My dad was the belly gunner in the Harper’s Ferry 449th bg 718th squadron. They were shot down 2 times (?) And the final time they were shot down, in Austria I believe, the became part of the Forgotten 500 eventually rescued and flown home. He married my mom, Frances Allenby and they had 4 children. 2 of which were my older brother & sister from my mom’s previous marriage, my dad then adopted them. He was proud of the part he played in WWII. They eventually took some of there grandchildren to reunions with them.
Beverly Ann Fritsch
My great uncle, 2nd Lt. John Bob Marshall, was copilot of the B24 Liberator “Shack Happy,” part of the 449th Bomb Group, 717th Squadron. He was shot down en route to Ploesti on 5 May 1944. The story of that mission is well told here: https://donmooreswartales.com/2014/06/23/bob-herres/. John Bob did not make it home (according to the MACR 4714 documentation, he bailed out successfully, and seems to have made it to the ground unharmed, but then was killed by a peasant weilding an axe). With clues from the MACR documentation and help from the local Romanian consulate, I’ve recently determined that he is most likely buried in Ciuperceni, Romania, as are the three other KIAs from the same crew. I’m now trying to make contact with officials in Ciuperceni to verify that. I have a great photo of the flight crew which was sent back home from Topeka KS by John Bob to his brother, my grandfather, J.H. Marshall Jr. I’d love to know if any other members of the next generation of the Shack Happy crew members families have other details, photos, etc. that would tell me more about this man I never had the opportunity to meet.
Born and raised in “The Bronx”, NYC. Served with his twin brother William “Bill” Kor. They both attended NYU and both played basketball there. They both taught in the New York City school system. Dick retired as Dean of Administration at Bronx Community College. At the time of his retirement he worked with Roscoe Brown of theTuscagee Airmen Fame. Richard currently resides in Scarsdale, NY, spending summers in Wrightsville Beach, NC.
Lest too much time pass by (it already has), I want to share the attached photos with you.
My father, George Edward Thomas, was a gunner on the Shirley Jean, B24. While he didn’t open up about the war until I was much older, the stories he eventually shared of his missions (37 or 39?) made me realize how brave, selfless and patriotic his generation was – they are truly the greatest generation.
Thank you for all you do to honor these courageous men who fought for our freedom. May their heroism not be forgotten nor glossed over in the historical annals of our future generations.
George E. Thomas, Jr.
John attended the University of Iowa, earning his BA degree in Economics. As a Freshman he lettered in Basketball and was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. War interrupted and John joined the 449th in November 1944. He flew 30 missions as Pilot in the 719th Squadron and left Italy in June 1945. He was assigned to a B-29 to go to the South Pacific, but that was cancelled before departure.
Upon return to the US, he earned his degree in Optometry from the University of Illinois. He practiced in Shenandoah, Iowa for 58 years. John married the girl next door, Carole and they had 54 wonderful years together. They have two sons, Jim and Joe who live in Omaha, Nebraska.
John was an excellent golfer and played in many tournaments. He was a member of the Shenandoah Country Club for 70 years! At 97 he still lives in his own home in Shenandoah, Iowa as of July 2020.
Denise Meek Riegel
Santa Maria, CA
Cain served in the Kansas House of Representatives, then spent two decades as Independence postmaster. Even in his retirement years, he served a term as a Montgomery County Commissioner, and then was associated with Potts Funeral Chapel for many years. His church and Masonic affiliations were numerous.
Lee Cain was dedicated to others. He was always positive in his outlook and loyal to the Independence Community. Lee’s hallmark was his smile and his dashing appearance. Deeper than that, his heart was soft and his word was golden.
He came from the Greatest generation, and lived a life that will leave a sad void in our midst. God bless his wife, Ernie, and all the family as they grieve the loss of such a wonderful man. -Rudy Taylor 24 Dec 2015
Denise Meek Riegel for Ernestine Cain
Our father was a 2Lt. and co-pilot of the Wise Virgin and Wise Virgin II (Kendall crew) assigned to the 716th in Grottaglie, Italy, in the first group to be stationed at this airfield. He had enlisted on Thanksgiving Day in 1941 and was in boot camp when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Dad was shot down on the Regensburg mission on February 22, 1944. After being shot down, Kendall went home due to injuries and another pilot was appointed for a few missions to complete his tour. Afterwards, Dad, now a 1Lt., became the pilot. When he was shot down, he told very little to us about what happened. Our research has indicated that Kendall wanted to bail or crash land in the sea but Dad convinced him the odds of survival were minimal. They made land and bailed out at the minimum feet. Dad said that he jumped, pulled and hit. All of the men landed hard and there were some injuries. Dad landed on a destroyed brick building and hurt both ankles. People were coming towards them and they were unsure whether they were allies or not. Fortunately, they were allies. They were taken to town to the local hospital. While there for a short period, a fire broke out and his crew all assisted in helping the town, including getting minor burns.
After completing his missions, he returned to the States to his wife, Helen Harmon, whom he married in September 1942 and his daughter, Patricia “Pat” Harmon Sweeten. He went into the reserves and went back to work in construction. When the Korean War escalated, he was recalled into the USAF as an active pilot and trained pilots at Scott AFB. Major Harmon retired from the USAF on 31 October 1967 after 20 years of active duty and 6 years of reserves. He was stationed at 15 different bases during that time, including Alaska (prior to statehood) flying jets and 2 bases in England. He retired as a major and Chief of Supply at McCoy AFB. His family went with him on all but one TDY assignments. In the early 1950’s, base housing was not available and small towns had limited houses for sale or rent. Using his pre-war skills in construction, after training pilots during the day, he spent his evenings and weekends building his own house for his family.
Prior to WWII, Cecil Harmon was in construction, working as a supervisor at the age of 18. He had to drop out of school (8th grade) during the depression to support his family but continued learning through his life all the way through a Bachelor’s degree (University of Tampa) and a Master’s degree (University of South Florida), while utilizing the GI Bill. Cecil Harmon, a father of two children (Bruce Harmon was born in 1958), after retirement from the USAF, began a 10-year teaching career where he taught drafting, industrial arts and related topics at junior high schools in Tampa, FL and Independence, MO. In 1979, he retired from teaching and moved back to Florida where he lived in Tampa and Ocala until 2007. He spent his remaining years (passed away in February 2012 just short of 93) with his daughter and her family.
Cecil Harmon, a faithful Christian, was very active in his church throughout his life. No matter where he was stationed, he always sought out a congregation and served. He served as a deacon in all of the churches where his family lived for longer periods of time.
Cecil Harmon died on February 15, 2012, at the age of 92, in Raymore, MO, where he lived his last 5 years with his daughter, Pat. His wife, Helen, predeceased him in 1988. His children, grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren continue his legacy. His son, Bruce, and grandson, Matthew, both have experienced what Cecil Harmon did during WWII when they were passengers on the Consolidated B-24J, Witchcraft, in 2012. They also discovered why he had lost his hearing after their noisy ride! His children, USAF brats, were fortunate for his service as they grew up living in the far corners of the US and seeing the world. The USAF life taught his family that we were one, without regard to race, religion or politics. His children are proud of being children of “The Greatest Generation.” At the age of 12, he moved with his family in a covered wagon. At the age of 25 (the old man in the group), he was flying B-24’s in a war and jets in the 1950’s!
Bruce Harmon and Patricia Harmon Sweeten
Dad was a B-24 bombardier who was shot down on his 10th mission. Target was Wiener Neustadt. he saved the life of fellow crewman “Vic” radio operator [Nose gunner Victor Lemle]. Prior to his bail out he was injured by flak in the back and broke his ankle on landing by parachute. “Ken” was the pilot. [Heinbuch Crew]
After landing a “Hungarian who had lived in Chicago” and spoke English to him put him on a wagon for an hour ride to a military hospital. “I felt every bump”. He had his ankle pinned, “without anesthesia” and it was kept in a “horseshoe clamp” to keep traction on it as it healed. He was there for a “couple months” and turned over to the Germans. He was then in a hospital in Budapest but eventually transferred to Stalag Luft III in Zagan, Poland. The was the site of the “Great Escape” in March of 1944.
Dad never told me more than a few words about his POW experience but I was able to verify by him “The Last Escape” which was his forced march in a blizzard out of Poland and into extremely overcrowded German Stalags. The urgency of this forced march in horrible conditions was due the Russian advance and Hitler’s wanting to keep the POW’s as a bargaining chip and in his possession.
This is only a thumbnail sketch of his experience and has had to be put together from research and the few clues he gave me before his death. Needless to say he was the epitome of the “Greatest Generation”. He returned home to my mother, who had received confirmation of his death after he was shot down, another powerful story never fully discussed. He started his civilian life and family including my brother born in 1948, myself in 1953 and sister in 1958.
Only a few years prior to his death did he get treatment for the PTSD that had plagued him, unbeknownst to me, throughout his post war life. He was a hero and as all who knew him a “Great Guy”.
My dad was the nose gunner on the B-24 Bomb Boogie(it had the two dancing bombs as the logo).
I am pretty sure Lt Streicher (sp- Striker or Stryker, etc) was the pilot.
I know he did missions over Ploesti.
J. Greg Holm
My father S/Sgt Floyd Byfield was a tail gunner on the Big Noise from Kentucky. On 4 May 1944 one hour after dropping ordinance on Ploesti Marshalling Yards over Bor Yugoslavia, his ship #26 was hit by German flak. After seeing his crew bailing out, he decided no one was flying the Big Noise. The flak destroyed commo from pilot to crew, he received no orders to bail, so he went out the escape door and parachuted to the ground. As he was gathering his chute, two fellows in German uniforms approached him and he slowly raised his hands in surrender, but the two men told him that he was not captured and that they were with the Chetnik underground forces. He and 8 others of his crew were collected and protected until operation Halyard rescued the downed airmen.
My dad was originally assigned to Lt. McFain’s crew on the ship (Peepy). But on his 5th mission he substituted for the tail gunner on the Big Noise. The pilot on the Big Noise was Lt. Harper. His MACR 4661 gives interesting details of the action. I could go on and on but this is a brief synopsis of his story. Thanks so much from all of you for maintaining the legacy of these brave airmen.
Thank you sincerely, Ted Byfield. If anyone has more info regarding my dad or his crew members, here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org