RAYMOND J. LACOMBE|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
July 21, 1995
I received a letter from Kevin Watson the same day yours arrived. I have since written to him providing, to some extent, the information he requested including a photograph.
I was informed about the new 44th Bomb Group Veteran's Association and responded by sending someone "I forget who," a check for $15.00, ostensibly for a membership. If not, I'll be happy to contribute whatever is required.
Have not kept a written diary, but in a capsule here is my story.
Transferred from the RCAF into the 44th in "506th" March of 1943. Flew Ruthless including Ploesti until returning from Africa. Became a first pilot upon transferring to the 67th. Flew leads and other assignments until bailing out over Switzerland on my last mission (March 1944).
Flew the coop while interned in Switzerland and joined up with the Maquis "Free French." After the invasion, rejoined the allies, was sent home, and sold war bonds for awhile.
Attended the ATC Airline Training School in Homestead, Florida in 1945 and stationed at Westonie AFB. Spent the next five years flying transoceanic routes to Europe, Africa, and South America.
Participated in the Blue Jay Project during the construction of Thule.
In 194_? Spent 14 months on the Berlin Airlift flying out of Rhine Main, AF. Continued in ATC. Later MATS until being assigned the United Nations Command staff in Seoul, Korea. Pictured in 1957 and assigned to SAC.
Joined SAC in Lake Charles, Surtsmith, Altus and finally Barksdale where I retired. Base Commander at Wurtsmith and Altus.
Returned after 23 years (1966) because I wanted to try something else. Joined the Boeing Company in New Orleans "Michaud Complex" where we manufactured the SIC, the first stage of the vehicle placing our guys on the moon.
When that contract ran out, I went to work for Martin Marietta in the same location building the external tank to the Space Shuttle.
Spent 19 years in aerospace and loved every minute of it. Finally retired from Martin Marietta ten years ago.
The past three or four years were difficult ones for my wife who passed away last August. Since then, I have traveled a great deal. This year I spent a month in Tasmania and New Zealand during the spring. Have just returned form a month in Alaska and have something in mind this fall.
I realize this is not the sort of news you are looking for but it might clear up a few gray areas.
If I can be of further help, please call me. Now that I'm free to travel, I intend to attend the next 44th reunion. It will be my first one.
What you are doing is very worthwhile and I'm sure everyone appreciates your efforts.
P.S. The last time I saw Dick Butler, he was hobbling around on a broken leg (arm?) after crash landing during an approach to Shipdham. Please give him my very best if you see him.
Your letter was a pleasant surprise.
August 12, 1995
Thank you for the formation sketch of my missions. I Found the list interesting. I Had forgotten that Walt Bunser and I flew together. Walt and I were very friendly and resumed a relationship while I was stationed at Westover. He flew through a few times and stayed over at our place.
The last time I saw Walt was in London. General Johnson headed up a military organization there after being awarded four stars and Walt was on his staff. That was the last time I talked to him and General Johnson. I indirectly heard that Walt developed cancer of the throat and died. I'd be happy to hear the information is false.
To answer your question, Yes. I transferred from the RCAF in early March 1943 and was assigned the 506th on April 23, 1943, while they were assigned to the 44th at Shipdham. Later assigned to the 67th on October 9, 1943.
I hadn't received a list of my crew, but kept up with George Cavaur. Jack Tinney died this year. His wife wrote and informed me of his death. None of us ever heard from our navigator. Sorry to hear that Higley and Flister passed on.
I Lost my wife a year ago and I have spent the majority of my time traveling, with plenty of golf thrown in. Am having difficulty holding on to an eight handicap, but so far so good.
I received another letter from Kevin. He would like to meet with me in Bermuda next month and review some of his material. He sent me an article he wrote which included a photograph purportedly of the youngest crew chief to die in the 44th. I've included the article for you to review but I told Kevin I'm convinced that it is Charlie Shaw. George Grimes has his back to the camera. Both flew as replacement crewmembers after we returned form Africa but were shot down and failed to survive. We flew together on quite a few missions including Ploesti.
Charley was the bombardier and George the navigator. Please return the item after your review.
All for now, Will. This past few months you and Kevin have conjured up old memories that hadn't crossed my mind in years. I've enjoyed it and hope to see you at the next reunion.