I was named a pilot and commissioned Aug. 30, 1943 – and then assigned to the 336BG B26 RTU at Avon Park. With no B26 transition training, it seemed that I was destined to be a co-pilot, but that changed when instructor pilot Lt. Joseph A. Hauser concluded that I could handle the B26 and, almost instantly, I was made a first pilot and given an aircrew. Twenty-four months later, as WW II came to an end, I had flown a maximum of missions and not only was a Major but also the Assistant Group Operations Officer of the 323BG. I would like to think that this happened on my own, but it did not. The crew I was assigned and those for whom I worked are the ones to be thanked and I never forgot that. While I would like to thank all of them by name, that is precluded by space.
Nonetheless, I begin with noting that I was assigned a wonderful crew and, on joining the 323BG, rapidly tagged for left wing:
2Lt Carl H. Johnson (bombardier-navigator)
F/O Ferris J. Scoggin (co-pilot)
Sgt Charles W. Ewing, Sr. (radio)
Sgt Alexander D. Murphy (engineer)
Sgt Luther M. Perry (tail gunner)
and later Lt. Benedict F. Syslo (navigator)
Also joining the 454BS, 323BG, concurrently with the Moench crew and as soon tagged for right wing was the Eastwood crew. We became a team. The Eastwood crew consisted of:
2Lt William H. Eastwood (pilot)
2Lt E. Hirst Mendenhall (bombardier-navigator)
F/O Paul R. Currier (co-pilot)
S/Sgt H. R. Filipske (engineer)
Sgt C. N. Cawl (gunner)
and later 2Lt Edwin F. Laffey (bombardier-navigator)
And as to 323BG supporters, of special note were:
Col Wilson R. Wood (pilot, CO 323BG)
Lt Col George P. Gould (pilot, Squadron Operations Officer)
Lt Col Marion W. Morgan (pilot, CO 454BS)
Lt Col William R. Fitzgerald (administrative officer)
Lt Col Gerald “Jerry” Howard (pilot, Group Operations Officer)
Lt Col James E. Womeldorff (executive officer)
Maj Robert D. Dazell (executive officer)
Maj Vincent P “Doc” Hannley (navigator)
Maj William C. McLaughlin (bombardier-navigator)
Capt Charles B. “Doc” Sadler (Flight Surgeon)
1Lt Zdzislaw L. “Hank” Sobczynski
With only a month in combat, my crew had already flown 19 missions. Frankly, it looked like a return home would be only months away, but that was not to be the case as my selection to flight lead was made, and, advancing toward the time of the Battle of the Bulge, I was moved up to Group lead and made Assistant Group Operations Officer – and then the war would be over. In this short timeframe I had advanced for 2Lt to Major and, following, I would stay in the USAF to engage in the wars yet to come. Some three decades later I would retire as a Major General having served not only in senior USAF assignments but also in the U.S. EUCOM and CINCPAC commands and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
A good number of years after military retirement, on finding that the 454BS and 323BG did not have a published history, with the encouragement of Joseph R. Havrilla who was the long time leader of the 454BS Association, I undertook the writing and publication of Marauder Men, An Account of the Martin B-26 Marauder. One guideline to the writing of that history was to recognize as many of the associated Marauder Men as was possible – and, that being a limited number, an index of all the 323BG men was included (while a few persons were missed, the total amounted to some 5,000). No one succeeds on his own, and the record presented in b26.com proves the point.
I am now 88 and in poor health. Regardless, I continue to support the Marauder community as it supported me in the past. But the road has been difficult. In my association with the Marauder community, I have made and retained many friends; however, with regret, I developed some enemies. This is normal in any environment. I treasure the former and feel sorry for the latter.
Summarizing the ever-present situation, I will quote from my yet unpublished memoir: Their Wars, Your Wars & My Wars, In the Footsteps of a German-American Patriot. The quote relates to my return from Europe following the end of WW II and the flight back to the U.S.
I happened to sit next to a smartly dressed Air Force captain – the ring on a finger signified that he was a West Point graduate. This captain sized me up several times. My uniform was the same one that I had worn when I deployed to Europe, and it had been dragged through many primitive locales. It was now a bit shabby and smelled of the gasoline that had been used to clean it. My “sixty-mission” hat lacked a grommet and was impregnated with grease. And my well-worn shoes would no longer hold a decent shine. Reading the face of the captain, I saw nothing other than disgust.
In the ensuing conversation, the captain asked me where I had attended college. I told him that I had not been able to attend. In now deepening disgust, he looked at me for a minute and then commented, “How in hell did you ever get promoted to major?”
Taken back by the effrontery, I commented back, “And what in the hell kept you from getting promoted.”
My continued best wishes to all Marauder Men and Women. You form a great community, and, supported by Mike Smith and Trevor Allen of B26.com and other dedicated historians, may your lives and that of your family be one of comforting and pleasurable reflection.