Introduction – Journal 38 Americans
This issue’s cover theme draws from the Centre’s archive on American service personnel.
In our first article, Texas- born Willard Korsmeyer recounts his introduction to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, describing himself as ‘one of the more diminutive pilots… assigned to the largest fighter’. He flew escort for bomber raids and top cover for carpet bombings until shot down during a mission over Germany. Captured and sent to Stalag Luft 1, Willard attributes his moral and spiritual survival as a POW to his mentors, one of which was an African-American Tuskegee Airman. We also have Frank ‘Kirby’ Cowen, a radio operator and gunner from Arkansas, aboard the B-17 Flying Fortress, ‘Horn’s Hornets’, which was hit by enemy fire. Kirby was rescued by the French Underground but betrayed by the notorious double-agent, Jacques Desoubrie, and interred in Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Henry Ford’s B-24 Liberator production plant is the focus of Ford’s Willow Run. The factory produced an astonishing fully-built aircraft every fifty-five minutes during its peak production. George Martin Bauer from Central Illinois, pilot of the indomitable B-24 Liberator, ‘Fairy Belle’, recounts a few of his missions including the Gotha raid during Big Week, for which his Group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. George describes the ‘utter confusion’ of the catastrophic Friedrichshafen mission on 18th March 1944 when 44th Group was attacked by Messerschmitts, resulting in the loss of fourteen aircraft. George also discusses training and mental toughness, and he gives a candid account of the sheer mental exhaustion (known as ‘flak happy’) which he experienced after an extended period of combat.
D-Day 75th Anniversary
2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Previous journal issues on this subject include D-Day (issue no. 09) and Normandy (issue no. 19). To commemorate this anniversary, we have Radio Operator Theodore ‘Ted’ Stebbins, 6th Engineer Special Brigade, USAAF, who landed on the infamous Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach in support of the 5th Rangers. Ted’s eye-witness account tells of the ‘melee and confusion’ of the landings, the ‘nightmare’ scenes on the beach, and of how he managed to join up with the Rangers despite being under continuous mortar and sniper fire. Also on Omaha Beach we have an insight into the German perspective from Franz Gockel, who at barely eighteen-years-old was a machine-gunner in the notorious strongpoint of WN-62 (Resistance Nest 62). In Good Luck & God Speed Private Richard Harris, a young infantryman in
the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment, recounts his experience of landing on Sword Beach and the assault on the enemy gun emplacement codenamed Morris, and 736 Grenadier Regiment HQ. One D-Day event that Richard describes as ‘never to be forgotten’ was the arrival of the airborne forces.
James Goulty’s article Argonauts of the Airborne introduces the establishment and training of the airborne forces, while Colonel David Wood of the 2nd Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry tells of his experience of Operation Deadstick, the airborne operation which took place in the early hours of 6th June 1944 as part of the Normandy landings.
Moving on to March 1945, we have Flight Lieutenant Ken Scolding piloting a glider during the largest and last airborne operation of the war, Operation Varsity, part of the British- American push into Germany. Ken’s article centres on the German village of Hamminkeln which is also the subject of American-born John Kormann’s article Be Merciful. A letter to John from his German mother, imploring that he be merciful to the enemy, resulted in John saving the lives of fourteen women and children of Hamminkeln. The legacy of the Be Merciful story lives on, serving to educate the schoolchildren of Hamminkeln and to honour the fallen, thanks to the efforts of John’s daughter, Andrea Kormann Lowe.
To finish we have Aircraft Salvage by Reg Redford, a driver working for 54 Maintenance Unit, recovering and stripping downed aircraft in the area of East Anglia and the south- east coast. Reg gives a detailed explanation of the work of the unit and the incidents he attended at RAF stations of Tangmere and Manston, illustrated with his own wartime sketches.
In addition to the American section of the archives, the Centre has a wealth of material in the Cooke Collection. This collection consists of original hand-written letters and memorabilia collected and donated by the late Emeritus Professor and military historian, James Cooke. James served in the United States Army during the Second World War and the Gulf War. His published articles in Everyone’s War include D-Day and the Americans, The Songs Behind the Stars and Stripes and The Americans and VE Day.