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Harold  W.  Schwab

 

Personal Legacy
HAROLD W. SCHWAB
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter from Donald V. Chase to Kevin Watson and forwarded to Will Lundy)

11517 Pumpkin Seed Ct.
Orlando, FL 32821

4 July 1995

Dear Kevin Watson:

Our group historian and personal friend, Will Lundy, has written to me about your magnificent tribute to them en who died in the name of freedom that fateful day of 2 February 1944.

I personally knew only one of those seasoned combat fliers - Harold W. Schwab, bombardier - but I'd like to share with you a few memories that I have of Harold.

Harold, or Schwab as he preferred to be called, was an original crew mate of mine and proved to be somewhat of a military maverick. Oh, yes, he performed his bomb aiming duties with much care and competency, but his regimental bearing as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Air Force was sometimes put aside in favor of individualism. At times he neglected to pin on his lieutenant bars. He didn't always button his shirt pockets. He'd just as soon fraternize with an enlisted man (like me) as he would with a fellow officer. He thought saluting, except perhaps for formal occasions, was a waste of time and energy. Yes, Lt. Harold W. Schwab truly was a full-time civilian in a part-time military uniform. But as I say, he did his job very well indeed.

I first met Lt. Schwab at Davis Monthan Air Base, Tucson, Arizona in December 1942, where he and I and eight other men led by pilot Lt. Charles Whitlock, were assigned as a crew to train on B-24s and B-17s for combat duty. We left the USA in May 1943; destination U.K. I am enclosing a copy of a prior published account of a portion of our stateside training and of our trans-Atlantic encounters.

Lt. Whitlock's crew, including Schwab, of course, in the company of 38 other 44th BG crews, flew en masse to N. Africa in late June and took part in the air campaign over Sicily and Italy, as well as the low-level Ploesti raid, which we, by the way, were unable to complete because of mechanical problems.

Then, on 16 August, with four of our crew medically grounded - Schwab, Phipps, Holtz, and I - the remaining six crew members, along with four replacements, were shot down near Foggia, Italy. Some ten days later, with a high fever, I was taken to a hospital in Morocco, and Schwab, Phipps and Holtz returned to England. Of the original 39 planes that left England, only about half that number returned to base that day.

Three weeks later, I was discharged from the hospital and returned to England. Shortly thereafter, I was transferred from the 506th squadron to the 67th. That move quashed any hopes that we four survivors of our original crew would be able to from the nucleus of a new crew. It was rather a sad time for awhile.

I saw Schwab a couple of times on base before he went down on "Ruth-Less." At one chance meeting he invited me to join him in a drink or two at the officer's club. "You know I can't do that. I'm a non-com, a sergeant," I said. "Well you're a-2 jacket covers your stripes, so just stuff your cap in your pocket and walk in like you own the place." And that's just what I did.

What a guy! With his wry humor and slow smile, he often brought a little sunshine into an otherwise damp, cloudy day.

When I learned of Harold Schwab's death, I felt saddened for quite a while. I still think of him at times. I always will...

I want to thank you, Kevin, for taking the time, effort and money to memorialize the death of Lt. Harold W. Schwab and his nine fellow crewmen. And would you please thank the others who have worked with you in bringing this memorial to fruition - Arthur King (I appreciated seeing the picture of the flower-laying at the crash site); Douglas Thomas (such a poignant, poetic tribute to the airmen); Mrs. P. Parsons, for her heart-felt and touching letter, Major Ron Parsons for his untiring efforts, and to the many unnamed Eastbourne villagers who took part in this beautiful tribute to my friend and my other fellow countrymen.

In friendship,

Donald V. Chase
 
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