C. W. "Will" Lundy - - - 44th Bomb Group Historian
If you had to name a living member of the 44th BGVA, whose name has made it around the globe most f requently and consistently, Historian Will Lundy would be high on the list. From France, Germany, Belgium and England, and particularly here in the USA, the Assistant Crew Chief at Shipdham has left a mark on WW II air war history that will resound through the next millennium.
"When I realized that nobody was recording the events of my Squadron, the 67th, I started collecting information. "I put a book together, made 100 copies, and gave it to members of the 67th Squadron. Later I discovered there was no record of those who died in combat," he continued. 'I thought their families should know what happened to them. If one or two men escaped a crash, I would look up their hometown and see if they still lived there. Or I would try to find somebody who knew them. Sometimes it was pure luck. I also got access to official documents, the briefings of those who made it back. I put it all together in a book, which I called The Roll of Honor and Casualties. Then I f ound a printer and made 160 copies of this book. (Ed. Note: Will did this at his own expense.)
Lundy's history of the 67th Squadron is long out of print and old copies are eagerly sought. One recently sold on e-Bay for $150. His Roll of Honor augments most of the stories that appear in the 8 Ball Tails. His early recognition of the historical value of pictures led him to start what is possibly one of the biggest collections of WW II aviation memorabilia in the world. Even when he is looking for a safe repository for his collection, photographs, diaries and government records, he is using it almost daily to answer one more question from someone who is requesting information about a long lost cousin, father, uncle or brother. Most of the documentary information in the Database came directly from his files; and as much as he wants to take time to enjoy other facets of his Iife, he continues to research and respond to every e-mail that comes onto his computer.
Will never started out to be a historian. He wanted to be a pilot. To his dismay, he learned that he couldn't enlist in any branch of the service because of visual limitations. A student at UCLA working on a degree in Psychology and Anthropology, he saw his classmates taking flying lessons. He was the only one who did not become a pilot. When he was drafted in 1942, he wanted to be as close to a plane as possible, so he applied for Aircraft Mechanics School after Basic at Keesier Field, Mississippi. Will crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. With his buddies, he shared his awe at seeing Lady Liberty on Ellis Island; but before long, he realized that the Queen was all alone in that big ocean, with no escort service. That was a little bit sobering. Nevertheless, they made it safely to Ireland, then Scotland, then England.
He remembers sunken ships in the harbor at Firth, seeing Scottish children look at them in wonderment and riding in a 'toy train', (big enough for troops, but much smaller than American versions). "We got off the train around 2:00 A.M. and walked through total blackness to a GI truck. We all stayed in line by hanging onto the shoulder of the man ahead of him.
"We got to England before our combat crews who flew over later, so to keep us busy, they had us march up and down dirt lanes. We marched so long, we actually wore out our boots. Fortunately, my buddy and I had stashed a pair of civilian shoes in our bags, so at night we went to town and visited a pub. We enjoyed the company of Polish flyers who were in the RAF, even though neither spoke the other's language,"
The realities of war came soon enough for Sgt. Lundy. Twelve times he watched his plane Miss Dionne take off and eagerly awaited its return. On 8 March 1943, the mission was to the marshalling yards on the west bank of the Seine River, south of Rouen. The bombers f lew unprotected, and two were lost. Seventeen men from the Clyde Price and Robert Slain crew were KIA, four became POWs.
Will saw so many brave young men take off, never to return, he maintained his equilibrium by backing away f rom strong friendships with the combat crews. The pain of losing friends was too unbearable.
In 1944, he recalls waiting for his plane. "In the cul-de-sac there are the usual post-mission activities of gassing up, patching flak holes and /or bullet holes, engine checks, covering up, etc., fully underway. But here -- my plane is missing! I've sweated out each plane that landed hastily, identifying, then looking for the next. But the ships are now all in and unloaded. My pleas to the adjacent departing combat crews for any sign of its fate resulted in merely that it had been hit, feathered #2 engine, and fell behind. The many stories of stragglers being jumped by enemy aircraft continued to send chills up my spine. And hope was almost gone.
"Too upset to leave the line, I kept busy moving things around, making sure everything was in readiness for her return; kicking the weeds, watching the sky, and then the Jeeps and power wagons as they busily traveled the perimeter, returning the crews for debriefing. Then suddenly one of the Jeeps turned in and screeched to a halt. The line chief yelled,'They're safe!! They landed on the coast with just an engine out." I almost needed a parachute to bring me safely back to earth."
A traveling maintenance crew patched up the unnamed plane, and managed to get it safely across the Channel, past the White Cliffs of Dover to Friston Air Base, an RAF Fighter Base. Will joined his crew chief, George Baccash, in driving to southern England to ready the plane for its return to Shipdhom, then back to combat.
With Lt. Knapp at the controls, the ship's return was an awesome experience for the eager aircraft mechanic who volunteered to serve as engineer on the flight. Adding to the problems of getting a bomber off a fighter air strip, the experience was heightened with "Doodle Bugs" (V-1 Rockets) passing overhead.
Pre-flighted, we taxied out across the iron mats that served as a short runway for the Spitfires, then on down to the far south corner of this rough, grassy plateau. It is a pretty view to see the ocean a couple hundred feet down the chalk-white cliffs through the co-pilot's window. But the view back diagonally across this "airfield," the long way, wasn't all that inviting because it really wasn't long. So it doesn't take much grey matter to understand why we got as for away from those buildings as possible. I took up a position between and just behind the pilot and co-pilot as they set the brakes, then fully advanced the four throttles, then the super-chargers until the full power of those spinning propellers shook and bounced us, straining every nut, bolt and rivet. Suddenly, brakes off and I was hanging on for dear life as we jumped forward, gaining momentum with each turn of the wheels. We are soon rapidly accelerating, crossing the metal landing strip and off, but not up. Now a bump and we are airborne. No! back on the grass again. The rough terrain keeps bounding us up, but down we come.
'With rapidly widening eyeballs, I shifted my anxious gaze from those suddenly large buildings to the instrument panel - and almost swallowed my teeth. The fuel pressure - the FUEL pressure - it wasn't. But before I could say anything if, in fact, I could make a sound at all, we blasted up over those buildings - and back down again. No, not quite all the way back down, but into a shallow valley where we gained sufficient flying speed, retracted our gear, and tanked toward home, and I could breathe again.
"Why in the world do I always jump for any excuse to fly?" But now all is f ine, those four
Pratt & Whitney engines are music to my ears, even though the fuel pressure gauge tells me that one of them shouldn't be. Back in our cul-de-sac, I quickly took off the fairing around the engine accessory section of the "ailing" pressure to find that the indicator hose line had been improperly connected. No harm done, except of course for several missed heart beats. Now, ready for tomorrow, early, and back to war.
'In June of '43 we heard a rumor that a group was going to Africa. At that time, the 44th was undergoing severe losses, getting replacement of new crews and new planes. They started to practice low level flying, and we had to make alterations in the planes -- 50 calibers in the nose, twin 50's in the waist windows, etc. When I heard they were going to Africa, I wanted to go along. Africa was a worm climate, and England was cold and miserable. The Crew Chiefs could take one man; and as Assistant Crew Chief, I couldn't go. I couldn't even stow away, as the planes were too full.
"We got the word that the mission would be Ploesti, and some of the maintenance crew were recruited to go as combatants. Those who survived Ploesti returned to Africa on the second trip, but did not survive the Wiener-Newstadt Mission, only two weeks later."
Along with the agonies of losing friends, Will's memories are coupled with admiration of pilots whose skill bordered on miraculous. He saw Lt. Rockford C. Griffith bring in a battle-damaged plane from a long mission to Oslo, Norway. The right landing gear was damaged, and would not fully drop; the bell turret was down and could not be retracted; T/Sgt. William T. Kuban engineer was wounded. The pilot ordered all other crew members to bail out; after which the pilot and co-pilot set that plane down so skillfully, so evenly, the turret did not scrape, and the wounded man was safely delivered. Lundy noted that for this skillful execution, Lt. Griffith was awarded a Silver Star.
Once he saw planes coming in from a long mission into a snow storm. With terrible vision and with one using the wrong runway, two planes were directly headed for a collision. At the last minute, one pilot took off, literally leaping over the other. Both planes were saved.
He watched everybody leap in all directions when 1st. Lt. E. Jay Spencer's plane skidded a bomb up the runway. (Fortunately, it had been disarmed.) He looked in as a P-47, returning to base, missed a formation of '24s coming in. A wing on the fighter clipped a bomber, and both planes went down.
When the 506 Bomb Squadron came over in March 1942, they brought new planes. With all of the changes that had been made for greater efficiency, maintenance grew increasingly complex. It was Will's job to see that every plane of his squadron that got off the ground had been checked, according to the Tech Orders for that particular series. Every time a defect was noted, all maintenance crews worldwide were informed of the repairs that must be made. The problems became so complex, Lundy became an Assistant Inspector in August '44, a specialist in checking plane numbers, and making certain the necessary repairs were made. He was moved up to Staff Sgt. VE Day and the joy of the Trolley Mission made up for all problems, inconvenience and discomfort. Will finally was able to get on a plane. Then, before the 8th AF Command would accept any B-24 back at the states, every Technical Order had to be completed and documented. Seeing planes flying out daily, Lundy rushed to complete his assignments, so he, too, could fly in one of them. It was the first time he was home since he had been inducted.
Will met his wife, Irene, and they dated while he was at Shipdham, but had no plans for continuing their friendship. One week after he got home, he decided life could not go on without her, so he called her and asked her to marry him. Although she accepted immediately, it took 1 1/2 years before they could finally get together. All transportation out of England was booked solid. Finally, there was a cancellation, and she was able to come across. They were married in January 1947, one week after her arrival.
Irene is no less eager than Will to preserve the history of the 44th. She has been at his side through all of his research efforts. When the 44th gathers each year for the Reunion, she is right there at the Welcome Station. This is not a formal assignment. Everyone knows she will just show up and help out.
Irene's family connections to England have given the two insight into what was happening over there. They grieved when the Marshall Plan was rebuilding Germany and other enemy countries, while their allies in England were suffering through dreadful times, rebuilding their country. When the idea of a Memorial Library in Norwich was born, Irene was able to give Will new directions for his research materials. The Lundys' contribution to the 44th BG is best described by their many admirers.
From Col. Bob Lehnhausen: "More than any other person in WEII, General Leon W. Johnson, by his personal courage and leadership of the 44th Bomb Group (H) assured that unit and its braave air and ground echelons a prominent position in the history of military aviation. Likewise, no other person has done more to preserve the history of the gallant acts and deeds of the 44th air crews and their dedicated ground crews than Will Lundy. He and his precious wife, Irene, possess an unusual sense and value of history. While the 44th spent the WW II years making history, the Lundys have spent over 50 years gathering, preserving, researching, cataloging, verifying and sharing the information. They have developed an international network of selfless persons who share their interest in history. The Lundys and their many, many enthusiastic and resourceful friends have assisted many, many families of missing or deceased airmen, in learning "what happened" to their loved ones during WW II. They have a special dedication for those young men who gave their lives in the cause of liberty...and of victory. The Lundy mission is to be sure that everyone who served with the 44th will be remembered and recognized.
I didn't know Will Lundy at Shipdham. However, from what I have gotten to know of him since then, his reverence for the flight crews of the 67th Squadron, he had to have been a superb AM (Aviation Mechanic).
Irene and Will have been very, very helpful -- more than any other, in finding out what happened to my brother and his crew. Bless them.
From Col. Roy Owen: C. "Will" Lundy, Historian, 44th Bomb Group; translated, speaks "Mr. Forty Fourth."
This wiry little Assistant Crew Chief on the 67th Squadron aircraft Miss Dianne was the first among the Eight Ballers at war's end to have the imagination, foresight and energy to realize the value of organization level combat records by compiling all of the group Missing Aircrew Reports into his ROLL OF HONOR. From that foundation, he brought birth and life to the history of the 44th and what later evolved into the 44th Bomb Group Veteran's Association as we know it today.
In 1992, the incumbent association leadership made a decision that the Memorial Group no longer had a future and would disband. Will was one of the first of a small group of Stalwart members who rallied to preserve the association. They not only kept it alive, but also have steered its steady growth into the best organized B-24 Group Association in the Second Air Division.
From Col. Richard Butler: "I did not know Will during WW II, but I know he started out as an Assistant Crew Chief and worked up to becoming a Line Chief in the 67th Squadron. Ardith and I first met Will and Irene in 1979 during a Second Air Division Association convention in Norwich. Our friendship with them and our respect for them, and appreciation for Will's work on behalf of the history of the 44th Bomb Group has continuously grown since that meeting, Few people would argue with my opinion that Will is the most didicated veteran of the 44th in recording its history. For the past thirty or so years he has virtually dedicated his life to researaching and writing about events and people of the 44th at Shipdham. The two books which he compiled and published at his own expense, "History of the 67th Bomb Squadron" and "44th Bomb Group Roll of Honor and Casualties" are recognized as the most accuarte of any similar books of any B-24 bomb group. His historical work is recognized among the historians of the Second Air Division Association as the best. Almost all of his work on behalf of the 44th has been at his own expense. Irene, Will's wife, has always been at his side, assisting him in his work and encouraging him at his times of frustration. Over the years, Will has received thousands of requests from 44th veterans, spouses, children and other relatives, seeking information as to what a 44th person did during the war, or the circumstances of an individual's death. Will has answered each request to the best of his ability, often spending hours of research on a single case. To me, this has been his greatest contribution, helping people who are seeking information about a loved one. I am proud to be a friend of Will and Irene, and thank them for their dedication to the history of our bomb group, and for the service they have provided to our members and their relatives who seek information about their loved ones.
From Sgt. Peter Loncke, Belgiun Air Force: "I came in contact with Will Lundy back in 1999 as part of my research on both crashes of 24 March 1945, involving 2 B-24's (The Crandell and Chandler crews). He sent me a copy of the video tape which showed both crashes. With the help of this tape, I was able to find these crash sites in Wesel, Germany. Will helped with my investigation of the January 1944 crash of the Pinder crew in Winbrin, Belgium. He has been very helpful with my e-mail requests and 44th BG history."
From Col. Bill Cameron: ... Will is not only a gentleman, but is an admirable person. I didnn't know Will during the 2 1/2 years we were at Shipdham. Sometime after the war I wrote to him, and we have continued to correspond for about thirty years. Four of the sergeants on my crew were his close friends. When they were lost, my bonds with Will became even stronger. I am very grateful to him for writing the history of our squadron, the 67th, and then later, the history of the 44th. They are both exceedingly well done...and required a great deal of time to research. During the war, he was a most dedicated mechanic, working in fair, as well as very cold weather; and in the early months, without shelter of any kind.