Time changes all things, three World War II soldiers learned when they revisited China with their wives last month. [May 2000] The senior warriors from Charlotte County, Fla. were part of a group of 330 Americans who recently spent a week or more in China as guests of the Beijing Aviators Association.
The target: A major bridge over the Po River near Pavia in northern Italy used by the Germans in World War II to move men and equipment south to the front line. The mission: 50 B-26 “Marauder,” twin-engine, attack bombers struck the span. Each carried four 1,000 pound high explosive bombs.
World War II was the most segregated war the United States ever fought, according Dr. Yenwith Whitney, a former Tuskegee Airman from Sarasota, Fla. “Many commanders didn’t want blacks doing anything but menial labor in World War II. They didn’t think blacks were smart enough to do things like fly airplanes,” Whitney, who flew in…
Fred Davis of Englewood, Fal. graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately signed up for the Army Air Corps during the middle of World War II.
Dick Samuelson of Tangerine Woods in Englewood, Fla. admits “I was no big war hero.”
It was their last mission aboard “Betty-J,” a B-24 four-engine bomber named for the pilot, Jack Bates’ wife, that Elbert Bishop of Paradise Park, east of Punta Gorda, remembers most. The crew was part of the 42nd Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, 7th Air Force.
By the time Capt. Bill Haase reached England and the 8th Air Force during the last half of World War II, he was an experienced aviator with 15 months under his belt flying new bombardiers on practice bombing missions stateside.
Retired Staff Sgt. Buster Yates decided to volunteer for the U.S. Army Air Corps before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, Pvt. Stan Sherfick of Punta Gorda, Fla. was playing catch with a buddy at Haleiwa Field on the north side of Oahu Island, where the 47th Pursuit Squadron was based.
More than 60 years after a former B-17 bomber mechanic wrote a goodbye note to a 9-year-old English boy during a going-away party for Americans near the close of World War II, the two wore once again united through a computer.
Ernest Erickson flew a “Flying Fortress,” four-engine bomber dubbed “Lili of the Lamplight,” from a base near Ipswich, England on 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe in 1943 and ’44 during World War II. It was one of thousands of B-17s flown by the 8th Air Force that devastated Germany.
The devastating German V-1 rockets that rained terror and death down on the inhabitants of London in World War II, during the ‘Blitz,’ had their birth in Arcadia, Fla.
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.
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.
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.
George Lentz of Rotonda, Fla. was a staff sergeant in the 385th Bomb Group, 549th Bomb Squadron, 92nd Wing of the 8th Air Force in World War II. He flew 29 combat missions as an engineer and top turret gunner in a B-17 “Flying Fortress” at the end of the war from a base near…
Otto Glass was the first young man in his hometown of St. Mary’s, Ohio drafted in World War II. He went in the Army Air Force almost a year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.