Wwii Letters, Usaaf B-26 Gunner. Angry. Combat Mission Requirement Increased.
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Wwii Letters, Usaaf B-26 Gunner. Angry. Combat Mission Requirement Increased.:
This is an writtenin March 1944by anaerial gunnerin the U.S. Army Air Force.There isexcellent content in this letter.Just as this man and others in his squadron reached or neared the completion of the required 50 missions in their combat tours theyhad beenofficially informed that the mission requirement had been raised. Some of the men were taking it very badly. One man had flown his 50th mission, and therefore thought he had completed his combat tour, on the very day the announcement of the mission increase was made.
There is also a second letter included. It is a V-Mail, written in October 1944, more than 6 months after the first letter. In the V-Mail this sergeant announces that he had finally completed his combat tour and was going home.
*** Theaerial gunner/radio operatorwho wrote these letters flew a total of more than 70 combat missions. He was highly decorated. Details of his service can be found further down in this listing.
The letterswerewritten by Staff Sergeant James W. Edwards of the 454th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group.Edwards served as a radio operator/gunner in B-26aircraft. He began his tour in the crew of a B-26named "Unbearable" (B-26 # 41-34703, coded RJ-C). This aircraftwas lost in August 1943 when the pilot, Lieutenant Marion Morgan (whowas later awardedthe Distinguished Service Cross), crashedon landing after suffering severe flak damage on a bombing mission to Caen, France. Captain Morgan then became Operations Officer of the squadron, and Edwards was reassigned to the crew of a Lieutenant named Seely.
The letter written on the 19th of March 1944 is 4 pages long. The content is extraordinary. The men had just learned that 50 combat missions flown would no longer be considered a completed tour. Some of the men, including Edwards, had been nearing 50 missions, and one man hadflown his 50th on the very day that the announcement was made. Some men had taken the news very badly:
"When you get this I will have completed my fifty missions. As you know the original plan was to send the men back to the States for a rest before being sent to some other theatre for duty. Well, that has all been changed now. The way the orders read now there is no such thing as a tour of duty. In other words we just stay here and keep on flying until the darn war is over.
It came as sort of a blow to all of us. Donahey had finished his 50 the morning of the day the orders came through. I myself had 47 then. Scruggs has finished 50 day before yesterday. Hunter is crowding hell out of 50 right now. MacNally has finished his also. As for Brown, he has 49 now.
For some unknown reason or other they have (the arm chaired experts) decided that upon the completion of 50 missions they can spare him for 14 days, so they are giving us 14 days furloughs now.
As for myself it all didn't make so much difference, asI wrote Dad a letter and told him exactly how I felt about coming home and being made an instructor. It's a cinch, though the missions are rougher over here, the living expenses are a lot better than in the other theatres. I'm not very different, as far as being nervous etc., than I was when I first started. Some of the guys have changed quite a bit.
Have been somewhat concerned over Hunter's condition. He is getting plenty nervous. Of course that's on the Q.T. Scruggs isn't doing so good either. He took the 'New Order' pretty hard, as you can readily understand.
Well, since I've completed my tour shall we say, and I'm getting my furlough whenever they get around to giving it to me, I'm going to need some money. I might as well tell you that I'm going to cut loose this time, as I figure a guy that has been over that darn territory 50 times has well earned it."
Edwards wasn't sure where he would go on his leave, but he was certain of one thing:
"I do know I'm getting just as far from here as I possibly can."
The V-Mail was written more than 6 months later, on the 31st of October 1944. Edwards had finally completed hiscombat tour and was being sent home:
"Well, yours truly has finished his ops' as far as the E.T.O. is concerned. Am on my way home, but don't look for me until I send you a wire telling you when. Am hoping to be home Xmas if not before. You can throw away the writing materials for it's no use writing me here.
Well, that's all the news for this time. Figure it should be enough, if it is as good news to you as it was to me. No need to worry any more. As I said before, I'm through flying, in combat at least."
Outstanding original letters, written by a highly decoratedAmerican airman who flew more than 70 missions in combat.
*** The airman who wrote these lettersflew more than 70 combat missions in 1943 and 1944 in theEuropean Theatre of Operations, earning the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Cluster. Hethenwent on to flyin the Far East in 1945, flying "over the Hump" into China, with Air Transport Command, as a radio operator.
The letters were written byS/Sgt. James W. Edwards ofthe 454th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group.In addition to beinghighly decorated, Edwardsended the war with one of the highest rotation point totals in the entire United States Army.
S/Sgt. James Edwardsreceived numerous decorations, including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster. He was also awarded the Air Medalwiththirteen Oak Leaf Clusters.After his combat tour in the E.T.O.Edwards flew as a radio operator onAir Transport Command missions over the "Hump" into China in 1945. When the army announced it's point system for rotation in May 1945James Edwards had 160 points,one ofthe highest point totals in the entire United States Army.
(***Early in his tour of missions, in 1943, J.W. Edwards flew in theB-26 named"Unbearable", until that aircraftcrashed on landing when returning with flak damagefrom a mission to Caen. Unbearable was piloted byCaptain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Marion W. Morgan of Augusta, Georgia.Marion W.Morganwas awarded the D.S.C. (Distinguished Service Cross) in 1944.
("Unbearable". B-26 Serial # 41-34703, Code RJ-C)
*** By June 1944J.W. Edwardshad completed 59 missions.Followinga period of leave in the United States he returned to his squadron and flew at least12more missionsby October 1944, bringing his total number of combat missions to at least 71.In early 1945 he was again shipped overseas,assigned to a C-46 transport crew in India, flying cargo missions over "the Hump" to China. When the points rotation system was announced in May 1945 he had 160 points, and byJune he was back in the United States.Records and wartime documents and lettersindicatethat hereceived the Silver Star, The Distinguished Flying Cross with at least one OakLeaf Cluster (possibly two), and the Air Medal with at least 13 Oak Leaf Clusters (possibly as many as 15).***Because many American WWIIrecords have been destroyed in firesor are otherwise unavailable it isgenerally difficultto make statements with certaintyconcerning the WWII medal entitlements of American servicemen. I have used the best information available to me, including official documents and recordsand period newspaper announcements,indetermining J.W. Edwards' medal entitlement.
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