Last spring, I started reviewing some of my dad’s personal military items of record and some of the other documents that I have from the reunions his service group held for several years. My original intention was to compile a full outline of their reunions to publish in a blog at the end of May. Due to various circumstances at the time, I was not able to complete the project as intended.
So, this being Veterans Day, I wanted to give a bit of recognition to my dad and this group who served during the second world war. However, I have curbed my original plan. Instead of this blog showing a complete outline of the reunions, it will be more of a review of their service and include just a little information about their reunions. Mostly, because I have been considering putting together a more complete information into a book of some kind that will serve as a historical and memorable documentation. Whether I actually see that to fruition remains to be seen.
In a previous blog posting, I did highlight some of my dad’s service experience which you could connect to via the following link: My Dad: A Soldier of World War II. This current post may contain some repeat of his service highlights. Please note, that all of my source information listed here is being taken from papers or records that I hold in my personal possession. In addition to having my dad’s records and items he saved from the war, I have all the group correspondence and reunion meeting agenda’s that my parents had saved.
My Dad reported for duty on October 13, 1942, at 21 years of age. After serving overseas in the European Theatre, he returned back to the US on October 12, 1945. His military separation was official on October 20, 1945.
First, my dad was sent to Ft. Devens, in Massachusetts, for ten days, then on to Atlantic City for Technical Training School and boot camp. He stayed at one of the big hotels on the boardwalk. He spent twenty days at that location.
While my dad was in Atlantic City, he sent the postcard that I have shown as my featured image. I chose to highlight the handwritten message, back side of the card, but will show the front side image toward the end of this blog.
My dad sent the card on October 29, 1942, from Atlantic City to Mr. Paul A. Kenworthy; however, I am unclear if the card ever reached Paul or whether it was sent back to my dad when he was at mechanic school in Goldsboro, NC, which was the last entry on the address side. I do not know Paul’s story, but I am assuming perhaps my dad had met him at Camp Devens–I do know that Paul did not serve in the same service group with my dad.
Looking at my dad’s handwritten message you can see his location was Atlantic City for Technical School. His message to Paul reads: “Please excuse the time from the time you left until you receive this card. I have been very busy. I will write you more as soon as I get your address. Earl.”
My dad changed posts on November 11, 1942 to Seymour Johnson Field, in North Carolina. It had actually been an error because they had been put on the wrong train heading in the wrong direction. They were supposed to be sent to New York–maybe a blessing in disguise.
He started Airplane Mechanics school and served ten months in the US as an Airplane and Engine Mechanic prior to being sent overseas. He achieved the rank of Corporal.
My dad was assigned to the 461st Service Squadron.
SERVICE GROUP TIMELINE
The 461st Service Squadron was part of the 326th Service Group assigned to the 354th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. They were activated from Hunter Field, in Savannah, Georgia, on March 6, 1943 and later the group was renamed the 461st Air Service Squadron.
The group remained at Hunter Field until May 22, 1943 and then followed the timeline, as listed below:
Venice, Florida – May 24 to August 2
Waycross, Georgia – August 3 to October 19
Camp Kilmer, New Jersey; October 21 to November 2
Queen Elizabeth, November 2 to November 9
Station 469 – Ramsbury, England – November 10 to November 19
Station 150 – Boxted, Essex, England – November 19 to ?
As you see in the timeline, they had sailed to Ramsbury, Wilshire, England on the Queen Elizabeth arriving on Nov. 10, 1943. They served in four areas of Europe (Central Europe, Normandy, Northern France, Germany) over the course of 23 months (in my dad’s case).
My dad inspected, maintained and repaired wooden aircraft parts on assemblies of the fighter planes, primarily the Fighting Mustang P-51.
Soon after my dad’s 461st Air Service Squadron arrived in England, they became the nucleus of Team “B” of the 326th Service Group. They were assigned for service to the 354th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force.
At the time of the Normandy Beach Invasion (France), also known as D-Day, the group was stationed in Kent, England. The Invasion covered five sections of the beach, taking place from June 6 to 25, in 1944 (not just one day). By the end of that month, my dad’s group had been moved to an air station in Cricqueville, France. During a speech made on the 50th anniversary of this Invasion (June 1994) it was said that the Normandy Invasion was the “Price of Freedom”. In this place, thousands of Allies gave their lives as represented by the lines of white crosses that remain there along the coastline.
By late August of 1944, celebration parades and 15 miles of Paris streets were lined with cheering people, marking their Liberation from German occupation, as can be seen from the postcard pictured above.
The regime would fall in Germany on May 7, 1945 which followed the advancement of Allied forces into that area.
On October 12th, 1945, my dad arrived back on US soil to Fort Monmouth, in New Jersey and headed for home on October 20th.
He went on to graduate from the New England Aircraft School where he obtained knowledge of engine construction, inspection, maintenance and repair. He graduated on September 12, 1947.
My dad received the following service medals: the European Theatre of Operations Service Medal, four bronze battle Stars, the Good Conduct Medal and the Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty, which was received posthumously.
The first Reunion of the 461st Air Service Squadron, 9th Air Force was held in 1980. The group’s members were scattered across the country. Each reunion that was held by the group included a business meeting, a memorials recognition, group visits to local sites, a banquet, and breakfast on the final morning.
My parents were not able to attend until the 4th Reunion which was held in 1984, from October 4-7, in Philadelphia, PA. The mailing list that was handed out at that 1984 meeting listed 82 members living and 18 known deceased.
The 5th Reunion was held in North Hollywood, Calif., in 1985; from October 17-20. The picture shown above is my dad in the dark shirt with his buddy Warren Morey. They went on a tour of the Queen Mary which you can see in the background. They went to a lot of places like Disneyland and Universal backlots, etc. After this reunion my mom wrote a letter to other wives with words of encouragement to attend the reunions. She spoke of how she never expected to see the state of California and that my parents had saved all year to be able to go. They came home with great memories, that no one can take away.
My parents continued to attend many of the annually held reunions of this service group, but I am not going to list them all at this time. So, I will continue with the 15th Reunion, with details below.
The 15th Reunion was held in Savannah, Georgia, back to where the group had been activated in 1943. The picture above shows the waterfront area in Savannah and the picture below shows the group going on a carriage ride. It was the last reunion my dad was able to attend and was held in 1995, from October 11-14 with 21 men present. They toured Fort Stewart and Hunter Field. My dad was having a lot of physical struggles at that time but was determined to go. My parents had gone down by train and they extended their visit from October 10 to 17. A few weeks after returning home my dad took a fall and was never quite able to walk more than a step or two again.
My dad died in March of 1997.
My parents were not able to attend the 16th Reunion due to my dad’s health. However, my mom continued to attend the next two gatherings held at New York and Florida.
The 17th Reunion was held at Bayside, New York from September 17-20, 1997 with 9 men and 16 women present. They determined this year that eligibility for membership be expanded beyond the original 461st members to immediate family, widows and friends of originals.
My mom’s last attendance was to the 18th Reunion held in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1998. It was hosted by one of the original members and his daughters.
I am uncertain if there were any other Reunions held after 1998, my mom’s health was failing at that point and no longer able to attend.
Cambridge American Cemetery & Memorial
My parents took a trip to England in 1987 and during their visit they went to the Cambridge American Military Cemetery & Memorial, located in Coton, Cambridgeshire, England.
The following information was taken from a handout from the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The site was first established on December 7th, 1943 as a permanent American Military Cemetery and covers 30.5 acres and was donated by the University of Cambridge. The cemetery and memorial were completed in 1956.
In the cemetery are buried 3,811 Americans arranged in fan-shaped graves in quarter circles and the headstones are aligned like the spokes of a wheel.
There is a Wall of the Missing which is 472 feet long, built of Portland stone, a limestone quarried from the south coast of England. On the wall is recorded the names of 5,125 of our Missing. Along the wall are four statues: a Soldier, a Sailor, an Airman, and a Coast Guardsman.
There is also a memorial building, built of Portland stone, that is 85 feet long, 30 feet wide and 28 feet high. On the North side of the memorial are five pylons, each are inscribed with a date representing the five years from 1941 through 1945 in which the United States participated in the war.
The beautiful main doors of the memorial building are made of teakwood, and have bronze models of the military equipment and naval vessels.
Front Side of Dad’s Postcard
The pictured image on the front side of the postcard that my dad had mailed is of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, West Atlantic City. I believe it is a linen card and includes images of a St. Thomas More statue and the Wayside Shrine.
The postcard was published by the E. C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Until next time…