Craven Crew – Assigned 752nd Squadron – September 21, 1944

Standing: Paul Craven – P, Jack O’Regan – CP, Arlin Hargreaves – N, James Eloff – B
Kneeling, far left: John Barillaro – E; 4th from left: Ernest Pyle – G
If you can identify anyone in this photo, please contact me.
(Photo: Terry Pyle)

Completed Tour

RankNameSerial #Crew PositionDateStatusComments
1LtPaul M Craven772300Pilot4-Apr-45CTFlew battle damaged 42-51206 home 
1LtJack O'Reagan775252Co-Pilot18-Apr-45UNKSquadron Mission List
1LtArlin W Hargreaves2056587Navigator12-Mar-45CTRest Home Leave
F/OJames EloffT3282Bombardier25-Apr-45UNKMission Load List - Denard Crew
T/Sgt Herman J Anderson 37557598Radio Operator12-Mar-45CTRest Home Leave
T/SgtJohn R Barillaro31328041Flight Engineer9-Apr-45POWShot down - Abramowitz Crew
S/SgtWalter H Freeman34892474Aerial Gunner9-Apr-45POWShot down - Abramowitz Crew
S/SgtErnest R Pyle, Jr33807726Aerial Gunner12-Mar-45CTRest Home Leave
PfcArnold Ritter12200868 Gunner/Clerk Typist 8-Nov-44RFSRemoved Flying Status/Reclassified
S/SgtJack H Zimpleman37668312Aerial Gunner9-Apr-45POWShot down - Abramowitz Crew

2Lt Paul M. Craven and crew were assigned to the 752BS on September 21, 1944.  The 458th was in the midst of ferrying gasoline to Patton’s Army in France, and Craven flew two of these Truckin’ Missions at the end of the month.  Their first combat sortie came on October 7, 1944 when the group hit the Rothensee Oil Refinery near Magdeburg, Germany.  The crew were forced to abort their third mission due to an engine fire.  They flew a total of 12 missions by the end of 1944.

At the beginning of the New Year, co-pilot 2Lt Jack O’Regan was promoted to pilot and given a crew of his own.  The only record available shows that several of the men on this crew had been ground men and were reclassified as gunners.  Two of the men were from crews that had been lost to accident and enemy action.  O’Regan completed 22 missions as an aircraft commander.  His mission list is below.

Meanwhile, Craven and crew were able to complete half of their required 35 missions by the first part of February 1945.  Whether they received a permanent replacement or flew with several fill-in co-pilots for the remainder of their tour is unknown.  Most of the crew finished their combat tour on April 5, 1945.

Three crew members, for reasons unknown, continued to fly.  T/Sgt John R. Barillaro (E), and S/Sgts Walter H. Freeman (G) and Jack H. Zimpleman (G) were shot down on April 9, 1945 while on a mission to Lechfeld, Germany.  The pilot, 2Lt Leonard Abramowitz, was with a scratch crew on this date.  They received a direct flak hit over the target setting an engine on fire.  The crew were forced to bail out with eight men becoming POWs and one man, Sgt Allen C. Rupp (G) was KIA.  This was the last 458BG aircraft lost to enemy action in the war.

Missions – Lt Paul Craven, Pilot

DateTarget458th MsnPilot MsnSerialRCLSqdnA/C MsnA/C NameComments
15-Oct-44MONHEIM134ABT42-109812V7V--UNKNOWN 016ABORT - #2 ENG FIRES
22-Oct-44HAMM137344-40475D7V7JOLLY ROGER
30-Oct-44HARBURG139444-40475D7V8JOLLY ROGER
02-Nov-44BIELEFELD140544-40475D7V9JOLLY ROGER
04-Nov-44MISBURG141644-40475D7V10JOLLY ROGER
16-Nov-44ESCHWEILER147841-29567G7V4MY BUNNIE / BAMBI
25-Nov-44BINGEN149944-40475D7V13JOLLY ROGER
04-Dec-44BEBRA1521042-95050J7V59GAS HOUSE MOUSE
11-Dec-44HANAU1551142-109812V7V48UNKNOWN 016
28-Dec-44ST. WENDEL1601242-52457Q7V73FINAL APPROACH
01-Jan-45KOBLENZ1631342-52457Q7V75FINAL APPROACH
14-Jan-45HALLENDORF1701544-40475D7V20JOLLY ROGER
28-Jan-45DORTMUND1741642-52457Q7V81FINAL APPROACH
03-Feb-45MAGDEBURG1771744-40475D7V23JOLLY ROGER
09-Feb-45MAGDEBURG1791842-95316H7V74PRINCESS PAT
15-Feb-45MAGDEBURG1821942-52457Q7V86FINAL APPROACH
19-Feb-45MESCHADE1842042-52457Q7V88FINAL APPROACH
27-Feb-45HALLE1912242-52457Q7V93FINAL APPROACH
01-Mar-45INGOLSTADT1932344-40475D7V27JOLLY ROGER
02-Mar-45MAGDEBURG1942444-40475D7V28JOLLY ROGER
04-Mar-45STUTTGART1962542-52457Q7V97FINAL APPROACH
07-Mar-45SOEST1982644-40475D7V30JOLLY ROGER
08-Mar-45DILLENBURG1992744-40475D7V31JOLLY ROGER
12-Mar-45FRIEDBURG2022844-40475D7V33JOLLY ROGER
24-Mar-45KIRKOFF2132941-29352K7V85WOLVE'S LAIR
25-Mar-45HITZACKER2143044-10487R7V50Girl on surfboard (no name)
31-Mar-45BRUNSWICK2163142-51206S7V54THE PIED PIPER
05-Apr-45PLAUEN2183342-51514B7V33BIG CHIEF LIL' BEAVER

Missions – Lt Jack O’Reagan, Pilot

Date Target458th MsnPilot Msn SerialRCLSqdnA/C Msn A/C Name Comments
13-Jan-45KAISERLAUTERN169242-51561G7V1LUCKY 13
15-Feb-45MAGDEBURG182642-51270A7V9MY BUNNIE II
24-Feb-45BIELEFELD188942-51110M7V76TOP O' THE MARK
28-Feb-45BIELEFELD1921042-51206S7V44THE PIED PIPER
03-Mar-45NIENBURG1951141-29567G7V13MY BUNNIE / BAMBI
04-Mar-45STUTTGART1961242-51206S7V46THE PIED PIPER
05-Mar-45HARBURG1971342-50502E7V41LARRUPIN' LINDA
08-Mar-45DILLENBURG1991444-10487R7V39Girl on surfboard (no name)
09-Mar-45OSNABRUCK2001542-100425O7V63THE BIRD
21-Mar-45HESEPE2091641-29340N7V72YANKEE BUZZ BOMB
22-Mar-45KITZINGEN2101741-29567G7V18MY BUNNIE / BAMBI
24-Mar-45KIRKOFF2131844-10487R7V49Girl on surfboard (no name)
31-Mar-45BRUNSWICK2162044-10487R7V52Girl on surfboard (no name)
16-Apr-45LANDSHUT2272142-51514B7V38BIG CHIEF LIL' BEAVER
18-Apr-45PASSAU2282242-51110M7V106TOP O' THE MARK

January 31, 1945 – O’Regan Crew

B-24H-25-FO 42-95179 7V X  Here I Go Again

Other than a brief entry on the 752nd Squadron Fuel Consumption Report saying, B-24H [4]2-45179 [sic] O’Regan Belly Landing At Bridlington there is no information on the circumstances of this particular incident.

The mission was Recalled due to weather, but crews were given sortie credit.

1Lt Arlin W. Hargreaves – Letters

These letters, written by Navigator Arlin Hargreaves, were very generously submitted by his son Donald.  They were received in letter form that Donald had painstakingly transcribed into MS Word.  The majority of the letters are written to Arlin’s wife Ruth and baby daughter Norma at their home in Ukiah, California.  Several letters are written to his parents.  Due to constrictions on space, I have taken the liberty of only reproducing the date and body of certain letters.  (All letters in their entirety, can be viewed here for 1944, and here for 1945.)  The salutation for the majority of the letters to Ruth are, “Dear Honey” and the sign off is, “Love & kisses”.  All grammar and spelling has been left intact.


Sept. 4, 1944 – Dear Mom and Dad, We have some rain today so cannot fly. Not that we don’t fly in bad weather, but this is a little to rough. I think it has rained pert near every day since I got in England. I almost think it is winter time in Redwood Valley. I don’t think I will be able to see any of our relations as I am stationed quite some distance away. This place is not bad but it still is not the states. We expect to get a pass soon. We will go to London as we all want to see what the place looks like. Most of the towns are very old, narrow street, and very dark. You should try to find your way in the black out. It like being in a cave with a hundred different passages

Sept. 15, 1944 – Dear Honey, This is just a note to let you know I am in England. I don’t have much time as I have to meet a formation. We came over by boat. Hit some rough weather but didn’t get sick. If I get a chance too I will try to find some of our relatives.  Say hello to the rest of the folks for me and I will write more later. It is time to go. Write often

Sept. 18, 1944 – We have been on the move again. I am not in England at the present time but expect to return. We will go to school before we return. My mail hasn’t caught up with me yet but I should get some soon. I was out on pass the other night. I like the country but the towns are so old with nothing to do. If a house is 100 years old it is a new house. Talk about rain. I have seen enough to last a life time. Believe it or not I saw the sun about a week ago.

Sept. 22, 1944 – Here is my address 2nd Lt. A.W. Hargreaves 02056587, 752nd Sq. 458th Gr., APO 558 c/o Post Master  N.Y.  N.Y. This will be my permanent address while I am in England. I got a letter from you dated Sept. 1st. Also one from Dad the same date. Dad wrote that Harry Williamson would like to sell the rifle again so please buy it for me and I will send some extra money as I have a little saved. This is a good group I am with. They have a very fine record with few planes shot down. The camp is one of the best in England so you can see I will be O.K.  They keep us on the run with flying, ground school and sleep if you can find time.

Sept. 30, 1944 – I received one more letter dated Sept. 7. I am glad to hear that you sent for our things. Have you heard from your Mother? I hope she will be able to come down. It will make me feel better. I am not on a combat ship at the present time. The bombardier and myself went to see a play in town last night. It was about an R.A.F. base. I enjoyed it a lot. I still have quite a bit of ground school. I have reached the point where I don’t want to see any more school for some time. They keep us on the move with out much time for sleep but I guess it is good for us.

October 3, 1044: I received your V-Mail letter yesterday. I sent $200.00 which you should receive soon. If you can get Harrys gun for me as I would like to have it when I get back. You should have received $150.00 at the bank for the Month of Sept. They keep us in the air a good part of the time but this is one of the best camps in England so I don’t mind it so much. Kiss Norma for Daddy and tell her to be a bad girl. Please write as often as you can as I look forward to mail call.

October 12, 1944: I will write a few lines before I go to bed. I have not received a letter for a few days. The last one I got was still written to my old address. When will your Mother come down. Be sure and send her some money to pay her expenses. What did the Doc have to say. I have some missions in but still have plenty to go. Any time I send a clipping home please keep it for me. I will try to write an air mail letter in the next day or two.

October 13, 1944: This is my birthday and believe it or not we have a day off. Yes we still have the same crew. I room with Jack O’Reagan the co-pilot. You should see our room, lots of pin up girls without to much on. Jim and Paul have the room next to ours. We lost one of the enlisted men as we fly with nine men in place of ten over here. He will fill in on some other crew.  Did the bank receive the $150.00 for Sept? Also did you get the $200.00 I sent you from here.

October 14, 1944: I had to go fly so didn’t get to finish this letter. I also had to fly today so this is in the evening and I am ready to hit the hay. How is Norma and give her a big kiss for Daddy. If you can find a pair of slippers I wish you would send me a pair.  All clothes are on the ration list over here. The mail is on the ball now and I get your letters in about three weeks.

October 18, 1944: I just finished eight V-mails and will try to write an air mail before I hit the hay. All my mail came at once so I had quite a job. I wrote a V-mail to your mother. How is the money at the bank? If it hasn’t come in yet go to the bank and get some any way. Yes it is OK by me for Norma to have music lessons and tap dancing. I want her to have anything that will bring out her talent. I was only in New York a few days. In fact I never even got off the post. That is one city I wanted to see but it will have to wait until I get back. I can’t tell you anything about our trip over or where I have been. I am glad to here you are doing so well. I admit I was worried about it for awhile. We are to fly again in the morning so will have to go to bed soon. I met one of the boys I went through Ellington with in London. We looked the city over to see the damage done and the historic places. We saw a good stage show in the evening. We had a swell room in the hotel. it is the first place I have been able to get real good food. I had some kind of wild game each meal. Deer, quail, pheasant. It was quite a surprise to find such things in the center of London.  The reason I only write on one side is that in case this letter would be censored they would not cut up the meaning on the back side. I don’t know what I will do for Christmas presents this year. I cann’t buy things in the stores with out ration stamps and there are not even any Christmas cards in our P.X. It will be up to you to take care of the present end. Last month I sent for a course in Criminology from the Un. of Wisconsin. I should receive it soon. It only cost me $28.00 and I will get the material to cover a full college course. It will only be a short time until I will have more time to myself. In fact we have started to get more time already. it will give me some thing to study when we don’t fly. I would like to take a year of college when I get back but with this course and a little night school I believe I can get the same thing, that is if I can ever get out of the Army. Winter has already started over here. It makes the weather bad for flying but we still can get off most days. Jack tells me it is time to go to bed and get the damn light out so I better close.  Tell Norma Daddy still loves her right along with her Mom.

October 25, 1944: Will wonders never cease? We didn’t fly today. I have been on the bed most of the time with an English book written about 1900 and not to good. I am still on the bed with this letter on a magazine that is to thin for a table. I received three letters yesterday but none today. I think most of my mail has reached me. That is the old letters written to my first APO. We had to move the other day, but got a better room out of it. Jack has a room by himself while Jim and Paul room with me in a large room. It has a wash bowl with hot & cold water, also a fireplace which has a nice fire in it at the present time. We each have a closet and some shelf space to put our things. There are three lights in the room so we can read or study O.K. Some one before us painted a nude on the wall so we have some thing to look at. We have our own ship now. It is a good one much better than those we flew in the states. It is in the shop at the present time as we picked up a few holes the other day. About that $200.00, put it in the bank when you get it as I will have plenty to get by on. Norma must be a big girl to be able to dress herself. Thanks a lot for having Aunty see about the gun. I sure hope Harry still has it. When this is over it will be some time before there will be new guns on the market and I will need one as soon as I get home. You can figure on a trip to the hills for about a month if I have anything to say about it. Where would you like to go? There is some nice country near Mt. Shasta or we may find a good spot close to home.  Jim has been writing a letter to Bonna. He has a chair in front of the fire place with a board on his lap for a table. Did I say he was writing a letter? He just threw the whole works on the bed and is now reading a book. Five more days til payday. This is the first time I have been low. One thing when there is no money I have to stay in and be a good boy. I will try to send some more money out of my next check. if there is not enough I will save it and send some next month. I got a letter yesterday from Eunice. She said Geo. was to leave for Pearl Harbor. Did he go? Also that Eunice would come home for Thanksgiving, how I wish I could be there. Not only to eat the dinner which I know would be good but also to see my wife and baby girl. That is a mistake Norma is no longer a baby girl but Dadys girl. How about it Norma. This is a long letter
for me to write and as I don’t want to spoil you I will close.

October 25, 1944 [Letter #2]: Now sit down and don’t faint. Yes this is two letters in one day. You see I will write if and when I get a day off. I still don’t know why we stayed on the ground as most of the boys had a local flight to make. Did your trunk ever come from Lakeview? You said the rest of the things got there OK, but never said if the trunk came later. Do you know yet just when your Mother will come down? Remember to send her enough money for the trip. I will send as much home as I can so we will have a little when we get together again. I stopped the bond I was getting as it was to much trouble to make it up each time I got moved. I believe the ones I bought will be sent to Dad. There should be about four of them. They were all for $25.00 each. All our crew is at home (if you can call this home) tonight as no passes were given out today. Jim and Paul have a book while Jack and I are writing. Here is Pauls wifes address Mrs. Paul M. Craven Box 598 Helper, Utah. She is in school in Logan Utah but this address will reach her. The conversation at the present time is what our wife did in the way of cooking when first married. I just told about how my nice fish got all pounded up . Do you remember? Jacks wife had biscuit troubles. Jims wife has never had the opportunity to do much cooking as he got married after graduating. It is time for me to hit the hay as I know we will never go two days in a row without flying. In fact I am in bed at the present time but Jack is still writing and Paul just started a letter. I expect the light will be on for at least an hr. more. Since we have our own ship I now have to calibrate the instruments. That is to find how much error there is and make up a table for each one. This will include three compasses, two air speed meters, a drift meter, and an astro compass. In other words I will have any spare time taken care of for the next week or two. I am glad of the chance because I will then have instruments that I can depend on. When you fly in any ship that may be on the line you just hope and prey they are some where near right. I haven’t received my course from the Unv. of Wisconsin as yet but don’t expect it for two or three weeks as it will have to come over by boat which is pretty slow. I hope the course is as good as they say it is as it should be quite a help in my work after the war. Also it will give me something to do as it is hard to get anything to read over here. I still have to go to school each week but it is all old stuff that I get tired of it. It is late here and past bed time but you should just be getting supper. How I would like to come in and sit at that table (and spend the night before it would be to late). The boys are ready to go to bed so I will close so you will be able to finish reading this.

November 22, 1944: The other day I received a letter which said you had found your ring. Today I got your letter which said you had lost it. I am sure glad that you got it back. Also received the V-mail you wrote on Nov. 10th. I just finished a V-mail to Dad & Mom. Will try to get a V-mail off to Eunice and Fairrel before the day is over. We have the day off today as the weather is to bad to fly.  I received a letter from Tonopah today. They said my drawings had gone in to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics . Who knows something may come out of it some day. We have to complete 35 missions to end our tour. After that some of the boys get stuck as group navigator for some extra time. You can see by this it will be some time before I will be able to get back. I wish I could be with my Honey all the time but it is not to be. No Honey the flowers were not for our first mission. Jim and I just got the idea so sent the flowers. I am glad you liked them. It is time to go eat so will close this and mail it on the way. I sent the $200.00 through the Army to you not to the bank. You know the Army so the Lord only knows when you will get it. Paul made First Lt. yesterday. Jack and I will have to wait until we get about twenty to twenty five missions.

December 7, 1944: What would you say to a nice long letter. Now don’t be surprised if I stop before you think I should but I will try to make it long for me which is anything over one page. I just finished a letter to Dad and Mom. it was three pages so I will try to do as well for my wife. The only trouble is that I wrote them what little their  is to write and I know you will read the letter. This is the end of our two day pass. Jack and Jim both went to London. They bought some clothes but only stayed one night and were back to the base again. My money was to low to make the trip this month. I need some clothes but expect to get what I need from the PX when it comes to our station. That is if it isn’t to long in that case I will go to London on my next pass. If I should run to short of money I may have to write a check but don’t expect to. How is the bank account? I don’t want to write a check unless you have plenty to go on. Some of the other boys are in our room as we have a fire-place. There is so much noise that it is hard to think let alone write. Of course the radio is on which helps out. Today I have done the total of nothing. The Group Navigator saw me and wanted me to do some calibration work on a compass. it did me good to tell him I was on pass and to find someone else. it seems as if there is an extra compass to calibrate I get it. I don’t know if they like my work or if I am just easy to find. Here goes the fourth page but I don’t know how I will fill it. It seems that the things I would like to write I cann’t and the rest is not very interesting. The place has quieted down. Jack is reading no I mean Jim is reading and Jack is writing a letter. Paul also is in the letter writing mood. 

Our ship has a new picture. It is a pretty girl with a sword and belt. [B-24J-165-CO 44-40475 J3 V  JOLLY ROGER]  Oh yes the rest is nude. We expect to get some pictures that we can bring back with us. We cann’t send them through the mail with out a lot of trouble. In fact it is so much to go through it wouldn’t be worth it. This makes three days without flying. Thats a long time for over here. I am at least building up flying hr. in case I should ever need them. The way I feel at the present I don’t think I will be doing much flying after the war but you never can tell. I like Navigation but get tired of being in the air all the time. I don’t mind the low altitude but that damn oxygen is something that you just cann’t get used to. That is I have reached the place were I hardly know I have it on but I still feel it when I come down. Two or three hr. at altitude is about the same as five or six close to the ground. Since France has been taken over all our missions are into Germany itself which puts us on Oxygen for quite a few hr. Well that is enough for the oxygen even if we all do have to have it. This letter has gone on past my expectations so I think I better close before I establish a record.

December 12, 1944: Once more I am on my bed which is the correct place to write a letter. We cleaned house today. Made a double bunk out of Jims and my bed. I think the boys downstairs thought the house was coming down. We had to make our own U bolts and washers. We used the fire-place as a forge and hammered them out. It made a lot more room and should be easier to keep clean.

There isn’t much to write about so will try to describe our room. It is against regulations to draw pictures so here goes. We enter the door from the West. On your left as you enter are three closets. These have a place for clothes and some shelves on top. They also have some drawers in the lower half. Just past the closets comes our wash bowl with a mirror and light above. to its right are two shelves for shaving kits etc. From the sink the wall angles inward with a window in the center. Because of this angle and one from the South wall the East wall is very short. There is just room for a window – with about a foot on each side. We then come to the South wall. As it angles away from the East window there is a chest of drawers. Just over the chest is located the third window. As the wall straightens out to run true East and West is placed Pauls bed with the foot to the wall. Next comes Jims and my bed with the fire place between. That is our beds are on one side and Pauls on the other. This puts the side of our beds against the West wall. We also have two lights besides the one over the sink. We have made the rounds. How did you like it?

We can tell that Christmas is drawing near. There is a large Christmas Tree in the mess hall. They used chaff for the tinsel. Now I expect you want to know what chaff is. It looks just like tinsell only it is made out of metal. We dump it out over Germany to screw up his radar controlled guns. They also made up some lights. There are things made out of tinfoil and the net result is real good. The rest of the room is decorated with fir greens. I wish I could be with my girls on Christmas but it does help to see things decorated. I was in town the other day looking at some of the bombed out places. We don’t know how well off we are not to have such places in the U.S. It must have been Hell when the Germans were coming over. Now it is hell over there.  Merry Christmas and I will be thinking of you and home.


January 10, 1945: I will stop studying for a few minutes and write a few lines. I got number sixteen in the other day. I wish the weather was better so they would go faster. Jack has a crew of his own so we are without a Co pilot. We should get a new one in a day or two. We were all sorry to see Jack leave but it is a good opportunity for him. No mail for the last two days so will expect some in the morning. That is if I can get the energy to get up and get it. Most of the time we get up just in time for lunch. See what a habit you will have to break me of. I only wish you had the chance to try.

January 18, 1945: It is about time to write a letter as I have neglected my girls for a few days. How would you like a description of one of our missions? I checked with the censor to find out if I could describe a mission without going against the regulations. You better find a comfort¬able chair as this will take a few pages. We will just call this mission number “X”. It is one our crew will remember for a long time.

It is evening just after dinner. We come out of the mess hall and stop to look at the bulletin board. Crew No._ , which is ours, is alerted for a combat mission. Our name is well up on the list, so we know if a mission goes out, we will fly. Jack and I stay over to see the show while Jim and Paul return to the room. Jim has a book to read while Paul writes a letter to his wife. The only thing I remember is the news reel. It was on an air battle in the South Pacific. After the show we returned to the room where we had a little to eat and then to bed. I just got to sleep, or so it seemed, when I heard a voice say, “sign here please.” I slowly opened my eye into the electric light to see what it was all about. Paul signed the roster to the effect that we were awake. Paul asked the bomb and gas load. The answer was not encouraging. The gas load was heavy, which would mean deep into Germany. From the bomb load we knew the target would most likely be an oil refinery. The Germans need oil. For some reason a lot of it has been destroyed. What they have left is well protected which means lots of flak.

We roll out of bed and it is cold in the room. I can see my breath as I jump into my clothes. We step outside and there is frost with a thin sheet of ice on the puddles. Jack is in the lead with a flashlight as we start for the mess hall. There are fresh eggs on the table in place of the usual powdered ones. As you look about the room it is hard to realize that these men are going out to fight. There is laughter and jokes. This is just another day’s work to be done. They have done the same thing many times before and will do it again. Paul looks at his watch and says “briefing in ten minutes.” I drink the last of my coffee and we start for the briefing hut. We are checked as we enter. They make sure only the officers who will fly are entering that room. We all glance at the map as we enter but the curtain is still drawn. We will have to wait a few minutes before we know our target. There are some good natured ribs and jokes as we wait for briefing to start. The C.O. enters, along with two other officers. The time has come as the Sergeant rolls up the curtain.

A low sound is heard as the men see our target for the day. A sound is the only way I can describe it. It is involuntary, more an escape of breath than a noise. We had been right – we were going deep into Germany. A Captain tells us the importance of our target. How much oil it is producing and how necessary it is for us to destroy it in order to cut the oil supply in Germany. He next tells us where we would encounter flak and where the German fighters are most likely to jump our formation. We are shown a picture of the target and a large scale map of the target area. We were then briefed on the weather and the best way to get out of Germany in case we had to bail out over enemy territory. The C.O. gave us a short pep talk. I don’t know if anyone heard what he said but we sat in silence. It was now time for the Chaplain. There is no place quite as appropriate for a Chaplain as this. A great church may have a holy atmosphere, but in this room, men sat in respectful silence, each waiting to hear those few words of prayer.

The time has come for special briefing. We separate to our different places. I received my times, route, etc. that are necessary for navigation. It is now time to get dressed. This is quite a process. When I finish dressing, I feel like a carpetbagger. Besides my flying clothes, there is a brief case, parachute, oxygen mask, shoes in case we have to fly in and walk out, a bag with maps and some odds and ends of equipment. I load up and struggle out to our ship. Each crew member is checking over his equipment. The guns are installed and we make sure there is plenty of ammunition. Although this has taken about three hours, it is still dark. A few of the planes have started their engines and you can see the red of their exhausts. Paul calls “everybody in” and we take our places. “Clear three” is heard and our first engine starts with a roar.

As we take off, the first signs of day are showing in the East. We climb to 10,000 feet which is the assemble altitude. I look out the side window to see hundreds of ships flying in a great circle. We find our place and wait for the time of departure. At last we circle for the last time and start on our course for Germany. I give a call to the crew, “Navigator to Crew – we are now leaving England. We will enter Germany in forty-two minutes.” As we pass a point in the channel, I give the O.K. to test fire. The ship trembles as the guns spit lead into the sea. We are now at 14,000 feet and time to go on oxygen. In a few minutes the enemy coast comes into view. It looks peaceful and quiet with the sea breaking on the beach. It is hard to believe that we are entering Germany. Suddenly this dream is shattered as flak bursts off our right wing. This is a lone gun and we soon pass out of range. Intelligence has planned a good course. We twist and turn but miss almost all the flak as we fly into the target. We hit prop-wash and I hear Paul say “You son-of-a-bitch, get
over” as a plane drops in front of us. One wing stalls out as Paul and Jack fight the controls. We fall off in a start of a spin but they pull it out nicely and rejoin the formation. The questions then start to come my way. “Waist to Navigator.” “Navigator to Waist – go ahead.” “Pop , where are we?” “How long to the IP?” “Is it time to throw chaff?” “Shall we put on our flak suits?” And so it goes as we approach the target.

Jim calls and says the toggle switch is out in the turret. I will have to toggle the bombs when the lead ship drops. Fifteen minutes to the target and we get our flak suits on. “Bomb bay doors open,” and we are on the bomb run. I start to call off the minutes until bombs away. Seven minutes, five – four – three – two minutes. Boom, and the ship jumps as we get a hit under the bomb bay. Then it seems as if the whole ship falls on me. “Bombs away,” and I hit the toggle switch. “Pilot to Navigator, Pilot to Navigator.” As I hear this, I realize I have been out and wonder for how long. I answer “Navigator O.K.” and start to move around to see if I am. I cut in pure oxygen to clear my head as I start to pick up some of the trouble from the interphone. Number four engine on fire, gas lines hit in the bomb bay, number two engine throwing oil, half the instruments gone, control cable cut on left rudder and the whole plane was full of holes. Jack got the fire out in number four engine and feathered the engine. Our engineer fixed up the gas line and we were back in
formation. I checked on the crew and no one was hurt. I looked at my flak suit where three pieces had ripped holes. My helmet was gone so I looked under my table. There was a tear along one side and I knew the reason for my short sleep. The trip back across Germany was the longest I ever made. Would number two engine hold out? If it was to go, we wouldn’t be able to hold formation. If you drop out of formation in the heart of Germany, you are duck soup for the German fighters. Yes, it held out. After we got out of German fighter territory, we dropped out of the formation and came back alone to save gas and our engines. The questions were coming again. “Pop, how long will we be in Germany?” “Pop, where are we?” “How long to the coast?” And thank God I could answer them. We were soon out over the water on the last leg home. Number two was almost out of oil but we could go the rest of the way on two engines. What a sight was the English coast! A good ship and a swell crew were coming back. It would take a lot to knock them out. I never hope to fly with a better group of men. It was a tired bunch of boys in the mess hall that night. As we came out we once more looked at the bulletin board. Crew No. _ ,our crew, was to fly in the morning. I woke up at the same time. Yes, the same bomb and gas load. Fresh eggs for breakfast and when we walked into briefing, the same target.

I hope you enjoyed this description and don’t take it too much to heart as they don’t all come like that. This has been a long letter for me to write, so will sign off and give you a chance to answer.

January 20, 1945: I have a little time before I hit the hay so will write a few lines. I received a letter from Geo. today. Also a V-mail from you and one from Mom & Dad. It warmed up for a few days and I got to go fishing. I got one that went about three lb. It is cold again so will have to wait until it warms up again before I can try it again. The first of the week all our crew went to the skeet range and shot for an afternoon. Day before yesterday Jim and I got in some pistol practice. I made to good a score so I am on the pistol team if and when they shoot again. They just finished taking the championship for the Army here in Eng. I beat two of the team so I now get a special pistol and all the ammunition I want. I guess the flak isn’t to bad as my hand is still steady. When I get my pistol and a little practice I should be able to improve my score. I have finished the criminology course and have started on the penology. This will take some time as it is about three times as much material to cover. The Army is starting some classes in a number of subjects. If
they have one or two that interest me I will take them. They should know by the end of next week what they will be. How did Norma do in her Christmas part?

February 2, 1945: I just wrote a V-mail to Mom & Dad so will do the same for my girls. I am duty navigator tonight which means I will be up most if not all night. Jim is with me and is reading a book as I write this letter. If the information is not to late he will help draw up the maps. If it’s late he will go back to the house and get some sleep. I know what I would do if he was duty navigator. He would have to do all the work at this time of the night. I am so sleepy now I don’t know how I will keep my eyes open in a few more hr. Say hello to your mother for me. I hope she had a good trip on her way to Ukiah.

March 9, 1945: Yes the sun was out today. What do you think of that? It was the first time in so long that I cann’t remember the last time. We didn’t even fly. Jim and I went to town this afternoon. I had to get some 1st Lt. bars as I have been wearing my old ones. I got my first on March the 4th. We have seven days off starting the 15th. I will try to find some of our relations. I expect Jim will go with me and after we visit them we will take a trip on into Scotland. We hear a lot about it so this will be our chance to see it first hand.

March 16, 1945 V-MAIL: Here I am at the rest Home (no I am not having a nervous breakdown) and as I have some spare time, I decided to dig away at the typewriter. This is really a good deal–as close to being home as possible. I have been sent down to get away from it all, and I am. We all run around in civilian clothes, and boy somebody better try knitting the American Red Cross sweaters according to our figures. The pants are usually bright and baggy. All in all we are a raunchy outfit, and it reminds me of our old school days. The food is out of this “GI” world of ours – five meals a day including juice served to us in bed by the butler. Rather than having the food thrown at us it is served for a change. The house is an old estate turned old hotel, turned flak farm. Its wonderful to have a soft sack again, and running water that you don’t have to run to far for. There is a ball room which is really beautiful, that they now use for a gym. There are fireplaces in every room, and for a change they are all operational. It is really nice to be in a clean and tidy atmosphere. We can play golf, tennis, badminton, baseball, and go horse back riding, skeet shooting and fishing. Think I’ll take a crack at most of those sports. By the time that the five Red Cross girls are through egging you on to do these things, I’ll have to go back and rest up at my base. Well I gotta go, you have to dress for dinner – the only Army touch. Hope I have a letter from you when I get back to the base. P.S. this is a form letter but true.

March 16, 1945: I wrote a V-mail today but have some time before bed so will try to say a few more things before lights go out. Jim Paul and I were in London on the 14th. We met a major Proctor who has been a member of Parliament for 14 yr. He took us through the House of Commons and the House of Parliament. We also visited the Supreme Court. You have seen pictures of Judges with their wigs. It is still true that they wear them. Maj. Proctor called Scotland Yard with the result that I spent my afternoon with one of the chief inspectors. We compared methods of police work in Eng. & in the states. Went over some of their cases and saw their system of work. It is one afternoon I will remember for a long time. If I am able to return to London I have an invitation to see what is called the Black Museum. It is a collection of articles such as guns, knives etc that have been used by criminals in England. Very few people have been admitted to view this. It is known all over the world but almost impossible to see. If I can I will sure try to see it. We will have seven days at the Flak House. I expected to see our relatives but since we have been sent here I don’t know if I will ever be able to or not. I have 30 missions at the present time so it should not be to long until I will finish up. I don’t know as yet if I will be able to come home at once or not. Some times the Nav. get held over to work in the office. Just keep your fingers crossed so I can start back after I finish my tour. I will not receive any mail while I am here so should have a good deal when we get back. I don’t know just why but for the last month the mail has been very slow. I am tired tonight as I have done a little of everything today. We started out with some skeet then got out the bow and arrows, after that we had lunch. We started the afternoon with a ball game after which Jim and I had a game of horse shoes. We were still going strong so we had a game of batmin and closed the afternoon with table tennis. We got cleaned up and had a nice supper. How is that for a full day? You would never think it was a rest home the way we get our rest. Oh yes we have orange juice in bed at 8:30 in the morning. What is the Army coming to? This letter has lasted longer than I expected so I will better stop before I spoil my honey.

March 28, 1945: I received your cable today with the good news. I am so glad it is a boy even if I don’t know his name. I got a box of cigars and passed them out this afternoon. Remember I want to know all the details so write a long letter as soon as possible. I only have three more missions but it looks like I may be put on a flying detail for a few weeks. I hope not as I want to finnish and come home. Keep your fingers crossed so I can stay on combat duty. Yes I received the letter from Mrs. Denneson and sent her a V-mail. Also received your letter with the one from Mrs. Ashley this afternoon. The last I knew Stone was in the Army but he must have been given a medical discharge. He was in poor shape when he was drafted. I am returning the clipping you sent with one I cut out of our paper. it seems to be the same one. Give my son a kiss and don’t forget Norma as she gets one to along with my wife.


April 4, 1945

“On April 4th, A/C 42-51206 [The Pied Piper] suffered unusual battle damage when the left vertical stabilizer, rudder and elevator were extensively damaged.  With the tail turret plexiglas broken and flak holes causing considerable damage throughout the ship, it was miraculous that none of the crew was injured.  The airplane returned to the field under the skillful manipulation of the pilot, 1st Lt Paul M. Craven.”

T/Sgt John R. Barillaro – Flight Engineer

John Barillaro completed most of his missions with  Paul Craven.  He flew on April 9, 1945 and was shot down with 2Lt Leonard Abramowitz as pilot. 

He spent the remaining few weeks of the war as a POW.

(Photo courtesy: Laura Barillaro)