Calamity Charlie

CALAMITY CHARLIE was one of the original 18th Recon Squadron Marauders that was piloted overseas by 1/Lt. (later Maj.) Ralph L. Michaelis during the initial deployment of the Group. After traversing the ferry route between Hawaii and Australia, it arrived at Brisbane on April 22, 1942, in company with three other aircraft from the Squadron. Immediately upon arrival in Australia, Michaelis continued on to Reid River, where the renamed 408th Squadron had set up camp. There the engineer, Sgt. Centabar, continued his stateside job of supervising maintenance on the plane, assisted by Sgt. Jack S. Hirschbein. Centabar flew only a mission or two before all crew chiefs were grounded from combat flying.

The nickname was chosen during the fall of 1941, after the aircraft was assigned to the Michaelis crew while they were stationed at Langley Field, Virginia. Charlie was the nickname of Michaelis’ wife, and Calamity was a take off on “Calamity Jane,” a famous female muleskinner and personality from the American old west. Initially, only the name was stenciled on the nose of the Marauder, but after consultation with the crew, the design for the artwork, a modification of a Walt Disney cartoon bee, was chosen. This was painted on both sides of the nose before the plane left for California on the first leg of its deployment to the Pacific.

Michaelis and his crew flew their first mission on April 30th, in the Squadron Commander’s aircraft, but thereafter flew many of their missions in CALAMITY CHARLIE. The members of the crew during this period were 2/Lt. (later Capt.) Wade H. Robert, Jr., co-pilot; 1/Lt. Edwin R. Fogarty, navigator; 2/Lt. Arthur C. King, bombardier; Cpl. (later Sgt.) Stanley A. Wolenski, engineer; PFC. Havis J. Barnes, radio operator; Pvt. Daniel C. Perugini, gunner; and S/Sgt. Jack B. Swan, photographer. The plane was also flown by several other Squadron pilots during its career with the 408th.

This Marauder was scheduled to fly its first mission on May 16th, but this was scrubbed due to poor weather conditions. Its combat debut was made over Rabaul on May 24th with Michaelis at the controls although he was leading a different crew on the mission. Over Vunakanau Airdrome it sustained AA damage to the right wing and hydraulic system, but it eventually landed safely at Port Moresby on one engine. On this mission, three members of Michaelis’ original crew, King, Wolenski and Swan, went down while flying with another crew. Wolenski apparently died in the crash; King was captured and apparently died in Japanese hands, while Swan died of his injuries after an extended period on the run from Japanese forces on New Britain.

Calamity Charlie

The artwork on CALAMITY CHARLIE, a 408th Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group B-26 Marauder, was painted on both sides of the nose. This aircraft transferred to the 19th Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group during the spring of 1943, and continued its career with the Silver Fleet until the beginning of 1944. During that period it displayed an unusual tally system on its mission scoreboard, which can be seen in a photo appearing in Appendix IV of Revenge of the Red Raiders. (Laverne L. Limpach Collection)

 

After repairs, CALAMITY CHARLIE was back in action by mid-June and thereafter flew regularly until its last combat mission with the 408th, which took place on November 27th. It played no role in the last six weeks of B-26 operations by the Group, probably because of the need for a major overhaul. On November 2, 1942 Michaelis was transferred to Port Moresby to become an Operations Officer in V Bomber Command. At the same time several Squadron officers transferred out to staff the recently arrived 38th BG.

The profile illustrates this aircraft as it appeared during September 1942, with ten mission markers on its scoreboard. When it completed its tour with the 408th, this was updated to reflect a total of 27 flown, including ones aborted for weather or mechanical reasons. By the time of its last missions with the 408th, the top of the vertical stabilizer had been tipped in the Squadron color, Kelly Green.

As with other 22nd BG planes, CALAMITY CHARLIE was overhauled during the spring of 1943, and the camouflage paint was removed. It was one of only two B-26s still assigned to the 408th at the beginning of June, 1943. The nickname and artwork were repainted on both sides of the nose in a revised format. The plane was transferred to the 19th Bomb Squadron’s “B” Flight by July, 1943, where it started the second phase of its combat career with the Silver Fleet.

Its first mission with the unit was flown on August 13, 1943. During its service with the 19th, CALAMITY CHARLIE did not have a regular pilot although 1/Lt. Jesse G. Homen flew it on ten missions during its last three months with the Squadron. Mission reports indicate that ten different crews flew the plane at least 24 times before it ended its combat flying on January 4, 1944. The members of the ground crew assigned to CALAM1TY CHARLIE during this period included T/Sgt. Frank L. Cain, crew chief; S/Sgt David M. Crawford, his assistant; and mechanic Sgt. Ed Schwietzer.

A unique aspect of the plane’s markings while with the Silver Fleet included a mission scoreboard done in a system of tally marks, which were recorded in groups of five on both sides of the fuselage. Photos taken at the time it was retired from service show the aircraft with 75 tally marks, which far exceeds the 45 combat missions known to have been flown by the aircraft. It is these markings that are depicted in the insert profile. As with the other Marauders remaining in service in the theater, CALAMITY CHARLIE was declared “War Weary” in January, 1944, and flown to Brisbane where it was scrapped during the spring.

Among the missions flown during 1942 were: Rabaul, 5/24 (Michaelis); Kila Point, 6/16 (Ellis); Buna, 7/22 (Augustine); Lae, 8/6, 9/13, 9/19 (Michaelis); Buna, 11/24, 11/27 (O’Donnell); and 11/27 (Ellis). During its service with the 19th Squadron in 1943, missions flown included: Lae, 8/13 (Hathaway), Lokanu Ridge, 8/25 (Burnside); Bogadjim, 8/27 (Rugroden); Cape Gloucester, 9/2 (Higgins); Cape Gloucester, 9/3 (Burnside); Lae (abort), 9/8 (Steddom); Lae, 9/9 (Steddom); Finschafen, 9/18 (Hathaway); Wonan Island, 9/21 (Burnside); Cape Hoskins, 10/2 (Homen); Alexishafen, 10/14 (Homen); Faria Valley, 11/5 (Homen); Satelberg, 11/19 (Irwin); Satelberg, 11/24 (Forrester); Kamlagidu Point, 12/2 Burcky); Cape Gloucester 12/3 (Flanagan); Wandokai, 12/8 (Irwin); Kelanea Harbor, 12/16 (Homen); Sag Sag, 12/24 (Homen); Madang, 12/26 (Homen); Cape Gloucester, 12/29 (Homen); Bogadjim,1/31 (Homen); and in 1944: Erima Point, 1/2 (Homen); and Nambaaron River, 1/4 (Homen).

Read more about CALAMITY CHARLIE and the rest of the 22nd Bomb Group in our book Revenge of the Red Raiders.

Advertisements

Mickey

Delivered to the AAF on July 8, 1944, this “H” model went into service with the 389th Squadron in March 1945. The pilot was Maj. James M. Wylie, the 389th Squadron C.O., and he named the aircraft MICKEY, after his wife’s nickname. When S/Sgt. Orian E. Hackler, the crew chief, asked about a tail identifier, Wylie replied that it would be nice to have “X,” for “X marks the spot.”

Wylie claimed this aircraft was a “pilot’s dream,”, and he flew most of his missions in it. On one, he almost lost control of it over Nichols Field on February 6, 1945. An unexploded 20mm shell tore through one wing and the plane swooped towards the ground before Wylie regained control and returned his damaged mount to Mangaldan. Afterwards, the aircraft received only occasional small arms hits. The profile painting shows MICKEY at Mangaldan during April 1945, with 67 missions arranged around the large spade scoreboard. This aircraft carried a skull and crossbones on the nose, and the crew ID panel, done as a scroll, stated: PILOT ~ MAJ. J.M.WYLIE; on a second line: c.c. T/SGT HACKLER.

In June 1945, Wylie transferred to Headquarters, Far East Air Forces. Seventy-five of his 77 combat missions were flown in MICKEY. The aircraft was assigned next to 1/Lt. Lloyd A. Wilson, but details are lacking. Yet a third pilot also flew the plane before the war ended, and it is his name, “PILOT ~ CAPT. BEARDSLEE” that now appeared on the ID panel, reversed to white lettering on a black background that was on the plane when it was used as a backdrop for Squadron photos taken in late July 1945. By this time, the scoreboard from Maj. Wylie’s service had been removed from inside the spade design, and the name MICKEY had been replaced by LITA~BONITA. The port machine gun also was enhanced with a black background, with the forward half of the area decorated in white. It is this version that is shown on the port insert profile. Probably at this time, but perhaps earlier, a large spade was painted in a similar position on the other side of the plane, incorporating a pin-up girl from a Gil Elvgren work entitled “Fun House.” This is the image on the second profile insert. After the war ended, LITA~BONITA was flown with the rest of the Squadron’s aircraft to Biak, where it was scrapped several years later.

Some of Wiley’s significant missions in MICKEY, all in 1945, were: Tuguegarao, 2/14; Corregidor, 2/16; San Fernando, 3/11; Eiko, 3/29; Saiatau, 3/31; Ipo Dam, 4/25; Mt. Ayaas, 5/13; and Tuguegarao, 6/13.

View the color profile on page 208 of our book Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.

389th Squadron officers

Officers of the 389th Squadron assembled for this photograph at Floridablanca in late July 1945. The 389th gained A-20 pilots from the 387th Squadron when that unit prepared for the projected B-32 conversion. However, that conversion had not been completed before the war ended. From left to right, the men are: (back row) 1/Lt. Charles L. Reynolds, 1/Lt. Everard Holske, 2/Lt. Leonard Eisen, 2/Lt. Dwight L. Gnepper, 1/Lt. Kenneth L. Brown, 2/Lt. Walbert C. Brooks, 2/Lt. Joseph C. Wallman, 2/Lt. John K. Schreiber, Capt. William T. Walsh, 2/Lt. Clough H. Blake, Jr., 2/Lt. John B. Price, 1/Lt. EinoA. Salo, 2/Lt. Howard S. Britton, 2/Lt. Elmer O. Jones and 1/Lt. Henry G. Dacey; (middle row) Capt. Chester H. Hummell, 2/Lt. Thomas P. Mulrooney, Capt. Raymond W. Beardslee, W/O Charles W. Stricker, 2/Lt. George F. Howatt, 2/Lt. Frances P. Delaney, 1/Lt. Frank M. Martin, Capt. Cecil W. Shelton, 1/Lt. Lawrence O. Feldkamp, Capt. Lloyd A. Wilson, 2/Lt. Hugh T. Mulhern, 1/Lt. Joseph C. Benet, Jr., 2/Lt. Elliot W. Wooldridge, F/O William A. Bartles, III and Capt. Leonard G. Dulac; (front row) 1/Lt. Donald K. Longer, Capt. Philip H. Schaaf, F/O Jack R. England, 2/Lt. Martin E. Heck, F/O Glenn V. Walters, 1/Lt. Martin Sobel, 2/Lt. Lawrence R. Poythress, 1/Lt. Harry T. Sharkey, 1/Lt. John G. Moore, Capt. Frederick H. Wood and F/O Guy P. Clark, Jr. LITA BONITA, formerly MICKEY, is the subject of Profile #28 in Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s. Capt. Lloyd A. Wilson renamed the aircraft, which Capt. Raymond W. Beardslee also flew. (Eino A. Salo Collection)

 

Tin Liz

TIN LIZ was another of the unit’s medium bombers which had been converted to a strafer. Its original crew was F/O (later Capt.) Sylvester K. Vogt, pilot; 2/Lt. John R. Tunze, co-pilot; 1/Lt. Donald W. Ryan, navigator; T/Sgt. Robert E. Casty, radio-gunner; and S/Sgt. Joseph Forman, turret gunner. Casty remained with the 501st until early 1945, completing 104 combat missions, more than any other man in the Squadron. T/Sgt. Gerald E. Sims, the crew chief, was responsible for maintenance on the aircraft.

The profile illustrates TIN LIZ as it appeared in late September 1943, after fifteen missions. The original white nose I.D. band and an insignia depicting a grasshopper driving a falling bomb were partially obscured by the new blast panel, which was painted black on many 501st Squadron aircraft. The grasshopper was driving a bomb which had a red lightening bolt zig-zagging down it. The vertical white tail stripe dates from just after the strafer modification and was carried by all Squadron aircraft. Dead-eye Sy appeared just below the pilot’s window. The dark green patches on the vertical stabilizer and wings (not shown) were field applied to many 345th aircraft about the time of the strafer modification.

B-25 TIN LIZ and crew

TIN LIZ was photographed at Port Moresby in early August 1943. The crew was from left: F/O Sylvester K. Vogt, 2/Lt. John R. Tunze, 1/Lt. Donald W. Ryan, T/Sgt. Robert C. Casty, and S/Sgt. Joseph Forman. (Maurice J. Eppstein Collection)

The insert profile shows this same aircraft as it appeared about May 1944. An entirely new version of the grasshopper insignia has been applied as well as bomb stencils indicating that 85 missions had been completed. The three Japanese fighter silhouettes refer to confirmed kills by turret gunners in 1943. These were a “Zeke” on 10/18 (Flynn), another on 11/15 (Forman), and a third on 12/22 (Forman). Beneath the top turret are displayed two Japanese rising sun flags referring to Forman’s two kills. The sinking ship silhouette in white was for a Japanese ship destroyed by the crew.

Another interesting note was the V -shaped area of darker camouflage paint just below the top turret. This was caused by a protective tarp which was secured over the turret dome when the plane was on the ground. The camouflage paint gradually faded from the sun, but the area under the tarp faded much less, creating the effect shown.

TIN LIZ met its end on May 21, 1944, when it was shot down by AA near Dagua Airstrip, New Guinea, killing the entire crew. Details can be found in Appendix I.

Important missions flown in 1943 included: Wewak, 9/27 (Vogt); Rabaul, 10/12 (Vogt); Rabaul, 10/18 (Marston); Rabaul, 10/24 (Geer-5ooth Sq.); Wewak, 12/22 (Vogt); and in 1944: Admiralties, 1/25 (Vogt); Kavieng, 2/15 (Tunze); and Hollandia, 4/3 (Neuenschwander).

View the color profile on page 214 of our book Warpath Across the Pacific.

Big Nimbo

We are highlighting one of the 22nd Bomb Group’s B-24s this week. Its profile history, as well as those of 47 other aircraft from the unit, can be found in Appendix V of Revenge of the Red Raiders.

BIG NIMBO, named after a character from the Lil’ Abner comic strip, was flown to the Southwest Pacific out of Hamilton Field, California on orders dated January 12, 1944, with a destination of the Fifth Air Force Replacement Center at Amberley Field. It was part of a batch of 14 Liberators that had been assigned to newly trained crews at Herington and Topeka, Kansas during December 1943. BIG NIMBO’s ferry crew, led by 2/Lt. George H. Bailey, is believed to have named the aircraft and had the nose art applied before it left the States. While several of the ferry crews were forwarded to other units as replacements, all 14 of the planes in this detachment ended up forming part of the initial complement of B-24s that equipped the 22nd Bomb Group. Seven went to the 33rd, four to the 19th, two to the 2nd and one to the 408th.

The bomber initially went through theater modification before being assigned during February to the 19th Squadron at Charters Towers, Queensland, where it was undergoing transition training. It thus became one of the 13 Liberators assigned to the unit during January and February 1944,with whom it returned to combat operations out of Nadzab in March. The new B-24 was assigned to a ground maintenance crew led by T/Sgt. Jesse G. Smith, a veteran crew chief who had served with the unit from its inception.

Sometime just before the plane was flown to Nadzab, it received its new aircraft designator, a large black “P” that was AV-37 centered on the white patch on the outboard side of both vertical stabilizers. The prominent nickname and nose art appeared only on the right side of the nose. No scoreboard or mission symbols were ever applied. As was typical at the time, the prop hubs were painted in white, the Squadron color. Our profile painting represents the aircraft in these markings as it would have appeared at Nadzab about July 1944.

22BG B-24 Big Nimbo nose art

The artwork for BIG NIMBO was almost certainly put on the aircraft back in the States by the crew that ferried it overseas. The cartoon character was from the Lil’ Abner comic series in the newspapers of the time. This plane was one of the original B-24Js assigned to the 19th Squadron at Charters Towers, Queensland, during February, 1944, and was one of the few in that unit to carry nose art. It was written off in a landing accident at Owi Island on July 25, 1944, with 2/Lt. James H. Shipler at the controls. (Claude V. Burnett Collection)

The 19th Squadron’s Air Echelon, including BIG NIMBO, moved from Charters Towers to the new Squadron base at Nadzab, New Guinea, on February 28th, and within a few days was ready to get back into action. Captain George I. Moleski piloted the Liberator on the Group’s first B-24 combat mission on March 10th, a strike against Lugos Plantation on Manus Island. A few days later on March 16th, Capt. Jesse G. Homan was at the controls over Wewak when a burst of flak exploded between the number one and two engines. One of the shrapnel fragments penetrated the fuselage and damaged the hydraulic system, which began leaking badly. After using all the spare hydraulic fluid aboard, the engineer collected urine from the crewmembers and added it to the fluid reservoir. This kept the hydraulic system working until Homan could bring it down to an emergency landing at the forward fighter base at Gusap. During the next three weeks a maintenance crew repaired the plane and the B-24 was flown back to Nadzab, where it returned to combat on April 8th. The crew never mentioned having added urine to the reservoir.

The plane served with the Squadron throughout the Nadzab era, but as was the general practice at the time, it had no specific crew assigned. During the 23 combat missions completed and two more from which it aborted, this B-24 it was piloted by crews led by 16 different pilots; only one flew it more than twice. That crew, led by Capt. Ferdinand R. Schmidt, put six of the last 14 missions on the bomber.

BIG NIMBO’s last combat mission was on July 1, 1944, when Capt. Schmidt flew the plane on a strike against personnel and supply dumps at Kamiri Village on Noemfoor Island. Because of the lack of suitable targets within range, and preparations for a move to Owi Island, the unit flew few missions during the month of July. During this time the B-24s were heavily committed to shuttling equipment and supplies to the new base. The 19th’s Air Echelon moved to Owi on July 24th, but BIG NIMBO, carrying a large amount of equipment and a full load of frag bombs, experienced a partial brake failure while taxiing for departure. The pilot, 2/Lt. James H. Shipler, brought the plane back to its hardstand and a corroded valve in the hydraulic system was replaced. The next day, Shipler took off and had an uneventful flight to Owi. However, when the plane touched down, he had trouble with the left brake. The pilot immediately applied full throttle to the number four engine to compensate, but the right wing of the Liberator hit and badly damaged the nose and cockpit of a B-25 parked along the runway, tearing away several feet of its own wing in the process. Upon inspection it was found that the entire hydraulic system on BIG NIMBO had been badly corroded, undoubtedly as a result of the acidic urine put in it back on March 16th. The aircraft was deemed unfit for repair, and both it and the B-25 were subsequently salvaged for parts. Four months later the Liberator was officially removed from the Government’s inventory on December 8th.

BIG NIMBO flew the following combat missions, all from Nadzab: Lugos Plantation, 3/10 (Moleski); Boram Airdrome, 3/12 (Dorfler) and 3/13 (Parker); Hansa Bay, 3/14 (Clarey); Wewak, 3/15 (Moleski) and 3/16 (Homen); Hollandia and Marienburg, 4/8 (Nicholson); Dagua, 4/9 (Paffenroth); Hansa Bay, 4/10 and 4/11 (Smith); Boram Airdrome (abort), 4/23 (Thunander); Sarmi, 5/7 (Schmidt); Wadke, 5/11 (Harvey); Sawar, 5/13 (Schmidt); Wakde, 5/16 (Schmidt); Biak, 5/22 (Schmidt); Hansa Bay, 5/23 (Clarey); Biak (weather abort), 5/27 (Homen); Kamiri Airdrome, 5/28 (Finley); Biak, 5/29 (Almon); Peleliu Airdrome (takeoff abort), 6/13 (Shipler); Kamiri Airdrome, 6/20 (Haines) and 6/25 (Schmidt); Cape Kornasoren, 6/26 (Markey); and Kamiri, 7/1 (Schmidt).

Five Minutes to Midnight

One of the B-25D medium bombers assigned to the 22nd Bomb Group in the summer of 1943, this aircraft joined the 408th Squadron in August 1943. It is believed to have been flown overseas by a crew led by 2/Lt. (later Capt.) Harry J. Copsey, a cowboy from Broken Bow, Nebraska, who was one of 15 crews who trained with their aircraft at Savannah, Georgia, and began their trip overseas in July 1943. The other members of Copsey’s crew on the initial combat missions were 2/Lt. (later 1/Lt.) Otto W. Leib, co-pilot; 2/Lt. Joseph F. Kent, Jr., navigator; 2/Lt. Leonard Teitelbaum, bombardier; S/Sgt. Frederick E. Pelegrin, engineer and turret gunner; S/Sgt. Warren J. Carstens, radio operator and waist gunner; and S/Sgt. Russell W. Lowery, armorer-gunner. Leib, who soon became a first pilot, got his own crew and was replaced by 2/Lt. Jack E. Simonini. Other crew replacements during the plane’s combat tour included 2/Lt. Kenneth W. Gores at Teitelbaum’s position and S/Sgt. James M. Teague for Lowery. The name of the crew chief for the aircraft is not known.

The nickname FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT and its accompanying artwork were painted on the aircraft by 2/Lt. Steve N. Karall, the co-pilot on 2/Lt. (later Capt.) Vernon L. Ruther’s crew, and also the artist for his own plane, SHOT LOAD. Ruther had been the original co-pilot on Copsey’s crew back in the States, but had his own plane and crew by the time combat operations began. The artwork on Copsey’s Mitchell depicted a black bronco being ridden by a cowboy superimposed on a white disc. See the color section for a crew patch done by Lt. Karall that also carried this design. FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT was the name of a famous horse on the rodeo circuit back in the States.

Five Minutes to Midnight

1/Lt Harry J. Copsey, a Nebraska cowboy, is seen in the cockpit of his FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, named after a famous horse on the American rodeo circuit. The red-lettered nickname with white shadowing was in a style found on most 408th Squadron B-25s. The plane is shown with 21 missions on its scoreboard, which dates the photo to early December 1943. (Charles B. Ullmann Collection)

This artwork was probably put on the aircraft before it entered combat, although the earliest photo available depicts it on the Mitchell in mid-November 1943, displaying 12 mission markers in yellow below the cockpit window. On the pilot’s window ledge the name “Copsey” was written in yellow script, while what appears to be the name Arthur was written below the bombardier’s greenhouse nose panel on the left side. Other markings which were probably done by the squadron painter, S/Sgt. Chester J. McNavage, included a thin yellow vertical band around the radio compass housing, Kelly Green prop hubs and patches on both sides of the horizontal stabilizers, and a nose wheel cover that carried what appeared to be a cattle brand design, probably from Copsey’s cowboy days. By the end of its tour, the name MOAN had been painted on the outboard side of the left cowling ring and presumably the right ring was similarly painted with the word GROAN. This was probably done by the ground crew and appears in a photo illustrating the text for January 30, 1944. Our profile shows the aircraft as it appeared in early December 1943, with 21 mission markers on the scoreboard, of a total of at least 43 which were eventually carried in double rows with 25 on the top row.

Of the 44 known mission flown by this aircraft between October 14, 1943, and January 30, 1944, twenty were flown by the Copsey crew, including both the first and the last. Eight other pilots were at the controls for the other missions. During its B-25 era, the 408th Squadron seldom encountered heavy opposition; no member of the crew is known to have been injured. Nor was any significant damage inflicted on the aircraft by enemy fire. On June 9, 1944, Carstens, Lowery and Pelegrin were crewmen aboard a B-24 that was damaged during a mission to Peleliu, and subsequently ditched off the northern coast of New Guinea with fatal results for Carstens and serious injuries to Lowery. For details, see Appendix II for that date. FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT was transferred to the V Bomber Command Replacement Pool at the beginning of February 1944, when the Squadron began conversion training for the B-24.

 


 

This week, we thought we’d try something really different: a profile history from one of our books. In this case, we chose Profile #20 from Revenge of the Red Raiders. Do you want to see more of these from time to time? Let us know in the comments.