PERSHING G. "PERCH" ROLFE|
World War II Memories
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
Dear Mr. Lundy:
It's a struggle for me to write sitting in a chair. After two major strokes, I'm pretty well handicapped. I'll try and give you some information.
On December 20, 1942, our plane (Adams was redlined), Major Key asked me to replace a crewmember on MacPhilamy's plane. Target was Rommily-sur Seine, France, an airfield. Target hit. Fighters like mosquitoes all around us. I was credited for one FW-190. My electric suit went out. Hands and feet severely frost bitten.
On same mission, George Delacy lost his arm due to frostbite. It was removed just below the shoulder on January 27, 1943. I think that was the first American raid on Germany. Target Wilhamshaven. Cloud cover over that, secondary, Hamm, but we didn't hit it. Our co-pilot was C. O. Col. Leon Johnson.
My hands and feet not fully healed and were frozen again, knocking me out of combat status.
Another incident, but I can't remember the date (I think March 18, 1943), Miller's plane returned from missing with my good friend Lucas Balsey wounded. He was hit in the forearm and belly with 303. Our ambulance took him to Norwich, English hospital. I accompanied him in the ambulance. A few days later, I went to see him. He was in good spirits, laughed and joked. The next day he died. It was a bitter blow to me. Such a fine person. I think he was from Pocatello, Idaho. I wonder if he has any surviving kin as I never did write to them.
Ernst - radio op. Bailed out over France. Partisan's walked him over Pyrenness Mountains into Spain. He returned to 44th.
Wm. Brandon crash landed in Switzerland and interned for awhile. He also returned to 44th.
Satterfield of Kahl's crew was hit in buttocks and lost two pounds of flesh off his butt. Always said, "that's the way, get hit in the ass." - ha!
On leaving Newfoundland, we had our flight surgeon (T/Sgt. Lemuel A. Cotterman) on board also 1st Sgt. Of 66th. After the war, I did see Wygonik in Cicero, Ill.
Jim Mufflin visited me also. He said he was blown out of waist window. Upon landing, broke legs and arms.
I also saw Ken Sanders of MacPhillamy crew. He was radio op. And POW over two years. Mac's crew was not listed on your page 13. (see page 14).
Yes, Jim H. seems like a very nice person.
Don't know if this is what you need, but may be useful.
Sincerely - "Perch" Rolfe.
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
Bridgeport, CA??? You must be in the Sierras. I've traveled from southern California to the Oregon border, but Bridgeport? Never heard of it. I spent a lot of time around Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton, even San Francisco.
After being grounded from frostbite injuries during high altitude flights and missions , a small group of us were asked to become part of a training program to help train new crewmen coming to England in other groups. We started at Hethel (389th) with Bob Billman (68th), original engineer for R. Erwin, and Hyland V. Simmons, also 68th, who was injured on January 3, 1943 while flying as engineer on R. Erwin's plane, was seriously injured. Bob now lives in Pacific, MO, about 40 miles from here. I see him occasionally, but as I can't drive now, so have to depend on someone to take me. Can't figure it out - my right leg and arm are okay and that's all I need to drive. I suppose it's for the best as my coordination is bad.
Anyway, after leaving Hethel, we went to, of all places, Cheddington, again. After that, we were sent to Cluntoe, Northern Ireland. It was there that I obtained a waiver to fly again, but at low altitude - and picked up 1,500 more hours of flying all over England.
After Cluntoe, we were made into a C.C.R.C. Group and went to France and to Germany. Our mission was to locate and find any German secret weapons. After they were retrieved, they were sent to Wright-Patterson to be evaluated and studied. I got to see a lot as we were all over Germany - very interesting!
Last time did I tell you that many years ago I stopped in to see Adam Wygonik? He was in the top turret of Lt. Reed's ship (14 May 1943) over Kiel, Germany when it was hit by a 20mm shell. Sgt. Perry, radio operator, got him down from the turret, took him to the rear of the flight deck near the bomb bay, put his hand on the ripcord. As Wygonik's face and head were bleeding so badly from the blast he couldn't possibly wear an oxygen mask, so he parachuted to possibly get medical attention from the Germans. When I saw Adam, his face still was badly scarred, and he lost an eye, as well.
Satterfield! Great, happy-go-lucky guy?? I remember when he came to our hut after release from the hospital - he would laugh and say, "When my grandchildren ask me where I was hit, I'll just tell them 'in the as, and lost a pound of meat from my butt!" Golly, I hope he is okay!
I was going to Austin, Texas about a year and a half ago and still on the moving electric ramp at St. Louis going to our gate, I saw some guy with a B-4 jacket with the Flying Eightball on it! I yelled, "Hey, 44ther!!", but I guess that he didn't hear me.
My son is checking for "Balsley" in Idaho - Boise or Pocatello, but now that I have Pierce, I'll have him check it out on his disk.
By the way, when I was at the Air Force Museum at Dayton, Ohio, I inquired whether they had any books or information on the 44th BG. They did not have any. So I guess the place to start now is your books and your friends (Steve Adams) in Norwich. I found the AFM to be real interesting and a "must see" if one is traveling east on I-70 - it is clearly marked.
Lt. Col. Brandon and his crew were interned in Sweden. Later, he returned to England and I talked with him the same day that he arrived. He was dressed in a civvy suit made of paper - this was at Pine Tree Headquarters.
Since all of these happenings, I've been to Vietnam, worked there as a civilian advisor to our American troops and the Vietnamese as well. That was a real experience, too. Now, to top it all off, we have two Vietnam ladies to take care of us, on top of my two strokes, my wife has Alzheimer's. So we need 24-hour care and I do not want either of us in a #$@%$# nursing home.
I was a big lake trout fisherman - or any kind of trout. I always went to the trout derby in the Finger Lakes in New York state. Still have hopes of one more trip for that derby, as I haven't yet caught the first prize.
Take good care, Will. Good to hear from you.
Persh Rolfe, 66th Sq.