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Roger D Thorngren

Military

Wartime Memories of Roger D Thorngren

2nd Lt Roger Thorngren was a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bombardier flying in the European Theater of Combat Operations. He was in the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, 13th Wing. He was assigned to the 334th Squadron based in Horham England near the larger town of Ipswitch.
Most of this information was recorded during phone conversations with Roger. As of Oct, 2016, Roger at age 93 is still active and driving his own car in Mt Morris, Il.
Roger flew 8 missions during the war… 5 bombing missions and 3 “Chow Hound Missions” dropping food to the starving people of Holland after the Germans flooded their farmland.
Roger began his military processing at Fort Grant, an old WWI Reception Center on the South side of Rockford, Illinois. Here he was inducted into the Army, received his uniform and given some preliminary military indoctrination.
He was then sent to Keesler Field, Mississippi for initial Primary Military Training. Roger said that was no fun. All he did was March and take military classes. From there, he was sent to Fayetteville, Arkansas to the University of Arkansas where he began Basic Aviation Cadet Training and given 10 hours of flight time in Piper Cub “Cadets”. This was all orientation flight time so he did not get to solo. During the months he spent here, his fiancé Carol Peugh – a grade school teacher in Illinois - visited him and they were married.
Dad met Ned Ware during this cadet training and they became best friends during aircrew training. Ned was from Northern California and though he never flew a combat mission, he eventually became a co-pilot on B-29 bombers. The war ended before he made it overseas. Further down the training pipeline while in Texas, Ned found out his wife had just given birth to a daughter. Ned couldn’t get off base and wanted to send her a telegram, so Dad sent it for him. Ned also had a son after the war, and he lives in Chicago. Ned visited Dad a few times in Mt Morris after the war, but he and his wife both died young from illness.
Roger was next sent to Loredo Army Air Base, Texas for Gunnery School. Here they were trained on everything from 20 gauge shotguns to 50 caliber machine guns. As part of the training, 4 cadets at a time were loaded into the back of a pick-up truck and took turns firing a shotgun at skeet birds as they drove. The skeet were fired from multiple stations in a field as the truck drove through their midst. With no warning, the skeet were fired from right or left or directly ahead at any time. The cadets were tasked with hitting the skeet from their moving pickup truck!
From Loredo, he was sent to Houston, Tx for the first part of his bombardier training. Here he learned morse code, and how to use a telegraph key. The cadets also learned water survival and ditching skills.
From Houston, Roger was sent to Midland, Texas where Officers were assigned to training as either Pilots, Bombardiers, or Navigators. Dad wanted to be a pilot but the Army had other plans and he was assigned to training as a Bombardier. He earned his wings while at Midland.
Nearing the end of the flight training program Roger was sent to Drew Field in Tampa, Florida. Here, he was assigned to his first crew for combat training. When the crew received combat orders to England, Roger was held back. All newly trained bombardiers were held back due to a change in bombing tactics.
Previously, every B-17 had its’ own bombardier. As a formation of bombers approached the target area, each bomber tried to bomb from the same spot in order to hit the target. This resulted in the entire formation trying to occupy the same spot in the sky at the same time. Needless to say, this was not practical or conducive to a long life.
The new tactic was to have a single bombardier in the lead aircraft drop on target with all the other bombers dropping when he did from their individual positions in formation. This tactic did not require as many bombardiers, so all the bombardiers in my Dad’s class were taken off their crews and held back to repeat the class, until being sent on to Europe with a new crew.
Roger received a letter from the pilot of the crew he originally trained with – Don Lathrope from West Virginia. He described how things were in England. Dad wrote him back from Florida and eventually, weeks later he received his own letter back stamped “Deceased”. Rogers’ entire first crew had been killed when their aircraft ran out of gas returning from their second combat mission.
Roger and his crew eventually completed training at Tampa, Florida and flew up the coast to Savannah, Georgia, then New Jersey and New York. While in Savannah they posed for a crew photo which Dad used to identify each crew member.

Pilot - Harold Simpson from Neodashay, Kansas.
Co-Pilot - Harloe Sheets from West Virginia.
Navigator - Robert Kinter from Homer City, Pennsylvania.
Bombardier - Roger Thorngren from Milledgeville, Illinois.
Engineer - Frank Santimuira from Brooklyn, New York.
Radio/Gunner - Joseph Anselmo from Jersey City, New Jersey.
Armorer/Waist Gunner - Ralph Meyers from Demotte, Indiana.
Lower Ball Gunner - Charles Riggs from Paduca, Kentucky.
Tail Gunner - Joe Puccio from Brooklyn, New York.

In February, Dad and his second crew were shipped off to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth, which at that time was the world’s largest ocean liner, used as a very fast troop carrier. The trip took 6 days at speeds approaching 40kts even on rough seas. Though hundreds of freighters and troop ships were sunk by the Germans during the war, the Queen Elizabeth was never hit during the war years because of its’ great speed.
Roger related that, for a young man from the Midwest, the size of the Queen Elizabeth was just over whelming . The ship had everything you would expect at a fine hotel. It was basically a fine hotel. Dad said the ship had a nice library, an exercise room and bar. You could also walk the deck but the weather was not good so he didn’t spend a great deal of time in the cold and wet outside. Most of the men got seasick the first few days, but Dad was lucky and experienced only some nausea.
While the enlisted ranks were normally quartered in the ship’s holds, the officers had rooms above. Roger said that he was assigned a room designed for 4 people which had 20 men sleeping in bunkbeds stacked 4 high. He had one of the lowest bunks and slept literally inches off the deck.
The food was excellent for both officers and enlisted men. While enlisted dining was pretty basic, Officers were served by stewards in white tuxedos. Dad said he felt very fortunate that while many people in wartime Europe were suffering from privation and lack of food, the soldiers aboard the Queen Elizabeth were well fed all the way to England.
The crew was assigned to the 334th Bomb Squadron of the 95th Bomb Group, based at Horam, England. Roger and his crew flew all their combat missions in one of two aircraft. One was an aircraft named “Bubbles”, and the other aircraft was “Evasive Action”. They flew 5 combat missions and 3 “Chow Hound” missions together.
Dad said they received only a few local training missions to orient the crew to their airfield and local landmarks before they were assigned their first combat mission. Green crews were often assigned to “milk runs” or easier targets in coastal France until they had some experience. This was not the case for Dads’ crew. Their first mission was to Germany.
Mission #1 was to Hanover, Germany. During this first mission, the plexi-glass nose directly in front of Roger was damaged by an aircraft just above his B-17. Just before entering enemy airspace, each bomber would test or “charge” their machine guns by firing a few rounds from each gun position. The spent shell casings were ejected into the airstream. Rogers’ aircraft flew right through a waterfall of 50 caliber shell casings, which damaged the aircraft’s plexiglass nose cone. He came back from the mission with fragments of broken plexiglass on his lap. He still has a broken piece of plexiglass from that mission.
Mission #2 was to Hamburg and was a bad mission with lots of flack.
Missions #3 & #4 were to the sub pens at Kiel.
Mission #5 was a very long 10 hour mission to Eger, Czechlaslovakia.
Missions #6, #7 and #8 were “Chow Hound” missions to drop food to the starving Dutch people.
Towards the end of the war, the Germans decided to punish the Dutch for collaborating with the allies, so they opened all the dikes and flooded the countryside – destroying all the crops. The English began a program to drop food to the starving people of Holland and the Americans followed suit. Dad could not remember the details, but a deal was struck with the Germans to allow the Allies to drop food to Dutch while the Germans would hold their fire.
Dad and his crew were on one of the very last missions of the war which was a “Chow Hound” mission. Additional military personnel were allowed to fly along and observe the food drops as they were not considered combat missions. A normal B-17 crew was 10 men but for these missions the plane could carry up to 20 men. The last bomber crew lost in the war was on this mission and Dad knew the crew. He had trained at the same time as them in Florida and shipped over on the Queen Elizabeth with them. Only the navigator and one gunner survived of the 20 men aboard.
Roger said that everyone suspected that the Germans had shot at them. The plane had 2 engines out. 1 engine caught fire and they could not get the fire out. The pilot was Lionel Scurman nicknamed “Spider” from New Jersey. The surviving navigator – Cook (nicknamed “Cookie”) told Dad that “Spider” did everything right. They followed all the emergency procedures and could not get the fire out, so they were forced to ditch. Unfortunately, the water was very rough that day and the waves were high. The ditching did not go well and only 2 men survived.
After that mission, Dad remembered a conversation he had had with “Spider” where Dad asked him if he knew of anyone from his home town that had been hurt in the war. Scurman had told him that he knew of several, and that his home town in New Jersey named a street after each fallen warrior. “Spider” laughingly added that he expected to have a street named after him! Lionel Scurman and his crew were buried in a military cemetery in England.
When the war ended, Dad’s crew flew home in their B-17. They left England by way of Scotland with 20 aircrew and maintenance men aboard. They stopped in Iceland, continued to New Hampshire and finished up in Boston. The men were sent home from Boston. Dad was sent to Fort Sheridan, just North of Chicago and then back through Fort Grant in Rockford to be mustered out of active duty.
Dad was able to use the GI Bill to complete his college degree and build a successful career in Journalism. Most of his post war years were spent in the village of Mt Morris, in Northwest Illinois as a newspaper editor and later as a presentation editor for Watt Publishing Company.
Roger still exchanges letters with Charlie Riggs the ball turret gunner. Charlie lives in Paducah, Kentucky. After the war, Charlie had a successful career as a heavy equipment operator and owned and flew his own airplane for a number of years. Charlie and Roger are all that is left of the original crew, and while both have challenges with their hearing, letters work just fine for them.
Medals Awarded
Air Medal
American Campaign Medal
European - African - Middle Eastern - Campaign Medal
Good Conduct Medal
World War II Victory Medal

See: https://www.CAFSOCAL.com or www.orgsites.com/ca/caf-socal
Roger has also been entered into the registry of the American Air Museum of Britain at:
www.AmericanAirMuseum.com

More information about the 95th Bomb Group with wartime pictures can be found at:
http://www.95thbg-horham.com/
http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/about/crew-photos/ crew photos
http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/about/airfield/ base airfield photos of Horam
http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/bw-shots-around-the-base/ (try the slide show)
http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/aircraft-nose-art/ aircraft nose art
http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/42-3037-b17-f/ aircraft photos
http://95thbg.org/j3migr/ 95th Bomb Group Memorial Foundation
http://www.8thafhs.org/bomber/95bg.htm 8th Air Force Historical Society
http://95thbg.org/j3migr/px/px-open-for-business Pins, Patches and Memorabilia for sale
More information about the 334th Squadron can be found at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/334th_Bombardment_Group

Service

Units served with

  • 95th Bomb Group

    95th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 95th Bomb Group was the only Eighth Air Force Group to be awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations. The first, shared by all four Bomb Wing Groups, was for the bombing of an aircraft factory under intense enemy fire at Regensburg on 17 August...

  • 334th Bomb Squadron

Events

Event Location Date
Born

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
16 September 2020 19:00:35 MThorngren Changes to media associations
Sources

photos taken by myself

Date Contributor Update
16 October 2016 20:24:48 MThorngren Changes to biography and events
Sources

Phone call with Roger Thorngren on 16 October, 2016 - Dad is having a good day with his hearing and was able to understand most of my questions.

Date Contributor Update
02 October 2016 19:59:53 MThorngren Changes to biography
Sources

Crew photo taken in Savannah, Georgia on the way to board the Queen Mary in New York City. Photo labeled with crewmembers names by Roger D Thorngren.

Date Contributor Update
01 October 2016 18:15:44 MThorngren Changes to biography
Sources

Phone call with Lt Kinters daughter 10/01/2016 updated Navigator information.

Date Contributor Update
10 January 2016 20:53:44 MThorngren Changes to biography
Sources

Contact Mark Thorngren (805) 443-3366

Date Contributor Update
10 January 2016 18:52:48 MThorngren Changes to service number
Sources

Contact Mark Thorngren - (805) 443-3366

Date Contributor Update
29 December 2015 21:42:02 MThorngren Changes to biography
Sources

contact Mark Thorngren at mark@markthorngren.com

Date Contributor Update
27 December 2015 23:15:27 MThorngren Changes to role
Sources

contact Mark@markthorngren.com

Date Contributor Update
27 December 2015 23:12:12 MThorngren Changes to awards
Sources

Not sure what this field is for. Contact Mark Thorngren at mark@markthorngren with any questions.

Date Contributor Update
27 December 2015 23:01:11 MThorngren Changes to biography
Sources

Roger D Thorngren shared these memories with his family and they are added here to inform those interested in war time accounts of his experiences.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:24:22 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / http://95thbg.org/95th_db_pages/left_formation_code/gethonoroll.php

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