Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.
Shortly after the 384th Bomb Group officially came into existence on January 1, 1943, ten-man combat crews began arriving from Gowan Field. Gowan Field was near Boise, Idaho, about three hundred miles northwest of Wendover Army Air Base. The crews had already begun transitional training in B-17’s. At Wendover, they would begin combat crew training and the final phases before being shipped overseas to combat. Budd Peaslee was their group commander during this period.
Other troops also began arriving at Wendover from a variety of specialized schools across the country. These men were necessary for a bombardment group to be self-sustaining and included every specialty from housekeeping and cooks to automotive, armament, communications, and more.
Flight operations began with the assignment of training bombers. In his book, “Heritage of Valor,” Peaslee describes the training aircraft as “dogs with an extremely high out-of-commission rate.” Maintenance crews worked around the clock to keep aircraft in the air.
Peaslee reflected that even with the kind of pressure the crews experienced, morale remained good. He credited it with the responsibility the maintenance crews felt to those who would soon face the enemy in combat.
The endless training and maintenance were not the only factors affecting the crews. The winter weather took its toll, too. The winds were bitterly cold and rain and snow squalls were frequent. Winter storms complicated the normal hazards of the training flights.
Training went on day after day with the exception of religious services on Sunday. And once a month, a three day pass to Salt Lake City broke up the routine. This was the norm for the first three months of 1943 except for one ten day period.
The weather officers of the Second Air Force predicted two weeks of foul weather and fog for the Salt Lake Basin and the commanding general did not like the idea of grounding the 384th for such an extended period of time. The 384th had two hours to pack up combat crews and maintenance personnel and take off for a base at Great Falls, Montana for an expected stay of two weeks. All B-17’s in commission were manned by combat crews that were behind in their training and took off for Great Falls, six hundred miles away. Operations at the Great Salt Lake bombing ranges were halted due to fog for the next ten days.
In Great Falls, though it was bitter cold, the weather remained clear and the crews were able to gain valuable experience they would have been without had they stayed at Wendover. They also had ten days of the sights and sounds and girls of the city and managed to balance their work and play without a single incident.
To be continued…
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017