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Lew Herron in Heaven Sent Jacket . Courtesy of Jack 0’Leary 

Lewis Herron receiving French Legion of Honor 

Lewis Herron A-2

I’m saddened to report that we lost a special member of the 100th Bomb Group today (June 18, 2020) - Lewis “Lew” Herron. Lew was a tail gunner in the 350th Squadron aboard “Heaven Sent” and flew missions with the group between 1944-1945. If you attended 100th BG reunions in recent years, you no doubt saw Lew’s smiling face there. Lew truly loved the 100th BG and he was still helping the Foundation during his final weeks, as he offered his recollections on VE Day for the current issue of Splasher Six. Lew was an incredibly kind man and was also a long-time volunteer at the VA Hospital in Asheville, NC. Sending sincere condolences to Ed Herron and the members of the Herron family. We will miss you Lew....Matt Mabe- 100th BG Photo Archives

SERIAL #: 35708020 STATUS: CPT

Comments1: 10 JAN 45 COLOGNE




1st Lt Thomas I.Anderson        P     CPT     10/1/45    COLOGNE
2nd Lt William M.Fratus           CP     CPT    10/1/45    COLOGNE
2nd Lt Gerald J.Klecker          NAV   CPT     10/1/45    COLOGNE
1st Lt Frederick H.Schmidt    BOM    CPT     10/1/45   COLOGNE
T/Sgt Glenn A.Smiley            ROG    CPT     10/1/45   COLOGNE
T/Sgt Michael Garemko         TTE     CPT     10/1/45   COLOGNE  
S/Sgt Angelo J.Cioffi            WG      CPT     10/1/45    COLOGNE
S/Sgt Lewis E.Herron             TG     CPT    10/1/45    COLOGNE   sn# 35708020
   Sgt Anthony P.DeMarco     BTG     RFS
   Sgt Charles R.Cramer          WG    XFR  To 9th Air Foce when reduced to 9 man crew. Flew in B-26

350th Sqdn.Crew,as above,joined 100th Group on 2/8/44. Crew roster of 
30/9/44 shows this crew as #43 but Demarco was replaced at BTG by either T/Sgt W.G.Jarrell sn# 14049842 & S/Sgt C.L.Doyle.  

Crew flew "HEAVEN SENT"

Michael Garemko entered the Royal Canadian Air Force in early 1941 and was sent by train to Toronto for basic training at Mannign Depot.  He was going through advanced training in Winnipeg,  Manitoba in early 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  He never completed pilot training in RCAF but transferred to USAAF and went to Officer Cadet Pilot Training.  He washed out as a pilot and without a college degree, he could not qualify for Bombardier or Navigational training.  His love of the air kept him in the Air Corp and he went to Gunnery training/Engineering School.  He became a TTE and flew on "Heaven Sent" and completed 34 Missions.  Garemko was also responsible for painting the aircraft nose art and A-2 jackets.

The only story that he (S/Sgt Garemko, TTE) frequentl recalled was when they were on the shuttle they were near Warsaw and an FW190 came in so close that he flew between the Heaven Sent and their wingman and by the time my dad got around on him the adjacent B-17 was more likely to be the recipient of the damage than the FW so held his fire. This got him a pretty stiff chewing out from Tom Andersen the pilot and it seemed to always bother him. I think my dad felt that it was a judgement call and he had made the right call but that he wasn't vindicated by the pilot. They landed in Poltava and my Dad could speak a little russian and he was able to cajole a bottle of Vodka from the locals for the crew. Not sure what he gave up in return???I am hoping to start a deeper dialog with the remaining crew to get more information before it is all gone. Thank you for your interest and any help you give me in verifying the DFC (or putting the issue to bed once and for all) will be deeply appreciated.
Thanks again
Michael Garemko, Jr.

Letter from Lewis Herron to Paul West; 31 Oct 1993

 Lewis E. Herron
Route 3 Box 101 A
Leicester, NC 28748
     (704) 683-16S5

  October 31, 1993

My name is Lewis E. Herron and I was the tail gunner on the crew of
'Heaven Sent" of the 350th Bomb Squadron, of the 100th Bomb Group,
8th Air Force.  I am going to try and give a brief history of our
tour of duty, as I remember it after 50 years.  I am also enclosing
some pictures.

Our crew members were: Thomas Anderson, Pilot; Bill Fratus, Co-
Pilot; Fred Schmidt, Bombardier and Gerald Klecker was Navigator.
Mike Garemko was our Engineer and Glenn Smiley was Radio Operator.
Our Gunners were Angelo Cioffi, Waist Gunner and I (Lew Herron) was
tail Gunner.  Gerald Easy was the Ball Turret Gunner.

We flew our first combat mission on August 24, 1944 to Rhuland,
Germany.  In early September we flew missions on the 8th, 9th and
10th.  We were in luck and did not fly on September 11th because
our Bombardier was ill.  September 11th was the day that the 350th
Squadron was wiped out and the 100th lost 13 air planes.  It was a
lonely feeling being the only crew in the quarters that night, as
the other four crews who lived there were shot down that day.  At
2 o'clock the next morning the orderly opened our door and when I
asked him who he was look for he said, "The Anderson Crew".  We
flew that day and the three missions after that, which included the
shuttle to Russia and Italy.

On  September  17,  1944,  our  Squadron  Commander,  Major  Robert
Rosenthal  pinned the Air Medal  on the members  of  our crew.
(picture enclosed).  This was the day before we flew the first leg
of the shuttle mission to drop supplies to the Polish underground
in Warsaw, Poland.  As I remember, in addition to our regular crew
we carried a Ground Mechanic, who was flying his first mission.  We
went in over Warsaw at 10,000 feet and received extremely heavy
anti-aircraft fire.  As we were leaving the drop area, the German
Fighters came at us but the U. S. P-51 Fighters prevented them from
getting close enough to do any damage.  After leaving Warsaw we
flew on to Mirogrod, Russia.  The flying time was 11 hours and 20

After we landed in Russia our Flight Engineer, Michael Garemko, who
could speak some Russian, started talking to one of the local
soldiers (Picture enclosed, Mike is in the center and Bill Fratus,
Co-Pilot is in the foreground).  We had a pleasant surprise that
night when we entered the Chow Hall.  There sat the Flight Surgeon
with our 2 ounces of bourbon, just like it was at Thorpe Abbots
after a regular mission.   The Commanding Officer had been very
thoughtful to bring him and several cases of bourbon along on the
trip .

Our next leg of the shuttle was to Budapest, Hungary where we
bombed a railroad bridge over the Danube river.  From there we flew
to Italy where we landed at an American Air Base near Foggia.  The
enlisted men along with our Co-Pilot, Bill Fratus took a sight
seeing trip to Foggia the next day.

The flight back to England was rather uneventful.  The only thing
I remember was flying over Rome and seeing the Colosseum.

Our crew flew three missions to Merseberg, Germany, which was the
most heavily defended target in Europe.  Intelligence reported that
there were 1,000 88mm guns around the synthetic oil plant, which
was our target.  On November 2, 1944 the Third Division lost 40
planes over Merseburg and when we went back on Novemher 30, 1944,
the division lost 56 planes.  As I recall this was all due to anti-
aircraft fire and not from enemy fighters.

Our crew also flew on Christmas Eve 1944, which was the first day
the weather broke during the Battle of the of the Bulge.  Reports
said that this was the largest raid on Germany with  2,000 bombers
in the air.  Our group led the Third Division and I remember that
afternoon on our return to England,  there were still  groups
crossing the English Channel on their way to Germany.  We did not
fly the mission to Hamburg on December 30, when the Hundredth lost
10 aircraft.

Our last mission was January 10, 1945, and we were the first crew
in the 350th Squadron to complete a tour of missions between August
1944 and January 1945.  The Enlisted Men's Mess Hall had a special
table called the "Lucky Bastards' Table", complete with a checkered
table cloth, China and silverware.  That is where the Mess Sergeant
served our specially prepared meal for our entire crew the next

This  completes this  report of my remembrances  of Lt.  Thomas
Anderson's Crew.

Lewis E. Herron

Missions of S/Sgt Lewis E. Herron (mpf 2002)

#      DATE                 MISSION                                         TIME

      10/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               5:10
      11/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               3:30
      11/08/44          2ND PRACTICE MISSION THAT DAY        3:15
      12/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               5:05
      16/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               4:55
      17/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               3:20
      17/08/44          2ND PRACTICE MISSION THAT DAY        4:30
      19/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               3:10
      23/08/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               2:25
1.   24/08/44          RUHLAND                                             8:20
2.   25/08/44          POLITZ                                                9:10
3.   30/08/44          BREMEN                                               7:05
      31/08/44          PRACTICE                                            3:50
4.     1/09/44          MAINZ                                                 7:10
5.     3/09/44          BREST                                                 7:35
6.     8/09/44          MAINZ                                                 7:15
7.     9/09/44          DUSSELDORF                                        6:25
8.   10/09/44          NURNBURG                                           8:00
9.   12/09/44          MAGDEBURG                                         7:50
10. 13/09/44          SINDELFINGEN                                      7:10
      15/09/44         "OPERATION FRANTIC" RECALL                6:10
11. 18/09/44          WARSAW (2ND RUSSION SHUTTLE)       11:10
12. 19/09/44          SZOLNOK                                              7:50
     22/09/44           RETURN FROM ITALY                             9:05
13.  28/09/44         MERSEBURG                                          8:15
14. 30/09/44          BIELEFELD                                            6:25
15.  2/10/44           KASSEL                                                7:20
16.  3/10/44           NURNBURG                                           8:20
17.  5/10/44           HANDORF (RECALL)                               5:55
18.  6/10/44           BERLIN                                                7:50
19.  7/10/44           BOHLEN                                               8:50
20.  9/10/44           WEISBADEN & MAINZ                            6:40
     10/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION                               3:15
     11/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION                               1:00
     21/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION                               3:45
     22/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION OR ABORT               2:40
     28/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION                               4:10
     29/10/44           PRACTICE MISSION                               3:35
21.  2/11/44           MERSEBURG                                         8:00
22.  6/11/44           NEUMUNSTER                                      7:15
23.  9/11/44           SAARBRUCKEN                                     7:30
     20/11/44           PRACTICE MISSION                              4:50
24. 29/11/44          HAMM                                                 6:30
25. 30/11/44          MERSEBURG                                         8:30
       8/12/44          PRACTICE MISSION                               2:30
       9/12/44          PRACTICE TAKEOFF AND LANDINGS          :40
26. 11/12/44         GIESSEN                                               7:30
      13/12/44         OSNABRUCK (RECALL, BAD WEATHER)     5:50
      14/12/44         PRACTICE MISSION                                1:40
27.  24/12/44        KAISERLAUTERN                                    8:00
28.  27/12/44        FULDA                                                  7:50
29.  29/12/44        FRANKFURT                                           7:50
30.  30/12/44        KASSEL                                                 7:30
31.   5/01/45         FRANKFURT                                         10:15
32.   7/01/45         COLOGNE                                              8:00
33. 10/01/45         COLOGNE                                              7:00

Pic1: William. G.(Easy) Jarrell S/Sgt AF 14049842 (Heaven Sent) Ball Turret Gunner.
Pic2: Back Row Right as you're Looking W.G. Jarrell, Kneeling: L to R: Mike Garemko(Eng), T.I. Anderson(Pilot Cmdr),Fred Schmidt(Bomb), Unknown, Gerald Klecker(Nav). Dad couldn’t remember who was who, but one waist gunner was named Angelo Cioffi, Glenn Smiley was the Radio Operator. He flew 14 missions on Heaven Sent. 13 before the aircraft had a name. He was assigned to the crew because the Ball Turret Gunner that came over with the Crew, after talking with the others, decided he didn't want the job.
Pic3: The Ground Crew. Dad couldn't remember their names.
Pic4: L to R: 1st Lt T.I. Anderson, 2nd Lt William Fratus, and 2nd Lt Fred Schmidt
Pic5: L to R: 1st Lt. T.I. Anderson, 1st Lt Fred Schmidt, and 2nd Lt William Fratus

Dad was a spare gunner before being assigned to Lt T.I. Anderson's Crew.  He Bailed out of Lil' Casino when it ditched after being shot down over Holland. Only mission he flew on it as a waist gunner. My dad's first 5 missions were on Roger's Raider, then that crew went home. All were as a waist gunner.

He Flew to the following targets: Germany: Berlin, Bremen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Magdeburg, Merseburg, Munich, Munster, Regensburg, Schweinfurt, Stuttgart, and Wilhelmshaven. France: Brest, Normandy, St. Nazaire, and Near St. Lo. Norway: Trondheim. Russian Shuttle Mission:  Poltava(sp), after dropping arms in Poland.
Bombers he was a spare Gunner on: 418th: Royal Flush (2:waist), Messie Bessie (1;Waist): 350th: Rogers Raiders (5; Waist), Lil' Casino (2;Waist), Big Casino (2; Ball Turret), Fireball Empress (2; Ball Turret), Fireball Express (2; Tail, Waist), and Heaven Sent (14; Ball Turret), Fletcher’s Castoria (1;waist)  He thinks this is right, the only two he was sure of was Rogers Raiders and Heaven Sent. He said the numbers should be right for the others but wasn't sure.

Bill Jarrell Jr. 

UNAME = Michael A. Garemko, Jr.
CONNECTION = I am a relative of a 100th veteran
COMMENTS = Remarks made by 
Michael A. Garemko, Jr.

At the funeral of his father,

June 26, 2002

The poet said, “No man should die unwept, unhonored, and unsung”.

If you met my father on the street, there was a better than 50/50 chance that within 10 minutes you would know that he had flown 34 combat missions in a B-17G with the Bloody Hundredth Bomb Group.  I don’t think he ever missed a chance to tell people about this.  I have often wondered why this was so and after much reflection I believe that I now have a pretty good understanding.  Like so many men of his generation, the experiences he endured between 1940 and 1945 shaped everything that was to come after for him.

My uncle Bud, who also passed away earlier this year, was a great pal of my Dad’s before the war.  They were both interested in flying and they both set out to obtain their pilot’s licenses in the late 1930’s.  I can only go by the stories, but it sounded like they were both quite dashing and daring.  I hear tales of flying under the Portland Bridge and the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford.  

Dad was quick to laugh in those days and with great reflexes and outstanding athleticism, he was well equipped to become a pilot.  But a little guy with a funny moustache in Europe had other plans.  It was obvious to my father that war was surely coming and he didn’t want to spend it as a “ground-pounder”.  The Royal Canadian Air Force had a severe need to increase its pilot corps to prepare for war and, best of all they were willing to give guys without college degrees a chance to become pilots.  That was all my dad needed to hear, and he enlisted early in 1941 and was sent by train to Toronto to basic training at Manning Depot.  He was going through advanced training in Winnipeg Manitoba when in December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and just as it did last year in 9/11, this country underwent a sea change.  The game had been changed, and my father knew he would want to serve with his country and the US forces.  The Canadians discharged him from the King’s service and he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and he was accepted as an Officer Cadet in Pilot Training.  

I never really knew why, but he washed out of Pilot Training, still his love of flying kept him in the Air Corps.  Without a college degree, he wasn’t eligible for Navigator or Bombardier training, and so he was sent to Gunnery School and Aircraft Engine School where he gained the skills to become the top turret gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17.

By the time my dad was in combat it wasn’t uncommon to mount raids with over 1000 bombers in the sky.  That is 10,000 men!  There were times when the crews at the end of the bomber stream would meet the lead crews coming home over the channel.  I have listened to the engine roar of a single Fortress at airshows and I just cannot imagine the deafening roar when America’s youth set out to do battle in 1944.  It is little wonder that my father like so many of the other aviators of the era, were without their hearing in the end years of their lives.

They flew at altitudes as high as 32,000 ft (the cruising altitudes of today’s commercial aircraft) but with no cabin pressurization, wearing oxygen masks that must have froze to their faces. With open bomb bays they were all exposed to the 60 to 100 degree below zero temperatures with only their finicky electrically heated flying suits and lot’s of wool and leather to keep them from freezing at their positions. Guns would freeze and ungloved hands attempting to clear a jam would almost instantly be frostbitten.  Taking on a good hearty breakfast in the predawn hours of a flying day could come back to haunt you when you felt the need to relieve yourself in the cold of high altitude flying and with the fighters coming at you.  More than a few crewmembers must have had the very unglamorous experience of flying with loaded pants.

Still they flew on, 10 men in an aluminum can with little to keep them from the flak and the fighters but that thin aluminum skin of the plane, their courage, their combined resourcefulness, and ultimately their indomitable will to win and go home to their futures.

And so, my father got up 34 times in the cold hours before dawn went to the briefings on flak and fighters, dressed, ate, I am sure he prayed, and then pulled himself up through the hatch and into the area right behind the pilot and co-pilot.  Watching the engine gauges he would help the pilots go through the preflight checklist as they started the mighty engines.  He would double check the bomb racks, verify the control linkages were operating properly.  He would help the pilot steer the ungainly bird around the taxiways of Thorpe Abbots and into the takeoff line.  Later climbing into the top turret, undoubtedly the best seat in the house, (with the possible exception of the Bombardier in the front nose cone) he would cock and test fire his twin 50 cal. Browning machine guns.  Then the waiting began, when would the fighters come for him, when would the flak rip into his flesh, would he even hear the explosion when the plane went down?  Would the US fighters scare the Hun off today?  Ever alert scanning the sky to see them when they were the size of pinheads, watching until they grew big enough to take a few bursts at them and then, after a violent instant, they would be gone.

Over the target, if for some reason the bombs got hooked up in the racks, it was he who would step out over oblivion on a six-inch metal plank with the doors open and nothing between him and Freistung Germany to free the recalcitrant cargo to wreck havoc below.
For 34 times he marshaled the courage, and for 34 times he was able to nurse the engines of the Heaven Sent back to the safety of Thorpe Abbots and to do his duty.


 a message dated 11/19/2005 1:25:32 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Hi Mike,
  Good to hear from you.  We had hoped to see you in Pittsburgh.  Glen Smiley didn't get there so Lew was the only one representing "Heaven Sent". I am sending your message back because the last sentence in the paragraph is incomplete.  We are assuming that you would have said he took pride in signing his work. Lew's jacket is signed in blue paint on the last cloud on the lower right, just to the right of the lady's hand.
Garemko 1945
I cannot make out the letters in the picture you send of Fred's A-2. but there is a blur of blue in the place where Lew's jacket is signed.
The front of the jacket has HERRON painted over his left front and the 100 Bomb Group Emblem on the right side. He has a good picture of him wearing the jacket that shows the front very well, but we don't have a scanner just now.
We hope to see you in Nashville in 2007, if not before.
We are doing well, all things considered.  Hope you and your family are doing well.
Our daughter Carol who is a Capt. In the US Navy was here this week.  We gave her the information and I believe she is interested in joining the 100th Bomb Group Association.  She will be retiring next year after 30 years in the Navy.
Very good to hear from you.
Lew and Jo Herron

----- Original Message ----- 
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 5:26 PM
Subject: A-2 Jacket

Hello Lew and Jo,
I hope all is going well for you guys I haven't heard from you in a while.  I have been thinking of you a lot lately, I have been exchanging some photos with Mike Faley, the 100th's Historian and one that I included was a picture of Fred's A-2 Jacket that he donated to the 8th AF museum in Savannah.  Mike has written back and indicated an interest in having a jacket reproduced like the originals.  He inquired as to what was on the front and I realized I didn't remember.  I know you always wear yours at the reunions Lew so I figured I would ask you.  I was looking for a shot of you at the reunion but can't find that section in the website for some reason.  I am copying Mike Faley in on this and I wanted to direct his attention to the photo of you (Lew) on Pg2 of the 350th SQDN pages on the website.  Mike also asks if my dad signed the work and I am pretty sure that he did it was his habit,  he always wanted to have the pride of ha 
Hope everyone has a great turkey day!
Mike G.02


----- Original Message ----- 
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2007 7:41 AM
Subject: Tailgunner on B-17 (also attached so it can be dowloaded)

Tailgunner on B-17 (Lew Herron gave a talk to the Asheville Military Veterans on 4-20-07. These are my notes. See several pages of photos below. Ray Russell.) 


Enlisting & gunnery school: Lew Herron enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 after graduating from high school. He was told he would become a pilot. Later he was told there were too many pilots, so he was sent to gunnery school.  In gunnery school they were told they could not flunk out, no matter how badly they did. When the course was over, they were told, they would all become gunners, so it behooved them to learn as much as they could. Gunnery school was located at the Las Vegas Air Base and took 8 weeks. Part of the training consisted of riding in the back of a pickup truck with a .12 gauge shotgun. The pickup traveled around a quarter mile asphalt track at 35 mph while skeet were fired at all different angles both toward, away from, and across the pickup truck.  Everyone knows that when standing still one has to lead the target, but when the shooter is moving and targets are coming toward, away from, and across one, there are times when one has to shoot behind the target. Lew said there were 8 squadrons being trained at a time. The gunnery school produced 500 graduates every week in order to replace those being lost on combat missions overseas. 


Tailgunner: From gunnery school, Lew went to England to fly on a B-17 bomber. Trained as a ball turret gunner, he was given the choice of gunner positions after the captain assigned the smallest gunner to the ball turret. Lew chose to be the tailgunner. In the tailgunner compartment he operated two .50 caliber machine guns. Lew said when both were fired at once it reduced the recoil. He had to position himself in the tailgunner compartment on his knees for hours at a time. The temperature in the tail was 40 degrees below zero and since there was no oxygen at high altitudes, he had a mask with a tiny tube that supplied him with oxygen. If the oxygen tube was severed by flak he would lose consciousness in 30 seconds, and that was it.


Mission plans: The crew would be awakened at 2 in the morning. They had breakfast and then went to a Quonset hut where they were briefed. The map at one end was covered by curtains which were then drawn back. A piece of string showed the route they were to take. Some of the flights were so long that Lew thought the officers who planned the missions must have had to pull off their shoelaces to show the distance.


Flight to Germany: Once the bombers got off the ground, it took about 2 hours over England for the formation to get together, then they headed toward Germany. The total time in the air for a mission was 8 or 9 hours. The Germans had a radar system to track planes from the time they left England. German fighters based in France and Belgium would attack the bombers, sometimes as early as over the English Channel. The bombers were protected by P-47s fighters, which could only fly part way to Germany before they had to turn back, due to fuel capacity. When the bombers got within range of the 88mm artillery over Germany, the German fighters would pull away. Most of the German fighter attacks on the bombers took place when the planes were flying on their way to Germany, presumably to try to bring the bombers down before they reached their targets. 


Flak Vest: Bomber crew members wore a chest and back protector that looked like something a baseball catcher might wear. The protector had overlapping steel plates inside. The chest/back protector was worn by the crew only over the target. On one flight a piece of shrapnel from exploding flak hit Lew in the back with tremendous force but did not penetrate the steel plates. He still has that piece of shrapnel which he passed around at the meeting. 


Parachutes: The crew wore parachute harnesses, but did not wear parachutes. Parachutes were to be attached only during an emergency. The parachute for the tailgunner was located behind him. If the tailgunner wanted to get to his parachute he would first shed his chest/back protector by pushing two clips on his shoulder and it would drop off. Then he would fall backwards where his parachute was located. He would clip on the parachute to his chest. He would pull a release handle to his right and a door would open. He would put his legs out the door, lower his head, and slide out of the plane. 


33 combat missions: Lew flew his 33 combat missions between August, 1944, and January, 1945. When the P-47s were flying protection for the bombers, 25 missions were required for a tour. Later the P-51s replaced the P-47s as fighter protection. Unlike the P-47s, the P-51s had the fuel capacity to escort the bombers on their entire mission. When the P-51s were flying protection, 30 missions were required for a tour. This number was then raised to 35 missions. (Lew’s bomber crew was only required to fly 33 missions because his bomber was the “deputy lead crew,” which meant that if the lead bomber went down, Lew’s bomber would replace it as the lead bomber.) Americans flew their bombing missions into Germany during the daytime. The British thought the idea of flying bombers over Germany in the daytime was absolutely bonkers. The Brits flew all their missions at night. 


Losses: The air speed over Germany on a bomb run was about 150 miles per hour, and the formation had to fly straight and level at a given altitude for bombing accuracy, with no evasive action allowed. The number of B-17s going down over Germany was very high. On November 2, 1944, 40 were lost. On November 27, 1944, 56 went down. The first man to complete all his allotted missions was Robert Morgan from Asheville. He was sent home where he and his crew flew the plane (the “Memphis Belle”) around the U.S. doing bond drives.

    Lew slept in a barracks with other bomber crews, and on many occasions those crews would leave on a mission and not return. One day his crew didn’t fly. Five other crews from the barracks went out and all were lost that day. Another night a new crew came in and no one in the barracks had a chance to talk to them. That crew took off the next day and didn’t return. No one even learned their names. 


Flak: B-17 bombers would fly in a tight formation at 25,000 feet and would bomb in formation. (The British bombers did not bomb in formation. Instead one British bomber at a time flew over the target to drop its bombs.) The Germans had 88 mm artillery surrounding the bomber targets. The Germans determined the elevation of the bombers by radar and radio information from the Luftwaffe fighters. Once the altitude of the bombers was determined, the Germans would set the flak to explode at that elevation. Flak could send shrapnel through the aircraft or if it exploded close enough, take off a wing, nose, or the tail. The B-17 was a fortress and many were able to return home with massive battle damage.  On one mission Lew’s plane bombed an oil plant that was protected by over 1,000 German artillery guns. Sometimes the flak was so thick it looked like you could drive across it or land on it. Lew said when he looked down at the artillery barrage coming up he would think, we’re getting through this without getting hit so this means we’re invulnerable. 


German surprise: On the way home from a mission there was supposed to be a corridor that was safe where the bomber crews could relax. One day the Germans brought artillery into the corridor on railroad cars and started firing at Lew’s plane. Lew and the crew watched as the red balls of exploding flak got closer to them. Lew and the crew could see that the next explosion would hit their bomber, but miraculously the explosions stopped at that point.


Polish underground drop: On another mission Lew’s bomber group flew down to 10,000 feet (instead of the standard 25,000 feet) in order to parachute supplies to the Polish underground. This was a particularly dangerous mission since at that altitude the Germans could reach their plane with many more weapons. Lew’s bomber then landed in Russia where the Russians began loading the plane with bombs covered in dirt. When asked what was going on, the Russians replied they had buried the bombs when it looked as though the Germans would overrun them. The bomber crew told the Russians the bombs would no longer explode, but when they were dropped they all did explode. 


Counting parachutes: One of Lew’s additional duties as tailgunner was to report the crew status of downed bombers. When he would see a B-17 falling out of the sky he would count the parachutes that came out of the plane, hoping the entire crew of 9 would make it out.


D-Day wounded: On one mission Lew’s plane flew into heavy fog over the English Channel and was told to return to base. The fog was so thick at their base in England that the plane was ordered to fly west where they finally landed at a British submarine patrol base on the west coast of England. There they stayed at an American convalescent hospital full of wounded GIs from D-Day. Lew and the crew talked to some of the soldiers, and every one of them said they’d rather be an infantryman where they could dig a hole and have some control over their fate, as opposed to having no place to hide in a bomber and being nothing more than a sitting duck.


Bloody Hundredth: Lew’s bomber group was called The Bloody Hundredth. 189 bombers were lost from that bomber group. Lew read off some numbers of losses suffered by The Bloody Hundredth bomber group: On August 17, 1943, 9 of 18 planes went down. On October 8, 1943, 7 of 18 planes were lost. On October 10, l943, 12 of 18 planes were lost. On September 11, l944, 14 of 36 bombers went down. Rumor had it that the Germans had a POW camp that was reserved just for men from The Bloody Hundredth.   


50-50 chance: Lew said the chances of surviving 33 bombing missions was about 50%. When the crew returned from a mission they were given 2 ounces of bourbon. Since they hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours, the bourbon ricocheted around inside them. After their 33rd and final mission they had always understood the crew would be given a fifth of bourbon, but when they completed their last mission they were told there wasn’t enough bourbon, so they got the standard 2 ounces each. Some members of the crew did some talking, which resulted in everybody getting 2 more ounces, then more talking, and 2 more ounces.  


“Heaven Sent”: Each crew member was provided a leather jacket. One of the crew, the flight engineer, had been a commercial artist. He painted the name of the plane, “Heaven Sent,” and a curvaceous woman in a bathing suit on the plane as well as on the backs of the jackets of those crew members who requested it. Lew wore his “Heaven Sent” jacket when he talked to us.

            Thanks, Lew. We owe you.

Here are the medals he earned:
French Legion of Honor 
Air medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
Polish army cross'
Russian  Victory Medal
Victory in Europe Medal 
European Theatre Medal  with 3 Battle Stars
Good Conduct Medal

Lewis Herron 350th Squadron June 18, 2020
Completing a full tour as Tail Gunner on the Heaven Sent crew with Pilot Thomas Anderson, Lew was always proud of his service with he 100th Bomb Group. A faithful attendee at group events, his personal story was shared in Splasher over the years. The crew’s first mission was to Ruhland on August 24, 1944, and subsequent missions included the second Russian Shuttle Mission. Notably, Lew recalled flying the Christmas Eve 1944 mission when “the weather broke during the Battle of the Bulge. Reports said that this was the largest raid on Germany with 2,000 bombers in the air. Our group led the Third Division and I remember that afternoon on our return to England, there were still groups crossing the English Channel on their way to Germany… Our last mission was January 10, 1945, and we were the first crew in the 350th Squadron to complete a tour of missions between August 1944 and January 1945. The Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall had a special table called the ‘Lucky Bastards’ Table’, complete with a checkered table cloth, China and silverware…” 


‘A Gunner’s Tale’: 100th Bomb Group veteran shares memories of War
By Karen Abeyasekere, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- and Interview with Lew Herron: 

“The first thing we did when we landed and parked the airplane was get out and count how many holes we had in it, either from fighters or from flak,” exclaimed Lewis Herron, a former staff sergeant and 100th Bombardment Group veteran. “One day we counted 103 holes in our airplane!” 

Herron, now 90, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps when he was 18 years old. By the time he was 19, he was overseas getting shot at.

Stationed with the 350th Bomb Squadron at Thorpe Abbots, near Diss, England, Herron was a tail gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and flew 33 missions on his aircraft, “Heaven Sent,” tail number 338414. 

Danger zone

“The 100th Bomb Group performed a mission to Warsaw, Poland,” he recalled. “We went in over Warsaw at 10,000 feet, dropping supplies to the Polish underground, but then we didn’t have enough gasoline to get back to England, so we flew on into Russia, landed there and spent the night.”

In a Skype interview April 20, 2016, the veteran described how the next morning he and the rest of his crew loaded up their aircraft with bombs, and deployed their ordnance on a railroad bridge in Budapest, Hungary, on their journey home. 

“We got credit for two missions after that trip,” said Herron. 

Each aircraft was accompanied by a nine-person crew made up of a bombardier, navigator, pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, radio operator, ball turret gunner, waist gunner and tail gunner. The same crew stayed together on all missions. 

“When we got together and our crew was formed, the only ones who didn’t know exactly what they were going to be doing were the gunners. One of the other guys was real short, so I said he’d be a good one for the ball turret gunner, who sits underneath the airplane,” recounted Herron. “The other two looked at me, and I said, ‘Well, if nobody wants it, I’ll take the tail; I’d like to have that.’ So it was my choice.”

Herron had an idea when he first joined the U.S. Army Air Corps about being a tail gunner. 

“We were in training in the States, and every chance I’d get I’d crawl back to the tail of the airplane and ride back there,” he chuckled. “I was kind of fascinated with being back there – it was a good place to be, but of course it was one of the most dangerous places on the aircraft!”

Boxed in

Being positioned so far back in the rear of the B-17 meant the tail gunner was constantly squashed up in an extremely small space.

“The only way I could be in there was on my knees; I would kneel down and I had a seat that was tilted at an angle that I could rest my hips on,” he said, describing how he couldn’t sit, stand or anything else. “I had to be in the kneeling position to fly back there, it was that cramped! From the edge of my shoulders to the edge of the aircraft was about 6 to 8 inches; I was pretty much boxed in.”

The 100th BG veteran then held up a photo taken in 2015 at a reunion for 100th BG members, which took place in Louisiana. The photo showed two Square D tails, one with the original tail markings on a B-17, and the second displayed on one of the 100th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135 Stratotankers.

“Right there in the back is where I was at; you can see the twin-50s (M2HB .50 caliber machine gun) that I fired,” he said proudly. 

The tail gunner said most of the missions lasted eight or nine hours.

“The one we made to Russia was 11 hours, 20 minutes – that was the longest flight that we had,” Herron exclaimed. “But I wasn’t back in the tail the entire time; that was the flying time.”

Being cramped up in such a small space for so many hours could get pretty uncomfortable. The veteran said he had to stand up and walk around for a while afterwards.

“But I was only 19 years old, so it wasn’t too bad,” he said.

Service before Self

The 100th BG suffered heavy losses, earning them their nickname of “The Bloody Hundredth.”

Despite this, the men willingly continued to carry out the missions, knowing each time that this might be their last.

“That was always the thought – will we make it back or not?” Herron recalled. “We had some that were fairly easy and others that were extremely rough, but we always made it back every time. The hardest trip we ever had to make was to a synthetic oil refinery in Merseburg, Germany.

His very first combat mission was Aug. 26, 1944, to Ruhland, Germany. One memory from his early missions was of how cold it was.

“It was never less than 60-below-zero up there and our aircraft weren’t insulated or heated, so not only were you on oxygen for six or seven hours, you had all that dreaded cold which was pretty hard to take,” he said of the memory. “We had electrically heated suits, like an electric blanket people have on their bed. That kept us fairly warm, but of course back in the tail of the aircraft where I was at were all the nooks and crannies of the aircraft – it was like a wind tunnel back there!” he laughed.

Sept. 11: A black day in history

Today, the date 9/11 brings to mind horrifying memories of terrorist attacks. Back in 1944, Sept. 11 also brought tragedy when the 100th BG sent up its usual 36 aircraft. Thirteen of those were from Herron’s squadron, the 350th BS. 

All 13 got shot down.

“There were five (sets of) crew living in each of the barracks. The other four from our barracks flew that day, but we didn’t because we’d flown three days before and were supposed to fly three days after that. So they gave us a day of rest. We had 20 empty beds in our barracks that night,” said Herron sadly. “There had been 25 of us that had lived together for several months, and then all of a sudden 20 of them were gone.” 

The price of freedom

Tragedy continued when the tail gunner and the rest of his crew flew a mission to Merseburg Nov. 2, 1944. That was the worst mission for him.

“The 3rd Division went to Europe that day; we lost more than 40 aircraft over that one path. We didn’t get the job completely finished so we had to go back Nov. 27 and the anti-aircraft shot down 56 B-17s,” he said sadly.

The former tail gunner explained that a bomb group formation was made up of 36 aircraft going up each day they flew a mission. 

On Dec. 30, 1944, the 100th BG flew a mission to Hamburg, Germany. This time, 10 of the 36 aircraft were knocked down.

Herron said as they flew each mission, he and the rest of his aircrew tried to concentrate on just getting the job done and getting back home again, though it was always in the back of their minds that they might not make it out alive.

RAF Mildenhall’s KC-135s, which proudly bear the Square D heritage on their tail, don’t carry parachutes. Back in the days of the B-17, parachutes were carried on board.

“They were a chest-type chute; you had the harness on but the parachute itself was down by the side of you,” Herron explained. “I would reach over and grab mine, then snap it on before I got ready to bail out. 

Coffee to go…

“We also had canteen cups we used for drinking our coffee in the mess hall, and sometimes I would take mine out to the airplane with me right before I was ready to go out on a mission, and would put it down by my side where I sat. One day, this piece of shrapnel came up from the bottom of the airplane and made a big hole in the canteen cup,” he said. “It rattled around and scared me to death!”

On returning to base, the tail gunner went straight to the supply sergeant to ask for a replacement.

“He asked me why, so I held it up and said, ‘It won’t hold coffee any more!’” he laughed. “The sergeant told me that before I could get a new one, I had to turn the old one in – but I told him, ‘No, I’m keeping that as a souvenir.’”

Herron said he kept that canteen cup for 50 years, before finally donating it to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia. 

100th ARW: Honoring the past

Another part of the shared heritage between the 100th ARW and 100th BG is Maj. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal. The 100th Operations Group auditorium was renamed in May 2012 after the man who also happened to be Herron’s squadron commander.

“He was a great guy. He only had to fly 25 missions, and once he’d completed them he let the boys go home. But then he said, ‘Give me a new crew – I want to keep flying,” the former staff sergeant said, adding Rosie flew a total of 52 missions.

“By that time he was a squadron commander and got to pick and choose; but he wouldn’t pick the easy missions, he would only pick the hard ones! So when they came in at 2 a.m. to wake us up to fly a mission, the first question we would ask was, ‘Who’s leading the group today?’ If they said it was Rosie, we would groan because it was going to be a bad, bad mission,” he chuckled.

Heron said he had the opportunity to go to several of the reunions in later years, during the 1980s and 1990s, and got to see Rosie again when he attended. 

“He was a fine individual -- I really liked him; we all did,” Heron said of his squadron commander. “I’m glad to know you have the auditorium named after him.” 

The tail gunner’s final mission – he flew 33 -- was Jan. 10, 1945. 

Today’s 100th Air Refueling Wing is proud of its heritage with the 100th BG and Bloody Hundredth, and is the only flying unit to still bear the historical markings on its aircraft.

“It makes me feel real good, it really does,” Herron said, his voice breaking with emotion. “I’m real proud of the fact they still kept the 100th Bomb Group designation – that’s quite a treat and an honor, I think, to still have a logo up in the air today.”

Lewis Elmer Herron, age 95, passed away at home on June 18th. He was born in Evansville, Indiana on June 10, 1925. He was predeceased by his parents, Lewis Edward and Lora Marie Roberts Herron, and his wife, Josefa Lunsford Herron.

Lewis graduated in 1943 from Washington High School in Washington, Indiana. He served his country in the 100th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, US Army Air Forces during World War II. He flew 33 missions from Thorpe Abbott, England as a tailgunner on B-17 Bombers. Memories of his service can be read on the 100th Bomb Group website. He was awarded numerous medals including the French Legion of Honor Award in 2016, the European Theatre Medal with three battle stars, the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Polish Army Cross, the Russian Victory Medal, and the Victory in Europe Medal.

After the war he attended Purdue University on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in forestry, having been inducted into the Xi Sigma Pi honorary fraternity.

His career in forestry included 22 years as Area Supervisor with Champion Paper which included an assignment as Chief Forester on the Biltmore Estate; 5 years with Ethan Allen Furniture Company; 10 years as Corporate Lumber Buyer with Bruce Hardwood Floors Co. in Dallas, Texas; and 18 years as Consulting Forester for Biltmore Farms Inc.

He was proud to have been a Scoutmaster for 13 years at Lake Junaluska, with six of his scouts becoming Eagle Scouts. He also was a Worshipful Master Western Star #91 in the Masonic Order and was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church. Lewis was a faithful volunteer at the VA hospital with more than 4,000 volunteer hours.

He is survived by his wife, Polly Feitzinger; his three children Lora Herron Coffey of Mars Hill, Carol O’Neal (Greg) of Gold Hill, Oregon, and Ed Herron (Karen) of Hickory; three grandchildren Amy Herron (Austin Stricker) of Denver, Colorado, Brett Herron of Hickory, and Callie Herron Jansen (Alex Jansen) of Charlotte. In addition, he is survived by his stepchildren Laura Feitzinger Brown (Peter Brown) of Spartanburg, South Carolina and Edward Feitzinger (Kristen McKillop Feitzinger) of Palo Alto, California, and eight step-grandchildren; Hannah, Nathan, Abigail and Joseph Brown; Lauren, Ryan, Allyse and Nicholas Feitzinger.

The family would like to thank Marcia Lunsford, Lew’s hospice nurse, for her compassionate care.

A celebration of his life will be announced at a later date and will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The 100th Bomb Group Foundation; the 8th Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia; or Trinity Episcopal Church.






Lewis Herron - TG of "HEAVEN SENT", with his A2 jacket painted by the TTE of the crew - Michael Garemko (from the collection of Lewis Herron)

Lewis Herron at Thorpe Abbotts

Lewis Herron

Lew Herron Medals 

French Legion of Honor awarded to Lewis Herron 

Lewis Herron in uniform

Lewis Herron

Lewis Herron at Thorpe Abbotts

Michael Garemko, Lewis Herron, Glenn Smiley, and Angelo Cioffi in Kearney, Nebraska (from the collection of Lewis Herron)

Lewis Herron skeet shooting 

Herron, Garemko, and Cioffi (from the collection of Lewis Herron)

The Anderson Crew in Foggia, Italy (from the collection of Lewis Herron)

Lewis Herron Luckye Bastardes Club Certificate

Standing: Lewis Herron - TG, Angelo Cioffi - WG, Glenn Smiley - ROG, Michael Garemko - TTE
Kneeling: Gerald Klecker - NAV, Fred Schmidt - BOM, William Fratus - CP and Thomas I. Anderson - P
(Dale Lane Collection)

Standing: Lew Herron (TG), Glen Smiley (ROG), Gerald Klecker (NAV), and William Jarrell (BTG)
Kneeling: Mike Garemko (TTE), Tom Anderson (P), Bill Fratus (CP), Angelo Cioffi (WG) Fred Schmidt (BOM)

350th Thomas I. Anderson Crew: Standing from left; Lewis Herron - TG, Angelo Cioffi - WG, Glenn Smiley - ROG, Michael Garemko - TTE; Kneeling from left; Gerald Klecker - NAV, Fred Schmidt - BOM, William Fratus - CP and Thomas I. Anderson - P       (Dale Lane Collection) 

Lt Thomas I Anderson Crew in front of Heaven Sent after Mission.  100th BG Photo Archives. 

Michael Garemko and Lewis Herron

Left to Right: Angelo Cioffi, Lewis Herron, Anthony Demarco, and Glenn Smiley (from the collection of Lewis Herron)

The Thomas I. Anderson Crew - (bottom row): Michael Garemko, William Fratus, Fred Schmidt, Thomas Anderson (top row): Anthony Demarko, Charles Cramer, Lewis Herron, Angelo Cioffi, Glenn Smiley, Gerald Klecker (from the collection of Lewis Herron)



Crew 1

ID: 2310