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commemorate an American tragedy
On 4 June, 2000 in the seaside city of Mackay, Queensland, Australia,
the Australian Returned and Service League(similar to the American
Legion) held its annual B-17C 40-2072 Memorial service near the
aircraft's fatal resting ground. Only the Australians have remembered
this US Army Air Force (USAAF) aircraft all these years whereas
it has been forgotten in the US until now.
service was attended by American representatives from the 5th Air
Force, the USAF Air Attache to Australia, USN and USMC whose ships
are in dock marched in the ceremony, US military retirees and one
of the survivors of this aircraft.
memorial is dedicated to the B-17C that crashed at Bakers Creek,
outside of Mackay, on June 14, 1943 killing 40 of the 41 passengers
and crews. It remains the worst Australian air disaster; it was
the worst US military air disaster at that time and the worst single
disaster of any of the 12,731 B-17s built. Sgt Robert Foye was the
only survivor and his recollection of the crash had been limited
due to injuries received; he now lives in Wichita Falls, Texas.
by Eugene D. Rossel
The 1st Emergency Rescue Squadron (ERS) was formed in the summer
of 1943, after intensive water rescue training and transferred to
the Mediterranean to coordinate with Air Force bomber and fighter
sorties. The following year they rescued 350-400 survivors from
the USAF, RAF, allies and even German crews, often under extreme
weather conditions, frequent fighter enemy action and shore battery
late 1944 bomber bases moved north and there were fewer overwater
flights. The 1st ERS was split, the 1st remained in Europe while
the newly designated 7th ERS transferred to India, then Okinawa
until war's end. Back in the US, the squadrons were deactivated.
years ago, the 1st and 7th met in Peoria, Illinois, for their first
reunion in over 50 years. The event continues annually. Rescue dinghies
made way for steamboat cruises, golf, antiquing and most especially
three days of bull sessions savoring enduring friendships.
by Chuck Dill, Peoria, Illinois
wife views World War II reunions
by Charlotte Krepismann
I remember my shock when my husband said, "Those were the most
important years of my life." referring to time spent as a navigator
in the 100th Bomb Group in England during World War II. How could
they be more important than the 38-plus years of marriage and our
words really hurt. I'd say, "You were an inexperienced kid
caught up in all the hoopla about the war. How can you compare that
to everything we've meant to each other and all we've built over
began to understand my husband's feelings at the three Air Force
reunions I attended with him. At the first reunion, I felt very
much the outsider. I was confused by names: What was a group? A
Squadron? A tour of duty? I enjoyed the spoofing, the camaraderie
and special events, but was it so different from a convention of
middle-aged businessmen? The answer came when I overheard an airman
from another group say, "Yeah, that's the Bloody 100 - they
had a lot of casualties."
had nothing to say. I spent the war only slightly inconvenienced
by rationing and brownouts. No one I knew well was killed. How could
I relate to stories my husband told about waving to a friend in
a nearby place during a raid as they watched a plane spiral to the
ground engulfed in flames?
the first reunion, we learned that one of the most popular fliers
had died of a heart attack. My husband, who hadn't known him well,
was nevertheless inconsolable. One of the "boys" was gone.
I, too, was touched because I had a clear picture of him regaling
us with wild stories of flying a B-17 over the rooftops of a Scottish
town, waggling the wings in farewell to the shocked townspeople
below. What crazy kids, I thought. It's amazing we won the war.
my second reunion, I was more comfortable and even managed to remember
a few we had met before. We had a good time because we became part
of a group within a larger group. The old stories were pulled out
again and I started to really listen. Could these aging warriors
remember the exploits and bombing raids of World War II? Indeed
they did in full technicolor: flak mushrooming all around them,
fighter pilots desperately trying to keep the enemy planes away
from the vulnerable big bombers and the sad tales of the men who
were shot down or parachuted into enemy territory only to be pitchforked
to death by farmers.
listened enthralled to the oft-told story of how "Rosie,"
the amazing group hero and former command pilot, had duped the German
Air Force into believing he was surrendering and then caught them
by surprise by evading his escort and flying to safety. To me, this
was better than war movies I'd seen. Looking through my husband's
eyes, I no longer saw a middle-aged man with wavy gray hair who
stood up to wild applause when they called his name. For a while,
I was part of the loving circle and "Rosie" was my leader
I still bristled when my husband continued his talk of those "happiest
years" of his life. I granted him the deep love he felt for
the men who 45 years before depended on him to get them to the target
and safely home. I could even dimly realize that though these 19-
and 20-year olds faced death every time they flew a mission, they
didn't reject the war as obscene or crazy. They were held together
by an almost mystical bond. They had seen awful destruction, played
their parts and survived to meet again at these raucous four-day
celebrations of victory over the enemy.
third reunion for me was held only two years later. Only two years
between reunions was tacit recognition that the years were going
far too quickly now. There were again the hugs and backslappings,
meetings and picture-taking and banquets celebrating old friends
and admirers from overseas who knew these men as boys or Yanks.
Finally I felt part of their history, though again my husband deferred
to his buddies when I would have been happy to dance to the band
playing the songs of the forties.
sat with other wives as five navigators spun their tales of hair-raising
adventures that to them had happened only yesterday. Years dropped
away along with thinning or gray hair and stockier builds. Their
voices rose; one pounded the table; another drew pictures to illustrate
a point; and they all brought back the happiest days of their lives.
glad I went. I'm glad I feel part of the group now. After all, those
were my years too, dancing to Glen Miller and Benny Goodman bands,
singing at the war-bond rallies and listening with nervous tension
to all the news from the war front. Now I feel I can travel into
the past at the next reunion with more knowledge and a sense of
relief. After all, we won the war and I was married to a hero.
the 100th Bomb Group
After training the 100th Bomb Group joined the 8th Air Force in
England in May 1943. The unit soon became notorious as the hard-luck
bomber outfit of World War II.
lost it's first crew to enemy aircraft on a practice mission before
it went on operations. In Germany, it lost six crews over Bremen,
a whole squadron over Frankfurt. Only three planes arrived at their
destination in Africa after the shuttle mission to Regensburg and
only one plane came home from Muenster. In March 1944, 15 of its
35 bombers did not return from the bombing of Berlin.
of its unusually heavy losses in Europe, the group became known
at the Bloody 100th. The group established one of the finest records
for aerial bombardment during World War II and its crew are some
of the most frequently decorated.
group's notoriety and good records are celebrated in such books
as Twelve O'Clock High and Flying Fortresses.
from a text about the 100th Bomb Group by Harry Crosby.
About the author
Charlotte Krepismann taught high school English and retired early
to pursue a writing career. Her stories and articles have been published
in 40 magazines and newspapers. For the past four years, she has
been Supervisor of Student-Teachers at Stanford University.
The author's husband, Lt. Col. Julius Krepismann died shortly after
she wrote this article, as have several of his buddies. She suggests
that "perhaps there really is a place where old fliers meet
when they have flown their last flight."
appeared in The Retired Officer.
on an earlier article
Lee Bergfeld, Steeleville, Illinois, editor of the Corcaroli
Courier, asked to reprint an article ("A wife's view of
World War II reunions," spring 1998, V8N3) as a tribute to
their "wives ... for their patient understanding of our emotions
..." He said the article author, Charlotte Krepismann, "compassionately
describes feelings of wives accompanying ex-military husbands to
reunions with mates during those most important years of their lives."
enemies are friends
More than 56 years ago Lou Lovesky was on a bomb run over Berlin
when his B-24, "Terry and the Pirates," was fatally damaged
by flak. Then he collided with another B-24 and both aircraft crashed
over Berlin with 13 crew members KIA. Seven were taken prisoner
and liberated by General Patton on April 2, 1945, over a year later.
Schuster who was a 16 year-old in a Berlin Anti-Aircraft battery
on March 22, 1944 allegedly shot down Lovesky's B-24. Schuster said
the "Terry" came down so close to the Flak Battery, they
all had to duck. He then left his post to take pictures of the nearby
a vacation in Florida, Schuster made inquiries about survivors of
the "Terry." A friend of a friend contacted "Barky"
Hovespian, former President of the 466th Bomb Group Association,
of which Lovesky was a member. The two "enemies" met in
the Ex-POW Bulletin