|Gerald (Gerry) D. Collison|
|LT. GERALD D. COLLISON
Lieutenant Gerald D. Collison, Army Air Corps, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Collison, 409 1/2 East Madison Street, arrived in England early in December, according to a letter received by his parents, and is now serving with the Eighth Air Force in the squadron commanded by Jimmy Stewart, former motion picture actor.
Lieutenant Collison is a bombardier and co-navigator on a four-engine bomber.
He began his training as an aviation cadet on September 22, 1942 and received his wings and commission as a bombardier at Childress, Texas. He was then sent to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he graduated from navigator school. He served at seven other camps in this country, before leaving for overseas with his squadron September 22, 1942 [?].
|Missing in Action|
|LT. GERALD D. COLLISON
Lieutenant Gerald D. Collison, Army Air Corps, is reported missing in action in a telegram received from the War Department by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Collison, 409 1/2 East Madison Street. The message states that Lieutenant Collison has been missing since February 24 over Germany.
No details are given but, on February 24, American bombers from England and from Italy battered aircraft factories at Gotha and ball bearing works at Schwenfurt in the fifth consecutive day of smashing at roots of German air power deep in the Reich.
That day, 156 Nazi planes were shot down, of which Eighth Air Force bombers accounted for 83.
Of the American Air Forces based in England, 49 bombers and 10 fighters were lost.
Lieutenant Collison was a bombardier and co-navigator on a four-engine bomber and was serving in England with the Eighth Air Force in a squadron commanded by Jimmy Stewart, former motion picture actor. He arrived in England early last December.
Lieutenant Collison began training as an aviation cadet September 22, 1942 and received his wings as bombardier and commission at Childress, Texas. He was then sent to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he graduated from navigator school. He served at seven other camps in the country, before leaving for overseas with his squadron September 22, 1942 [?].
|Taken from Leader Telegram Sunday, April 29, 2001 Section B City/Region|
|Crash survivor stays in touch with pal's mom|
|WWII veteran's visit a birthday present|
|Staff photo by Shane Opatz
Peg Collison sat with Lawrence "Nick" Nichols, 86, at her 100th birthday party Saturday at Grace Lutheran Church. Nichols, the only survivor on a plane shot down in World War II, that also carried Collison's oldest son, traveled from Arizona to be at the party.
|by Jessica Bock
Fifty-seven years have passed since Peg Collison's oldest son perished in World War II, but the connection she has with him is as strong as ever.
Part of the credit for that enduring bond goes to an out-of-town guest who joined friends and relatives Saturday afternoon at Grace Lutheran Church to celebrate Peg's 100th birthday.
The special guest, Lawrence "Nick" Nichols, was a man she met indirectly through her son Gerry, although Gerry never got the chance to introduce them himself.
Gerry was serving in the Air Force, when his plane was shot down over England, killing the 20-year-old and seven others.
Nichols, the lone survivor of the crash, has kept in contact with Peg ever since he came back to the United States after World War II.
Nichols made it a point to call Peg and the other mothers of his fellow soldiers who died on the plane February 24, 1944.
At 100, Peg is the only surviving mother of those who died, and that makes their connection even more special, Nichols said.
"I wouldn't have missed (the party)," said Nichols, who lives in Apache Junction, Arizona. "If I could, I wanted to be, here."
After being held a prisoner of war for 15 months, Nichols, now 86, came back to the United States, after the war, and met Peg for the first time.
"(Gerry) and I were real good friends," Nichols said. "Our crew was like brothers, and I was closer to him than anyone else."
After establishing the link with Peg and the families of his other fellow crew members, Nichols continued to speak with them every year on the anniversary of the deaths, of their loved ones.
Peg's other son, Larry, said she always looks forward to getting a call from Nichols in February.
Sometimes he wouldn't be able to call until a day after the anniversary, and she always wondered and hoped nothing was wrong, Larry said.
Keeping in touch with Nichols is very important, Peg said, adding that having him in Eau Claire for her birthday made the day even more special.
But, even now, Peg notices the absence of her oldest son. "I wish he was here today," she said. "He would have liked this."