Submissions of 303rd Bomb Group related stories and articles are most welcome.
September 16, 2012
Volume IV, Issue 9
360th BS Pilot Sam Smith Finally Recognized After 67 Years
by Staff Sgt. Clinton Atkins
Family, friends, senior leaders and pilots gathered Aug. 24 to honor a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress pilot during an award ceremony at Randolph's famed Taj Mahal where he was award the Distinguished Flying Cross medal.
Second Lt. Samuel Smith was assigned to the 360th Bombardment Squadron at RAF Molesworth, England, during the Second World War. He flew 24 bombing missions over Nazi Germany during the war, one of which earned him the DFC nearly 70 years later.
"It's not often in one's career, and for most careers it never happens, where you have the opportunity to learn so much about a group of men and women who literally changed the world," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, Air Education and Training Command Director of Intelligence, Operations and Nuclear Integration, during the ceremony.. "A group of men and women who became known as the world's greatest generation and today we're here to honor one of those tremendous giants, (Smith), for his airmanship..."
Smith was awarded for his piloting prowess while landing a crippled B-17 upon returning from a bombing mission to Hopston, Germany, March 1, 1945. The B-17's undercarriage and landing gear was damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire.
Somehow Smith was able to make a hard right turn upon landing in order to clear the runway for approaching aircraft, saving the lives of his crew members and fellow bombers in the process.
"If you could imagine the airfield, it's just a concrete runway; aircraft maybe 30 seconds in trail, all of them low on fuel because there was no extra weight on those aircraft to travel," said Zadalis. "So any problem on the runway probably meant aircraft ditching or trying to divert or significant problems for the aircraft behind."
Zadalis praised Smith's and his fellow war fighters' efforts for helping to make the U.S. Air Force the world's great airpower.
"I would share with you, in the 70 years since then...our Air Force has changed tremendously. We dominate the air, we dominate space and we're into all kinds of domain including cyberspace...but there is one thing not a single one of these young men and women up here or I or anybody in uniform will forget and that's we stand on the shoulders of giants, we stand on the shoulders of men and women who gave our freedom and to this day are an example of service and selflessness."
After his speech, Zaladis presented the award, which Smith humbly accepted. Smith went on thank his ground support crew for the maintenance of his airplane. "I owe them a tremendous amount," said the Texas native.
"It's amazing to me that you could have a bunch of teenage guys in their late teens and early 20s from all parts of this country and you could put them together and form an air force and a group of people that could be trained and they could actually go to Europe and we could whip the Luftwaffe...and I'm fortunate to be one of that group," said Smith.
To Smith, who will be 88 years old Sept. 11, the award was bittersweet. His crew wasn't able to see him get the award.
"In lots of respects I'm sad too, because none my crew members can be here and most of them have already passed away and they were with me when all of this action took place," he said. "We flew 24 combat missions together and I was fortunate in that I was able to bring the same crew back home after the war ended in Europe. I honor them also, because us pilots without the support of your crew and ground personnel you can't do all the things that you do."
Back at Molesworth after 68 Years
by U.S. Army Capt. Frank L. Huffman
"When we got close to the target, I wondered what all of those black clouds were - I soon found out."
Those are the words of retired Lt. Col. Albert Levin, Air Force Reserve , formerly 2nd Lt. Albert Levin, a Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" heavy bomber navigator from the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group (Heavy), RAF Molesworth during World War II.
Now a very spry 91 years of age, Levin returned to the base from where he completed his combat tour and reflected on the experiences of war.
"Merseburg. That was my very first mission and a heck of a way to enter combat," said Levin. "We didn't encounter many fighters that day, but the flak (anti-aircraft artillery) was unbelievable. Very heavy and sustained throughout the time we were in the target area and especially heavy once we hit the IP (Initial Point - from where the plane's controls were turned over to the bombardier and could not take evasive action)."
Merseburg was one of the most heavily defended targets in Nazi Germany. The factories produced synthetic fuel and other petroleum-based products and were protected by hundreds of the feared .88-millimeter all-purpose gun, the best such weapon by either side during World War II. Only targets such as Berlin, Schweinfurt, Cologne, Magdeburg, Munich or Regensberg produced the same level of consternation among bomb crews.
"We would be asleep in our Nissen hits (which can still be seen at various airfields across England, including Molesworth) and an operations sergeant would walk into the hut and would call out the name of the pilot, in my case (2nd Lt.) Ben Connelly, and then you knew you were flying that day," Levin said. "Then after breakfast, we would go into the operations building for our briefing.
"You walked in and there would be a curtain over the map and when they pulled it back, either a low-level sigh would be heard, indicating a 'milk-run' (a not so heavily defended target) or a loud groan would be heard when certain target cities were called out and Merseburg was definitely one of those," he said. "Being my first mission, I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I soon joined the others (in groaning), after I'd been a few times."
Levin came to Molesworth in July of 1944 and was assigned to the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, known as the "Hell's Angels." Although maintenance issues and shortages of crewmembers occasionally had the crew split up and in a different plane, the majority of his flying time was spent in B-17 #42-97187, "Miss Umbriago."
"The B-17 was a wonderful plane and could take a lot of punishment, although we only had one crewman injured," he said. "Once, a flak round hit the side of the plane and put a huge dent only a few inches from my head. Luckily, it didn't explode."
Other members of his group weren't so lucky. The New York native vividly recalls the end of September of 1944.
"We flew to Cologne (in "Flak Hack," B-17G #42-97329) on Sept. 27 (Mission # 247) and had a successful trip, but the next day (Sept. 28) was the worst," Levin said. "Eleven of our planes didn't come back from a mission to Magdeburg (including "Flak Hack"). Do you know what it's like to see all of those empty hardstands (area where each plane was parked) and bunks, realizing how many of your friends would never make it back."
Wiping tears from his eyes and clearing a choked-up throat, Levin continued: "That was the worst day of the war for me and I wasn't even flying. To think of all of those men gone in one day was unbelievable."
The 303rd Bomb Group, and Levin, recovered from this tragic day and continued the fight against fierce German opposition throughout the remainder of the war. For Levin, however, his war ended in January of 1945, upon completing the mandatory 35 missions that indicated a completed tour of duty for bomber crews. Leaving the Molesworth base on a cold January morning, Levin hadn't returned to his old base until Aug. 30, 2012.
"It's nice being back, but I honestly don't remember much," he said to Navy Capt. Gary Powers, JIOCEUR Analytic Center deputy commander who hosted the veteran. "The base is certainly much different than when I flew out of here. It's been a long time, but I'm glad I made the trip.
"I do remember the people locally, who we traded various things with, especially to get fresh eggs and an occasional chicken," said Levin. "The English people were great to us and we certainly appreciated everything they went through during the war."
Crowne Plaza Hotel – San Antonio, Texas
OCTOBER 3 – 8, 2012
We live about 25 miles from MacDill Air Force Base in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, and visit there several times a month. The Honorary Command Chief of the Sixth Air Mobility Wing is a friend who's writing a book about the base, going back to its origins before World War II. He has asked for my help in identifying the men of the 303rd Bomb Group who passed through what was then known as MacDill Field. He would like to interview those men, if any can be found. He's also interested in photos and relevant information family members might have about their kin serving at, training or just passing through MacDill Field during the war years.
If any in the Molesworth Pilot audience can help in this project, please contact me at ED303FSRA@aol.com.
He was a veteran of the United States Air Force, serving during WWII. Mr. Laubert was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Air Medal. He retired as a Clothing Designer for B and N Tailoring in Lexington, KY. Mr. Laubert had numerous hobbies, including Boating, Woodworking, Cars and Trap Shooting. He is survived by his wife, Nancy M. Laubert of Orlando, FL; son and daughter-in-law, Robert Joseph Laubert Jr. and Christina of Maxville, FL; grandchildren, Daniel James Laubert, Michael Lee Laubert, Scott Aaron Laubert, and Steven Ray Laubert; two great grandchildren, Alyssa R. and Allura K.
George P. Greene, Jr., 93, of Sun City West, AZ, Passed away September 7, 2012 in Sun City West.
He was born January 14, 1919 in Erie, PA. After retiring as a machinist, George and his wife Marge wintered in Arizona for many years before moving here permanently in 2000 from Colorado.
He served as a staff Sgt. In the Army Air Corp during WW II in the 303 bomb group; He was a Thirty-Second Degree Mason and a member of the Sun City Elks Club.
George is survived by his wife Marge, his daughters Kate Kopp and Jan Dennis, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Tom attended Hanover Township Public School and then Morristown High School, where he graduated in the Class of 1941. Throughout his early life, Tom worked at various jobs, including: Chamberlain Aircraft, Wright Aeronautics, and Iorio Clothing.
Tom proudly served his country, entering into the U.S. Army/Aircorp in 1943. During his military service, he rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant. He was a machine gunner and flight engineer on a B-17. He served with the 8th Airforce, 303rd Bomb Group - The original Hells' Angels. Tom and his crew completed 25 missions over Germany and other European countries. He was awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, American Theatre Ribbon with 2 Bronze Stars, Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal WWII with two bronze battle stars, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Tom worked for the Singer Sewing Company from 1949-1976, serving as Store Manager and then District Manager. Then, he owned and operated the Singer Sewing Store as a Franchise in Morristown until 1983. Tom served as a Morristown Alderman, Councilman, and Council President from 1967-1979. He also served as Manager of the Morristown Airport for approximately 2 years. He then went to work for the New Jersey State Lottery Commission from 1982-2007.
Tom is survived by his loving wife of 64 years, Yolanda (nee Caporaso); and his devoted son Thomas R. Zenick and his wife Susan (Cillo) of Cedar Knolls; as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Joseph and Olga Zenick.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Tom will be held on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 10:00am at St. Virgil's Church, 250 Speedwell Avenue, Morris Plains. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover. Visiting will be on Thursday, September 6, 2012 from 2-4 & 7-9pm at Dangler Funeral Home, 600 Speedwell Avenue, Morris Plains. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Tom can be made to: Morristown Ambulance Squad. Envelopes will be provided by the Funeral Home.