Walter E. Boland: My Personal History
By Walter E. Boland Waist Gunner, 602nd Squadron
I was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 3rd 1943 with all my friends from our hometown Audubon, N.J. It was a snowy day as we drove up to Fort Dix in a bus. I had wanted to enlist in the Air Corps but my parents would not sign for me. After a week of getting shots, uniforms, KP and learning to march I was put on a troop train. Everything was top secret they could not tell us where we were going. This was a coach no upper or lower berths three days latter we arrived in Miami Beach, Florida. I thought I had gone to Heaven. We left the snow and were down in the sunshine state. To top it off I was in the ARMY AIR CORPS. When I was a little toddler I looked up at every plane and waved hi Lindy he was my idle. Lindberg had made his solo transatlantic flight and I wanted to fly. My basic training was finished in Miami Beach. They put me on another troop train and yes our destination was top secret there was a war on. Maybe I was headed for Flight training as an air cadet. Well after seven days in another troop train we arrived in Fort Stockton, California. The top brass decided I would make a better auto mechanic. After six weeks of mechanics school back on another troop train headed for Jacksonville, Ill. I had been accepted for ASTP. This was the Army Specialized Training Program. I was to become a student at the College of Illinois. After one semester of Engineering I was back on another train to Jefferson Barracks Missouri. They (the top brass) were getting serious now about my flying and put me on another troop train. We were assigned to Indian Springs Gunnery School at Las Vegas, Nevada. I learned to fly as a gunner. After graduation I received a weeks furlough home to Audubon, N.J. Then back on a train again to Salt Lake City, Utah.
I was reassigned to Rapid City, S.D. and became a member of the Roy Leukhardt Crew on April 7, 1944. Our Copilot was M. Boswell he got his own crew after fifteen missions and retired from the Air Force as a Major General. Our bombardier was Duane Ulstad, Navigator was Joe Elick, Engineer was Herb Fick, Pete Codan operated the Radio, in the ball turret was Lambert Baker. Chuck Flickinger was the other waist gunner but he only flew one mission with the crew. In the tail was Maurice Fletcher.
On July 18 1944 our crew joined the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthumpsted, England. On our first mission, which was on July 29, 1944 to the Leuna oil refineries just south of Merseburg, Germany, the tail gunner lost his oxygen supply and I was sent back to revive him. I then sent him up to cover my waist position and I took over as TAILGUNNER. I could not believe what I was seeing, plane after plane being shot down, then I realized this was for real.
After our crew flew fifteen missions we were sent to a Rest Home in Southport England. When we returned to Nuthumpsted we became a Lead Crew. This meant we lost our copilot the Squadron or Group Commander took that position. It also meant we lost the tail gunner an officer took over in the tail to help form the squadron. It also meant we lost the Ball turret and radar was installed in the ball and a Mickey (radar) operator was added to the radio room. We only had one waist gunner and I had to look out of both sides of the plane. I flew as a ball turret gunner when we crossed the English Channel. I did this to relieve the regular man from a very cramped position.
On October 28th, 1944 our fourteenth mission the target was Munster, Germany. We were flying Deputy Lead to bomb the Marshalling Yards. We carried (6) 500 General purpose Bombs and (6) 500 Pound incendiaries. Our altitude was 23,000 ft over the target. Flak was the most accurate we have ever seen as far as the lead element was concerned. We counted 120 flak holes. Two engines were shot out. We made a crash landing back at our base with two flat tires. Five planes were lost. All three ships in the lead element were either shot down or forced down. There was heavy fog over the target. The Mickey operator and tail gunner were slightly hit by the flak.
I finished my thirty missions, was sent to Southampton England and boarded the troopship Edmund P. Alexander. This was the same ship that brought me to England. I celebrated my twenty-first birthday waiting for our ship convoy to form. After a three week crossing we arrived safely to see the Statue of Liberty on March 22 1945. I was seasick all the way home.
I spent my last six months in Atlantic City, N.J. as a Patrol Sergeant in the Military Police. My last duty was as an honor guard leading the 1945 Miss America Pageant on the Boardwalk. I was discharged September 28,1945.
Personal History Information
- Veteran: Walter E. Boland
- Waist Gunner, 602nd Squadron
- Date of Personal History: November 2002
- Author: Walter E. Boland
- Submitted to 398th Web Pages by: Walter E. Boland