WALTER M. PATRICK|
World War II Memories
(Taken from a letter written to Will Lundy)
Thanks a lot for your note of April 6th. Your records do, in fact, stand intact and at this time we won't have to resurrect Frank Curry. My error of course. Since my friend came in at the same time as did Dones, I must have assumed that it was Curry from the same crew, but in fact it was TSgt. Joseph B. Jett of Texas. How could I have forgotten? He was at the same prison camp though as Isabelino, I'm almost 100 percent sure.
Dones did go by the name of "Rene" by the way. I thought he was from Puerto Rico but he could have been from, as you said, either Brooklyn or the Bronx. Dones stand sin my mind like a beacon in the night though because of his "cocky" attitude and the way he dressed. He always wore the leather-flying cap with the sheepskin lining and flying boots with sheepskin turned down. He stood out like a beacon in a storm. He was extremely friendly though.
I guess the reason I got "Jett" and "Curry" mixed up was that Jett and Dones reported into our barracks at Westover together and told about the same story about POW status and escape. As I previously said, and I hope the rest of the story will bear me out, the escape was more of a "cake walk" than a dash for freedom. At any rate, Dones is well placed in my barracks at Westover and I was friendly with his sidekick of arrival. So it couldn't have been Curry. It was an exciting story that Bob Blakeney told. I'm looking forward to part two and especially to see if the Australians played a part like I had thought that they did. I thought that the December 1989 issue was extremely interesting.
I also enjoyed the piece by Frank Schaeffer and, of course, the revisit to Shipdham by Will Lundy, 67th BS. How exciting it must have been to have revisited that memorable spot. As far as you know, has anybody ever written a history of the 66th Squadron? I know you did a superb job for the 67th and I noticed in the December Logbook that copies of the 68th Squadron History are available. I'm still not sure of the Norfolk trip. I believe it depends on whether or not Hazelton goes or not. I owe him a letter so had better hurry and make up my mind because it's fast approaching isn't it.
Sorry about shaking up your data - of course, an olde historian like yourself most generally has their facts pretty much in order. And an ex-flak-happy gunner like myself could easily get the battle report screwed up somewhat as I'm sure a lot of us did.
Take care and thanks for writing. All the best. Walter M. Patrick
WALTER M. PATRICK
World War II
Biography and History
(Excerpts taken from letters sent to Will Lundy)
It was a pleasure hearing from you. Hazelton had told me in one of his last letters that I would probably hear from you. Talk about nostalgia - these past six months have really brought back long, lost memories. I had never imagined that I would get back together with some of my closest WW II comrades. Thanks to Walt Hazelton, it has all materialized.
First of all I want to congratulate you for the excellent reporting job you did in your book about the '67th Squadron during their WW II trials. It REALLY BROUGHT BACK OLD MEMORIES and it also helped me bring my combat crew record up to date since it only recorded the sortie number, but not the destination, which your book did have.
It's really a small world because your friend, H. C. Pete Henry had written me asking or the address of my former first pilot Jimmy Kahl. Unfortunately, I had lost it and was actually writing him a letter saying he was somewhere in Winona, MN when the mailman came and delivered your letter of August 18th with Jimmy's address that you had so kindly provided. Yes I did also hear from our former navigator Ed Mikoloski. I had served as his NCOIC of the base Education/Information office at Westover AFB, Mass., for a two-year period after the war. We had just run across each other by chance when I was passing through there and he convinced me I should work with him. It was a good move because I went on to spend the rest of my career in the USAF Information Field. I would retire with 28 years service in 1969 as an E-8.
In one of the recent issues of the 44th Log Book I saw where Walter L. Summey had folded his wings. What a wonderful way of noting one's passing. Summey flew with us on the first Wilhelmshaven raid and he also put me on the train in New York when we returned from combat in September of 1943. We were the first group of the original bunch to complete a tour. We "all" came back in one C-54 and then there were several B-17 crewmembers to fill out the load. Although, as historian, you probably have a copy of the orders I'm sending you one in case you don't. We're talking about the entire 44th Group, not just one squadron.
Since I was born and raised in the Army, my dad spent 30 years in the Corps of Engineers, I felt I was well trained and suited for combat, but how wrong I was. Was it Sherman who said war was hell, and was he ever right! All of us who went through the experience will never be able to file it away forever . . . You asked about stories relating about our WW II experiences . . . I'm not sure that too many people would believe mine. My daughter got an A+ in her college psychology parapsychology course in reporting my experience. As you well know, the August 1, 1943 Ploesti raid was not known until the summer of 1943 even though we did the low-level flying in England sometime during March or April in preparation for the mission, but we didn't know for what reason we were scaring the pants off the English population around Shipdham. In a nutshell, I had a "precognition dream" about the Ploesti raid. About halfway through our missions, losses had been so heavy that a lot of the crews (experienced) were broken up so that new crews coming in would have some experienced people aboard, especially the pilots, and it would also give the copilots a chance to become first pilots.
With ten missions under your belts at this stage of daylight flying, everybody who had survived that far was considered an old hand. Scrivner became our new first pilot and Jimmy Kahl (who I also met at Westover when I was an instructor gunner) took over a crew in another squadron, I think the 67th, but it could have been the 68th.
At any rate, I had this dream during an early morning in mid-February or early March of 1943. I'm not sure if I was awake or asleep, but one thing for sure, it was deeply imbedded in my mind. At the time, I was either the second or the third tail-gunner and Walter Hazelton was on the right waist. The dream picture was as follows, to the best of my memory.
The one thing about the whole incident was that I don't remember seeing me on the in-going flight. What I did see though was our plane had crashed in the target area. "Me and Walt Hazelton" were outside the plane and walking around it looking into the plane and seeing that everybody else aboard was dead. Hazelton and I were the only survivors only because we had been set down with 27 missions each since we had both volunteered to fly on other crews when our crew was actually on crew rest. The rest of the scene at the crash site went something like this: Right in the middle of where the plane was resting was a small stucco house that I could see off to the left of where I was standing by the nose compartment. Standing in the doorway of the farmhouse, because there was a wheat field nearby was a man and a woman and two small children hanging onto their parent's leg. The target area itself was as pictured in many reports as definitely an oil refinery. I clearly saw all the cracking plants and the storage areas. It was a mess - bombs were exploding all around us and fire raged. . . I didn't see any other planes in he air or on the ground. It was as if a snapshot had been taken with Hazelton and myself there at the scene. Of course, the real story was that neither of us went to Ploesti.
After the dream, or whatever it was, I never told anybody about it, even up to the day of Ploesti, but you can believe I had strong thoughts about it when I sat in on the raid briefing the night before and saw scenes that I had already seen some six or seven months previous. I knew in my heart, without a doubt, when Hazelton and me sat around all day for the planes to return that our boys didn't make it. That night when Walt and me were sitting in our tent, Major Jimmy Kahl drove up in a jeep and said for me and Walt to get in and go for a ride with him.
We went out to the parking area and sat as Jimmy told us what actually happened to our comrades. As Capt. Robert E. Miller (a survivor) led his flight into the White Five target that was already on fire, he lost his two wingmen. Capt. Thomas E. Scriver's ship came out in flames as the pilots fought gallantly for a crash landing. They skidded into a farmer's wheat field, but before the plane ended its slide, the aircraft exploded, killing everybody on board. Was this the exact time that one of the untold mysteries of the way things sometimes seem to occur that Patrick and Hazelton showed up on the scene. We all agree that unaccounted episodes such as this do happen and especially during wartime.
I didn't say anything to Hazelton about the incident until just recently when we finally got back in touch. I don't really know what his actual feeling about the story is, but Will, I would swear on a stack of bibles that his is the whole truth so help me God. That incident, alone, got me involved in the study of the whole field of parapsychology and I'm sure you know about what I speak and don't have to dwell into that. Things like this do happen and they are highly documented.
If you decide to do anything with this report, feel free to do it up right. With your writing skills, I'm sure you would do it justice. I'm pretty sure you have not had a more strange story come out of the 44th WWII combat experiences. I do have a photo of the Jimmy Kahl crew of which several of those who went down at Ploesti are included and the four of us who did survive. I was so deeply touched and affected by this mission that I'm not ashamed to say that I shed tears for years over my lost comrades, and I'm sure that most of the survivors of that particular era will say the same as will our very much-maligned Vietnam comrades.
Once again, I thank all the folks from the 44th and 2nd Adv. For their interest in this old war horse and the others like him. With God's permission, I will try to attend the 1989 Reunion of the 2nd Adv. At Hilton Head, since it's only about two hours south of here.
Keep up the good work, Will - you are doing one helluva good job and paying an unprecedented tribute to your World War II comrades in arms and in life. Let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.
Fraternally...Walter M. Patrick
P.S. If you decide to use the Ploesti story and need more detail or sidebar information, let me know and I'll give you what you need. Pat
Letter dated March 28, 1990 to Will Lundy
I wanted to get back to you before the second installment of the "From the Diary of Bob Blakeney," hit the press for no other reason than to say that I knew of their story because of my Westover days as an instructor. In particular, I knew the feisty little Rene Dones. He'll kill me, I know, if I was to let out what his real first name is (it's on some orders I have, putting us on flying status as instructor personnel. I won't tell Rene - ha!)
He would strut around Westover like a little bantam rooster. No wonder he got under the skin of the Luft Waft and later in the prison camp the Limey's (pardon me English, friends). The story and his buddy Frank Francis Curry told (they were the only two members of the crew to come to Westover) was that the Australians, along with some of the Italian guards, actually helped orchestrate the escape in order to get rid of them. They also were supposed to have set some kind of record for number of days behind the barbed wire for their particular camp. Seems to me that the period of two weeks sticks in my mind as to how long they were cooped up before the Aussies helped in the departure.
I wasn't too close to "Rene" but Joe Jett Curry and I were pretty friendly. I remember we used to exchange blouses once in awhile when ours were in the cleaners. I liked his Purple Heart and he liked my DFC. We were both Southerners (believe he was a Texan while I am a Tar Heel"), while Rene was a dag-gone "Yankee" (and I ended up marrying one from Mass.).
The other thing I wanted to mention was about the mid-air collision I saw over Germany. Since you say it couldn't have been on the first Wilhemshaven raid, you are probably right. It must have been on another mission - we did go there on three occasions, I believe, and it could have been on one of them or even somewhere else. The incident does stick in my mind, however, that it happened somewhere between number one and 27.
In answer to your question on that raid, the pilot of the first Wilhelmshaven mission was Capt. Kahl with Lt. Scrivner as copilot. We were hit bad and lost our hydraulic system and made an abbreviated crash landing on return. Kahl did an outstanding job considering he had steerage problems. After that raid, our crew, by the way, was selected to go over to Bassingborne, home of either the "Bloody" 91st (B-17 outfits) where our crew became radio personalities on the Weekly Combat Report by John Daly back to the states. All of our families were alerted as were friends. My big lines were about riding bikes around the English countryside courting the English girls and downing my share of the mild and bitters. My mom wasn't especially thrilled about the beer drinking part, but it didn't bother my father any who had put in 30 years as an enlisted man in the Corps of Engineers and knew a little about the brew part himself.
I did write a nice, encouraging card to Andy Rooney reminding him that the Wilhemshaven anniversary was coming up and the "flak" he's been taking about what he may or may not have said is nowhere near as dangerous as that that we took that day over Wilhelshaven. It was so thick you could walk on it.
I also reminded him that the B-24 Libs he saw off in the distance were the 44th bomb Group who were drawing all the FW-190s and the ME110s away form those tremendous Flying Fortresses were our boys and we should be given a round of applause by the glory-seeking Fortress lads - hip-hip-hooray!
You were right, by the way. He doesn't answer his WWII comrades, but that's all right with me. I just felt sorry for the situation he was in and would wish the same to any of my friends, although I didn't know him personally. As I said previously, I feel like I know John Daly a lot better. We had a ball the three days we were at Bassingborne.
I did know Sgt. Louis E. Stanley who was KIA on that same Wilhelmshaven mission. Stanley and I went back to Savannah Air Base in A-20 and we came to England with the 1st Night Fighter Squadron in May of 1942. We were first stationed at Grafton Underwood (and went to RAF Gunnery School at the same time)n and then to Poddington before being transferred into the 44th in August (September?) of 1942. He was from Atlanta, no less Peach Tree Street.
If you ever find time, yes I would like to see the report on Post (26 Feb. 1943) that you so graciously offered. With luck I will be able to see my old friend, Walter Hazelton, this summer in Norfolk. I certainly did enjoy reading the book Those Brave Crews by your friend, Ray Ward. It took a lot of guts for him to write up my report as being authentic. Probably the only person out there right now who might give some credence to my story would be Shirley McClaine," although I believe I've been on the metaphysical (sorry about the spelling - it's easier to apologize than to make the correction!) road about as long or longer than she has . . . I don't know if you read her stuff or not - I have read all her books - but the best of the lot by far is her latest "Going within." It's worth the time and effort to read.
Again, I thank you for your part in getting my story to Ray. He seems like a quite likable fellow himself. He's also from my home state of North Carolina.
I finally got back to my part-time job yesterday. I was out of work for six months due to no other than "Mr. Hugo." My work now is also Hugo-related getting the miniature golf course back in shape after the tree removal people finished doing their thing . . . We lost about 50 pine trees over the "course of events" (a pun, of course). As the home course pro (actually the maintenance man) of the course, I can now do my thing that all the trees have been removed and the stumps bored out. It was a six-month vacation at any rate and I spent all my hard-earned mad money.
I guess this letter about covers everything I wanted to write you about. All the best to you and yours. "Pat"
WALTER M. PATRICK
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
Go with it. I don't really think that I could improve on the present version. It was really nice hearing from you again. I'm sure the story can go in the March issue just as well. After all these years it doesn't make that much difference does it?
The Herbert Gentry story is really clouded with intrigue because of several reasons. Number one is that he could have come into the 44th the same time I did. I joined the group after they arrived in England. I may have told you before that I arrived in May 1942 with an A-20 group that later went to Africa. I was a private in the armament field and went to RAF Gunnery School - June-July 1942 and went into the 44th in September still as a private. I didn't make sergeant until several days prior to my first mission. There were about 20 of us in the replacement pool in Norwich that were shipped into the 44th. Some had combat experience with the same group I was in, and others like myself had been assigned to crews and did a lot of practice flying but no combat. I may add that there were very, very few of this group who made it through. No more than one was assigned to one particular crew. I'm sure that Jack O. Banta was one of them and he, by the way, had more missions than any of us with 30, the Ploesti fiasco his last.
While on the subject of Ploesti, do you have the book Ploesti. The great ground-air battle of 1 August 1943 by James Dugan and Carroll Stewart, Random House. This book, in detail, tells both sides of the story and includes every name on either side who was in any way remotely concerned with the action. I use it as my absolute check on anybody who claims they went on the mission - and there are lots of people who have the gall to claim such honors over those who did or didn't survive. I have caught more than a few officers and enlisted alike who like to add, "The Glory of Ploesti," to their list of WWII accomplishments.
I've never said I was there - only before the mission. Some believe that story and others laugh at it and act towards me in a doubting sort of way. I've really digressed from our man Gentry but look at the photo taken at the Helliopolis swimming pool in Cairo as the survivors, of any way or another, made their way back to England for rotation, and lo and behold who should appear in the photo but our mystery man.
The orders I sent you, by the way, were cut at Preswich, Scotland where we and the B-17 members joined us. I think that several of the names that appeared on those orders could have been the B-17 guys who were mistakenly listed as 44th men.
By the way, another bit of history took place on the C-54 out of Prestwich that took us back home into "halajuwa" LaGuardia Field around midnight - and guess where most of us went? Don't know when you joined the 44th, but in either April or May of 1943 Bob Hope and Martha Ray did a guest appearance at the mess hall one night which most of us went to see and enjoyed. Then about mid-July on the desert sands of Benjazi, who should show up but the "Bob Hope" troupe. This time I sat on an empty ammunition case in the back row to watch the show.
Yes, you may have guessed it - when we went to load onto the C-54 at Prestwich there was our friend Bob Hope and Martha and entourage. At this stage of the game we weren't as interested in Bob Hope as we were on getting home. We dropped the show off at Iceland and flew on to Bangor Maine and into LaGuardia. Oh, yes, the B-17 guys who flew back with us had had their own "Armageddon" the same day as our boys did at Ploesti. They had gone on the first daylight raid on Schweinfurt - their losses were at least 60 plus also - need I say more?
I'll close for now. Let me hear from you if I can be of any help or assistance. I still have several small stories about that time stored away in as you say the fast-fading memory bank. Your comrade in war and peace.
Walter M. Patrick
P.S. You may borrow my Ploesti book if you want. Can you put me onto a 44th Bomb Group patch? I'll pay. I have just the jacket to sew it on for the trip to Hilton Head.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
November 1, 1988
By now you should have received my package. After second thoughts, I've decided to send you "The Rest of the Story," that goes sort of like this. This time it was a definite regular dream. Again, it had to do with airplanes. The dream began in a mountain valley about 5,000 feet with weather clear and sunny. It was a small plane (I have a hard time placing it as a "kopter" or something similar to a Stearman, etc.) although I was in what seemed to me like a "tail-gunner" position. The next thing I knew we were hovering just above the ground about to crash-land. Then there we were on the ground with all the covering strippedfromthe plane but I was still enclosed with flying gear including parachute and fabric from the plane. Both the pilot and myself survived the crash and went different ways.
The scene then flashed to Westover Field, Mass. (where I spent three separate tours, WWII and after). I was struggling through a snowstorm and making my way through several foot drifts and loaded down with all this crash gear but was saved, so to speak, by members of the Navy VR-6 Squadron and taken to their Operations Center. "End of Dream."
The pilot of the plane was no other than Tommy Scrivner who went down in flames at Ploesti. I had the dream the "night before" your letter arrived containing the Ploesti story. When I went back to check on Tommy's hometown, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if it had been San Bernardino. But no, it was Berkeley still in California though.
Is there any way you can check and see if Tommy Scrivner played football for Southern California during the 1938-39-40 era? That seems to be a popular sports name throughout California. I seem to be in the middle of dreams relating to 44th people. Just last night I flew with T/Sgt. Tauno Metsa who was the flight engineer on "V Victory" piloted by Capt. John Diehl whose copilot was col. James T. Posey that led the charge into Blue Target at the fateful August 1, 1943 Ploesti low level.
Surprisingly enough in my dream of last night, Sergeant Metsa was the pilot of a four-engine plane of type unknown and I was a corporal (if you remember, I never was a Pfc or corporal, but was promoted directly to buck sergeant). Most of this flight is not clearly in my mind but I do know that we landed at Randolph AFB, Texas under some sort of unusual circumstances.
As previously stated Metsa and myself were stationed at Westover and were on the standardization board checking out other instructor personnel. Many a time he landed the B-24 and I served as his engineer calling out the air speeds. He could fly as good as most pilots. As far as I know he still lives somewhere in the Detroit area. Would like his address if available. You'll know what I'm talking about when I say that a lot of this recent recall may be the result of me reading Shirley MacLaine's recent book, "It's all in the Playing," after having previously read "Out on a Limb," and "Dancing in the Light." Being from California, you'll know what my current interests are, of course, whetted, and nourished by my Ploesti dream. I'm sure you have heard enough of my "flying dreams" by now so will sign off. Let me hear from you again soon.
WALTER M. PATRICK
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
Mt. Pleasant, SC
15 December 1988
Thanks so much for your card and accompanying material. First of all, I want to clear up the idea that I seem to have implied that Hazelton wasn't at the "Dream" crash scene because he was. If it had been me by myself, I may have not put so much credence to the "Dream" but you must admit that with Hazelton being there makes the "Dream" that much more scary, believable or unbelievable according to which school of thought one decides to pursue. A simple delete sign around the rest should take care of the situation as written. Right?
I really like Ray Ward's poem and like you would want to get a copy of the book for no other reason than the part the 44th must play throughout the publication. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make the Fort Worth trip, although I'd love to be there - will just have to wait until Hilton Head to meet up with you folks.
Later on, could you send me Ray Ward's address.
Until today, believe it or not, I did not know the name of the plane "Scrappy II" so adequately penned. I don't worry too much about the "recurring' ... dreams, although I would be the first to admit that there's something to be learned from one's dreams - yet I don't feel too qualified as a dream analyst. They are mostly too complicated and the retention span usually doesn't last long, unless it is really something special. The Ploesti dream still remains with me though.
I think I've covered about everything to date. Hope you and yours have a most joyous holiday season.
P.S. What is the nose color of the 66th squadron?