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The city of Nantes, France was occupied by the Germans in WWII and was partly destroyed. Nantes was the target of three of the 384th’s bombing missions, two in 1943 and one in 1944.
- 384th BG Mission 24 on 16 September 1943. The target was a blockade runner ship in the Loire River. But upon arrival the group found that the intended target, a ship loaded with munitions, was not found in the briefed area. The Group attacked the secondary target, port facilities and shipping, with good results.
- 384th BG Mission 25 on 23 September 1943. A week later, the Group returned to the Nantes port area with the target a ship believed to be a floating repair shop for submarines. Bombs were dropped using visual aiming, with undetermined results.
- 384th BG Mission 132A on 10 June 1944. The target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) at Chateau Bougon Airfield. The Group flew as the high group of the 41st “A” Combat Bombardment Wing. Bombing results were described as excellent.
But these would not be the only missions of the 384th Bomb Group to Nantes, France.
Nantes was liberated by the Americans in 1944. At the end of the year, the 384th Bomb Group flew one more mission there. Intelligence Officer Oscar P. Picard conceived a special Christmas gift mission to Nantes to distribute gifts and toys to thousands of children in the city.
The men of the 384th Bomb Group contributed money, their candy rations, clothing and toys purchased in town or sent over by request from relatives and friends from home. The money went towards clothing, soap, and other practical necessities of hospitals and orphanages, items unattainable in France.
On this mission, the bomb bays of six B-17s were filled with toys and clothes for the children of Nantes. Delivery was timed for the traditional French gift exchange on New Years Day, 1945.
Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Col. Julius Kahn Lacey was the second Commander of the 384th Bomb Group from September 6, 1943 to November 23, 1943. He was a temporary replacement for Col. Peaslee.
Julius Kahn Lacey was born in Elizabethton, Tennessee on September 18, 1904. He grew up in Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
In February 1929, he enlisted in the military as a flying cadet and entered Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas. In February 1930, he graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. He was appointed second lieutenant in the Air Reserves.
In May 1930, he received his regular army commission orders and reported to Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he served with the 17th Pursuit Squadron. He later served with the 57th Service Squadron.
In August 1931, he entered the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Illinois. Following graduation in June 1932, he was assigned to the Fifth Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York.
Before leaving for New York in 1932, Julius Lacey married Page Denman Browne (born April 23, 1913 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas) in Champaign, Illinois.
In January 1934, Lacey served with the Eastern Zone Army Air Corps air mail operation out of Langley Field, Virginia. In May, he returned to Mitchel Field, serving with the Ninth Observation Group.
In September 1934, he enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation in June 1936 with a master’s degree in meteorology, Lacey went to Norway and Germany to study weather conditions and research aircraft icing.
Lacey returned to Langley Field in September 1936 as base meteorological officer. He put the new Weather Service into place for the Air Corps. It was Lacey who proposed transferring the meteorological service from the Signal Corps and he planned and formulated the new organization.
In March 1937, he became the meteorological officer of the Second Wing of the Air Corps. Three months later, he assumed command of the Second Weather Squadron and was regional control officer of the Second Weather Region.
In December 1939, he graduated from a four-month course at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama, and then returned to Langley Field.
In 1940, Lacey was selected to survey port facilities and possible locations for air bases in Greenland. By December, he assumed command of the Fourth Weather Region at Maxwell Field, Alabama.
In August 1941, Lacey was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps and in January 1942, he became Deputy Director of the Weather Service.
In 1942, he was sent to Europe to analyze meteorological problems that affected the Royal Air Force and US Bomber Command.
In 1943, Lacey commanded the Provisional Group at Boise Air Base, Idaho, and then assumed command of the 103rd Combat Wing at Walla Walla Air Base in Washington.
In the latter part of 1943, Lacey went to England where he commanded the 384th Bomb Group for about three months from September 6 to November 23, replacing Colonel Budd Peaslee.
Following his command of the 384th, Brigadier General Julius Lacey was given command of the 94th Bombardment Wing, which was officially activated on December 12, 1943. The Wing was comprised of the 351st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Group, and 457th Bomb Group. Lacey commanded the wing until June 1945.
In July 1945, Lacey went on to command the 15th Bombardment Training Wing, and then the Second Air Force from November 1945 to February 1946. (One source alternately states Lacey’s service at this time as: in July 1945, he became Deputy Commander for Operations and Training of the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado).
In June 1946, Lacey entered the National War College at Washington, D.C. He graduated a year later and was appointed Commandant of the Air Tactical School, Tyndall Field, Florida.
In 1950, General Lacey joined the Air Training Command and assumed command of Mather Air Force Base, California and the 3535th Bomb Training Wing there.
In February 1952, Lacey was appointed combat crew training Air Force project officer at ATRC headquarters, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and assumed command of the Crew Training Air Force, ATRC, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in March.
In October 1953, Lacey transferred to Far East Air Forces, and became Vice Commander of the Fifth Air Force. He was named special assistant to the commander, FEAF, on May 5, 1954. On July 15, 1954 he was appointed J-3, Far East Command, FEAF, and on April 26, 1955 became Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans, FEAF.
General Lacey returned to the United States in November 1955, and was appointed Commandant, USAF Institute of Technology, Air University, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He retired in 1957 as a US Air Force Major General.
Julius Lacey’s decorations include the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Julius Kahn Lacey died in July 5, 1992 in San Antonio, Bexar, Texas. He is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, Plot: Section 4 Site 25-A. He also has a cenotaph memorial at Lacey Cemetery in Carter County Tennessee. His wife Page died less than a year later on April 1, 1993 and is buried beside him.
Note: Also buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery is Robert Fish, fifth commander of the 384th Bomb Group.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Jack Coleman Cook, continued…
Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle?
In 1920, Mary Ellen was 17 years old and still living at home with her parents, Carson and Ada Cagle, and brother, Willis (18), on their farm in Holmes County, Mississippi.
Jack was born on October 18, 1925.
In 1926, Mary Ellen was not married to Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr. She was still Mary Ellen Cagle and lived at 1772 Madison Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, and was a stenographer for Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 1928, she lived at 194 Hawthorne, Apt 9, Memphis, and still was a stenographer for Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company.
In 1930 and 1931, Mary Ellen was a renter at 1814 Poplar Avenue (or Blvd), Apartment 23 in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee. She paid $65 a month in rent. Three other families were listed at the same address: Raymond and Dorothy Gill and their daughter Dorothy; Eugene and Maxine Lerner and their daughter Lyma; and Irvin and Charlyn Norton. Mary Ellen was a secretary for the Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company. She was single and was 27 years old. On August 26, 1931, Mary Ellen arrived in the port of New Orleans aboard the Cefalu. She had departed Cristobal in the Canal Zone on August 22. Her address is listed as Memphis, Tennessee and she may have been traveling with a group of women from Memphis.
In 1932 and 1933, she lived at 1435 Madison Avenue, Memphis. The last Memphis city directory listing I see for Mary Ellen Cagle is 1933.
I believe Mary Ellen quit her job and married William Prince Cook, Sr. in 1933 or early 1934 and Prince Jr. and Princella are her children. William Prince Cook, Jr., was born December 3, 1934 in Tennessee. Younger sister, Mary Princella Cook, was born March 8, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee. I do not believe Jack Coleman Cook is her son. He must be her step-son, provided William Prince Cook, Sr. is his father.
Past the 1933 Memphis City Directory listing, I do not see any more records of Mary Ellen until the 1940 census showing her as Mary Ellen Cook. Also listed are husband William P., Jack, Prince Jr. and Princella at their home in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Past that are only Social Security death records.
Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr.?
William Prince Cook, Sr.’s parents were father Ripley Cook and mother Annie Orne Cook. Annie Orne was born in June 1866 in Mississippi. In 1870, she lived in Tupelo, Mississippi, and in 1880, she lived in District 14, Shelby County, Tennessee. Memphis is in Shelby County. William Prince Cook was Ripley and Annie’s son, born in March 1894, and was named after Annie’s father, William Prince Orne, who was born in 1827 in Mississippi, and died in 1883 in Shelby County, Tennessee. Also listed in the 1900 census were their other children Walter Gibbs (born September 1888, no explanation of different last name given), Benn Cook (born February 1898), and Elvin Cook (born March 1900). So even though William Prince Cook, Sr. was born in Arkansas, he must have had relatives in the Memphis area.
On June 5 of 1917, when William Prince Cook, Sr. registered for WWI, he lived in Shelby County, Tennessee. Records of William Prince Cook, Sr. are even more scarce than records of Mary Ellen Cagle. I don’t find him on a census except for 1900 and 1940.
I don’t see any indication that William Prince Cook, Sr. was married before he married Mary Ellen Cagle. So Jack may have been his child from a previous marriage, or Jack may have been a relative that William adopted. I have no way to know.
To make this search even more difficult, I find that in 1940 there were two Jack C. Cook’s living on Garland Avenue in Hot Springs Arkansas. Jack Coleman Cook lived at 909 Garland Avenue and Jack Calvin Cook lived at 607 Garland Avenue. Jack Calvin Cook was 15 or 16 years old and born in Colorado. His parents were Cecil and Ruth Cook and he had a younger sister named Gertrude. Like William Prince Cook, Sr., Cecil was born in Arkansas. The two Cook families could have been related, although I don’t know for sure.
Jack Coleman Cook remains a mystery to me. The next lead I will follow will be through the family of his wife, Lucille Hutzell, but I will save that search for another day. Even if I don’t find any family that remembers Jack Cook, I will always remember him and his sacrifice in WWII.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
On February 3, 1945, Jack Coleman Cook, the ball turret gunner on the Robert Clax Long crew, saved the life of Edward Field, the crew’s navigator. After the pilot ditched their B-17, 42-102501, also known as The Challenger, in the North Sea, Cook gave his spot in the life raft to Field. Edward Field survived the ditching. Jack Cook did not.
Jack Cook deserves to be honored for his bravery on that day. To that end, I am researching Jack Cook to see if I can find any living relatives. In most cases, my research reveals a fairly clear picture of someone’s past from so long ago. But in Jack’s case, there are a lot of holes in his family’s history, possibly caused by some name and location changes, so this search is going to require a bit more work than most. Today I am publishing what I have found, but hopefully by next week, I will have a clearer picture of Jack and his family.
Jack Cook’s parents were William Prince Cook, Sr. and Mary Ellen Cagle Cook (see Notes). William Prince Cook, Sr. was born January 27, 1894 in Clarkedale, Crittenden County, Arkansas. He fought in WWI with Battery A, 114th Field Artillery, 30th Division. Mary Ellen Cagle Cook was born Feb. 1, 1903 in Durant, Holmes County, Mississippi.
Oldest son, Jack Coleman Cook, was born October 18, 1925 in Tennessee. (See Notes).
I cannot find any early records or even a 1930 census record for the family, but the 1940 census indicates that in 1935, the Cook family lived in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee.
The Cook family’s 1940 census record was taken on April 5, 1940. It showed that they lived at 909 Garland Avenue, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
In 1940, Jack’s father was forty-six years old and owned an automobile dealership, Prince Cook Motors, at 500 Ouachita Avenue in Hot Springs. Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle Cook was thirty-seven years old. Jack was fourteen, and the highest grade he had completed was seventh grade, indicating that he was attending eighth grade in the 1939 to 1940 school year. Jack had a younger brother, William Prince Cook, Jr., who was five years old (born December 3, 1934 in Tennessee), and was called “Prince.” Jack also had a younger sister, Mary Princella Cook, who was 4 years old (born March 8, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee), and was called “Princella.” Also living with the Cook family in 1940 was a live-in nurse, twenty-six year old Geneva Pegues.
On December 10, 1943, almost two months past his eighteenth birthday, Jack Cook enlisted in WWII.
On August 12, 1944, still 18 years old, Jack Cook married Lucille Hutzell in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Lucille was from Hot Springs and was nineteen years old (born December 29, 1924 in Buckner, Franklin County, Illinois) when she married Jack.
After completing his military training, on January 9, 1945, Jack was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #8 as the ball turret gunner of the Robert Long crew. His first mission was on January 29, 1945, with the target the railroad marshalling yards in Siegen, Germany. Three days later, Jack flew his second mission on February 1, 1945, with the target a highway and railroad bridge in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Two days after that mission, Jack flew his third and final mission on February 3, 1945, with the target the Tempelhof railroad marshalling yards in Berlin.
Jack was only nineteen years old and he and Lucille had been married less than six months when he died in the North Sea.
On September 8, 1945 Lucille remarried. She married James Virgil Harmon in Garland County, Arkansas. James also fought in WWII. James was born on October 20 or 22, 1925 (just a few days after Jack Cook was born) in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Being so close in age, Jack and James may have been schoolmates.
Jack is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas, Plot: Block C. His mother (step-mother), father, and brother are buried nearby, also in Block C. Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr., died May 13, 1962, Jack’s brother, William Prince Cook, Jr., died January 2, 1981, and Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle Cook, died Oct. 30, 1989. Jack’s sister, Mary Princella Cook, died March 3, 1990, burial place unknown. Princella lived in the family home at 909 Garland Avenue in Hot Springs until her death.
Lucille’s second husband, James Virgil Harmon, died December 15, 1973 in North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, and is buried in Edgewood Memorial Park.
Lucille Hutzell Cook Harmon died March 25, 2011 in Beebe, White County, Arkansas.
I would like to find any living relatives of Jack Coleman Cook. They should know of his bravery on his last mission in WWII. I don’t know if, in their short marriage, Jack and Lucille had any children, but his brother and sister may have had children, which would be his nieces and nephews. Please write to me if you are related to Jack Coleman Cook and would like to join the mission to honor Jack.
- I have reason to believe that Mary Ellen Cagle was Jack’s step-mother rather than his mother, but not enough time to investigate fully before posting this article. I hope to have it all figured out by next week and will add more/correct this post’s information then.
- Jack Coleman Cook’s birth year is incorrect on his headstone. It reads 1926 rather than 1925. Find-a-grave record.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
In April of this year, I wrote a series of articles about the men of the 384th Bomb Group who remain missing in action to this day. One of the stories was about the disappearance of Frederick Arnold Maki, the radio operator of the Robert Clax Long crew. The crew ditched in the North Sea on February 3, 1945. Maki was washed away and never seen again. The remainder of the crew struggled to stay alive while awaiting rescue.
Edward Field, the navigator of the crew, did not have a spot in a life raft, but clung to the side of one of them. When he started going numb from the cold, the ball turret gunner, Jack Coleman Cook, traded places with him, slipping into the icy water as Edward took Jack’s place in the raft.
Even though the crew was rescued, both the pilot, Robert Long, and the ball turret gunner who had given up his spot in the raft, Jack Cook, died from exposure. Edward Field, who began writing poetry during the time he was flying bombing missions in WWII, wrote about the experience in a moving poem entitled “World War II,” which was originally published in 1967, again in several of Edward Field’s books, and in the 2003 Library of America anthology of World War II poems, “Poets of World War II.”
Edward Field has given me permission to share his poem with you here.
World War II
It was over Target Berlin the flak shot up our plane
just as we were dumping bombs on the already
on signal from the lead bomber in the squadron.
The plane jumped again and again as the shells burst
sending jagged pieces of steel rattling through our
It was pure chance
that none of us got ripped by those fragments.
Then, being hit, we had to drop out of formation
losing speed and altitude,
and when I figured out our course with trembling hands
on the instruments
(I was navigator)
we set out on the long trip home to England
alone, with two of our four engines gone
and gas streaming out of holes in the wing tanks.
That morning at briefing
we had been warned not to go to nearby Poland
partly liberated then by the Russians,
although later we learned that another crew in trouble
had landed there anyway,
and patching up their plane somehow,
returned gradually to England
roundabout by way of Turkey and North Africa.
But we chose England, and luckily
the Germans had no fighters to send up after us then
for this was just before they developed their jet.
To lighten our load we threw out
guns and ammunition, my navigation books, all the junk
and, in a long descent, made it over Holland
with a few goodbye fireworks from the shore guns.
Over the North Sea the third engine gave out
and we dropped low over the water.
The gas gauge read empty but by keeping the nose
a little gas at the bottom of the tank sloshed forward
and kept our single engine going.
High overhead, the squadrons were flying home in
—the raids had gone on for hours after us.
Did they see us down there skimming the waves?
We radioed our final position for help to come
but had no idea if anyone
happened to be tuned in and heard us,
and we crouched together on the floor
knees drawn up and head down
in regulation position for ditching;
listened as the engine stopped, a terrible silence,
and we went down into the sea with a crash,
just like hitting a brick wall,
jarring bones, teeth, eyeballs panicky.
Who would ever think water could be so hard?
You black out, and then come to
with water rushing in like a sinking-ship movie.
All ten of us started getting out of there fast:
there was a convenient door in the roof to climb out by,
one at a time. We stood in line,
water up to our thighs and rising.
The plane was supposed to float for twenty seconds
but with all those flak holes
who could say how long it really would?
The two life rafts popped out of the sides into the water
but one of them only half-inflated
and the other couldn’t hold everyone
although they all piled into it, except the pilot,
who got into the limp raft that just floated.
The radio operator and I, out last,
(did that mean we were least aggressive, least likely
we stood on the wing watching the two rafts
being swept off by waves in different directions.
We had to swim for it.
Later they said the cords holding rafts to plane
broke by themselves, but I wouldn’t have blamed them
for cutting them loose, for fear
that by waiting for us the plane would go down
and drag them with it.
I headed for the overcrowded good raft
and after a clumsy swim in soaked heavy flying clothes
got there and hung onto the side.
The radio operator went for the half-inflated raft
where the pilot lay with water sloshing over him,
but he couldn’t swim, even with his life vest on,
being from the Great Plains—
his strong farmer’s body didn’t know
how to wallow through the water properly
and a wild current seemed to sweep him farther off.
One minute we saw him on top of a swell
and perhaps we glanced away for a minute
but when we looked again he was gone—
just as the plane went down sometime around then
when nobody was looking.
It was midwinter and the waves were mountains
and the water ice water.
You could live in it twenty-five minutes
the Ditching Survival Manual said.
Since most of the crew were squeezed on my raft
I had to stay in the water hanging on.
My raft? It was their raft, they got there first so they
Twenty-five minutes I had.
Live, live, I said to myself.
You’ve got to live.
There looked like plenty of room on the raft
from where I was and I said so
but they said no.
When I figured the twenty-five minutes were about up
and I was getting numb,
I said I couldn’t hold on anymore,
and a little rat-faced boy from Alabama, one of the
got into the icy water in my place,
and I got on the raft in his.
He insisted on taking off his flying clothes
which was probably his downfall because even wet
clothes are protection,
and then worked hard, kicking with his legs, and we all
to get to the other raft
and tie them together.
The gunner got in the raft with the pilot
and lay in the wet.
Shortly after, the pilot started gurgling green foam from
maybe he was injured in the crash against the
and by the time we were rescued,
he and the little gunner were both dead.
That boy who took my place in the water
who died instead of me
I don’t remember his name even.
It was like those who survived the death camps
by letting others go into the ovens in their place.
It was him or me, and I made up my mind to live.
I’m a good swimmer,
but I didn’t swim off in that scary sea
looking for the radio operator when he was
I suppose, then, once and for all,
I chose to live rather than be a hero, as I still do today,
although at that time I believed in being heroic, in
saving the world,
even if, when opportunity knocked,
I instinctively chose survival.
As evening fell the waves calmed down
and we spotted a boat, not far off, and signaled with a
hoping it was English not German.
The only two who cried on being found
were me and a boy from Boston, a gunner.
The rest of the crew kept straight faces.
It was a British air-sea rescue boat:
they hoisted us up on deck,
dried off the living and gave us whisky and put us
and rolled the dead up in blankets,
and delivered us all to a hospital on shore
for treatment or disposal.
None of us even caught cold, only the dead.
This was a minor accident of war:
two weeks in a rest camp at Southport on the Irish Sea
and we were back at Grafton-Underwood, our base,
ready for combat again,
the dead crewmen replaced by living ones,
and went on hauling bombs over the continent of
destroying the Germans and their cities.
© Edward Field, 1967, 1987
* * * * * * * *
The mission on which Edward Field chose survival over death in the North Sea was only his third mission, but he went on to fly twenty-four more and complete his tour of duty. Today Edward Field is searching for a way to honor the man who saved his life. In his words, “Something should be done to credit Jack Cook’s incredible act of bravery.” I agree. Do you?
Edward Field’s books and awards include:
- Stand Up, Friend, With Me (1963)
- Variety Photoplays (1967)
- Eskimo Songs and Stories (1973)
- A Full Heart (1977)
- Stars in My Eyes (1978)
- New and Selected Poems from the Book of My Life (1987)
- Counting Myself Lucky: Selected Poems 1963-1992 (1992)
- A Frieze for a Temple of Love (1998)
- Magic Words: Poems (1998)
- After the Fall: Poems Old and New (2007)
- The Potency Clinic (1978), with Neil Derrick
- Die PotenzKlinik (1982), translation of The Potency Clinic
- Village (1982) by Bruce Elliot (pseudonym of Edward Field and Neil Derrick)
- The Office ( 1987)
- The Villagers (2000) by Edward Field and Neil Derrick, 2nd revision of Village
- The Villagers (2009) by Bruce Elliot (pseudonym of Edward Field and Neil Derrick), 3rd revision of Village
- The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, and Other Intimate Literary Profies of the Bohemian Era (2005)
- Kabuli Days, Travels in Old Afghanistan (2008
- The Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets (1962)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1963)
- An Academy Award for writing narration for the documentary film To Be Alive (1965)
- The Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America (1974)
- The Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (1981)
- The Lambda Literary Award (1993)
- Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)
- W.H. Auden Award (2005)
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016 (excluding Edward Field’s poem, “World War II”)
I get pretty excited about a 384th Bomb Group wing panel signing. I get absolutely ecstatic when the wing panel signing is close enough to my home for me to attend. And you can’t even imagine how great I felt when I was able to have another 384th veteran (other than the signer) come with me to enjoy the day.
I attempt to explain to family and friends what a wonderful event a wing panel signing is, but I think if I could actually show them what’s involved, it would be much more meaningful. So here goes.
First of all, I’d like to share the background of the wing panel and its history. I’m going to publish here the document that others have created to explain the project. I don’t think they’ll mind since, hopefully, word about the project will reach others by my promotion of it. The project is officially known as “The 384th Bomb Group Veterans Signing Project.”
The 384th Bomb Group Veterans Signing Project arose from a chance observation in 2008. 384th BG NexGen member Christopher Wilkinson was visiting the EAA’s B-17G “Aluminum Overcast” and admired the large number of Veterans’ signatures on the bomber’s crew door. The significance of personally signing the bomber and the affection they had for the B-17s they flew and serviced was apparent. An idea began to form: might it be possible for the Veterans of the 384th BG to personally sign a B-17 part to honor their hard work and the sacrifices of their fallen comrades? The dream began to take shape after discussions with fellow Group members, and so the search for a suitable B-17 part began.
In March 2010, after a long search, a genuine B-17G wing skin panel was generously donated to the 384th Bomb Group, Inc. by Carl Scholl, partner in the warbird restoration firm Aero Trader of Chino, California. The identity of the B-17G that the panel came from is unknown. All that is known, based on the original ID plate affixed to the back, is that it was built during WWII by Briggs Manufacturing Company and its function is a wing stress panel to enclose the fuel tank.
To ready the panel for its first signatures, warbird restorer and artist Cory O’Bryan of Ontario, CA donated his time and artistic skills, hand-painting the 384th Bomb Group shield and Triangle P tail symbol, 544th, 545th, 546th and 547th Bomb Squadron shields, the Eighth Air Force shield, and listed the Group’s support squadrons on the 3-foot by 8-foot long panel.
The wing panel was first presented to the Group at their reunion in Branson, Missouri on October 12, 2010, where the first 10 Veterans signed. Since then, it has been to every annual 384th reunion, giving attending Veterans the opportunity to sign. It has also been shipped to 29 states, The District of Columbia and Canada. As of November 2016, nearly 140 Veterans have signed, and about 15 more Veterans have been identified as potential signers.
The 384th Bomb Group Wing Panel is available for any 384th BG Veteran to sign who served in any capacity in the Group from January 1943 to February 1946. Families and friends of the Veterans are strongly encouraged to participate with the Veteran when they sign the wing panel.
The project is continuing as Veterans are located, and as arrangements can be made for them to sign, even if they are unable to travel to the reunions. As many of our Veterans are unable to travel, this has become very important to them. The project will continue for as long as 384th Veterans can be located.
At the completion of the Project, when all possible signatures have been gathered, the wing panel – known as The 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) Commemorative Wing Panel – will be placed on permanent display in a place of honor in the 384th Bomb Group display at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The project was conceived to be materially and logistically supported by the Group’s NexGen members, solely for the benefit of its Veterans and at no cost to them or their families. This has been an important goal for the project since its inception and has not wavered from this. The project’s success relies entirely on the skill, great dedication and good will of the Group’s NexGen members and friends, and the friendship and great Patriotism of its Veterans. Over two dozen individuals have contributed to the project materially or with their time, without which it could not happen.
The original location of the 384th BG Veterans Wing Panel is shown as a red rectangle on the schematic view above.
And this is what the wing panel looks like when it is set up for a signing.
As you can imagine, the wing panel is quite large, although not as heavy as you might think. B-17s were made with thin aluminum skins to keep them light as possible.
When 384th Bomb Group veterans are located, a signing is scheduled and “Wingy” is shipped to the wing panel host. In “Wingy’s” journey across the United States, she is shipped in a large wooden crate, aka, her chariot.
The wing panel host brings the panel to the veteran. Sometimes the signing takes place in the veteran’s home, and sometimes it takes place in a public place such as a veterans park or museum.
The latest wing panel signing was this past Sunday, November 20. Frederick Edward Rubin, a navigator with the group, was the 141st 384th Bomb Group veteran to sign. Keith Ellefson, the wing panel host, drove the wing panel from his home in Alabama to Fred Rubin’s home in Florida. Keith is a 384th Bomb Group NexGen and a combat data specialist.
The wing panel host presents the signer with several gifts: a 384th bomb group hat, a triangle P (symbol of the 384th) pin, and a handcrafted (by Keith Ellefson) stained glass triangle P memento, complete with stand.
Also in attendance was John Joseph DeFrancesco, a pilot with the group. John signed the wing panel in January 2014.
In addition to signing, the veterans share stories of their time serving in the 384th Bomb Group during WWII. Fred was a navigator who was also trained to be a pilot and a bombardier. He served on the lead crew on bomb runs. John was a pilot whose aircraft was so seriously damaged by flak during his thirty-fifth and final mission that the crew had to bail out over Germany. After evading capture for a time, John was eventually taken prisoner and spent the remainder of the war as a guest of the Germans, being liberated by General Patton himself.
At the end of the signing, “Wingy” is snuggled comfortably back in her chariot to await transport to her next signing. Even though “Wingy” is in her seventies, she proudly continues her service to the men who knew her so well and protected her so fiercely in WWII.
Man and machine never worked so perfectly together than a ten-man heavy bomber crew in a B-17. She was a part of them and they were a part of her, and we, the next generation, will continue to bring them together again as long as we can find one more to sign.
If you know (or know of) a 384th Bomb Group WWII Veteran, please contact:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Dale Orville Smith was born March 7, 1911 in Reno, Washoe County, Nevada. He attended Reno schools and the University of Nevada for two years before his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Upon his graduation from West Point in 1934, Smith spent his summer aboard the battleship Wyoming on a midshipman cruise to Europe. He attended flying school at Randolph and Kelly Fields in Texas upon his return to the states.
Smith initially was interested in flying fighter aircraft, but because of his height (reportedly 6’7″), he was transitioned to bomber training. After flying school, he was assigned to Hamilton Field, California. The Air Corps was testing B-10 and B-12 bombers at Hamilton, but Smith was assigned to assist in the development of the bombing technique using the Norden bomb sight.
On October 13, 1935, he married Elise W. Ivy at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Their son, Kort Ivy Smith (b. Jan. 10, 1937 – d. Feb. 12, 1980), was nominated to the United States Military Academy in 1954. (Dale and Elise later divorced and he remarried).
In 1938 Smith began an assignment as an engineering officer and test pilot at Luke and Hickam Fields in Hawaii. Two years later in 1940, he left Hawaii for Langley Field, Virginia. He was assigned to the 2nd Bomb Group, where he flew the early Flying Fortresses. At the outset of WWII, Smith commanded the 20th Squadron of the 2nd Bomb Group. His squadron was placed under Navy control and assigned to hunt submarines. He held several different positions – group executive officer, group commander, and assistant chief of staff – with the Army Air Forces Anti-Submarine Command until the summer of 1943.
On November 23, 1943, Smith replaced Col. Julius K. Lacey as the third commander of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. Lacey had taken command of the 384th only two months earlier as a temporary replacement for Col. Budd J. Peaslee. Smith’s history is reported as his having flown thirty-one combat missions, and his record with the 384th indicates that he flew twenty-five of them with that group based in Grafton Underwood, England.
The 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery contains photos of three aircraft named by Smith: B-17s 42-37727 named Elise after his wife, one named Kort after his son (which I cannot find in the 384th’s aircraft database), and 44-8007 named Screaming Eagle .
Smith turned over command of the 384th Bomb Group to Lt. Col. Theodore R. Milton on October 24, 1944. Smith was reassigned to the Pentagon, where he spent the last six months of WWII as chief of the Bombardment Branch, Requirements Division of the Army Air Forces. Shortly after V-J Day he was transferred to March Field, California as the director of operations until he was sent to the Air University at Maxwell Field, Alabama in 1946, where he was appointed Chief of the Research Division.
Smith attended the Air War College as a student for a year from the summer of 1947 to summer 1948. Next he attended Stanford University, graduating in January 1951 with a Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees. Smith was assigned to the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base and later appointed Deputy Director of Education at Headquarters Air University. On May 1, 1952, Smith was appointed Director of Education. In October 1953, he was promoted to Brigadier General. On July 1, 1954, Smith was assigned to the staff of the Operations Coordinating Board in Washington, D.C.
In 1956, Smith returned to the Pentagon where he was assigned as Chief, Policy Division in the Plans Directorate of DCSIO, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Smith played a significant role in preparing the U.S. position for negotiations carried on with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Dhahran Airfield.
When King Saud visited the United States in February 1957, Smith was the military representative in the talks between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In March 1957 he went to Saudi Arabia as the Department of Defense representative. On July 1, 1957 Smith assumed command of the 2nd Air Division (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) at Dhahran Airfield and the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia.
Upon completion of his mission to Saudi Arabia, Smith was transferred to the Far East and on Jan. 8, 1958, he assumed command of the 313th Air Division (Pacific Air Forces) on Okinawa. In March of 1959 Smith participated in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization maneuver “Air Progress” held in Thailand.
Smith was promoted to Major General June 30, 1959, and a year later, on June 30, 1960 he returned to the United States, to Stewart Air Force Base in New York for his new command of the 64th Air Division.
On July 20, 1961 Smith was assigned to Washington, D.C. as special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Arms Control. He was responsible for assisting the Joint Chiefs on all matters pertaining to disarmament.
Smith was reassigned on July 8, 1963, as the Air Force Member of the Joint Strategic Survey Council (also known as “The Three Wise Men”), which advises the Joint Chiefs and consists of only three officers of two star rank, one from each service, together with three colonel-captain level officers and secretarial help.
Major General Dale O. Smith retired on July 1, 1964. In retirement, he authored two books, Cradle of Valor: The Intimate Letters of A Plebe at West Point Between the Two World Wars, published in 1988, and Screaming Eagle: Memoirs of A B-17 Group Commander, published in 1990.
Smith died January 5, 1998 in Palm Springs, Riverside County, California, and is buried in the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery, West Point, Orange County, New York, Plot: Section VI, Row B, Site 100.
Smith was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three clusters, and the Croix de Guerre with palm. During his command, the 384th was cited twice as a Distinguished Unit.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Theodore Ross Milton was born at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on December 29, 1915, the son of a U.S. Cavalry officer. He enlisted in the Army in 1934, and was selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1940. After graduation, he entered Army Air Corps flying training, earning his pilot wings in March 1941. He flew the B-24 Liberator Consolidated LB-30 on submarine patrol from Langley Field (now Langley Air Force Base), Virginia.
Starting in 1943, Milton served with the Eighth Air Force in England. In the spring of 1943, he was assigned as an operations officer for the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook. In June 1943/September 13, 1943 (conflicting dates from different sources), he became the Deputy Group Commander of the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn.
On January 11, 1944, Milton was wounded on a mission over Oschersleben, Germany when cannon shells entered the cockpit and exploded. On April 6, 1944, he led a group of 730 B-17s and B-24s on the first successful daylight bombing run of Berlin.
Lt. Col. Theodore R. Milton left the 91st Bomb Group on October 23, 1944 to take over as the the fourth Commanding Officer of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, a position he held from October 24, 1944 to June 16, 1945.
At the end of hostilities in Europe in 1945, he returned to the United States, where he remained until 1948 when he was reassigned to Europe as chief of staff for the Combined Airlift Task Force, which directed operations for the Berlin Airlift.
Between the years of 1949 to 1957, Milton spent two years as director of operations of the Military Air Transport Service, attended Air War College, and served as executive assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for three years.
In October 1957, Milton was promoted to Brigadier General and named Commander of the 41st Air Division, Fifth Air Force, Japan, a tactical fighter-bomber command.
Four years later, in 1961, Milton was promoted to Major General and reassigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines as commander of the Thirteenth Air Force, a position he held for the next two years.
In 1963, Milton was selected as Deputy Chief of staff, Plans and Operations, to the Commander-in-chief Pacific, headquartered at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.
Milton returned to the continental U.S. in 1965, serving for the next year and a half as Chief of Staff, Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. In February 1967 he was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as Inspector General, a position he held for the next six months. In August 1967, he was named Comptroller of the Air Force.
In March 1969, General Milton assumed duties as Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. A little over two years later, on Aug. 1, 1971, he assumed duties as the United States Representative to the NATO Military Committee. He was promoted to the grade of General effective Aug. 1, 1971, with date of rank July 31, 1971. Milton retired on July 31, 1974 in that position with thirty-three yeas of service in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Air Force.
Theodore Ross Milton’s military decorations and awards include:
- Distinguished Service Cross
- Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
- Silver Star
- Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
- Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters
- Bronze Star
- Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters
- Purple Heart
- Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
- British Distinguished Flying Cross
- French Croix de Guerre with Palm
- Various World War II campaign medals.
After he retired, Milton wrote for “Air Force Magazine” and often lectured at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1985, he received the Thomas D. White National Defense Award. The award was established in 1962 by the United States Air Force Academy and is presented annually to a U.S. citizen who has contributed significantly to the national defense of the United States.
Theodore Ross Milton died August 24, 2010 in Oro Valley, Pima County, Arizona. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, in Plot: Section 54, Site 6379.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
I have been researching my dad’s (George Edwin Farrar) WWII history for several years. Dad was a waist gunner for the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. When I first started researching, I wasn’t quite sure where to look, but along the way found many resources. For anyone just starting their own search of a family member who was in the 384th Bomb Group, here are some places to start. The headings below are clickable links.
You should begin your search on this site. For starters, enter first and last name of the 384th member in the Personnel Database Search box on the home page and click the Lookup button. The member’s Individual Personnel Data page will display.
A lot of interesting information is presented on this one page and note that several fields contain links for more information on the other members of his original crew if he was on a combat crew, mission numbers, sortie reports, and aircraft.
At the top of the Personnel Data page to the right of the Name field, click on the white “Experimental: Personal War Service Records” button to produce a more detailed report on the 384th member. You may find some of the most interesting information at the bottom of the report. There you will find two lists. One list displays all of the aircraft in which the member flew during his service. The other list displays all of the other 384th members with which he flew missions.
This detailed report is also printable. Follow the instructions at the top of the report to convert it into a PDF file. Once converted, the PDF file can be printed to produce a record of the member’s missions with the 384th Bomb Group.
If the member was involved in an accident or was part of a missing air crew, you will most likely find a link to the accident report or missing air crew report at the bottom of the sortie report for that crew for that mission. On the member’s Individual Personnel Data page, click “Sortie” for the particular mission to display the Sortie Report. At the bottom of the Sortie Report, click on the link for the Accident or Missing Air Crew Report for available information.
The 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery contains thousands of photos and tens of thousands of documents. You can browse through the gallery, or enter a specific search in the Quick Search box on the left side of the screen. You may find an original crew photo or other interesting information here. If you have any photos that you do not see on the gallery, we request that you register for an account and upload photos to share with the group.
You may also access the photo gallery through the menu of the 384th Bomb Group’s web site. You will find the Photo Gallery in the menu at the top of the page.
The 384th Bomb Group has its own Facebook page. It is a closed group, and you must request membership in the group to view and become part of the ongoing discussions. The group consists of 384th Bomb Group veterans, 384th NexGens (the next generation – sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, and nephews of 384th members), friends of the group, and others interested in WWII history.
Many NexGens have connected with other NexGens whose relatives served on the same bomber crews with each other. The 384th Bomb Group researchers also frequent the page and can help with questions and research.
Enter first and last name in the search box and click the Search button. Click View Records in the “Series and Files” returned in the search. You may find the person you are looking for in the list and you may not. If you do find the record you are looking for, click the “View Record” icon to the left to see the record’s detail.
You can search for personnel at the American Air Museum’s web site. You may also add and edit information at this site.
This is a paid site for military information, but does offer an unpaid trial subscription.
This is another paid site for all kinds of genealogical information, but military information can be found here as well.
You can search for military personnel records at the National Archives by mail or in person. I have done both. Depending on how many records exist, the price to receive records by mail could be very costly. On the other hand, a fire in 1973 destroyed many records, so no or very few documents could still be available for your search.
If you opt to visit the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, you can make your own copies by photographing available records for free. You must schedule an appointment and request records well in advance, though, so records can be made ready for your visit. Camera stands are available for your use and the research staff at the center is very helpful.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
I have just returned from the 2016 Eighth Air Force Reunion in St. Louis, Missouri.
The 384th Bomb Group was represented by a group of forty folks, many of them 384th NexGens, and five veterans of the group. Our veterans in attendance were:
- Sheldon Vernon, Navigator for the James Foster crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron
- Henry Sienkiewicz, Bombardier for the John Herzog crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron
- Don Hilliard, Radio Operator for the Ranald MacDonald crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron
- Peter Bielskis, Ball Turret Gunner for the Robert Henry crew of the 546th Bomb Squadron
- Dave Lustig, Radio Operator for the James Drew crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron
The first day of the reunion, the group had the option to take a Military Heritage tour which included a tour of the Missouri Civil War Museum and a driving tour of the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. I chose to tour the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on my own with my husband, Bill Bryan, and fellow 384th NexGen, Keith Ellefson. My great-great-grandfather, who died in the Civil War, is buried there and I set out to find his grave.
That evening, dinner was served to each Bomb/Fighter Group separately in their hospitality suites.
The second day of the reunion, the group had the option to take a Gateway to St. Louis City Tour. Again, my husband, Keith Ellefson, and I opted to strike out on our own and drive into St. Louis to visit the Old Courthouse and take a ride to the top of the Gateway Arch.
The presentation for the second night’s dinner was given by Dr. Donald L. Miller, author of “Masters of the Air.” After dinner, Dr. Miller was kind enough to autograph my copy of his book. At the end of the evening he stopped by the 384th’s hospitality suite to see our wing panel.
The third and final day of the reunion, my husband and I opted to take the Anheuser-Busch Brewery/Grant’s Farm tour with the group.
The last evening’s dinner was the Gala Dinner. It was the last opportunity of the reunion to spend time with and personally thank the men who won our country’s freedom in WWII.
Mark your calendars for the last week of October 2017 for next year’s 8th Air Force Reunion in New Orleans!
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016