A Long and Memorable Circuitous Route
A short story by John Wranesh

This is a story dating back to the wartime 40's. Following aerial gunnery
school in Harlingen, Texas, I was assigned to the 2nd Air Force Training
Command, Lincoln Army Air force Base (at that time the Air Force was a part
of the Army). The insignia had a bird on it and we referred to it as a
"chicken s---" outfit. At this time, I was assigned to an air crew to train
at Sioux City Army Air Force Base on B-17 Bombers.

There was day and nighttime training conducted by seasoned veterans who had
already been in overseas combat. The crew had an excellent opportunity to
know each other and develop the team concept, and there was always
interaction among the various crews in training.

Following our training we were assigned to Herington, Kansas, which was a
staging area for overseas assignment. From there it was a train ride to Camp
Kilmer, New Jersey and a boat ride (in a convoy which took two weeks) to
England. Upon arrival in England there was additional training at Stone and
The Wash and ultimate assignment to the 457th Bomb Group, Station 130,
Glatton, (near Peterborough) England. Many of the crews who had trained
together in Sioux City were still together in the 457th.
 

On the mission to bomb Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944, the
formation was attacked by German fighter planes about five minutes to the IP
(initial point where the bombers were in preparation for the bomb run). Our
aircraft #43-37834 was hit by 20MM gunfire, was on fire, lost two engines and
dropped from the formation. Two crewmen, Harry I. Jacobson, the radio
operator, and Joseph Jirik, co-pilot, lost their lives. The remaining 7
crewmen became prisoners of the Nazi government.

Following return of the remaining bombers to the base in England, Louis
Reinhart, a neighboring crewman, retrieved some of the personal effects of
Harry (Jake) Jacobson with the intention of sending them back to the family,
but he had no address, so he held onto them for 57 years!

Jake was the only married crewman with a child, Dee Dee, who was two years
old at the time. Doris, Jake's wife had corresponded with various families
of crewmen trying to determine what had happened to Jake. The last two
addresses of letters Doris had written to my parents in 1945 were Huntington,
West Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky, respectively. The last
correspondence was in July 1945 and she, Doris, had received final word from
the army as to what had happened to Jake. I had not reached home yet
following my liberation from the German Prison Camp. I did not follow up on
any correspondence following my release and pursued a rather loose life-style
for a time, but Jake and Joe (the co-pilot) have been and will forever remain
in my memory system.

In December of the year 2000, I received the quarterly bulletin from the
457th Bomb Group Association of which I am a life member and noticed the name
Louis Reinhart, Enid, Oklahoma. I called him that evening and during the
course of conversation he mentioned that he had some personal effects that
belonged to Jake and he had kept them all these years not knowing what to do
with them. I said, "We will have to try to find an address, but it won't be
easy." Working through the internet, trying to find various Jacobson
addresses, I noticed there was a possibility in Louisville, Kentucky, the
last known address for Doris. In contacting Harry E. Jacobson, I discovered
"THE NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK!"

Harry was a cousin of Dee Dee's. He supplied information as to what had
transpired over the years. Doris had remarried and spent much of her life
in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dee Dee had been adopted by her "new" dad (the
adoption papers were signed by former President Gerald Ford who was an
attorney at the time). She had gone on to school and recently retired after
teaching at Eastern Michigan University for 29 years! A gramma, she
currently lives in Plymouth, Michigan.

There was an immediate interest on the part of the cousins, Dee Dee and
Harry. Louis was contacted by Dee Dee and arranged for the return of Jake's
personal effects. Later, Dee Dee phoned me and set up a dinner date in Ann
Arbor where I gave her additional items of interest such as the letters her
Mom had written to my parents about Jake; a crew picture; a history of the
457th Bomb Group; a layout of the airfield (Glatton); and a marked up B-17
aircraft drawing with crew positions. I tried to answer the many questions
as to what her Dad was like, what did he do, did he have fun...She is a most
grateful person.

It is indeed a small world when Dee Dee and I have unknowingly lived within
20 miles of each other for many years and to be drawn together by a gentleman
in Oklahoma, by a chance listing in a bulletin. Louis had just joined the
457th Bomb Group Association at this late point in time and was listed under
the heading €śNew Members, New Found 457th Buddies, Relatives and Interested
Persons. " We were, indeed, newly found old buddies."

Louis and I plan to meet at the 457th Bomb Group Association Reunion in
Colorado Springs, September 2001, and we're both looking forward to our
reunion.
P.S. Louis was unable to attend the reunion as a result of the September
11th disaster; his son, a doctor and member of FEMA, was called to New York
City and Louis had to tend to family obligations and provide support.
ON THE FOLLOWING PAGE IS A PICTURE OF JOHN'S CREW:

This picture was taken on or about 7-1-44. The crew members are as follows:

Back Row Left to Right:
Fred Lockwald, pilot
Joseph Jirik, co-pilot
James Rawls, navigator
Seymour Salganick, bombardier
Carlton Killgo, engineer, top turret

Front Row Left to Right:
Phil Williams, tail gunner (he had an
ear problem and was replaced by E. Alan Mahannah)
Karl Lambertson, ball turret gunner
Drew Sheffield, engineer, gunner
John Wranesh, armorer gunner, waist and ball turret gunner
Harry Jacobson, radio operator, waist gunner

As shown in the picture, the crew consisted of ten crewmen. At the time the
crew became operational with the 457th Bomb Group, it was common to fly nine
crewmen, the radio operator manned the right waist gun.

The picture was taken at Herrington, Kansas as the crew was being outfitted
with overseas gear and just prior to the train ride to Fort Dix, New Jersey
and the overseas convoy which took two weeks on the water to Southampton,
England.

Each squadron had responsibility for maintaining readiness of twelve B-17
bomber aircraft. The policy was to fly 36 aircraft on a mission, thus
leaving one squadron "a day off". However, when a mission called for
"maximum effort" then all squadrons flew for a total of 48 aircraft.