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Paul S

WWII Air Crew Picture Challenge

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This is a picture that I've known all my life. It is my father's second crew...described as "crazy" by his first tour pilot, my father volunteered for a second tour after completing his first on D-Day. In early March 1944 his first 3 missions were the first daylight missions to Berlin flown by the Eighth and his crew flew them as rookies.

 

His first tour picture is a wonderful display of youthful bravado but this October 1944 second tour picture was different. I never liked this one as well because of the washout on the right side and the general lack of bravado; however, for the purposes of this forum, this is the more interesting picture.

 

Challenge to forum members: Can you tell why this picture is interesting, and exceedingly rare?

 

Here is a link to an offsite copy that might come through more clearly:

 

http://i148.photobucket.com/albums/s6/Luxe...3-3-5Picasa.jpg

post-3515-1224248737.jpg

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Well, for one thing, you have five officers and five enlisted men in the crew. Normally, a B-17 had four officers and six enlisted men. What was the job of the 5th officer?

Also note the officer in the center and the one on the right are both not wearing collar/lapel brass. This may not be the big deal about this picture, but is is unusual.


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What I see right off the bat is the lead aircrew patch behind the wings on the guys in the front row.


Paul Conrad
Still looking for quality wings!

www.conradwings.com
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I am bored prefixing everything I say with "I think" or "in my opinion".
Everything I say is my opinion; the only thing of which I am certain is that there is very little of which one can be certain.

 


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Also here is the pic minus the washout ( hope you don't mind)

 

 

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Paul Conrad
Still looking for quality wings!

www.conradwings.com
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I am bored prefixing everything I say with "I think" or "in my opinion".
Everything I say is my opinion; the only thing of which I am certain is that there is very little of which one can be certain.

 


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Is it that the EM in the front row, 1, 3 and 4 have the famous 'Lead Crew' backing for their wings? It also looks like #4 has a goldfish insignia above his DUC. As for the 5th Officer, many lead crews flew with an extra officer as an observer for formations. Mark.


"The Dude Abides"

 

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Perhaps this was a "Mickey" ship with a Ra-dome and the 5th officer was the "Mickey" operator. Looks like they might have been in Class A uniform for a Pass and were told to wait for a photo, accounting for their demeanor!

Tell us what makes it "rare".

Bobgee


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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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What is the badge worn above the DUC? I notice that at least 3 of the NCOs have the badge.


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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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I wanted to slip in here and thank Paul C. for repairing the washout...what photo editing program are you using and what is the tool?

 

Also, since my challenge seems to have drawn some quick interest, I want to let it roll a bit longer to see what some others contribute, but let me say that to this point, you guys are impressive.

 

Paul S.

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I wanted to slip in here and thank Paul C. for repairing the washout...what photo editing program are you using and what is the tool?

 

Also, since my challenge seems to have drawn some quick interest, I want to let it roll a bit longer to see what some others contribute, but let me say that to this point, you guys are impressive.

 

Paul S.

 

It is the little dog! A rare variant of the Mk 1943 GI Pooch issued only in England for 6 months. AND all the officers seem to have mustaches.

 

I vote for the lead bomber box and flying fish (or flying boot) badges.

 

Patrick

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I wanted to slip in here and thank Paul C. for repairing the washout...what photo editing program are you using and what is the tool?

 

Also, since my challenge seems to have drawn some quick interest, I want to let it roll a bit longer to see what some others contribute, but let me say that to this point, you guys are impressive.

 

Paul S.

 

Paul,

 

Thank you, my pleasure! Photoshop CS3 , Burn tool, shadows 50% ,100 pixel soft edge brush, image in grayscale

 

Paul C.


Paul Conrad
Still looking for quality wings!

www.conradwings.com
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I am bored prefixing everything I say with "I think" or "in my opinion".
Everything I say is my opinion; the only thing of which I am certain is that there is very little of which one can be certain.

 


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Patrick,

 

Mustaches – Correct. While actually not one of the things I had in mind, it is an accurate observation. The officers agreed among themselves not to shave their mustaches until they had completed their tour and were still alive. Gene, the bombardier standing at right, although a large man, could not muster more than a blonde fuzz for his mustache, so the others helped him along by coloring it with a pencil! Kudos for your observation.

 

The "Blythe Spirit" that was used as the backdrop for this picture was named for a popular London stage production that was current at the time and I think there might have been more than one plane, in other groups, bearing that name. This crew did not fly the "Blythe Spirit" during their tour. At 18,000' over Orienberg it took a direct flak hit between the wing root and #3 engine about 1-week after this crew finished their tour and were headed home. Every airman aboard her, except the co-pilot, was killed that day. About 1-month after that, Germany surrendered.

 

As Rod Stewart sang, "Every picture tells a story, don't it?"

 

Paul S.

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Also on the subject of mustaches...this was the only time in his life that Dad grew a mustache. It was a fine, bushy production and added substantially to this, his only "intrepid airman" picture. It was his favorite.

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Is this an Electronic Warfare equipped B-17? (just a guess)

 

Edit I forgot to add - the system was called MAGIC CARPET and the operator was called a "spot jammer".

 

http://www.winker.net/lewis/carpet.htm

 

John


Always looking for Wings & Named Air Medals!

Motto: To Collect, Preserve, and Remember!

 

 

 

 

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Paul C., Mark, & Patrick,

 

Lead Crew Patch – Correct. This is a 447th Bomb Group PFF lead crew, that at different times from October 1944 until March 1945, led squadrons, the group, the wing, and on one occasion, the Third Air Division. Use of the Lead Crew patch was discontinued in November 1944 (I think), so that and the fact that this crew was formed in early October 1944 pretty well brackets the date of this picture. Kudos to Paul C., Mark, Patrick.

 

Question: All of the officers shown in this picture were authorized to wear the Lead Crew patch, but none are…any ideas why? I found in my father’s things, a blue felt-backed English bullion wing that he had never sewn on onto his coat. I take that to be a combat crew wing rather than a lead crew wing, but alas, no Lead Crew patch.

 

Bobgee & Lee Ragan,

 

Five Officers, Mickey Crew – Correct. Jerry, the fifth officer was the Mickey operator. The crew liked and trusted him but did not consider him an aviator in the same sense as they considered themselves aviators. He was prone to airsickness and apparently had not undergone much or any flight training before he was deployed overseas from his job as a GE technician. I understand that Jerry flew with a number of lead crews and his picture can be found with several other crews, although I’ve not seen another with him in it. Kudos to Bobgee, Lee Ragan

 

Question: Does anyone know for certain what kind of wing a Mickey operator would have worn? Navigator?

 

MORE TOMORROW

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To Paul C., a gentleman among gentlemen, who has restored the original, unevenly exposed picture to this excellent condition that none of these men ever saw during their lifetimes, my sincere gratitude.

 

Last answer to the Challenge:

 

Goldfish Club – Correct. Seven members of this crew were original members that underwent combat crew training together at Drew Field in Florida. The originals were all the front row EM’s and #2 & #3 (CP & P) officers. Their second mission was to Brux in late August 1944, where flak destroyed #1 & #2 engines requiring them to throw out everything they could in order to stay in the air—think about the various films you’ve seen on this subject. They limped back across the channel, crossed the shoreline at something around 500’ and bellied into an English pasture only to find themselves in the middle of a minefield! English ordinance disposal people came in, marked a clear path using metal detectors and got them out.

 

The Group CO wanted to get them back into the air as quickly as possible and did so the next day. The target was Rechlin near Peenemünde. There, they were hit by each gun of a 4-gun battery of 88’s manned by students from a nearby school. With 3-engines knocked out, they ditched in the North Sea off the Danish coast and by chance were picked up by an Royal Navy E-boat returning from a raid on a coastal target. If the E-boat had not been in the area it was likely this crew would have perished because Air-Sea rescue was too far away. No one was badly hurt and no one was killed or captured—they were given a month’s leave and returned to flying in late September.

 

The Goldfish Club patch can be clearly seen on the #4 EM right breast, and the lower tips can be seen on #2 & #3 EM’s. The other 2 EM’s likely have theirs on, but they are covered by the lapel. At the time they ditched, the 447th had lost 69 planes since their establishment in England and only 2 men had been rescued from the water. The recovery of this crew raised that total to 11.

 

This is why I consider the picture to be exceedingly rare. The Lead Crews were few relative to the total number of aviators deployed and fewer still of this relatively small group were also Goldfish Club members.

 

Had I not become interested in collecting some wings and badges, I might never have noticed the details of this picture—in fact, for over 50-years, these details escaped me. Kudos to Mark, Beast, Patrick.

Question: The #2 (CP) and #3 (P) officers are original crew, but they are wearing neither the Lead Crew nor Goldfish Club patches. Any ideas why not?

 

Regarding the matter of being shot down by students from a nearby school. It was a girls school…they never lived it down!

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Hi,

 

Nice photo! Maybe the fifth officer is an observer or one photograph officer of the Group or 8th AAF.

 

Best regards,

 

Ricardo.


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Ricardo, you are right...the 5th officer was a Mickey operator.

 

Here is a picture showing the Lead Crew patch and a Goldfish Club patch, neither of which came from any of these crewmen but are legitimate examples. The wing is one of my father's.

post-3515-1224606529.jpg

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Here is another piece from this man's accumulation. Do you folks who have been collecting for a long time see these very often?

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Very nice Paul ans something not seen often at least not by me. Mostly I run across thing similar to this but all seem to be for te 15th AF... as oppsed to others.

 

I think it is a great snapshot of missions that will be very helpful if you choose to research the missions.

 

John


Always looking for Wings & Named Air Medals!

Motto: To Collect, Preserve, and Remember!

 

 

 

 

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Here is a bit more to add to this thread. The picture shows Dad's ribbons and wings as they were finally worn at the end of his time in service, about March 1945. Sometime during early 1945, or perhaps the last 2-months of 1944, it apparently became fashionable to have their uniforms made in London and for them to switch from the sterling wings to bullion, along with bullion and fabric everything else on them. The pictures are of a Class A and an Eisenhower jacket, each of them made in London.

 

Paul S

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