JAMES R. PERRY, JR.|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
4691 SW Helmholtz Way
Redmond, Oregon 97756
17 October 1986
Dear Mr. Lundy:
Regarding your letter of the 9th of October. Since receiving your letter, I have talked with Robert S. Knoll. The address you gave me was right, but your telephone number was wrong and he is listed incorrectly in the wrong town. His address is 142 Wernersville, PA, phone 215-678-1777. I was absolutely astounded when I confirmed his identity. I had thought for 42 years that he was dead. I had never heard otherwise. Thanks for the info.
You mention the mission to France when Cookus got shot up. You think I remember? I not only recall it, I remember it vividly. I was there. I was on Keith's right wing flying formation, looking at him when we got hit. I have read about it as published in the book The Liberators, but that story was incorrect. Keith was a good friend of mine but he screwed up and we all paid for it. I know he is now dead and not here to defend himself, but I may write it up as I saw it. The version I read was probably more accurate about after he got knocked down than mine, but up to that point, I don't believe the truth was ever told.
Reviewing the list of pilots you sent, I knew most of them quite well and they knew me. There was Dick Butler who, I believe, was a captain at that time. He flew down to Maidstone and picked my crew up when we had to land there after the tour's mission. James Hill and Dellas Brown, Larry Parks, Bill Aldrich, Ray Lacombe, Bob McCormick, Stamos --- I have my old black boot out and see where he signed in it, Robert G. Stamos, 154 S. 7th East, Salt Lake City. Bob Stamos and I were friends in high school. He was from a Greek family who owned a big restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah. I remember bob Schmidt, Rockford Griffith and Richard Thornton who, I believe, was on Cookus' other wing in number three position. He was the one with over 300 holes. Yes, I would like addresses for all of the above. I'll surprise them at Christmas time.
I have written a letter to Capt. Klaus with a story which I hope he can publish without editorial reduction. If it gets published, there may be others.
All for now,
James R. Perry, Jr.
Col. USAF (Ret)
30 January 1992
I am sorry that it has taken me such a long time to answer your letter. But there were several reasons for the delay. On the 23rd of December both my wife had the flu and were quite sick. Recovered now and now I will try to set the record straight as far as I know it concerning the aircraft that was named "Star Spangled Hell." I believe that I flew it, but I can't prove it.
While I was assigned to the 44th BG from 20 September 1943 to the first part of April 1944, I flew 11 combat missions. The first four missions, 26 December, 21 January, 29 January, and 5 February were all flown in B-24 D, S/N 42-72873. This aircraft was crewed by Odis E. (Curly) Nelson. I do not believe that this aircraft had a name and I know it didn't have any nose art when I flew it. On 5 February 1944 coming off of the "Tours" mission in France, I had to make a forced landing in this aircraft at West Malling, Kent. This aircraft 42-72873 remained at West Malling undergoing repairs for well over a month. Myself and Curly Nelson flew this aircraft back to the base at Shipdham on 20 March 1944. This information was extracted from my AF form 5 which I have in my possession. To answer your question directly, this aircraft was not "Star Spangled Hell."
On my fifth mission, 2 March 1944, which was to Frankfurt, I flew "C" bar, 767 (I don't have complete serial number) which according to my form 5 record was an "H" model.
On my sixth mission, 8 March 1944, which was the group's first mission to Berlin, I flew "F Bar," 367 which is recorded in different places in my form 5 as both an "H" and as a "J" model. I believe it was a "J" model as it is referred to in several different places as a "J."
No, my seventh, eighth and ninth missions which were on 9, 21, and 22 March, I do not know for sure which aircraft I flew.
On my tenth mission to St. Dezier on 24 March and on my 11th mission to Tillencourt on 26 March, I flew "F" Bar, 367 which was recorded as a "J" Model.
Just for your information and to help clarify the situation, I believe that "Star Spangled Hell" was an "H" model. This, I conclude from my picture of the nose of the aircraft (which you have a copy of). If I eliminate those other aircraft, the D's, the J's and the three that I can't identify, that leaves C Bar 767 which your latest letter identifies as 42-7767, C Bar. It may well be the aircraft "Star Spangled Hell."
I did call both Curly Nelson and Mike Curtain but neither of them could shed any positive light on this matter.
Just to recall a little background on this subject: When I received Vol. 1, No. 3 copy of the "Logbook," dated August 1986, I saw on page 6 a picture of "Star Spangled Hell" under a heading of "Unidentified B-24 Nose Art." At that time Captain Klaus was the editor and I believe you were the historian. Also, at that time I was assembling some information to send to both of you. Since I well recognized the information could well be used in current publication and the information had considerable value for the historian. Therefore, I prepared and mailed two complete duplicate packages of information. One to you and one to Klaus. In both packages there was a copy of a picture of my crew standing in front of the nose of "Star Spangled Hell." It is that picture that I used to identify "Star Spangled Hell" as an "H" model B-24.
Now I hope that this will shed some light on this for you and may provide the information your inquiry wants.
I have given a lot of study to the formation sheets that you sent me and I can provide the following information concerning them:
21 January 1944 This is the formation sheet for the infamous "Cookus" mission over Pas de Calais. It is correct that Brown flew and not Thorton as I originally thought. However, we did not fly as shown on the formation sheet. When we assembled, I took the position on Cookus' right wing and Brown took the position on his left wing.
29 January 1944 Ray Lacombe and Bunker leading. I believe that this was a mission to Frankfurt on the Main. We were probably after a chemical works. We had severe headwinds on the way out. We were supposed to be 6:10 enroute and we were 7:20 enroute.
5 February 1944 Hill leading with Middleton as deputy lead. This was the mission to Tours, France to bomb a German airfield which was an advanced school for fighter pilots. Note the marks on the sheet indicating the switch between lead and deputy lead. This factor, no doubt, contributed to the screw up in bombing. The details of this are contained in a short story on this mission. Also, see the note next to Perry: down at West Malling, near Maidstone.
2 March 1944 Hughes leading. This mission was my second trip to Frankfurt on the Main. I believe we were sent to clean up some of our misses on the first mission of 29 January 1944.
6 February 1944 Martin leading. I did not fly this mission and I can't identify it. Suggest that Cardensis might shed some light on this mission.
8 March 1944 This was the big one! This was the group's first mission to Berlin, the Big "B." Note on the sheet that Col. Dent was in the lead plane. We bombed the Erkner Engine Works on the east side of Berlin. When we came off of the target, we made a 90 degree turn to the left, directly over the center of Berlin. The Germans had 1,000 guns protecting that target and the flak was thick enough to walk on.
24 March 1944 This was the mission to St. Dezier, France.
26 March 1944 This was the mission to Tillencourt
4 February 1944 Whitner and Col. Culbertson leading. This mission was recalled after takeoff and was never flown.
I hope that this information will shed some light on your request. Again, I am very sorry that I took so long in answering your letter.
I would also like to make a request of you. Do you have formation sheets for 9, 21, 22 March, 1944? If you do, I would greatly appreciate copies of them.
Let me hear from you. What you have to say is always of interest.
James R. Perry, Jr.