Aug 1 2013

70th Anniversary of Operation Tidal Wave

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Today marks the 70th anniversary of “Operation Tidal Wave”, the disastrous first raid on the Nazi oil refineries at Ploesti that occurred on August 1, 1943.  The five refineries of Ploesti accounted for one third of the Nazis’ oil supply.  Knowing that the Ploesti oil refineries were a heavily guarded target, Allied forces had to rely on the element of surprise.  It was decided that this operation was to consist of low level flying B-24 Liberators participating in a mission to fly under the Nazi radar and take Ploesti by surprise.  Unfortunately, the mission was plagued by misfortune.  Under heavy cloud cover and radio silence, several of the groups had become separated.  The lead group had also turned too soon and began heading for Bucharest by error.  When the mistake was corrected, the lead group was approaching their target from the city’s heavily protected southern perimeter.  As the lead group dropped their bombs, the following groups flying at a low altitude  had no other option than to fly through the smoke and fire from the blazing refineries below.  Low flying bomber planes were blown out of the air from the bombs that had exploded beneath them.  The planes that had made it out of the thick smoke had to contend with an onslaught of Nazi fighter planes.  By the time that the mission was over, barely half of the planes had returned to their home airfield in Africa.  More than five hundred men were either killed, wounded or taken as prisoner.  Five Medals of Honor were awarded that day, three of which were posthumously.

The Toughest Target: The Raid on Ploesti


Jun 6 2013

69th Anniversary of D-Day

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Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day.  The two phase assault, code named “Operation Neptune”, began an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight.  The next phase of the Normandy landings were the largest amphibious invasion in world history.  Over 160,000 Allied soldiers consisting of 73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians landed on 5 different beachheads of Normandy beach: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.  In the months prior to the invasion, the Allies had implemented a deception plan called Operation Bodygaurd.  Allies used decoys in northern France, at Pas de Calais to make it appear as if the invasion was going to come from the north.

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

— Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower


Sep 12 2012

From the 32nd Annual Reunion of the 464th BG (H)

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A collection of speeches and stories shared at the 32nd Annual Reunion of the 464th BG in Dearborn, MI September 5 – 8th, 2012.

George Krynovich (778th Squadron)

Jonathan Drake (Oral Historian – Yankee Air Museum)

Lawrence “Larry” Deck (777th Squadron)

Edmund Aubrey (777th Squadron)

Al Parington (779th Squadron)

Wallace “Wally” Roberts (777th Squadron)

Stillman “Jake” Harding (778th Squadron)

Matthew Krynovich (Grandson of George Krynovich – 778th Squadron)

Matt Skillman (Grandson of Carl Will – 776th Squadron)

George Hubbard (778th Squadron)


Sep 10 2012

The 32nd Annual Reunion of the 464th BG (H)

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Welcome to the 464th Bomb Group Reunion in Dearborn Michigan!

 Art Rawlings (778th Squadron) and Carl Will (776th Squadron) sharing their accounts of their time with the 464th.

 George Krynovich and Art Rawlings (Both of the 778th Squadron) talking about White Victor and Black Nan.

 George Krynovich and Art Rawlings (Both of the 778th Squadron) looking through some pictures.

 George Krynovich and Art Rawlings (Both of the 778th Squadron) and Carl Will (776th Squadron) explaining the call signs on the sides of their B-24 Liberators

 George Krynovich, George Hubbard and Art Rawlings (All of the 778th Squadron)

 Stillman Harding of the 778th Squadron, “Strictly From Hunger”

 Dan Colvin of the 776th Squadron

 The 464th Bomb Group in Dearborn Michigan 2012


Sep 4 2012

WWII Veteran Gets Medals 67 Years After Service

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(Reported by: Rick Pollo – Web Intern WKBN Youngstown)

On Tuesday, the American Legion Post 290 in Columbiana held a very special ceremony honoring a World War II veteran who waited 67 years for medals he earned in combat.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who also is a former U.S. Air Force cadet, presented Carl E. Will, 88, with several medals of honor that Will never received. The Congressman also presented him with a flag that was flown over the nation’s capital in his honor.

During the war, Will served as a waistgunner on a B-24 Liberator called Little Lulu. He was part of the 464th Bombardment Group 776th Squadron in Pantanella, Italy.

Waistgunners had the job of operating the anti-aircraft guns stationed at the side openings of the plane. They often had to deal with temperatures of minus 40 degrees within the plane.

Will flew more than 50 missions in his B-24, enduring heavy flak during many of his bombing missions.

Will received the Purple Heart for being injured by a piece of flak on July 6, 1944, during a combat mission. After flying 50 missions, he was reassigned to fly the Hump, the supply route over the Himalayas. He served in both the European and Pacific campaigns during the war.

He earned seven medals and several badges for his service, including the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. But he never received any awards other than his Purple Heart.

He was honorably discharged in 1945.

In 1973, there was a fire in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis that destroyed about 80 percent of the documentation of any Army or Air Force member who served during WWII. Because of this, Will was never able to receive any of his medals or even have documentation that he ever served his country.

The only proof of his service was from the discharge papers he had on him.

Several attempts were made to retrieve his records from the NPRC, but each time they said that there were no records listed for the veteran.

“My interest in his history inspired me to dig deeper,” said Will’s grandson, Matt Skillman, who organized Tuesday’s ceremony. “Through social media, I met many people who recommended that I contact my local congressman. I contacted Bill Johnson and he was very willing to contact the NPRC on my behalf.  We got a letter back saying the same thing, that the fire had wiped out my grandfather’s records. I did, however, get a form that listed all of the awards that he was entitled to.”

“I just really wanted to make it a point that he gets these medals and his paperwork saying that he had served during his lifetime. It just really meant a lot to the family,” Skillman said.

Johnson, who helped Will get his medals, said he was very happy and honored to be able to present Will with the long-overdue recognition.

“We had to go through the process of reconstructing his service records and going back through some archives and finding the information so that Carl could get the medals that he so much deserved,” Johnson said.

Will had no knowledge of what was to unfold prior to the ceremony.

“He has no idea that this is happening, so it’s going to be a bit of a surprise,” said Johnson. “He does not know that I’m here. He doesn’t know that we have this great display of his military history in what’s called a shadowbox. It’s a pretty awesome trophy that he can look at and remember the sacrifice that he made.”

During his speech, Johnson expressed his personal gratitude for the sacrifice Will gave for his country.

“Your service during World War II was both brave and selfless. You should be justifiably proud of your accomplishment. Your dedication exemplifies the very core values of the United States Air Force: Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all that you do,” said Johnson.

Will stood speechless with tears of joy rolling down his face as he proudly accepted his awards.

“It’s absolutely priceless to see the look on his face, to see how happy he is,” Skillman said.

He also was presented a certificate honoring his 50 years of membership with the American Legion by Post 290 Commander Nick Simpson.

“Unbelievable, I tell you. I can’t understand it. They are all a great bunch of people,” Will said.

Video here: http://www.wkbn.com/content/news/local/story/WWII-Veteran-Gets-Medals-67-Years-After-Service/szLZ9GUJWEKmn8ZGiXLK8Q.cspx


Aug 27 2012

An Afternoon with a WWII Veteran at the Ohio Veteran’s Memorial Park

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I got to spend an afternoon at the Ohio Veteran’s Memorial Park with my Grandfather, a decorated WWII Veteran.  Before sitting down to dinner at the 356th Fighter Group Restaurant in North Canton, we took some time to walk through this amazing Memorial Park in Clinton Ohio.

(Video from www.ovmp.org)

Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall

(Photo Credit: Matt Skillman)

One of the most amazing sites at this Memorial Park in Clinton Ohio is the Ohio Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall.  An amazing 125 foot long black granite wall on which is engraved with the names of 3,094 men and 1 woman, from Ohio, who lost their lives in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.  This memorial wall is the largest freestanding monument in the USA.

The Ohio Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall

(Photo Credit: Matt Skillman)

Emblazoned at the top of the wall is the phrase “Lest We Forget” in shining gold letters. The Ohio Veterans’ Memorial Park “has undertaken the task to help insure that our veterans will always be remembered for the heroism and bravery.”

On the back of this wall you will find several engraved panels displaying all of the wars that have had soldiers from the state of Ohio, beginning with the War of 1812 up to the current war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Standing watch over the wall is the seven foot tall granite Gold Star Mother statue.  In her arms she holds the folded flag of the United States of America.  The statute is “dedicated to all of the mothers and families who have lost a child that was serving our country during both peacetime and war.”

One of most beautiful areas of the park is The POW/MIA Reflection Pond and Eternal Flame.  Dedicated on November 13th, 2010, it is located to the right of The Ohio Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall.

The POW/MIA Reflection Pond

(Photo Credit: Matt Skillman)

“This monument is made up of a large sitting area that will be surrounded by benches, a four tier waterfall, a walkway, a fifty foot wide pond, a black granite POW/MIA monument, an inverted Vietnam War helmet with the eternal flame and a cast steel POW/MIA seal generously donated by Rolling Thunder, and the black granite backing wall (installation date to be announced).”

My Grandfather, Carl Will at the POW/MIA Reflection Pond

(Photo Credit: Matt Skillman)

We were also very happy to present my Grandfather with a personalized brick within the Air Force walkway.  His son (my late uncle) served in the Army during the Vietnam War.  At my Grandfather’s request, their bricks have been placed alongside each other.  It was an honor to spend the afternoon with my Grandfather and ask him about his experiences in Europe and the Pacific.  My grandfather mentioned that he would like to visit Pantanella Italy and the memorial to his old plane’s crash site in the Czech Republic.  I told him that if he was up to make the flight to Europe, then I would join him.

My Grandfather and Uncle honored.

(Photo Credit: Matt Skillman)

We were very impressed with the Ohio Veterans’ Memorial Park.  It is within a very beautiful and serene setting in Clinton Ohio.  The kind people that run the Memorial Park have a great vision for the future of the Park and I look forward to returning in the future to see all of the addition of the granite wall behind the POW/MIA Reflection Pond.  To visit their site, check out www.ovmp.org.

Source: Ohio Veterans’ Memorial Park (www.ovmp.org)

 


Aug 24 2012

68th Anniversary of the Crash of B-24 “Little Lulu”

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The B-24H 42-52479 “Little Lulu” (“Red J”) from the 776th BS, piloted by 2nd Lt. John H. James was shot down on August 24, 1944 after successful bombing of the David Fanto refinery in Pardubice, Czech Republic. On the way home, the ship was attacked by Uffz. Willi Reschke of I./JG 302. Sixty years later Mr. Reschke wrote: “I selected a B-24 and closed in on it from the rear with a clear height advantage. I opened fire, primarily aiming to disable the tail gunner, streaming his bursts towards me. My second burst hit the inboard port engine which immediately started to burn. At that moment my engine had been hit by several rounds, so I had to break my attack.”  The bomber was then finished by Fw. Hubert Engst of II.(Sturm)/JG 300. Engst’s plane was severely hit too and he had to bail out.

Radio operator Sgt John F. D’Amore was the only survivor of Little Lulu. Lt. James and other eight men perished in their plane
when it crashed about two hundred yards north of the village of Vlcice, Czech Republic. (Source: Jiri Sasek)

 

 

 

 

Little LuLu (42-52479) crash Site at Vlcice. (Photo from Jiri Sasek)

Little LuLu (42-52479) crash Site at Vlcice. (Photo from Jiri Sasek)

Little LuLu (42-52479) crash Site at Vlcice. (Photo from Jiri Sasek)

Little LuLu (42-52479) crash Site at Vlcice. (Photo from Jiri Sasek)


Jul 27 2012

A Tribute to the Brave Men of the 464th BG (H)

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All too often we take freedom and valor for granted.  Growing up, my grandfather never talked about his service in World War II.  All I ever knew is that he was in a plane during the war.  It wasn’t until I sat down and just simply asked, that I was blown away by his sacrifice and service.  He was enlisted in November of 1942 and was honorably discharged in August of 1945.  During those 3 years, he was a waist gunner for the B-24 “Little LuLu” (42-52479), pictured above.  He was part of the first crew to fly that aircraft, and after flying 50 missions he and his crew were reassigned.  My grandfather had been reassigned to fly supplies over the Hump as part of the Air Transport Command.  During this time, the second crew to fly “Little LuLu” was shot down over on August 24, 1944 during a bombing run targeting oil refineries in Czechoslovakia.    My general interest in my grandfather’s history has connected me with people throughout the country and even throughout the world.  It is so reassuring to find others out that that share the same passion to keep history and the legacies of these brave men alive.  I wanted to create a way to share his memories along with stories of others who know those who have served in the 464th Bombardment Group.  I know that it is impossible to ever fully express enough gratitude to these men who so selflessly sacrificed, but I hope that this helps us honor their valor and keeps their memories alive for future generations.

We’re launching this site as a tribute to the brave men of the 464th Bombardment Group (H) in Pantenella, Italy. The 776th, 777th, 778th and 779th Bombardment Squadrons.