JOSEPH E. COOPER|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Pete Henry)
9304 E. 54th St.
Raytown, MO 64133
January 25, 1983
Dear Mr. Henry:
I am writing in regard to an article in a World War II magazine, listing your name and address for information concerning the 44th Bombardment Group, 67th Squadron.
I served with this group as flight engineer on the B-24s from November 1943 to April 1945, based at Shipdham.
I have never learned what happened to my crew after they were shot down over Germany; if any survived and were taken prisoner, or if all died on that mission. I was in the hospital at the time or would have been with them.
I realize there is little possibility of finding any information, after all this time, but wanted to try.
I do not remember the date of that mission or all the names of the crew, but I went on many more missions, after that, to complete my 35 missions. So that would make it some time in 1944.
My pilot's name was 1st Lt. George J. Thom, copilot, last name, Abad; navigator, Jackson; Assistant Flight Engineer, Junior Knotts; Waist-gunner Arthur Silverbury. I have a photograph of all the crew, if that would help. It was taken January 19, 1944
I have a friend in England that I have asked to check for any records they might have there and he sent me a book titled, Fields of Little America by Martin Bowman, that is an illustrated history of the 8th Air Force, 2nd Air Division, 1942-45. This has much information and many pictures of the 44th and areas that I was a part of and that I treasure, in memory, of those days I spent in service during World War II.
There are many pictures of planes and their crews, but none of the one I was with. I, especially, recall the "Southern Comfort," both 1 and 2. There is also a picture of one 1st Lt. Pete Henry with the cartoon figure, Henry, painted on his plane. Any connection?
When I was in London in June, 1977, I intended to go back to the area where I was stationed, but due to the congestion and confusion of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, my wife and I went on to Amsterdam. Some of my missions were over Holland, so there were wartime memories, there, also. We visited Frankfurt, Germany, in August, 1967, and some of the surrounding areas and I wondered how close I had been when I was on those bombing missions. But couldn't have been that far over, although there was a lot of bomb damage, still in evidence. I recall feeling somewhat apprehensive that someone would know I had dropped bombs on them. The feeling of hostility toward Americans was not entirely imaginary, then, and probably not now, either.
I am sorry, if I have strayed away from the purpose of this letter, with useless details, but it means a great deal to me to contact anyone connected to my war-time experiences. I have never been able to find anyone that I knew, while stationed in England, but have met lots of guys that were there, some even at the same time, but in different outfits. Some of my coworkers were over there, and share my interest in events pertaining to those times. In fact, it was in a magazine one of them brought in to work, that I found the reference to your name. I am a Lead Inspector at the TWA overhaul base here in Kansas City, where I have been employed since August 1945, after my discharge in June. So I have been, more or less, involved with airplanes most of my life, but plan to retire this year.
I am enclosing a self-addressed envelope with hopes of receiving a reply from you, whether or not you have any information concerning my crew.
Joseph E. Cooper
February 1, 1983
The information and pamphlet you sent regarding my crew, etc. arrived today. I can't tell you what a wonderful surprise and unexpected pleasure it was to have my hopes of locating my wartime buddies given such a big boost! Thanks a million! It really means a lot to me. So, I want to get right on with it by sending for the book by Will Lundy with more information about what happened to my crew.
All the literature you sent was most helpful and interesting and I intend to join the Second Air Division Association which sounds like a great outfit. I feel a little foolish that the information I was after was available, and I hadn't gone at it the right way. I am very excited about contacting Jr. Knotts and will be anxious to find out what his reaction will be and how well he remembers me.
I want to thank you again and I will be looking forward to hearing from you when you return from Florida. I was fairly certain you were the Pete Henry mentioned in my book.
April 5, 1983
The book Liberators over Europe arrived today and I have had a hard time putting it down. Already, I have found many photos, etc. of places I remember during my three-year hitch with the 44th at Shipdham. So I am very excited and anxious to check it all out, and I just may not get anything else done this second week of my vacation. I found the photo of my crew the first thing and it is the same as one I have. It's No. 34 in the book, and I am the first one on the left in the front row, in front of Lt. Thom. The two, out of the group, that I have contacted (thanks to you) are Bronko Smilanich, front row, far right and Loyles Knotts, back row behind Bronko. The last name and address you sent me (thanks a lot) Russell Alcott back row, next to Knotts. So far I haven't received anything more from Bronko or Knotts, but don't suppose they care too much for letter writing either.
By the way, I don't need information on Kowalski, as he was my replacement on that fatal flight and I never knew him, but perhaps some of the others who were POW with him, would want to know his address.
I'm somewhat curious about my name not being listed in the 44th Bomb Group Directory in the back of this book, but I suppose it wasn't easy getting all the information together and I wasn't the only one left out. It does seem odd, though, that I could complete my full 35 missions of my tour and not have some record of it. But anyway, I'm happy to have this book and will enjoy going back over the wartime memories it brings back.
I am sorry it took me so long to find out about the 2nd Air Div. Association and missed to on the reunions, etc., especially, the one being held at Norwich this year. My next vacation this year is scheduled a week too late to try to attend and I didn't join in time to make arrangements anyway. So I will hope to make the next one. My wife and I were in London in 1977 and I had intended to go to Norwich then, but got sidetracked and went to Amsterdam, instead. One of my missions was dropping supplies to the glider troops in Holland, so I was interested in visiting the area we flew so low over with the windmills and canals and the Dutch women waving their clotheslines of white clothing to us as we flew over. But if it's possible for us to get back to England gain, it will definitely be to go to the Norwich area. My wife's grandfather was born there, so it will be an added attraction for us.
April 23, 1984
Glad to receive your letter of April 1. Sorry I have been slow to get a reply back to you. I haven't had much contact with what's happening in the Association, other than the Journal and must have missed the Dayton reunion notice. Anyway, I won't be going.
We should be around here most of the month, but may be out to San Jose, CA a week or so. We have been trying to get out there to visit my wife's sister, since I retired August 31st, but something always interferes. So it remains to be seen how it turns out this time. I had some health problems for several months after retiring, so had to cancel plans we had made. Couldn't even do painting and household repairs, etc., with my back so sore. I suppose I will always have bouts with those "Ritis" boys! It's very disgusting when you look forward to doing things you never had time for, when you were tied down to the job, but hope it will work out for us one of these days.
Your new book about the 67th History sounds interesting and must have taken lots of time and work to put it together. I would be interested in having one.
I am enclosing a newspaper clipping about the bombing by mistake of Switzerland on April 1, 1944. I was on that mission and had the scariest experience of my tour of duty in Europe when the bomb bay got jammed on the way back to England and I had the job of going back there and taking out five bombs one by one and dropping them out. So parts of France got bombed by mistake, also. If you've ever been back in that part of those B-24s, you'll know there wasn't much between me and the Wild Blue Yonder!
Glad to hear you had a good trip to Norwich and Holland last year. One of my crew members, that you helped me locate, lives at Akron, Ohio and I wonder if Loyes Knotts will be at the Akron, Ohio reunion. He was the only one of my former buddies that I contacted that replied and he only wrote once. He was going to tape an account of his last mission and 13 months as a POW in Stalag XVIIB, and I wonder if he got it done.
Well, I will hope to hear from you again, if I don't see you some time in May. My wife said to tell you that you are welcome for a meal, overnight or whatever. So don't hesitate to stop if you are in the area.
Best of luck to you and thanks for writing.