66th Squadron Ugarte Crew
Memories of World War II
(Parts taken from a letter written to
Will Lundy dated 9/15/81)
I have been in touch with Frank DiMola and "Pete" Henry with reference to the 44th Bomb Group and 2ADA. "Pete" has given me your address and stated you were working on a history of the 44th BG and the 67 Squadron.
I wish it was possible to pass along a "choicy" bit of information on either the 66th or the 67th, but it has been so long ago that I'm afraid some facts are a bit hazy.
Our crew left the states about the middle of September 1943 after having flown over from Herrington, Kansas, Bangor, Maine, then stopped over at Goose Bay, Labrador, BW-1, Greenland, Iceland, Prestwick, Scotland, where our B-24 was taken away form us. That was rather sad since we did check the plane out from the very beginning. Having also landed in Rome, New York for modifications, in fact, seems all along we received some modifications no matter where we landed.
Our final destination, for several days was Cheddington, England. Why, I was never certain. Anyway, all was not in vain since we were paid per diem from the very day we left the states. It must have been the latter part of September when we finally arrived in Shipdham, in England, Norfolk County, Station 115, and the 44th Bomb Group from where we flew our tour.
We were soon to learn that we were replacements for those crews, which had sustained such severe losses over Ploesti under the leadership of the then Colonel Leon W. Johnson. We were forced to sweat out the time since our arrival until Thanksgiving Day, November 1943, when we flew our first mission. And what a mission it was. That was while we were assigned to the 66th Squadron. Some time later our crew was reassigned to the 67th.
We were given an old "clunker" (Lemon Drop) to fly. No front turret, no ball turret and among all, a caliber 30 machine gun mounted beneath the flight deck near the "put-put." I was told that while taking pictures (I was a radio-operator-gunner), I was to fire the 30. It never happened.
You might have guessed that we were place din the "coffin-corner' of the formation. I don't recall how many B-24s were in our formation, but there were not too many. At that time, we knew several days in advance that we were to fly a mission; which, of course, gave the local civilian population all the intelligence necessary if need be. At very most, we flew perhaps two missions a week, weather permitting.
The B-24 we flew on that first time was called "Lemon Drop." The name could not have been more appropriate. No demand type oxygen system, just the constant supply type. You probably remember the type with the bladder that filled up with saliva and froze up at altitude. Well, we were each presented with about three each. I can still see the bombardier with the load over his shoulders, and froze, they did!
Our target was ore deposits, which were, unloaded the mount of the Kiel Canal and was subsequently to have been loaded on barges for shipment to aircraft factories for Hitler's German Air Force. At that stage of the game, there was little or no fighter cover. Possibly just over the Channel and a short way over France. That was it! On the return trip, some fighters, but only if the scheduling was correct. But it all hinge don combat conditions, weather, etc.
We were all scared and had to reply on what training we could have remembered. Not much since we laid around for the better part of two months.
It wasn't long over enemy territory that we had encountered short periods of flak and fighters. However at nearing the target the flak became heavier and the fighters more numerous. Well, all the gunners could do was to point their guns in the direction of the fighters and hope the tracers would keep them at a distance. At least it was an attempt.
We dropped our bombs on the primary target and with good results, we were told. During that period, it was rumored Hitler had a secret weapon which he was sure to use against us. Well, we did see some strange articles hurtling in space which looked like ash cans, which might have been empty gas tanks dropped from the German fighters, but we did snicker at some stupid fireworks which looked like pinwheels trailing smoke behind them.
Shortly after we dropped our bombs and turned to go home, our bombardier and navigator had announced that a German fighter had dropped a cable on us. It wrapped itself around the grip work of the "green house." I don't recall if any of the metal or Plexiglas was broken. But it must have since the bombardier was cut above the eye and the navigator had received a cut beneath the left eye (as I can recall). Just about that time, we, on the flight deck, could see the cable flapping. Fortunately not close enough to the windshield.
Shortly afterward one of the waist gunners announced he had been hit in the leg with some kind of projectile. I then saw some sort of projectile flaming from both ends on the catwalk of the bomb bay. We all didn't know what it was except the pilot said that probably it was a 20-mm slug probably of the tracer variety. It soon burned it half out. Guess it was a magnesium-type of thing.
The pilot suggested I go down to the bombardier's compartment to see if I could help. So with a wall-around bottle, I struggled through that narrow opening and since they were not in any immediate danger, they motioned I go back.
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
329 Rahway Ave. S
September 3, 1982
Letter to Mr. Frank DiMola
390 Madison Ave.
New Milford, New Jersey
I have your article which appeared in the Courier-News inquiring about "B-24 Veterans."
I was a radio-operator gunner stationed in Shipdham, Norfolk County in England from September 1942 until the following September or thereabouts.
Ours was the 44th Bomb Group, Second Bomb Division, 8th Air Force. Our crew was assigned to the 66th and to the 67th Bomb Squadron from where we flew 30 missions from November 1942; don't recall when we had completed our tour.
We were also attached to the 14th Combat Wing; if that is important.
I was assigned to Scott Field, Illinois where I had received my radio course, and after being made Buck Sergeant or PFC was sent to Gunnery School in Kingman, Arizona. (Maybe it was the other way around).
Shortly after having received phase training in Tucson, Arizona and Casper, Wyoming; we picked up our B-24 in Herrington, Kansas and flew over to England.
Our first mission was, I believe, Thanksgiving 1943 where we did get shot up a little, fortunately, I didn't!
We were sent over as replacements for the losses suffered by our bomber crews after the raid over Ploesti. Our group commander was, at that time Col. Leon W. Johnson who had, as a result, received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The earlier days were a "big deal" when we sent up ten B-24s only about twice a week, but soon, we were flying either every day or every other day until we finished up, a part of about 20 or 25 aircraft.
But that is all behind us. Would be nice to muster up a bunch of guys we knew, but it will take time since they are scattered all over the country.
Good luck, anyway, and let me hear from you.
September 26, 1981
Thank you kindly for the information in your September 22nd letter. Will answer your questions as best as I am able.
1. Our crew was:
Lt. Paulino Ugarte Pilot Washington, D.C.
Lt. Harold Koontz Copilot
Lt. Sterling Holm Bombardier
Lt. Joseph Loeffer Navigator Solderton, PA
T/Sgt. Frank Kokta Engineer-Gunner Reams, Virginia
T/Sgt. George Lemley Radio operator, mechanic, Gunner Lambertville
S/Sgt. Ellsworth B. Dwyer Waist gunner Bristol, VT
*S/Sgt. James F. Daves Tail gunner Sand Springs, OK
S/Sgt. Lionel W. Beauchesne Ball turret gunner Lowell, MA
S/Sgt. George Forgich Ass't radio op. Gunner Hammond, Indiana
*Daves suffered some sort of mental disturbance and was subsequently dropped from the crew and made permanent party as a private.
Our first mission was to Emden (at the mouth of the Kiel Canal) to bomb ore deposits. I'm almost certain it was Thanksgiving Day 1943; but that was with the 66th Squadron.
Somewhere along the line we were transferred to the 67th Squadron and flew the remainder of our tour with the 67th. Don't recall when we were transferred, what missions we flew in either squadron and above all - don't know why!
Our crew was sort of broken up around our 27, 28, 29, or 30th mission. I finished my 29th with our old crew, intact, that day and my 30th on my 30th birthday on D-Day. Don't recall what crew I flew with on the 30th, however, the first on D-Day was at St. Lo and the 2nd on D-Day was Caen.
I have a strange feeling it was Lt. Mercer with whom I flew the second mission on D-Day.
I had not seen "Lemon Drop" after that wild and woolly first mission and never did know what happened to it.
Our pilot must have thought the aircraft we flew over from the states (63 962) was to be assigned to us since he did have a picture of "Princess" painted on the side. (Identical to the one mentioned in the September Journal, page 19). Unless I am mistaken, our Squadron Operations Officer (Lt. Hunn requested and was granted an identical copy which was to have appeared on the squadron operations wall; as noted.
As it was, we never did fly a mission in the "Princess."
Sgt. Kokta did shoot down a German Fighter; I believe that was the extent of our activity in that regard.
Pete Henry told me about Forrest Clark; I looked him up last week and found he lives a very short, short distance from me. However, I was told by his neighbor he and the Mrs. were away on a two-week vacation, so left my name and address from him when he returns.
October 20, 1982
Many thanks for your efforts and research on the 44th!
Now, about my first mission: Bremen and Leer, Germany, don't seem to ring a bell, consequently, I was no doubt incorrect in mentioning Thanksgiving or thereabouts.
Emden very distinctly sticks in my mind as my first mission to Emden since Dwyer and Loeffler got the Purple Heart and the cable "bit" turned up on the microfilm. So, obviously, it must have been Emden on December 11th. But, (and it is not too significant), I do recall having said, "This sure is a beautiful day to be thankful." Well, that was almost 38 years ago.
Okay, on April 8th and Brunswick and Frank Kokta getting the ME109. Yes, there sure was a lot of activity over Brunswick and the surrounding area on that day, although, again, I must rely on your research as to dates since I do not have a smidgen of data with regard to my missions - targets - or dates. I do recall having seen the metal parting from the left side of the fighter's fuselage and the ornamentation painted on it. The German fighter came at us from about 12 o'clock high and was exactly at 9 o'clock when Frank could almost have stuck his guns in the pilot's ears. Apparently, it was verified by another crew since I seem to recall that no one in our crew had actually seen it either, go down trailing smoke or to have hit the ground and probably exploding.
You referred to Capt. Ugarte and May 5th, 1944. Ugarte and others did leave for a period of time, but I don't believe it was any rest home, or -- ? But rather, I am almost sure it was for "black box" instruction since around that time the "bombing through the clouds technique" was about taking place. But Ugarte did not specifically tell us. He was more or less the silent type and in some respects just a little too aloof. He did say, however, that he was advised that probably he would either fly in the first formation or lead the second, but neither of those things did occur.
It appears from your observations, we must have started to fly our missions between the period 12/11/43 and 6/6/44; or a period of a little less than six months. During that period we were concentrating on oil refineries and airfields and thereafter; rocket bomb sites in the Pas de Calais area. Most of those latter missions were "milk runs" but I do recall one particular time when we were bombing in that area and were intercepted by FW190s (with the large propeller hub) which were flown by "The Abbeville Playboys," Goering's boys. That could have been curtains for our crew. It seems that there was some rapidly changing cloud cover and the lead ship was circling around to get a better aim at the target, and each time the formation circled, one B-24 was shot down. Sterling Holm kept track of the number of times we circled and each time he would say, "There goes another one. Let's get the hell out of here, Paul!" But the pilot had to stay with the rest of the formation and said so. Well, Sir, we were next to get it. So Holm said, "Paul I have a wife and family to go back to"; no sooner had he said that and the lead ship started back over the Channel. Will that was close!
Now on the "Lemon Drop" and the "Princess." We were all surprised to see the picture painted on the left side of the aircraft and somehow Ugarte admitted that he did have it painted on but was vague on when and by whom. Ironically, we never did fly that B-24 again and it was my understanding that it had been scrapped some time later and after more missions, obviously.
The picture I was referring to was the "Princess" on "Lemon Drop" and the picture, which was found on the operations wall, which must have been identical (In Shipdham).
The B-24 we flew over from Herrington, Kansas, which we were issued around the first part of September was 63962. We took off from Herrington, to Rome, NY, to Presques Isle, Maine, to Goose Bay, Labrador, to BW-1, Greenland, to Iceland and to Prestwick, Scotland. We missed our destination, Nutt's Corner, Scotland and went right on in to Prestwick. From there, by train, to Cheddington, England and by truck to Shipdham - I think. (Don't recall how we went from Cheddington).
Yes, I did get in touch with Forest Clark. He called me a couple of evenings from his job at the newspaper where he is a reporter, and had a couple of real sessions of reminiscing. I am presently waiting for him to call after he gathers together some of his old records. But it is certain that we were all in the 44th and Forest and I might have been in the 66th and 67th at the same time. Although he told me that he was interned in Switzerland after his 16th (?) mission, I believe he said.
I hope this covers much for you, Will, and let's keep in touch.
July 29, 1982
Before I answer your last letter, I certainly want to thank you and your father for the beautiful pictures of our crew. I had forwarded one to our ball gunner, Lionel W. Beauchesne in Lowell, Mass. 01852, (246 Market Street #109), and he was most appreciative of your efforts.
Also, that was as accurate a commentary as could have been possible, after such a long while, which appeared in the Journal. I was hoping against all hope that somewhere, somehow, the picture and the article may have lighted a fire under some of our erstwhile "8 Ballers"; I'm wondering whether you had received any feedback as a result of the article.
Today I had received a letter from a Mr. P. Mahe, 12 Bd Leon Grimault, Rennes, 35100, Rennes, France, stating he was doing some research prior to publishing a book about English and American aviators who had flown missions during World War II. He mentions specifically, La Palice, St. Nazaire, Lorient, St. Malo, Rennes, Brest, etc. To the best of my recollection those targets were "sub" pens which were bombed during the earlier part of 1943 or the latter past of 1942.
I'm reasonably certain, from remarks and accounts of earlier crew members, those targets were a part of a concerted effort to destroy and hopefully eliminate the roving Nazi wolf packs which were claiming such terrific losses on our and allied shipping; during the earlier part of the war. With one exception "St. Malo." It occurs to me St. Malo was a rocket bombsight in the Pas-de-Calais area. Beauchjesne does not have that target listed in the raids we had flown although he does allude to the Pas-de-Calais area, and, as written in your commentary, was in Calais during the spring of 1944; some time prior to D-Day.
Finally, enclosed is my personal check in the amount of $20.00. Hope this will help along with a memento which is long, long overdue. No doubt the convention to Norwich did a heck of a good job.
Beautiful on the mini-reunion in New Jersey in October. I'll buy that! Cannot suggest, at the moment a suitable site for that, nor an area, which would be particularly interesting from the standpoint of WWII and raids, etc. However, as we know Jersey is mighty rich in Revolutionary War sites and happenings, so perhaps that would be a "theme," etc.
Strange I should be thinking about Philadelphia and all past goings on, or, even Princeton.
August 10, 1982
Don't know much about California except that around July or August 1943 the group flew into Marysville, Cal. For a sort of navigation and orientation flight about 300 miles out over the Pacific. This was not especially interesting. However, for some unknown reason all aircraft were grounded for several days for "magna-fluxing" the front wheel assembly. What precipitated this, I have no way of knowing other than the word, which was passed down from headquarters.
Heard from "Pete" outlining the plans for the plaque to be erected in the Norwich Memorial Library. Promptly acknowledged his solicitation and was happy to learn steps are going to be taken to remind the British there were some Yankee "Lads" on their soil helping along with things.
Am enclosing a letter, which is self-explanatory. Wrote "Pete" regarding the details and a few remarks about the targets and he advises he will get in touch with you as the "Historian."