Edward J. Wenning is my father. He was a radar mechanic associated with the 853rd Navigation Unit, assigned to the 398th Bombardment Group. All I ever knew about his AAF service record was that he worked on B-17 radar systems while at Nuthampstead, England, during WWII and came home with the rest of the group on the Queen Elizabeth. Dad died when I was 21 years old -- that was 29 years ago. We were just becoming good friends when he suddenly died from a series of heart attacks in 1974. After his funeral my mother gave my brothers and sisters his war memorabilia; I received his wool winter long coat. That coat now is located in the Mercer County Museum in Celina, Ohio, where my dad spent most of his adult life. At the time of his affiliation with the AAF, he was from Coldwater, Ohio.
Because my father died so young, at age 52, he wasn't present for my wedding, for the birth of my three daughters, and all such other manner of things that families share. I often felt bad about his untimely death, and during my 1982 honeymoon trip to Europe I felt the loss most keenly. This was especially so when I spent three days in London. Travel plans didn't permit me on that trip to travel to Nuthampstead to see where my father served during WWII, but I promised myself then and there that I would someday return to England and make a pilgrimage to the air base that was part of my father's life. The opportunity to return presented itself during the summer of 2003 when I took my family to England and Wales on a 16-day vacation. Because I knew then that I'd be going to Nuthampstead, I decided to take my mother, Agnes Wenning, along as well. We visited Nuthampstead on Sunday, August 3.
I first found out about the Nuthampstead air field and the 398th affiliation after doing an Internet search. A magazine article dealing with "famous British pub crawls" included a description of the Woodman Inn, and mentioned 398th memorabilia and the Memorial Association monument. Once I saw that article and learned a bit about
the pub's owner's, Ian and Sandy, I decided that a visit to the site might well pay unexpected dividends. How little then did I realize how big these dividends would be.
We approached the Woodman Inn that Sunday, just before 4 p.m. The pub was just about to close after an afternoon of festivities associated with a special local event. Nonetheless, Sandy invited us in and most graciously served me and my family. She showed us where to find the 398th memorabilia, told us as much as she could about the 398th airfield, and provided us a map of the airfield and copies of the Memorial Association's newsletter. This was, in fact, the first time I had hear about the 398th Memorial Association.
Following Sandy's advice, I began to carefully scan the pictures on the pub wall. I soon came across a picture of the entire 398th bomb group standing both on and under a B-17. I examined the picture very carefully hoping against all hope that I would find an image of my father. Imagine my surprise when, there, standing atop the B-17 and
just left of the fuselage, I saw my then 23-year-old father. The identification was verified by my mother with the use of a magnifying glass provided by Sandy. Imagine how stunned we all were. The moment was touching beyond belief!
My family and I slowly departed the Woodman Inn, feeling as though we were leaving something of ourselves behind. Nonetheless, we all wanted to see what was left of the airfield that Sandy had pointed out to us. We drove to the airfield, made our way down several sections of old concrete that might well have been parts of the former runways, and looked for buildings that might have remained from the 1944-1945 time period. At the end of the tour we stopped at the base of the flag pole long enough to salute all members of the 398th -- living and dead. It was another touching moment for my entire family.
Since that time I have returned to my home in Normal, Illinois, and continue to pursue more information about the 398th, and seek details about this small but important portion of my father's life. I hope against hope the someone in the Memorial Association might have known my father then, and could perhaps even now provide additional details or small anecdotes about his military service. Again I say "hope
against all hope" because, evidently, my father was not part of a particular bomber ground crew. I suspect that given his area of expertise he spent time working on different lead B-17's throughout the course of his assignment at Nuthampstead. His service record does not appear in the official records of the 398th Memorial Association.
If anyone can tell me anything about my father, I'd be delighted to hear from them. I must say that since I first made contact with the 398th Memorial Association leadership, I have been delighted with a number of phone calls and e-mail messages. Though no one I have spoken with knew my father, it has been a great pleasure nonetheless. I thank all for their great kindness on behalf of me and my family.
Carl J. Wenning
If you have information for Carl J. Wenning about his father, Edward J. Wenning, please contact our Personal History Coordinator.