Capt. Edward K. Mikoloski|
Story told through collected articles of
Mikoloski's experience in WW II
By Leslie Moore
This could be a yarn about a Liberator navigator's thrills and perils in 25 completed missions over enemy Europe.
Capt. Edward K. Mikoloski knows about such things. In fact, he has narrated a good many of his experiences to war bond rally audiences since he returned to this country and to his home city of Worcester. Name the flying thrill and chances are Eddie Mikoloski has had it. Also, he can answer those stock questions about how it feels to be under fire, and was he afraid and when does he think the war will end. He doesn't relish that kind of talk, mind you, but he's as agreeable and pleasant as you could wish, and he'll oblige.
This, then, could be a sort of thriller - but it won't. It won't because plenty of war fliers have thriller tales to tell these days and all good, too. Captain Eddie would rather let his Distinguished Flying Cross with its oak cluster and his Air Medal with three clusters, speak for themselves. He's modest. I'll warrant he used to be far more proud of his exploits as a basketball player at Clark, for example, than he is now of his distinction as navigator of big bombers.
For Capt. Mikoloski is no longer the youngster who won his diploma at Clark in 1941. He's boyish enough, but his eyes have a depth that four years of college don't impart and the solid, grim set of his jaw wasn't acquired looping them through a basketball net - or even jousting with sine and cosecant.
No, my guess is that Capt. Mikoloski got that way because he lived centuries in a few months. He saw life hurtling through space, coming up to meet him, falling swiftly away beneath him. He felt young men of his own age, with whom he had kidded aground and aloft, torn suddenly out of his existence.
And all that, if I can write it, is what this story of Capt. Edward Mikoloski is about.
Get the time and location. Eddie was Second Lieutenant Mikoloski when he emerged as a navigator from Mather Field, Cal., in July 1942, a year after he had enlisted as a private in the Air Corps. He wouldn't tell until he was prodded pretty hard, but the fact is that he is a pushover for airsickness or used to be. This kid had never flown when he enlisted. He plugged for various flying enlistments, but everybody turned thumbs down on him because, they discovered, he couldn't even ride on a train without turning green. As for roller-coasters and merry-go-rounds and ships . . . He had never flown in a plane, of course, but the examiners knew he was impossible with that fundamental Ferris-wheel condition in his innards.
So he eased in as an enlisted man, and by some sort of hocus-pocus got a chance to fly. Actually, it wasn't hocus-pocus. He just quit telling the doctors about his allergy. Persuading his flight instructor to keep his mouth shut, Eddie used to learn while he was being sick. Now, incidentally, he has licked airsickness to the point where he can ride on trains with reasonable comfort.
You begin to get some idea how they happened to hand him those medals and clusters? I'll wager his flight instructor at Mather Field put Eddie down for distinction back in the days when the kid saw double every time he tried to fly solo.
NOW SHIFT abruptly to England where Eddie, of the Worcester Mikoloski's, arrived to join the Eighth Air Force in September 1942. He had won one desperate fight, and was headed for more.
For the winter of 1942-43 lay dead ahead. That as the winter, you recall, when peoples back home were growing a bit restless about our Air Forces. What were we doing over there? Weren't we turning out some 50,000 planes a year and training thousands of pilots, navigators, gunners, and bombardiers? Weren't we making all sorts of gear, and going without gasoline in the bargain? Then how about action?
Capt. Edward Mikoloski knows. He found out. He discovered that although we had crack planes and fliers as good as any of them, our air force during that winter of 1942-43 didn't have the best equipment. Indeed, nobody did. At least there seemed to be no equipment quite equal to the task at hand.
It came down mostly to the simple fact that flying over Europe, where guns bristle like hairs on a mad dog's neck, was not flying over Mather Field or Randolph Field or any other field on this side. Yet it wasn't the Hun, or the flak or the obvious circumstance that the boys now were playing for keeps. They had discounted all that stuff in advance and the Hun was just another guy in another plane.
What broke men's hearts, kicked apart their plans, and sometimes killed them, was the weather! It wasn't just cold, the kind that rosies your cheeks and makes your pinkies tingle - none of your good, old winter sport stuff. This weather over the European Theater of Operations turned out to be 50 below Centigrade, or worse. Generally, it seemed like a hundred below and not in the shade, either. Just to point the ting up in an easy expression, say that for our American fliers over Europe that 1942-43 winter was America's Valley Force of the Air.
Maybe Eddie Mikoloski wouldn't go that far. He wasn't at the original Valley Force, so he couldn't say. But take his word for it that the 1942-43 winter was as tough as men can experience and come out right side up. It was a cold hell.
He can take it and will. Remember how desperately he fought for the chance to fly - trying every truck known but always passing out from airsickness every time he went up? He's anxious to go back to combat flight, too, if they'll let him. Wants to be a pilot this time, even if he turns orchid in the process.
"But," Eddie says grimly, "I wouldn't want to go back for another winter like that was, nor would any of the others." Many of the "others" never can, never will.
That cold! That withering, blighting, killing cold! Nobody was to blame. Captain Eddie is emphatic on that point. The Gulf Stream, which warms England and what is now the invasion coast, runs no steam pipes to the air 20,000 feet up.
American boys, going up into that vast quick-freezing plant were unprepared. They had heavy flying gear, of course, and plenty of it. We had a fine supply system that saw to such things. There was abundant wool and fur and leather duds. But as Eddie Mikoloski sees it, nobody back in he States could have figured out the insistent penetrating qualities of that cold, gauntlet gloves, however thick, would let in an icy finger of air, and some chap's finger was gone, quick!
Doesn't sound like much for war, a frozen thumb, or even a frozen hand. But it was. This was quick-freezing, bear in mind, and the critical factor was that when a youngster who had spent months training intensively for combat went out on his first mission and came back with five icicles on his hand instead of fingers, he was done, done almost as completely as if he had been shot out of the skies. For a hand, foot, ear, nose, or cheek, once frozen, even on the ground, takes a terrible beating in ordinary freezing weather. Multiply that several times for the air over E.T.O., and the extent of casualties among our fliers in '42-'43 begins to appear.
There was fast action to remedy the situation, of course. Our officers spotted the trouble early and proper authorities sent frantically to work on new gloves, boots, and helmets. But it took time, and meanwhile our growing air forces in England, fighting the eternal deep-freezing winter of Europe's upper air as well as a crafty Hun, found themselves handicapped. They were fighting under wraps, but not the right kind.
In time the clothing problem was licked. Came the electrically heated flying suit - which was fine except that the first suits sometimes burned out and Eddie says, men have been known to freeze to death at their posts, when the heat failed, before anybody knew what happened to them. Only takes a couple of minutes in that air, Eddie says.
Our own experts, with some timely assistance by the Royal Air Force, which was still wrestling with the cold problem after two years of air war, finally got together and won a great victory. Zippered elbow-length gloves of wool and silk, for example, at last protected precious, skilled hands effectively. The electric suits, which had added to the load on a plane's generator, at last became 100% efficient and the generator capacities were increased.
Moreover, other serious troubles were overcome after the first few hard months. There had to be exhausting practice in high altitude formation flying, up there in the quick-freezing belt. For notwithstanding all the training in that work on this side, the boys weren't good enough at it when they began to fight.
"You have to be letter perfect, you understand," Capt. Eddie explains.
He has no patience with those who assume the German flier is inferior.
"On the contrary," says the Captain, "the Hun seems to have an uncanny sixth sense that enables him to spot and single out a plane in trouble or out of line, almost before the trouble develops. So if we let a bomber get out of formation, even a little, the Hun fighters can smell it miles off, and they swarm on the loiterer and kill him off unless he's lucky. The Hun will give up two or three fighters any time to get a bomber, and why not. He adds that the Luftwaffe, with its smart zone defense pattern and new fighters, is still a powerful, dangerous force, with which to trifle is to die.
So the boys had their difficulties. Were our losses in men and planes heavy during the bitter winter? You get no figures from Eddie Mikoloski, but he will look down for a moment and stop talking and his face grows taut as though he has pain in his heart.
"You get to know some fellows very well. You get very close to them," he says.
And then he will say a funny thing, as follows:
"Flying in combat, for life or death, doesn't make men hard. Not a bit of it. On the contrary, it makes them soft. It makes them sentimental. They fight. They don't flinch. But they would cry when they think. . ."
Capt. Mikoloski is a soldier, every ounce of him. In fact, he's toying with the idea of making a career of the Air Forces. But when he thinks that out of 500 men originally in his outfit, he is one of - well, never mind how many - still alive, he isn't going to put on a big laugh and say you get used to that sort of thing.
He won't say our losses were moderate, either. Death is seldom moderate.
It was the little things. Like - loves, for example. For the want of a nail . . . the old saying goes. You talk with Captain Mikoloski and understand that a simple flying glove, if our own technicians and R.A.F. men hadn't cracked the problem when they did, would have held back a whole campaign, a whole war.
The captain, incidentally, has plenty to say for the British and reverse Lend-Lease. He went over, he says, like most American kids, with a traditional suspicion of the British. Took some time to get used to them. But he found them wonderfully generous with their own time, skill, and equipment. "They gave us anything we asked," he says. "Many Americans owe their lives to the R.A.F."
Then there was oxygen. That first Liberator group, Eddie Mikoloski's, which bombed Europe had been trained in Pacific skies at altitudes where a fellow could be a bit careless with his oxygen mask. But not over E.T.O. They quickly found out, too, that British oxygen wasn't quite on a par with the stuff they had been used to at home. So the two air forces went to work on that, and won again.
But that business of fitting a great American air force for combat took time and lives. That's the conviction Captain Eddie Mikoloski wants to get across. It took the one thing that our American training fields, superb as they are, couldn't give - experience. Which explains what was going on while people at home wondered why the delay.
The question is, though, how the boys themselves felt through it all, while they were practicing like mad, being quick frozen and trying out equipment that worked beautifully in tests but hadn't yet been through the fire.
"They understood," says Captain Eddie Mikoloski. "They weren't sore. Not a bit. They knew they were being given the best stuff available. They knew everybody was learning all the time and that they were doing a job that falls to the lot of the vanguard in any war."
The amazing thing is that come cold or jammed guns, that Eighth Air Force did a yeoman job during its first full winter over Europe. Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, Rouen, Bordeaux, Lorient - these all felt the lethal sting of American Liberators. Eddie knows. He was there on those raids trying to keep warm and drawing the fine calculations that took his plane precisely over the targets.
His decorations show how good he was. In fact, he eventually became navigator for Brig. Gen. Leon W. Johnson. Eddie Mikoloski avoids hero talk, but he idolizes Gen. Johnson. His eyes glow when he thinks of him. One of his biggest thrills came not over Europe, but after he had returned to this country and carried Gen. Johnson's Congressional Medal of Honor to Savannah, there to present it to Mrs. Johnson. It's his utter admiration for the general that makes Eddie Mikoloski think he'd like to stay in the Army.
As almost everybody hereabouts knows by this time, Capt. Eddie Mikoloski navigated one of the bombers that went on that trail-blazing air road to Rome last July 19. His group had gone on detached service to Africa for a couple of months. But Eddie dismisses the Rome raid with few words. They were flying from North Africa, and had been painstakingly instructed to bomb only military targets, with stress on the great Littorio railway yards.
It was beautiful weather. The Tiber lay clearly under them. Opposition was negligible. It was what the boys call a "milk run." But just to show how exacting the job was, in order to avoid hitting any shrines, Eddie revealed that his Liberator didn't drop any eggs on Rome at all. Seems the electrical bomb release went wrong. Ordinarily, in that event, the navigator would pull a salvo lever to release them by hand, but that would throw the bombs maybe several hundred feet off - which would never do over Rome. So they held their bombs, spared Rome that one load and circled back around over Sicily where they blew up a couple of bridges on the Palmero-Messina railway and thus helped snarl up the Nazi retreat to the mainland. All in the day's work.
Flying from Africa wasn't bad Eddie Mikoloski says. The terrific heat was wicked on ground crews, especially as they had only two men working steadily on their Liberator for two months. But for the fliers, the zero temperatures aloft were welcome.
Africa was, in fact, a sort of summer vacation after the winter of 1942-43 over Europe. That winter, says Capt. Eddie Mikoloski of the Worcester Mikoloski's, is the thing for historians to put down in their books.
Telegram, Tuesday, May 18, 1943
City Navigator Bombs Nazi-Held Bases in France
Lieut. Mikoloski shares in
Near-perfect attack on Bordeaux and Lorient
by Gladwin Hill
At a U.S. bomber station in Britain, May 17 - American bombers had a near-perfect batting average in their three-pronged attack on Bordeaux, Lorient and nearby Keroman, the enthusiastic reports of the usually reserved fliers indicated tonight.
"The bombing was good," declared Brig. Gen. James P. Hodges, commander of the 8th U.S. Air Force Liberator section, which hit shipping and submarine installations at Bordeaux.
Like Laying Eggs
"It was just like laying eggs in a next," said Lieut. James F. Divinney of Atlantic City, N.J., navigator on the Liberator form which Hodge's commanded the raid.
It was piloted by Maj. Howard W. Force of Farmersburg, Id. The copilot was Group Commander Col. Leon W. Johnson of Moline, Ks.
"I never expected to see such a good bombing pattern," Johnson said.
"It was a perfect show and the best we have been on yet," said another Liberator pilot, Lieut. Roland B. Houston of Long Beach, Cal. "It looked to me like we really knocked hell out of the target."
"If they thought Kiel was hit, they should have seen this," added Houston's copilot, Lieut. David W. Alexander of Hot Springs, VA.
The Kiel bombing last week was described officially as the most accurate of the war.
Lieut. Mikoloski Navigator
"The enemy apparently was caught flat-footed because there was very little fighter and flak opposition," said Lieut. Edward K. Mikoloski of Worcester, Mass, a navigator.
Lieutenant Eddie Mikoloski is the husband of Mrs. Katherine M. (Mahoney) Mikoloski, 65 Florence Street, and son of Mrs. Stanley C. Mikoloski, 154 Vernon Street. He was recently awarded an air medal for "courage, coolness, and skill." The citation said he performed "exceptionally meritorious service by participating in five separate combat missions."
Lieutenant Mikoloski has been stationed in England for several months.
Meet Strong Opposition
The Flying Fortresses which went o Lorient ran into a very strong force of 100 to 150 Fockewulf fighters but these enemy planes failed to keep the bombs from going right into the submarine pens and power station and couldn't stop most of the bombers from getting home - including the ship of "Big" Adams.
"Big's" ship, the "Unmentionable Ten," was hit by at least 15 high-explosive 20-millimeter shells, which blew a hole in the stabilizer big enough to hold two men. Three crewmen were injured and two were knocked out by lack of oxygen.
"Big" Brings Her Home
But the "Unmentionable Ten," batted back half an hour late after the squadron commander had almost given up "sweating her out." After circling the field and shooting off so many flares for medical help that it "looked like the Fourth of July," "Big" set her down safely.
And the ship tentatively claimed ten Focke-Wulf victims to boot.
It was the 19th raid for "Big" - Lieut. Lyle Adams of Novinger, Mo., 22-year-old former Kirksville, Mo. Teachers College student.
Enemy fighters hit them about five minutes sort of the target and kept pouring it to them, until they had dropped their bombs and had flown back to the northern coast of France, 50 minutes later.
"Everything happened so fast I didn't find out about some of it myself until I got back on the ground," Adams smiled wryly.
"One 20 millimeter shell popped into the ship, whizzed between the legs of the top turret gunner - Sergt. J. Williams Nelson of Brooklyn, N.Y. - came right through the cockpit between me and the copilot - Lieut. Rothery McKeegan of Oakland, Cal. - went down through the tunnel to he nose and injured the navigator."
Wings, Tail, Hit
Another shell knocked a hole in her right wing, two hit the left wing, and others hit the tail, injuring the tail gunner, who nevertheless managed to blast two German fighters.
Sergt. Eldon Bates of Tulelake, Cal., a waist gunner making his 25th raid, gave first aid to the tail gunner and his fellow waist gunner, who was hit by fragments from another shell.
Another 20-millimeter shell crashed into the radio room and blasted the oxygen mask off the radio-gunner, Sergt. Don Steffee of Sturgis, Michigan, and he passed out. The bombardier, Lieut. Henry Wojdyla of Chicago, handed an oxygen bottle to Lieut. D. G. Wright, a field psychiatrist who was on his fourth raid and was riding as a passenger in the nose. Wright crawled back and revived Steffee with artificial respiration, then passed out himself.
The ball turret gunner, Sergt. William O. Hewlett, Jr. (address unavailable) crawled out of his fishbowl under the belly of the ship and brought Wright to.
The rudder cables were broken but Adams managed to get on without them despite the fact that one aileron cable was severed. Force to go slowly they broke away form the formation and headed home on their own, battling the pack of Focke-Wulfs ganging up on them.
Before the melee was over, top turret gunner Nelson hit six enemy planes and Bombardier Wojdyla two in addition to the tail gunner's two, and so they got home.
Worcester Gazette - November, 1943
Flier from City Lauded in Book
Lieutenant. Edward C. Mikoloski, 23 of Worcester, recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for exceptional bravery on flights over Nazi-occupied Europe, is mentioned in a book, "Skyways To Berlin," soon to be released by the Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, Ind.
The book, written by Maj. Jack Redding and Capt. Hal Leyshon of the European Theater of Operations public relations office, is an account of air adventures over Germany.
In the chapter titled, "Sweating It Out,' there is considerable said of how Lieut. Mikoloski "sweat it out."
"The crow's feet at Mikoloski's eyes were deeper that day because, in the long hours of the nights intervening between the two major operations, big Eddie had been sweating out his other worry.
"In a modest home at 154 Vernon Street, Worcester, Mass., Katherine, his wife, had been waiting too. "It won't be long now, but please don't worry," she had written.
"Katherine had refused to name the expected date of the baby's arrival. She didn't want to worry Eddie. She'd cable when it was all over."
Lieut. Mikoloski was heard on the Columbia Broadcasting System's overseas feature, "This is Britain," March 14. A graduate of Clark University, he is the son of Mrs. Stanley C. Mikoloski of 154 Vernon Street. His wife is the former Katherine M. Mahoney and their baby born June 19, is Edward, Jr.
The flyer took part in the second raid on Rome, and is expected home in the near future, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Cornelius F. Mahoney of 65 Florence Street, said today.
Worcester Sunday Telegram-October 24, 1943
Worcester Honor Roll
Capt. Edward K. Mikoloski, U.S.A.A.F., husband of Mrs. Katherine M. (Mahoney) Mikoloski of 65 Florence Street and son of Mrs. Stanley C. Mikoloski, 154 Vernon Street, received the Distinguished Flying Cross last June for expert navigation on a raid over Bordeaux, France.
Capt. Mikoloski, who files with a Liberator bomber, has won other awards. He holds the Air Medal for "courage, coolness, and skill," during missions. Also an Oak Leaf Cluster. He also was on the second bombing mission over Rome. Captain Mikoloski is a graduate of Clark University. He is 25 years old and received his wings at Mather Field, Cal., July 4, 1942. His son, Edward, Jr., five months old, was born June 19, 1943, in St. Vincent Hospital, Worcester, the day he was notified he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Brockton Enterprise - December 1944
Meet Captain Mikoloski:
Daylight bombing is an American number in Europe's bag and terrible air show. Major General Eaker, commanding the American Eighth Air Force in England, sums it up . . .
"Our bombers can penetrate in daylight to any target in Germany. They can go alone, without benefit of fighter protection, if necessary. And they come home."
He had in mind skilled and daring airmen such as Capt. Edward Mikoloski of Worcester, 24-year-old brother of Mrs. Victor C. Dubois of 10 Ellsworth Street, this city.
Capt. Mikoloski was home from England for the holidays, and wearing decorations and ribbons, the sort won for valor over and above the line of duty.
Thousands in the United States and England have read of the young captain's part in charting daylight bombing.
It's in one of the best books to come out of the war, Skyways to Berlin, by Maj. John M. Redding and Capt. Harold Leyshonh, published by the Bobbs-Merrill Co.
Mikoloski, like so many others in the Army Air Corps, started from scratch, qualified for training and received a commission as second lieutenant, when he had fulfilled requirements.
Now, turn to what the authors say of him . . . 'Big Eddie Mikoloski was sweating out two worries at the same time. Eddie was only 23 but, hunched over his charts at the navigator's desk in the big Liberator, he looked older.'
Worry creased his forehead and left its mark at the corner of his eyes.
Resuming . . . "The lead Liberator, navigated by Lieut. Mikoloski (subsequently advanced to captain) flew over the Bay of Biscay at just under oxygen-mask altitude.
Mikoloski was literally sweating over his charts, though the thermometer recorded 10 degrees above zero.
Behind him, a sizable formation of bombers toting enough high explosives to wipe out a city. They set their course confidently on the tail of the lead ship.
On this day, as for weeks past, he was squadron navigator. The target was one of the enemy's chief submarine bases in the French harbor of Bordeaux. Far beyond range of friendly fighter support, the Libs were making their deepest penetration into enemy territory.
Three days before, Eddie Mikoloski had been over Kiel, big German surface ship, and submarine base. That had been a desperate odds-on battle against more than 100 enemy aircraft and the returning Libs reported 43 fighters down.
Mikoloski had led the squadron over the target, through a hail of flak and fighter fire, . . . the account goes on. The Libs had set the target ablaze with their incendiaries. The Fortresses pounded it from higher up with heavy explosive bombs.
With that great battle a fresh memory, the scarred Liberator squadron was on the prowl again, about to wrap up nearly 3000 miles of combat flying in a tight three-day package. It was the kind of assignment that leaves a rugged gunner limp.
Crow's-feet at Mikoloski's eyes were deeper that day because Big Eddie was sweating out his other worry. At home, in Worcester, Katherine, his wife, had been waiting too. She had refused to name the expected date of the baby's arrival. She didn't want to worry Eddie. She'd cable when it was over.
Eddie had been sweating it out. Also, the raid on which they were now embarked. How well it was executed depended in large measure upon him, lead navigator, the man entrusted to show the way.
So . . . he sat there, pouring over his charts, his wind-drift, airspeed and chronometer dials, sweating out a landfall of hundreds of miles down the French coast and timing his arrival against an inexorable stop watch that said he must find his I.P., when the Libs must commence their bombing run over the target within seconds, snot minutes of the estimated time of arrival.
And there was another arrival on his mind that day. The Libs roared on to Bordeaux, serene in the pilotage of Moore and the navigation of Big Eddie.
These two men did their job so as to reflect credit upon themselves and upon the armed forces of the Untied States. They were largely responsible for one of the most successful missions performed by heavy bombers on the European front.
Both received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this and some 15 other raids.
Katherine also made it. One of the authors, a public relations officer, asked him if he had time to think of events back home while in the air.
"You do most of your thinking the night before a mission," he answered. "I think of them up there, too. I thought he might be proud of the Old Man if I made it on the nose and ashamed of me if I missed. When I thought of both of them, I just had to make it."
But he doesn't worry about little boys having to go through the same ordeal in 20 or 25 years. "Because," he said, "there isn't going to be another war. We're going to fix it up this time so nobody's son will have to fight another."
Good luck to such as Big Eddie as they set out to do what's never yet been done - rub out war.
Undergraduate Bi-weekly of Clark University
Friday, January 7, 1944
Mikoloski Tells Air Thrills of Raid on Rome
By Gerald Tevan
Last Monday at assembly, Dean Little introduced to the students Capt. Edward Mikoloski, Clark alumnus, and Liberator navigator.
The young, khaki-clad officer wore four campaign ribbons on his chest in addition to three oak leaf clusters and his navigator's wings. Holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal, he has recently returned form the European theatre.
On the list of places visited on bombing missions were France, the Low Countries, Germany, and various other portions of Festung Europa.
Capt. Mikoloski participated in that first air raid on Rome on July 19th. He told how the crews of all the bombers had studied maps of the Eternal City and pictures of their targets for three days. When over Rome the Yanks encountered practically no enemy opposition. Unfortunately, there was some delay in getting the bombs away, and so Capt. Mikoloski's crew had to follow their very stringent orders and hold their bombs. This was to make certain that no religious places might be hit, even by accident. And no churches were hit - except for those few near the San Vitorio railroad yards, which were our fliers' objective.
Previous to the Rome raid, Capt. Mikoloski had spent several weeks in the heat and dirt of the African desert. With a small ground crew and C-rations, another misfortune befell him in he form of a locust plague. Then came the Sicilian invasion, the Rome raid, and his home leave.
In answering the question, "Is the Luftwaffe weakening?" the captain gave a definite, "No." He warned that the Nazis were stronger in the air than they ever were, and cautioned us against over-optimism. However, our air strength is getting stronger relatively faster than is that of the enemy.
Mikoloski went on to tell how the first Yanks to land in Britain were a very cocky bunch and did not get along very well with the inhabitants. However, in time the Americans have come to know and respect the English people. Our boys found them courageous, patient, and very human people, and now a great bond of friendship has sprung up between the American soldiers and the the British people.
The speaker informed us of a debt, which our air forces owe to the RAF. During the first few months' presence of the Eighth Air Force in Britain, the RAF sent flying clothes, technicians, and parts to the inadequately equipped Yanks. They also sent their combat-wise fliers to lecture to our boys on the tricks and stratagems of the Nazis.
At this point,, the clock grounded the airmen and although he still had plenty of fuel and the audience was eager to hear more, Capt. Mikoloski had to conclude with his tribute to the RAF.
COL. EDWARD K. MIKOLOSKI
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
14 April 1986
Thank you for your letter of April 7th and the information about Lucius. Obviously your records are more accurate than mine and I now agree with your findings. Unfortunately, my memories of those days in 1943 are not good enough to recall the specifics of how Lucius was wounded and of his death. At that time, I was deeply involved in the death of a close personal friend who led that ill-fated raid on Vegesack and gave up his life as he released the bombs and died with the words, "Bombs Away." Jack Mathis was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and dedication to be followed some months later with the loss of his twin, Mark, who replaced Jack on his B-17 crew. I have written Master Sergeant Walter Hazelton who was our assistant crew chief and asked him to write me if he can recall some of the details of Lucius' loss. Since I may be away for the rest of this month, I suggested he write you. In any case, I am sure Walt, who was there with the crew at that time, will be able to fill us in with the details.
I am sorry, but the 2nd A.D. Reunion is out this year, but I hope to make the 44th get together in Colorado Springs this August. See you there. Am in contact with Bill Dabney who was Bill Cameron's copilot and he said he will attend if I will. I also talked to General Howard Monroe who was our CO in the 67th, but he is not very excited about attending. I am not giving up on him and will ask Bill Cameron and Bill Dabney to join me in pressing "Pappy" to attend.
Thanks for all the information on the 66th and 67th. And my compliments to you for the work and time you have put into compiling the 44th Casualty Memorial. I will try to reach Sgt. Walter Patrick who replaced Lucius and ask him to provide us with any information he may have.
Warmest personal regards.
9 May 1986
Upon my return from Florida, your letter and one from Sgt. Hazelton were waiting for me. So let me first tell you what Sgt. Hazelton wrote about Lucius. Sgt. Hazelton was the assistant engineer on our crew and later became the engineer after Sgt. Coll. This is what he recalls about the Vegesack raid in which Lucius Balsley was mortally wounded. He (Lucius Balsley) and I went to Vegesack as replacement gunners on (and I think it was Brandon's crew, but please do not quote me on this for I am not sure). He was hit in the back over the target while a gunner on the bottom gun in the rear of the aircraft. Anyway, I was the left gunner that day. We gave him first aid, as much as we could at the time, as the fighters were thick all around us. We didn't know how serious it was until after we landed. He was taken to the hospital in Norwich where he died three days later. The crew saw him on the second night. We all went over. I escorted the body to the cemetery just outside of London and was there when he was buried. A sad day it was.
If you wish to contact Sgt. Walter L. Hazelton, write him at 1405 Holiday Place, Bossier City, LA 71112.
At present, my plans call for me to still try to make the reunion in Colorado Springs and Bill Dabney promised me he would also attend. I will write Bill Cameron also and ask that he join us.
Frankly, I would not mind it a bit if my trip to the USSR could be canceled but the Agents here say "Intourist" insist we stick to our planned visit. I am traveling alone on this one, so wish me luck.
God loves you and so do I.