GERALD W. FOLSOM|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
15 December 1986
Dear Howard Henry:
I received information that you are the vice president of the 44th Bomb Group Association. Didn't know that there was an association. Would like more information. I flew the "Consolidated Mess" for about 20 missions until she was grounded...35 missions in all.
Let's tighten up the formation!!!
Gerald W. Folsom
14 January 1987
Dear Mr. Lundy:
I have been most surprised at the chain reaction I started when I saw Ed Barton's name in Anne Landers' column (I think it was her column) and chased his phone number down.
I must say I was pleased to receive your letter. Yes, I do have some information you may like, but first a spot of background may be interesting. I was discharged at Fort Devans Massachusetts in July 1945; got my commercial license the day the Japs surrendered, 25 August.
Edward Knapp, I had known for many years and was the director of Aeronautics for State of Vermont and later became president of Eastern Airlines, advised me to GO WEST - that is where all the fling is going to be. So I ended up here in Salt Lake where Challenger, Bonanza and Western Airlines were headquartered. Had a job with Western if I could change my instrument rating. The FAA inspector here flew instruments of the old way and I flew the Army way and we didn't get along. It was the general feeling that he would soon retire or be transferred, so I waited around and started at the University, and he was still inspector. So, I never got around to commercial flying. Plus, I was making more in a cabinet shop than United or Western would pay for copilot.
Now to the information you would like. I am sending you a crew list that I happen to have an extra copy of. Nowhere do you mention Willis Edgecomb who was our navigator until the last part of our flying when he was pulled off the crew to be a lead navigator - I mean the last four or five missions. [506 led by Richard L. Wynes with Major Middleton as comm. Pilot]
Yes, the crew finished as you say, ahead of me as I let a student or new pilot fly in my place twice. So the rest finished ahead of me. I was somewhat selective of who I flew with, but on the night of 8 November, I noted on the schedule that Atkins was to be a lead and that his copilot was not flying with him the next day, that the one scheduled, was not popular - to fly as copilot. I offered to fly with him. Next morning, at briefing, a General called me up front and asked if I knew the code words for the groups and fighters. I replied in affirmative. He said, "Good. You will fly with me and we will lead the 8th Air Force today - you form it. Charles Atkins was the pilot from our group. The General stood behind the pilot's seats much of the way. On the way back, had got down to about 14 thousand when he reached over and pulled off my mask and handed me a black cigar (about a foot long) and said, "Here, a damn good job." This is why you show me completing a tour with Charles Atkins. Beiber and Atkins were good friends.
On the crew list, I am enclosing Rebhan left the crew when about half finished and various ones filled in as I recall.
I am enclosing a list of missions I flew. This will differ some from the rest of the crew.
As for the hometowns, Beiber was from Pittsburgh, Edgecomb from Philadelphia, Boench was from Memphis, and plays a saxophone. He is the one who put together the orchestra at the base. The last I heard of him was that he had a band in Memphis. Probably belongs to a Musician Union. Beiber was a baker by trade and Edgecomb stopped in Salt Lake in about 1948 and told me at that time that he was going to stay in the service.
I corresponded with Carl Miller for some time and he had a farm in Ohio. Harold Maggard stopped by in Salt Lake several years ago and was a factory rep selling shoes.
This is all I know about the crew. Am enclosing some pictures that I have put notes on. I do have more pictures of the crew members and planes.
Did I hear something about a convention at March field this March or April for the 44th or some group?
Let's keep'er tucked in there.
Gerald W. Folsom
P.S. Do you have the names of anyone from Salt Lake that was in the 44th. There was at least one, but I have lost track of him.
(Thank God for word processors!! If one can use them!)
10 August 1987
Dear Mr. Lundy:
I do apologize for my negligence in answering your informative letters. I do get caught up in work and will do some things - tomorrow, which, as you know, never comes. As you know, there are only two days in a week - today and tomorrow. Well, tomorrow just became today while waiting for some work to come in.
I have tried to call some of the names you gave me, but have not followed up as I should. Do intend to keep at it with more effort now.
A few months ago, 22 March, I received a letter from a Jack Wind, 4502 Southern Oaks, Nacogdoches, Texas, 75961 who was in the 506th and flew the "Consolidated Mess." Flew first mission on 8 April 1944. Would guess from his letter that perhaps you have some information on him.
Yes, I do have my A5 but there are no ship numbers in it.
I will be at the reunion in Milwaukee the first of September and bring what information I have from the group. I will look forward to meeting you there.
Tighten-er up and I'll see you there.
Gerald W. Folsom
954 Lowell Ave.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84102
Additional Recollections of Gerald Folsom
FLYING BLIND WITH NEEDLE BALL AND AIR SPEED INDICATOR
While attached to the 61 st Troop Carrier Group near Grantham England and Sherwood Forrest, the last part of December or first of November 1944, I was instructing the Command officers in flying B 24's. They had a 500 gallon tank in each of the four bombays with the idea of ferrying gas over to Patton. The pilots were flying C 46's and C 47s to ferry troops and supplies to the continent.
One forenoon I went down to operations as had often done, hoping I would get a chance to fly a C46 or C47. Only one person there, a Major who was sick.. He told me that there was a max effort mission on and that all planes and pilots were on it. He said there was a plane grounded over there in France with a flat tire, right behind the unstable combat lines and they needed to get a tire over there that afternoon before dark, and did not want to leave the plane there overnight. You have been wanting to fly one of these planes, here is your chance. Would I fly a plane over with a wheel and tire, he would go with me to help with take off and landing, and he knew the landing strip where plane was down. All that was available and flyable for planes was one redlined for flight instruments, He said that we should be all right as the weather would be good and clear with no weather front expected until later that night, about midnight, and we would be back long before dark. We would be able to fly VFR, (visible flight rules) you can see the ground and terrain and would not need flight instruments.
He got a radio Operator and Flight Engineer and there were two or three others along to handle the wheel. We took off and had a nice flight over to the temporary landing strip, You could hear artillery and guns in the distance. The tire was unloaded and the wheel replaced on the plane. I had a chance to stand on French soil for few minutes before we took off to return.
Things went well crossing the channel on return flight until we approached the English shore. There was a big black cloud covering and obscuring the English Coast, it looked like a black curtain. Soon it was raining. Then raining harder and harder. The front was here now and we were in it. Soon we could see spotlights flashing toward us and there were colored flares being shot up like a several colored roman candles. It dawned on me that they were challenging this unidentified aircraft. Of course we had not filed any flight plan because we were going to be home long before dark. I asked the radio man if he had picked up a radio' packet which contains the code words and colors of the day. Thank goodness he had. They scoured the plane and found a couple flares that were the colors of the day at that hour of time. They fired one and that seemed to satisfy ground personal. We did not see any more flares challenging us. it was raining hard - buckets full - One could see nothing really thru the windshield - it was raining so hard. We were on instrument and no instruments only turn and bank indicator and magnetic compass which is not much help as to keeping direction because it bounces around too much especially in the turbulence of a storm. It is just disc floating in a liquid and not very stable. And as far as helping to keep a direction - only direction in general. We could not go above a
1000 feet as the RAF was coming out. You could see a plane exhaust occasionally so you knew they were there.
It was raining so hard and so dark that you could not see the ground . We really did not know where we were - only that we were flying in the general direction of the base we wanted to go to. We found out the radio did not work and radio compass did not work. We would see a pundit (a light beacon) occasionally but could not read the code that is was flashing so we could get some direction from them if we could read it.
Can you conceive the feeling of being in a plane and not knowing where you are or where you are heading or where you are going to be able to land- if you can. It is a hopeless feeling.
The Major was so sick he couldhardly hold his head up. Finally realizing it was time we should be in the area of our base I suggested to him that if I see a landing strip (runway) that we attempt to land because we did not know where we are, no instruments or radio or at least could not receive with it.. Finally, I spotted a row of runway lights. They are like a slit in half a ball. If you are lined up with them, you can see a row of lights. The Major agreed we should land if we could. I flew a downwind leg over the lights to get set up and started a landing pattern, called on the radio that we were an unidentified plane that was lost and had spotted their landing strip lights and asked permission to land - advised them that the radio was not receiving and that I would turn on landing lights on downwind leg and to give me a green light if it was ok. Well, I turned on landing lights so they could spot me better and they gave me a green light. So proceed with the landing pattern. The Major roused up enough to help land the plane.
Well - when we turned off the runway a couple of jeeps came out to meet us as we stopped. It was still raining by the buckets full as it can in England. When we opened the door they wanted to know who we were and where we were headed. When we told them Grantham. They advised us that we were at Grantham, the base that we had left and hoping to return to. If one thinks that we were not a group of happy fellows, they are grossly mistaken. Yes, l said a few thank yous and so did the others.
Out of probably hundreds of airfields in England at that period of time - somebody guided us to the right field. Somebody was helping us .
This is just another example of Devine Intervention that I have experienced while flying "over there."