Monday, May 30, 2016

Memento Mori: Memorial Day

My original intent for today was to re-post last year's Memorial Day tribute; next I thought I might highlight those individuals (most, but not all of them, my direct ancestors) whom I've posted about under my Gone for Soldiers label.

Then I recalled this photo of the air crew with my maternal uncle Jack Slater's notes written on the back. I don't know where it was taken, but assume that it must have been during his training as a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps. Not only does Jack list himself as the pilot here--and he was co-pilot on his three missions in Europe*--but close inspection of the lettering on the object to the left of the group reveals it to be a practice bomb.

[All courtesy of Olive Slater-Kennedy]

Here's my transcription of Jack's notes above:
Here we are, Crew 21 of the Bartholmess** Provisional Group. We are a typical combat crew - typical in that we represent all sections and elements of the country, in that we consider ourselves the best of the lot. We are the All American team of this or any other war year. We shall carry the war to the enemy, and hit him hard. Pardon me, if I sound like the proud parent, telling of his very ordinary children. We are, starting with the front row, reading left to right:
1. Pilot - You know me; I shan't describe myself.
2. Co-Pilot - Lt. Charles M. Guyler is at present newly-married. His wife, also from Pennsylvania, calls him "Chub". He is a level-headed, likeable young man of 25, an excellent pilot. I'd be lost without him.
3. Navigator - Lt. William R. Jones is the senior member at 33. A native Texan, he washed out as a pilot, and is the best Navigator in the group. Also married.
4. Bombardier - Lt. Jack L. Kipnis is at 26 still rather boyish. A Jewish boy from Brooklyn, he is a typical devil-may-care, efficient bombardier. Outwardly he seems to know only bombing and women.
5. Engineer - St Sgt Jackson G. Osborne has a mechanic's tasks. The boys call him "Bulldog", because of his noisy, husky egotism. He'd run the plane (and crew) if we'd let him. West Virginia (20).
6. Assistant Engineer - Sgt. Vito W. DiSabato is a native-born Italian with Latin good looks and personality. Lately from New York, he is also a waist gunner. He is 21.
7. Radio Operator - Sgt. Lowell T. Birdwell at 23 has been in the Army for 3 years. He has served in his native Texas and the Caribean [sic]. He is the "character" of the crew, very droll.8. Asst. Radio Operator - Allan V. Kangas is the baby at 19. Typically Scandinavian and a native born Finn. Very quiet. The Boys call him "Smiley" as he has no front teeth.
9. Cpl. Robert L. Lane is the Armorer - Ball turret gunner. He is 21, typically New England, the best gunner on the crew. Why the boys call him "Rabbit" I can't say. They also call him Jr. because he looks so young.
10. The tail gunner is Sgt. Ralph E. Martinez of Texas. Another quiet boy, well liked by us all. "Rocky" is also 21. Another excellent gunner.
Based on the information Jack has put in his notes, I was able to trace all of his fellow crew members except William R. Jones. Only Jack and Vito DiSabato didn't survive the war.

  • Charles Miller Guyler (1918-1991)
  • Jack L. Kipnis (1917-1978)
  • Jackson G. Osborne (1923-1981)
  • Vito W. DiSabato (1921-1944)
  • Lowell T. Birdwell (1919-1995)
  • Allan V. Kangas (1924-1994)
  • Robert L. Lane (1922-2111)
  • Ralph E.Martinez (1922-1981)

Thanks to the internet and YouTube I was able to locate several of the training films that Jack would have seen during his training.

[How to fly the B-17: Ground Operations
1943 US Army Air Forces Training Film World War II]

[How To Fly The B-17: Flight Operations
1943 US Army Air Forces Training Film World War II]

*Missions flown according to database at the American Air Museum in England.
29 Nov 1843 Bremen link here   plane name unknown 42-31171
30 Nov 1943 Solengin link here  Mayfly 42-3356
5 Dec 1943 Bordeaux/Merignac link here  Fighting Cock 42-3397
**I believe this refers to Lt. Col. Karl T. Barthelmess.

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment