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 President's Corner

Published in the April 2003 Ragged Irregular

I am writing this on 16 March 03, just one day before the deadline set for Iraq to show complete compliance with the many UN- resolutions. It is a difficult time, made more so by the fact that one of my sons is already in the theater as perhaps some of your children are. I am acutely aware of similarity to the period 67 years ago this month when a belligerent, but outgunned at the time, Germany marched into the Rhineland. France, Britain and others procrastinated. Americans, barely coming off the bottom of the depression, merely spoke of it as “Europe’s War.” One can only wonder what would have happened if the threat had been faced then; perhaps like your Grandmother, mine said, “A stitch in time saves nine.” I took the opportunity on 4 March to write the American Memorial Committee in Sainte Nazaire, France to mention the similarity and lament the strain that it is putting on Franco-American relations; I told them I could not speak for other members of the 91st BGMA with regard to the current situation. However, I felt I could assure them that we of the 91st deeply appreciate the honor they have shown to the 1942 sacrifices of our fellow-crewmen by their gifts ($10,000) a few years ago to the Mighty Eighth Museum in the name of the 91st, 303rd, 305th and 306th BG. I have also suggested to the other three members of “The Four Horsemen” of the 8th Air Force that they might want to assure those who continue to honor us of our gratitude.

In your Board’s Conference call on 8 Feb 03, we reviewed progress on establishing a separate account for the “Memorial Maintenance Fund” which would include the Prop Memorial at Bassingbourn. Into this will go the proceeds from sale of the Bailey Art Lithographs “The Ruhr Valley Raiders” and specified donations that you may make. As of this writing we have received $550.00 form the former and over $1,000 from the latter. Our Treasurer will continue to maintain a separate line item of “Memorials” in the regular accounting into which will go the one dollar from dues and corporate matching contributions that may be prohibited from use outside the US; from this we fund floral displays at various cemeteries which Jake Howland so efficiently coordinates. “Ace” Johnson was finally able to get a clarification from IRS saying we could use a separate “Memorial Maintenance Fund” to pay maintenance expenses abroad if the trust was set up in the US with appropriate termination provisions. The Board will be responsible for managing the account and contacts with cooperating entities abroad. I have advised the East Anglia Aviation Society, the Friends of the 91st (who will be completing minor renovations this spring) and others. Through our long-time friend Vince Hemmings we have heard that the Cambridgeshire government may be interested in working with us; that would be a blessing as many of our friends across the pond, just like us, are aging just a wee bit. Having received no viable proposals for Reunion 2004 for an east coast site, after reviewing various possibilities, your Board decided to maintain the practice of alternating Reunion location among east, central and west and chose Washington, DC for the summer of 2004. The WWII Memorial is scheduled for opening the last week of May 2004 with all the attendant hoopla and crowds. Having run a colonial fold festival 40 miles from DC from 1971 to 85 on Memorial Day weekend I am quite aware that we encountered 13 years in which it rained out of the 15; temperatures and humidity are far from the pleasantries that we gave you in Tacoma in 2002. Late September or early October would be cooler, drier and less costly or congested, so for those of you who contemplate attending your preference can be expressed to any of your Board members. The Board plans to hire Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. to run the Reunion (do the heavy lifting) with our own W. W. Hill as Reunion Chairman to coordinate with them  (and take any blame) so your Board members can stand around and smile. Nancy Perri and Judy Williams have volunteered to oversee the Registration process (which Armed Forces Reunions will man), so you can see that if you want to help you had better hurry up and contact: W. W. Hill at 703-256-9165, e-mail Wwarhill@aol.com. Especially you younger folks act now and avoid the rush! Put May or September 2004 on your schedule. We would love to see a lot of active Associate members in Washington.

For those of you who may have ordered Reunion 2002 memorial wine glasses or copies of the group photos (by squadron, Merseburg participants or POW), I think I finally have all of them sent out. If you ordered some and have not received them, please let me know; you have been very patient with me. We still have a few left, but I suggest you call me before sending money. As for the PX, Marv Goldberg is finally back to as good a health as most of us can expect these days; he told me last week that he is striving to assure a one-week maximum turn around on all orders (if the item is in stock). It is a time-consuming job that takes a lot of house space, spouse forbearance and tedious effort, but Marv believes it is worth his effort to make the items available to you; hope you will be as nice to thank him as many of you have done who ordered Reunion 2002 items from me. Marv will soon be stocking the Turner Publications’ Memoirs of the 91st Bomb Group book at $55.00 plus $3.00 shipping.

Enough for now. Keep our service men and woman in your prayers and add one for your officers. 

             Ruhr Valley Raiders ( Purchase through PX)

                           By Robert Bailey

This is the artist’s representation of four famous B-17 “Flying Fortress” of the 91st BG (H) under attack by Messerschmitt Bf 109’s. Featured are the 323rd Squadron’s Nine-o-Nine (tail #231909 lettered OR-R) and Outhouse Mouse (tail#231636 lettered OR-N) off the right wing, The Wild Hare of the 324th Sq. (tail #231515 lettered DF-G when it was shot down on 26 Nov 44 and DF-M earlier) to Mouse’s right and General “Ike: of the 401st Sq. trailing (tail #297061 lettered LL-B) They replaced some of the 27 B-17’s lost by the Group on missions to placed like Oschersleben (5 downed on 11 Jan), Frankfurt (3 on 4 Feb), Achmer (4 on 21 Feb), Oschersleben (5 on 22 Feb) and Berlin (6 lost on 6 Mar). Formations never had more than 20 aircraft, then.

All four were “gained” by the 91st BG in the first 76 days of 1944. The ground crew of Nine-O-Nine headed by MSGT Rollin L. Davis and including Sgt. E. M. Yezdiner set an 8th Air Force record by keeping her flying for 124 consecutive missions without an abort due to maintenance. They also crewed Outhouse Mouse which had completed 139 missions by the end of the war, one less than Nine-O-Nine. Gen. Eisenhower’s namesake was “christened” by him on 11 April 44 and also survived the War in spite of a harrowing loss of propeller off number three engine, which barely missed his likeness when it sliced into the fuselage. Five of my 35 missions were flown in Nine-O-Nine and one in Outhouse Mouse thank you MSgt Davis and crew!

All four aircraft’s could have flown the same mission between 16 March and 26 Nov. 44. In fact, Jack O’Neil’s crew with “Tex” Frye as navigator did fly General “Ike” in the 323rd Sq.’s high element on “loan” from the 401st on the 2 Nov 44 mission to Merseburg. I flew Nine-O-Nine on Kirkham’s crew in the low element on that mission and 109’s (and FW-290’s) hit us, but neither the Mouse nor the 324th sq. was flying. Between 30 Aug and 26 Nov 44 the 91st BG flew 36 missions of which I flew on 22 of them; both Nine-O-Nine and Outhouse Mouse flew on 14 of my 22 and they were joined by The Wild Hare (DF-M) on 30 Sep and by General “Ike” on 7 and 17 Oct (and also 6 Feb 45). Though all four were never airborne on the same one of my missions it is quite possible they could have been between 16 Mar and 30 Aug. The Wild Hare was in the Depot for repairs from 15 Oct to 22 Nov and- re-lettered DF-G by then- was sot down on its first or second mission after being returned to the Squadron.

We are appreciative of Mr. Robert Bailey’s honor to us and recognition of the 91st as the first to attack the Ruhr Valley. Unfortunately, other groups were separated from the 91st by clouds on the mission to Hamm on 4 March 43. With only 18 flying Fortress’s led by 22-year old Maj. Paul Fishburn, commander of the 322nd Sq., the 91st BG completed its 2nd mission (22 must have been the lucky number that day) with on-target bombing of the key railroad yard. The Group was awarded the first of two Distinguished Unit Citations for their achievement while claiming 16 German aircraft, but four of the 91st crews were shot down.

The 91st, 303rd, 305th and 306th Bomb Groups- the first of those that later became the 8th Air Force-arrived in England in October 1942 and entered combat the next month. A 401st Sq. bombardier. “Curly” Havelaar, writes in his fine history of the 91st BG, The Ragged Irregulars of Bassingbourn that of 38 officers and 47 enlisted men in the original 91st crews, 32% completed 25 missions and another 15% survived wounds or reassignment to go home, plus nearly half of the 41% who were shot down became POW’s (Prisoners of War); thus over two-thirds “survived the war”. My own “estimate” of some 5200 flight crew members coming through the 91st BG during the War would suggest that about 20% were killed in action with another 18% POW’s. The roughest missions were flown by those who lost their lives, either in 1942 or the last mission of WWII. We just did the best we could for God and Country.

                                   Ed Gates, President

We are equally concerned that the record is as accurate as possible. Unfortunately, there is a reference on the inside left page of the brochure in red that “only 12% of original crews survived the war” which overstates our losses. It may have been true for crews arriving in a small window in the April-October 1943 period, but even that seems unlikely to have ever resulted in 88% loss rate. The from 16 April 43 to mid-March 2944 was the period of heaviest percentage losses fir the 91st BG. Every one of the seven months from April through October 1943 was among the 11 months for the 8th AF highest percentage losses. Proving that “those who were there” are not always right, I checked the National Archives II for the first time in 3 months after I provided my biographic info for this brochure; to my chagrin I discovered I only flew in Outhouse Mouse once (though we did have our crew photo taken in front of it), but in Nine-O-Nine five times including being a wingman in the low element on 2 Nov 44, but not leading it.

At least a dozen survivors of the Hamm mission on 4 March 43- the original “Ruhr Raiders”-are still members of the 91st BG Memorial Association including Steve Perri who signed this lithograph.

Three of the 15 veterans whose biographies appear on the brochure, for various reasons, were not able to sign the lithographs. They are McCoy, Cripps and Chryst.