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8th AAF/RCAF, 356th FS POW Group


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I added this grouping to my collection a few months ago and finally found time to post it. It was purchased at the estate sale of Richard Rann. I think this is probably the center piece of my collection given the history behind it. The majority of the following information has been taken directly from an article published by the Michigan Air National Guard Bulletin and News Gazette dated January 2015.

 

Richard Rann was born October 22, 1923 near Perry, Michigan. Upon graduating from high school he attempted to join the U.S. Army pilot program but was denied because the Army required pilots to have at least two years of college to fly. Undeterred, he and two friends traveled to Windsor, Ontario in an attempt to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, which they had heard had less stringent entry criteria. Canada would accept pilots into their flight training program without college, but still required them to be 18. Rann and his friends were encouraged to come back in a year. In October 1941, Rann turned 18, and joined the RCAF in November, but his friends backed out. He earned his wings flying the T-6. With this honor came the inquiry if he would swear allegiance to the king of England, which he refused to do because he thought he would lose his American citizenship. Instead, he swore to obey the orders of his superior officers, which the Canadians accepted. In November 1942, the young officer left Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia, headed for England to join the Allied front against Germany. Rann remembers that they left port with ―a convoy of ships that stretched as far as the eye could see. At the time, German U-Boats were patrolling heavily in the North Atlantic. They sailed into a vicious storm that lasted two days. When the storm passed there were no ships in sight of theirs. Rann realized later that the storm that separated the convoy probably helped them stay under the radar of the U-boats.

 

In England, he flew the P-37 Hawker Hurricane. Around this time he heard that they were going to stop allowing Airmen to transfer back to the U.S. Army Air Force. In July 1943, 1st Lt. Rann received permission to go to London to submit his request for transfer. Afterwards, he completed his training with the English and was transferred.

 

Now with the USAAF, Rann began to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt. He had about eight hours in it before he had his first airplane crash. While in flight, the electric control propeller pitch failed as he was coming in to land. He could not maintain altitude or slow the aircraft down and the aircraft went into fine pitch. He over-shot the runway by about a mile, missed a stone fence, and plowed up a brussel sprout patch with his landing. He had turned off the fuel and engine while in air and the big aircraft just ―went into the dirt. He wasnt injured and the plane took minimal damage but was salvaged.

 

In November 1943, he joined the 356th Fighter Group at Martelsham Heath in Ipswich, England as a wingman and started flying operations over Europe. He was still flying the P-47, initially into France. The unit was new, and they were all learning. Rann flew every mission he could.

 

In May of 1944, while returning to Ipswich from a mission, Capt. Rann was flying alongside his wingman, but the wingman was on his left side, rather than the correct position on the right. He motioned to the pilot to go to the other side. He could see that the wingman had his mask off. At the time they had an unofficial policy when they got down where they didnt need oxygen, off came the mask and out came the cigarette. Ranns wingman dropped down to go under Ranns aircraft. A moment later he felt a bump. His wingman had clipped his right wing with the canopy of his aircraft on the way up. He looked out and saw the tip of his right wing was bent up, and his wingmans aircraft going down. His wingman never called for help, possibly because he was too busy trying to control the airplane and without his mask on, he couldnt call, or because he was knocked out. Tragically, his wingman did not survive the crash. Rann knew he couldnt make it back to Ipswich, but he managed to control the aircraft and land on a nearby bomber strip on the coast on England.

 

That month he completed his first tour of duty, which at the time equaled 200 hours flying combat missions. Rann was approved to take a 30-day leave. Hed just arrived home and on June 5, 1944, while lying on his bed, his mother informed him the Allies were starting their invasion. He remembers thinking, ―Gee whiz! I missed it.

 

The next day was D-Day. After his leave, he traveled back to the 356th, and the commander went on a 30-day leave. Rann was assigned as the operations officer of the squadron. Within two months they made him acting commander. When the real commander came back he requested a transfer and the 21-year old Capt. Rann was selected as the new squadron commander.

 

In November 1944, the 356th began to transition from the P-47 Thunderbolt to the P-51 Mustang which had a longer range and enabled them to escort bombers further into Europe. With no more training then learning how to start the thing and change fuel tanks they began flying both the P-47 and the P-51 in combat missions.

 

During a bomber escort mission on Nov. 26, 1944, Rann and seven of his men encountered the largest group of enemy planes that he had ever seen. Rann had dropped off eight fighters to guard one box of U.S. bomber aircraft, while his group of eight fighters continued on with the other bombers. His eight came upon enemy aircraft. It was estimated there were 70 190s (FW-190, a German fighter aircraft) with a top cover of about 30 109s (Bf-109, a German fighter and bomber escort aircraft). Even though badly outnumbered, Rann and his seven fighters attacked the enemy group and shot down nine airplanes that day. Rann shot down two 190s himself.

 

During the fight, his plane was badly shot up. Rann noted, I had a 109 on my tail, I dont know how he missed me but he raked my airplane from the nose to the tail. One bullet hit his instrument panel. Rann was separated from the rest of the squadron while he was evading the 109. When he landed he saw that a cannon shell had gone through the fuselage just behind the cockpit and exploded. Miraculously, all his planes returned to England.

 

In February 1945, Maj. Rann was on a mission leading a fighter squadron on what would turn out to be his last combat mission. He saw a ground target and decided to descend and strafe it. He peeled off, dropped the excess fuel tanks from his wings so he could descend quickly on the target but one tank didnt drop and it slowed him down. The target turned out to be a trap, and he received ground fire from a nearby factory and from a train. The cockpit filled with smoke, and he remembers thinking, Hey, my instrument panel says I have plenty of altitude, but the grounds too close! He realized the only thing he could do was crash land in the foothills of the Alps below, near Lake Constance, in Southern Germany. His airplane was broken up and he had cuts on his face -- but he had survived another crash. A member of his squadron tipped his wings to let him know hed seen him, and he ran for a dense thicket of pine trees and hid. Soon, German civilians were in the woods searching for the downed pilot, but they never found him as he was huddled on the ground wrapped in his leather A-2 jacket. He lay low all day and night. The next night he began to walk to what he hoped was the Allied line. For one week Rann slept during the day and walked at night, surviving off a square of chocolate and two bouillon cubes in his survival pack. By the following Sunday, he was so hungry and he started to walk during the day. While zigzagging up a hill, he came face to face with a German soldier and a military police dog. Rann surrendered. The soldier took him into a small brick building where two other soldiers were. They searched him and noticed that his feet were frost bitten. Each soldier took a foot and began to massage it. When Rann saw this unexpected act of kindness from the Germans, he rubbed his stomach, and they gave him a slice of black bread and what appeared to be raw meat. It didnt take him long to put that down. He asked for water and they gave him a glass of what turned out to be white wine. Then they locked him in a closet full of rifles with the bolts removed, and more importantly, a bushel of apples! They moved Rann to a civilian jail and gave him food that was cooked in their kitchen. He didnt realize it at the time, but the Germans probably knew their time was running out.

 

They moved him to an interrogation center near Frankfurt, and later to a POW prison camp near Wetzler. The major complained about his feet and they let him see a doctor who gave him ointment. Soon they transferred most of the men from the camp at Wetzler, but because of Ranns feet, they didnt make him move on.

 

At that point, the Allied Forces were getting close. The men in the camp marked POW on the building so they would not be strafed. The following day, someone drove up in a jeep and the Germans gave up their weapons and surrendered. An Army colonel that was at the camp told the POWs that they were to stay put. The next day the colonel was gone and Maj. Rann was the senior officer in the camp. Within a day, a major from the quarter master corps came and told them that there would be airplanes coming the next day to fly them to Paris. They took most of the POWs and Maj. Rann and few others had one more long night in the camp.

 

When Rann arrived in Paris he was determined to get home by his mothers birthday, May 9. He sailed from France and arrived home May 2. He was discharged from the military July 31, 1945. By wars end, his military decorations included the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 OLC, Air Medal with 9 OLC, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Outstanding Unit Award, American Campaign Medal, EAME medal with 1 silver star, WWII Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

 

In September 1945 he enrolled at Michigan State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine. He graduated in 1950 and entered into private practice. In 1956, he joined the Battle Creek 172nd Interceptor Squadron and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Michigan Air National Guard. By 1960, his veterinary practice was busy, and he knew something had to give. He resigned from his full-time veterinary practice and was hired at the Battle Creek Air Base as a fulltime flight training instructor. He later became the group commander and was promoted to colonel.

 

In 1974, Col. Rann was transferred to Selfridge Air National Guard Base as the 127th Wing Commander. He served in that position until 1976 when he was promoted to Brigadier General and transferred to Lansing as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air at the Michigan National Guard Headquarters.

 

Ranns military service spanned 40 years. He passed away in October 2014 at age 90.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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Close up of the uniform with the RCAF wings. I believe the wings are English made. The visor is a Luxemburg crusher cap.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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Pilot wings (I'm pretty sure are English made) with blue patch. Note the DFC ribbon with 1 OLC, the air medal with 9 OLC, and the EAME ribbon with 1 silver star.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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These are a few of the POW items bring back items. I think the money is the most interesting.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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I had this made recently. I figure a group of this caliber was worthy of a scaled down version of the P-51 he was flying when he was shot down and become a POW. This would be from the right side of the aircraft.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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I believe this print to be signed by an Eagle Squadron member. The message reads:

 

"To Dick Rann, may you always keep out of the trees"

 

I can't tell if the signature are initials or a first name

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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I found this model of Starduster online. This aircraft originally assigned to Lt. Col William Kennedy. Rann was flying this aircraft when he was shot down on February 25, 1945

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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Very nice group! POWs always seemed to save their spoons,

 

Kurt

!!!! WANTED !!!!

WWII Prisoner of War items : Medals, Mail, Diaries, Photos, Documents, Scrapbooks + More

WWII Naval Aviation Groupings : Medals, Documents, Scrapbooks, Photos, Flight Logs, Flight Jackets + More

 


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Love this group! You have been on a real roll the last few months!

 

Thanks Jay! I still have the P-47 pilot group that Troy picked for me to post yet.

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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What an amazing grouping! I especially like the plane art you had made. Any chance of a photo of the back of the British made wing?

 

Have you looked at the liberation videos of this camp to try and find Major Rann. I just checked and think I may see him but not 100% sure. The Colonel who told everyone to stay put was Colonel Charles W. Stark. He'd been the senior officer in the camp. I posted one of his wings on the wings section of the forum.

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What an amazing grouping! I especially like the plane art you had made. Any chance of a photo of the back of the British made wing?

 

Have you looked at the liberation videos of this camp to try and find Major Rann. I just checked and think I may see him but not 100% sure. The Colonel who told everyone to stay put was Colonel Charles W. Stark. He'd been the senior officer in the camp. I posted one of his wings on the wings section of the forum.

I have not seen the liberation videos. Do you have a link to them?

Here is the reverse of the wing...with and without flash

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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What an amazing grouping! I especially like the plane art you had made. Any chance of a photo of the back of the British made wing?

 

Have you looked at the liberation videos of this camp to try and find Major Rann. I just checked and think I may see him but not 100% sure. The Colonel who told everyone to stay put was Colonel Charles W. Stark. He'd been the senior officer in the camp. I posted one of his wings on the wings section of the forum.

It's a small world. I have a pow postcard sent by Col Stark from Dulag Luft.

 

Kurt

!!!! WANTED !!!!

WWII Prisoner of War items : Medals, Mail, Diaries, Photos, Documents, Scrapbooks + More

WWII Naval Aviation Groupings : Medals, Documents, Scrapbooks, Photos, Flight Logs, Flight Jackets + More

 


donation2007.gifdonation2008.gifdonation2009.gifdonation2010.gifdonation2011.gif

donation2012.gifdonation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif
donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gifdonation2020.gif

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Great wing! I really like the curved C-catch. An original British made wing with a c-catch has been on my wishlist for a long time but they're very hard to find. Congrats!

 

Kurt do you have a link to that postcard on the forum? I'd really like to see it. Colonel Stark had kept a ton of his paperwork, correspondence, etc but I never did get to see it all but its still out there hopefully someday it'll turn up. Sparta On, do you have any paperwork or anything of Major Rann's from the camp?

 

Here's a couple of the videos. I'm horrible at recognizing faces so if you see him maybe take screenshot and post it to this thread? That'd be really cool to see.

 

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675044758_Allied-prisoners-of-war_Dulag-Luft_prisoners-leave-camp_German-officers

 

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675044757_Allied-prisoners-of-war_Dulag-Luft_Charles-W-Stark_commander-Robert-Jennings

 

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Wow man - you have been on quite a roll lately. Another super find! Keep sharing all you will - you have some super groups!

 

Daniel

Actively collecting:

13th USAAF uniforms and groups/medal groups!

307th BG, 5th BG, 11th BG, 42nd BG

Also looking for:

WWII Far East Air Force uniforms/groups!

Any Pacific Army Air Force Groups to 5th, 7th, 10th, 14th, 20th AAF

Collecting CBI and ATC Pacific Army Air Force groups

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USMF's custom photo resize tool:http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/229816-custom-resize-tool-exclusively-for-the-usmf/




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I think this may be him circled in red from the video clips although not 100% certain.

 

 

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This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion....Carl Spackler

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Here is the card:

 

image.jpg

image.jpg

!!!! WANTED !!!!

WWII Prisoner of War items : Medals, Mail, Diaries, Photos, Documents, Scrapbooks + More

WWII Naval Aviation Groupings : Medals, Documents, Scrapbooks, Photos, Flight Logs, Flight Jackets + More

 


donation2007.gifdonation2008.gifdonation2009.gifdonation2010.gifdonation2011.gif

donation2012.gifdonation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif
donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gifdonation2020.gif

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