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T/SGT  Earl V. BENHAM

UNIT: 350th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: ROG

Wedding photo of Earl and Cora Benham, ROG on the Loren C. Van Steenis crew - August 27, 1944. Detailed Information (100th Photo Archives) 

SERIAL #: STATUS: CPT
MACR:

Comments1: 1 MAY 44 METZ/SAARGUEMINES/WIZERNES

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

LT  LOREN C. VAN STEENIS "Flying Dutchman"    P CPT  7 MAY 44 BERLIN
LT  JACK OGG                                                CP CPT 13 JUL 44 MUNICH
LT HAROLD C. BECKER                                    NAV KIA 7 MAY 44 BERLIN
LT LESTER TORBETT                                     BOM WIA 7 MAY 44 BERLIN
SGT ARCHIE K. HOLLADAY                              TTE CPT 1 MAY 44 METZ, FR. SAARGUEMINES/WIZERNES
SGT EARL V. BENHAM                                    ROG CPT 1 MAY 44 METZ, FR. SAARGUEMINES/WIZERNES
SGT ROBERT N. GOODMAN                             BTG CPT 24 MAY 44  BERLIN
SGT EDWARD C. BUTCHINO                             WG CPT 9 MAR 45 FRANKFURT
SGT JAMES L. YARNALL                                   WG WIA 24 FEB 44 ROSTOCK
SGT WALTER A. SCHNEIDER                             TG CPT 7 MAY 44  BERLIN
SGT JOSEPH V. CLOTHIER                               WG CPT 7 MAY 44 BERLIN (REPLACED YARNALL AFTER JIM YARNALL WAS 
                                                                                                                        WOUNDED 24 FEB 44 POSEN, POLAND MISSION)

350TH SQDN.. CREW, AS ABOVE, JOINED THE 1OOTH ON 13 OCT 1943.  FLEW "HARD LUCK" FOR FIRST SEVENTEEN MISSIONS. (A/C 42-3413)
The crew chief of "HARDLUCK" was M/Sgt C. M. Myers.

Jb..CORRESPONDANCE WITH EARL BENHAM 1980--SAYS "SEVEN OF CREW FINISHED TOUR.  NAV (H.C. BECKER) WAS KIA ON 7 MAY 44 (BERLIN) AFTER I FINISHED TOUR AND BOM AND WG WERE GROUNDED DUE TO WOUNDS.

Information on Crew 13 (All following data courtesy of Mr. Earl Benham)

We formed our crew at Moses Lake, Washington. We trained together as a crew  in the U.S.A. prior to flying our B-17 to England. We Joined the 100th Bomb  Group in England on October 13, 1943. We were assigned Airplane B-17 Model F.  # 419 The name of this airtplone was "Hard Luck".. We flew this B-17 until  given a new model B-17 G. We called this one"Hard Luck 2" Crew members at the  time of our first combat flight, were the original from Moses Lake  Washington. Except our co-pilot Jack Ogg who joined the crew at the 100th base. Starting with us on our first combat flight. Crew members:

Pilot                                             Loren C Van Steenis (The Flying Dutchman)
Co-pilot                                         Jack Ogg
Navigator                                      Harold C. Becker (killed In Action)
Bombardier                                   Lester D. Torbett (Wounded In Action)
Flight Engineer                              Archie K. Holladay
Radio Oper-tor                              Earl Benham
Asst. Radio Operator & Ball Turret    Robert N. Goodman
Asst. Engineer .                            Edward C. Butchino
Tail Gunner & Formation Obserer     Walter A.Schneider
Armorer Gunner                            James L. Yarnall (Wounded In Action)
 
Jim Yarnall was grounded because of wounds suffered on 24 Feb 44. Holladay and Benham finished their tours May 1st, 1944 with 28 combat missions each. Van Steenis finished on the next mission (May 7th 1944) with 28 combat missions. Schneider also finished on the May 7th mission with 28 combat missions. On that flight tragedy struck, and the Navigator, Becker, was  killed. The Bombardier Torbett was seriously wounded and grounded.Goodman finished his tour on May 24, 1944 with 28 Combat Missions. I am not certain when the rest of the crew finished. They were Jack Ogg, Edward Butchino, veteran crews, they all finished their missions and returned to the USA. 

The crew was assigned the B-17F "Hard Luck" (23413 with fuselage letters LN-V) She was delivered to the 100th on October 13th, 1943. This became one of the 100th's better known planes. After setting a ETO record of 600 hours on her original engines (made by Studebaker) this venerable old ship was lost on 14 Aug 1944 Ludwigshafen mission. All her crew(Donald Cielewich crew) bailed out and were taken prisoner, although it is thought some may have evaded. It was the 63rd combat mission for "Hard Luck"                       

                                     A Group Lead

April 22, 1944: We were briefed to lead the Group. This time was to be a trip to Hamm, Germany -- Bombing altitude of 23,000 feet. We would carry ten 500 lb. demolition bombs.

We were leading most of the Eighth Air Force for this mission and had our Group Commander, Colonel Kelly with us. The Colonel was on his first mission with the group and was riding as observer in our plane. The Command pilot was our Squadron Commander, Major Bucky Elton.

Our co-pilot, Jack Ogg, rode in the tail, this bumped our regular tail gunner, S/Sgt Walter Schneider from the mission. Ogg was a young man of twenty-one and been our co-pilot since we joined the 100th.

…There were no speccial problems on this flight, our fighter escort was good -- German fighters did not bother us. Flak over the target (Hamm) was extremely heavy, although I did not hear of anyone in our Group being seriously hurt.

We took off at 3 P.M. and landed at 9:30 P.M.-- a flight of six and one half hours. Our navigator performed a super job and I think he received special commendation for his efforts.

Colonel Kelly, our new Group Commandar, tragically was killed one week later over the  coast of France, as were most of the lead crew he was flying with. The target was V-weapon lauching ramp at Sottevast.



                      The Day I Finished my Tour; with 28 Missions


May 1st, 1944 --   The impossible day, I finished the tour requirement of 28 missions. On this my final missions, we were briefed for an airfield near Metz, France.

Our escort was the best I had seen. We had P-38s, P-47s, and P-51s. Complete coverage to an from the target. In spite of this great protection four German fighters made a blazing attack, coming out of the sun and down through the formation. I could not understand how they were able to get through the tight escort undetected -- no damage to any of the planes near us that I heard off.

After hitting our target we headed for home, crossed the Channel saftely and made our approach to land. The pilot asked the engineer and I if we would care to make a low pass over the field to celebrate competing our tours. (The flight engineer, T/Sgt Holladay and I had both finished) We both said, "land as safely as possible, no showing off." No need to temp fate anymore than was necessary. I have regretted slightly over the years we didn't put on a show of exuberance. 

As we landed safely a fast thought entered my mind -- why did I make it through a tour when so many did not -- It was a great experience to feel it was over, no need to wonder why.

I remebered the initial briefing officer who had doubted any of us would complete the then required  twenty-five missions -- I had completed twenty-eight combat missions. No credit to myself, I had a good crew and a lot of luck.  It had been a long way from Moses Lake, Washington -- I called it "The fortunes of war," -- Unexplainable….
                      


                           The last time I saw Van (Loen C. Van Steenis - crew pilot)

…A man of cool nerves and logic. These were necessary attributes for combat flying. Van had the natural ability that helped bring our crew through our training and the combat tour. I flew all of my missions (28), except one with Van at the controls. He was with us from Moses Lake, Washington.

Van was selected to fly non-combat for a General after he finished his tour. He asked me and the engineer("Hap" Holladay) to go with him -- I gladly would have but the General had his engineer and radio man who stayed with him.

My only flight in England after completing my tour was to take Van to his new assignment. As we shook hands and said, "Hope to see you again." I thought, how little to say to a man who had taken us through so many rough missions. What could one say? It seemed impossible to say any more. Perhaps by then all of us had pushed emotions into the back of our minds.

I don't even recall the field where we left him -- No matter, I knew I would always remember him as a great pilot for our crew..

                            
                             Leaving the 100th for The USA
 
Late July, 1944..
Holladay (Archie K. Holladay - the Engineer) and I were called to Operations to sign our release papers. We were on our way to the United States of America.

One thing we noticed, there was no band assembled to give us a rousing send off. I wondered if many people knew, or cared if we left Thorpe Abbotts or stayed. I knew there were many assignments more important under consideration by those still activitely engaged in the war…..Holladay and I were "has beens" our days in the E.T.O. were over, at least for now.  At the time we thought we might be coming back if the war lasted another year.

I packed my bags, getting ready to leave and wanted to take a few items as souvenirs. Some  of the items I wanted to take were; British Helmet, Oxygen mask, Mae West life jacket that I had worn on every mission as we flew over water on them all, Flying boots, and Colt 45 pistol -- So many things I wanted to keep.

Holladay and I may have said goodbys to some, I really can't recall that we did..by this time we not very sentimental. We were leaving a place that was to be dismantled -- we didn't know it then but this was our last view of it as we knew it during our combar tour.

The experiences we had at Thorpe Abbotts were and are overwhelming. Later, much later, we realized how many fond memories of the people we had known there….


                          Leaving England 


I arose early the first morning at sea and went out on deck. The cool ocean air was very invigorating. I noticed we were well out into the North Atlantic, England was disappearing  into the misty horizon. There was a brief feeling of nostalgia, perhaps more of a longing to return.

I though of the many people I had known, some only briefly, of the devastation of war, and what I had seen of it. I was hoping it would never have to be duplicated and yet I knew this was not over. Not yet.

On this morning I thought of our crew, the men of Crew #13. The morning seemed to me to be the ending of our start from Moses Lake, Washington. Would I ever see any of them again? In my estimation the war could not have been won without the efforts of such men. The Air Force is composed of many men of such caliber.. For this reason a man could be proud to have had some part in it.


                       In Conclusion


When reviewing the description of these missions, you must be reminded of the terrible destructive forces involved. We faced an eneny who started the war with vast destructive forces and we retaliated with even greater force, leading to the final conclusion of the war..

The men flying combat were faced with vastly different situations, some with tragic results for many of them. These experiences were unlike any these young men had ever faced or imagined --  yet they faced them.

Time has and will continue to dim many of the emotions of those difficult days. Future generations will have only dim memories of these instances. Many will be forgotten or unknown as they dim into the background of life.

Some literature, such as this, must remain for verification and to maintain an aspect of history and enable many to view these events, if only in retrospect…Maybe they will wonder about them -- maybe rememeber…



MISSION LOG OF CREW # 13 (Van STENNIS)
FROM THE DIARY OF EARL BENHAM (ROG)

THE FLIGHTS OF CREW #13  NOVEMBER 1943 THROUGH MAY 1944
A brief description of each flight from my diary written at the time.. Earl Benham

Nov (date not listed..pw) our first intended mission was scrubbed just before take off.
Nov 5th 1943 Briefed for Gelsenkerken (Gilsenkirchen), Germany. We flew as spare. Bomb load, eight 500 lb. demos. Runaway     
supercharger at take off. Oxygen leak at 20,000 ft. We returned to base. No mission credit.

Nov 7th 1943 Briefed for Duren, Germany. Bomb load Demos and incendiaries.. At bombs away nine bombs failed to release from    
bomb racks. Torbett and Yarnel released them over the Channel on the way to base.

Nov 16th 1943 Briefed for Rujkan, Norway..Bomb load, five 1000 lb demos..Target 60 miles west of Olso, Norway. A hydro electric    
plant also used for development of heavy water used for development of atomic bomb..Target destroyed. I sent strike  report to base, giving results.

Nov 19th 1943 Briefed for Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Bomb load Demos..Took off in cloudy weather, target overcast..Mission led by pathfinder.

Nov 26th 1943 Briefed for airfield at Paris, France..Bomb load twelve 500 lb Demos..Target overcast, we were ordered to return to base without dropping bombs..We could not bomb France blind.. Flak heavy over target, not many enemy fighters in area..We landed at base with full bomb load.

Nov 29th 1943 Briefed for Bremen, Germany. Several enemy fighters….we had good escort of P-47s Ten FW-190s made head on passes.

Nov 30th 1943 Briefed for Solingen, Germany..Our pilot passed out at 18,000 ft…We decended to lower altitude to revive him..Salvoed 
bombs in Channel..returned to base.

Dec 10th 1943 Briefed for Emden, Germany..Bombs were incendiaries. .We flew as spares..No place to fill in..Dropped bombs in     
Channel and returned to base..No mission credit.

Dec 14 1943 Briefed for Berlin, Germany..Mission scrubbed before take off..Returned to briefing room and were briefed for Kiel,    
Germany. This mission also scrubbed half hour before take off.

Dec 16th 1943 Briefed for Bremen, Germany..Bomb load, eight 500 lb Demos and 20 incendairies..We flew as spare..Had a runaway    
supercharger on take off..We landed on the second attempt in heavy fog..Changed to new airplane..No place to fill in..Returned to base 
landed in thick fog with full bomb load. No mission credit.

Dec 22 1943 Briefed for Munster, Germany. Full load of incendiaries. Pathfinder mission, complete overcast over target..Light flak..
P47 & P38 escort very good..We took off in the rain.

Dec 24th 1943 Briefed for NO BALL target near Abbeville and Dieppi, France. Bomb load 300 lb Demos..Altitude over target 12,000 ft.     
Our base was fogged on return, had a difficult time landing.

Dec 29th 1943 Briefed for Ludwigshaven, Germany..Flew as spares..Full load of  incendaries..Took off at 8:30 a.m…No place to fill in.    
We returned to base with full bomb load..No mission credit. Landed at 12:30 after a 4 hr. flight.

Jan 4th 1944 Briefed for Kiel, Germany..Bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos..Pathfinder mission,Target overcast..Bombed from 29,000 ft..
Flak heavy and accurate.

Jan 5th 1944 Briefed for Elbeipid, Germany. A ball bearing plant. We hit the 2nd. Alternate target at Nuess, a bolt and nut factory.    
Bombed from 26,000 ft. Temperature 52 below zero..Flak very heavy..P47 escort very good.

Jan 7th 1944 Briefed for Ludwigshaven. Germany..A Chemical, Power and Rubber plant..Bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos..Pathfinder  mission..
Target overcast.Flak thick over target and passing over Duren..P47 & Spitfire escort very good..One bomb failed to release over target, Yarnel and Torbett loosened it over Channel. Target completely destroyed..Bombed from 23,000 ft..Our base closed in with fog., I brought the plane over the field with radio directional system.

Jan 15th 1944 Briefed for Halberstadt, Germany..Mission scrubbed after briefing because of heavy fog.

Jan 19th 1944 Briefed for installation on French Coast--Mission scrubbed on hour before take off..--  Our crew had special delayed action bombs which could not be unloaded on the ground.-- Necessary to drop them in the Channel. We took off in very bad weather and dropped then 40 miles out over the North Sea. We almost ran into a barrage balloon on the way back to base. The bomb load was twelve 500 lb.Demos..--..No mission credit.

Jan 20th 1944 Briefed for installation on French Coast. Scrubbed one hour before take off time.

Jan 21 1943 Briefed for installation on French Coast. Bombed from 20,000 ft. Each squadron made their own individual bomb run..--..
Flak very heavy, our airplane had several holes, most of the planes were hit by flak..--..The flak made it a rough mission.

Jan 24th 1943 Briefed for Frankfurt, Germany. Took off in dark at 7 a.m. -- Heavy contrails at 15,000 ft. had difficult time grouping formations. 
Were 150 miles over enemy  territory when we were recalled to base. -- Came out across Holland so did not drop bombs. -- Salvoed in Channel.

Jan 25th 1944 Part of our crew flew to a field near Cambridge. We took another pilot on  business.

Jan 26th 1944 Briefed for Frankfurt, Germany. Mission scrubbed before take off.-- Another mission to the French Coast was also scrubbed

Jan 31st 1944 Briefed or Frankfurt, Germany. -- Mission scrubbed 30 mins before take off.

Feb 4th 1944 Briefed for Frankfurt, Germany. Bomb load, ten 500 lb..--..Pathfinder mission.-- Bombed from 25,000ft. At 300 m.p.h.      
Flak very thick, some enemy fighter attacks. Very little escort.--.Had a very rough landing at base because of strong cross winds. 
 My first and only mission with a different pilot. Our pilot sick with cold. Lt Harris was the pilot.

Feb 8th 1944 Flew a short practice formation flight.

Feb 9th 1944 Briefed for Halberstadt, Germany.-- We took off at 7 a.m. and were recalled at 8 a.m.  -  landed at 10 a.m. with full bomb load.  --  No mission credit.

Feb 11th 1944 Flew a short practice formation flight.
Feb 12th 1944 Flew a short practice formation flight.

Feb 13th 1944 Bombed installations on French Coast. Flak very accurate bursting close to airplane. Good fighter escort..--..Bombing  altitude 12,000 ft.

Feb 15th 1944 Flew short practice formation flight.

Feb 21th 1944 Briefed for Brunswick, Germany- Pathfinder mission.-- Bombed airfield and railroad marshaling yards. -- Excellent fighter support..Light flak. -- 
Bombed from 2200 ft.

Feb 22nd1944 Briefed for Schwienfurt, Germany.-- Bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos.-- Took off in snow flurries, climbed to 22,000 ft. 
Heavy contrails made grouping difficult. Visibility almost zero at times. We headed out across Channel badly formed..--Recalled.-- 
Landed at base with full bomb load.

Feb 23rd 1944 Briefed for Schwienfurt, Germany. Mission scrubbed after hour postponement.

Feb 24th 1944 Briefed for Posan, Poland. -- Bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos. Attacked by enemy fighters over Denmark. Our waist gunner (Yarnall) was wounded in the shoulder and hand.-- Target was overcast; could not bomb. We changed course and dropped bombs on Rostock, Germany. -- Some flak, more fighters attacked on the way out, plane hit by a few shells.Landed  O.K. at base, a long flight, a bit over ten hours. Yarnall was grounded because of his injuries.

Feb 25th 1944 Briefed for Regansberg (Regensberg), Germany. Bomb load, ten 500 lb. Demos..Good fighter escort.-- Flak very heavy    
over target, we were hit by several pieces. We came to base on three engines.-- base badly clouded up, landed O.K., a nine and half hour trip.-- 
Target was hit in clear visibility.

Feb 26th 1944 Briefed for Friedrichshaven, Germany.-- Bomb load forty-two 100 lb. incendiaries. Mission scrubbed just before take off.

We went on a nine day leave at this time….

Mar 14th 1944 Flew a practice mission.
Mar 15th 1944 Flew a practice mission.
Mar 16th 1944 Test flew a new airplane (Hard Luck II) -- Were group lead.

Mar 17th 1955 Briefed for Oberfafinshaven, with Munich as secondary. Mission scrubbed before take off, returned to briefing room and were briefed for Frankfurt, Germany. This mission also canceled because of fog that did not lift.

Mar 18th 1944 Briefed for an airfield and installations five miles north of Augsburg, Germany. -- bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos.-- We  were hit by flak as we crossed the French Coast on the way in. We were flying group lead. Torbett, our bombardier, was hit. He was not able to operate and we left the formation and returned to base.

Mar 25th 1944 Flew practice mission.

Mar 26th 1944 Briefed for Leipzig. Germany, a factory making JU-88s. Mission was scrubbed at taxi time. Were scheduled as group lead. We were up at 2 a.m. and flew a four hour practice mission on the afternoon.

Mar 27th 1944 Briefed for an airfield 15 miles from Bordeaux, France. Bomb load, ten 500 lb Demos. Flak very heavy over the target,    
bombing altitude 23,000 ft.  We hit target with good concentration. The 8th Air Force bombed several targets in the area,    
saw smoke of several targets. Group lead mission and we led the group.

Apr 7th 1944 Briefed for Quackenbruck (Quakenbruck) , Germany. Mission scrubbed before take off.

Apr 8th 1944 Briefed for Quackenbruck (Quakenbruck) , Germany airfield again, bomb load, thirty-eight 100 lb bombs.- Bombing altitude 20,000 ft..-- Good fighter escort.

Apr 9th 1944 Briefed for Posan, Poland, aircraft plant. Bomb load, incendiaries.-- Took off in bad weather, formations were split up over North Sea in heavy cloud formation. The group could not be reformed. Returned to England, could not land at our base because of weather. Landed at a B-24 base and returned to our base when the weather cleared later that day.

Apr 11th 1944 Briefed for Posnan, Poland. Bomb load, five 1000 lb Demos. Took off at 7 a.m. -We flew across the North Sea in very bad weather. Formations were badly formed as we crossed the coast of Denmark. We met strong formations of enemy fighters. Many B-17s lost in out division. -- Target was overcast, we changed course and bombed railroad marshaling yards at Rostock, Germany. Flak very heavy over target. We met many enemy fighters on way out. Met out P-38 fighter escort on the way out. Landed at 5 p.m., field closed in. A long rough mission very similar to Feb. 24th when out Armor gunner Yarnell was injured.

Apr 18th 1944 Flew a practice bombing flight, just our crew.

Ape 20th 1944 Briefed for installations on French Coast. Took off at 4 p.m., Bomb load, twelve 500 lb. Demos.-- Also took two 1000 lb demos. The two 1000 lb. demos were attached to the underside of the wing, one on each side. First and only time we carried them that way. - Flak over target very heavy and accurate. Landed at base 8:35 p.m.

Apr 22nd 1944 Briefed for Hamm, Germany, marshaling yards. Bomb load, ten 500 lb demos.-- Bombing altitude 23,000 ft. Flak very heavy over target. We had a good escort. Our crew led the group and most of the 8th Air Force. Our Group C.O. Colonel Kelly flew as observer, our Squadron C.O., Major Elton, flew with us as co-pilot. Our crew co-pilot flew as tail gunner. Took off at 3 p.m. and landed at 9:30 p.m. 

Apr 24th 1944 Flew a practice mission.

Apr 25th 1944 We (our crew) flew a weather mission for the group. We were called at 1:45 a.m. Briefed to take off at 4:30 a.m., a German air raid delayed take off until 5:30 a.m. We went to 20,000 ft, Navigator took wind readings which we radioed to base. After mission left the coast of England - returned to base at 9:30 a.m. Our flight took us over London. No mission credit.

Apr 26th 1944 Briefed for Brunswich (Brunswick), Germany, bombed by pathfinder. Bomb load forty-two incendiaries.- Flak heavy    
over target, good escort..--  Took off at 5:10 a.m. landed at 12:20 p.m.

Apr 27th 1944 Briefed for a target near Cherbourg, France. Bomb load, sixteen armor piercing bombs. Bombing altitude 18,000 ft. -- Flak thick over target
Apr 27th 1944 We returned to base and were briefed for an airfield near Paris, France. Bomb load, twelve 500 lb. demos. Took off at 3:30 p.m.  Some flak over target, bombed secondary as primary was overcast. Landed at 9:30 p.m. ---- Two missions this one day..

May 1st 1944 Briefed for Metz, France, marshaling yards. Bomb load six 1000 lb demos. Took off at 3:30 p.m. --- Fighter escort very good. We had full support with P47s, P38s and P51s. Some light flak over target and four enemy fighters made an attack on out group..--- Landed O.K.
THIS FLIGHT COMPETED MY TOUR OF 28 MISSIONS…Earl Benham

(The following data on the May 7th 1944 Berlin mission is supplied by Walter A. Schneider)

May 7th 1944 Briefed for Berlin, Germany. Bomb load, ten 500 lb. demos. - Heavy flak and very accurate; Navigator(Harold C. Becker) killed. - Bombardier (L. Torbett) was wounded. This was the last mission for the following members of the crew.
  Pilot  Van Stennis
  Tail Gunner Schneider
  Bombardier Torbett (wounded)
  Navigator Harold C. Becker (KIA)

Nothing technical ..just the simple day by day efforts that usually occurred and we as a crew had an extremely lucky break when I was flying for sure..They had a disastrer the next mission after Holliday and I completed which shows what could happen at any mission. We never knew when we parked our bike after an early breakfast and parked by the briefing room whether or not we would again ride the bike… But some how we took it all in stride, I never knew why. Lady fortune was our constant mate . I guess I lumped it off as the fortune of war.Well , that's a rather dramatic statement . Even when not trying. Ha.
Best regards
Earl
(Earl Benham commenting on his book Crew 13 and its relevance, I think it has quite a lot personally mpf 2001)

  

Mike! It wasn';t always that bad though… In fact I was extremely lucky. I saw enemy fighter atacks, .seemed they mostly hit some one else , our crew were very fortunate . I only shot at one JU 88 over the Baltic.. We of course had our share of flak . Lots of flak.. … but some how my gauardian angel was with me ..I also was qualified to man any gun position. I went to gunnery school after graduating from radio school .. The air force made a big mistake by not having the bombardier's and navigator's schooled in gunnery..The nose gun became one of the very important gun positions…. Later they did have a qualified gunner in the nose and he actually also was the bombardier (except not flying lead ) but they didn't give credit in that respect they calld him a "Toggeleer " ha,But that was the Air Force stupidity we all laughed at.The only gunnery training our Bombardier had was when we were in flight training after forming our crew..He knew how to clean his gun's and re install it. He was a great fellow , we admired his guts when as our lead bombardier he faced the flak and took a good steady bead on the targets,,.That took more guts than a man should have to have. We used to kid him about being afraid of flak, ,We could do so ,because we all knew we all were ..So we were qualified to joke .about it.. So "Them was great days" hey? They never will occure again. .. Mike there are lots of stories to tell, But those I know are about 60 years old,.,,and most have been told over and over again…Best regardsEarl .. 


Subj: june 6thbut near Dawnn I counted 54 B-17's taking off to the west oin the ma  
Date: 6/6/2002 8:59:43 AM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike ;
Today I recall the morning of 58 years ago… 
That morning I had been sitting in a machine gun pit  between the Tower and the main runway.. All that night.    I had completed my tour and was a radio instructor at the base ..This was my 2nd and only time I had guard duty. We were   completely unaware of the D -Day approaching.   .We were just told perhaps German Paratroops would hit the base that night..  We were not excited about that at all.   I Just thought it was nice sitting out  in the open that night watching the activities. The  Security of D Day was very good that morning as only the  briefed Crews knew of the pending D Day . ..At about dawn I counted "54 "   B-17's taking off to the west on the main runway..,
Now this past September standing on top of the control Tower I could  have visualized that event….just another  nostalgic  event for a returning vet to think of as we visit this  museum.." The tower has seen it all"
So That morning 58 years ago ,  after being up all night, I was sleeping  at 8 A.m. while the men "Hit The beaches' … Talk about "The fortunes of War" ..

Regards

Earl

Subj: comment  
Date: 12/18/2002 2:29:40 PM Pacific Standard Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike
Looking at the new recent listing in the web site. Lt John M Shelly  
On a flighgt of  July 29th 1944 a  Ed Lowther  a TTE was shot down as a POW.. 
Apparently a spare  with this Crew.. I am quite certain he was the fellow who 
woke me up after they Returned from the first D Day flight. 
As I tell in my book I was awakened when this crew came back.,. 
I recall Lowther was in our barracks.and was the fellow who woke me up.  
  
Earl


Mike (Faley, Group Photo Archives and Historian) July 2002
.. Something about East Anglia that is endearing to me and perhaps many others., For me anyway, maybe because when we were over enemy territory (and anything across the channel was enemy territory when I was on my tour.),,and as we approached England I had a great feeling to again see East Anglia. . I wasn't the "Brave man". In fact I know I was a bit afraid at times therefore, wasn;t "Brave."….and the peacefull beauty of East Anglia appealed to me then as it does now. When we landed and for a brief time we could almost erase the war from our minds …. . Mike, I want to say when hearing or reading of the reunions It seems like we don’t hear enough about the mechanics who made it all possibleAll bomber crews could not have even taken off with out the help of the mechanics. .I have often been resting in bed at night over there and listening to the Mechanics running up the bombers whice we were going to use the next day. The noise of those engines plainly heard in our barracks was music to my ears. But I knew they were out in the cold night working on the planes ….Possibly some attempt has been made to give them some aclaim now and It seems they are unresponsive….The question is, Why? Well, just a thought .
Regards
Earl

Mike, 
Now , memories of Feb 25th 1944  yesterday , 59 years ago. The crew of Stewart McClain where killed  ..they were from our barracks  on this mission to Regansburg .Wm Cook and one other  surrived as POW's I recently heard from  Cook. 
Our crew lost an  engine also that day but "Hard Luck" brought us back  a long 9 hour flight.
The next day the 26th we were briefed  for Freidrichshsfen  but cancled before take off ..Hap Holladay and I then on that day took some time and visitedJim  Yarnall of our crew who had been  wounded on our flight to Posnan poland on the Feb 24th mission… Then our crew were given a 9 day pass..that allowed us to miss the vicious week of March when Berlin was the main Target..That week which  you know  all very well.  Ours was (The Luck of the Draw) .. Earl  (2/26/2003)

Subj: (no subject)  
Date: 3/6/2003 8:17:27 AM Pacific Standard Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike;
'Going down memory lane today ,,March 6th 1944 was a tragic day for many of the buddies of the 100th and their families.
The fortunes of war decided "Crew 13 "was to have that week off.. We had no thought that we were chosen to take the 9 day leave after completing 17 missions and that the 1st week of March  1944 was to be so tragic.. When we returned  we  found 24 men had been lost from our one old barracks ..The barracks floor I found again in Sept 2001.. (and the brick)

Earl (march 6, 2003)


Subj: reminiscing  
Date: 5/1/2003 7:54:59 AM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike ;     May 1st .. 59 years since I completed my tour.1944..
As us older fellows say   'seems like yesterday"Our engineer Archie(Hap)  Holladay and I  completed the same  day .  He and I the first two members of our ''Crew 13' to complete …  It was an emotional and  sudden let down for sure.    However, one we were happy to complete. (and Lucky).with an odd feeling of some regret our flight crew days were over…Possibly today many men and women of this last war  have a rather let down also and certainly glad that is over,,.at least for the ones returning.  Hopefully mans intelligence will improve to the point when  wars will never be fought again.,   .

Regards''
Earl

Subj: Re: (no subject)  
Date: 7/28/2003 8:09:11 PM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 

  I told him no hurry as he is busy,so that is where the book stands now,,I have a couple left I found among my scraps  I sent one a couple days ago to Earl Wilbur ..you possibly will meet him at Houston.he was a tail gunner in our barracks .(Howards crew) .I fail to recall seeing him  there, but we saw so many and I assume I have gone to Chow with him. In a group.. .We would amble along with groups of 6 or so and no one introduced  anyone,  and we rarely used names  "Friends of the moment" . And never became to close ., It was too hard to lose a friend.   We had many acquaintences and lots of fun in associations. Our own crew was a different thing….
I appreciate your ideas`about this short story.. It was only meant as a brief history mainly.

Best regards
Earl
 
Yes Mike, they (Lt Howard Crew) flew their first mission on March 27th 1944 and that day we led the 100th group to Bordeax France .If you look on page 82 of my book you will see the battered copy of that trip sheet.. Howard is shown on the right wing of McKay  (In old 074  which was shot down in July 13th 1944 I believe.)  .Malooly a good friend of Van Streenis is shown flying off our right wing,.,This is the only original trip sheet I have, why we didn’t save more I’ll never really know.  Anyway I made a copy and sent it to Wilbur; I first had written to Wilbur after (Gordon Dickie) had told me he had visited the 100th Museum recently.  So after he recived my letter Wilbur called me from  Fl and tallked an hour   ha  Then he sent we a two page letter a week ago.. 
Long ago I sent this trip sheet copy to McKay . He was so elated he called me from his home in Texas . I also sent one to Malooly years ago,  he also called me from his home in LA .. Now Malooly is no longer with us. .
If you want a copy I will send one to you , the new copy machines now do a good job on even that battered sheet   Maybe you have this one.. 
So much "old stuff' from veterans. Hey? 
Well Mike as I mentioned.  One can stand on an old  "hard stand" or on a taxi strip, or on the Tower, and thoughts can not really be discribed as there are so many .. I know , because I have been there recently.  It is hard to imagine how nostalgic it can be. .even can bring a tear to the eye… Recalling old  acquaintences and some events  (war is a horrible action).,
Returning from a combat mission to the peace of Thorpe Abbotts gave us all a respite to recount our thoughts.somewhat. Also our asociations kept us from being depressed… at least it did with our Crew 13.  Now only 4 of us left. 
It seems one sad part now days is leaving the museum area all behind again when It's time to leave..   I get invitations to return,, . I am thinking of ,making another trip over there. ..  But doing and thinking are two different parts .
Incidently I have no intention of asking to have this "essay" in Spasher.six. 
Maybe in Readers Digest. 

Regards

Earl


Subj: (no subject)  
Date: 8/4/2003 7:00:09 PM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike:  Thanks to the messasge board Info. I picked up most of the story on TV about the Schweinfurt and Regansburg mission,,Of course the sad part about any of these shows it is impossible to get the real thing on film.
Fortunately we "Crew 13" didn;'t get in on that one as it was before our time.. We arrived at the 100th in mid Octrober 43.  .We did get into Regasnburg flak later,,Lost McClains crew from our barracks that day Feb 25th 1944 .;lost an engine of "Hard Luck" ourselves.
These shows can only show the waist gunners ,,The bombardier and tail, gunners are hid away. The waist about the only ones open enough for camera work. There were some very good shots.   It makes one feel how fortunate we (Crew 13) were,. To not be the ones who had the  experience  of being in a spin.
So as Murphy says . :"The luck of the draw".  I guess that term about says it all…. ..You know Adrian Caldwell , I heard from her saying their son is due home Aug 18th from Iraq,   a helicopter pilot,,   I am sure he has seen some bad days.

Earl


Subj: (no subject)  
Date: 8/24/2003 11:20:58 AM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mike:
I would like to again "tap" your information… The big raid on Regansburg and Schwienfurt  Aug 17th which was followed by a big air battle on Oct 14 to Schwienfurt .. The 8th lost 60 bombers  …  Our "Crew 13"  arrived at the 100th on Oct 13th  to a Group that was desimated from their losses of Oct 10th .
I have no recollection  of the 100th putting up any planes for the mission of Oct 14th ,.,, In fact we were so new at the game then I had no Idea of what was happening.  My question is …..Can you tell me if they did fly that mission?  If so who flew?  Must have been just a few.

The previous two weeks we had spent at the 94th was just begaining to count,.We never flew a mission from the 94th.. ,.We knew a few of the crews who had flown some missions and were telling of the impossible chances of completeing a tour,.
I never marked down any names and have often wondered  how many of the ones we talked with actually completed their tours.   Thioes early days  were vicious..  I certainly had  "The luck of the draw."..  
Sept of 2001,  I stood atop the tower there at the 94th and lowered the flag   when visiting .. ..Talked to John Adams and Cliff Fullam   They gave us (Ron and I)  a good tour of  their work on the Tower.  Even to returnn to the 94th after only the two weeks we had spent there in WW2  did bring back memories..I had  nothing written down of that  time , so it was very disappointing I had not entered any of that in a diary,,  Who thought of diaries then. .hey?   

Earl


Subj: BERLIN  
Date: 3/5/2004 5:33:50 AM Pacific Standard Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
 
Mornin Mike:
I just read the Message board and your article about  hitting Berlin today (incidently 60 years ago)    The "fortunes of war" saw our "Crew 13" on a 17 mission  flak leave that week.  When we returned  we found we had 24 men missing from our barracks of 36 including us.   Again I have often wondered why I didn't  have the names of them all recorded in a note book.  Frank Granacks crew were missing that week. Therefore, this date  would be a nostalgic time for Frank.  He and part of his crew were POW's some KIA..  I don’t know Franks email number ..Possibly he wants to forget it all.  I had much respect for Frank and his crew.  We knew them well and Frank often visited our barracks.
Certainly they all  who have survived appreciate your remarks.

Regards

Earl


Van Steenis used to call me on interphone and ask for weather visibility at the base when we were 150 or so miles out  and coming in alone. .. Usually  the report was "Fair and good visibility" .    Vans reply  to me was, "That is a dam lie"  ha. So we did have our moments of joking.
But you know Mike,  The Tower always "saw"  us coming…

Best regards '
Earl.


Mike  ;
Just thinking how time flies.   May 1st 1944 I completed my tour of combat flying.   That day after we landed Harold Becker  congratulated me with broad smile and a hand shake…That was the last time I saw him . He was killed May 7th a week later.  Flying in the same B -17 # 903. that had brought me safely back.  
Later on July 29th 1944 old 903 was lost  piloted by Eden Jones and co-pilot Robert Rids  .Five were killed including the two pilots.
The history of 60 years ago, yet some vivid memories.

Regards''
Earl



Thanks Mike:
I thought Sally B was the one and only B-17 flier in England
. To think  we saw hundreds of them in the air in WW2. 
When we were first in England I was sitting in a  Pub somewhere near London. And I heard the dishes start  to viberate  .. I asked what was happening? The  Waitress said "Well our boys are out again.' ;. I went outside and looked up to see maybe hundreds of Bombers going  high overhead . They were at altitude  about ready to head across the channel    Later I also was in that position looking down.
We made lots of noise.

Regards 
Earl..


Question was asked about codes used to call into base upon return of a mission:

Mike  after 60- or more years some points have faded from memory. 
Coming home alone which we often did,     So for precaution, especially if coming home acrosss the treacherous North sea.    I stayed on the radio at all times and was in direct  contact with our navigator for position reports.  When coming home Across the Channel we let down to perhaps 2000-feet.. I  kept the radio on also then as we crossed.  If we  may have to ditch I wanted  to be able to send a report of our position.  I may have been overly concerned.  Rather safe than sorry.  England had a good rescue service..We always hoped we never would have to use it.  But the strain was with me as radio operator, at least I thought so.. So I felt I needed to stay alert. I was not a really brave person. Ha.

When nearing the coast I made certain my IFF was on.. I had heard they could fire at a incoming plane unless identified ..and at 1000 foot altitude.   Then I had a possible brief check with the ground station for weather etc.. Pilot usually called back for a weather report at Thorpe Abbotts. Usually "at times" I could tell him then the visibly reported Ok,.  He often answered  "thanks , you know that is a damn lie " ha  ..Usually  as anyone who was there knew visibiliy was always a bit doubtful at times, even though reported good. It looked good as one stood on the ground perhaps. Therefore, quite often in bad weather a QDM to the base was asked for.; The Landing instructions the pilot had with his voice  transmitter The call  transmissions in Morris Code  were to the ground station  "K3 O" so the procedure was me to call    
( "K3o  from(v)…k.).   The  "k" meant OK)   they then answered  (  ' R'  "V from K3o."k   Then  I could proceed with my requests 
The  "V" was a letter on Hard Luck , this was our  ID  unless we wrere using a :"secret "code  at times.. The secret code was on lemon flavored onion skin paper that we could  eat to keep it out of enemy hands  etc. , note on page 33 of my book the "V" is shown on Hard Luck 
All of this in morris Code, so you can figure our what it sounded like. In code. ( dah dit dah     dit dit dit dah dah     dah dah dah )   Which means  K3O V is  Dah Dit dit dit.. The "K"  is    Dah dit dah. So all a rather strange language  and flyijng in rough air rather hard to keep a steady key.

Mike , You perhaps are familiar with Morris code. So that  is abouit it,  as we came home alone.  All was possibly a thankless job.  But good food , steady paycheck,  no thought of losing the job to compitition., and many free  rides in a B-17 ..ha.     All ironically great.   But as the job was there I am glad I didn't miss it    I wouldn't care to do it again.   .  .
Maybe  this account will be of some  help .  A few variations but this is the main Gist that I remember.

Best regards
Earl 

Part II

Mike .
Glad it was of some value..I could have gone into more detail, but possibly this covers the general layout  Usually each "trip" was a bit different.
Often the weather was very poor visibiity and ground marks obscured.   L.therefore,   mention the "QDM "which I can explain here . It was a heading signal.. I  contacted the ground K3o and held down the key for10 seconds  they took a bearing and gave us the heading to the base,,This heading procedure  was repeated  several times maybe on each flight.. When visibility warranted it.    England had very good radio aids.
After getting within sight of the base the two pilots and engineer had the problem of getting us safely to the grouind.. (We always made it.)
The Tower :"seen" us as we landed….ha. 

Regards  Earl. 

Part III

Mike:
The  IFF mean s " Identify ,,Friend or Foe'.
This was a small transmitter which automaticaly sent out a  frequency which indentified the incoming plane.. If I recall these frequences were changed each day….You had a code of the day.    If you a came in  alone it was always necessary to  turn on the I FF  .The coast guard was authorized to shoot down an unidentified Plane.  The Germans had B-17s and other craft also and could sneak in with a load of bombs. .. This IFF was a "no brainer to operate"  but absolutely necessary  to not  forget to turn it on.

Earl

Part IV

Thanks Mike   I did not see Garys  message..I have looked at the message board this AM ,,nothing concerening this that I can see   
I believe I sent Gary my email number  a few days ago  .No reply. .
I will tell him now of the SCR 522 that  had a 4 channel "push button" pre tuned  high frequency line of sight trans mission  .100 to 156 megacycles  ( Now we call it Megaherts). .I had nothing  to do with it what ever ..The (4 pre tuned crystal  channels) were selected by the pilot remotely fron his compartment only    Used for interplane and tower  which I never used…
As I mentioned to Gary  "If the lone Pilot  was able to get over  England  his radio problems  where not necessary, as he could land at any airport on an emergencey without a radio". .. In fact Mike as you well know many landed in open fields hopeing  not to crash.  If Gary is saying a lone pilot  was coming home all alone . We know that pilot had problems for sure.. Just landing a B-17 alone was a hit and miss situation. .Possibly was done a few times ..These stories can get complicated.,.hey?  
I'll contact Gary again . I found his number again. 

Earl



Earls reflections on the Tower at Thorpe Abbotts.

But we seem in the references to the B-17 as sentimental ,and not to blame for any misfortune we may have had ..  Therefore, the Tower is a memorable part of it all  and could in all respects be also in  that catragory…..I thik it a nostalgic memento of  the WW2. and we do not glorify any part of war ,but we do have associations of  men in volved well to recall,..and therefore,  The Tower has "seen" us all,, much the same as our planes did.    Now the B-17's  are all mostly gone ..The 100th Tower  is  here yet. 
The "Sally B"  creats quite a nostalgic impression in England to all who see her and understand ,. As do the remaining fighter planes  (P-51's as you well know.) .   .There is some fantasy involved in it all.. But history  is there ..for all to reflect upon.  This does include the Tower.


Subj: Re: (no subject)  
Date: 10/10/2004 8:06:15 AM Pacific Daylight Time 
From: Evbenham@cs.com 
To: MPFaley 
subject: jack swartout and van steenis 

Thanks Mike I will put your note in my files…I failed to thank Jack for his part that day  . However, yesterday I sent a  note of sympathy and thanks to mrs Swartout..I of course never knew Jack personally.. However,  anyone who aided  getting our plane back safely  is in our high regards,, 
Strangly  at the time we were not as appreciative..as  events came  and went by so rapidly.   Shown on page 133 of my book.. Just a brief hand shake with Van Steenis as we left him at a field I do not even recall the name. My one good recolection  is the fact I volunteered to be the radio man for his flight to his new assignmant  ..  Pushing sentimentality into the back ground of our mind was common at that time  I guess  Possibly today I may have shed a tear as Van departed. . .We all of Crew 13  thought the world of Van Steenis.    He was a great leader  for our crew…He often came into our barracks and  sat on our bunk  even though he was a Capt.
No miltary "fluff"  as many tried to assume.. We all were in the same boat regardless.  Always before a mission after we all had our plane positions  secured \  We all sat in the tent waiting for take off..We had lots of   light hearted  conversations .  Of which Van was a master..  I recall one special joke said by our bombardier , "Say fellows lets eat our Mars bar now we may crash on take off"  .. Strangly  that was a real comical joke  in that situation."..so ironic. I remember we all had a good laugh at the irony of that remark.  So what wouldn’t I give now to have a tape recordings of our conversations in that tent each time before take off.. Totally adult humor and  associations.
Later  the green flare and the taxie and the take off ./as depicted in my essay of the Tower….all business from then on. . .
Today as you may  ride in a jeep  from   Hard Stand site #29  down that remaining bit of that taxie strip,,as I did three years ago.. I could almost again hear the squealing  brakes as we, "Crew 13 "  jockied along towards take off point.    . Which  now is a plowed field. ..  
Well Mike ,  these "stories' can go on and on as you well know … They all are not ficticious as some people think. 

Regards  
Earl


5 DEC 2004…Nice cool English weather here in Phoenix today,..Reminds me of our landings in this type ..  60 year ago. Hey? ,we often had  rough weather to  take off and land  in.. Good excitement for young fellows .. I'd often get a weather report for the Pilot VanSteenis   "reporting  clear visibility  to land"  and often Van would reply to me "You know that is a damed lie" ha , We had a great crew and  fun to fly with   60 years ago today we flew to Bordeaux,  pathfinder..  Couldn’t drop bombes because of weather,  brought bombs back to base ,, a costly trip for no result.  We did get mission crefdit so that was 'A  Ok '  with us. 

Regards'
'Earl;  ..


December 21, 2004

n regard to the question  by (Michelle) Lemmons about a mission to Kiel in the message board ..my records show a PF Lead on Jan 4 1944..  We bombed from 29,000ft  which was the highest ever , and our ground speed was reported to be near 300 MPH.. Heavy flak that day. 
Maybe just as well to forget it    With PF lead who knows where the bombs fell  ;;,.All we all know is war is vicious…  No answers to the tragedies.involved. 
Now over and over again In  Iraq.    People never learn.. ,
 
I talked to Jan last evening she mentioned she was not attending PS. 
 
Earl Benham



Subj: Re: War Lover B17 over Bovingdon   
Date: 3/11/2005 5:24:47 AM Pacific Standard Time 
From: evbenham@qwest.net 
To: ronald.leigh1@ntlworld.com, mpfaley@aol.com, B17TwinFifties@aol.com, cohearent@linkline.com, daves44th@yahoo.com, jim_b17100@hotmail.com 
Sent from the Internet (Details) 
 
Ron;  I got the low flying B-17 photo…I think in my book (page 105) I mention  a similar incident,..;We were landing once  from a non combat flight, and Van  instead of landing opened the throttoles and flew low to chase a man on a bike off theb runway  ..i said  " Van we were low"  He laughed and said "No I had a foot yet to go before the props hit ground"     So going along "full speed' was exciting..  Can't do that today.  .Low buzz jobs were common  over the base then.   "theTower saw us that day".  
  These specalities are parts I'll always miss about  this type of flying we done obver there. ..  I miss that forsure..    Of course all I done was ride along..but it was fun anyway. Now you can't get that type of fun even by paying $$$$ for a rides inn 909 etc.
Ray inquired about Jack,  but I haven;'t heard any more … I assume Gwyn gets tired of people calling. So I haven’t done so.. I will soon though.
 
Have a good week end  

In a message dated 11/22/2006 2:18:37 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, earl@mcnabs.com writes:
 
 
This is to let you know that my father, Earl Benham, passed away Sunday afternoon. He had been in poor health for the past few months now is resting peacefully. He talked of you often and appreciated all you did for and with him. My mother and I would like to thank you for your friendship and for all of the enjoyment he had knowing you.
 
Correen McNab
Sunday Novemeber 20th, 2007 
Earl Benham

MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: DATE:  
AIRCRAFT: CAUSE:  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  

PHOTOS:

Wedding photo of Earl and Cora Benham, ROG on the Loren C. Van Steenis crew - August 27, 1944. 

A-2 Jacket of Earl Benham

Hard Luck, Jacket of Earl Benham, ROG on the Loren C. Van Steenis crew.

L-R Earl Benham, Edward Butchino, and Arch Holladay

 

SERVED IN:

Crew 1

ID: 316