Thursday, November 8, 2012

Change of scene? Lets go flying!

In honor of Veterans Day, Monday Nov. 11, I'm going to switch from my father's side of the family and head toward my mother's side.  I'm coming forward in time also to WWII and the battles of the B17's stationed in Great Brittan.

Since January 2012, I've been working on a document called "Willard O. Simpson and the 41-24515".  I'll give a mostly brief outline of Great Uncle Willard and The Jersey Bounce/Marie Jane

Willard O. Simpson was born 3 June, 1918, in Des Moines, Polk Co. Iowa to Ole C. and Carrie M. Simpson. He would have been 25 years of age in less than a month, when his plane went down over the Black Sea. He was a Staff Sergeant serving with the 91st Bomb Group Heavy, 324th Bomb Squadron served in the Army Air Force on the B17F Flying Fortress.

From the research I have been able to do, Willard spent his much of his service time with the 91st Bomb Group Heavy, 324th Bomb Squadron. He was assigned to 41-24515 prior to its arrival in England in September 1942.

Figure 1 "Me" & my Radio, Easter Sunday April 5, 1942 Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
Willard was a careful man.  He told his mother that he was training to be a clerk, and sent the above picture from his basic training.

In reality, he was training as a waist gunner on a B17. The crew he was assigned with, met the plane, pilot, co-pilot and navigator when they were sent to train in the Walla Walla Washington area after they came out of basic.I found the following on Wikipedia about his bomb squadron:

91st Bomb Group Heavy, 324th Bomb Squadron

Taken from

“Training history and movement overseas

Established 28 January 1942, and activated on 14 April 1942 at Harding A.A.B., Louisiana, the 91st Bomb Group consisted of a small administrative cadre without subordinate units until 13 May 1942, when it was moved to MacDill A.A.B., Florida. There Lt. Col. Stanley T. Wray took command of the group, and the four flying squadrons assigned to the group were activated. The 91st received air crews and began phase one training with just three B-17's available. On 26 June 1942, the group (now consisting of 83 officers and 78 enlisted men) was transferred to the Second Air Force and moved to Walla Walla A.A.B., Washington to complete phase two training, with two squadrons operating from satellite fields at Pendleton and Baker Army Air Bases, Oregon.

The 91st received orders to deploy overseas and on 24 August 1942, the ground echelon entrained for Fort Dix, New Jersey, where it remained until 5 September, embarking on the RMS Queen Mary. Arriving at Greenock, Scotland, on 11, September, the ground echelon moved by train to Kimbolton, a war expansion airfield in the English Midlands.

Part of the air echelon moved on 24 August 1942, to Gowan A.A.B., Idaho, where it received six new B-17F aircraft. From there it flew by pairs, making frequent stops, to Dow A.A.B., Maine. The remainder of the air crews relocated to Dow by train, arriving 1 September. Between 4 and 24 September the group flew training missions while it received 29 additional B-17's from air depots in Middletown, Pennsylvania; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado, and conducted phase three training.

The 91st Bomb Group moved by squadrons to the United Kingdom, beginning with the 324th Bomb Squadron on 25 September, flying to Gander, Newfoundland. The 324th made a non-stop flight along the North Ferry Route on 30 September, landing at Prestwick, Scotland. The 322d Bomb Squadron moved to Gander on 30, September, and Prestwick on 1 October, followed by one day by the 401st Bomb Squadron. The group lost one of its 35 bombers during transit when a 401st B-17 crashed in fog into a hillside near Cushendall, Northern Ireland, killing 8 of the crew and a flight surgeon. The 324th Bomb Squadron flew as a unit from Prestwick to Kimbolton on 1 October, followed by the 322nd on 2 October and the 401st on 6 October. On 10 October, the remaining squadron, the 323rd, flew to Gander from Dow. It did not reach Prestwick until 14 October, by which time the 91st had changed bases.”

Introduction to B17 F DF-H - 41-24515

B17 DF-H 41-24515 was the designated number for the plane that Willard was in when it went down. It has an interesting history. The nicknames it went under are Jersey Bounce, and Marie Jane. Now and then, the name Mary Jane crops up but it seems to be only in documentation that comes out of the Netherlands. I believe it is just a language difference in recording data, and people who copy that information. No official link through AAF documents show Mary Jane as a nickname.

The first reference to the names I found was from “Master Edit Copy” B-17 FORTRESS MASTER LOG, B-17 Log 1935-1945. As far as I can tell, this log chronicles all the B17’s and what happened to them. It lists the following for 41-24515:

41-24515 Ass 324BS/91BG [DF-H] Bangor 2/9/42; Bassingbourn 26/9/42; MIA {24+m} Wilhelmshafen 21/5/43 w/Phillip Fischer, cp-Chas Freschauf, n-Rollin Ball, b-John Joslin, ettg-Herb Harvey, ro-Mark Margason, btg-Bob Cole, wg-Willard Simpson, wg-Sid Kohn, tg-Jerry Jones (10KIA); flak & e/a, cr North Sea, MACR 3458. (Actually completed 25 missions two weeks before Memphis Belle but Hollywood overuled this ship!) MARIE JANE aka JERSEY BOUNCE. 

Most of the information I have gained through my research, link the Jersey Bounce (24515) with the famous “Memphis Belle”.

Tomorrow's post:  Memphis Belle, Jersey Bounce and a missing in action form.

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