B-17 Nine-O-Nine

Feb 192017
 

Robert Brocklehurst

ABC News aired a story tonight about Bob Brocklehurst, a World War II fighter pilot.  Recently at age 96, he went up again in a P-51 Mustang, the same type of plane he flew in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Interestingly, he wore a cap that indicated “41-G.”  I recognized that immediately as his graduating class number, meaning he graduated as a fighter pilot in 1941.  I found his picture in the AAF Collection in a class book from Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas.1

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Citations

  1. Army Air Forces Collection, “Gig Sheet, The: Class 41-G, Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas” (item 000421), AAF Collection, http://AAFCollection.info/items/list.php?item=000421 (accessed 19 February 2017), page 41.
Feb 082017
 

Lt Leonard B. Fuller

First Lieutenant Leonard B. Fuller represents America’s Finest.  A farm boy from rural New York, in March 1944 he was a fighter pilot based at Steeple Morden, England in the 357th Fighter Squadron.  Four months later in July 1944 he had flown 40 missions over enemy territory, with 180 hours of combat flight in a P-51 Mustang.

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Dec 122016
 
Portrait

Jack Voisin at Miami Beach, Florida, 1943

My father, John E. “Jack” Voisin, was stationed at Miami Beach, Florida for basic training from August to September 1943.  He returned there in March 1944 for air crew classification processing.

The United States Army Air Forces operated Basic Training Center #4 at Miami Beach.  Jack was housed some of the time in the Netherland Hotel, a seven-story ocean-side hotel on the beach. This sounds luxurious, but as early as 1942 the Army Air Force had bought or leased 452 hotels and converted them into schools and barracks to process the huge number of recruits.1  He later stayed in “tent city,” which was a vast group of canvas tents.

Jack was an 18 year old from Michigan who also liked photography.  He took several photographs of the South Beach area along Ocean Drive, among the Art Deco hotels where he stayed and underwent training.  He sent these prints home and wrote descriptions on most of them for his parents.  In studying these I discovered some details that are historically very interesting.  Even though Miami Beach was a paradise, it was essentially a military installation.  It was guarded against enemy attack; something you would not consider while sitting on the beach today.

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Citations

  1. Army Air Forces, The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces, May 1944, p. 102.
Jun 042015
 

While wandering a classic car show recently, I came upon a relic of Army Air Forces history.  This appears to be an original decal that says,  “Keep ’em Flying! Remember Pearl Harbor.”  The red and white stripes have faded.  It was on the rear right-side window of a 1940 Buick Special 8.

Keep em Flying

Oct 262014
 
2/Lt. Ralph I. Jones

2/Lt. Ralph I. Jones

2/Lt. Ralph I. Jones was killed August 28, 1944 over Boskovštejn, Czech Republic on his first combat mission.  I recounted his heroic story in an earlier post.

Now for the first time, his picture adorns the monument dedicated to a once-unknown American P-51 fighter pilot. The seventieth anniversary memorial service for 2/Lt. Jones was held last August 30.

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Oct 262014
 
Memorial Service for Lt. James E. Hoffman, Jr.

Memorial Service for Lt. James E. Hoffman, Jr.

A ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of the death of Lt. James E. Hoffman, Jr. was held last August 23 near Věžky, Czech Republic.  Lt. Hoffman was a decorated P-51 pilot who was shot down August 22, 1944.

A monument to this American hero was erected in 1946.  This year a photograph of Lt. Hoffman now adorns the monument.

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May 182014
 
Air Cadet Ralph I. Jones Primary Flight School, Gibbs Field, Fort Stockton, Texas, circa 1943. (AAFC, 2014)

Air Cadet Ralph I. Jones
Primary Flight School, Gibbs Field, Fort Stockton, Texas, circa 1943. (AAFC, 2014)

Monday, August 28, 1944. It was a bright sunny day in the small village of Boskovštejn, in then Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. Shortly before 9:00 am, five hundred miles to the south, nineteen year old Second Lieutenant Ralph I. Jones climbed aboard “Birmingham Boomerang,” his P-51B Mustang, a single-seat, single-engine fighter airplane. That day was his first combat mission. It was also his last.

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Jan 242014
 

Movietone NewsIn the class book for Eagle Pass Army Air Field Class 43-F and 43-G, there is a narrative history of the base.  One paragraph describes the day the base was dedicated, which coincided with graduation day for Class 43-B:

Next in the recorded annals was the formal dedication of the field on February 16, 1943. Another class of cadets was graduated that day–Class 43-B–and its members sprouted their wings to stage a sparkling aerial revue in which they machine-gunned an oil-soaked cardboard replica of an Axis train carrying pictorial effigies of Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini. Satisfactory clouds of black smoke pillared into the air, and everybody loved the exhibition–including the newsreel cameramen who were there.

The dedication ceremony mentioned was indeed captured by Fox Movietone News. You can view the actual clip at University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections. The Eagle Pass segment starts at about 6 minutes 25 seconds into the movie. You can also view the actual script and cameraman’s “Dope Sheet” about this episode there.

From a brief mention of newsreel cameramen, to a quick search of the Internet, a bit of history comes alive.  You can read the rest of the base history. (Note: Click on “Site Details” there.)

Apr 152013
 

CBS News 60 MinutesI enjoyed watching the recent 60 Minutes story on Marfa, Texas.1  Apparently this isolated, rural town is attracting lots of different people today.  In the story, they briefly mentioned the remnants of an old army base there.

Marfa Army Air FieldActually it was the Marfa Army Air Field, a twin-engine advanced pilot training school.  Hundreds of Army Air Force pilots earned their silver wings at Marfa.  So, the town must have been a hub of activity about 1943 before slipping back into obscurity, then rediscovery.

The AAF Collection has a few pilot class books from Marfa.

Citations

  1. CBS News, 60 Minutes, “Marfa Texas: The Capital of Quirkiness,” aired April 14, 2013.
Feb 052013
 

Bombardiers' Information File

I recently visited the United States Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base, near Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  On display behind glass were four training manuals.  One was the Bombardiers’ Information File, a copy of which is available to view in the AAF Collection.

Training Manuals

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