The 2019 398th BGMA St. Louis Reunion

October 16 - 20, 2019

Spirit of St. Louis

Article by Mellisa Ledlow

The 45th Annual 8th AFHS Reunion in St Louis, MO was held October 16-20. The 398th BGMA participated with 49 members (the largest Group in attendance) present to enjoy the gathering and festivities.

The 8th hosted a Welcome Reception on the first evening followed the next day by a City Tour of St Louis, which among other things, included a visit to the infamous Gateway Arch. The 630 foot high stainless-steel arch is a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. St Louis was the setting out point for the Lewis & Clark expedition and a huge player in the Louisiana Purchase negotiations.

Other tours offered during the Reunion included visits to the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis with its world-renowned mosaics, the St Louis Holocaust Museum, a Boeing Space History exhibit, and an afternoon at Historic St Charles, Missouri nestled on the banks of the Missouri River.

The 8th AFHS also assembled several outstanding presentations and talks. This included the 8th Air Force Historian recalling the WWII ‘Operation Frantic’ involving the shuttle of B-17 Bombers to refuel in Ukraine and updating the audience on missions and activities of today’s 8th Air Force.

Other speakers included the son of an Evader during the war, and presentations regarding Researching and the effect of the 8th’s wartime airfields in British communities.

The General Meeting of the 8th AFHS was held Saturday morning and the Board announced the location of next year’s Reunion. Memphis, Tennessee will be the site for the October 21-25, 2020 8th AFHS Reunion. The 398th will continue to conduct their Reunion (it will be the 37th!) along with the 8th AFHS.

The 398th has continued to set up a Memory Room for members and any other visitors. The Memory Room contained a well-laid out PX, Jack’s Books (huge scrapbooks of veteran’s information and photos), newsletters from the NAM museum and past editions of Flak News. There were also other personal memorabilia laid out and a highlight was a display of many of the veteran’s framed WWII era photos (see photo above), a new tradition! The Memory Room also offered great hospitality with breakfast, sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

The 398th also held their own Rendezvous Dinner on Friday night. A feature of the dinner was the informative explanation of the origin and significance of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Pete Krause, newly elected 398th BGMA Vice-President. Also speaking at the dinner were Jim and John Rowland, sons of 398th ball turret gunner, Bob Rowland (602nd SQ, Boehm Crew). Bob, unfortunately, was unable to attend the reunion so his sons entertained the gathering by reading Bob’s prepared remarks. Bob described his training “adventures” and a few of his 35 missions. His sons’ delivery was made even more special as they were able to have Bob on FaceTime to witness the entire thing! It was great for the audience to see Bob, wave to him and applaud him for his service. [Editor’s note; sadly, Bob passed away November 21, 2019. He was 94 years old]

Another presentation at the Reunion Dinner came from George Abbott LeDoux. George’s dad was Ray LeDoux, bombardier on the famed DeLancey crew whose B17 made a miraculous landing at Nuthampstead Airfield with its entire nose blown off by German anti-aircraft fire. George’s namesake was his dad’s friend and crew member, George Abbott. George Abbott was the only loss in that heavily damaged plane. LeDoux spoke about being able to make personal contact through the years with the Abbott family. A heartwarming bond developed between the families.

The absolute highlight of the Rendezvous Dinner was the encouraging and heartwarming words of our veteran in attendance, Lou Stoffer (Engineer/Gunner on the 600th SQ Grinter Crew). Lou, accompanied by his grandson, Joey, has been a fixture with the 398th BGMA organization and currently serves as Director. Quite a few attendees lined up to have their picture taken with the revered WWII vet. It was a great privilege to have him with us. Thank you, Joey, for bringing your grandad!

When not on tours or presentations or banquets, the attendees from the 398th spent a great deal of time in the Memory Room. It was truly like the “living room/dining room/kitchen” for the 398th “family.” And as always, brand new faces came through, men and women from other bomb groups and interested locals.

Please mark your calendars for the Memphis Reunion, October 21 – 25, 2020— we aim to have the largest number in attendance—again!

Below are several photographs from various events held throughout the four day October 2019 reunion.
Many thanks to Beth Howard, Sharon Krause, Mellisa Ledlow, Marilyn Gibb-Rice, Carolyn Widmann and Lee Bradley for use of their photographs.


Veteran Portrait Display

The 398th BGMA's PX and ‘Memory Room’ was a popular hangout with our group and also a huge draw for the other groups in attendance.
Carolyn Widmann, our PX Manager, came up with a wonderful idea. She asked that each 398'er attending to bring a framed war-time photo
of their dad, granddad or uncle for display in our Memory Room. Her idea was a big hit and it has now become a new tradition!

Carolyn’s dad was James C. Crouch, a togglier and waist gunner who flew with several 601st crews; Blackwell, Frazier, etc.

Lindhe Guarisco and Mike Macyda

Mike’s dad was S/Sgt. Frank Macyda, ball turret gunner and Lindhe’s dad was Lt. John B. Guarisco, bombardier.
Both men flew with the J.H. Davis Crew, 601st Squadron.

Jeannie Stange, Karen Clement and Marilyn Gibb-Rice

Karen is the daughter of Raymond and Jeannie Stange.
Raymond was the navigator on the Williams Crew, 603rd SQ.
398th BGMA President Marilyn’s dad was James C. Crouch, togglier and waist gunner on several 601st crews.

Dr. Colin Colbourn, Sharon & Pete Krause and Carolyn Widmann

Colin Colbourn, PHD is the Lead Historian for Project Recover, an organization which searches for and finds MIA's
all over the world. Colin was a guest speaker at our Rendezvous Dinner. His great uncle was Lt. Charles S. Howell, Jr.,
a pilot with the 603rd SQ, KIA November 21, 1944 on a mission to Merseburg.
Sharon is our Public Relations Manager and her dad was Paul Roderick, pilot with the 602nd SQ.
Sharon's husband Pete is our newly elected Vice President. Congrats Pete!

Carolyn Widman, Ken Howard with daughter Beth Howard

Ken Howard's dad, and Beth's granddad, was Robert L. Howard, ball turret gunner on the Donovan Crew, 603rd SQ.
Ken is our Reunion Coordinator and Beth is our Dues Manager.

The St. Louis Gateway Arch

The St. Louis Gateway Arch - Another View!

Chrysta Moore, Beverly Moore Bannister and Sharon Krause

Chrysta’s husband was Cecil B. “Tex” Moore. Cecil was the tail gunner on the 602nd SQ Woodson Crew.
Beverly is Chrysta and Cecil's niece.

Jim Ledlow Peers Out the Observation Deck of the Gateway Arch

Jim is Mellisa Ledlow’s husband. Mellisa’s dad was Don Menard, radio operator
with Sheely’s Crew, 603rd Squadron. Mellisa is also our 398th BGMA Treasurer.

Gateway Arch National Park

Our gang takes a breather after walking the steps.

St. Louis City View From the Gateway Arch National Park

Another City View

This photo was taken from the top of the 'St. Louis Wheel', a 200 foot tall Ferris wheel!
Note the Gateway Arch in the background.

Carolyn Widmann and Beth Howard

Enjoying one of many great restaurants in St. Louis.

398th BGMA Rendezvous Dinner

Jude Mansell and Willetta Mansell

Willetta’s husband was Joe Mansell, engineer/top turret gunner on the Lyle Doerr Crew, 602nd SQ.
Jude is Willetta's and Joe's grandson.

Willetta Mansell and Jeannie Stange

George and Cheryl LeDoux

George’s dad was 1st Lt. Raymond J. LeDoux, bombardier on the famed 601st SQ DeLancey crew.
George’s namesake was his dad’s friend and crew member, S/Sgt. George E. Abbott.
S/Sgt. Abbott was KIA on October 15, 1944.

Judy Roth and Jim Rowland

Jim is one of Bob Rowland's sons.

Martha McCombs and Ann Collins

Ann seems to be a little camera shy!
Ann’s dad was Phillip Collins, ball turret gunner with the Marias Crew, 601st SQ.
Martha's mom is Willetta Mansell.
Her dad was Joe Mansell, engineer/top turret gunner on the Lyle Doerr Crew, 602nd SQ.

Laura and Linda Parnell

Linda’s dad was Warren H. Currie, a crew chief with the 602nd Squadron

Bob Rowland's Presentation Display

Bob was scheduled to be a speaker at our Rendezvous Dinner but unfortunately was not able to make the reunion.
However, his family came with Bob's presentation and his sons gave his speech for him.
Bob was ball turret gunner with the 602nd SQ, Boehme Crew.

Ken Howard and Geoff Rice Admiring Bob's Display

Geoff is the 398th Photo Historian and a Trustee of the Nuthampstead Airfield Museum.

John & Tresa Rowland with Jim Rowland and Judy Roth

Bob Rowland's family did a great job filling in for Bob. Thank you Rowland family!

John & Tresa Rowland posing by Bob's Display

Jim and John Rowland Giving Their Dad's Presentation

Because Bob Rowland was unable to attend this year's reunion, his sons gave their dad's presentation for him.
However, Bob was still close at hand thanks to FaceTime. This photo shows John holding his phone up to the audience
in order for Bob to see us and we him. He was so thrilled to be able to be a part of it!

Peter Krause, Our New 398th BGMA VP

Pete gave a very informative talk about the history of the American Flag.

Colin M. Colbourn, PHD

Colin is the Lead Historian for Project Recover. He spoke at length about the importance of his
organization, who work tirelessly to find MIA remains which ultimately provides closure for hundreds of families.
Colin's great uncle was 1st. Lt. Charles S. Howell, Jr., pilot with the 603rd SQ.
Lt. Howell was KIA while flying a mission to Merseburg on Nov. 21, 1944"

Lou Stoffer

Our only 398th BG veteran to attend the reunion this year.
He had a couple of hair raising mission stories to tell us!
Lou was the engineer/top turret gunner on the Grinter Crew, 600th SQ.

Lou Stoffer Signs Memorabilia for The Nuthampstead Airfield Museum

Lou Stoffer with Marilyn Gibb-Rice

A Few Members of the Lou Stoffer Fan Club!

398th veteran Lou Stoffer was the center of attention at our reunion.
He is surrounded here by a few of the second and third generation Board Members.
Clockwise, beginning with Sharon Krause (holding her adorable pup “Abby”), Beth Howard,
Ken Howard, Lee Bradley, Lou, Pete Krause, Marilyn Gibb-Rice, Mellisa Ledlow.

Lou Stoffer with his Grandson Joey Stoffer

Joey accompanies Lou to our reunions every year. Thank you Joey!

George Ledoux and Mellisa Ledlow

Beverly Moore Bannister, Celia Murray and Alexis Murray

Chrysta & the late Cecil Moore's niece, daughter and granddaughter.

Chrysta Moore and Dr. Colin Colbourn

Marilyn Gibb-Rice and Dr. Colin Colbourn

Sisters Marilyn Gibb-Rice and Carolyn Widmann

Pete Krause and Mike Macyda in the Memory Room

Geoff Rice, Pete and Sharon Krause with Abby

The "Plaid Twins" strike again and it was the '5th Annual wearing of the Plaid'!
Sharon is holding Abby, her and Pete's very cute and well behaved little pup.

Tom & Debbie Johnson with Ken Howard

Tom and Ken have been friends since they were in the 3rd grade!
So, Ken... how long ago was that? LOL!

The Mansell Family

Joe Mansell, Jude Mansell, Martha McCombs and Willetta Mansell

Dinner with Our Dads

For the last evening of the Reunion, we moved our veteran's portraits from our Memory Room
into the 8th AFHS Gala Dinner to display at our tables. Everyone attending
the dinner thought this was a wonderful idea!.
Portraits left to right:
1st. Lt. Paul Roderick, pilot, 602nd SQ (Sharon Krause's dad)
T/Sgt. Frederick C. Bradley, Jr., engineer/top turret, 601st SQ
S/Sgt. James C. Crouch, togglier and waist gunner, 601st SQ (Marilyn Gibb-Rice's and Carolyn Widmann's dad)
(the lovely lady in the photo with James is his wife Dorothy)

Mike & Victoria Macyda with Veteran Lou Stoffer

Beverly Moore Bannister, Alexis Murray and Chrysta Moore

Enjoying the 8th AFHS Gala Dinner.

Vietnam Service Members Were Honored

All Vietnam War veterans were called to the podium to receive special recognition for their service.
Our own Pete Krause (center stage behind the podium) and Mike Macyda were among the many Vietnam Vets who were honored.

Proclamation Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

Pete, Mike and the other Vietnam Veterans each received this proclamation.

Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin Certificate

This certificate accompanied the lapel pin pictured below.

Pete's Vietnam Lapel Pin

Pete and Mike were very proud to receive this pin along with the other special honors.

Vietnam Pin

Another pin given to all of the Vietnam War veterans in attendance.

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum

Located in downtown St. Louis, this amazing museum stands as a testament to sacrifices made in the pursuit of liberty.
This museum honors all local St. Louis service members who have served, from the American Revolution to today.
Exhibits included the Revolutionary War, WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War in addition to modern day wars and conflicts.

A Visit to the The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum

Several of us visited the Museum and found it to be incredible.
If you are ever in St. Louis, it would be well worth your time to see it.
Left to right: Marilyn Gibb-Rice, Pete Krause, Sharon Krause, Ken Howard, Beth Howard (center/front)
Carolyn Widmann, Melissa Ledlow, Jim Ledlow, Lee Bradley, Geoff Rice.

Please join us at our 2020 reunion in Memphis, Tennessee!
2020 will be our third year participating in the 8th Air Force Historical Society's Reunion.