P-61 photo

Hello readers,

A friend of mine recently purchased a book entitled “Royal Air Force Burtonwood” because his fathered had served at Burtonwood.  Included in the book was this photo of a P-61 at Burtonwood.    There is some confusion over the plane’s serial number.  The description  indicates that the planes serial number is 239739, which would have been one of the places that eventually shipped to the 417th.  However, upon closer look,  it seems the serial number may actually be 239730, a plane that was shipped to the 317th in California.  You decide!

The description reads:

“P-61 Northrup Black Widows lined up on E Site in 1944.  The one nearest the camera is serial 239739.  Powered by two Twin Wasp radial engines, this aircraft was a night fighter and usually found in this black colour scheme.  102 were processed by BADI between July 1943 and May 1945.  Several were converted for clandestine “CarpetBagger” operations.  The sign in the background reads “Supply Division – 1st BAD”, but the rest is indecipherable.  Note the canvas on the hanger door behind to break up the line in the event of an enemy recce or attack, and the slipping grass spread over the curved roof of this Lamella type hanger.”

The photo was taken by Carl J. Winkleman.

P-61-burtonwood

 

A larger version has been placed under the gallery for the P-61 planes.

Ralph F. Wakerly 349th NFS Crew Chief Story

By Ralph F. Wakerly

Dear Richard I received your letter several days ago and I believe it is a good thing you are doing. I am an 86 year old WWII veteran and was in the 349th NFS at its inception in Orlando in 1942. I w as scheduled to go overseas in early 1943 with the 414th NFS, however I was in a crash on January 15, 1943 on a test flight out of Kissimmee, Florida where the 349th was then stationed. I was a crew chief and the only survivor of the three occupants. . As a result, I spent 130 days in Orlando Air Base Hospital. When I got out I went back to the 349th and we subsequently went to Hammer Field in Fresno, CA, leaving Florida on Jan 15, 1944. I continued my mechanic duties and went to P-61 school at Northrop in Hawthorne, CA for a six-week course and graduated as a hydraulic specialist. I watched Johnny Meyers perform acrobatics where he flew low over the crowd and did a slow roll on one engine. He was the test pilot and engineer for Northrop for many years and was waiting at age 88 year old to test fly the P-61 they are rebuilding at MAAM in Reading, Pa. After all my training in Fighter planes, I was shipped overseas into the ATC in November 1944. I was stationed in England, Marseilles and Paris (Orly Field). We serviced any planes that came through our base and I witnessed the end of the war in France, Germany, and Japan.

None of this helps you with your project since it doesn’t cover P-61 and Night Fighter activities overseas. I do have a great deal of data accumulated and if I can be of any help please let me know.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by Ralph F. Wakerly

Ray Christensen story published

Hello readers,

I hope you have had a good start to 2016!

I am pleased to announce that an additional document has been uploaded to the 417th website.  This document details the life of Raymond Christensen, a member of the original 417th NFS.  The document was written by Karen Seeman.  Ray was her great-uncle.  The document is a labor of love.  Karen’s journey into discovering more about Ray’s life began when her grandmother told her that she had a great-uncle who was killed in the war.  I’m am honored that Karen has permitted us to publish this wonderful story of Ray’s life.  The story not only provides us with addition details on Ray, but also provides additional insight into life as a squadron member.

I have added this document under the Letters and Tributes link that can be found under the Night Fighter History menu.  Or, just click here and you will be redirected to that page.  Raymond’s story is located in the new section called Tributes which is located at the bottom half of the page.

Do you have a tribute, memoir or letter from someone who served in the NFS that you would like to see published on our website?   Please get in touch via the Contact Us link.

Cheers,

Jackie (417th Web Site Admin)

Seeking information

Hello readers,

I have received a request from the daughter of Sam Krasney, a member of the 415th NFS.  She would like to hear from anyone who may have known her father and might have some stories to share about him.

She is also writing an article for the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine about the foo fighters phenomena as seen by the pilots and crew of the NFS.  She would love to hear from any veterans with experienced  in this area.

If you have any information that can help on either of these topics, please drop me a note via the contacts page, and I will put you in touch with her.

Cheers!

Jackie

(417th web site admin)

New Page on Planes

A new page dedicated to the planes flown by the Night Fighter Squadrons has been published.  The Planes gallery is under the menu for Photo and Video Galleries, or just click on this link to see more.

If anyone has any additional photos of planes flown by the NFS, drop me a line via the Contact page.

Jackie (417th NFS website Admin)

Henry Lee Gurley Memorial

I received the following email and information from Kevin Reeder regarding his uncle, Henry Lee Gurley who’s plane and crew went missing during a mission in Japan on August 4th, 1945.  I thought it was a nice way to remember Henry so I am reposting for others to see.

Blessings,

Rich Ziebart

Henry Lee Gurley's Plane
Henry Lee Gurley’s Plane
 This information may help in detailing what happened that dreadful night for Henry and his crew.
Additional information regarding the Intruder missions to Kanoya Airdrome, Kyushu Japan, flown by Henry Lee Gurley and Stanley E. Logan:
 
(All times Okinawa time)  Henry Lee Gurley took off at 9:15 p.m. (2115) on August 4, 1945.  He WOULD have returned to base about 2:45 a.m. (0245) on August 5, 1945.  Stanley E. Logan took off on August 5, 1945 at 10:30 (2230) p.m..  Mr. Logan RETURNED to Kadena Airbase, on Okinawa, at 4:00 a.m. (0400) on the morning of August 6, 1945.  The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the morning of August 6, 1945 at 8:15 (0815) a.m..  The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima just a little over 4 hours after Mr. Logan returned to base on Okinawa.  See a portion of Mr. Logan’s recap of his missions, copied below.  
 
The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.  (Interesting note:  Nagasaki is about 75 miles NE of Kanoya Airdrome, the location of the mission of these two 418th pilots!)  The Japanese announced their formal surrender on August 15, 1945.  The formal surrender documents were signed, in Tokoyo Bay, on the USS Missouri, on Sunday, September 2, 1945
 
Kevin Reeder 
 
 
418th Night Fighter Squadron Night Intruder Missions to Japan
                                     by former 1st Lt. Stanley E. Logan, January21, 2011
Our first of three missions over Japan: Our first Japan mission (as in all missions, my RO crewmate was Lt. George Kamajian) was the night of August 5/6, 1945.  We took off from Okinawa under darkness at 2230 for Kanoya Airdrome, in the southeast corner of Kyushu, close to Kagoshima Bay, and ultimately arrived back at base at 0400.  While over the Kanoya target, approximately twelve encircling searchlights swept around looking for us.  One twice swept through the cockpit momentarily lighting it up like daylight each time without seeing us (thanks glossy black paint!).  One searchlight appeared to be directed by sound as it was stationary @ some one hundred yards or so to starboard, moving with us each time I adjusted course.  I did not radio down telling them about their apparent static error… This was of concern because high-altitude photo reconnaissance had revealed some 240 defending anti-aircraft gun emplacements (50 cal up to about 90 mm).  We dropped our two bombs during a run through an aiming point on the nearby coastline, counting off the seconds for the intervening distance.  This was not precision bombing but the encircling searchlights confirmed our location as interrupting their  activities.  One of our other planes in the sequence to Kanoya that night, with a three man crew including gunner, was lost. (note by Kevin Reeder – This is Henry Lee’s plane, and crew, that Mr. Logan references here.  I think it is obvious, now, that Henry Lee’s plane SHOULD have returned VERY EARLY on the morning of August 5, 1945, which is the very same date that Mr. Logan departed on the EXACT same mission.)
After a couple hours sleep after landing at 0400 on August 6, I arose and heard over armed forces radio sometime around 0900 Japan time, that an atomic bomb, having the explosive power of 20,000 tons of TNT was dropped that morning on Hiroshima.  This was our first indication of why five cities were circled on our operations map! I immediately recalled a small article in the Chicago Tribune in the late 30s which included something like: A ship could sail around the world with the energy from an amount of uranium that you could smudge on the end of your nose.  I know from later studies in Nuclear Engineering that  this was a big overstatement and that it didn’t reveal that some tons of the stuff were needed to make a controlled critical system.  Anyway, that morning on Okinawa I thought: WOW, atomic power!! — I was impressed!  I attempted unsuccessfully to locate that Tribune article in 2005.  It may have been related to the announcement by Neils Bohr on January 25, 1939 at a George Washington University conference that nuclear fission had just been discovered, and that America had first heard the news of splitting of uranium in a talk by a speaker named Rosenfeld at a meeting of the Princeton Physics Dept. Journal Club on January 16, 1939. I was still in my first year of high school at that time.  My search of Chicago Tribune microfilm for 1939 did not reveal the article I wanted.

On Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 3:51 PM, Kevin R wrote:

Once again, August 4 has come upon us. Today marks the 70th anniversary of the loss of my mother’s brother.

On this date at 9:15 pm, Okinawa time, Henry Lee Gurley departed  Kadena Airstrip B in a P61B-15 NUMBER 42-39591. He was pilot in command of a crew of 3 on a mission to Kanoya Airdrome on Kyushu, Japan.  He was in the 418th night fighter squadron with the U.S. Army Air Corps. As you all know, he was never heard from again.
Mr Stanley E Logan flew this exact mission on the night of August 5, 1945. Stan was in a P61B-15 NUMBER 42-39596. Stan was also in the 418th and survived this mission and several others in the Pacific.  I am proud to have him as my friend.
Kevin Reeder

Happy 4th of July and an update

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

One of the most rewarding things about building this website has been that it enables others to find information about relatives, friends and others who were involved in the 417th Night Fighter Squadron and other Night Fighter units.

More recently I received a request from Albert Bettencourt’s family regarding his service in the 417th.  It turns out that Albert was part of the original 417th NFS.  His family had provided 4 photos of Albert, some of which contain other people who’s full names are unknown.  Have a look at the end of the first gallery under the Faces of the 417th page.  If you can identify any of the others with Albert, please send us a comment!

Albert’s family is also looking for information on the meaning of the following badges that were part of Albert’s collection.

Badges

 

If you have any information on these badges please contact me or post a comment.

Cheers!

Jackie (417th website Admin)

Protecting the night in WWII

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