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Gayle L. Smith
Group Operations Officer

I would judge Sam Monk to have been in his middle 30's, and was also a stabilizing force in day-to-day missions.  Sam was all heart to everyone.  I worked with Bill and Sam in every mission and they left me with the most pleasant of memories, along with their tremendous assistance in mission planning.  Gus Shields of the 556th Squadron, Karl Peterson of the 557th Squadron, and Stan Rowe of the 558th Squadron were the other intelligence officers that did terrific jobs in debriefing crews on return from missions.

This is the road map of the 387th Bomb Group while in training and in preparation for overseas.  We trained at MacDill (Practice Bombing, Night Flying, Instrument Training and Formation Flying) until April 1943.  We moved to Lakeland, Florida where we undertook the Low Level Attack Training.  The danger involved with low level formation flying occurred on April 23, 1943 when two 556th aircraft collided and crashed.

Several other events occurred at Lakeland: We experienced a shortage of aviation fuel and a decrease in training.  On April 29, 1943, all co-pilots were transferred back to MacDill to become first pilots in a follow on group: On May 3, 1943 new co-pilots were on board; Major Phillip Sykes replaced Col. Robert Stillman as Executive Officer. [Col. Stillman left to become the 322nd Bomb Group Commander that was en route to England.] Col. Stillman would be considered a "technocrat" in today's society, but a pleasant one.  Before you could say "Good morning, Sir", he would have asked you a technical question concerning the operation of the B-26.  Col. Stillman, leading the second low level mission of the 322nd B.G., was shot down along with the entire formation.   Seriously injured, he survived, becoming a prisoner of war. [This triggered the change from low level to medium altitude.]

May 11-12, 1943.  The group left for Godman Field, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to conduct air and ground forces training for the next two weeks.  Since the Group had departed from Command Control over our training, Col. Storrie, received a written commendation from Command Headquarters citing the 387th for having the best record of maintenance efficiency and overall flight time experienced to date.

May 25, 1943: The Air Echelon, augmented by selected aircraft maintenance specialists, moved to Selfridge Field, just north of Detroit.

The Ground Echelon had applied for an all-expense paid cruise to England on board the Queen Mary.  However, the next scheduled departure from New York was June 24, 1943.   So, I am told, remaining at Godman wasn't all fun and games. [I have also been told that on board ship canteens were not necessarily filled with water.]

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