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458th Bombardment Group (H)


Honoring those who served with the 458th BG during World War II.

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- 2Lt William P. Perkinson Crew (L-R)


Standing:Norman Smith - P, William Perkinson - CP, Meredith Moore - N.
Kneeling:Lewis Cockerill - WG, Earl Smith - RO, Cpl. Damiana - G, Bruce Bean - TG, Roberto Salazar -
E, Walter Czawlytko - WG.
Not pictured:William Kelley - B
(Photo: Ron Bean)

- Perkinson Crew - Shot down June 29, 1944 (MACR 7086)

Name Pos  Status  Date  Notes 

 2Lt William P. Perkinson  P POW 29 Jun 1944 Stalag 7A

 2Lt Norman Smith CP UNK   Status unknown

 2Lt Meredith Moore N  RFS  10 Jul 1944 Removed from Flying Status

 2Lt William P. Kelley B POW 29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 3

 S/Sgt Earl E. Smith RO  POW 29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 4

 S/Sgt Roberto Salazar E   POW 29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 4

 Cpl Damiana G    UNK    Status unknown

 Sgt Lewis F. Cockerill WG    POW  29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 4

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 Sgt Walter D. Czawlytko WG   POW 29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 4


 Sgt Bruce E. Bean TG    POW  29 Jun 1944 Stalag Luft 4

Perkinson's crew was assigned on June 25, 1944 and flew their first mission on June 28th.  They were
shot down on their second mission on June 29th, four days after their arrival.  Prior to going overseas,
2Lt. Norman Smith was assigned to another crew and Perkinson eventually became the crew's pilot. 
Corporal Damiana's status is unknown.  He was replaced at some point by Sgt John E. Haggerty, the
latter being shot down with the crew on June 29th.

2Lt Meredith Moore flew on the crew's first mission to Saarbrucken, but had a severe sinus infection
which gave him trouble throughout the mission.  He was hospitalized upon their return and was not
with the crew the next day when they were shot down.  His place as navigator was taken by 2Lt Irwin
Eiring.  Moore's sinus condition was chronic and he was removed from flying status in July 1944 and
assigned as an instructor to 2nd Bombardment Division HQ in August. (See Meredith Moore's story
below)

In the cockpit with Perkinson on June 29th was 1Lt Robert H. Hannaman.  It is not clear what the
purpose of his presence was that day.  Whether to replace a missing co-pilot, or to check out this new
crew to be sure they were ready to fly combat missions on their own, is not known.  Hannaman is
listed as "Pilot" and Perkinson is listed as "Co-Pilot" on the Missing Air Crew Report.  Hannaman was
originally the pilot of Crew 65 in the 755th Squadron, but was reassigned, possibly as an Operations
Officer in the squadron.  His co-pilot, 2Lt Robert V. Whitlow, took over as pilot of Crew 65.

- MACR 7086

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- Portion of Sgt Bruce E. Bean's experience


 

The following is a transcribed copy of an original transcript written by Bruce E. Bean of his war
experience in Europe from May 1943 through May 1945.  The original transcript was written in
June of 1985.  All of the text represented here has been transcribed exactly as written, no
changes to wording have been made except where noted by [].  Spelling and typographical errors
have been corrected as needed.

Ron Bean
December 29, 1997

WWII Experience

Went into service Mar. 25 1943 at Battle Creek Mich.  and after one week of testing for skills etc. was
shipped out to St. Petersburg Fla.  I was stationed in a tent city out in the boondocks for a week then
moved to Pennsylvania hotel in town for basic training (Apr. 1 thru May 30).

On May 30 went by train to Denver Col. at Buckley Field was in school to learn all small armament
(30Cal 50Cal 70mm guns)  Also use of all types of guns on the firing range.  Then one week on bivouac
in Tent City type war conditions.  Rank PFC. Graduated in on July 24.

Moved to Lowery Field (Denver) for all types of turrets (Martin, Sperry, Bendix).  Again with classes,
more gunnery practice, now with guns mounted on turrets also movie types with recorders made by
Jam Handy Corp.  Upon completion of course I was to go to Harlingen Texas but after being tested for
training on the then hot new B29 was held over while bugs were worked out of the B29.  In Nov. the
B29 was still not ready.  I was shipped out to Harlingen Field, Harlingen, Texas, just north of
Matamoras Mex.

Again more gunnery all types, lots of skeet.  We also fired from turrets with shotguns, BB guns and
what have you.  Upon graduation was made Buck Sgt.  >>> with the large salary of I believe $82 per
month.

The top ten men in the class were notified that they had been “selected” to go to train as instructors
at Buckingham Field Fla.  (Ft. Meyers).  We traveled by train arriving in Tampa on Christmas Eve
1944.  Again more gunnery all types, lots of skeet.  We were now standing in a truck with clay pigeons
coming out at random from any direction.  I soon discovered I did not like speaking to a group, a fear
carried since Jr. hi.  (Since cured by Dale Carnegie).  In Feb 1944 a need for men over seas was posted
on the bulletin board and zap my way out of instructors school.

I was to be assigned to Westover Field Mass. and was given a 10 day delay in route to Detroit then to
Westover Field (Springfield Mass.).  At Westover was assigned to a crew of 10 on a B24 Bomber.  We
spend Mar. thru May (almost) becoming a unit.  Then late in May were sent to camp Kilmer, N.J. and
then to Port of N.Y. we then boarded the Queen Elizabeth I.  On May 30, 1944 we docked in Glasgow
Scotland on June 5 1944 (ed. These dates appear to be in conflict).  On the following a.m. we learned
of the invasion of France.  While overseas I received the rank of Staff/Sgt., new pay of $96.00 per
month plus 50% flight pay, also 10% I believe for foreign service.

Again more gunnery at a base in Ireland, then assignment to our base in England on June 26, 1944 at
Horship AF Base (458th Bomb Gp) at ____________ in southern England [RB: this was Horsham St.
Faith air base in Norwich].  I was now given the rank of S/Sgt.  $96 per mo. plus 50% flight pay.  Our
first mission on June 28 was on Stuttgart near the French border.  No fighters encountered just lots of
flak--no hits on us.

On June 29 our mission was deep in Germany near Berlin (Aschersleben, I believe).  We went out to
our B24 at 4:00 only to find engine trouble so on to another plane.  We made rendezvous with our
squadron on time at 22,000 ft. alt. but our troubles weren’t over, as we passed over the English
Channel our right inboard engine developed an oil leak and was feathered.  Salazar, our flight
engineer said turn back but our newly assigned pilot (with 23 missions under his belt) said we’ll make
it.

We maintained our position with the squadron.  In the ensuing time I was busy attempting to clear a
jam in one of my rear turret guns.  Not as easy as on the bench at Harlingen Field.  The temperature
was near -10 degrees and before long the metal would be the same temp.  I managed to repair so one

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of the guns would fire.

When we arrived at the target as our bombs were being dropped we were hit and lost the use of
engine #4 (our right outboard).  Now with only 2 engines, both on the left side, we lost altitude and
fell behind formation.  We did retain fighter support with P47s.  They kept motioning for us to bail
out by indicating our poor flight angle.  As time lapsed the crew threw out all loose and excess weight
finally including the guts of the waist guns.  We were informed by the pilot that we were unable to
transfer gas from the right tanks and most vote to ditch (land in water) in the channel or bail out.  We
all opted to bail out.

It was at this time a waist gun, swinging loose since the guts were missing, caught my ripcord spilling
my chute out on the floor.  No other chute could be found so I picked up the loose chute and bailed
out thru the rear hatch.  The slip stream due to our speed caught the folds ripping it from me.  It
opened suddenly wrenching me to a sudden stop, my foot hitting some part of the plane.

Suddenly the plane was gone leaving me to float in a very quiet sky after all the noise of our engines
faded away.  As I looked below it all appeared like a patchwork quilt so far below then suddenly it
was more detailed as a fence was “coming up” towards me.  I pulled on the chute ropes of one side as
we had been taught and slid over just missing the fence.

I landed in a wheat field just yard behind a house.  Quickly I removed the heavy flight boots and put
on a pair of English walking shoes.  Earl Smith (our radio man) and I had kidded this a.m. when we
checked them out about walking out of Germany.  Now that became a real possibility but even that
thought was short lived as a young soldier ran up yelling “Han oop”.

In what seemed a very short time 9 of our crew were herded on to a army truck and were discussing
our individual captures.  Then the last of our group Robert Salazar (the engineer) was brought up and
climbed aboard.  We then were taken to a military base near by.  Later that day after attempts to
interrogate us we [were] taken to a makeshift prison an[d] put in separate rooms.

Much later that day we were offered a bowl of very unappetizing soup.  Then marched into a small
town to a RR station.  There as we boarded the train we were each given a loaf of black bread.  After
a bite of it we chucked it, later we would have eaten it if we had known how long until we’d eat a
decent meal.

The following day we arrived at Dulag Luft (a temp. airforce camp).  Again the now standard search,
and were placed in solitaire in a prison room.  Late in the afternoon I was interrogated again an[d]
refused to give only the standard (as trained) name, rank & serial No.  When they could not convince
me to talk I was released into an outer compound with other prisoners and the following day put on a
train bound for a permanent camp.

- Smith Crew - Westover Field May 1944

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- 2Lt Norman Smith Crew (L-R)


Standing:Norman Smith - P, William Perkinson - CP, William Kelley - B Meredith Moore - N.
Kneeling:Roberto Salazar - E, Walter Czawlytko - WG, Earl Smith - RO, Lewis Cockerill - WG, Bruce
Bean - TG, John Haggerty - TTG .
(Photo: Larry Moore)

- 1Lt Meredith Moore


Excerpts from Meredith Moore’s life story…..

About mid-term of my sophomore year at Purdue, I had to register for the draft.  Instead, I enlisted in
the Army Air Force and on Jan 31, 1943, was sent to Kessler Field near Biloxi, MS for basic training. 
After four weeks of basic training, I was transferred to Indiana Central College in Indianapolis for six
weeks of C.T.D. and then on to Kelly Field in San Antonio, TX for Aviation Cadet Classification.

Upon arrival at Kelly on April 17, 1943, I requested assignment to navigation school and was
accepted.  I was assigned to Ellington Field in TX for navigation pre-flight training (May 11 – Jul 15,
1943), then on to Harlingen Field for aerial gunnery school (Jul 15 – Sep 5, 1943) and finally to Hondo
Air Base near San Antonio for advanced navigation training (Sep 5, 1943 – Feb 5, 1944).  On Feb 5,
1944, I was commissioned as a 2nd Lt, got my wings and was sent to Westover Field near Holyoke, MA
for R.T.U.  There I was assigned to a B24 crew even though I was restricted to flying in low altitude
medium bombers because of my chronic sinus problems.  I should have been assigned to a B25 or B26
crew, but that was just the way the Army did things in wartime.

At Westover, we flew several anti-submarine missions.  One of those missions took us to Bermuda.  A
ground force General hitched a ride with us on that mission.  It was common practice for them to fly
with the bomber crews because they could get cigarettes and liquor in Bermuda for about half the
U.S. price.  This mission turned out to be quite an experience for the General.  About half-way back
to the States, we lost an engine.  We were beyond returning to Bermuda at that point, and this made
the General (and the crew) pretty nervous.  A short time later, we lost a second engine and had to
drop our depth charges because we were losing altitude pretty fast.  Not long after that, a third
engine started missing, so we had to throw all non-essentials overboard just to maintain altitude,
including the General’s cigarettes and liquor.  Obviously, he wasn’t too happy about that!  He got on
the crew intercom and asked “Now what do we do?”  S/Sgt Roberto Salazar, our flight engineer,
replied “You’re next, General.”  The General grabbed my compass cover and threw up in it.  When

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we finally landed, Salazar caught up with the General, saluted him and said “General, I think you
forgot to take the compass cover and clean it.  I’m sure you know the government regulations.  If you
use it, you clean it.”  The General went back to the plane, got the cover, cleaned it in the restroom
of the hangar and returned it to the plane.  I’ll bet he never even thought about hitching a ride on a
B24 again!

I had one other unforgettable experience while flying out of Westover.  We were trying to return to
the field after a practice mission, but the entire east coast from Maine to south of New York City was
completely socked in.  To make matters worse, our radio and compass were not working.  We flew
around for about two hours trying to find a hole in the clouds until we finally saw the mercury vapor
lights of New Haven, CT, located our base and landed.  On the ramp, we were greeted by all kinds of
vehicles and escorted to the briefing room.  It seems that we had flown over Hyde Park three times,
which was a no-no.  We later learned that President Roosevelt had been there at the time.  We had
been tracked by the Westover tower, but we could not be reached because our radio wasn’t
working.   Normally, fighters would have been sent up to shoot us down, but it was too overcast for
them to take off.  Search lights were put on us, but we never saw them.  The tower finally decided
that we were friendly, so thankfully we weren’t shot down.

Just before receiving our overseas orders, Smitty (our pilot 2nd Lt Norman Smith) was assigned to
another crew.  A Major who had already flown 15 combat missions, Edward Turner, was assigned to
our crew as Smitty’s replacement.

At noon on June 1, 1944, our crew along with about 7000 other servicemen left New York City on the
Queen Elizabeth.  It was the world’s largest cruise ship at the time, but its normal capacity was only
around 2000, so it was very crowded.  After zigzagging across the Atlantic for 4-1/2 days, we dropped
anchor in the harbor near Glasgow, Scotland.  The next day (June 6, 1944; D-Day), our crew boarded
a train bound for Stone Recreation Center in England for E.T.O. orientation.  After a couple of days
there, we were sent to Ireland for a course in pathfinding.  When we completed that training, our
crew was assigned to the 458th Bomb Group, 755th Squadron at Horsham St. Faith near Norwich,
England.

We arrived at Horsham St. Faith on June 25, 1944, and were assigned a new B24J.  Much to our
astonishment, the living quarters there weren’t the Quonset huts that we were expecting, but nice
two story brick houses that had originally been built for RAF pilots and their families.  Eight of us
lived in each house.  We flew a couple of practice missions and were cleared for combat duty.  The
next two days were spent in briefing sessions.  Since Maj Turner was already experienced and seemed
to have a lot of pull with the C.O., he didn’t attend these briefings.  Instead, he took a joy ride in a
P38, crashed and was killed.

On June 28, 1944, we were scheduled to fly our first combat mission.  Robert Hannaman, a 1st Lt with
22 missions under his belt, was assigned as our pilot.  Our target was the railroad marshaling yards at
Saarbrucken, Germany.  We were one of 750 B24’s on that mission and were flying deputy lead for our
12 plane squadron which was very unusual for a new crew.  Once we entered enemy territory, we
encountered some light flak which bounced the plane around a bit.  By this time, we were at 23,000
ft and had been in the air for nearly three hours, and my head was really hurting.  At that point, I
wasn’t sure whether I would live through the mission or if I would even make it to the target to drop
the bombs because my head hurt so badly.  After encountering heavy flak and taking a lot of evasive
action, we finally reached our target.  It was heavily defended with very accurate flak.  Someone said
it was so accurate that one gun would aim at a plane’s No. 1 engine and another at its No. 3 engine. 
Luckily they didn’t pick on us!

We made our bombing run, I dropped our bombs and we headed for home.  On our missions, the
navigators dropped the bombs when the lead plane dropped theirs and the bombardiers manned the
nose turret guns.  I was barely hanging on because of the severe pain in my head, but I managed to
keep going until just before leaving enemy territory when I passed out.  It seems that sometime
during our bombing run, flak hit the oxygen tank supplying my mask.  No one else on the plane was
hooked up to that tank, so no one was aware of the problem until I passed out.  Our bombardier, 2nd
Lt Bill Kelley, finally saw me slumped over, noticed that I didn’t appear to have been hit, and then
saw my oxygen gauge on zero.  He immediately gave me oxygen from another mask until I came to. 
You don’t realize that you are suffocating at high altitude, so you have to keep a close watch on your
oxygen gauge.  I guess I learned that the hard way!

This mission was also memorable because of something else that happened.  During our return to
England while flying on the right wing of the lead plane, we noticed another B24 with our wing’s
markings flying about a half mile to our right.  Our radio operator, S/Sgt Earl Smith, contacted the
plane and was told that they had encountered a problem and had to drop out of formation before

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reaching the target but were OK now.  We both continued on toward England.  However, when we
reached the channel, they did a 180 deg turn and headed back toward Germany.  We reported this at
our debriefing and were told that the plane was probably one that had crash landed behind enemy
lines, been repaired and was being flown by a German crew on the flank of our formation to radio our
speed and altitude to the flak installations.  No wonder the flak guns were so accurate!

After our debriefing, I went to the flight surgeon’s office to have my sinuses cleaned out like I did
before and after each high altitude flight.  I also told him about the oxygen tank hit which caused me
to pass out.  He sent me directly to sick bay to have my sinuses checked more closely.  He thought
that I may have passed out due to the extreme pressure in my sinus cavity caused by the sinus
blockage.  X-rays didn’t show any damage, but he grounded me for a few days anyway for further
tests.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Our crew was scheduled to fly the next day, so a substitute navigator, 2nd Lt Irwin Eiring, was
assigned in my place.  During that mission, on June 29, 1944, our plane was hit and went down in
enemy territory.  I later learned that all of our crew had survived and spent the rest of the war as
P.O.W.’s.  About two years after the war, I saw Bill Kelley.  He told me that the crew had lived
together on a farm, did farm chores and were treated and fed well.  He added that every day they
would watch our bombers fly overhead to their targets.

A couple of days after I was grounded, the flight surgeon called me in and told me that the C.O.
wanted to put me back on flying status.  He naturally followed orders even though he felt that I
should be reassigned to a low altitude bomb group because of my sinus problems.  He told me to try
again to see if I could withstand the pain.  I flew two more high altitude missions, one to Berlin and
the other to Hamburg.  Of course, I had to have my sinuses cleaned out before and after both
missions, so after the second mission the flight surgeon reported to the C.O. that I should be
transferred.

Instead of being transferred, on July 7, 1944, I was reassigned to another squadron in the 458th that
flew low altitude missions.  I flew 20 so-called non-combat missions for which I received no credit
toward discharge.  The first five were out of Glasgow, Scotland ferrying German prisoners to Spain to
trade for U.S. P.O.W.’s.  I then returned to Horsham St. Faith and flew 15 fuel missions.  These were
as scary as high altitude bomb runs because we were constantly being hit with small arms fire from
the ground.  Several planes were blown up when they were hit in the bomb bay where the specially
designed fuel tanks were installed.  I don’t recall how many gallons they held, but I know we were
always way overloaded because several planes crashed on takeoff due to the excess weight and the
shifting of the fuel load in the tanks.  The pilots had not been trained for this.

The day following my 15th fuel mission, I was ordered to report to the Eighth Air Force headquarters
for reclassification.  That unit was undermanned so, when I arrived, my reclassification was put on
hold and I was assigned several miscellaneous jobs like officer of the day and mess officer.  I knew
nothing about being a mess officer, but I could get lots of food, even steak, anytime I wanted so it
turned out to be pretty good deal.  While I was mess officer, actor Mickey Rooney and singer Bobby
Breen were assigned to K.P., not as U.S.O. members but as Air Force personnel, and were subjected
to all of the normal enlisted men assignments.  I was instructed by the C.O. to make sure that the
mess hall staff didn’t hassle them too much, and I gladly obeyed much to the chagrin of the staff!

After it was determined that my stay at headquarters would last for three weeks instead of the
expected one week, I was assigned to a group that kept track of our men who were trying to escape
from the enemy via the underground.  This was really interesting, especially when we picked up the
trail of Walker “Bud” Mahurin who I had lived with in Cary Hall at Purdue before the war.  Mahurin
had enlisted in the Air Force about the same time I did, and became a fighter ace before being shot
down over Germany.  I was able to track him through France for about two weeks before I lost him.  I
later learned that he eventually made it back to England.

I was finally assigned to a group returning to the states on the Santa Paula, a converted cruise ship. 
About four hours after leaving England for New York City, we ran into a sunken hull and had to return
to port for repairs.  It took about two weeks to complete the repairs.  Once underway again, we were
joined by a convoy of destroyers and three British aircraft carriers.  About midnight on the second day
out, we sailed into a tremendous storm with waves so high that they broke across the decks of the
carriers and tipped our ship over to the maximum on the gauges.  The storm lasted an entire day, and
the water stayed moderately rough for two more.  I would guess that 90% of the guys on board were
sea sick and didn’t eat for a couple of days.  I was one of the few that didn’t get sick, so I ate like a
fiend and gained so much weight that when we finally docked in New York City I couldn’t get my coat
buttoned!

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Upon arrival in the States, I was immediately assigned to a train bound for Camp Atterbury near
Edinburgh, IN.  There I was offered either a promotion to join the reserves or an honorable
discharge.  I accepted the discharge and on Jan 5, 1945, I was a civilian again.  It was really great to
be home.  I’ll be the first to admit that I had it pretty easy compared to many guys, including some of
my friends.  During training, on the ships to and from England, and at Horsham St. Faith, I had good
food and lodging, but it still wasn’t like home.

Footnote to the above…..

After my discharge from the Air Force, I returned to Purdue and graduated in 1947 with a BS in Civil
Engineering.  I operated Moore Construction Co. in South Bend, IN until 1962 and then worked as a
project manager for Geupel DeMars, a large construction management firm in Indianapolis, IN until
retiring in 1987.  My wife Norma and I live in Lebanon, IN and have two grown children and one
grandson.

Copyright ©2008 www.458bg.com

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