July 25, 2010
Volume II, Issue 11
by Willard H. "Bill" Bergeron
Known as "Bergie" to his 303rd BG friends, Bill Bergeron proudly displays his Air Force Medals
In 1941 I lived at 2013 Geneva Avenue, Detroit, Michigan and my draft number was 913 when drafted on 21 June 1941. I was in the first 1000 from Detroit that were sent to Camp Custer, Michigan.
I graduated from Mechanic's School at Chanute Field, Illinois with a Second AM rating. Several of us were sent to McClellan Field, California on 10 January 1942 and the first week were assigned to the 2nd Air Depot Group (in crews of six). We tore down and crated two P-39 Aircraft. The civilian management fired us because they were doing one a week. On 20 February 1942, I passed my Cadet exam and I was reduced from Sergeant to Private and put on Cadet leave for 30 days. I was not called back until August 1942, placed on Cadet status and sent to San Antonio, Texas, "Upper Kelly" now Lackland AFB, for pre-flight; then to Pine Bluff, Arkansas for primary training; Greenville, Texas for basic and Blackland, Waco, Texas for advanced training.
I asked for B-17s and combat so off I went to Moses Lake, Washington. We did not see any airplanes or airbase, just a couple of tents - then on to Edmond, Oregon and Walla Walla, Washington where I was put on a crew as a co-pilot and was sent overseas. We went via Grand Island, Nebraska, Bangor, Maine and arrived in England 25 June 1943. Our crew was assigned to the 303rd BG (H) at Molesworth, England in early July 1943. After some local flying we went on our first combat mission 15 August 1943, second mission, 16 August and third Mission 17 August.
Arriving in the States In April, 1944, I went to Miami Beach for R & R. After 30 days, I was ordered to Lockboume AFB, Columbus, Ohio for B-17 Crew Training. HQ said that I had never been through B-17 School even though I had a total of 1200 hours of B-17 training and combat time. Someone screwed up - I think! I was supposed to finish my training 31 July and on 15 July I received orders to report to Greensboro, North Carolina for overseas processing. The Base Commander finished me up early, flew me down to Greensboro to make my reporting date (again, someone screwed up!) 1 August 1944, I arrived in England and was assigned to the 303rd BG again. I kept flying missions until the war ended in May, 1945 and our group, the "Hells Angels" was sent to Casablanca, Africa, assigned to MATS. I checked out in C-54 type aircraft and flew back and forth to Natal, Brazil.
In September 1945 about 45 crews were sent back to the States to airlift General McArthur's personnel into Japan. Later, after 282 Berlin Airlift missions, flying C54s with coal (most of that time was Instrument time from August 1947 until March 1948), I was assigned to Hickam AFB. - I wanted to fly the line in C-54 type aircraft from Hickam to Tokyo. After about 2600 hours in C-54 type aircraft they said, "You have never been to a C-54 school". So I went to Great Falls, Montana in February 1951.
We bought a home in San Antonio where my wife stayed until she joined me in Japan. We had a wonderful duty time in Japan while we were there and departed in November of 1956. I was then assigned to schooling at Shepard Field in Texas. This was for our Transportation course, which was a two-year College course that we completed in only six months. At that point I was assigned to Mitchell Field in Long Island in July 1957 where I was Director of Transportation at CNAT. I held that position until October of 1957. I had lost sight in my right eye due to an injury and was put in Long Island Navel Hospital. I had also developed a bug in my system called "hookworm." They had to give me several types of poison to kill it, which is why it probably took so long and why I was so sick for so long. This became very serious and kept me in from October of 1957 to October 1958. During that year that I was seriously ill and went down to about 125 pounds. In August of 1958 I was finally able to start eating baby foods working up to eating solid foods.
Bergie with "the only thing I fly now that is still fast."
I eventually got better and my paperwork was sent to Air Force Headquarters where they finally assigned me to Plattsburg AFB in upstate New York at the end of October 1958. I checked in to the hospital there for observation where they told me I still had a high white cell blood count and sent me back down to Lackland AFB hospital in San Antonio for further evaluation. After two weeks of treatment they gave me a thirty-day leave and sent me back to Plattsburg. About three months later my weight was finally up to around 185 pounds. I couldn't gain any more than that, I guess my stomach must have shrunk over time.
I then had about four different positions as my retirement date was drawing near. Instead of retiring in June of 1961 they extended it and I finally retired in November of 1961. The reason it was delayed is because the Air Force wanted to have a NDTA charter in Plattsburg. This was done and I could finally retire at the end of November of 1961. I retired as a Lt. Colonel. Thank God that was all over.
I finally took my wife to Vacaville, California to visit some of her relatives. While there we found that everything was so much more expensive that we decided to return and stay in San Antonio. We stayed at the house we had bought previously. We fixed it up a little and sold it while we were having our new home custom built on the north side of San Antonio in the suburbs. We still live there to this day and still have the same phone number. Some things never change.
14 July 1943
Target: Villacoublay Aircraft Repair Depot at Paris, France
It was Bastille Day and 8th Air Force Groups were sent to bomb targets in the vicinity of Paris. Four Groups were dispatched to bomb the Le Bourget airport, which was the airfield where Charles Lindbergh completed his 1927 trans-Atlantic flight. Other Groups, including the 303rd BG(H)'s 20 aircraft, were dispatched to attack the Villacoublay Aircraft Repair Depot.
Major Calhoun reported on the mission: "It was a pretty good show as a whole. Everyone flew in good formation and I think our bombs were pretty well in there. However, I'll wait to see the pictures. We had a running fight with flak right from the target to the coast. The fighters weren't bothering us as they were after another wing and stragglers. The Spitfires gave us damn good coverage." Col. J.K. Lacey, of the 103rd Combat Wing, was riding with Maj. Calhoun as an observer and commented, "It was a good ride. No fighters to speak of, but plenty accurate flak."
Aircraft #42-5221 Son, 427BS, piloted by Lt. Armand F. Burch, landed at Homesley-South with a badly injured bombardier. 2Lt. Robert E. Rohrlich died 14 July, 1943 in a hospital from head wounds caused by flak. He is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery, England.
LOYD D. GRIFFIN CREW - 360th BS
(photo: 14 July 1943)
(Back L-R) Samuel L. "Sam" Edwards (WG), Walter C. "Walt" Swanson (CP), Loyd D. Griffin (P),
Lawrence E. Effinger (N), Robert L. "Bob" Taylor (B) (Front L-R) William M. "Bill" Eason (E), Paul E. Henderson (WG),
Vernon E. "Gene" Schwartz (R), Lynwood D. "Lindy" Wiegand (TG), Robert "Bob" Plummer (BT)
Several 303rd BG(H) combat crewmen finished their operational tour of 25 missions. Capt. Lloyd D. Griffin, pilot of Lady Luck, remarked, "I only saw one fighter myself, but they were attacking other Groups. Our big problem was flak. We met the Spits OK and they brought us back." His co-pilot, 1Lt. Walter C. Swanson added, "There were about 15 to 20 fighters attacking the Groups ahead. They were FW-190s and ME-109s which hit them when they came off their target." Other Lady Luck crew members finishing their 25th missions were: T/Sgt. Vernon E. Schwartz, radio operator and S/Sgt. L.D. Wiegand, tail gunner, who described the mission as "Just an ordinary raid." Also, S/Sgt. Samuel Edwards who said, "I didn't fire a single shot. Spent most of my time taking pictures. Got some pretty good shots of Paris, too. We had one fighter attack, but I didn't see him." T/Sgt. William Eason, engineer, summed it up for those finishing 25 missions with the remark, "We got back all right. Can't ask for anything more." S/Sgt. Elwood Hairr, waist gunner on Capt. Billy E. Southworth's crew, flying in S for Sugar, also finished 25 missions.
CALVIN A. SWAFFER CREW - 358th BS
(photo: 15 July 1943)
(Back L-R) 2Lt William H. Karraker (N), 1Lt John R. Johnston (CP), S/Sgt James E. Mills (RWG),
1Lt Calvin A. Swaffer (P), 2Lt William T. Sweet (B) (Front L-R) S/Sgt Edward W. Griffin (BT),
T/Sgt James O. Matthews (R), T/Sgt Rudolph S. Lopez (E), Sgt Edward N. Cobb (LWG)
Aircraft #42-29791 Memphis Blues, 358th BS, was hit by anti-aircraft fire halfway between the target and the French coast causing one engine to catch fire. A second engine caught fire due to anti-aircraft guns from the Le Havre area. Spitfires protected the aircraft and followed it down as it ditched in the English Channel 30 miles off Shoreham. Lt. Calvin A. Swaffer, an ex-RAF pilot, and his crew were all rescued by the British Air-Sea rescue. This was the 25th mission for Lt. Swaffer.
Flight Leader Captain Loyd Griffin's Report on Mission #50, from the official 303rd Bomb Group Mission Report
After 67 years, two members of the 360th Bomb Squadron still recall Mission #50. Both were in the same flight of seven aircraft, led by Captain Loyd Griffin.
Walter Swanson, Copilot on Capt Loyd Griffin's Crew in "Lady Luck"
The morning we got the mission assignment on July 14th, we thought, "Great, number 25 will be a milk run!," but we were wrong. The flak from around the target to the coast line was thick. Our ship Lady Luck received a number of hits that kept her on the ground several weeks.
Eddie Deerfield, Radio Operator on 1Lt Robert Cogswell's Crew in "Iza Vailable"
The mission to attack German aircraft repair facilities at Villacoublay was, happily, a fairly easy run for our 360th Squadron crew, especially when compared with our ditching in the North Sea, bailout and crash landings on later missions. A flak burst shattered pilot Bob Cogswell's left side window and there were flak holes in the nose of our B-17, Iza Vailable, but we were never in real trouble. However, I can add a few comments to the official mission report, based on my personal notes.
359th Bomb Squadron Photographers in front of B-17F #41-24561 "Duchess."
Milton Cantor is on the left. Can you identify any others? How about the guy peeking out the nose?
8th Air Force Tucson Reunion Report and Photos !
To quote 8th AFHS President Mark Copeland, "WOW !!" It was indeed a wonderful reunion! Stay tuned . . .
LAST CALL !!
"Thunder over Michigan"
The Largest Gathering of Heavy Bombers in the World
The 8th Air Force Historical Society is hosting veterans, family members, and their guests at the Willow Run Air Show, located just outside Detroit, August 5 thru 8, 2010. The Air Show organizers are expecting 8 to 10 B-17's to attend , 2 B-24's, 12 P-51's, the usual cadre of other WWII aircraft, as well as a flying ME-262 and an ME-109. More information is available here: http://www.8thafhs.org/detroit.htm
2nd ANNUAL WEBSITE and NEWSLETTER FUND DRIVE
When the 303rd Bomb Group Association dissolved three years ago, the funding of the 303rdBG.com website stopped. All remaining Association assets were donated to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. I made a pledge at that time to continue the website for as long as I am able and at my own expense, if necessary. That pledge still remains and the website will continue for the foreseeable future and, hopefully, well beyond that.
The website still continues to expand almost daily, and now includes The Molesworth Pilot newsletter.
I remain determined to keep the website content free to everyone, and to keep annoying advertising off the site. The only way to accomplish this is to have an annual fund drive to raise money for expenses. My time and efforts to preserve this priceless history will always be donated.
If any of you would care to help out, it will be sincerely appreciated. Information on making donations to the website fund are here: http://www.303rdbg.com/contribute.html You are welcome to make a donation honoring a loved one or friend, as some of the supporters have done. Thank you all very much.
MOLESWORTH PILOT ARTICLES and SUBMISSIONS NEEDED !!
There is a wealth of untold stories that are known only by the crews or their families. Some information about the Group can be documented with records, but personal stories and recollections cannot be preserved unless they are shared. I would welcome any article about any person or crew stationed at Molesworth. A good example is Captain Bergeron's featured story in this issue. Please help us get this priceless history preserved forever.
I'd also appreciate any interesting photos you have showing our veterans at Honor Flights, airshows, museums, Memorial Day or Veteran's Day ceremonies or anything that may be of interest to the 303rd BG community. Two good examples are below. In keeping with a tradition started in the 8th Air Force News, I'll also publish photos of your WWII related license plates or other interesting items, such as the wind vane shown here that has flown in my backyard for many years.
303rd BG Pilot Dave Clifton's 90th Birthday Party!
Dave Clifton, his wife Ruth and son David view the video David made for his father's 90th birthday. If you
missed this special, touching video, you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wz7fLinrzU
Phil and Steve Dussliere
303rd Bomb Group veteran Al Dussliere writes, "Our sons Phil, with the mustache, and Steve, our number two son. This picture was taken at the Korean Memorial when we participated in the Honor Flight in April 2010.
The Quad City Area has sent more than 800 veterans on flights to DC to visit the WWII and other memorials in the past three years. The same flights included more than 350 guardians to accompany the veterans. The guardians paid for their flights."
More information on Al's Honor Flight is in the May 8, 2010 issue.
As a child, Harold picked cotton during the Great Depression to help support his large family. He went on to graduate from Texas Tech University in 1940 and joined the Army Air Corps. After retirement from the service, Harold moved to California where he worked in ranching and large land real estate near Grass Valley and Auburn. Harold had many good friends and was a generous person. He loved his family and was a good husband, father, and grandfather.
Preceded in death by his wife Inez in March 1998 and survived by his two daughters Nancy Luchs in Redding, Calif., and Dana Sullivan in Granite Bay, Calif.; four grandchildren Kim Luchs, Kristine Boban, Brian and Brad Sullivan; three great-grandchildren Madisyn, Rylee, and Thomas; and his best loving friend Helga McCoy.
A full military honors funeral service will be held on August 4 at 11 a.m. at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, Calif. Family, friends, and veterans are invited. Donations in lieu of flowers to the Washington D.C. WWII memorial in remembrance of Harold.
William enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943. He was a decorated veteran of World War II, flying with the 303rd Bomb group (Hell's Angels) of the 8th Air Force. William was a POW in Germany for 15 months.
He worked for Lenox China as a supervisor for 35 years before his retirement. William belonged to the Rudolph Elmer Post 158 American Legion, the DAV Chapter 10, Military Order Purple Hearts 155, and the American Ex-Prisoners of War. He enjoyed fishing, gardening and attending his 303rd Bomber Reunions. William also enjoyed speaking at colleges and local schools regarding his military experiences during World War II.
He was predeceased by sister, Katherine (Dase) and brother, Charles Simpkins. William is survived by his wife Evelyn of 63 years; daughter, Carol O'Hara (Husband James) Dennisville, NJ and Guayaquil Ecuador; sons, William H. Simpkins Jr. Mays Landing, NJ; David W. Simpkins (Wife Lois) Germania, NJ, and Michael W. Simpkins Germania, NJ; sister Mary Hoffman, Mullica Twp., NJ; grandchildren, Keefe G. O'Hara (wife Lisa) Orlando, FL., Samantha Day (husband Joshua) Mays Landing, NJ, David Simpkins Jr. Germania, NJ and Michael Simpkins Jr. Hammonton, NJ; and great grandchild: Sean M. O'Hara, Orlando, FL. Visitation will be held on Monday, July 19th at Wimberg Funeral Home 400 Liverpool Avenue Egg Harbor City (609-965-0357) from 11:00 - 1:00 PM with the Service starting at 1:00 PM. Interment will follow at the Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery in Mays Landing. For condolences or directions, please visit wimbergfuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in memory of "William H. Simpkins" to Germania Volunteer Fire Company 312 S. Cologne Avenue Cologne NJ 08213 and/or Loyal Order of Purple Heart Chapter 155 136 Boston Avenue Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215.
Sid enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in September of 1939, where he first served with the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron and later with the 427th Bomb Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group. From 1942 until 1945, he was stationed at Molesworth Air Station in England until VE Day and then was stationed in Casa Blanca French Morocco for three months. In 1954, Sid, Joan, and Terry returned to South Ruislip, England for a tour of duty. They returned to Fairchild Air Force Base, and in 1965, Sid retired from the military. He was employed by Washington Trust Bank and Old National Bank, before retiring in 1984. Sid was a lifetime member of the 303rd Bomb Group Association. He was anardent Mall Walker at Northtown Mall and through the years, walked over 1000 miles. Sid will be greatly missed by his many friends and fellow walkers.
A "Celebration of Life" will begin at 2:00pm Monday, July 19, 2010 at Riplinger Funeral Home followed by interment with military honors at Fairmount Memorial Park Cemetery. Memorials may be made in Sid's name to the Shriners Hospital for Children PO Box 2472 Spokane, WA 99210 or to a charity of one's choice.
The story of Guy's military service during World War II is a tale straight out of Charles Dickens or Mark Twain. Born in Maine but raised in Manitoba, Guy enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in August 1941. By mid 1942, he had completed basic and advanced training and was looking forward to an active duty assignment as a radio operator/gunner aboard a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. He got a big disappointment when he learned that he was grounded from flying because of color blindness. Undeterred by this minor setback, which may well have completely discouraged a less-determined man, Guy slyly "pulled some strings" and added his own name to the crew roster of a B-17E of the 359th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Heavy Bombardment Group, that was soon to leave the U.S. for Europe. He later said it was months before his paychecks and paperwork caught up with him.
As it turned out, his aircraft, which its crew had christened "Jarrin' Jenny," was the very first American-manned Flying Fortress to arrive in the United Kingdom when it landed smoothly at Prestwick, Scotland, on July 1, 1942, after a harrowing trans-Atlantic flight. Guy's aircraft was the first of the thousands of fighters and bombers of the mighty 81h Air Force that soon followed, a portent of the "thousand-plane raids" that would reduce Nazi Germany to rubble and assure Allied victory.
The Lt. Johnson Crew, including Sgt Dority, was originally assigned to the 359th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group. While still at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, they were transferred to the 97th Bomb Group.
Keeping the Legacy Alive,