Before flying off to war in North African in the spring of 1942 during World War II, Bruno Virgili married Lulubelle Gaehner. It wasn’t easy. He was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps stationed in Long Beach, Calif. She was working in a munitions plant in Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘U.S. Army Air Corps’ Category
1st Lt. Rex Wilkinson flew a shiny, silver B-24 “Liberator” bomber he named “Alberta K,” for his wife, from a base at Stornara, Italy on 51 combat missions in 1944 as part of the 745th Squadron, 456 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force.
A tail gunner in a B-24 bomber dubbed “Wild Princess,” Staff Sgt. Herb May was on the first daylight mission flown by the U.S. Air Force over Berlin in February 1944. He had plenty of company — there were 800 heavy bombers in the armada that day attacking the German capital. Read the rest of this entry »
EDITOR’S NOTE: First of a two-part story.
George Hardy of Sarasota, Fla. was a Tuskegee Airman. The retired lieutenant colonel began his military career as a member of the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, flying 21 combat missions over Germany during the final two months before V-E Day in World War II in a P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane. Read the rest of this entry »
At 17, shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Dick Holmes of North Port, Fla. tired to enlist, but his mom wouldn’t sign him into the military. The following year he was drafted and ended up joining the paratroopers. Read the rest of this entry »
Lt. Col. Bill Brown was flying a “Red Anchor” mission off the Russian Coast out of Thule, Greenland in his KC-135 refueling tanker when he got an emergency call on his radar scope. Read the rest of this entry »
Floyd Cole piloted a B-17 bomber on 30 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. He was a member of the 452nd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force that flew from a field near Norwich, England.
Former Staff Sgt. Charlie Collins of Brookside Bluff mobile home park north of Arcadia was a member of “The Cottontails.” He flew as nose gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber during World War II. His bomb group had cotton bulbs painted on their tails, thus the “Cottontails” moniker.
Alex Brast of Blue Heron Pines mobile home park, south of Punta Gorda, flew a B-26, twin-engine bomber in North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Italy during World War II.
These bombers were called “The Widowmaker.” Because the planes were hard to land, particularly with one engine out, a lot of airmen died when the hot attack-bomber lost air speed and fell out of the sky. It also had a tendency to develop engine trouble on takeoff and crash.
Their target was a railroad marshaling yard along the German-Belgium border. Second Lt. Robert Grace was making his initial pass over the target at Prum, Germany in a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane on May 29, 1944 when he was shot down.
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Lt. Charles Bailey, Sr. was the last of the line. He was the last of Punta Gorda, Fla.’s “Fighting Bailey Brothers.” The last of a family of seven sons and two daughters who distinguished themselves in war and in life during World War II, Korea and much of the 20th Century. Read the rest of this entry »
Von Spahr, an Englewood, Fla. retiree, was a 19-year-old armorer in 1943 attached to the 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, 5th Air Corps based at Port Moresby, New Guinea during World War II. His company commander told him to take a Jeep and pick up a pilot flying into the local airstrip in a P-38 Lightning fighter plane and bring him back to the squadron’s ready room.
“The P-38 circled the field, made an approach and touched down. Once the plane stopped I climbed up on its wing, unlatched the canopy and pulled it back. The pilot appears a little older. He was wearing an old leather flying helmet and goggles. He was filling out the flight log and then he signed it: Col. Charles A. Lindbergh,” Spahr recalled more than 65 years later. “I was face-to-face with the ‘Lone Eagle’ himself! I probably caught my breath.”