flying in the proper position or at the proper altitude. About 6 Liberators and Fortresses were lost on the raid and about 27 enemy aircraft were destroyed or damaged.
Dec. 21, 42 Monday
Not much doing today. Went out and checked my plane and test-hopped in the afternoon. It worked perfectly at 25,000 ft. Another picture of "Jerry Jinx" and all the officer crew appeared in the paper. This time it was the "Stars and Stripes", a forces paper printed in London.
Dec. 22/42 Tuesday
Weather was pretty good today. Maj. Sheridan went to Bomber Command today at a meeting of all squadron CO's and Groups CO's to iron out formation and escort protection for future raids. Lloyd and I went into Kettering to get some laundry and cleaning and also to do some more Xmas shopping. Lloyd and I flew in the evening from about 2000 to 2100. The outer circle lights were out and it was really hard to find the field despite the full moon. The British blackout is quite effective. I landed 3 times in 33 minutes without landing lites. We thought there might be nite intruders around. Lloyd got lost from the field and landed about 30 min. after I did. There is supposed to be a Xmas party for a group of English children tomorrow sometime.
Dec. 23/42 Wednesday
Today we had a practice mission with 4 Groups participating. We were to have squadrons of Spitfires attack us to learn where the best spot would be to have our escort fighters fly to give the most protection. Everything went off OK only there were no Spits around. They were weathered in and if they had taken off they would have had to land someplace else and in that way, they would have left London undefended. So, we flew at 25,000 for a couple of hours accomplishing very little. The little war evacuees were standing by to watch our take-off. I guess the fellas that were not on the flight had a great time entertaining them. There were about 80 of them with the average about six years.
There is a bomb loading for tomorrow 10 x 500. Don't know what the target is yet. Incidentally I co-piloted for Maj. Sheridan in my plane today. Have a Xmas party scheduled for Xmas nite. We Are inviting some American nurses over.
Thursday Dec. 24/42
We had another hi-altitude mission today. The Spits were weathered in again but bombing practice was carried on anyway. Three 100 pounds [bombs] were taken on the practice mission. I didn't go on the hop. My ship is all
set now after having two new supercharger regulators on engines #1 and #2. Had a party in the evening at the Officers' Club. Got out of this world. Nothing scheduled for in the morning. Santa comes tomorrow.
Dec. 25/42 Christmas Day, Friday
Up early. We opened our Xmas presents about 1300. Had a nice turkey dinner. Billy B., Don, Maj. Sheridan, Buck, Goetz, Lloyd and myself were all at the tree in the afternoon to get their gift. Don, Goetz and I bought each of the others a gift and vice versa. It was a little party all of our own. We had a party at "Club 66" in the evening. We fixed up the club from a vacant room in the barracks. Not bad either. We sent a car for 7 nurses, good old American gals, from Diddington. We had a big time. Raid called off for the morning as the weather is bad.
Dec. 26/42 Boxing Day, Saturday
Field is red with ceiling and visibility zero. Everyone recuperating from a rather strenuous holiday. Today is the day that here in England all the employers give their employees an extra box or bonus for Xmas. A day that is usually high-lighted by many big athletic events. We had June Simpson and Eva over today for coffee and fruit cake. Had a delightful time looking at snapshots. They are both 2nd Lt. (WAAF's) who work in the ciphering department at headquarters.
Dec. 27/42 Sunday
Had roll call at 0800 and a meeting at 1000 on the Sperry computing sight in the turrets. Just a refresher to help improve our marksmanship on raids. Field is still fogged in so our practice bombing mission for this afternoon was called off. Formation of a two Group Wing promises to take our operation officer so there should be some pilots pro-meted. Wrote letters in the evening.
Dec. 28/42 Monday
Nothing now. Heard that 48 hour passes will start again soon. Weather was cloudy and a little rain fell. Late in evening heard that our 48 hour starts tomorrow. Flying for the afternoon called off.
Dec. 29/42 Tuesday (London)
Flew SBA with Stockton in morning for about 2 hours. Took off for London at 1430. Took the train from Northampton, Arrived in London about 1700 o'clock. Went to the Savoy Hotel, where we had suite reservations for eight. Capt. Cole's crew and my own were with us. That is, the officers. The enlisted crews went to the Washington Club. The Savoy Hotel is beautiful. In peacetime it would be 100% better. Lloyd, Mitchell, Swindle and myself stayed in our suite. In the evening we went downstairs to the American Bar and drank beer and Scotch. Had a marvelous time. Met Martha Raye and had a chat with her. She was going to Africa in the next 32 hours and apparently headed for a good bender. I proved right later on as we met her again at the Merry Go Round Club. We were with two American nurses we had met at the American Bar. Martha was out of this world. She was coaxed (very little) to get up and sing. She did and it really stunk. She sang "Honeysuckle Rose" and one other. She really had a whiskey tenor. We tried to get in the Embassy Club, but without a membership card, it was impossible. The doorkeeper did pour us a spot of tea, of all things. "Out of this world". We finally ended up back at the Savory about 0130.
While at the Savoy we met Mr. Robert Page, a really perfect gentleman. I honestly believe that he knows everybody that is anybody in London. He knows all the R.A.F. Aces such as "Sailor" Malone. He knows all the big musical comedy stars in London and also the radio artists such as Arthur Askey. We met Peter Croft, an actor, whose father was the Honorable Archie in the old Frank Watanabe radio skits back in the states. He knows Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Bebe Daniels, Ben Lyon, Beatrice Lille, Gloria Swanson, Ray Milland, Kay Francis and many other famous celebrities. His room was lined with photographs and signatures of famous people. He was the one who got Ray Milland into the movies and gave him his stage name. Ray use to work for him in his quite profitable wholesale florist business. We gave Bob our promise that we would meet him the next day at his private club. The Kimal Club.
Dec. 30/42 Wednesday (London)
Up at about 0900. Had breakfast (tea and crumpets) in bed by pressing a button which brought a waiter, took our orders. Wow! What comfort. We had lunch at the Officers' Club on Audley Street and then went to the Kimal Club, where we met Bob. He showed us his flat upstairs. Bob, Ed, Bryant, Lloyd and I decided to go see "Full Swing" a musical comedy stage production. Mitch and Swindle had dates. We went to the show at 1745. It was a marvelous show with a beautiful chorus. Bob got us the best box in the theater and arranged beforehand with the star of the show for her to sing "Mama Buy Me That" to Lloyd. So the whole chorus and this beautiful leading lady sang to Lloyd up in our box. The spot lite was on him and he really sweated it out. Had fun. Went back to Savoy after the show and had a wonderful dinner in the Grill. Dozens of waiters took care of our table which Bob had arranged with the head waiter beforehand. What a guy. After dinner we went to the lounge and had a few drinks and so to bed. Incidentally I forgot to mention that we Americans had created quite a bit of excitement the nite before, in the lounge, by singing
"You Are My Only Sunshine", much to the amazement of the highest of society in London. I think they really enjoyed it however. We received several down the nose glances, but not many. I guess they realized that we were on leave and celebrating a little. So to bed. Oh! yes, heard over the radio at 2400 that nite that American Fortresses had raided Lorient so we knew the boys had gone on a raid. We would have to miss it. Three Forts were reported missing. We sweat that out until we found that it was none of ours.
Dec. 31/42 Thursday (London till 1330)
Met Bob at the Kimal Club and told him goodbye. He said that the next time he would have a party all set for us. Chorus girls and all. We then did a little shopping, had lunch at the Officers' Club at 1200 and departed for Molesworth at 1330 on the train. Arrived at Bedford about 1530 and truck took us to the field. Called Doris about the date for tonite (New Year's Eve). She had to work. She is in the NFS (National Fire Service) and had to be on all nite. Too bad. Went to the Officers' Club and stayed stone sober as there was to be a raid in the morning. That was called off 15 minutes before midnite and by that time all the spirits were gone so to bed at about 0130. Saw the New Year in with "Auld Lang Syne".
Jan. 1/43 Friday
First day was rather slow. Scheduled to shoot skeet in the afternoon, but rain caused it to be postponed. Had intelligence lecture in the afternoon. Checked plane and guns and they were in good condition. All set for a raid. Plane still has 4 x 1000 in bombay. Went to show in the evening. "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse", Ed Robinson, Humphrey Bogart.
Jan. 2/43 Saturday
Was scheduled to bomb at 1200 bad weather postponed it. Later called off altogether. Bomb loading for raid in the morning 4 x 1000. St. Nazaire, Sub pens again. Flak is pretty good there so we should have a good time. I feel like hell with a cold, but I hope to feel better in the morning. I've been taking cough medicine and nose drops all evening.
Jan. 3/43 Sunday
Up at 0500. Briefing was at 0600 and take-off was set for 0900. Target was St. Nazaire. I went out to my ship at 0800 o'clock and had everything set for take-off. At 0830 I taxied out to edge of perimeter and stopped to wait to tag on ships in front of me. I was to fly #3 in the first element. The 303rd led the entire raid with Gen. Hansell, new Wing C.O., riding with Col. Wallace and Capt. Southworth in the lead ship. As I sat there waiting to join in taxiing for take-off, I suddenly heard a loud explosion. Sgt. Hamilton said it sounded like a super-charger but I knew that was impossible as they weren't in use at the time. I looked at the tires and they were OK and then the smoke came filtering up front. It was gun smoke. I left my seat and went back to see what had happened. Sgt. Gross and Sgt. Jurosek were leaving the plane after Sgt. Hamilton had kicked the door open. Sgt. Gross was bleeding quite badly but wasn't hurt seriously. He had a few scratches on his face and a few shrapnel holes in his leather flying equipment. Sgt. Jurosek was alright but for a piece of shrapnel in his arm. I sent them both to the hospital. The cause of the accident was Sgt. Hand, right waist gunner, who had checked his gun for proper feeding and through a malfunction the gun fired five times before it stopped. He did not have it pointed out of the window at the time. It was in its carrying rack so that when it went off it tore several large holes in the rear door, went through some armor plating, through the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. It caused more damage than any raid I've been on. I went up to the hospital, after taxiing my plane back to the dispersal area, and found that the boys were OK. I had a meeting at 1000 with my crew present and gave them hell in general. The cause of the firing of the gun was either by incorrect assembly or the adapter.
Lt. Goetz, Lt. Stockton, Capt. Southworth and Major Sheridan were the only pilots to go on the mission. The planes were to land at Davidstow, in Southwestern England, because of the long trip. However at about 1630 the planes began appearing over the field and it was then apparent that they were returning here. We watched the planes as they came in. There were four missing. Included in the missing were Major Sheridan and crew. Lt. Goetz had gone as his co-pilot. It was a hard blow to all of us, especially Stock and myself as Goetz was our "buddy" and roommate. Maj. Sheridan's loss was a blow to the whole Group. All the fellas again feel as they had after the fatal El Paso crash. We later learned that his plane had gotten a direct 20 mm, hit in the cockpit. It probably killed both the Major and Goetz instantly. The plane went into a dive, no chutes were reported to have left the ship.
Lt. W. H. Goetz
Lt. R. W. Smith
Sgt. Shelly (Engineer)
Sgt. Walters (Radio)
Lt. Clark )
Lt. Adams ) Pilots of planes missing.
Lt. Saunders )
All in all it was a fatal trip for the 303rd Group. Fighters were the cause. The 303rd reported 12 (e) fighters destroyed, 5 probables and 3 damaged. This is a little higher than the actual number shot down, it was believed.
It is apparent that the B-17 is in dire need of a nose gun or turret of some kind. The enemy planes can come in from level at about 10:30 to 13:00 and can pound the fortresses unmerciful without accurate fire being placed upon them.
Reber's drawing illustrating the B-17s need for a nose gun. See the entry below.
Lower turret gun cuts out here when bombay doors are open and also for the props so it has only a small area it can come directly to the front, but only to the side and forward about 45 degrees.
I was suppose to have flown Lt. Saunders position. [see drawing above] He took my place
when I failed to get off. That's the second time the plane that took my place on a raid has been
shot down, "A charmed life, maybe - huh".
In the evening we had a party at the Club. Everyone was out of this world and forgot their sorrows.
Went to Diddington to see some American nurses, friends.
Jan. 4/43 Monday
Checked plane at the hangar and it is coming along O.K. It should be out within a week.
Capt. Cole is acting Sqdn. C.O. in the absence of Capt. Hagenbuch, the
ranking officer. He's in London on pass. Back tomorrow.
Stock and I were informed that we were to get Goetz' things together for
shipment to the States. I think Capt. Billy B. is going to move in with us. Went to Cambridge in the evening to see Doris.
Jan. 5/43 Tuesday
Dull day. Plane should be out of the hangar soon. Scheduled to fly Billy B's plane on practice bombing mission, but it was cancelled on account of visibility and weather in general.
The 303rd has now lost 25% of its air echelon in two months of operational flying. Nine crews and 11 airplanes, including Hayes. However he should be back one of these days. Rapid turn-over.
Jan. 6/45 Wednesday
Jerry is still in the hangar. There is quite a bit of sheet metal work to do.
Stock leaves tomorrow for London on 48 hour pass.
3" of snow on the ground this morning. I was sure surprised. It has
been raining and snowing most of the day. All flying was definitely cancelled.
Cambridge in the evening.
Jan. 7/43 Thursday
Jerry is about ready to go out. Should be ready in the morning.
Don and I got Lt. Goetz' things together to ship home when headquarters
gives the word. Don left about 1200 for London. Home about Saturday noon.
Lt. Hank Harden, in group Intelligence, is staying with Stock and I now.
He knew Capt. Cole, Maj. Sheridan, etc., before they joined the 427th
at Boise. Then the 31st Reconn. Saw "Dodge City" in the evening.
Jan. 8/43 Friday
Was scheduled to fly SBA with Capt. Billy today, but excessive ice on
wings caused cancellation.
Mitch taxied Jerry to dispersal. She is all set for raid that has been
called for in the morning (Saturday). We usually have them on Sunday.
Day early, ha. Plane loaded with 10 x 500. It sounds like Romilly,
Rouen or one of the targets like that. Air depot or marshalling yards.
Had Link in the evening and saw "Goldwyns Follies" at the cinema.
Jan. 9/43 Saturday
Jerry Jinx is still all set. Raid was called off at 0230. Weather bad.
It was to be on Emden, Germany. It would have been the first American
raid on Germany in World War II. We will still have it probably as soon
as the weather clears up a little.
Flew SBA in the morning with Billy B. in Stockton's plane. It worked
out pretty good. Stock burns a little when the rest of the pilots use
his plane as it puts a lot of time on it. His plane is the only one
equipped with SBA equipment.
Received some Emeralds from Dottie. First time I've heard from her in
months. Also heard from folks and Lynn.
Saw "I Wanted Wings" tonight. It was pretty good, but some of the shots
were faked to the extreme.
1Lt Ehle H. Reber (P), 2Lt Jarold J. Byrom (N), 2Lt Robert J. Swindle (B), 2Lt Allan D. Mitchell (CP). This was the cover photograph on the New York Times Magazine, January 10, 1943 issue.
Jan. 10/43 Sunday
Strange for a Sunday as there was no raid scheduled for today.
Weather is really bad. Visibility is about 200 yards. Ceiling zero.
There is a thin coating of ice over everything. Transportation is practically nil due to the icy condition of all roads. It is even dangerous walking.
Jerry Jinx was de-bombed. This weather is pretty tough on her but won't
hurt her much. Hank is leaving tonite as he has been transferred back to the 305th Group
at Chelveston. I am "Duty Officer" tonight, but all transportation has been cancelled
so I don't have a damn thing to do. Usually have to accompany troops on
liberty trucks into town.
Jan. 11/43 Monday
Nothing today. Played bridge at the Club in the afternoon.
Wrote letters in the evening. Went to Diddington to visit some American nurses. Of course they weren't
home. Back early. We are on alert for raid tomorrow morning. Jerry
is all set to go. Called Dot in evening.
Jan. 12/43 Tuesday
We were suppose to be awakened at 6:00 for breakfast if the raid was to
go on, but it was called off on account of weather so Don and I slept
till about 0900. Latish for a long time.
It seems Bomber Command puts us on an alert if there is a 50/50 chance
of the weather being good. The weather was bad so we stayed home.
Have 48 hour pass starting tomorrow. Will probably go to London. Have
reservations at the Savoy.
Jan. 13/43 Wednesday
We had a surprise mission today on Lille. It was the Fives Plant Machine
Shop and Locomotive Works. We were briefed about 0800 and took off rather
late at 1240. We attacked the target at 1430 and some very good hits
were observed. The mission was extra tough because of the continual prop
wash of the Group ahead of us.
In fact it was so bad that two 17's collided in mid-air just ahead of me
and the one plane broke in two and they both went down. It was really
a horrible sight to see. Some parachutes were seen to come from the plane.
We encountered very little fighter activity. A few were seen to attack
the Groups ahead of us but we had none attacking us.
The bombing was rather promiscuous [indiscriminate] from the target to the coast. We had
5 x 1000 on board and they really raise hell on contact.
Stock's tail gunner died from lack of oxygen on the trip. He pulled out
of formation over the Channel and hurried to the field in an effort to
save him but the lack of oxygen and the extreme cold temperature was too
much and he died. He was Sgt. Paul Ferguson and a helluva good boy. He was the only casualty for the Group, a far cry from the last raid, in which we lost Buddy Goetz and Maj. Sheridan.
We heard that Lt. Schowalter and two other men that had gone down over Paris on the Romilly raid are in allied hands. Will be with the Group soon probably.
Jan. 14/43 Thursday
We were suppose to go on pass yesterday, but put if off for Lille raid. We were suppose to go on a raid this morning but it was cancelled. Went on pass and arrived in London about 1500 o'clock. Stayed at the Strand Palace. Met Bobby Page and had a few drinks at the Kimal Club. Ate at the Officers' Club. Bed about 01:30.
Jan. 15/43 Friday
Up about 1000. Breakfast in bed. Powdered eggs and toast (ach). Made reservations for Bobby Howes' "Lets Face It", a musical comedy stage production.
We met several musical comedy stars - Nigel Patrick, Capt. in Army, and Peter Croft, starring in "Murder Without Crime" which we saw after "Lets Face It". Both were quite good.
Also met Squadron Leader Al Deere. He is the most famous New Zealand war ace. He has about 27 victories to his credit with three DFC's. He is to be a Wing Commander soon as he is going to General Staff School.
Jan. 16/43 Saturday
Oh yes, I met Arthur Askey, English Bob Hope, last nite at dinner at the Savoy.
Mitch and I went looking for a Cocker Spaniel puppy, but couldn't find one. Bobby is going to get me one.
Hopped train at St. Panthias station and arrived at Bedford about 1500 where a reconn was waiting to take us home.
Party in the evening at the field. The Squadron has been on the alert three mornings. Up at five. Wow three times.
Jan. 17/43 Sunday
Weather bad. We were scheduled for Group formation practice and then
Squadron practice and finally all flying cancelled. Visibility about two miles.
Bomb loading 5 x 1000 for tomorrow but the weather looks bad. Played
poker and won £3. Played bridge all afternoon.
Jan. 18/43 Monday
Heard that Jimmy Johnston lost his life (?) in one of the B-17's that
collided on the Lille Raid. He was with us at Boise and a good boy. A
Capt. at the time. Some chutes were seen to come from the falling planes.
Here's hoping he made it.
We had a two hour alert last nite as about 60 bombers hit at London. Very
little damage was done and 10 planes were destroyed. It was a retaliation raid for the RAF bombing of Berlin the last week.
Jan. 19/43 Tuesday
All transportation called in. A lot of walking now by all personnel.
Result of accident over the weekend in which two enlisted men were killed
in Jeep. I was suppose to go to Cambridge this evening, but of course trip cancelled due to lack of transportation.
Weather is very foggy. Jerry Jinx still loaded with 5 x 1000.
Received six letters yesterday and two today. Morale of men not too good. Lt. Hayes back soon (?).
Jan. 20/43 Wednesday
Weather was pretty bad today. A ground fog kept everyone on the ground.
Germans raided London and killed many school children with a direct hit.
We were on alert again. To bed early.
Don S. went to hospital. His stomach has been giving him trouble. It seems to be going through the Base as a lot of the men and officers are ill too.
Jan. 21/43 Thursday
Weather was clear all day. Good day for a mission but the weather over the target was probably bad.
Don still in the hospital. He should be out tomorrow.
I flew two hours formation today. It was practicing the new type formation to cope with head-on attacks. We will soon have twin 50's in the nose. I hope it won't be too late for someone.
I swung my compass this afternoon. I was scheduled to make a nite X-C but it was cancelled because of the prospects of a mission in the morning. My plane is loaded with 5 x 1000. So to bed.
The final page of the Reber Journal. Reber's almost-prophetic comment on January 21st was, "We will soon have twin 50's in the nose. I hope it won't be too late for someone." It was. Two days later the entire Jerry Jinx Crew was killed in action as they were shot down by enemy fighters.
Jan. 22/43 Friday
This morning, we were to be the first American attack on Germany. We were to bomb some sub pens and workshops Northwest of Bremen 7 miles. The area is very highly defended with heavy flak and JU88's and ME110's as well as FW190's. The first two are twin engine fighters. The area included Bremen, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven. All are big sub pens and sub building yards.
The mission was cancelled at 0800. Thirty minutes before we were to taxi out. Bad weather was the cause.
I had a splitting headache most of the afternoon. Saw "Sea Hawk" in evening.
I think we have the same target for in the morning. Jerry Jinx is loaded with 5 x 1000. Stock got out of the hospital today and went on a 48 hour pass. Still, we have no transportation. They are going to try to save 300,000 gallons of gasoline in three weeks.
The date January 23/43 was written in the journal by Ehle as he finished his entry on the 22nd. The ominous silence of the blank page tells the sad ending of Reber's fascinating story.
A Tribute To Ray Lary
The Reber Crew was lost on 23 Jan 1943, Mission #11 to Lorient, France in B-17F #41-24607 Jerry Jinx (427BS) GN-W. They ditched in Bay of Biscay after being downed by German fighters, caused by a break up of the formation when another Group flew above the 303rd BG(H) on the bomb run.
S/Sgt. Irwin D. Blankenship and Sgt. Roger W. Milford are listed on the Wall of Missing at
Brittany American Cemetery near Manche, France.
Lt. Ehle H. Reber, Lt. Allan D. Mitchell, Lt. Jarold J. Byrom, Lt. Robert J. Swindle, T/Sgt. Duke L. Hamilton, S/Sgt. Donald A. Mayo, S/Sgt. Luthur N. Gross and Sgt. Victor G. Hand and are listed on the Wall of Missing at
Cambridge Cemetery, England.
The airport at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas was named
"Swindle Field" in honor of Lt. Swindle. The airport at Malin, Oregon is being renamed in honor of Lt. Reber.
By Walt Fink
It is with sadness we report that Ray Lary passed away February 11, 2012, before this tribute could be published. His obituary is included in TAPS below. The full story of Ray and the B-17 model build will appear in a forthcoming issue of the International Plastic Modelers Society/USA Branch Journal.
There's something about the aviation bug---when it bites you, the affliction stays in your system forever---you look up when an aircraft flies overhead, you read about airplanes, and you watch airplane movies.
I got bitten by that bug pretty soon after I was born because both my parents worked for Bell Aircraft and I had a relative who was a USAAF pilot flying out of North Africa, who was unfortunately KIA. The aviation infection carried into my youth where I built and flew model airplanes, and led me into a six-year stint as a Naval Aviator and then a 33-plus year career flying for United Airlines. I don't fly any more, but my hobby of model-building is going stronger than ever.
Ray Lary and author Walt Fink with the presentation model.
It was the love of that hobby which led to my being asked to participate in an activity at McHenry Villas, a local residence---where Ray lived. He wanted to build a model of a 303rd BG B-17 so we obtained a kit, and over a few weeks' time, collaborated on the building of it in the Villas' activity center. Ray had previously suffered two strokes and was confined to a wheelchair, and since his speech was terribly compromised, our communication was difficult at best. Even so, it was interesting how our common love of aviation got us along pretty well. Though he was difficult to understand most of the time, some things came through loud and clear, like when he called the Liberator the "box the B-17 came in". His mind was still sharp.
When the model was finished, it was just a big green plastic blob to me, and with a germ of an idea, I asked Ray if he'd let me take it home and paint it. I'd previously seen a photo of Ray with Heckendorf's crew standing beside "Mercy's Madhouse"---he seemed to like that aircraft---so with a couple of evening's work, I was able to come up with a reasonable facsimile of that bird with all its correct markings. I presented the finished model to Ray last year---on the anniversary of 9/11---and strictly out of coincidence, with his wife Jo, and their children present.
A reflective moment, it appears, judging by the expression on Ray's face.
His stepson, Stan Skutek, is at the right.
Ray was really taken with the model. The big grin and happy expression told me I did the right thing….he must've shaken my hand a dozen times. A couple pictures show him obviously reminiscing as he looked at it. He asked me why I wanted to go to all that trouble for him and I simply replied, "Ray, I'm here because you were there".
The real payoff for me was seeing the "kid" in Ray come back to life. I've been accused of being just a big kid who still plays with toy airplanes, and heck, I guess there are worse reputations to get stuck with, but in subsequent modeling sessions at The Villas, it brought a big smile to see Ray come pooting along in his electric wheelchair, steering it with one hand and holding that model in the other, with the props slowly turning in the breeze.
Fair winds and following seas, Ray.
Walt Mayer, celebrating his 91st birthday with his family in Washington. With Walt are daughters Wendy and Kristy, and his newest Great-grandson Jordan, in Wendy's arms.
Long-time friends and 303rd BG pilots Mel Schulstad and Bill Eisenhart celebrating Mel's 91st birthday in March 2009. Mel passed away last month at age 93. Bill is still doing well in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thanks to Bill's wife Penny for the photo.
Raymond W. Lary, 93, of McHenry, died Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at Centegra Hospital – McHenry.
He was born Oct. 28, 1918, in Maquoketa, Iowa, to Chester and Bertha (Rankin) Lary. On June 19, 1969, he married Josephine Migdal in McHenry.
A World War II veteran, he served with 37 missions over Germany in the 303rd Bomb Group of B-17's and was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4600 of McHenry.
He was a 60-year member of IBEW Local No. 134 Electricians Union of Chicago, a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of the Shriners of Medinah Tempel in Chicago.
A lifelong fan of auto racing, he loved fishing, antiques and spending time with family and friends, singing and dancing with his wife.
Survivors include his wife, Josephine; his children, Raymond (Caroline) Lary of Lake Villa, Charles (Joyce) Lary of Hernando Beach, Fla., Daniel Lary of Florida, Edward (Carol) Lary of Mosinee, Wis., Stan (Karen) Skutek of Stevens Point, Wis., Robert (Margaret) Lary of McHenry and JoAnn Coughlin of McHenry; 15 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Ronald Lary; two brothers, Max and Roy Lary; and a sister, Camilla Lary.
The visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Colonial Funeral Home, 591 Ridgeview Drive, McHenry.
Services will begin at 7 p.m. with a Masonic service, continue at 7:30 p.m. with a funeral service officiated by Deacon Joseph Phelan and conclude around 8 p.m. with military honors Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the funeral home. Interment will be private for the family.
Norbert G. Fischer, 90, Veteran of WWII at peace with Christ Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, beloved husband of the late Phyllis; loving father of Christine Gordon and the late Diane Garrity; fond grandfather of Rachel, Diane and the late Robin; great-grandfather of Bailey McDonagh; dear brother of the late Lillian, Edward, Stanley and Harold. Funeral Wednesday, 9 a.m. from Cumberland Chapels (FRIEL FUNERAL DIRECTORS), 8300 W. Lawrence Ave., Norridge to Mary Seat of Wisdom Church, Park Ridge. Mass 10 a.m. Interment with military honors All Saints Cemetery.
Dr. Ambrose Gaines (A.G.) Grant, Col. USAF, (Ret), passed away on Monday, Feb 6, 2012, in Jacksonville, AR at the age of 90.
He was born August 21, 1921 in Chattanooga, the son of John Henry Grant and Annie Stuart Grant Oakman. He grew up in Chattanooga andgraduated from City High School in 1938. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1941and at 20 was training to pilot a B-17. By age 21 he was flying combat missionswith the 303rd Bomb Group, 359th Bomber Squadron from Molesworth GB. He fleweight combat missions including the Second Schweinfurt Raid. On his 8th missionhe was shot down over Holland, captured and remained a Prisoner of War for 18months in Stalag Luft 1. After the war, he went on to graduate from theUniversity of Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee Dental School, and fromthe University of North Carolina with a degree in Oral Surgery. He retired in1971 as Dental Commander at Little Rock AFB, and became actively involved in the church and community. He loved golfing, fishing and billiards.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Robert Grant; and one grandchild.
He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Betty Burgner Grant; two children, Lt.Col. (Ret) David Grant (Betsy) of Brevard, N.C. and Dr. Karen Grant Schirmer(Chet) of Jacksonville, Ark.; sisters, Emily Williford of Chattanooga, JeanSmythe, Beverly Brewer, Bonnie Pletka and Johnette Carmean; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial will be 11 a.m, Friday, February 10, at the First United Methodist Church 308 W. Main Street in Jacksonville. Family visitation will follow the service.
Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.
Donald Rue Richardson, 82, of Marysville died June 17, 2006, at his residence.
Born in Everton, Ark., he was a Yuba-Sutter resident for 31 years.
He was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
He was a member of the Marysville First Presbyterian Church and the Plumas Lake Golf Club.
He retired as chief master sergeant from the U.S. Air Force, serving during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Lola Richardson of Marysville; four daughters, Jennifer Fuller of Broomfield, Colo., Julie Crossland of Hudson, N.H., Donna Richardson of Ridgefield, Wash., and Lola Dissmore of Pullman, Wash.; two sisters, Shirley Hobson and Iona Pierce, both of Missouri; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by four brothers.
Services: A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Marysville First Presbyterian Church, 1940 Freeman St., Marysville, with Rev. Bob Cordier officiating. Military honors will be provided by the Beale Air Force Base Honor Guard. Inurnment arrangements are under the direction of Ullrey Memorial Chapel in Yuba City.
William N. Frost, 91, was born on April 29, 1920 and passed away June 14, 2011. He was a resident of Sun City, Arizona. Bill was one of the original 303rd Bomb Group, 358th Bomb Squadron pilots, arriving at Molesworth in October 1942.
John W. Rapp, 90, died January 21, 2012 at his home in Virginia. He was a pilot in the 360th Bomb Squadron. A memorial service is being planned for this sping at Arlington National Cemetery.
Dudley F. Judd, 89, died Nov. 23, 2011, at the VNA Hospice House, Vero Beach. He was born in McAlester, Okla., and lived in Vero Beach for 30 years, coming from Tarrytown, N.Y. He was a 1947 graduate of George Washington University and had been a financial and records manager for Exxon/Mobil, retiring after 35 years. He was a veteran of World War II, flying 14 missions over Germany while serving as a B17 pilot in the Army Air Forces. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach, where he served as an elder and trustee, and was a past volunteer and treasurer of the Indian River Medical Center Hospital Auxiliary. Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth V.N. Judd of Vero Beach; son, Gary K. Judd of Greenville, S.C.; daughter, Cynthia A. Judd of Vero Beach; and two grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother, Orville K. Judd. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 520 Royal Palm Boulevard, Vero Beach, FL 32960. Services: A life celebration memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 at the First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach. Arrangements are by Cox Gifford Seawinds Funeral Home and Crematory of Vero Beach.
He was the Co-pilot on John Rapp's crew.
in the 360th squadron and flew his missions during March and April of 1945. His memorial was held at the
First Presbyterian Church in Vero Beach, Florida on December 10, which would have been his 90th birthday.
His wife stated that there were 175 at his memorial. "One Great Guy" reported by Jerry Rasmussen who
was the Ball Turret gunner on John Rapp's crew.
Crew vs. Team
My compliments to you for the continuing superb job you do for us older fellas. The Diary of Lt Reber is a great example. But it triggers a pent up debate and bitch of mine.
I was a Ball Turret Gunner for 5 crews., That's because my heated suit shorted out on my 27th mission and I was in sick bay for 2 wks with pneumonia. When I came out my original crew- Lt Garland Whitlock--had finished their tour. I became the worst day scenario--a "temp" ball turret gunner.
The Reber Diary and my personal experience always made me wonder why none of my crews was a " Team". In the 3 months we spent at Dyersburg, Tenn OTU--None of our 4 officers ever took us for Team beer--at the PX --or at the Peabody Hotel bar in Memphis. Same at Molesworth. Not one ever asked me.." Where do you come from?"--My other enlisted NCO crew members used to ask the same question--Do our Officers care a rats ass about what we think--who we are?
When I came back from finishing my 35 missions to become an Instructor on B29 Remote turrets and guns at Buckingham AFB, Ft Myers, Fl--nothing changed. Our Officers treated us like we were peasants or a lower form of life.
In retrospect--the fancy word to describe our relationship--or lack of it--is called Meritocracy. Most all had been to college--we hadn't. They had successfully completed far more complicated aircraft " jobs" than we NCO's had.
But, prewar--most of us had played on football and baseball teams. We made sure we knew every team player and how we played together.
My tail Gunner-from new Orleans--called it Brasshat racism.. Maybe we were the only ones who felt it strange that none of our Officers ever made one move to make us a "Team" or ask our opinion about aerial combat. Or a Crew is not a Team--
Yes, this is for attribution.
S/ Sgt Frank Boyle
1944- Molesworth on The Thrapston
Alvin L. Morton's 303rd Bomb Group Speech
Since the publication of our book, "A Noble Spirit," we have made sixty-six presentations to local community groups and educational institutions. It has been an honor to be emissaries sharing our stories, insights and personal feelings to past dramatic history, patriotism and bravery.
On the internet - Google - our book received five stars rating.
One speech on DVD recorded by WQED multimedia can be viewed here, or click the photo above..
We only had one printing. Sold out 400 books.
The 303rd Bomb Group is special and of course we feel especially honored at being members of the 359th Bomb Squadron.
We are held together by a cause to perpetuate, promote and enhance the History of the 303rd Bomb Group. Our goal is to help the United Sates of America.
It was strong character, dedication, enthusiasm, performance and valor that create a Noble Spirit making Hell's Angels the Distinguished Unit. A bond has been formed and makes us even more proud to call the U.S.A. our home.
Alvin L. Morton, Pittsburgh, PA.
Keeping the Legacy Alive,
Submissions of 303rd Bomb Group related stories and articles are most welcome.