HERBERT JOSLIN WILSON, M.D.|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
P. O. Box 249
New Town, North Dakota 58763
Many thanks for your two interesting letters (and all you are doing to collect memories of the 67th). You have jogged my memory, which is so full of other events that I hardly recall much of my "flying" days. Each week here I am under pressure to write a column for our local newspaper. The thoughts you started in me are responsible for this week's article - a letter to you about at least one instance I recall. I do not know what plane I was flying at the time, nor even if it was in the 67th (you see I started out with the 506th).
You see, I was really ground crew, being trained at Lowry Field (I remember the night shift) to be an armorer - specifically on power turrets). From there I went to Warner Robbins where I sassed a mess sergeant - thence shipped overseas in three days! On the Queen Mary, landing in East Anglia as replacement armorer ground crew. As the fighting stepped up early in 1944, individual members of crews would become ill or nervous (or receive minor - some major injuries). The rest of the crew could fly, but someone was needed for the mission slot.
A call went out for volunteers among us armorers who would know all about the 50 caliber and the power turrets (and since I was a college man, also about the Sperry and Norden bombsights!!!)
So about 12 of us answered the call and were "checked out" in two weeks. One of our training flights was memorable in that I went up with a new crew fresh from the states. The navigator must have been sleeping or not aware of the geography. I was flying in the waist and all of a sudden heard the "woof" of flak alongside of us - and the black cloud and the small holes in the aluminum fuselage. There were numerous bundles of "foil" stacked up. The other waist gunner and I started to throw the boxes out the open window. (We did not know till later that this chaff would be ineffective unless it came out in streamers).
Well, the plane which was at 12,000 over the Pas de Calais area managed to quickly turn around and get back across the channel to land at Ramsgate. Another plane was sent from Shipdham to bring us home.
Thus, my closest call (other than the one I write about in the newspaper article) was not doing any mission - but wile on training. I guess that was true of a lot of the airmen of those times.
So as much as I would like to hear about the James Stephen crew, because of the fact that I flew with a different crew most every mission, I cannot recall a single pilot's name nor single "war buddy" except Steve Whittles [most in Todd's book, 68 Sq.?], who was the best man at my wedding on January 20l 1945 on the Isle of Wight. I have just returned to the church in which I was married and had a "blessing" of the marriage - took our six children with us - 50 years is a long time!
We did not have time to return to Shipdham, but I am hoping to some day. My life is still very full of being a physician.
Following my tour of 31 missions, I decided to stay on at Shipdham since I was courting Lilian - I took on the job of training bombardiers with target recognition and map reading. I slept there and one night I recall a buzz bomb coming over which "cut out" seemingly overhead. I rolled up in my mattress expecting the worst, but the bomb had landed in a farmyard.
Well, you must get many letters like the one I am writing. Where do you find time to read them all?
As time allows, I would like to volunteer to help you to find someone to take my place. Until I do, I will only have time to sneak a letter like this one. Sorry, not to have been of any more help.
Area doctor to receive award
By Eloise Ogden, Regional Editor
February 10, 1995
Minot (N.D.) Daily News
A long-time New Town area doctor and a Minot-based health program will be honored in Bismarck this month for outstanding work in rural health.
The awards will be presented February 23rd during the 11th annual Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health at the Radisson Inn, Bismarck.
Dr. Herbert Wilson has been selected for the Outstanding Rural Health Provider Award. Wilson has been a physician in the New Town area for 42 years.
The Rural Mental Health Consortium of North Dakota, based at Uni-Med Medical Center, Minot, will receive the Outstanding Rural Health Program Award.
"It's real unusual for two awards to come out of the same region of the state," said Brad Gibbens, of Grand Forks, chairman of the awards committee.
A third award will go to Leo Geiger, administrator of the Ashley Medical Center. He will get the Outstanding Rural Health Professional Award.
Wilson was selected for his award because of his lifelong commitment to the people of the New Town area, Gibbens said.
"He's an example of the old-time doc, a man who has given his entire life literally to helping people," Gibbens said. "It's medicine as a lifestyle."
Wilson serves the New Town Health Center in New Town and the Indian Health Service clinic west of New Town. He also has clinic hours in Stanley.
The Rural Mental Health Consortium of North Dakota is a consortium of North Dakota and is a consortium of Uni-Med and four rural hospitals, Rolla, Bottineau, Kenmare and Harvey. Carolyn Decker is the director.
Gibbens said the consortium allows rural people to have access in a rural setting to psychiatrists, counselors, and addiction counselors. They go to the rural setting."
An Open Letter to Will Lundy from Dr. W.
Dear Will Lundy:
This is a reply to the second letter I have received from you - possibly my old crew chief - wanting any recollections of flying in E 411. You must know that I was a "substitute crewman" flying in any position except pilot or engineer whenever a regular member became ill or injured. So much has happened in my life since 1944 that I cannot recall by name a single B24 or pilot. You have been active in the "memory" organizations, so I only recognize your name that way.
As for instances, the commemorative books are full of them. Do you have the most recent - Kiefer's "The 506th Squadron History," and Benarcik's "453rd Bombardment Group, An Illustrated Record"?
Here is a recollection, however, I have not read about! Let me entitle it "Throwing Your Weight Around." Bomb bay doors were notorious for not opening on the bomb run just when you wanted them to (not on the planes you took care of, of course!). Standing Orders permitted us to release 500 pounders anyway, because they conveniently broke through the aluminum bays (somewhat like rolling garbage doors today). Well, it so happened that we were carrying magnesium sticks (incendiaries) on a daylight raid to an aircraft factory near the Black Forest. These light sticks did not break through when they left their racks, so two of us (I believe I was in the ball turret at the time) went into the bomb bay, leaving our oxygen behind, but clutching our parachute bundle. We proceeded to jump up and down on the incendiaries, which were already arming themselves as evidenced by the whirling propellers on each stick. The door suddenly gave way, leaving us hanging, holding onto the many tubes traversing the roof of the fuselage.
We managed to get back to our stations (and to our oxygen) by swinging from overhead. I was always glad I had some monkey blood in me!
Now, the point of such a story, and other stories of 1944 recited in 1995 is that now we can look back on a life of a half century ago and point up the way it positively affects our present living.
1. Of course, it makes us very thankful to be alive, and to be thankful to someone - a creator - who, we perceive, has spared us.
2. It makes us feel that we are something special and should use all our life for something special.
And to make a long story short, Will, after the war experience, I became a physician and have been so busy ever since, that I have, somehow, put the trauma of war deep in the back of my mind - subconscious, maybe - but perhaps the foundation of the way I act and, indeed, perceive the world.
I often wonder how the youth of today gain the foundation for respect for their nation and for the grace given them just to be alive. No, we did not need the danger of combat to awaken us.
As a matter of fact, many of us came back from the conflicts without any particular enlightenment. I am hardly advocating the event of another Hitler!
People have written much in an attempt to find the moral equivalent of war. This is an appeal through this Quality of Life article (an open letter to my old war buddy, Will Lundy) for anyone to send your ideas in to me.
No talk or review of the past is of use unless it relates to the future - otherwise, we reunion buffs are just a group of old men chortling over a past made irrelevant by the hurry of today.
Your war buddy, T/Sgt. Wilson.