Burton Lee Vreeland
386th Bomb Group 552nd Bomb Squadron
|Burton Lee Vreeland Technical Sergeant, Radio operator/ Waist Gunner
386th Bomb Group 552nd Bomb Squadron
53 Missions from March 1944 to January 1945
Training at MacDill Field, Fla. & Lake Charles, La Lake Charles AAB
Great Dunmow, England March 1944
Beaumont-sur-Oise, France Oct 1944
Aircraft: 41-35247 Martin B-26C-25-MO Marauder 135247 RG-Z named "Carefree Carolyn" on the right nose, and "Spirit of Pansy Yokum" on the left nose placed by the Ground crew after their recently lost plane, "Pansy Yokum" 131638 RG-N, on Jan. 14th 1944. They had been reassigned to Carefree Carolyn.
Great Dunmow, England Mar 1944
Air Offensive, Europe
Normandy June 6, 7, 8 1944
Beaumont-sur-Oise, France Oct 1944
2 confirmed 2 probable
Me 109G spiral spinner FW 190D
FW 190A Me 109E Yellow nose
Born on the Southside of Chicago, ILL. May 2nd 1921 and grew up loving airplanes and building models. Later I became interested in Architecture and started going to Architecture School getting up early in the morning to get to class. On occasion, I would cross the Rail Road tracks, in the snow, just in front of an on coming train to get to the station in time, as I would sometimes be running late. Little did I know that a Gorgeous brunette had been watching me and noticed my scurrying across the tracks with my books & coffee in hand and was thinking, "What a Nut". But that nut and the gorgeous Brunette later had a date and we eventually fell in love. I decided to Enlist as the War was ramping up and the call for men was prevalent. At the same time, Doris, the gorgeous brunette and I made plans to marry.
I started my training at MacDill Field, Fla, "One a Day in Tampa Bay", Yeah, that place. We were one of the First crews from our class to Crash Land a ship. Due to an organizational foul-up between the trainee pilot and the trainer while practicing shutting off engines in flight, the trainee shut off the left engine while the trainer shut off the right and since we were flying on the deck at the time, the ship went down Like a Rock on her belly. No one was injured. We were ordered to Lake Charles, LA so I went back home on leave and married Doris the day after Christmas. We moved to Lake Charles, LA and I completed my training. We were assigned a plane to fly over to the ETO, a brand new B-26F all Silver aluminum and we were going to name it 'HOT ROCK' when we got to England. We took the Southern route, South America to Africa where we had to stop because the right engine threw a rod and we had to wait for parts. I was stuck there for 2 weeks and All we had to eat was Vienna Sausages and water. To this day I can't look a Vienna Sausage in the face. As soon as we landed at Great Dunmow our plane was pulled away for another crew to use, as they had lost their plane just days before. That was the last we saw of 'Hot Rock' as it took a direct 155mm flak round to the left engine on that mission, never to be seen again. It was a Beautiful plane!
I completed my Radio Operater training after arriving at Great Dunmow and was working on the radio, trying to get my work done in a hurry because Ike was at the base. I was able to meet the Great Man in person, April 1944.
We were assigned our plane "Carefree Carolyn" a B-26C with "Spirit of Pansy Yokum" on the left side of the nose, named by the ground crew who lost their plane "Pansy Yokum" earlier. We went out on mission after mission and I got my first confirmed. An Me 109G with a Spiral painted spinner. I must have hit his tanks as the Me 109G blew apart.
D-Day,,June 6th was exciting. Special codes on the Radio and No Luftwaffe. We took off in the early morning and afternoon and Laid waste the coastal guns at Houlgate. I remember D-Day as being the first mission Lt. Slanker flew as our Official pilot. We were together from then on.
June 15, 1944 our hydraulics were shot out and we had taken hits from 88 & 155mm Flak, so we brought her in on her belly at Great Dunmow. Lt. Earl Slanker brought her in just as smooth as it could be. A Great pilot! The bottom of the plane ripped out as we skidded to a stop and I could see the ground come to a stop directly below me.
The B26.com's historian Chester Klier has recorded the Official reported story in his mission 209 but the Truth in that report was, I was hit by Flak in the hand and was bleeding. The piece of flak, about 1 cm square, fell out of my glove as I stood up after coming out of the plane. I still have it! They took me to the hospital, where they patched me up and I was fine. I was asked if I wanted a Purple Heart and I said "no, it's not that bad of a wound." Little did I know, Lieutenant Solon Humle had slipped on the fire retardant foam, sprayed on the engines & wing as he ran down the wing span to escape the plane and injured his elbow as he slipped on the wing. When he heard I had turned down my Purple Heart, well, 209 is the Official report.
We flew different Marauders after we lost Carefree Carolyn and never had a plane of our own after that. The ETO had increased in intensity and the missions were two a day, sometimes three. The Flak had become dense 88 and 155mm bursts on every mission, so thick, it looked like you could get out and walk on it. I started to get Flak happy.
On one of these missions I remember our crew being assigned a plane and jumping on board to set up my waist gun position when, Another waist gunner jumped aboard and told me He had been assigned to this plane and only He was going to man the waist guns. I, not wanting a confrontation at the time, agreed to man the turret guns and I'm glad I did. In the course of our mission the waist gunner took a 20mm flak round in the stomach and it split him open from neck to groin. We placed wet rags across his body to hold him together till we returned to Great Dunmow. He survived!
Coming back from another mission we had Large Cumulus clouds and as we flew out of one cloud, an FW-190D sat right next to our plane as if he were in formation with us. What a Beautiful aircraft! We were Both startled by the sudden appearance and he was so close I was able to see the Surprised look on his face as I opened fire and Blew his canopy off. I was able to put a few more bursts into him as he peeled away and started to smoke, but he never bailed out so it was considered a probable kill. I was later able to finish the job on a different mission while manning the turret guns, I caught an FW-190A and blew it apart.
We Moved to Beaumont-sur-Oise, France in October of 1944 and I remember it as being very cold that winter. On the way back from a mission we ran out of fuel over the North Sea and I had to bail out. The water was so cold I passed out when I hit and when I came to, the German schnell boats were racing from one side to capture me and the British boats were racing out to pick us up. I made it back.
The missions became more intense towards the end of the war as the Germans threw everything they had at us. The Flak and chances the Luftwaffe were taking realy told the story of desperation on their part. On a mission over Germany, we were returning after dropping our bombs on our target and I was manning the Turret guns. I called out, bandits at 6 o'clock high and after taking quite a few flak hits, we were now being relentlessly attacked by Yellow nosed Me 109's & FW-190's. They tried to rip us apart! Everyone was busy in the plane and I thought I heard Capt. Slanker (Pilot) call my name through the intercom. I ducked my head down below the turret so I could hear and see if he was calling my name, and the turret was Blown completely off the plane. Capt. Slanker had never called for me.
I was later able on a different mission, to get one of those yellow nosed Me 109E's from my waist gun as I fired a few bursts and he started to smoke and peeled off. 2nd Probable.
We headed out on a mission to bomb a Bridge across the Seine River but the weather turned and the entire squadron had to turn back. We had to jettison our bomb load and we were flying low to avoid the weather looking for a safe spot to dump our bombs. We spotted a farmer's hay field with large stacked hay bales and the order was given to let the bombs go in the field. Unbeknownst to us, hidden under the hay bales in the field, was a complete German Panzer Division. We inadvertently destroyed a Panzer Division and the Squadron received a commendation for our efforts.
One of the last incidents I can remember was when we were in formation heading for our target in Heavy Flak and I could see through my waist gun port, a B-26 flaming in back of us heading in our direction. I yelled at Capt. Slanker to watch out and he took evasive action avoiding a mid-air collision. As the flaming B-26 passed by our plane, we could see the Entire front end, cockpit and all, had been completely blown away.
I completed 53 missions and I'm not sure how I made it. After I left the ETO I trained on the new B-29 automated gun system and trained new gunners on the B-29's.
Doris and I raised three children, two Daughters and a Son and I went on into Telephony to become a PBX Computer Software Configurations Specialist. I retired in 1987.