Jump to content

Tailgunner Rediscovered


Garandomatic
 Share

Recommended Posts

Garandomatic

Found this stripped 8th Air Force uniform on ebay, and because of the SSGT stripes, was pulled in for a closer look. Toward the end of the pictures was a name and laundry mark, so I put in a very minimal bid. NARA helped me ID the man, and his county, and as luck would have it, he entered himself on the WWII Memorial Register:

 

http://www.wwiimemorial.com/registry/search/pframe.asp?HonoreeID=221869&popcount=17&tcount=37

 

I was fortunate enough to get this for a song, far below what I would have been willing to pay. Missing the ribbons and wings or not, an ID'd tail gunner is definitely a keeper for me. I've loved B-17s since my dad took me to see the Sentimental Journey when I was 8, been hooked since.

post-9670-0-85921800-1400629209.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

I confirmed the registry entry was from the same county as the NARA entry I had found, and pretty much determined this had to be the same man. From here, I consulted Geoff Gentilini, who pulled the award card for the DFC. Here, I found that my guy was with the 3rd Division of the 8th. By process of elimination, I found that there were maybe 3 bomb groups that my guy could be a member of, and emailed them. Howard Keller, 452nd Bomb Group historian was extremely helpful, and not only said my guy was in the 452nd BG, 730th BS, but sent me the list of all of his missions, and over the course of several emails, a lot more info.

 

Here is the original plane that my man flew his early missions (His first was Feb. 1944):

 

post-9670-0-63503800-1400629446.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

He was on several other planes as well, and The Punched Fowl went missing in September of 1944, after my guy had returned home. Amazing how luck just held for some and not others. As nasty as the Air War was, I must only be prone to finding the luckiest men, as none of my guys in the collection were wounded.

 

Mr. Keller was extremely helpful, as I said before, and sent me the records for the crews that my guy flew with for all of his missions. I started researching away today, and found several on the WWII registry. I then googled a few names, and found some outstanding pictures of my tailgunner on the Imperial War Museum's site when I googled Leon Slobodzian, the bombardier of The Punched Fowl. I will post those pictures next.

 

Here is the crew of The Punched Fowl after their first mission, with the caption from the IWM:

 

A bomber crew of the 452nd Bomb Group on their return from the Romilly mission to France. Image via Walt Chochrek. A veteran has handwritten on the reverse: 'On just returning from Romilly, France, their first mission and the Group's second for a repeat performance. Original members of the "Punched Fowl". crew # 48, lead crew 730th Sqdn, 452nd Bomb Gro. Front row from left are Flight Officer Leon B Slobodzian, Bombardier; and S/Sgts George W Haggerty, Right Waist Gunner; Everett L Wales, Radio Operator, and Wlater- S- Chochrek, Engineers and Top Turret Gunner. Back row from left- 1st Lt Chester L Story, Navigator; 2nd Lt Frank L Houston, Co-pilot, 1st Lt Jimme H "The Skipper" Vallee, Pilot; Sgt James J Doherty, tail gunner; S/Sgt Ivan C Dixon, Lower ball gunner and Sgt Raymond Schumacher, left waist gunner

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205361854

 

 

 

post-9670-0-69745700-1400630087.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

bellasilva

Awesome man! Kudos on your detective skills as well. I'd love to have anything B -17 attributed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

My guy and some of his pals:

 

Everett L Wales, George W Haggerty, Walt Chochrek and James J Doherty of the 452nd Bomb Group sit on a jeep. Image via Walt Chochrek. Handwritten caption on reverse: '[Asterisks indicate airman is deceased] Wales*, Haggerty*, Chochrek and Doherty. "The Deadwood Kids" (South Dakota)- Where's Ivan? (Dixon) lost soul.'

 

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205361861

 

 

post-9670-0-19481500-1400630161.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

Awesome man! Kudos on your detective skills as well. I'd love to have anything B -17 attributed.

This has definitely been one of my goals for a long, long time, and without some detective skills, man, I couldn't afford to play very much!

 

Next is my guy, two crew, and their plane:

 

Everett L Wales, George W Haggerty and James J Doherty of the 452nd Bomb Group with their B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed "The Punched Fowl". Image via Walt Chochrek. A veteran has handwritten on the reverse: '[Asterisks indicate airman is deceased] Three original members of "The Punched Fowl" crew, 452nd Bomb Grp, 730th Sqdn, Pilot James H Valee*. Left to Right- Everett L Wales* Raidio OP. George W Haggerty*- Rt Waist, James J Doherty- tail gunner.'

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205361855

post-9670-0-72605900-1400630328.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

The last one for now is my favorite. This was taken during the debriefing after that first mission, and you can see something in Sgt. Doherty's face, I think. I have read somewhat heavily on the 8th AF lately, and most things you read aren't "feel good" material, given the horrible, horrible losses. My guy looks tired. Real tired. Might be wondering what the hell he got himself into. But thankfully, he made it, and I think everyone in his crew did as well.

 

Technical-Sergeant Everett L Wales and Staff-Sergeant James J Doherty of the 452nd Bomb Group debrief in a Nissen hut after the Romilly mission. Image via Walt Chochrek. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Crew members of "The Punched Fowl" 452nd B Grp, 730 Sqdn. [asterisk indicates the airman in deceased] Left T/Sgt Everett L Wales*- Radio operator, Right S/Sgt James J Doherty- tail gunner. Photo taken Feb 4 (2-6-44) Debriefing in the Nissen hut for the Romilly, France mission. Our first mission. The group's second. Doherty and Haggerty shot down ME-201, 6 O'clock level- a ball of smoke.'

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205361860

 

 

post-9670-0-69914500-1400630471.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

That's it for now, though I have a few more pictures that I may add later. Dinnertime at the moment. Thanks for the compliments!

 

Eventually, I want to restore the uniform to its rightful condition, but lately everybody wants the wings and ribbons a bit more than I do it seems! THanks for looking!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Theorywolf

I really like your find and detective work! Great historical record. My father-in-law was in the French Resistance and saved a crew of B-17 fly boys who were shot down and he hid them on his farm surrounded by SS. He got them out and back to US army lines jsut after D-Day. One guy was rich and helped he and his family to immigrate to Michigan in the early 1960s. My wife was a child when they came over! I have a lot to thank those fly boys for!

 

Cheers,

 

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

I really like your find and detective work! Great historical record. My father-in-law was in the French Resistance and saved a crew of B-17 fly boys who were shot down and he hid them on his farm surrounded by SS. He got them out and back to US army lines jsut after D-Day. One guy was rich and helped he and his family to immigrate to Michigan in the early 1960s. My wife was a child when they came over! I have a lot to thank those fly boys for!

 

Cheers,

 

Mike

THat's a great story. A consistent thread in all of the accounts I have read, is the gratitude that the airmen had for the French resistance. It is just such good luck that your family survived for him to return the favor. I forget the book, at the moment, but I read one recently where only about half of the people that helped a particular airman were alive when he went back to say thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

+1 for the good guys. Nice save and good detective work.

 

Did you follow up with the seller to see if there was anything else and where he got the coat?

 

I love the pic in the debriefing hut. The face says it all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

I didn't see anything else in their auction listings, but it wouldn't hurt to ask them. Here's another shot relevant to my guy. Six days after he flew on this plane, (42-107093), it was involved in a ferry mission to Russian airfields, in this case, Poltava. It and several other planes were destroyed by German planes after landing on June 21st. His waist gunner, Haggerty, with whom he apparently shared a kill, was wounded on this mission. According to his WWII memorial page posted by his wife, this was Haggerty's last mission. Three days later, my guy didn't fly again, according to records, until July 25th.

 

Photo courtesy of Howard Keller, 452nd BG

 

 

The plane he flew on is second from the left:

post-9670-0-58014200-1400697611.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

Last shot for now. This is the "Reincarnation," the plane that carried my guy on his last tour of occupied Europe on August 4th, 1944. Target for the day: Bremen. Not sure when this shot was taken, but I love the contrails, the higher flight, the composition of it. Very cool.

 

Photo courtesy of Howard Keller, 452nd BG

post-9670-0-85939700-1400697791.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Garandomatic

And here he is restored. It cost about 5x more for the ribbons, wings, and etc. than it did for the uniform itself. The DFC isn't right, as it is 1950s or so, but danged if I can find a WWII example for any kind of good price.

post-9670-0-64122200-1401491739.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man, I love seeing stripped uniforms come back to life. Great find, great research, and great job on the restoration! Please keep us posted on any additional discoveries.

-- Jon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
Garandomatic

Here's the most recent, and most outstanding discovery! In contacting the son of my tail gunner's best friend and waist gunner (Haggerty), I found a few pretty cool things. First, they were pretty tight, and palled around London together a lot. Their preferred haunts were near the telephone building in London, as it was a "target rich environment" given the female operators employed there! The other amazing detail is as pictured: This is the back of the waist gunner's jacket, which the waist gunner's son was kind enough to send me a picture of:

post-9670-0-34803200-1402845071.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Johnny Signor

O.K. that looks to be real easy to do , hey don't blame you if you take the B-17 ride , I would too if I had the $$ to do so ,I'm here if/when you do get it and decide to have me do the art etc .........................

 

Have a great day !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Johnny

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

I'm still up in the air about the flight. It's a lot of money! If I do take the ride, it will mean that in the last almost 20 years, I have ONLY flown in WWII aircraft. Beech 18 with Dad's buddy around 1993, B-25 in 2007, and maybe a B-17 this week. Hell with jets (no offense to those that fly/flew them in the service!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

501stGeronimo

Here's the most recent, and most outstanding discovery! In contacting the son of my tail gunner's best friend and waist gunner (Haggerty), I found a few pretty cool things. First, they were pretty tight, and palled around London together a lot. Their preferred haunts were near the telephone building in London, as it was a "target rich environment" given the female operators employed there! The other amazing detail is as pictured: This is the back of the waist gunner's jacket, which the waist gunner's son was kind enough to send me a picture of:

I could have swore that I have seen that A-2 for sale somewhere...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garandomatic

Maybe it was one of the other crew members? Could have been my tail gunner's, actually. I think his things sold in Arizona. That'd be pretty tremendous to have... At any rate, this one is just the back panel, as the years weren't kind to it, but I am really happy it was kept.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...