If it moved on the ground at Station 131, Colonel Earl John Berryhill knew about it. He was the 398th Bomb Group Ground Executive Officer, hand-picked by Colonel Frank P. Hunter, Jr., for this job, and his presence was seen and felt in just about every echelon of activity in and around the Nuthampstead, England air base.
The business of flying was in the hands of Col. Hunter, his air executive officer, squadron commanders and operations people. But if it had to do with business on the ground, the name Berryhill was attached to it in some fashion. With ground personnel outnumbering flying personnel by a 2 to 1 margin (2012 to 1031 as of December 31, 1944), the Berryhill shadow fell in areas much unknown to combat crews, although at least a few airmen were known to have been introduced to Berryhills policemen, the 1142nd MP Company.
Most of the Group Executive communication came through channels, such as Group Adjutant Jack Garland, and the Squadron execs, Raymond Richmand (600), William Priestley (601), Norville Bennett (602) and Joe Schapiro (603). And, when it came to dealing with the enlisted personnel, the squadron first sergeants.
Berryhill was a 1931 graduate of Texas A & M, receiving a reserve commission. He learned about work during the Depression when he commanded a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) company in Texas. He then entered active Army duty in 1939 and in 1941 transferred to the Air Corps at McChord Field, WA. Two years later he was called by Col. Hunter as 398th ground exec. He moved with the group from Blythe, CA, to Geiger Field, Spokane, WA, Ephrata, WA and finally to Rapid City, SD. In April 1944, under Berryhills command, the ground echelon entrained from Rapid City to Camp Myles Standish, MA. On April 7th, the contingent boarded the USS Wakefield bound for Liverpool, England, arriving on April 21st. The next day they set foot on Station 131, there to greet the Air Echelon commanded by Col. Hunter.
At Nuthampstead, Col. Berryhill functioned much like a city manager, dealing not only with the station troops, but also with the community at large and the civilian personnel working on the base.
Men like Chaplain James Duvall, Special Services Officer Bill Holmes, Red Cross agent Walter Duke, Intelligence Officer Matthew Meyer, Finance Officer Nathan Turen, MP Officer Frank Guiner and Station Complement Officer Heywood Braddock numbered among Berryhills frequent contacts. And, the groups Sergeant Major, Ed Pennylegion.
Now and again, Berryhill would be called in to deal with an errant airman, such as the unnamed officer who drove his Jeep through the front door of the Officers Club. And it was Berryhills trucks that were waiting at Royston to pick up the late arrivals from London, sometimes just in time for mission briefing the next morning.
Following the inactivation of the 398th at Drew Field, FL, Berryhill remained as Commandant of Troops. Subsequently he moved on to Biggs Field, TX.; to the Pentagon; Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA; and Warren AFB, WY. In 1952 he served at Clark AFB, Philippines; and in Manila as Commander of the US Military Port.
He retired as a permanent Colonel in 1952 following stints as professor of Air Science at Lehigh University and Programs Officer at the Air University. He holds Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees.
From 1965 to 1974 he was on the faculty of the Citadel, the military college at Charleston, SC. Charleston holds a prominent place in Berryhills past. Not only because of his Citadel service, but his great-grandfather was a captain in the South Carolina militia, serving under the legendary Swamp Fox, Col. Francis Marion in the defense of Charleston.