Grouping belonging to S/Sgt John R Wills, C-47 Radio Operator in the 82nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 436th Troop Carrier Group. Born in 1921, John or Jack Wills as he was known as, lived in New Jersey and married his highschool sweetheart Gail where they had one baby boy. Not soon after he enlisted in the USAAF in October 1942. Assigned to the 82nd Troop Carrier Squadron as a C-47 Radio Operator, he flew in C-47 42-100559. This was the C-47 flown by 82nd TCS Commanding Officer, Major Robert Johns. After flying the southern route to England at the end of 1943, Wills spent the first three months of 1944 at Bottesford before the entire 436th Troop Carrier Group departed in March to Membury airfield which they would call home until February 1945. On D-Day, S/Sgt Wills would fly in Serial 9 of Mission Albany dropping 1st Battalion, 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division over DZ A. The drop was a success and the entire serial made it back to Membury. Although, the records do not show who flew the evening glider tow, it’s highly likely S/Sgt Wills participated in Mission Elmira towing a glider to LZ W. The crew of 42-100559 were the lead crew of the 82nd Troop Carrier Squadron and following a memorandum from IX Troop Carrier Command, individuals in the lead crews were authorised to wear a 1/8th inch gold border around their blue patch background to identify them as a combat lead crew. Wills was an avid writer and wrote to his wife on a daily basis. In his letters it is clear to see he was completely in love with his wife and yearned to be back with her and their baby boy. The crew of 559 departed with a large detachment of the 436th to Italy in July 1944 and on August 15th, they participated in Operation Dragoon – The invasion of Southern France. S/Sgt Wills would earn his first Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal for flying combat missions during the operation. The 436th detachment returned from Italy at the end of August just in time for the next airborne operation – Operation Market Garden. Wills was awarded his second Oak Leaf Cluster for participating in the Operation but I don’t have any details about what missions he flew. His Air Medal ribbon has three Oak Leaf Clusters on it and I haven’t found out yet for which mission was he awarded his third Oak Leaf Cluster. The 436th participated in Operation Repulse – The resupply missions over Bastogne in December 1944 and Operation Varsity – The crossing of the Rhine. I will have to delve into my records to see if I have the Air Medal rosters for those two operations to see which one Wills is listed in. S/Sgt Wills’ jacket is hugely rare with the blue backed wings with the gold trim to indicate lead crew. I have not seen another like it but my good friend Ray Pegram, Radio Operator from the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron, 434th Troop Carrier Group was also in the lead crew for his Squadron and he had gold trim on his dress jacket. Now we know what it looked like. Jack Wills passed away in 2005 and his beloved wife Gail passed away three years later in 2008. They are buried together at Monmouth Memorial Park, Tinton Falls, Monmouth County, New Jersey. They are forever together. With my association with Membury Airfield and restoring a C-47 from the 436th Troop Carrier Group, this grouping ranks as one of the best.