Chris Hansman


Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

Chris Hansman of Mondovi piloted a P-51 Mustang in the European Theater and was killed while strafing enemy territory after D-Day. He was 19. 

His friend and classmate, Doug Ward (also of Mondovi and a ball turret gunner in a B-17) had arranged to meet him in London to celebrate Hansman's 20th birthday. 

Ward learned of his friend's death the next time he had a leave and went to Hansman's base to make inquiries.

Hansman is believed to be the youngest Ace from either World War. An "Ace" is an air fighter who has shot down five or more enemy planes.

 


Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

COVER

339th FIGHTER GROUP ASSOCIATION
STATION F378 FOWLMERE ENGLAND
NEWSLETTER
Volume 7, No. 1 March 1987 Editor: Jim Starnes

 

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"TIME'S AWASTIN!" as old Snuffy Smith might say. Here it is early February and the annual financial statement/dues notices remain to be prepared, the personnel roster has not been typed, and Chet Malarz has not located a 1987 reunion site. Our treasurer just received the interest income statement on our savings account, so the financial statement will be ready to accompany this newsletter (for members only.) The new personnel roster (also for members only) is taking shape, using a new "mini-gothic" print wheel for my electronic typewriter so it will not need down-sizing, by the printer. Chet will have news for us on the fall reunion out west before this goes to the printer. We will hold up the printing as necessary to assure the fall reunion decision is announced in this issue.

The important thing is that adequate material is on hand for this issue. On the 1987 personnel roster are some important new names. Missing are names of personnel who have failed to pay dues for the past three or more consecutive years because they have been deleted from newsletter distribution. Unfortunately, other members will probably be cut from our list, for non-payment of dues later this year. Anyone who cannot afford to pay dues will be excused. Our $5 dues are so nominal that it does not even cover the cost of newsletter printing and distribution. We need to reduce our roster to those personnel who are interested in our activities as a non-profit war veterans organization.

The photo at right could be a squadron of 339th Mustangs enroute to a rendezvous with B-17s over enemy-occupied territory. However, it was taken by 339th friend Tim Bivens at the annual "Warbirds" show last fall in Oshkosh, WI. Tim says there were two Mustangs with 339th markings among the over 30 P-51s in attendance. They were Jack Rose's D7 J and Bill Clark's 5Q C. Incidentally, there is a good chance that we will see Jack Rose's P-51 at our fall reunion out WEST.

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It is hard to say who should get credit for the first article in this issue. The article and photos were sent in by Mary Koppius Williams, who took over as Fowlmere Red Cross Director upon the departure of Caroline Wilde in early fall 1944. It is the official monthly Red Cross report to their headquarters. We thank Mary Williams for sharing it with us — and Caroline Schuitz for writing such an interesting activity summary. The second article is a short one by Fred Cox (ORD) on the way Col John B. Henry worked with key enlisted personnel to improve morale and various problems at Fowlmere. This is Fred's second article. He helped write the Mar 86 article "The 1786th Passes the Ammunition". The final article outlines the important contribution to our combat record by the first 339th ace of the war, Chris Hanseman (505) . Crew chief Clarence Shockley (505) would also like to thank Dick Thieme (505) for his assistance in locating friends and relatives of Chris for their input. Clarence also wrote a previous article for us — the one on Fowlmere guard duty printed in the Nov 81 issue. We are grateful for the hard work of these loyal supporters.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

RED CROSS ACTIVITY REPORT FOR AUGUST 1944 SAF-102-3-GB 652
It was like the old nursery rhyme, "This little pig went to market", only the pig - named George - came to the Donut Dugout as a present from our volunteer GI detail who won it at a Lawn Fete. Since the boys anticipated a barbeque I didn't put George on Form GB 2023-1 (Inventory of Non-Expendable Property) and I thought Headquarters would be confused if the weekly production report showed "Pig - 1 - George - small tail, curly. George's life with us was uncomplicated. He lived uncomplainingly on broken donuts, and as he was an unusual pig, had throngs of curious GIs viewing him daily. In spite of such attention he remained his simple self - though he uncurled his tail when he became too annoyed. We couldn't wait for him to grow big and ugly, and we couldn't bear to do away with him. So one day we tied him on the back of a bike and the boys led him off to be traded for half a dozen chickens, the only feeling for which we had was one of hunger.

This month showed us more clearly "the difficulties of operations in a club much too small for the number using it. Both Mary Koppius and I are fast becoming educated in the none too gentle art of moving and storing furniture. It seems as though every activity calls for transplanting chairs, tables, etc. While the weather was nice, it was comparatively simple to move it outside. Now we are confronted with using a badly needed room as a warehouse. I'm contemplating setting up a tent as an annex.

Meantime the smaller details are being slowly worked out. The various organizations and squadrons are painting their insignia on the walls in the big room. They are not only interesting but colorful and attractive. Our war room is really nifty. The map of operations covers the entire end wall. To the right we have a bulletin board on which are kept daily clippings and releases on the missions and accomplishments of our own pilots. Smaller maps and posters decorate the surrounding walls. This room makes an excellent background for our lectures, brain-trusts, quizes, etc. Our Orientation department is strictly on the beam and with their help and the good fortune of access to a university, we've had a good program along these lines.

Most eventful episode of the month was a bingo prize won by Pvt. Joe Mudd of 1786th Ord. It was the result of the August, bingo party, the prize being breakfast in bed served by First Sergeant Fred Cox. The hardest part was in getting the eggs cooked and on the tray before someone else ate them. Twice I turned my back to arrange the tray only to discover upon my return that another GI was devouring the shelled wonders. The last time I had to desperately grasp the almost eaten egg from out of a mouth. Sgt. Fred Cox, complete in a cook's whites - really played the part. We jeeped over to the barracks with the tray containing fruit juice, eggs, toast and jam, coffee, the morning newspaper, and a cigar (Fred's idea - knowing the private didn't smoke, he knew he'd end up by getting it.) Added feature was a portable victrola and records and also a pajama top, which article was missing from Private Joe Mudd's wardrobe. The first sergeant was a conscientious and hovering waiter. He even went so far as to plump the pillow and smooth the blanket. But Joe Mudd stole the show with his continual big grin as he demanded a glass of water.

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Caroline Wilde (Schultz) Fred Cox Joe Mudd


Fred Cox Joe Mudd
a napkin and the window opened wider. His breakfast was almost forgotten as he thought of things for the first sergeant to do. He decided that more sack time was in order and when we left he was already sinking back to oblivion, mumbling something that sounded like "Even home was never like this." (signed) Caroline Wilde Club Director 
COLONEL HENRY'S MORALE PROGRAM By Fred Cox (ORD) Soon after the 339th Fighter Group arrived at Fowlmere, the morale of the enlisted men went down to zero. There were many reasons for it — bad food, long working hours, lack of recreational facilities, temperature of the water at our showers, to name a few. Col John B. Henry really had his ear to the ground, for in a matter of a few weeks I got a call from the Base Adjutant telling me there would be a mandatory meeting of all enlisted men on a certain evening at a specified time and place. Of course I had all my boys there as did the other first sergeants. At the appointed time out came 339th adjutant Capt Ed Mosenthal to call "Attention!" and following him was this sharp looking colonel. We were asked to be seated. He started off with something like this: "I'm Col Henry, Base Commander, and I am aware that the morale on this base is as low as it can get. I want to know from you men what are the reasons." Now when you picture this situation, remember that we are enlisted men and a lot of us did not know this man. I've known some senior officers that would not have wanted me to tell them what was wrong with "their" base. So there was a great deal of silence in that room. After a bit, I don't remember who — maybe me — broke the ice and started telling about the things that were wrong. He listened and in some cases asked
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questions about the subject. There were some items that he made changes to right on the spot — such as "That will be changed" and others "I'll look into that in the morning,"etc. Capt Mosenthal was making notes like mad for Col Henry. After a few hours he put a halt-to the meeting and announced that there would be another meeting next Monday evening at the same time and place but it would not be mandatory. Only those who would have something to bring up need attend.
The next meeting Col Henry was there without his adjutant or any officer. Our attendance was greatly reduced, but there were a lot of things brought up. After a couple of hours at this meeting he said we were making progress and we'll meet again next week. To improve the food quality he obtained Major Bain E. "Shorty" Fulton, an old friend of General Jimmy Doolittle, as mess officer. Shown in the photo at right are Shorty Fulton (back to camera on left) and Tech Sgt Benton Kern (above Shorty) dishing out cake to the men in the enlisted mess. In the lower left photo are (L-R) Sgt Turner, Mary Koppius, Col Henry, Jeanne Mulquin and Sgt Chastain. (now Mary Williams and Jeanne Wood) In the lower right photo are (L-R) Col Henry, Sgt Chastain and Shorty Fulton. These photos were taken during the 339th Fighter Group's 200th Mission Celebration at Fowlmere, and were provided by Benton Kern. After several weeks the "Morale Group" had reduced to just a few of us senior Non-Coms, for if that colonel was going to show up, at least the first sergeants and some of the senior sergeants should come whether we had anything to bring up or not. At Col Henry's suggestion we started meeting at the mess hall. There were a few
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Fred Cox, UNK, John Henry, UNK, UNK, UNK
times when he was returning from a mission and knew he could not make it by our meeting time. He would call the tower and have them call the mess hall to tell the "boys I will be a little late but I'll be there." He would climb out of San Antone Rose and come straight to the mess hall still in his flying suit with the impression of his mask and goggles still in his face and he would listen to guys bitch. It finally got to the point there wasn't anything to bitch about.

It was through these meetings that I got to know the colonel pretty well. He also brought the visiting VIPs to the Ordnance area to show how the enlisted men lived. After seeing how he operated at Fowlmere there was never a doubt in my mind that someday I would call him "General." I am proud to say he and Maxine are my friends. During one of my visits with them, he and I were reminiscing about our days at Fowlmere and Maxine said "And Fred, he was only twenty-seven!"

CHRIS "BULL" HANSEMAN — FIRST 339TH ACE, By Clarence Shockley (505) "He loved to fly but he loved to strafe even more. He was a big, clean-cut kid with pink cheeks and a short haircut. To his crew and the pilots who flew with him he was "The Bull." He had a record of five destroyed in the air and two destroyed and one damaged on the ground to lead the entire group. Chris "Bull" Hanseman was only 19, would be 20 on Aug 2, 1944. But in a strafing job on 29 Jul 44 1st Lt Chris J. Hanseman was believed killed when his P-51 struck the ground attacking a small airstrip in Eastern Germany. If the 505th makes history, "The Bull" will be an important part of that history."

So states a paragraph in the 505th Fighter Squadron History Scrapbook for Jul 44, as prepared by the squadron intelligence officer. Si. Kammond. The purpose of this article is to highlight Chris Hanseman's short life and his impact on those with whom he had personal contact — to insure that his contributions to our group's success are accorded the honor and recognition he deserves as the first 339th ace of the war. This material was gathered from many sources, including official documents, surviving comrades and his surviving brother and sisters.

Chris grew up on a dairy farm near Mondovi, WI, the grandson of German immigrants. His favorite boyhood pet was a huge white gander, and the two of them spent hours rafting on the water in front of their farm. He named his first Mustang "Dory" after a horse he loved to ride while growing up. His other three P-51s were named "Eleanor" after a high school girl friend. Hanseman enlisted as an aviation cadet after his 18th birthday in Aug 42, graduating as pilot on 3 Nov 43. After replacement pilot training in P-47s he volunteered to join the 339th at Rice Field, CA, in Jan 44 when the group was filling out authorized strength prior to deployment to Eighth Air Force in England. Chris was one of three flying buddies whose careers and assignments paralleled from primary flight school to the 505th, the others being Andy Sirochman and Jim Starnes. By at least a few days he was the youngest pilot in the 339th' when the group deployed overseas.

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The personal flight log maintained by Chris is still in the possession of his family. It provides an insight into his sense of humor and personality, beginning as an 18 year old student pilot. On the identification page below his name is a section with blanks to be filled in. It reads "In case of serious accident please notify ( ) and ( )." He put "Mrs. C.W. Hanseman" (mother) and "the morgue." In the photo space he drew a cartoon head with glasses. In the memorandum section he wrote the date of each change of station. For example, it shows "Left Rice 4 Mar 44 to Savannah and NYC, left US 22 Mar, arrived "Gizzardpool" (Liverpool) 4 Apr, Fowlmere 5 Apr 44." On the last memorandum page he recorded his P-51s as.follows: Apr 29 Got Dory (handles beautiful.) June 4 got Eleanor II (she's a sweetheart-) Jun 16 made 1st Lt. Jun 19 Got Eleanor III (not so hot.) Jul 8 got Eleanor IV (tricky.)" Inside the back cover he wrote "Combat Missions" followed by stars for missions in groups of five stars. There are 57 stars. Three stars have their centers blacked in with miniature aircraft symbols below showing the kills scored on those missions. A fourth star had wavy aircraft symbols below it indicating these aircraft were destroyed on the ground. There are several other symbols next to stars which cannot be decoded without knowing what actually occurred on those missions. One is probably locomotives destroyed.

Chris Hanseman and his last Mustang with payroll clerk Paul Rodenbach posing by it.

As aircraft crew chief I was assisted by Tom Collins, with Forrest Lukehart as armorer. When Chris Hanseman became our pilot, my first impression was not of an officer but a big kid who should have been playing football. In fact, he sustained a minor knee injury playing high school football which made him walk with a slightly uneven gait. I thought as a fighter pilot he sure is big -- and my God, he is three years younger than I ami However, we developed a very close personal relationship. Chris took the time to talk to us and to offer to pick up things from the Officers P.X. in London that we could not get at the Fowlmere P.X. He thought highly of his crew and took the time to show it.

When the 505th pilots were split into four flights after arrival at Fowlmere, Chris ended up in "A" Flight. The "A" Flight leader was an older married pilot with little enthusiasm for combat. Chris, on the other hand, had keen eyesight and was eager to engage the enemy at every opportunity and without much concern for his own safety. On 27 Apr 44 he flew a P-51 for the first time and three days later went on the group's first combat mission. Despite his status as a "junior birdman" Chris was not impressed with the role of flying wingman for an unenthusiastic flight leader. He would occasionally press the attack when his flight leader would just as soon leave well enough alone. At one time his flight leader threatened to ground him for being too aggressive in combat, but there were others who said "Give me a squadron of pilots like Chris Hanseman and we'll take on the entire Luftwaffe!" His flight leader accused him of charging into combat like a "Bull in a china shop." His pilot buddies teased him about this and started calling him "The Bull." This did not bother him at all — in fact, he rather enjoyed the title. On his last Mustang "Eleanor IV" he had a bull's head painted on the right forward fuselage. Chris took it on a test flight while the paint was still wet, and red paint around the eyeball and the nose ran from slipstream pressure into the eye and nostrils, making them appear to be bleeding. He liked the effect and would not let the artist correct the damage.

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His first, big mission occurred on 21 May 44 when the entire 8th Fighter Command was released from bomber escort duty and given various sectors of Germany for low level fighter sweeps in what was termed "Operation Chattanooga Choo-Choo." The 339th was ordered to attack trains, vehicles and other targets of opportunity in a sector of east Germany beginning near the Polish border south of Berlin. The 505th surprised a number of Luftwaffe aircraft in low level training operations, shooting down eleven aircraft. Chris scored his first kill on a single engined trainer, then shared credit for a JU-88 bomber with his flight leader before getting shared credit for another trainer. Three days later while escorting bombers to Berlin, Chris downed two ME-109 fighters to make his score four — three full credits and two half credits.

On D-Day he flew two missions totaling 9h hours in support of the invasion which went unchallenged by the Luftwaffe. The pace of operations quickened as the 339th strafed locomotives and trucks and flew dive bombing and fighter sweeps inland from the beachhead. This was just the type mission Chris preferred. Then early on the morning of 10 Jun he blasted another ME-109 fighter from the sky over France to become the group's first ace. He also scored some hits on a JU-88 bomber, but credit for this one was split between his flight leader and element leader. His early combat success was even more remarkable since he flew predominantly as a wingman rather than in an attacking position. Chris was determined to make the most of any combat opportunity which came his way.

During Jul 44 the Luftwaffe rarely made its appearance in the skies over western Europe, so after release from bomber escort the 505th in particular turned to ground attacks, including German airfields. On 19 Jul they found Heilbronn Airfield with negligible antiaircraft defenses. With Joe Thury leading, the 505th destroyed 12 JU-88s of which Hanseman scored two kills and damaged a third.

Doug Ward, a B-17 gunner with the 305th Bomb Group at Chelveston, was a close buddy who grew up with Chris in Mondovi, WI. Doug kept letters received from Chris through flight school and subsequent assignments. Doug's diary records his last meeting with Chris as follows: "On 27 Jul Chris Hanseman flew over to see me to find out if I could meet him in London Aug 3 & 4 to celebrate his 20th birthday. We had a good talk about old times and then went down to see his P-51. A bull's head had been painted on its side. The ring through its nose was dripping red, as he flew before the paint was dry. It looked like blood out of the nostrils. Chris told me how one time he took off and his bubble canopy came off and he had to abort. He also said how mad he would get at his commander for not letting him fly every day. He put on a little show when he left. We stood on the bomb shelter level with the barracks roof, which was about ten feet high. Chris flew so close to the ground that we couldn't see him pass, then pulled up and did six rolls on his way home."

The following morning both Chris and his buddy Doug Ward were in the air on the same mission as the 339th escorted B-17s to Merseberg, Germany. A few enemy aircraft were encountered and 505th commander Don Larson scored a kill to become the second ace of the 339th — over six weeks after "The Bull" had become an ace.

The synthetic oil plant at Merseberg was again the target on 29 Jul when Chris Hanseman's string of successful missions came to an end. Perhaps the best description of just what happened is contained in the witness report by pilot Ed Ball which was attached to the Missing Aircrew Report: "On 29 Jul 44 I was flying Number Four position in Blue Flight. We had just broken up an attack on the bombers and ended up below the overcast. We

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spotted two JU-52 transports on the ground about four miles NW of Naumburg parked in a meadow along a row of fairly high trees. We went down to strafe them and on the first-pass, Lt C.J. Hanseman, who was flying Number Two position, evidently carried his pass too far, catching a wing in the ground and cartwheeling over the trees into a field. His plane caught fire and scattered over a wide area." (Ed Ball was killed in action strafing a locomotive one week later.) To some people it may seem strange that an experienced strafer like "The Bull" could carry his pass too far and hit the ground. However, it happened to many other 339ers and even to the top ace in Eighth Air Force, Francis Gabreski. The problem has been termed "target fixation" wherein the pilot is concentrating his attention on a target in his gunsight so much that he fails to pull up in time to avoid hitting the ground. At speeds of over 350 miles per hour, the time is preciously short for such a firing pass in a shallow dive and then pullup. When Chris did not return with the rest of the squadron from that mission, Tom Collins, Forrest Lukehart and I waited, not knowing what had happened to him. When we were later informed that he was lost: -- but not the particulars, or that anyone had seen what had happened -- we could not believe he would not make it back. When we finally accepted the fact that Chris was lost, it was like the loss of a loved family member. Grown men are not supposed to cry, but I shed a few tears just the same. I vowed not to get so close to my future pilots. After all these years it still makes me sad at the loss of a fine young man like Chris Hanseman. His squadron pals also felt keenly the loss of this outstanding young fighter pilot. Andy Sirochman writes "Those of us who knew Chris before his first military flight felt that he was almost born to fly. All pilots volunteered for flight duty, but Chris LIVED to fly. His enthusiasm was boundless, whether it was a training mission, test hop or a combat mission. I recall that he flew one mission in a P-51 that another pilot refused to take off the ground. Chris became recognized in the 505th for his daring, his skill and his combat record. His exuberance was contagious and made his fellow pilots more capable of overcoming fear. I also feel blessed to have known another side of Chris Hanseman. He was a devoted son and brother who always spoke in glowing terms of his family, his home and his home state of Wisconsin. In his smiling unassuming manner he inspired loyalty and friendship to all who knew him. I shall always regard knowing, training and flying combat with Chris as one of the highlights of my life." Jim Starnes comments "Chris, Andy and I were buddies with many common intersts. I loved Chris like a brother and felt the bond that develops between young men thrust together under difficult wartime circumstances, including combat flying. I was leading White Flight on that 29 Jul 44 mission and for 42 years have been haunted by the memory of his crash scene. But more than that I recall the wholesome, admirable qualities of this brave young American hero — his personality, sense of humor and happy outlook on life. He will always have a special place in my heart. Certainly Chris exemplifies those 339th personnel who gave their lives for the cause of liberty as General John B. Henry expressed so well in his memorial dedication speeches at the Air Force Academy in Jul 84 and at Fowlmere in Sep 86." Doug Ward's diary for 4 Aug 44 reads "Well, I just spent the last couple of days in London waiting for Chris but he never showed up. I think something must have happened to him." On 15 Aug Doug got a pass and came over to Fowlmere to see what was wrong. One of the pilots flying with Chris told him exactly what had happened. Chris was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on the first list of 505th pilots to receive that award. However, the order dated 27 Jul did not arrive at Fowlmere until early Aug, so he did not learn of the award personally. Chris was posthumously awarded a cluster to the DFC and three additional clusters to his Air Medal. The DFC citation reads "For extraordinary achievement and heroism in aerial combat and the destruction of four enemy airplanes over enemy occupied continental Europe. The skillful and zealous manner in which Lt. Hanseman has sought out the enemy and destroyed him, his devotion to duty and courage under all conditions serve as an inspiration to his fellow flyers. His
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actions on all these occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States."

Records from German sources indicate that Chris crashed about 15 miles northeast of Erfurt, Germany, and was buried in the nearby Kolleda cemetery with the following marker (translated from German): "Here rests quietly Hanseman who crashed to death on 29 Jul 44, buried 1 Aug 44." After the war it was U.S. policy to relocate the remains of personnel buried in Germany and Japan to friendly soil. His remains were moved to the Lorriane U.S. Military Cemetery in St. Avoid, France, and later returned at family request to a cemetery at Tell, WI. We salute our first 339th ace of the war — Chris "Bull" Hanseman — for his friendship, his exemplary conduct and his distinguished service in helping this group to achieve the combat records in which we take such pride.

ANOTHER TAMPA MINIREUNION
For the second year in a row a minireunion was held in Tampa, FL, on 14-15 Feb 87. Forty people attended this one, including a number of winter visitors. Present at the Interchange Motor Inn were the following: Bernie & Lorraine Alien (503), Gene & Anne Baietti (505), Bob & Carol Burns (505), Merle Caldwell (504), Bill & Dorothy Clark (HQ), Hartwell & Helen Freeman (505), Jeff & Fran French (503), Bill & Eileen Guyton (505), Bob & Bev Irion (505), Jay & Helen Marts (505), Reggie & Flo Oreggia (505), Mike & Lillian Placko (ORD), Francis & Marge Pratt (505), Dave & Judy Register (505), Fred & Jane Scroggin (505), Ted Staggers (505), Jim & Helen Starnes (505), Charlie & Pat Steffen (503), Joe & Pat Thury (505) and Bill & Fay Vaughan (505) . It was the first 339th function for Bernie and Lorraine Alien, but we expect to see them at the big fall reunion out west. Francis Pratt had lost about 30 Ibs. because an operation from intestinal blood clots resulted in removal of 70% of his intestine. Food does not tarry long in his system these days, so he does not get much benefit from eating. However, his spirits remain high. Several people commented that Joe Thury had also lost weight since his heart attack last year, but-hy is" uthyj:wiby~O.K.1 <S*~<-JC—- 0^c£&lAf—— My photos did not turn out due to my camera film loading blunder (did not advance). We will get some photos from Jeff French and others to include in the next issue rather than hold up this one.

IN MEMORIAM
Additional personnel known to be deceased since the last newsletter include association members August Savu (504) and crew chief James W. Taylor (504). Both passed away last summer. We thank Rich Helsing and Ken Willard for providing that information. Newly located 503rd Communications Chief Lloyd Mallow informed us that four members of his old section are deceased: Quinn Schlortt, Wilfred Signet, Bill Warren and Charles Zido. Lloyd also mentioned that Bill Warren was one of the few 339ers ordered to combat duty on the continent with the U.S. Army during the Battle of the Bulge. He joined an antiaircraft battery for several months before returning to the 503rd at Fowlmere. A new deceased roster will accompany the June newsletter.

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FLASH!! 339TH REUNION WILL BE IN SAN DIEGO EARLY SEPTEMBER FLASH!!
A phone call from reunion chairman Chet Malarz (505) on 28 Feb announced that association president Bill Bryan (503) has approved San Diego, CA, as our reunion site this fall. While the dates are not firm, we expect to hold the reunion 3-6 Sep 87 wi£te—aifee«*a-fee-dates'o-f 10-13 Sep 87.

San Diego won over the Phoenix area because September heat can be a problem in that part of Arizona despite its lovely surroundings. Albuquerque came in a close third choice from Chet's survey trips and discussions with local tourist bureaus. Strangely enough, air fares to San Diego from the east are less than those to either Phoenix or Albuquerque.

A new 450 room Omni Hotel under construction in San Diego expects to open in Aug 87, and their offer of facilities was more favorable than other San Diego hotels surveyed. Details and reservation forms will be enclosed with the June newsletter which will be distributed in late May if possible. Construction delays could make the second weekend in September necessary at the Omni Hotel, but that should be known long before reunion time.

Although the theme for our banquet program remains secret as usual. Bill Bryan made the mistake of putting "Big Mouth" Starnes on the banquet program committee. Now the rumors are flying that the banquet program may include a tribute to the group's fighter jocks. Mothers in the San Diego area are already warning their daughters that the 339th Fighter Group will be in town around Labor Day. (Obviously they have not heard that, we are a harmless old World War II outfit!) Please make plans for another super 339th reunion in a beautiful western city with almost ideal weather conditions — SAN DIEGO. SHORT BURSTS. . . We welcome newly located pilot Martin Nay (505), base photo lab officer Herbert Winter (HQ), aircraft maintenance NCO Anthony Panka (505), communications chief Lloyd Mallow (503) and five of his section personnel: James Delisio, Julian Hays, Arthur Lombard!, Henry Modjeska and Joe Suter. Martin Nay was an early replacement pilot who was shot down near the French border to Germany. He evaded capture for over two months and returned to Fowlmere after that area was liberated by Allied forces. We expect to print his "hairy" tale behind enemy lines in a newsletter soon. Herbert Winter was located by searching Texas phone books based on photographer Tom Brown (HQ) recalling that he was from that state. Long shots sometimes pay off! Herbert hopes to make our fall reunion. Tony Panka was found by Gene Baietti with an assist from John Franz. Panka was another member of our 339th baseball team at Fowlmere (photo in Dec 85 newsletter.) That makes nine of ten known team members are now located. Lloyd Mallow, James Delisio and Julian Hays were found by George Joe (503). Lloyd had the current addresses of Lombard!, Modjeska and Suter. With the location of Mallow, we have found all three squadron comm master sergeants, the others being Dale Fitzgerald (504) and Leonard Brown (505). Lloyd Mallow regrets missing the Fowlmere reunion last fall. He is shown in the photo at right with 503rd communications Lt. David Wiseman — whose name does not appear on our old officers roster. We thank Lloyd for providing information on four deceased members of his communications section as noted on the previous page. He expects to make our fall reunion with several of his old section members. Arthur Lombard! says he took over the comm section when Lloyd amassed enough points to leave during the summer of 1945. He wrote "I spent many hours of comradeship with Suter,
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Modjeska, "Zombie" Zambardo and so many others in the section, not to forget George Joe and Julian Hays — both of whose intellects I greatly admired." Arthur Lombard! also recalled the visit by that buzz bomb to Fowlmere on 26 Jun 44 (which was the subject of an article by Lawrence Stephens in our Mar 82 newsletter.) Lombardi wrote "We saw it in the air, heard it conk out, and then dive harmlessly in the adjoining farm. Blew the hell out of a huge haystack and the concussion slammed shut the open windows of the communications shack." That is Lombardi in the cockpit at right checking the radio with "Beafsteak Ground." He says perhaps someone knows who the jockey of this bird may have been by the distinctive insignia. On the side of the canopy with a magnifier these names can be read: A. Reichardt, S. Zenchak and G. Atkinson. He sent in other photos which will be used in a future issue. . . Not surprisingly at our age, a couple top supporters say they have experienced recent heart problems. Frank Waters (504) wrote that his heart attack last summer required them to cancel plans to make the Fowlmere trip. Al Wyer (503) had a heart attack in Jul 85 which slowed him down. He has regained some strength and hopes to make "the next reunion within reasonable driving distance of Amarillo, TX." That sounds like San Diego to me, as we have not seen Al and Ginny Wyer since 1984. . .
The photo at left was taken at the Chequers Pub during our Fowlmere reunion. Looks like "Beauty and the Beast" to me, Anyway, the beast would like to send "beauty" a color photo like this if someone can identify her. Poor old Dutch Eisenhart (504) is in bad shape if he cannot recall someone that pretty. . . The brother and nephew of Capt. Raymond F. Reuter (503) are researching any information available on Ray, who was killed in action over Czechoslovakia on 17 Apr 45, two days after his 28th birthday. They would like to contact anyone who knew Ray Reuter as a person and as a fighter pilot. He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avoid, France. Anyone who knew Ray Reuter is encouraged to write Wayne G. Reuter, 15305 NE 65th St., Redmond, WA 98052. . . Several people who ordered a copy of the video tape from our Fowlmere memorial dedication are concerned with the delay in receiving it. The copy sent to Chet Malarz was converted from the British to American TV reception, and it did not turn out well. Chet is trying to obtain a better copy converted in Britain which we can check for quality before obtaining additional copies. . . Betty Wyatt (503) obtained a nice color photo of our memorial plaque from a professional photographer in Cambridge, England. Betty sent me a price list and the address of the firm in Cambridge which has the negative in case others would like a print. They are available from W. Eaden Lilley & Co. Department Store, Market St., Cambridge, Eng. CB2 3PD. . . Keith Hill, the artist who displayed and sold some fine prints at our banquet in Cambridge last year, sent the 339th Ftr Gp a money order for $30 — $1.50 for each of the 20 prints sold to our members. He stated that his 8th A.F. Collection prints are being exhibited on a rotating basis at the Duxford Museum. When the 339th Ftr Gp painting is on display, he hopes to send us a photo of it. . .The Aviation Cadet Alumni Association is seeking former pilot cadets, for their data base. Send Flight Class, primary, basic and advanced locations to Bob White, 54 Seton Trail, Ormond Beach, FL 32074. Purpose is to help others locate former classmates. Effort is non-profit and will not be commercialized. Include stamped envelope for specific class information. . . Word was received from Yakima.
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WA, that a copy of Dave Register's article on Major Don Larson (Sep 86 issue) has been put in the Yakima Valley Museum file on Major Larson. They are also preparing a model of his P-51 "Mary Queen of Scqt.ts" for display at the Yakima Air Terminal along with the plaque from former Larson Air Force Base, which was recently obtained from Grant County Airport. We have provided data on markings for the Larson Mustang model to assist with the project. Hal Meyer (HQ) reports that his Fowlmere reunion trip last fall resulted in ;his grandson becoming a "Pen Pal" to a youngster from nearby Great Chishill.
TALLY-HO!! Responding to reports chat a Fowlmere fox was desecrating our memorial by lifting one leg, the Cambridge Harriers marshalled their forces at Manor Farm to pursue the rude critter. The success of the hunt is not known, but Martin Sheldrick apologized for the behavior of some hounds who showed no more respect than the fox. Perhaps Martin should install a fire hydrant nearby. (Photo was sent to Hervey Stockman by Pinkie Winton-Smith who is shown standing to left of the memorial. No explanation for the visit by the Cambridge Harriers was provided, so your newsletter editor made one up.)


FLYER NUMBER 2
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Chris J. Hanseman (505) of Mondovi, WI, was the first pilot to score five kills while flying with the 339th. Since he was the subject of an excellent Mar 87 newsletter article by Clarence Shockley, I will not review his exploits in much detail. His aerial kill record is as follows: 21 May 44 1^ Single engined trainers and h JU-88 bomber 24 May 44 2 ME-109s 10 Jun 44 I ME-109 Chris was my close buddy through flight school, fighter training and in the 505th. He was more like a brother than a buddy. Not only was he the youngest pilot in the original 339th cadre, he became one of only two known teenage aces during the war. Some publications, including the authoritative Toliver and Constable book"Fighter Aces of the U.S.A.", list Dale Karger of 357th Fighter Group as the youngest ace of the war. We 339ers know that is wrong. Karger became an ace on 20 Jan 45, 25 days before his 20th birthday on 15 Feb 45. Chris Hanseman scored his fifth kill on 10 Jun 44, or 53 days before he would have become 20. The dates of both pilots' fifth kills are as verified in USAF Historical Study No. 85. Hanseman was eager, aggressive, seemingly fearless and would have flown a combat mission every day if permitted. If anything, he was TOO eager — eager to fly, to attack, to strafe. He picked up the nickname "The Bull" from his habit of charging into any aerial combat or strafing like a bull in a china shop. On the 21 May 44 "Chattanooga Choo Choo" strafing mission to eastern Germany, he downed one training plane, shared in shooting another down and in the destruction of a JU-88 twin engined bomber. On 24 May 44 he flew the second mission of the day, a low level bombing mission over north France. His encounter report reads in part "We left the target area and were returning home. I saw two ME-109s on the deck and immediately turned into them. They did not see me and took no evasive action. The first 109 lowered his wheels and made an approach to a small, well camouflaged field as the second one pulled up for top cover. I opened fire from zero degrees deflection at 300 yards on the one with wheels down approaching the field at 150 feet altitude. I closed to 50 yards, observing strikes on both wings and fuselage. The 109 crashed on its nose and burned. The second ME-109 was maneuvering to get on my tail and a dog fight developed at about 500 feet. At first he began to turn inside me. I cut throttle, dropped 20 degrees of flaps and increased prop pitch, and commenced to turn inside of him. When he saw me gaining on him, he leveled out. I opened fire at 250 yards from 10 degrees deflection to his left, closing to about 75 yards. I observed hits on the left wing and fuselage. The 109 began to smoke and the pilot bailed out. His ship rolled over and dove straight into the ground and exploded." (It surprised me that Chris cut his throttle, as I would have had throttle and prop pitch to the firewall. He got both 109s flying alone.) Bull Hanseman's last aerial kill also came while flying alone as-described in this encounter report. "On 10 Jun 44 while on area patrol over France I became separated from my flight in heavy flak over an airdrome near Laigle. I then strafed an airfield 15 minutes north of Laigle, damaging one JU-88, but the flak was so heavy I made no more passes. I proceeded alone 15 minutes north and ran into a squadron of ME-109s engaged in a landing pattern. I attacked one of the E/A acting as top cover, opening with a 30 degree deflection shot at 300 yards. He had already started evasive action. I cut my throttle and turned inside of him, dropping 20 degrees of flaps. This put me about 150 yards directly astern of the 109. 1 opened fire again, closing to 75 yards and getting hits on the fuselage. At this point the pilot jettisoned his canopy and bailed out." 2 Aug 44 would have been his 20th birthday. However, on 29 Jul 44 Chris was killed in action while strafing a small airfield in eastern Germany. The 505th lost one of its most colorful, aggressive young pilots who went out of his way to engage the enemy. I lost a close buddy who will live forever in my memory. Evan M. Johnson Vth (505) of Carlisle, PA, was another original cadre pilot who achieved ace status during his combat tour. Johnny's record reads as follows on the next page:
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19 May 44 1% FW-190s
24 May 44 1 FW-190
10 Jun 44 h JU-52
29 Jun 44 % ME-109
& h ME-410
18 Nov 44 1 ME-109

The four shared kills brought his total to five credits in the air. Our squadron had a generous policy toward sharing credits. For the first two months of combat many of us thought the same rules applied as in World War I, wherein a shared credit counted as a victory for both pilots. When confirmations began comming back showing half credits, we realized the system was not as assumed but continued the practice. I recall the first Johnson kills quite well, as it was the first aerial encounter for both of us. His encounter report is a bit garbled, so let me explain what REALLY occurred. On 19 May 44 he was leading White Flight on a Berlin escort mission and I was White 3. Approaching Berlin, we were amazed at the -quantity of flak being tossed at the bombers and at us. We took evasive action about like Ridge O1Sullivan described in his article "Das 1st Evan M. Johnson Vth Krieg" which happened on the same mission, and became separated from the rest of the 505th. (His comment that we investigated bogies beneath the bombers and became separated is untrue.) As we deviated around Berlin to rejoin the formation, we saw what turned out to be two FW-190s heading west about 2000 feet above us. We made a climbing tail chase and after several minutes overtook them. Johnny lined up on the left one, so f took the right one. At about 300 yards we opened fire. His 190 burned almost immediately, whereas mine took a few hits near the left wing root and fuselage before split-essing for 1000 feet and bailing out right in front of us. I say "us" because Johnny had joined the pursuit of this one and was almost flying close formation with me. We leveled off and he announced "Well, I got two of the bastards." I said "Negative, Johnny, the second one was mine." He said "He bailed out right in front of me!" I said "Right, you nearly rammed me." His film showed his firing only at the first one, but he received half credit for the second one. My film showed who scored the hits on it. Johnson was a fine aggressive pilot but was not above horning in on someone else's kill, as you will see later on. On 24 May 44 he scored again on a Berlin mission. His encounter report reads in part "I was flying wingman in Upper Red Flight when we sighted several formations of FW-190s and ME-109s approaching the bomber formation from the right rear. I dropped my tanks and attacked one of the rear elements of the 190 formation, closing to 300 or 400 yards. I observed strikes on the left wing, wingroot and fuselage. The 190 pulled out of formation to the left and started a dive of almost 90 degrees with fire breaking out. As the speed increased the fire and smoke disappeared. Due to my speed reaching over 550 mpn indicated, I tried to break off at 7000 feet but could not get the ship to respond for 2000 feet. At that point the ship did a fast pullout which buckled my wings. The E/A was 200 feet below me when his left wing tip came off. He made no attempt to pull out of the dive." After the mission Johnny received a few words from his leader, Don Larson, for attacking a 190 instead of covering the boss's tail. Larson ended up alone, surrounded by enemy fighters while scoring multiple kills as described in the Larson portion of this article. Johnson shared a kill on 10 Jun 44 an what was a frustrating mission for me. This was the second time in three days that I was Red 2 on Don Larson"s wing — an honored position usually, but on these instances his radio was out. That did not stop him from leading but it did cost him an aerial kill both times. We were at 8000 feet on a fighter sweep north of the Seine River in France with flights in trail at one mile interval. Near Laigle I spotted a JU-52 (three engined transport resembling an old Ford Trimotor) on the deck at 10 o'clock approaching an airfield. I called it in — naturally, Larson could not hear me. I moved into close formation, waggled my wings and pointed down. He did not understand, shook his head and motioned me away. Then Chris Hanseman in Blue Flight called it in from their position behind us. Langhorne Reid took his flight down, and here is Evan Johnson's account in part "We dove on the E/A and I started firing at extreme range. My burst was

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low, although there were a few strikes, so I broke right in a sharp pullup, rolled over and started down behind my flight leader again. Before pullup I observed strikes from my flight leader on the JU-52. Just as the JU-52 was about to touch down I fired from about 400 yards and saw strikes on the cabin and left wing. It hit the ground and turned over on its side. I claim one JU-52, shared with Capt Reid."

 Johnny shared two more kills on 29 Jun 44 ..ifs leading White Flight on an escort mission to Leipzig. His account reads in part "I followed him through some cloud cover and came out on his tail. After firing several bursts I overran him and pulled up to the left, dropped flaps and turned back into the 109. He turned into me and fired a 90 deflection shot which missed. White 3, Andyv-Sdrochman, shot at him and I observed several strikes from his fire. Sirochman was firing on the 109 just before the pilot bailed out, but I continued firing on the ship, finally setting it afire just before it hit the ground. After we climbed back up through the clouds, I spotted a. ME-410. Pulling up behind him, I fired and almost simultaneously his tail guns opened fire on me. After silencing the guns I knocked out his left engine before I ran out of ammunition. I'm claiming one ME-410, shared with Lt Jerry Graham whom I believe seriously damaged the E/A before it went in."

His final score came on 18 Nov 44 when the 505th was bounced by a gaggle of 30 ME-109s. His encounter reads "As the 109 went by me, I split-essed and followed, getting in one good burst. However, just as I fired the Jerry jettisoned his canopy and bailed out. I claim one ME-109 damaged, as Lts Malarz and Rich actually destroyed this E/A. (He received no credit.) Later I closed on two E/A which were doing shallow turns and started to fire on the leader. I believe I got in some good strikes before breaking off when I overran him. I claim this 109 damaged. I came around in a tight turn and got on the tail of the second ME-109. As I started to fire, the Jerry jettisoned his canopy and bailed out. I claim this ME-109 destroyed." Evan Johnson is reported to have died of cancer in 1979.

William H. Julian (504) of Dallas, TX, joined us on 25 Mar 45 from Duxford to command the 504th when Bill Clark became deputy group commander. Major Julian had just become an ace, having downed five enemy aircraft during his two combat tours with the 83rd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group. His kills were recorded as follows: 30 Dec 43, 31 Dec 43, 5 Jul 44 and two on 2 Mar 45. Bill Julian scored no aerial kills with us. However, on 10 Apr 45 he destroyed two ME-410s on the ground and on 16 Apr 45 he destroyed an unidentified aircraft on ground. He was promoted to Lt Col during his short service with us and returned to the U.S. during the summer of 1945. Although he is unlocated and not in the Dallas phone book, it has about 50 Julian listings. If someone made a local phone check for a relative, we might find out his status.

 

Donald A. Larson (505) of Yakima, WA, assumed command of the 505th at Rice Field, CA, late in 1943 and remained in that position until killed in action on 4 Aug 44 near Hamburg, Germany. He was the subject of an excellent Sep 86 newsletter article by Dave Register. In my opinion Larson was probably the best pilot in the 505th, having had extensive experience as a P-40 instructor prior to joining the 339th at Walterboro, SC. He never quite lost that flying instructor outlook, and if Don saw someone make an error, it was noted and brought to his attention. Bill Bryan recalls that while Don was still 503rd operations officer at Rice, Nip Carter made a raunchy landing in a P-39. At the next pilot meeting Larson explained in detail tbfe mistake made until Nip finally said, "Come on, Don, everyone makes a mistake now and then. That's why they put erasers on pencils." He expected his boys to
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fly the best formation and to look sharp for the benefit of ground personnel as they came back for landing at Fowlmere. His air leadership was outstanding, and I would have chosen to engage enemy aircraft behind Larson over any other combat leader. Without question he was the dominant force in the early success of his squadron in combat. About the only negative we pilots noted under his command was his relatively tight rein on promotions. The 505th arrived in England with pilots as follows: two captains (Larson and Thury), four first Lts (Luper, Olander, Reid and Tower) and the rest 2nd Lts. Luper was lost early in May 44 and Reid made captain late that month. Other pilots made 1st Lt after one to two months combat experience. However, Reid was the only pilot promoted to captain under Larson's command. After Joe Thury took over on 5 Aug 44, four flight leaders made captain later that month (Holloway, Johnson, Olander and Tower). Two months later Joe promoted four more to captain (Farmer, Hrico, Krauss and Starnes), Someone wisecracked that after Larson went down the whole squadron got promoted. Nevertheless, we were proud to be under Larson's command and would not have traded commanders with anyone. It was through his aggressive leadership that the 505th destroyed 104 aircraft in the air or on the ground in our first 100 combat missions — a record not achieved by any other fighter squadron in World War II. Don Larson's aerial kill record is as follows: 13 May 44 1 FW-190 28 Jul 44 1 JU-52 transport 24 May 44 2 ME-109S & 1 FW-190 4 Aug 44 1 ME-109 His 13 May 44 kill was the third enemy aircraft shot down by a 339th pilot, being preceded only by the ME-109s shot down by Bill Jones (505) and Hal Everett (505) on 9 May 44. It surprised no one that Larson scored early, as we expected him to be top gun. His big score came on 24 May 44 while leading the group as "Armstrong" to Berlin. His encounter report reads in part "I saw between 60 and 70 bogies (unidentified aircraft) low and to the right of the bombers as they dropped their bombs on Berlin. My flight dived on the bogies which proved to be ME-109s and FW-190s. I picked out a No. 4 man in a 109 flight, fired a short burst at close range. Smoke billowed out with the first strikes and the 109 rolled over to the right and caught fire. It went into a steep dive toward the ground. While I was picking out another 109 the other three P-51s in my flight attempted a pass at E/A which dived down to the right, and I saw no more of them. The second 109 threw out smoke just as dense and lots of oil. It also peeled off to the right and I last saw it 2000 or 3000 feet below in a violent, high speed spiral still throwing out smoke and obviously out of control. In clearing my tail I found four 109s positioning for an attack. I pulled up violently and the airplane did several uncontrolled snap maneuvers going upward at a very steep rate of climb. The 109s did not follow. Without support I considered breaking off combat but saw the remainder of the E/A turn toward the bombers so decided to head them off. I found myself in good position to attack the 190s which were about 1000 feet above the 109s. After closing I repeated the tactics of the 109s and saw a 190 explode through smoke which became so thick I could no longer fire at it. These flights then broke up, some diving away and others trying to get position to attack me. It is here I believe I destroyed a fourth E/A and I damaged the one for which I make claim. In the confusion I lost track of just what had been done and desire any aid that can be given from assessment of the film taken during firing." The Confirmation Board awarded Larson 1 ME-109 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 1 FW-190 destroyed and 1 damaged. On 28 Jul 44 he submitted a full legal length page appeal of the claim downgraded to probably destroyed. It was endorsed to the board after Major Larson was KIA and so noted. They approved the second 109 as destroyed, giving him three destroyed and one damaged on this mission. Don Larson became an ace on 28 Jul when he downed a JU-52 three engined transport at low altitude not far from the Rhine River. He then shot down a ME-109 in an air battle on the deck near Hamburg on 4 Aug 44. This occurred as ME-109s bounced the etquadron while we were strafing an airfield. Shortly after this sixth kill he was engaged in a dogfight with another ME-109 when he collided with a P-51 at low altitude. This was a tremendous loss, not just to our squadron but to the nation. Don had the talent and the right job to have become one of the leading aces of the war if he could have been able to continue flying combat. Larson was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor on the 24 May 44 mission. He will live forever in our memory as an unforgettable hero.