GEORGE G. FRAGA|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
November 8, 1982
Hello Mr. Lundy:
Glad you were satisfied that you had located another one of the 44th B.G. I'm proud that I was privileged to serve with them. I wasn't aware that any records were kept of our remarks in the de-briefing sessions after we returned. I guess we were really more interested in the hot coffee, sandwiches and bottle of good bourbon they supplied each crew as we came in.
I had heard that Col. Len had been awarded the soldiers medal and the reason for it. He was a good C.O. A little on the stiff side after serving with people like Chenault, Stillwell, our C.O. in the 7th B.G. (Col. Necrasson) and a bunch of Jimmy Dolittle's men, a real bunch of nuts and about as much spit and polish as you could put in a needle's eye but good men to fight with where we were at that time.
Those flying tigers were all a bunch of real characters and I doubt if they ever were able to get them in line after that outfit was closed out and put back in the services they came from.
My crew I met when they flew in to Savannah, Georgia, to be combat readied before flying over to the 8th. They needed an engineer and I was stationed at that field as an instructor engineer.
I was thoroughly fed up with the lunch bucket soldiers on that base and since my old C.O. from India was the new C.O. of the base, I asked him to get me back on a crew. His name was Col. Necrasson and he, too, was eager to get back into the real war so he put me on a crew as their engineer. The pilot, Lt. W. D. Kelly, was only 21 and was real happy to have me as his engineer as he said that then he could concentrate on learning to fly the thing and not worry about the mechanics of the ship. We all got on well together from the start which was fine with me. Here is the list of my crew as you asked. Pilot Lt. W. D. (Bill) Kelly, Lt. John J. Perenz, copilot, Lt. Frank Lane, bombardier, T/Sgt. G. Fraga, engineer, T/Sgt. Olvier M. Lopez, radio operator, Sgt. W. E. Henderson, gunner, Sgt. Paul Aragon, gunner, Sgt. L. F. Hess, tail gun, William J. Hegelein, Sgt. Gunner.
These names are in a little notebook I carried so I could fill out the Form No. 1 on each mission so I know they are all okay. They are all in the roster in the book 44th Liberators over Europe." I have another name in the book, a T/Sgt. From our outfit. T/Sgt. J. F. Vandenboom so he must have flown with us some time or another. In the pictures in that book of the 200th mission party showing General Johnson and Col. Gibson being thrown into the duck pond the picture directly under the one of Gibson as a nose holder going in, if you look at the left edge you can see a G.I. in what looks like a white shirt with a cap on with bill turned up kneeling directly behind a fellow with black hair, that is me. I don't believe I've ever seen more drunks in one place than I did on that day and I was one of them!
In my den I have a large, framed picture about 41" x 30" with a sort of pictorial record of those years. My 10th Air Force mementos, patches, back flag and pictures on one side, wings and ribbons bottom center and the 44th 8-Ball patch and three pieces of 88mm flak I had to pull out of the bomb doors over Hamburg before we could close the doors after the bomb run. I treasure these. One piece [of flak] took out our hydraulic system and it was touch and go to get down and stopped in one piece.
I get a real kick out of looking at the box and remembering I really like the book on Liberators over Europe. I have one, too, about the 7th B.G. 10th A.F. in CBI, so I relive those days quite often. I kept a very complete daily diary while in India Burma and china, but I did not keep one while in the 8th. I don't know why. [Louisiana Belle E-806, 16 November 1944, lead of 491st B.G.]
Our bombardier was a real fine lad, a graduate of Harvard in radiology and one fine bombardier navigator. On the day the 8th put up a maximum effort of 3,500 planes from all over England our ship was lead ship and lead bombardier. We had a full Col. on the flight deck as command pilot, a West Pointer and a real man, treated enlisted crew just like the officers. It was the raid to soften up Aachen so the ground troops could have an easier time taking the area, but I understand the terrific damage to the place only made the infantry's job harder, gave the Germans more cover to fight behind.
We dropped marker flares as well as some bombs and were told that when we dropped and turned off the target, the last planes on the raid had not left the coast of England. I never saw more four engine aircraft on a mission than that one in all the time I served. It was a miracle we didn't lose more on formation, we didn't break out of the overcast until 18,000 feet, the whole of England was socked in. It was a thrill to be lead ship on a job like that.
I'm sure that one of the reasons we always managed to get the ship back was the type of ground maintenance our ground crews gave. I never took a ship out that was not our regular plane without first looking up the crew chief and asking him to brief me on any peculiarities his ship had and have him locate any probable trouble spots for me before we left the ground. The chiefs were always very helpful to me. After all, they knew their ship better than I ever could. I never wanted to be on the S. list of the ground crews; it wasn't smart or healthy.
Hope what I've told you will be some good to you. Don't dispose of all your books. I'll be sending for one in the near future as I do enjoy reading of those days.
November 10, 1983
Your letter came today and I went right out to my den and looked up the record on the month of November 1944 and there was the information you spoke of. It is on the Individual Flight Record and shows that on November 16, 1944, I flew in a B-24 for 5 hours 30 minutes, made one landing and this was certified correct by the operations officer, a Capt. Joy M. Smith. It is stamped Certified Correct and the sheet for November shows a total of 30 hours 20 minutes flying time. I remember we had a full Bird Col. as command pilot, a West Pointer and an all round real Joe.
The navigator for the mission was our navigator. I believe he was still a 1st Lt. Named Frank Lane. We were lead ship for the entire mission and it was a real lousy day. I used two full cases of double red flares after we broke through the overcast at 18,000 feet trying to assemble the mission. It was a maximum effort stripe and the colonel stated that when we dropped our marking flares and bombs and turned away to come home, the last ships in the formation had not cleared the coast of England. I remember, too, that after we dropped our load and I closed the bomb doors, the Colonel told Kelly to "rack this thing around and let
S get the hell out of here." The Germans were really blackening the sky with flak and we didn't want any souvenirs. He was further flabbergasted when, as soon as I got the doors closed, our whole crew got on intercom and sang. Her Hitler says, we'll never bomb this place, so we all gave a big raspberry. He said he had never seen a nuttier bunch. Here the Krauts were throwing everything they could at us and we were singing. I guess that was one way to let off the tension.
I wrote to Kelly and got the same news you have so I guess he is okay. He tells me he now weighs over 200 lbs. Boy that is a long way from the fresh-faced eager beaver I joined up with down at Chatham Field in Savannah, Georgia. He passed his 21st birthday after we got to England. Most of the crew were young. I was the only old crock. I was 31 when I enlisted, and had been out in the C.B.I. for a good spell before I was put on Kelly's crew. The navigator was just out of Harvard where he had been studying radiology and I understand he is now a prosperous M.D. specializing in that. He was one fine person, not stuck up at all, in fact our whole crew were good Jose. I hear from the radio operator regularly now since you gave me his address. He has done well and I am happy for him as he was one of the best in his field while we were together in the crew.
My old bombardier from the crew I flew with in India, is now a prosperous antique dealer here in Ft. Lauderdale just a few miles north of us. Everybody finds his niche after a few rough years, I guess.
Will, don't forget to put me down on your list of definite purchasers when you get your new book off the press. I really want one.
Hope this poop, along with what Bill Kelly can supply you with will help you some. All I can remember of the Bird Col. command pilot was that he had a double 00 serial number which showed he was a West Point grad.
Hope you are as well as I am at this writing and continue to stay so. Good to hear from you again.
Thanks for the information on the 2nd Air Division Association
GEORGE G. FRAGA
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
9100 SW 57 Ave.
October 27, 1982
Dear Mr. Lundy:
Your letter was waiting for me when I arrived home yesterday from a three-day muzzleloader's hunt for deer. It was a treat to be in the woods for a few days even though I did not bring home any venison.
Your luck held. I am the George Fraga that served with the 44th at Shipdham with the 68th Squadron. When I first joined the Squadron, Colonel Gibson was C.O., then Col. Eugene Snavely took over and was Group Commander till I was sent home. I joined the group for my second tour as I had already served a long tour with the 10th Air Force in China, Burma, India theatre before reupping for the second. My squadron C.O. in the 68th was a Major Robert J. Lehnhausen.
I am wondering if you had or had heard of the two books I bought when I returned home. One book is about the 14th Bomb Wing and the other is titled 44th Liberators over Europe, published by the Newsfoto Publishing Company, San Angelo, Texas. It is very good and has 20 full pages of the roster of the group. I found only one "Lundy," a Sgt. Claudew, is that you? [Yep!]
In looking at the pictures of the different crew chiefs, I find several in whose planes I flew, Viz, Wood, Pigg, Lee, Bagdonis, Bryant. In the pictures of the crew chiefs of the 67th the names run Besarick, Baccash, Nelson, Ulosovich, Bagley, Mastronardi, Eastman, Curtin, Burress, Chowanski, Gleason, McNamara, Arthur, Christenson. Do these names ring any bells? On several occasions, I did fly missions in some of your planes when a plane was needed.
I think what you are doing is commendable and if you are including 68th men in your book and have any left, advise me as to cost. I might like to add a copy to my shelf of wartime memories.
Thanks again for contacting me.
Best to you,
George G. Fraga
March 27, 1983
This morning I was going through some things in my file cabinet and came across all my air corp flight records, the originals not copies. As I remember it, while we were on the way home from England, the officer in charge of our group gave each of us our complete record file and told us to go through it and take out anything in it we would rather not have known. I guess he expected us to return them to him but I seemed to have put mine in my gear and forgot about them. They even go back to cover my progress from enlistment and my C.B.I. tour all the way to the end of my tour with the 44th.
We were supposed to have gone home on the Queen Mary but something came up and we were sent down to South Hampton and put on the old George Washington. Seems there were some 6,000 wounded on it and the medics were short handed so for 18 days we assisted the medics. Quite an experience. Anyway, we did get home. Zig zagged all over the Atlantic, sometimes in sight of the U.S. and then back out until they were ready for us. You know, "The Army Way."
The forms are labeled A.A.F. From No. 5 Individual Flight Record. I'm wondering if they should be in the possession of the records section or if they have duplicates. I'd hate to have someone in years to come try and prove I was in that fracas and be told I didn't show up anywhere.
Dear Mr. Lundy:
Your address for Lopez was right on target and I received a long (8 page) letter from him that made me feel like a Flying 8 Ball again. He has done well, raised a fine family of four sons and is now looking forward to retiring soon. Of course, since I was so much older than the rest of my crew, I have been retired since 1962. A lucky break of owning a five-block of prime acreage on the main highway made it possible to retire when I was 53 and through wise use of the money in buying and selling small acreage parcels and farms in North and Central Florida has kept my head above water so far, thank the good Lord.
So far Lopez is the only crewmember from England I have heard from, but I have been in touch with my old bombardier from the Pacific tour. He is now in the antique business here in Ft. Lauderdale, just a few miles north of Miami.
The enclosed tear sheet was from one of our Saturday papers and I though you might enjoy it even though it was about B-17s.
This week I have been watching the program on TV called The Winds of War and it brings back a lot of memories.
With kindest regards,