World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project


Interview with

Wally Blackwell, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force

Interviewer: Randy Stange

Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 10, 2003



Background:

The 398th has been interviewing its members as part of the Timeless Voices of Aviation project. More information about the project and a current list of video interviews can be found at 398th Timeless Voices Interviews. In addition to the video interviews, some of the interviews have been transcribed to text.

 

Interview with

Wally Blackwell, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force


Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
WB: 398th Pilot, Wally Blackwell

Part I:  398th WWII Interview

Q: We’re with Wallace Blackwell, President of the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association.  Wally, tell me where you live and where were you born?
WB: I was born in a little town on Cape Cod, Massachusetts called Sagamore, near the canal, across the street over in Grandmother’s house.  That’s where I began my career and activities.

Q: Any brothers or sisters?
WB: I have an older brother and three younger sisters.  My brother was in the Coast Guard.  He went into the service and I followed.  He went in the Coast Guard and I went in the Air Force because I actually got seasick. 

Q: What did your parents do?
WB: My mother was a schoolteacher.  Dad, he was a little bit of everything.  He was a fireman and carpenter.  He really loved being a fisherman. He wound up being a commercial fisherman with my brother. 

Q: Did you have an interest in aviation prior to WWII, other than trying to avoid seasickness?
WB: I always remember trying to make model planes.  I was young you see.  I was only 18 when I got interested in this aviation business so I really didn’t have much time to look around to see what I was going to do.

Q: Why don’t we start with Pearl Harbor?
WB: I don’t know [much] about Pearl Harbor

Q: Where were you?
WB: It’s interesting, just last month Teedy and I were up to Cape Cod.  We went to our high school reunion.  It’s a new high school.  We had an offer to go back to the old high school.  It is now run by a private concern; it is sort of run down.  We went back and looked at the old rooms we were in.  I did reminisce.  There was a bottom of a stairway near the janitor’s area and he had a radio on.  This was on Monday and it [Pearl Harbor] was Sunday.  We were all realizing then over that radio, four or five of us standing around, listening to his radio, understanding what Pearl Harbor was all about.  I did recall that incident pretty well. 

Q: Did you enlist then?
WB: In the fall of 1942, I went to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to start a career in civil engineering.  Along about the end of November, the UNH campus got buzzed by a P-40.  I think he must have been a graduate.  Then the next day, as I always kiddingly say, the Army Air Force recruiter showed up.  Having been told that 18 year olds had to start signing up for the draft, some of us went down to take the test to sign up for the Army Air Corp pilot training.  Low and behold before long, this was December of ’42, come February of ‘43, I was on my way with a group of other UNH students.  We had taken ROTC that Fall so we did know something about [basic training]. The complaint was [that] some of those student programs always [required being] sent to basic training first.  We went right through.  I went to Fort Devens in my only Sunday suit.  They put us on a train and we wound up a week later in Nashville, Tennessee to do the screening to enter the aviation cadet program.  After a month there, having passed the appropriate tests; I ended up at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama for preflight.  I went to Ocala, Florida [for primary flying training].  I went searching for the old field [a few years ago].  It was a grass field, right near the center of Ocala, that area is now part of an industrial complex.

We learned to fly a PT-17.  A group was formed at that time, like Ray Armor, Jack Lee, and a few others that stayed together through the whole training.  A fellow about 43 years old taught me to fly a PT-17. We had a great time.  At that time I think I beat my seasickness problem; which was the only [problem] thing I ever had.  Some of those five spins to the left or five spins to the right in a PT-17, and some of the snap rolls used to stress me out a little bit.   Then we moved on to Malden, Missouri for PT-13 training, what they called “Basic”.  We did a little bit more, not too many acrobats, but then you started [instrument flying], night flights, and things like that.  I always remember the first night flight I took was right from Malden, flew the airline right up to St. Louis.  You flew up the right side of the airline, every 20 miles looking at a flashing beacon, that was the airline. You looked down at the tabs you had on your knee, you would tear off a tab that was that light.  When you got to St. Louis you were supposed to start back down on the other side of the airline tearing off the tabs on the other side of your knee.  So we had some excitement there.  I passed [basic training] pretty well and went on to Stuttgart, Arkansas for advanced training in AT-10s. [In advanced] we had the  usual training on how to fly in formations, starting and stopping engines [in flight] and that kind of stuff.  I was one of those selected to go to Chanute Air Force Base to learn to fly a B-17. There was a small group of us from that graduating class and they included, Jack Lee, Ray Armor and Herb Newman and about a dozen that actually ended up with me in the 398th [at Nuthampstead].

Having completed the requirements to fly a B-17, we went through the USAAB Salt Lake City staging area.  That is where all the crews were put together.  They assembled [crews from] those that had learned to fly, shoot guns, navigators, and bombardiers.  We were all assigned a crew and we wound up in Rapid City, South Dakota for combat training as a crew.  At that time, I had heard stories about this dastardly bunch called the 398th Bomb Group that had trained there.  They had finally got their turn or deserved to be sent overseas.  I was in the first group at Rapid City to be replacement crew training by the ones that were supposedly trained by the 398th Bomb Group.  We had more crew adventures while flying at Rapid City.  One of the best ones that they always remember was that the pilot was supposed to understand the other positions.  I went down and got into the ball turret one time and started to fool around a little bit.  Then everything started to go haywire and they cranked me out of the ball turret in time for me to get in the pilot seat and do a check.  I found out the generators had never been turned on and we were in almost in total collapse.  Engines were failing and everything else, but once I got the generators on I was all set.  How they ever got shut off, I’m not sure.

We had some good times. We had a good crew.  They enjoyed me trying to hit [targets] when we flew by low [to the ground] while the waist gunners easily could.. We had an interesting crew.  I had a co-pilot, Ray Anderson from Spokane, Washington; Isadore Cassuto from New York City as a navigator; John Gibson, a gentleman from Virginia as the bombardier.  All I remember about John was his interest in where his next girlfriend [was coming from].  I had a really special [crewman], he was 10 years older than I was, Arnold Brunsburg, a Swedish fellow from Minnesota as the top turret and engineer.  He became a good [friend] and we stayed pals till he died a while ago.  I also had Pete Brown as a radio operator.  [Pete was] a big golf player and a graduate from Stanford.  I had other crewmembers; Jerry Decker from California chose to be the ball turret gunner.  I had a waist gunner named Adrian Bacon that became our toggilier.   Adrian grew up with Jimmy Carter in Plains, Georgia; and prospered in Florida as a lawyer.  I had a couple of tail gunners; the best was my pal Jack Bohn that died here a few months ago.  Jack too was a delight to know and remember and told tales galore.  One of which was, “the day we saw the colored flak “ [on our website]

One day a few years ago when we were reminiscing, Jack said, “That was the mission we saw the colored flak.” I said to Jack, “What are you talking about?”  Jack carefully explained that 105 burst up as popcorn white; the 88 looked black but if you got closer the color of the center part was blue.  If you saw it up really close the center was red.  So that was the day Jack said we saw the colored flak.  We remembered quite a few of our adventures.

RS: Before you get to your first mission, did you fly over [to England] or did you take a boat?
WB: I was a replacement crew.  I went over on a boat in June [1944] and got there about the middle of July.  One of my first indoctrination flights was interesting.  There were some missions the Group would scrub because of weather or such.   They had these bombs in planes that they didn’t want to take the bombs out off [once loaded] up.  So if they didn’t fly that day, they sent a low man on the totem pole to take that plane out and dump them in the North Sea someplace.  I got the job, being the low man on the totem pole at that time.   So I always remember my first take off with a fully loaded B-17 with bombs.  We went out over the North Sea and dumped them where they had to be dumped. 

My first mission was to a little town called Munich, which I have been in and out of a lot times since.  I always remember going to Munich on July 31, 1944 [my 20th birthday].  I looked up ahead and there was this big, big ball of bursts and smoke.  I looked up ahead and asked the co-pilot “Are we going through that?”  He replied “yeah”.  We hardly get into it before Gibson, the bombardier, started howling because he got hit badly in the leg with flak.  He came back with us with flak in his leg.  So I immediately lost one of my crewmembers.

After the second mission, the tail gunner decided he’d had enough; although we tried to encourage him to continue on.  He’d been married before he went overseas.  [He was allowed to quit]  He just couldn’t do the job.  He was just too nervous.  So I picked up this fellow, named Charles Simons, who was in armament on the ground.  He had wanted to be a commissioned officer.  They told him if he flew five combat missions, they would make him one.  So he flew my third mission with me, our fourth mission was the one I was shot down on.  We got hit in the tail and he perished.  We thought he was gone completely because the tail had gone.  However later on, his body was discovered, mostly intact, and he was buried over there in Normandy.  We all bailed out.  That August 8th mission was the mission that [President] Eisenhower had directed the 8th Air Force to bomb behind the lines [to support] the invasion forces that hadn’t advanced.  The 8th Air Force had to bomb [parallel] behind the lines because [General] McNair had been killed by the B-26’s because they [directly] flew over to the lines and opened their bomb bay doors. Planes had a habit of their bombs falling out prematurely. That is actually how General McNair perished.  So that day, the 8th Air Force had to fly around and come along behind the front lines, which were poorly defined.   Willis Fraser and I have reminisced about it because he was our Squadron leader that day and he lost me.  He’s always regretted that fact.  It was the only mission I was ever on where the integrity of the formation just went to pot.  Everybody on his own more or less. We were very low, 12,000 feet, and everybody was shooting at us.  Brunsburg even said they were poking broomsticks at us. In my opinion, it really was a disaster. 

In the 198x’s when I was researching our Maxwell Field data tapes files, I discovered the letter that Colonial Hunter had written to Wing [Headquarters] describing why his Group dropped 25 miles short that day.  Interestingly, Colonial Hunter was actually on that mission that day.  Not as the leader, but as a co-pilot in one of the planes in the lead Squadron in the low-low element with one of his favorite fliers. 

I needed a tail gunner and so I got Jack Bohn as a replacement tail gunner.  The story the men all remember is of Jack coming into their enlisted men’s barracks, sort of askew and with his hand shaking a little bit because Jack had been known to imbibe a little bit.  He was only an 18 year old and he was living it up.  They said ‘Who are you?’ and Jack said ‘I’m your new tail gunner’ and they all about collapsed.  It turned out that Jack was as solid as a rock but he had other escapades.

So, I went along pretty well until the 25th mission when Adrian Bacon got hit in the face with a flak fragment.  Then on December 2, my navigator, while going to the latrine at 2 AM slipped on the ice and broke his wrist.  So I had two or three navigators after that, through sickness and other events.  I had replacement crewmembers from other crews of the 601 Squadron, crewmembers who didn’t get to fly [with their own crews, for one reason or another].  So, I found out eventually, looking at the records, that I had a 34 total, including myself, fly with me on my 35 missions.  It turns out that it wasn’t 35 missions; it was actually 36 missions that I flew.  I was going to do research on this sometime, but have not gotten around to it.  I was finishing my tour in December 1944 and the Group flew on December 18th.  It happened sometimes when you go over and fly around but don’t get to drop [the bombs].  You come back and they say that one didn’t count.  And so they said that one didn’t count and it would have been my 34th mission.  Thus the infamous day before Christmas mission, December 24, 1944 would have been my last mission but it was [counted as] my 34th mission.  I flew my last mission on December 28th.  When I got home or when I was in Ocean City vacationing, I got this notice that the December 18th mission counted.  [There was] all kinds of discussions about it, but it did count, so actually, I flew 36 missions.  There were others at that time in the same situation I was, like my co-pilot, Roy Anderson.  He only had 34 because he didn’t fly co-pilot [with me] the first mission. [Then not counting, then counting the December18th mission] was an interesting event that could be researched a little more [for there must have been others so effected]. 

So [on December 28, 1944] I was done and over with [combat] and came home in January 1945 as a 1st Lieutenant with some ribbons on.  I had a joyful reunion with my family.  And with Teedy!  I had given her my wings in January of 1944 so I had a girlfriend to come home to.

Then I had a real interesting career stateside. I was sent me Lockbourne, Ohio to be a B-17 instructor.  By that time they had B-17 1st Lieutenant [that had] completed missions coming out of their ears.  So after a while they sent me to Great Falls, Montana to get checked out on C-54’s.  We did a little bit of with C-54s, but again they had a glut on the market.  Of all my old pals that had stuck with me from training through the 398th only Ray Armor left to go to the C-54 School with me. Ray and I had a good time.  He was a great fisherman up there out in the wilds of Montana.  Then there was this opportunity to go to this fighter school down in Greenwood, Mississippi.  The AAF must have been interested in keeping the facility open and in working order for a while longer.  So [I was sent] went down there and low and behold, you could get checked out on P-51’s, P-47’s and P-63’s.  I completed a six-week course flying these airplanes.  This wasn’t to fly combat but to transfer them around the country.  So I ended up with 45-50 hours in a P-51 and the same in a P-47.  The P-63 was a most interesting aircraft.  [Its engine would heat up quickly] so you would call the tower and tell them you were ready to take off. When [they said] you could go [taxi], you would start the engine and go like heck to the end of the runway.  Back then down in Mississippi in the middle of the summer of 1945 it was hot.  One time a bunch of us did get sent to the Midwest someplace to pick up some P-63s’.  They were target pinball machines.  They used to shoot plastic bullets at them from other planes.   We took them down to a junk pile in Oklahoma.

I then entered into the USAAF Transport command in Romulus, Michigan.  This   meant I had a list of planes I could ferry around the country as needed.  I even wound up flying one time as a co-pilot of a B-24.  So I had a few hours in B-24.  So all in all I had a fine time.  I would take a plane [as directed] from here to there, ask if they had a plane to go somewhere and take it there as needed.  If they didn’t have any business for me, I would take the train back to Romulus.  The last airplane I flew for the Army Air Corp was A P-47.  I went to the Republic Plant on Long Island, NY to pick up a brand new P-47N, clipped wings and bubble top.  It had about 5 flying hours on it.  I stopped off at Port Columbus, outside of Columbus, Ohio to see some friends.  I went to St. Louis to stop there, and then to a base in Oklahoma where they were stacking planes.  I don’t believe that P-47N ever flew again.  What a valuable plane that would be these days. 

I went back to Romulus and found out one of my pals that learned to fly the P-51, like I did, had killed himself trying to land one.  They had a listing on the Operations Board that if you wanted to get out, you could.  So I did in October of 1945 and went back to the University of New Hampshire and became a Civil Engineer.

I missed one thing that winds all through this that I must relate.  On my first mission when I bailed out I hit something very hard on my left shoulder and when I hit the ground, I don’t remember opening the parachute. I had the ring in my hand, which I promptly threw away.  I should have kept that.  Through my USAAF career that muscle would start to atrophy.  I did a flight physical in July of 1945 the doctor passed me one more time but I could not stay on flying status.  That is one reason I gave up and got out.  I had a three year career, and my son told me one time that he wasn’t eager about going to war, but that he envied me because I had this 3 years of training and experience with a chance to test my skills as well as my stamina with getting shot at.  Those 3 years was a unique experience that a lot of young men would like to go through but will not have the opportunity to do that and they would be real envious if they could do that.  

RS: I wanted a little more details on when you were shot down, who was hurt, and how you got back to the base.
WB: Like I say that was my 4th mission so I was tail end Charlie.  When we really got to the area they were trying to get the bombs on; every tank and every gun that the Germans ever had were shooting at us.  We were a line of bombers that kept flying right over them.  They just shot the hell out of the Squadron.  The 398th lost four planes that day and I was one of them.   The fact was that darn old B-17, named the “Kentucky Colonel” by Hollis Dalton; one of the original 398th crews just kept flying.  Dalton came from Kentucky and Phil Stahlman was his co-pilot.  Although Dalton said they chose up sides to name the plane, it was really Dalton that named it.  The nose art on that plane, a magnificent Kentucky Colonel type design, a beautiful paint job.  When the crew got out [on the field] that morning and noted the nose art Adrian Bacon said ‘We can’t go wrong with this one.’ When I got back to the base after about a week or so, Dalton was in the same hut I was.  The first time he saw me was not that he was glad that I got back, but that I had lost his plane.  He was so mad at me that I had lost his plane.  I told him I didn’t lose it, that I knew where it was.

A burst of flak hit us right on the tail.  Evidently it took the whole tail except the leading pieces of the horizontal stabilizer. When I looked way back in there, sort of foolishly perhaps, looking to be sure the tail gunner was gone, it was wide open.  Everybody had bailed out.  [Most of the tail was gone, yet] this B-17 was still flying. I had nothing but the ailerons.  All the tail control wires were lying down on the floor of the waist. I was losing altitude slowly.  The B-17 was still flying. After they had all bailed out, I knew I had to go.  About the time I left the wheel to get to the bomb bay, the plane did go into a spiral.  I got out just in time.  I really did.  I went out through the bomb bays.

RS: You landed in France?
WB:  Yes, right in the front lines there in Caen near St. Lo.  I landed with the Americans.  I remember waking up in a pile of brush with an American asking me who I was.  I think he had a 45 stuck in my face.  Some of them landed with the English and some with the Canadians.  Bob Augustine, one of our waist gunners landed right on our side of the lines he figured [believed] with the English.  We got strung out along, but behind the front lines.  I was sort of out of it for two or three days.   I got taken by truck to some hospital.  I got moved again with my left arm in a sling and got to another area where they were going to fly planes back to England.  I arrived at this field for and there was my co-pilot, Roy Anderson and Arnold Brunsburg, my engineer sitting under a tree waiting for the same plane I was to take.  It was a real happy reunion.

RS: So everybody survived with the exception of the tail gunner?
WB: Yes, everybody survived.  The tail gunner actually was found and is in Normandy cemetery.  They never brought him home. 

So that was my military career.

 

Interview with

Wally Blackwell, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force


Q: Interviewer: Randy Stange
WB: Interviewee: Wally Blackwell

Part II: Some 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association (BGMA) History

WB: Episode II began in May 1985 when my tail gunner, Jack Bohn, called me and asked if I was going to the 50th B-17 reunion to be held by Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington.  I said “you know that sounds like I ought to do that; especially since I have a daughter whose husband was in the Coast Guard who’s stationed in Seattle”. We had been in and out of Seattle [a number of times].  So I went to the reunion in 1985 that Boeing [sponsored] and when about 10,000 B-17’ers show up at old Boeing field there in Seattle.

I found out that the 398th Bomb Group was having a reunion at a hotel there.  So, Arnold Brunsberg, who lived in Seattle, and I went looking for it.  I remember going up the stairway and at the top was this fellow Allen Ostrom; he was running this reunion for the 398th.  He was happy to see old 398’ers show up.  I found out that Allen had really rejuvenated this series of impromptu meetings that the 398th veterans had been having since way back in the ‘70’s. In fact George Hilliard was telling how he began [attending] in ’72.  The fact was that some 398ers would show up at the regular 8th Air Force [Society] Meetings and be part of those meetings in the ‘70’s.  [I also found out that] a couple of Englishmen, Vic Jenkins and Ozzie Osborne had shown enough interest at the old site, Station 131, and had actually conceived and build a monument, a magnificent monument [there at Nuthampstead].  They did have the help of a few like, Herman Hagar, Chuck Dryer, and a few others of the old 398ers who are not around [any longer].  And this had all happened back in 1982 with the dedication of that monument.  Then no further meetings until 1984 when some of them had a reunion at Rapid City, SD. At that time Bill Comstock was the 398th focal point, the president, and Jack Davis was treasurer.  They told the tale of how they started off with a $30 treasury. 

But when Allen started writing a newsletter [things started happening].   Allen did so well at the reunion in 1985 he been doing reunions ever since.  The 398th Association also started the tradition of going back to the old base every two years.  In  1986 we went back to the old base for the first time.  So all of a sudden, I am back in the 398th organization, making new friends and calling up some of these old ones I had known.  I soon got reacquainted with others of the 601 Squadron like Tracy Peterson, Willis Frasier, Melvin Jenong, Harold Stahlcup, and Phil Stahlman - sort of the old gang.  It was wonderful to meet Tracy Peterson, who was a real splendid gentleman that I spent some time with and corresponded with.  So I got involved right away quick.  It wasn’t long before they made me a Director in the 1980’s and I did various projects.  The first thing I did was to help run the original drive for money to help refurbish the Aluminum Overcast, the first one, then Hal Weekly ran the second one a few years later.  When I helped Bill Comstock with the annual meetings, he asked me to be the 398th Secretary.  Bill and I enjoyed our friendship, as did many others that came to the annual reunions.  

When we lost Bill some years ago, I thought it was really worth it to try to perpetuate the 398th spirit and friendship that we had already begun.  The old veterans, some of the second generation and the widows really appreciated [these events].  So, I took the Presidency and I’m still at it.  I have to laugh, because some of the other bomb group presidents who I talk to occasionally ask “when’s your tour up?”  I don’t know, but I was re-elected [again this year].  So anyway, this idea of being with the old Group has been really tremendous because I have acquired a lot of new friendships.  Of course, like your dad, Randy, Ray and I have really enjoyed these reunions [when he was alive].  We had some big times, and I have some favorite memories of Teedy and Jeannie walking down through Cambridge window shopping and Ray and I going along behind, trailing along, and Ray was explaining to me these technical details of how all these things work right.  That’s how he was a real good friend.

Well anyway, I feel real proud with the 398th that we have accomplished what I think we should do, which is to preserve the history of the 398th.  To do that, we’ve done some significant things.  It began really with some monuments around, like up here at Wright Patterson we have a tree, and we have a plaque out at Colorado Springs.  And of course we have the monument, it was presented to us as a gift really from the English people, although the history of that funding is sort of mysterious.  There were some 398th contributions to help build that.  That was really all conceived and built with this drive by Vic Jenkins and Ozzie Osborne.  They wanted to do it and they did it.  They remembered what happened there and felt it was something that could not be neglected and ought to be recognized. 

[Q: They also had Wilfrid’s father?  [Yes, as a big contributor]. 

There was the choice of where the monument should be located.  After looking at different places [the corner at the Woodman Inn was chosen].  My favorite place was at the south end of the main runway, where we would take off and to go to war from, but that was out in the field.  So that corner, that little bit of property at the corner across from the Woodman Inn was [deeded to us by the Dimsdales].  This crossroads was sort of the center of the old Station 131 anyway.  The Dimsdale land donation was about 1500 square feet.  So we own it and it is our responsibility to maintain the property, which we have done through our monument maintenance fund.

And when there came a chance through the Heritage Center in Savannah, Georgia, the 8th Air Force Heritage Center, that we could build a monument down there.  We funded a drive that Lou Stoffer ran and got the monument built and installed at the Heritage Center in 2000. 

Then a unique opportunity came. The English people, headed by Sir Roger DuBoulay. decided that they should [instal] a 398th window in St. George’s Church, in Anstey.  They would like to do it, and what did we think [of the idea?], and that it would cost $25,000 to $30,000.  Well, we raised that money in three months.  So we have got these significant things done. 

But more than that, I feel, we have set the record for accumulating data on the 398th.  It all began, and still is, with Allen’s outstanding record of what happened with the 398th through his ‘Flak News’, which he is still doing.  We have placed 20 years of FN on CD-ROM that is available for computer users.  We procured basic history tapes; sixteen reels of 16mm microfilm, that was in the Air Force archives Maxwell Field AFB.  We received that data cache we immediately put the tapes onto CD, and it has become a gold mine for many of our researchers. 

Another priceless cache was Jack Wintersteen’s [data archives].  Jack had been accumulating the history of individuals into what grew to be six huge notebooks.  He advertised for data through the Flak News and so forth.  People sent him, maybe beginning 30 years ago, letters and pictures and so forth.  Well, Jack brought that all to the Harrisburg reunion and gave it to us, because he knew he wasn’t going to last too much longer.  We took that and put it on CD-ROM and so “Jack’s Books” have been a gold mine too.  So I guess all of this computerization, I guess a fancy word, so getting all of this material available for the second generation to look at.  And we have been so lucky that some generations have come along, like you Randy. 

And from time to time, we’ve acquired a new “second generation” members.  Right now we have Marilyn Gibb in the Treasurer’s job because we needed a second generation on the Official Board. She does a splendid job as the Treasurer.  And we have Sharon Krause, Paul Roderick’s daughter, is also involved.  She is our contact officer now and keeps all the e-mail addresses.  Then two years ago, Lee Anne Bradley, the daughter of Fred Bradley, accepted the real challenge that we needed to begin putting all this history into global files where we could have reference, and she’s done that.  Then, we’ve acquired a website though Dave Jordan, Edward Jordan’s son, who also wishes to remember his father in this special way. Dave has made a magnificent website for us that has been a gold mine to let people know and understand the story of the 398th.  We’re getting now [e-mail] requests from all over, people finding this website.  Lee Anne, as the group historian, gets these e-mails.  It’s the old story. “Dad’s gone and never said much, now what can you tell me about him”.  Lee Anne manipulates her computer files and with her first-rate memory can furnish outstanding information to all.  So the web site activity has really turned into something unique and special for us all.

Now I may have missed of significance along the way here.  I should mention this Index Booklet of the mapping of the names of those killed in action etched into the window at Anstey. Randy here took painstaking pictures of the stained glass windows up close so can get the names, and Lee Anne proceeded to make this booklet of the names and the data about them.   That is, when they were shot down and the rest of the statistics about them.  We have now [done] so many things that really needed to be done, and were still searching for new material, but we may be getting to the end of what is available.  The website is by the second generation, for the second generation.  Allen carries on splendidly with the Flak News, and we don’t intend to do away with that, I’m sure. 

So we have a great record of our trying to preserve our history.  Now this doesn’t touch any of the wonderful stories [on how] we’ve acquired so many friends all over Europe from these visits to the old base area and crash sites.  It is just been marvelous that we have unbelievable friendships in England and Europe.  Teedy and I were in the Czech Republic last year, just enjoying their friendship and how they remember some of our planes that were shot down with monuments that they tenderly care for.  So this is the other part of my 398th story. 

The 398th BGMA lives on. It is a wonderful story.

 

See also:
  1. Blackwell's Crew - 601st Squadron - 6 August 1944
  2. A Remembrance of George E Abbott, Togglier 601 Squadron by Wally Blackwell
  3. Blackwell's Thirty-Four Man Crew by Wally Blackwell, Pilot
  4. My Friend Jack Bohn - Tail Gunner by Wally Blackwell, Pilot
  5. The Amazing Story of Miss X - Introduction by Wally Blackwell, Pilot, 601st Squadron
  6. Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.

 

Notes:
  1. Lt. Wally Blackwell was the Pilot of his own 601st Squadron crew.
  2. The above transcription was provided by Amy Goll, daughter of Frank Henning, 600th Squadron in March 2008.
  3. The transcription was obtained from a video file.
  4. Punctuation, grammar and minor word changes may have been made to improve readability.
  5. Additional information may be shown in brackets [ ].