ELMER W. HAMMER|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
1732 Saybrook Lane
Tustin, California 92680
Thank you for your letter of Thursday, April 21 and the information in it.
For your information, T/Sgt. Ed Wingfield (later M/Sgt) died of cancer here in Chula Vista, California about five years ago.
I do not remember Captain Mazure; age, I guess.
For your information, I flew the first and third missions on D-Day. On the first mission, my copilot was Col. Gibson, Group Commander (photo enclosed at first mission briefing).
Thank you for General Johnson's address. I will write him. No, I do not remember Capt. Grimes, but I will call him.
My health is not good at age 64 and I don't travel much.
Yes, I have the 14th combat wing book published by Capt. Ursell P. Harvell after World War II, and also his book 44th Liberators over Europe. Do you have a copy of it? If not, I'll send you my copy.
Am enclosing a lot of original 44th BG photos taken at Shipdham AB England. I think they will be more useful to you than to me at my age and my wife and children wouldn't appreciate them as I do.
Take care of yourself,
Elmer Hammer, Jr.
March 7, 1983
Thank you for your letter of March 5th and information about a 44th strategic missile wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
I was a pilot and wing-intelligence/operations officer at Rapid City Air Force Base (later named to Ellsworth Air Force Base after B/G Ellsworth died in the crash of a B36) from 1947 to 1951. I knew B/G Ellsworth very well, both in Rapid City and in England. His wife still lives there. I think they own a large shopping center south of the base.
I have known Gen. Leon Johnson for many years, since 1944, and I consider him a very fine officer; as a B/G he attended my first mission briefing as an ops. officer for the 44th BG Hq. at Shipdham in 1944.
Speaking of your 235 page book you published last May, do you know or do you have a copy of the books (2) published by Ursel P. Harvell, photographic officer for the 44th BG and the 14th combat wing? I have a copy of each.
Have received a nice letter from Will Lundy in nearby San Bernardino, California. Will answer his letter.
Please excuse my handwriting, but at age 64 it can't be helped I guess.
Thanks again for your information.
Elmer Hammer, Jr.
March 29, 1983
Salutations and I enjoyed talking to you on the phone last night. And again, thanks for your letter of 3/25/83. Am still trying to get over the flue so am at home and can write a letter though my handwriting is not so good these days. Please excuse - just old age, I guess and working too hard for too many years.
I called J. Fred Thomas and he has put me on his mailing list.
Do you remember M/Sgt. Harold Smith who was in the photo lab in the 44th BG? He worked for me also at Rapid City Air Force Base in South Dakota in 1947-1951 and became a warrant officer; later he retired to Miami, FL, studied criminal law but died of a heart attack.
Morris Thomson, one of my three navigators, has just recently retired from Dole Pineapple Corp. after 32 years in various parts of the world, is now living in Colorado Springs, CO, but plans to move to Texas.
Remember Col. John B. Harvey, our BG CO in 1944? He was my copilot on he first D-Day mission. Don't know where he is or if he's still living. He was an airline pilot before WWII.
Am sure you remember General Leon Johnson, commander of the 44th raid over Ploesti and alter CG of the 14th combat wing. I late met with him in London in 1951 when he was a Major General. He retired, I think, as a 4-Star General.
My crew engineer, Ed Wingfield died here in California two or three years ago of cancer.
Richard M. Hager is doing well in real estate development in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but spends winters in Florida. He recently visited Shipdham.
My radio operator, Ted Donzalski, who lives in Philadelphia, has retired from the Fire Department.
Art Krueger, one of my waist gunners, has retired from the postal service and lives in Portland, Oregon.
Francis Farris, my tail gunner, still lives and works in Indiana.
I have no idea where Melvin Rosencranz, my ball turret gunner, is, nor my bombardier and my copilot, Morgan Goodpasture was killed when he flew a mission with another crew - he and I grew up together in the same town in Bristol, VA and went through school together.
Fred Rowe, one of my waist gunners, lives in Los Altos, California and has a job as manager of a school. He was my best man at my third wedding in 1976.
As for me, after WWII ended, I was a pilot with TWA until June 1947 then returned to the Air Force as a major at Rapid City Air Force Base, SD. In 1951-1954 I was in London, England with the 7th Air Division Hq. In 1954-1958 I was at Hunter Air Force Base, Savannah, GA as a staff officer and commander of a B-47 jet bomber squadron. Then I went to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA and then to the Joint Staff (JCS) in the Pentagon; then to the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (DOD). In 1963 I became the assistant JCS intelligence, United Nations Command Korea. In 1964 I was director of intelligence, 5th Air Force in Japan. In 1966 I was Vice Base Commander at Lockbourine Air Force Base, Ohio and later Base Commander until I retired in January 1969. I worked for Ford Motor Company as an automotive test engineer for a year and a half and then 3 ½ years as administrative assistant to the City Manager, Santa Ana, California, until I retired for all time in 1976.
Colonel E. H. Hammer, Jr.
December 8, 1985
I've gone through all my albums and cannot find but one photo, a copy of which I enclose. It was taken in the 44th BG briefing room at the conclusion of the briefing for our first mission on D-Day. I do not remember exactly who the man on the left is, but I think it's Major Spencer Hunn. The middle figure is Col. John Gibson, BG commander; and the person on the right is me, then Captain Elmer H. Hammer, Jr., lead crew aircraft commander.
The photo you refer to which includes Col. Dent and a Charlie Kuch, I do not have. In fact the photo I enclose is the only one I have left. You have all the rest. Sorry.
A British lady has been corresponding with me regarding the airfield at Seething and the 448th BG. Her name was Mrs. Patricia R. Everson. Seething is her home and in 1943/44 she was a nine-year old girl. She's very active in compiling records and biographical data on all the aircrews in the 448th BG. I've told her all I can remember about the 448th and Seething; I went O/S with the group and flew several combat missions from Seething until I was transferred to Hq. OPMS, as the primary briefing officer, for the remainder of the war. From reading Mrs. Everson's letter, I suspect that she has never traveled outside England - maybe not even to London - born, reared and still living in Seething.
Hope you are well. Cheers!
Elmer Hammer, Jr.
June 28, 1983
Have tried to call you several times but no answer. Do you have a new number? At the summer cabin?
My phone is unlisted so if you need to call me, dial 714-838-5539.
There were two large photos in the box which I sent you, one of me and Colonel Gibbons being briefed for the first mission on D-Day, and a map of the first D-Day mission. I had planned to make a copy of these but forgot to do so. Please send me a copy of the originals.
Correction: Col. John B. Gibbons, 44th BG Commander, was my copilot and group command pilot on D-Day's first mission - not Major Walter Bender. See photos.
Elmer Hammer, Jr.