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Attributed World War II Bombardier’s medals, wings, etc.


decwriter
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decwriter

I/r/a/ H. B/l/a/n/c/h/a/r/d enlisted at Detroit, Michigan on April 9, 1941 as an Aviation Cadet. His ASN was 36109781. He completed training and was Honorably Discharged on January 6, 1943, having completed Army Air Force Bombardier School, Class 43-1, at Big Spring, Texas. He was commissioned on January 7, 1943 and served until he was discharged on Oct 17, 1945. His officer number was 0-669961 during World War II. He served with the Headquarters Squadron and 342nd Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group, and initially flew bombing missions from Depienne, Tunisia, or Cerignola, Italy, as his first four Air Medals were awarded under General Order #27, Basic to 3rd OLC, Hq. 5th Wing, Nov. 25, 1943. The 4th OLC was awarded under GO #113, Hq. 15th Air Force, 3-9-1944 and the 5th thru 9th OLC was awarded under GO #243, Hq. 15th Air Force, 4-19-1944. His ten Air Medals were for completing 50 combat missions. An Air Medal award card does not exist for him in the award card catalog, so I had to bounce what was available on the internet and cross reference the dates with known Air Medal recipients from the 97th Bomb Group who had award cards. He served later on in the 1950s and attained the rank of captain, but due to NARA being closed for the pandemic, I haven’t been able to obtain his service records. His last day in service to our nation was 14 Jun 1952 with an officer number of A0669961.

 

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decwriter

My initial thoughts were that this was a put together grouping because the eBay listing appeared to be a sum of the parts with no explanation, but the Air Medal with nine “old school” oak leaf clusters piqued my curiosity. It did include a yearbook, an American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, officer rank, officer U.S. collar devices, but also included Aerial Gunner wings, so I thought that was odd. Later on I acquired his personal photo album, which was definitely welcome to tie everything together.

 

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decwriter

It is a legitimate grouping from one individual and after his formal training at Big Springs, Texas, it appears his combat training began at the 331st Bombardment Group (Heavy), a replacement training unit at Casper Army Air Field, Casper, Wyoming. The reason he had an Aerial Gunner (AG) wing was because he was trained after bombardier school at Laredo Army Air Field, Laredo, Texas and received an AG certificate.   

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decwriter

He deployed overseas in June 1943 and began flying combat missions with the 97th BG. These photos are from his album.

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decwriter

Of note, notice B-17 “OPISSONYA” (42-5951) from his photo album. That aircraft was flown on a mission in 1944 which resulted in the Medal of Honor for the bombardier in 1945.

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decwriter

After completing 50 missions, he returned to the United States.

 

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decwriter

You’ll notice Major Renick led the cluster data on the last few Air Medals, more than likely due to his rank, then other fliers were listed.  

 

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decwriter

Sometime in 1944, he was assigned to train others and ended up in the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, at Gowen Field, Idaho. See the picture of him wearing the unit cloth patch. That squadron became a replacement training unit and their mission was to train individual pilots and aircrews. He had some time to goof off in May 1944 as evidenced by this fishing certificate from the Miami Sailfish Club in Miami Beach, Florida.

 

 

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decwriter

It’s unknown how long he was at Gowen Field, but in March 1945 he has an I.D card for the B-29 program at Biggs Field, Texas that’s good until March 1946.

 

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decwriter

I don’t have any data on him after WWII until 1952, but his story has a sad ending. While attached to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, he was a student at the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama and died after three days in the base hospital from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. All of these items came from his daughter, who never knew him.

 

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decwriter

Meant to include the flier wearing the cloth squadron patch photo in the earlier post.  It's a pain to see, but it's not a round bomb as depicted in some photos of the 52nd BS patches. 

 

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aerialbridge
6 hours ago, joeclown said:

Great story but with a sad ending.

 Describes my parent's marriage which began on June 14, 1952, Blanchard's last day on earth.   Just a star-crossed day all around.

 

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Jake Zenger

Thanks for sharing this. I had a similar thought when I first looked at the grouping but thanks for the clarification and extensive information. 

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manayunkman

What a shame.

 

It sounds like he took his own life.

 

I know 2 other WW2 vets who took their lives in their car.

 

If that is so then I wonder what led up to it? The daughter have any clues?

 

He survived 50 early missions over Europe.

 

Ferndale is a couple of streets away from me.

 

This is a very poignant story, very interesting group and great items.

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decwriter
6 hours ago, manayunkman said:

What a shame.

 

It sounds like he took his own life.

 

I know 2 other WW2 vets who took their lives in their car.

 

If that is so then I wonder what led up to it? The daughter have any clues?

 

He survived 50 early missions over Europe.

 

Ferndale is a couple of streets away from me.

 

This is a very poignant story, very interesting group and great items.

I have no idea what led up to his death. His daughter stated he died under questionable circumstances, but didn't elaborate.

I'm honored to be the caretaker of his items and the photo album is a bonus to have.

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Brian Keith

 

I am reading an interesting book right now. Called, “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Quite an interesting read. While I’m not finished, some of the “take always” are, humans in general, avoid killing humans. Even in mortal combat, some refuse to kill, even when it may/does cost them their own life. When one does actually kill another human, it can reap a heavy toll on their psyche. When one has to “order” or lead soldiers into combat, that will and does take some of their lives, it is also a heavy burden to carry. Lt’s and Captains are the closest to these soldiers. Personally knowing and writing their NOK about their death is a very heavy burden. There are some “high profile” suicides among leaders during WW II, probably other conflicts as well. Maybe a stronger faith in God would have helped, only God knows.  

I served in a somewhat active combat zone as a MSG, I never participated in a fire fight, nor did I have to fire rounds toward an “enemy”. (As a Christian, I thank Jesus for that blessing!). I had what was probably a “bad guy” in my sights once, during an attack on my FOB, but he wasn’t armed that I could see and was not an imminent threat to US forces. It was not a shot I, or likely anyone would take. During that attack, I was “Bracketed” with two RPG rounds. RPG’s are not artillery, so not really a “problem”.

Suicide is quite painful to those who are left. A person where I worked committed suicide, I really didn’t know him. A co-worker said of him, “No one knows what Demons reside in someone’s mind”. (Or something close to that).

I also lost a niece to suicide, she was 14. That is VERY PAINFUL, still over 10 years later!  No one knows if she really wanted to “Kill” herself, or if she was expecting someone to find her before she died from hanging from her bedpost. She was a “cutter”, so, that is a very big Red Flag out there!

Long post, I hope it is worth the read!

BKW

As an added note: While in Kirghistan, waiting for our flight to Afghanistan, I had what I would describe as a “talk” with God. I didn’t “ask” for anything except that our mission was “successful”. I would probably define “successful” differently than God.

My “successful” might have been that all twelve of my deployed team members return safely to the US; we did!

BKW

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  • 2 weeks later...
KASTAUFFER

Thats a lot of clusters on that medal! They look like they might be theater made clusters as well.

 

Kurt

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