Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson receives the Distinguished Flying Cross
presented to him by Colonel Karl Truesdell Jr. at Horham Airfield June 1944
Article printed in the Bismarck Tribune October 5, 1944 on Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson (pilot) 95th BG - 334th Squandron (44-6085) "Lili of the Lamplight.".
c/o Mark Erickson Studio http://markerickson.com/Family_History/FH/
Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle & Lt. Ernest A. Erickson at Horham Airfield UK - June 1944. Standing below Lady Fortune (Carmen’s Folly).
c/o Mark Erickson Studio http://markerickson.com/Family_History/FH/
Crew of the B-17, "Lili of the Lamplight" (44-6085) Horham Airfield - UK - Mid 1944.
c/o Mark Erickson Studio http://markerickson.com/Family_History/FH/
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson (pilot) 334th Sq.
Complete B-17 (35) Mission List
Twelve B-17s flown list March 27th through August 26th, 1944
Horham Airfield, England
c/o Mark Erickson Studio http://markerickson.com/Family_History/FH/
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson after Berlin mission at Horham Airfield in the UK- May 1944, standing below B-17 "Lily of the Lamplight." (44-6085)
Mark Jon Erickson©2016
c/o Mark Erickson Studio http://markerickson.com/Family_History/FH/
The crew of the B-17 (44-6085) the "Lili of the Lamplight." Horham Airfield May 1944
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson upper right
1943 Brady Texas 43-I Curtis FIeld
An Aviator's Dream: The Man From Painted Woods
Air Corps Biography of Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson
by Mark Erickson
Family Archive Project website: www.markerickson.com
An Aviator's Dream: The Man From Painted Woods
Air Corps Biography of Ernest Anders Erickson
by Mark Erickson © 2019
My dad always called it the 'Air Corps' and that will be good enough for me.
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson
Thirty Five Missions flown
March 27 thru August 26, 1944
334th Squadron - 95th Bomb Group - 8th Army Air Corps - 13th Combat Bombardment Wing - 3rd Bomb Division - Horham Airfield – Station 119 – Suffolk County – England
Piloted Twelve B-17s
Lili of the Lamplight (44-6085) * Taint A Bird II (42-30342) * Fireball Red (42-31876) * Able Mable (42-31920) Mirandy (42-31992) * Gen'ril Oop & Lili Brat (42-31993) * Ten Aces (42-38178) * Smilin' Sandy Sanchez (42-97290) * Paisano (42-102450) * Stand By / Goin' My Way (42-107204) *
The Doodle Bug / What’s Cookin? (42-107047) * To Hell Or Glory (42-38123)
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson - Photographs and Articles
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson - 35 Hand - Written Mission Notes
From the Beginning
Time holds still in our memory, and if we pay attention, the days we spend with our families will provide stories we can hold onto from childhood through adulthood. The life we lead reflects the lessons held in these memories. They push us forward-- legends in our minds which over time become truths upon which we rely, and upon which we base our life’s most important decisions. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” suggested the newspaper reporter in the film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” one of my father's favorite westerns. We reflect on past adventures, even as they become part of our future. For my father, like most others of his generation, memories of his experiences in World War II formed the truths upon which he based the important decisions of his life. He shared many of these memories with me during his lifetime, and these shared memories have helped define my life, as they had my father’s. Since his death in 2013, I have learned more about his wartime experiences piloting a B-17 bomber by looking through his memorabilia, reading about the experiences of his contemporaries, and corresponding with other researchers. The more I have learned, the more I have come to appreciate the extraordinary challenges he and his wartime companions faced, and the extraordinary courage they demonstrated.
Painted Woods, North Dakota
My father, Ernest Anders Erickson was known to his wartime buddies as 'Lindy' and to his colleagues at Lockheed Aircraft as 'E Squared' (E2). He was born on August 4th, 1922 in Painted Woods, North Dakota. That place on the edge of the river in the Dakotas became a mythical land in my mind as I was growing up; a land filled with Indian lore and western cowboy tales. In my imagination I visited the Missouri plains both before and after Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery journeyed into the land of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota and Dakota Sioux.
Raised on their family farm on the banks of the Missouri River, Ernest was the son of Swedish born parents-- my grandmother Clara (Nelson) and grandfather Frank Severin Erickson; and brother to my aunt Dian (Erickson) Boutrous. Ernest enjoyed fishing, hunting and living life outdoors. When my dad was fourteen, the family moved to Bismarck. Growing up during the Depression, Ernest watched the skies for airplanes as he walked home from school each day. He enjoyed going with his father Frank to see the barnstorming flyers who put on exhibitions in the area. His childhood hero was Charles Lindbergh, and he kept a keen eye on Lindbergh in the news. Along with tales he heard from his Uncle Andrew, brother to his father Frank, who had served in France in the 101st Aero Squadron in the Air Corps during the first World War, Ernest had become quite attentive to the skies. So it was almost prophetic that he too would one day join the Army Air Corps.
The Air Corps
My father’s dream of becoming an aviator was fulfilled when he joined the Army Air Corps, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Because he resembled his childhood hero, his bomber crew would eventually nickname him 'Lindy.'When he received his orders and left Bismarck in early 1942, Ernest was nineteen years old. He boarded a train headed for San Antonio, Texas and reported for flight training at Kelly Field. Over the next 18 months he was thrust into the world of aviation, which he found strange and difficult at first, but to which he applied himself with typical Scandinavian determination. He graduated from Advanced Flight training at Blackland Airfield in Texas in October of 1943. He added additional special training at Langley Field in Virginia from November through January of 1944.
England/Italy or The Pacific
Up until a few days before being sent overseas, my father had no idea where he would be stationed. He had been told it would not be the Pacific, so England or Italy were the only possibilities. Ernest had his sights on Italy with its warm climate, near the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. Growing up in the freezing winters of the landlocked state of North Dakota, his thoughts were of hot weather and swimming in the ocean. He’d heard plenty of reports from fliers coming back to the states after tours of duty beneath cold and cloudy English skies. England intrigued him, as word was out on the various Bomb Groups stationed there with their daylight bombing of Nazi occupied Europe. In ways he could not explain, he wanted to get going and that sounded fine by him. The immense losses the 8th Air Force was sustaining did not daunt him, he like many of the flyboys, he felt almost invincible and knew he would get home.
My father penned a letter home to his folks and little sister Dian from Langley Field in Virginia, dated January 12, 1944. At the time he was attached to the 4th Search Attack Squadron. The letter was to inform his family of the possibilities of when he might head overseas. His uncertainty of where he might be stationed has been on his mind for awhile:
Dear Dad, Mom and Dinny:
I got the pictures. They're real nice. Dian is a cute little kid. Too bad she has to squint because of the sun in that one shot. You said you hoped that I would be home next Christmas. If I'm not at home I will hopefully be in this country, as the Air Corps sends its men back after 25 raids. I've talked to several men that have completed their missions and are back here on base. That applies only to the English and German areas. In Africa and Italy, where the opposition isn't so stiff as in Germany, a fellow has to make 50 raids.
I'm leaving soon. This is no false alarm this time, as the Bombardier and three of the enlisted men are leaving in a couple days by boat. The rest of the crew will fly over later, so we'll more than likely meet-up in England or Italy. We're waiting for our ship to be ready, the maintenance crew are checking it over. I don't know if we'll fly the Northern or Southern route across the Atlantic. This clipping will tell you why I'm here. It's quite a deal, and our crew will be a lead ship.
There's no chance of getting up to see Angie and Flo again as we have to stand three rolls calls on Sunday at 0800, one o'clock and 5 o'clock. Guess they do not like to see us get too far away. We're free to leave the post and stay out all night, just so we come back in time to fly. But that's not long enough to really go anywhere.
That's quite the hat that Dad has on. Looks like a Russian hat, or one of those that the Turks wear. I see in the picture that the ground is free of snow. Good deal! It makes it easier to get around. Quentin Rudd is overseas I hear. He's apparently went to England and is flying out off one of those bases in the countryside of England. I have a six hour over the ocean mission tomorrow morning. Better get to bed.
England or Italy
Ernest followed up on January 26, 1944 with another letter and this time written just to his father. He was closer to leaving for overseas yet it turned out he still did not know where he would finally be stationed:
I got your letter yesterday and I felt I better write today, as I think we are leaving here Saturday or Sunday. We get our own plane and will fly to New York, then back down to Florida, South America and Africa. I don't know if I'm going to England or Italy. There seems to be a good chance of going to Italy. I'd like that better.
It's not so foggy and damp and cloudy as England. Lots of sunshine, but I guess down there the air crews have to do a lot of their own maintenance on the ships besides flying it. In England they have a pretty good ground maintenance force. Either way I'm happy, want to get going, been too long waiting.
Flying over will be quite an experience, especially the route we take. I hope my camera you sent gets here before I leave. I didn't realize that we'd go all of a sudden when I had you mail it to Langley.
It's good that jacket I sent fits you. Too bad the first one didn't, as black would have been real sharp with your uniform. I'll put one over on Ma by sending this to you at Fort Lincoln. Tell everyone “hello.' Love, Ernie
On January 31, 1944 Ernest received his orders. Later that day he wrote a letter to his family back home in North Dakota, "I'm leaving for overseas in a couple hours and will enclose all the money I have on me. $200 in money orders. Use it as you wish. I’m heading to England, guess I better bring my warm clothes.” With that understated note to his parents, Ernest acknowledged that he was set to go overseas, where a war was raging.
In his letters home, Ernest expressed enthusiasm about playing a part in what the 8th Army Air Corps was trying to accomplish with daylight bombing. Of course flying daylight missions in the skies over occupied Europe was exceedingly treacherous, and I have often wondered what his true feelings may have been at the time. Had he felt any serious apprehension? Had he heard about the massive losses of ships and crews during the Summer and throughout the Winter of 1943? Did he know what he was really heading into?
These were questions I never felt comfortable asking. Browsing through my father’s Air Corps archives just days after he passed I felt many regrets, including regret that I never asked those questions. My father and I had talked considerably about his wartime experiences, but many specific details escaped my memory. I was soon researching numerous forgotten trails. What I found as I continued looking through his Army trunk and countless boxes of photographs, letters and miscellaneous items made the hunt ever more intriguing. I was becoming familiar with the twenty-year-old Ernest I never knew.
Finally On The Way
The Bombardier and three enlisted men assigned to my father’s crew were off by boat to England. Ernest and the rest of the crew took off a week later in early February from Langley onboard a B-17 and headed up the east coast to New York City. A few days later they embarked from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, planning to follow the same route Charles Lindbergh took to Europe on his successful transatlantic flight of May 20, 1927. Their first stop was in Northern Maine, at an airfield set up for the ships heading to England via the Northern route.. They landed in a dense fog and while taxiing on the tarmac another B-17 maneuvered into their path, causing a collision. No one was hurt, but the ship was badly damaged and would need extensive repairs.
On February 7, 1944 my father wrote a letter to his family. He was so close to the war, yet obstacles were getting in the way of him actually getting overseas. He wrote:
Dear Dad, Mom & Dinny,
Well, here I am back in New York City again. The last time I wrote to you I was at Mitchel Field and expected to take off anytime on the first leg of my trip overseas. I took off a couple of hours after I wrote to you. Got as far as Northern Maine. Our ship and another one had a taxi accident and the repairs will take several weeks.
We were sent back to New York and expect to go to England by Air Transport Command or hopefully we will get another ship. It's all up in the air as I write this now.
We can stay anywhere we want to just so we phone in and report personally once a day to the Transport Headquarters.
This hotel (The Commodore) is located very near Grand Central Station and it's on 42nd Street. Lots of action going on here.
It sure was a tough break about the accident. We don't have our own plane now, so don't know what the deal is for us after we get overseas. Of course we may get another plane that's been flown over by A.T.C. or we may get another one on this side (hope so!)
It sure is a good deal though to be in New York City. Did you get the $200. I sent?
I haven't got any mail since I left Langley. The day I left I received a note from the mail room that I had a package, the camera I hoped, and went over to get it , but the fellow that has the key for the insured mail room wasn't there. I went back two or three more times, but still no luck. I imagine it was the camera. I may be able to get it forwarded here to New York. It'll more than likely be a wreck when I do get it. Tell everyone hello. Will write again in a day or so. Love, Ernie
The original crew:
Marion F. Pratt - Ball Turret Gunner - Jackson C. Earle - Waist Gunner - Arthur J. Fitzpatrick - Top Turret/Engineer - Conrad W. Roellchen - Tail Gunner - Gerald B. Engler - Waist Gunner - Edward R. Sambor - Radio operator - Thomas M. Bachuzewski - Pilot - Ernest Anders Erickson - Pilot - Haskel N. Niman Navigator - Earl E. Pirtle – Bombardier
On The Way To England One More Time
Soon enough the crew was presented with a B-17 equipped with one of the first H2-X radar devices, incorporating the “Bomb Through Overcast” system, a ground mapping radar approach for use in aerial bombing, which at the time represented a revolutionary advance in target identification technology. Soon they were off again to England, via Newfoundland. After a two-week layover, their orders came in and they flew to Greenland, and then Iceland, where they awaited final instructions before leaving on the final leg to England, where they would be stationed throughout the war. While in Reykjavik Ernest and the crew were fortunate enough to see Marlene Dietrich perform, which was something unforgettable for my father. Marlene Dietrich was on his mind when he and the crew named the B-17, which was to become the plane on which they flew the most missions, the 'Lili of the Lamplight.'
On February 10, 1944. Lt. Ernest Erickson and his crew took off from Reykjavik for the long haul over the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland to England. My father’s dream of flying-- the adventure he had begun long ago in his mind as a child on the farm, was now becoming a reality. The ocean vistas spanning the horizon in every direction as they flew low over the North Sea en-route to England were breathtaking. Ernest was transfixed as he thought about the challenges that lay ahead. Over the course of 1944, Ernest would write 100s of letters to his family and friends, including the many photographs he took. Many of the hundred plus letters he wrote during his combat flying read like fiction, often filled with epic tales of unimaginable perils and missions undertaken in the face of insurmountable odds, yet somehow survivable in the end.
On February 24th Ernest and crew touched down in England arriving from a stop-over in Prestwick in South Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland. This is the same airfield that in 1960 Elvis Presley for the first time in England arrived when his Army transport stopped en route from Germany. Ernest soon was off to the Royal Air Force Station Stoney Cross. They would stay at Stoney Cross till late February and then be off to Royal Air Force Alconbury. Leaving Alconbury after a short stay they would fly off to their permanent assignment.
Having been assigned to the 334th Squadron of the 95th Bomb Group Ernest and crew arrived on February 28th, 1944 at the airfield in Horham, England. The airfield was originally intended to be used by the Royal Air Force, but by 1943 was transferred for the use by the 8th Air Corps. Ernest and crew were pleased they would be finally assigned to a permanent base and began to feel comfortable with their new surroundings. The field was located next to the village of Horham and four miles southeast of the village of Eye in Suffolk. The large airfield straddled the parishes of Denham, Redlingfield and Hoxnethey. Two hangars had been erected on the south side of the airfield and painted in black and dark earth camouflage. The airfield’s headquarters, miscellaneous buildings and housing huts spread to the west of the airfield into Denham. Horham was given the designation of Station 119 by the 8th Army Air Corps.
My father and the crew were billeted on base and each found their comfort in one way or another. The frigid gray-skied English weather was familiar to my father. He commented on the sky being rarely blue, but when it was he was one of the first outside to find a spot to lay in the sun. Ernest and his crew settled in at Horham, awaiting what would come. Days rolled by and the crew flew local practice runs, hoping they would soon be part of a real mission over mainland Europe. New orders were issued however, before they could fly their first mission in the new ship. The soon to be Bomber Boys were notified their airplane was to be transferred to another bomb group. My father and crew, resembling gypsies during their first months at Horham, were once again without a ship. Before their tour of duty came to an end, they flew a dozen different ships, completing thirty-five bombing missions.
Between late February and the end of August, 1944, Lieutenant Erickson piloted the four-engine bombers known as the B-17 or “Flying Fortress.” The ten-man crew of a B-17 consisted of two pilots, navigator, bombardier / nose gunner, flight engineer / top turret gunner, radio operator, two waist gunners, ball turret gunner and the tail gunner. The ships carried 8,000 pound (3,600 kg) bombs on short runs, and 4,500 pound (2,000 kg) bombs on long range missions. With a total load capacity of 17,600 pounds (7,800 kg) the B-17 was a formidable weapon. Thousands of these bombers were flown by the Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945, in a grueling campaign that eventually devastated German military and industrial infrastructure.
Ernest flew his first combat mission on March 27, 1944, that took his squadron over the full length of France to the border with Spain. In a letter home, he spoke of it matter-of-factly, mentioning flak damage with no particular emphasis or surprise. On April 9, 1944, Ernest wrote to his mother, father and sister Dian:
I've been on three missions in the last week or so, one was to Southern France, and I really could see clearly the Pyrenees Mountains, they separate France and Spain. It was beautiful. The place is called Cazaux. The next one was to a place south south west of Paris, called Chateaudun. Sure wish we could have got a glimpse of Paris, maybe on another mission.
The most recent one was to Belgium. We encountered a lot of flak on all three missions. We got four large flak holes on the underside of the left wing. Another punctured the main gas tank, had quite a leak over the Channel as we were heading home and it was drizzling out as we landed. Still another hit the wing tip tank (they are called Tokyo Tanks) Another went through the landing flaps and they were partially dangling when we landed.
The last one went through the main span. It took quite a piece out of the span. We got all this right over the targets. I could tell when we got hit the one time. It happened a few seconds before we dropped the bombs. It was quite the jolt. I thought the ball turret gunner got hit, or possibly the tail gunner. I called them up, but they were okay. On the way back from Cazaux we, or rather the gunner boys, shot at some German ships in the Bay of Biscay, just off the coast of France. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday.
We are going out on one tomorrow, so I guess I'll have to get up pretty early. Don't mind though! It just means one less to go. We have to do thirty now.
On the morning of Ernest's 11th mission, targeting Berlin on April 29th he wrote in his diary:
Briefing 0330 hours - Getting up this morning was worse, harder than the many others that have passed this year in England. Whether it was the unconscious anticipation of the day ahead, I do not know. Many times this had happened; the tap at the foot of my bed, my name called out in the cold damp darkness of the barracks, the flashlight and footfall of the CQ (Charge of Quarters) waking the chosen for today's flight; all this at 2:30 am.
As my feet hit the cement floor beside my bed, my head feels dizzy, too many flights and not enough sleep, or was I just tired and afraid of the whole situation. The bad weather, cancelled missions, changing of targets after the flight had started, the target socked in with two or three layers of clouds, dumping our payload somewhere over the countryside on the way back, ironically called a target of opportunity, when often we knew we were just plowing out something we never see down below, just bursts and smoke as we head back to the Channel and home. Then it was just the miserable, bad weather, back at the airfield, often landing at alternative strips.
Waiting for clearing for another mission, all this plus knowing of the fear in the pit of my stomach even on my weekends in London. "Up Lindy, the truck will pick you up at Barracks C in fifteen minutes." The silhouette with the flashlight said. I noticed my weekend buddy, Taylor in the bed next to me, slept on, grunted at the invasion of light and then rolled over back to sleep. My crew were the only ones picked for today's flight. I was dressed in less than 10 minutes in spite of the darkness.
We let the rest of the barrack boys sleep away. Many would be fortunate not to be on the day's flights or the unfortunate others if you were in a hurry to get your tour complete go back home. Either way it was our day up and we would be off in a couple of hours. As I crawled into the truck, I hit my head on the canopy support, dam!! everything was going to be bad today!
Breakfast of fried eggs, bread and coffee was followed by the normal briefing. Our target was Berlin, my first time over the 800 anti-aircraft guns that could be aimed at us at any one time. I had heard the stories, and they weren't good. I feel I have to get these feelings out of my head, my men all are a bit jittery and I have to show them, all's fine. Berlin? It's a long way back from Berlin to the airfield with 109's on our tails and coming from god's knows where. I have to get my mind straight on all this. Time to go.
Sixty-three B-17s and thirteen fighters were lost that day over Berlin. Six hundred and forty-three airmen were either killed, missing in action or captured by the Germans. These were staggering numbers to come home from at the end of that day. Many of the losses were caused by direct hits or shrapnel fired from ground-based German anti-aircraft guns. This weaponry was known as “Flak”. First installed in 1943, the German anti-aircraft artillery defenses were equipped with sophisticated radar, accurate enough to enable the German guns to hone in on the slow moving bombers with sometimes pin-point accuracy. Once the bombers were within radar range they would be detected and tracked. Approaching their targets, the ships entered a dense and deadly flak field. Combat photographs from that time convey images of a free floating sea of tiny black flowers bursting into bloom. Flak was a constant fear for every crew member in every bomber that flew a mission over German occupied territory. In his letters, my father described the nerve-racking experience of flying through a flak field. Nearing their targets, the bombers were subjected to a continuous barrage of shelling and ear shattering explosions. At times, deadly shards of flak ricocheted inside the fuselage of the plane, adding to the confusion going on outside. Ernest removed half a dozen pieces of flak from around his pilot's seat after returning from one of his missions. He kept them as mementos, in a small box on his dresser. He would take these out occasionally and explain to me the circumstances of their existence. I look at them now and imagine the harrowing experiences he and his crew survived.
The Missions Start To Add Up
On May 24th, my father flew his fifteenth mission, piloting the B-17 named Ten Aces (42-38178). It would be their second flight over Berlin. In his mission notes Ernest reports on the casualties onboard ships in his formation and the intensity of the flight:
Lost one of our wing men, due to flak, other wing man had three wounded aboard. Received flak hit through No. 1 engine cowling. Just missed oil line. Also a couple hits on left wing. Many fighters were seen, saw many ships go down in smoke and flame. Flak was intense and accurate over target. We were in flak for an extraordinarily long time.
Saw B-17 go into approximately 20 degree turn and spin before it entered clouds (just before target). Another B-17 in deep spiral, enemy fighter was following it down. Saw four men bail out of B-17 to our left. This ship then flew behind us and followed us after target.
Thirty-three B-17s and ten fighters are lost that day just on the Berlin part of that days bombing. Three hundred and forty men are missing in action. In total for bombing operations that day, May 24th an additional thirteen fighters are lost and three hundred and four B-17s, B-24s, P-38s, P-47s & P-51 fighters are badly damaged. Just one days undertakings and the numbers are staggering.
In addition to the barrages of artillery fire from below, B-17 crews faced fierce harassment by the Luftwaffe. As they approached their target areas, the B-17s were met by, among others, the swift ME-109 enemy fighters swooping through the bomber formations, creating havoc and destruction. After the war, revelations surfaced describing a controversial aspect of the daylight bombing missions-- the use of the bombers as bait to lure the Luftwaffe fighters into the sky, so the Allied fighters could take them on.
Although difficult to accept and something my father was not exactly pleased to discover, the men that survived and the families of the men that did not had to live with that information. These type of command decisions are treacherous in reality, yet one can only truly dwell on the eventual outcome. Still a tough pill to swallow.
Very early in the morning on May 28th their sixteenth mission began with orders that aircraft factories in Dessau, Poland and Magdeburg, Germany would be targeted. Once again, they flew Ten Aces. Ernest’s flight log includes these observations:
A few 109s were seen by top turret gunner. Flak was intense and accurate. We received large hole on underside of right wing. Also smaller one behind it. One of the ball turret guns was hit by flak. We were then attacked by large formation (20-25) of ME 109s just a few seconds before bombs away. I had to use emergency release for bombs. Prior to target many enemy fighters were observed in near vicinity attacking stragglers and groups of 17s. None were lost from our group.
The conditions onboard the airplane presented numerous challenges, and the mortality rate among B-17 crew members was staggering. As one researcher described the nearly impossible working conditions and enormous risks facing B-17 crewmen flying missions over Germany:
The planes were unheated and open to the outside air. The crew wore electrically heated suits and heavy gloves that provided some protection against temperatures that could dip
to 60 degrees below zero. Once above 10,000 feet they donned oxygen masks as the planes continued to climb to their operational level that could be as high as 29,000 feet. Nearing the target, each crew member would don a 30-pound flak suit and a steel helmet designed to protect against antiaircraft fire. Parachutes were too bulky to be worn all the time, but crewmen did wear a harness that allowed them to quickly clip on their parachute when needed.
Prior to 1944, a crewman's tour of duty was set at 25 missions. As a measure of the hazards they would encounter, it is estimated that the average crewman had only a one in four chance of actually completing his tour of duty.
Many of the surviving crew members were casualties of the psychological terror they experienced during the missions. My father never spoke of this aspect of his wartime experiences. He did his job without complaint, and his silence on how it affected him was proof of his Scandinavian heritage.
The Last Flight of the 'Lili of the Lamplight' (44-6085)
August 25th, 1944
The B-17 my father, Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson of the 95th Bomb Group most
identified with as 'their ship' was the 'Lili of the Lamplight,' (44-6085) on which
they flew fifteen of their thirty-five missions. Their final mission aboard the Lili, their 34th, was completed on August 12th, 1944. Soon after, my father spent time in and around London, on what is referred to as a 'flak leave.' He was facing his final 35th mission, and it would be two weeks before he would be idling on the Horham Airfield tarmac awaiting take-off for that last combat assignment.
Luck was with my father and his crew, aboard the Lili. His stories bare that out as well as the attached article, an interview featured in the Bismarck Tribune on October 5th, 1944. The header of the article states, 'Lili of the Lamplight was Lucky Lady' Pilot Says.
My father's mission notes for his 2nd Berlin raid on May 24th, 1944 were easily the most poignant of any of his journal writings. As on most missions, his words mention familiar terms describing a formation's entrance into the dreaded dense flak field of artillery fire. I have read countless recollections of missions by many crewmen and this hits it square on the head.
25,000 Feet Over Berlin
Flak was intense & accurate over target. Many fighters were seen, saw many ships
go down in smoke & flame. Was in flak extraordinarily long time. Saw a B-17 go into
approximately a 20 degree turn-spin before it entered clouds. Saw another B-17 in
a deep spiral, enemy fighter was following it down. Saw four men bail out of one
B-17 to our left, this ship then flew back with us to Horham.
The Lili of the Lamplight had flown a total of twenty five successful missions with the 334th Squadron over German occupied Europe. It had been part of the D-Day Invasion missions, with bombings on targets over Boulogne and Normandy, in the days leading up to June 6th. The ship had taken part in the second shuttle missions in early August of 1944, with raids criss-crossing the span of Europe. With two landings at Poltava Airfield for fueling and bomb reloading in the Ukraine, and on the last mission of four, a landing at Foggia Airfield in Italy. The Lili wore her numbers (44-6085) proud on raids over Munich, Berlin, Merseburg, Germany and Toulouse, France among other cities and targets.
As the Lili of the Lamplight stared down it's 26th mission, the next crew that took her out, was not as fortunate as my father's time aboard. His 'Lucky Lady,' was just that. The timing, and the luck of my father's 35 missions brought him home as he mentioned in the article, without a scratch. On August 25th, 1944, thirteen days after my father and crew's 34th mission aboard the 'Lili,' another crew took her on what would be her final and most deadly mission.
Lt. Albert Bishop Powell Jr. piloting the Lili of the Lamplight took off from Horham Airfield in England, and headed deep into Europe for a bombing mission over Central Pomerania. The Lili was flying in formation alongside other heavy bombers of the 334th Squadron, towards their ultimate target, the Hydriewerke synthetic petrol factory near Politzan der Oder, a town in a district of today's Poland. Also targeted for the various squadrons were sites near Rechlin/Larz, Germany, where the Germans were developing the Luftwaffe's ME-262 jet.
The Messerschmidt Me-262 was nicknamed 'Schwalbe,' or 'Swallow' in English, it was the fighter version, the 'Sturmvogel' or 'Storm Bird,' and was a powerful fighter-bomber model. The Me-262 was the first operational jet-powered fighter. Design work started in the mid-late 1930s, but engine problems and Hitler’s interest in bomber production kept the aircraft from operational use with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944. A very fortunate decision for the 8th Air Force as it turned out.
Chuck Yeager is quoted as saying:
The first time I saw a jet (Me-262), I shot it down.
The Me-262 was faster, and more heavily-armed than any British or American fighter. If in fact it had been operational in 1943, and used in great numbers, the outcome of the air war might have been entirely different. The Me-262 was the most advanced aviation design in use during the war, and was used in a variety of roles, besides the obvious, an attack fighter; a light bomber, reconnaissance, and an experimental night fighter bomber.
The 334th approached their targets as 'flak' bursts in and around the formation began to increase. Soon enough they found themselves in a highly concentrated 'flak' field. Ships in the formation were taking hits, one ship dropped out of formation and another was seen in a sharp downward spiral. Things aboard the Lili were beginning to go bad, when it withstood multiple bursts of artillery fire. Two engines began to sputter and smoke was trailing, as the ship's speed and altitude was deteriorating. The Lili of the Lamplight fell out of formation. The pilots attempted to evade the flak bursts by pulling out of formation and turning right. As the Lili arced for that turn it took a direct hit to the No. 3 engine’s fuel tank. A massive explosion sheered off a large part of the wing and the ship was in serious trouble. Controls now were becoming useless, and the ship went into a free-fall.
The pilots and crew were hopelessly fighting to correct catastrophic problems throughout the ship. In the final moments, the men began to bail out, while the ship was spiraling out of control, beginning a rapid descent. The Lili was splitting apart and in it's last seconds violently hurtled into the woods near the villages of Schwankenheim, Wolfshorst and Schwabacht. The ship crashed eight miles outside of Szczecin, Poland, some seventy-five miles from where the ship first came under-fire.
Three crew members including a 95th Bomb Group photographer were killed. Over the next three days, the other seven crewmen were captured by the Germans, spending the duration of the war in a POW camp. The first-hand reports of the crew's interrogation by the Luftwaffe give a vivid account of what happened onboard during those last minutes of the mission. Four of the survivors, including pilot Albert Bishop Powell Jr., Waist Gunners Staff Sgt. Eldred W. Steffens, Staff Sgt. Henry W. Schneider and Radio Operator Staff Sgt. Peppe J. Delio gave unnerving testimony describing this last mission of the 'Lili of the Lamplight.' Their words are direct and purely surreal.
Waist Gunner Staff Sgt. Eldred W. Steffens wrote:
The plane broke into at least three parts: The nose, the pilot’s compartment and the rest of the
plane. The nose was falling in free spin, the bombardier and another crew member were still in
the fuselage area. Both at the same time spotted an opening and headed out to that point to
bail out. As they approached the opening an explosion threw them clear of the ship. Their
chutes opened. The pilot, co-pilot and navigator were in the pilot’s compartment. After the
plane broke off at bomb bay doors, all three bailed out at the vast opening that appeared
behind the pilot’s compartment. The side gunner was near bomb bay at the time the plane split
in thirds and he bailed out from there. His chute opened. The tail gunner was blown out
of the plane unconscious and came to in mid-air, pulled his rip cord and landed safely by
chute. He told me this when we met later at Lucky Strike POW camp in France.
Radio Operator Staff Sgt. Peppe J. Delio stated:
The airplane lost a wing and dropped several thousand feet and then disintegrated. Those of
us still living were thrown out. The ball turret gunner was either killed by flak, or could not get
out of ball turret. I never saw him again.
Waist Gunner Staff Sgt. Henry W. Schneider recalled:
The ship suffered a direct hit below No. 3 engine. Being in the position of the ball turret gunner
made it difficult for him to abandon ship as the direct hit on No. 3 hit the main fuel tank and that exploded, taking the wing off almost immediately. I do not think he ever made it out. After a drop of several thousand feet the ship began to disintegrate.
Pilot Albert Bishop Powell Jr. gave this chilling final report:
When the ship was hit we managed to hold it in a slow turn to the right losing altitude at
approximately 700 to 1000 feet per minute. We could not gain control of the ship. At this point I
called for the crew to bail out. For thirty-eight seconds, I got no answer from any of the crew.
Finally, one of the gunners responded, asking, “Did you say to bail out, sir?” I responded,
“Get out now! We are trying to hold steady, but I don’t think we can. Get out!”
That was the end of the conversation.
Powell, the Co-Pilot Lt. Connor and the Navigator Lt. Overdorff all bailed out soon after this conversation. And in the culmination of that frightful experience, the end of my father's 'Lucky Lady,' came to be. He never talked of this particular part of the story, but talked as if the ship were still flying and his memories were strong in how the 'Lili of the Lamplight' took them to their targets and always got them home safely. Intense moments abroad the Lili no doubts, but his thoughts were on how he was able to successfully complete his 35 missions and live to tell about them.
Jittery Lens Of An Onboard Gun Camera
These passages opened my eyes to the dangers my father faced every time he took off from Horham and headed east over Nazi occupied Europe. Today, we can look back on those missions as seen through the jittery lens of an onboard gun camera, or the newsreel footage originally shown in movie houses during the war. Those films tell the story in black and white. The words of the crew members, describing their final moments aboard an airplane spiraling uncontrollably toward the ground, appear in real fictionally sounding color. Perhaps more vividly these words describe the terrifyingly real dangers which faced the bomber crews on every mission.
The crew of the Lili of the Lamplight's final mission on August 25th, 1944
Pilot - 2nd Lt. Albert B. Powell Jr. - Daytona Beach, Florida - POW
Co-Pilot - 2nd Lt. William C. Connor - Los Angeles, California - POW
Navigator - 2nd Lt. Donald W. Overdorff - York, Pennsylvania - POW
Bombardier - 2nd Lt. Phillip F. Whalen - Canton, Ohio - POW
Waist Gunner - Staff Sgt. Eldred W. Steffens - Greeley, Colorado - POW
Radio Operator - Staff - Sgt. Peppe J. Delio - Ashland, Kentucky - POW
Ball Turett Gunner - Staff Sgt. Orlin E. Covel - Canadaigua, New York - KIA
Waist Gunner - Staff Sgt. Henry W. Schneider - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - POW
Tail Gunner - Staff Sgt. Melvin F. Whilhelm - Toledo, Ohio - KIA
95th Photographer - Sgt. Berton E. Briley - Wilson, Oklahoma – KIA
From 25 to 30 to 35
Daylight bombing was an especially deadly enterprise which took an enormous toll on the airmen of the 8th Air Force. Losses of anywhere from twenty to fifty bombers during a single mission were not uncommon. With the ten-man crews aboard each plane, two hundred to five hundred men could be lost on any given day. The odds of survival were especially grim in 1943 and deep into 1944. During this deadly period, the odds that a B-17 crew member would survive the war were less than 50/50. On some missions, more than one out of every ten planes was lost. When my father arrived at Horham, he was told the men would be asked to fly no more than twenty-five missions each, but facing the reality of enormous losses and subsequent depletion of trained airmen, the Air Force repeatedly disregarded that promise. In his letter of April 9, 1944 my father mentioned that the number of missions he would be flying had increased to thirty. By the time he reached his thirtieth mission, the number had been raised to thirty-five.
Although allied losses were heavy, the losses inflicted on the enemy air force by the 8th Army’s bombing missions were devastating. In addition to the disruption of the German aircraft production capabilities, the bombers of the Eighth Air Force inflicted heavy losses on the enemy in aerial combat. The combined wrath of the thirteen 50mm machine guns onboard the B-17s, along with the fire-power delivered by escort fighters, eventually decimated the enemy’s air forces. By late in 1944 the German Luftwaffe, once the terror of the skies above Europe, was practically non-existent.
Ernest had brought to Horham his father's Brownie camera to photograph his fellow flyers and the many landscapes he encountered around England, Italy and over occupied Europe. As a person who always said he was not really an artist, just someone who liked to make things, it turned out my father had a good eye for capturing some fascinating images. Ernest’s in-flight photographs of B-17s in formation are remarkable.
The Bismarck Tribune, interviewed my father while he was home on leave, after returning from England. In the story which ran in late in 1944, the headline read: "Lili of the Lamplight Was My
Lucky Lady, Pilot Says." My father is quoted as reporting, "I was not so scared the first time we ran into flak, but that was because I didn’t know what flak could really do. Our fourth mission was a rough one to Berlin. Our ship was seriously damaged, shot up pretty good. Although we managed to stay in formation, part of the rudder was torn off; one wing had a couple dozen flak and bullet holes in it. The ship was in bad shape. I learned then what flak could do. It was on our seventh mission when we seriously came in contact with enemy fighters [Luftwaffe Messerschmitt 109s]. Things happened so fast most of the time that we didn’t have much chance to analyze our feelings, we just reacted, although most of us knew what itʼs like to be good and scared."
D-Day - June 6, 1944
My father survived his two missions over Berlin, and thirty-three others, while stationed in England. In fact, he made it through all 35 of his combat assignments without so much as a scratch. Ernest mentioned quite a few memorable flights he and the crew had undertaken, speaking often about the Air Corps support in the D-Day Invasion when hundreds of thousands of Allied forces invaded “Hitlerʼs Europe” en-masse on June 6, 1944. The 8th bombed German fortifications inland from the French coast. Ernest’s recollection of that day was not so much recalling the bombing done by his squadron, but the incredible number of ships packing the English Channel in support of the invasion forces, which he had viewed from the cockpit. “Ships dotted the Channel as far as you could see."
June 6, 1944 - England
Dear Dad, Mom & Dinny,
Today was the big day. The Invasion finally came off! Imagine there’s a lot of forecasting and talk back home? We never got to go on that seven day London flak pass I mentioned in my last letter. Was supposed to leave today, but I guess we won’t get it now.
However, I guess if we can make it any easier on the ground forces, it’s worth giving up. The Air Corps been in the war for a couple years, so I guess it’s the Army's turn now, but we hope for their sake that it’s short. The ground forces are going to have it rough. Dad, you probably realize that from your days in the war. But we are glad someone besides the Air Corps is getting into this deal! I hope the day soon comes that we can land at the airports near the cities that we’ve been bombing.
I’m listening to Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. You remember I used to listen to them ‘back home? The mail situation has been very poor lately. No one is getting much mail. That’s the way it goes! Give the folks my regards. How are they? Tell Grandma that she’s going to have to quit getting drunk
every Saturday night! Ha! How’s Grandpa?
It was five months this coming ninth of June that I left for overseas, so will be glad to see N.Y.C. again. I now have 22 missions. Not bad!
I imagine the papers are full of the Invasion? I got a pretty good view of it.
Berlin Mission Notes - May 24, 1944 - 25,000 feet
Flak was intense & accurate over target. Many fighters were seen, saw many ships go down in smoke & flame. Was in flak extraordinarily long time. Saw B-17 go into approximately a 20 degree turn-spin before it entered clouds. Saw B-17 in deep spiral, enemy fighter was following it down. Saw four men bail out of B-17 to our left, this ship then flew back with us to Horham.
Among the more dangerous missions my father flew were a half dozen flights to bomb the German V-1 and V-2 rocket bases, hidden in French and Belgium forests along the English Channel and the North Sea coastline.These bases were defended heavily by anti-aircraft guns and fighter planes. The American bomber groups attacking these high value targets paid heavily in men and planes.
Shuttle Missions England France Ukraine (Poltava Airfield) Italy (Foggia Airfield)
Ernest's longest assignment began on August 5th, 1944, when the Lili of the Lamplight, as part of the 334th Squadron took off from Horham Airfield on the first in a series of four consecutive shuttle-bombing missions which spanned the width of the European continent. The shuttle run was an element of “Operation Frantic”, a massive enterprise the 8th Air Force command had planned.
In 1943 at the conference in Tehran, President Roosevelt put forward to Stalin the concept for the use of Russian bases by American bombers and fighters. Begrudgingly Stalin agreed to proceed with the plan. Operation Frantic’s main intention was to establish multiple bomber groups in Russia. The proposal emphasized bombardment operations and reconnaissance. This would enable Allied bombers to strike missions deep into occupied Nazi territory. Following the missions they would land at these friendly air bases, re-fuel and load up with armaments and attack new targets on their on their flights home. During the period of June through August of 1944 twenty-four targets were attacked. Russian reluctance to a more aggressive targeting operations began to prevent further effective use of the bases. In general, the American airmen were made to feel welcome by the Soviet personnel stationed on the bases. July and August saw the peak use and by October the bases began to be phased out. The American ships encountered severe difficulties in the Russian lack of protection of the bases, refusing to introduce radar-guided artillery and night fighter patrols and quite often the bombers were fired upon by Soviet forces. The operations were again reduced after a fatal German air attack on the bases. The final straw was the inability of the American commanders to receive permission to use the bases for support of the Warsaw Uprising that began on August 1, 1944. This action by the Russians soured relations between the two countries. Though the use of the bases were limited, the Americans remained until they were evacuated when the war in Europe was over.
During that ten-day shuttle run Ernest and the crew encountered multiple Me-109 fighter attacks and occasional barrages of deadly flak fire. After flying three consecutive missions out of Poltava Airfield in the Ukraine over three days (August 6th, 7th and 8th) the Squadron bombed aircraft
factories and oil refineries near Rahmel and Trzebien in Poland, and Bazau in Romania. In-between and after each mission the squadron landed at Poltava, where they refueled and rearmed. My father enjoyed his days in Russia, found the ground crews friendly and talkative. He took photographs of the Russians in and around the base.
Ernest carried a unique identification card on the shuttle flights over the Ukraine, which was territory occupied by Russian troops. On one side, my father’s name, rank and serial number appears, and on the other side Russian translations for basic words and phrases. This card was provided to the airmen, in case they got into trouble, and needed to “eat, drink or hide,” as it states on the card. He kept this ID for the rest of his life.
After two days in Russia they again joined in formation for their eventual return flight to England, completing their 34th mission over Toulouse, France targeting the Francazal Airfield. In-between they stopped over at the 15th Air Force base, formerly controlled by the Germans at Tortorella Airfield in Italy, referred to as Foggia Satellite No. 2. Ernest spent a few days in and around Foggia where he and a few members of the crew commandeered a jeep. They drove straight across Italy passing by the remnants of the withdrawn German Army. Each crew member was armed, as a precaution, although everywhere they stopped, the Americans were greeted by friendly Italian villagers. The boys visited the towns of Benevento and Avellino, ending that day’s journey at the Mediterranean city of Salerno. Ernest photographed the allied ships which were moored in the harbor and scattered throughout the waterways. One spectacular photograph I look at often was of Mount Vesuvius with a hazy screen of fog hanging in the background, birds perched on wires and the Salerno harbor full of ships in the foreground.
The following day they headed up the coast of Italy to the city Naples. On that sunny morning, as Ernest stood at the water's edge staring wistfully at the Isle of Capri in the distance, he knew someday he would return and take a boat out to the small island. Thirty years later, accompanied by my mother and I, he fulfilled that vision.
On their last day on the Mediterranean they drove back through Caserta and Lucera and then on to Tortorella. In Foggia, a crew member captured what I have always thought were classic photos of my father standing in front of various abandoned Luftwaffe bombers. The photos were taken not long after the Allies had taken over the airfield. Abandoned equipment and airplanes were strewn across the countryside. The images in these photographs seem surreal. I look at them and imagine the chaotic retreat of the once highly disciplined and invincible German military.
On August 13th an article was published in local newspapers throughout the States under the headline "Forts Hit France From Italy On Last Leg Back From Soviets” reported on what the Lili of the Lamplight and the other ships of the 334th Squadron had accomplished. The official Air Force account reads: “Heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force bombed German factories in Poland on their way to Russia. Two days later the Squadrons landed in Italy at a 15th Air Force base after pounding two enemy airdromes in the Ploesti area of Romania on the second leg of their triangle-shuttle flight. All aircraft landed in Russia without loss after attacking Nazi factories in Rahmel, 10 miles northwest of the Polish port of Gdynia. Enemy aircraft were encountered, and flak was reported heavy at many points."
Distinguished Flying Cross
Lt. Erickson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “extraordinary achievements” in more than a score of bombing assaults on vital Nazi targets in Europe, and support of advances by the ground troops in France. Ernest was also awarded Three Bronze Stars, The European Africa Middle-East Medal, the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters.
After completing thirty-five missions and logging in over 300 combat hours in the air, Ernest was finished with combat flying. He remained at Horham for another three months, happy to stay in country piloting repaired B-17s and new ships coming in from the states, ensuring their readiness for combat. During this period, Ernest put in transfer requests to fly the B-29 “Super Fortress”. In December of 1944 he was reassigned to a base in Yuma, Arizona and then to Miami, Florida, serving as a flight instructor for pilots being sent to the Pacific. His request to fly the B-29 was put on hold. He later confessed, "I think I was fortunate that transfer never happened, maybe after the thirty-five missions, I'd had enough combat. My fortunes had been stretched pretty thin up to that point on those last missions in England."
The Final Mission #35
Ernest’s thirty-fifth and final combat flight was on August 26th, 1944. The Squadron was dispatched to attack gun batteries in Brest, France. They were aboard the ship Stand By” / “Goin’ My Way (21072014). He had been looking forward to number thirty-five for weeks. It marked the end of his days flying over mainland Europe. When he completed his 35th and final combat mission in August, Ernest was twenty-one years old.
Ernest Anders piloted twelve B-17s during his tour of duty and accomplished thirty five missions between March 27th, though August 26, 1944.
The Names and Numbers of the Twelve B-17s
Lili of the Lamplight (44-6085), Taint A Bird II (42-30342), Fireball Red (42-31876), Able Mable (231920), Mirandy (42-31992), Gen'ril Oop & Lili Brat (42-31993), To Hell Or Glory (42-38123), Ten Aces (42-38178), Smilin' Sandy Sanchez (42-97290), Palsano (42-102450), The Doodle Bug / What’s Cookin? (42-107047), and his final and 35th mission flying Stand By / Goin' My Way (42-107204).
Home to Dakota in the Summer of 1945
At war’s end, in the Summer of 1945, Ernest headed home to Bismarck, to the enormous relief of his mother Clara, who had never been comfortable with my father’s decision to fly bombers. He spent time with the family, getting acquainted with his five year-old sister Dian, who was just a baby when he left for the Air Corps in 1942. Before winter descended on the Great Plains, Ernest and a close friend who had served in the Pacific during the war, hit the road in a converted Plymouth station-wagon, embarking on a "Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassidy On The Road” trek across the U.S. Traveling around the country, the two had time to reflect on their days in the service, and wind down a bit from the stresses of warfare.
University of Colorado at Boulder
Opportunities arose in the Summer of 1946 when Ernest put in papers requesting benefits under The Servicemen’s Adjustment Act. With a little help from Uncle Sam, and some money he had saved during the war, Ernest began a course of studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he graduated four years later with degrees in aircraft design and engineering. After graduation in 1949 Ernest moved to Minneapolis in 1950 and began working at an elevator company in the design department.
California - Lockheed Aircraft
In 1951 Ernest met a job recruiter from Lockheed Aircraft at a project sight and they discussed job opportunities out west. After a couple phone calls and paperwork he was hired the following week. Ernest again headed home for a visit with his family before he made the drive out to Lockheed’s facilities in Los Angeles. The aeronautics industry was booming and during my father's forty five year career at Lockheed, he continued to pursue his love of flying, but now as a design engineer.
Hollywood High and Bernice
After a year at Lockheed living in Burbank, my father’s personal life brightened considerably when he made the acquaintance of my mother, Bernice Lane Hesslein, a painter from Brooklyn, New York. They met at a Spanish language night class held at Hollywood High. Within the year they were married, and settling into a house in the Hollywood on Beachwood Drive.
The Skunk Works
Ernest was soon selected to work on special projects under the supervision of Kelly Johnson, chief engineer at the renowned “Skunk Works” facilities at Lockheed. Kelly Johnson hand-picked engineers to work in small teams tasked with pushing the limits of aeronautical design engineering, to develop the world’s most advanced airplanes. Lockheed had received a contract from the CIA to build a spy-plane, and Kelly Johnson needed top designers and engineers to design the new airplane. Soon to be known as the U-2, this aircraft was built primarily for the purpose of flying over the Soviet Union and photographing sites of strategic interest.
Getting in on the ground floor, Ernest continued to work for Kelly Johnson for more than two decades, as a design team engineer. Many of the projects were top secret and still to this day I am unaware of what his participation could have been with some. In addition to airplane design, Ernest also played a role in designs for the Mercury spacecraft, collaborating with engineers at McDonnell Aircraft. Before he retired in 1988 he spent time working with Northrop Aircraft. He spoke about the many flyers and aerospace individuals he met over the years, one acquaintance was the former Air Corps flyer, Chuck Yeager and at the time they met was a test pilot at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base). As my father's aerospace career spanned the 1950s and into the early 1960s their paths again crossed during a NASA project.
F-104 – The Zell Project - Munich, Germany and Torino, Italy
For a six-year period in the early to mid-1970s, my father was assigned to projects in Europe. Our family moved first to Munich, Germany and then to Torino, Italy where Ernest worked on several projects in collaboration with Fiat and the Italian, German and U.S. Air Forces. During this time he worked on one of his favorite projects-- The Zell (zero-length launch system), a rocket powered retrofit for the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter which allowed the airplane to be launched from virtually any location, without a runway. My father told me that he considered the Starfighter the sleekest and most stylish aircraft ever designed.
In addition to his love for aviation, Ernest had a passion for researching historic and cultural sites. While living in Europe, our family traveled to areas in England and Italy he had seen during the war. Together we visited ancient sites in Lascaux, Troy, Pompeii, Stonehenge, Rome and North Africa; and toured throughout Greece and Turkey.
A-117 – The Stealth Fighter
Work on Ernest’s final project at Lockheed included stress analysis drawings and designs for the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, which utilizes the "Have Blue” technology. It was the first operational aircraft designed for stealth application. The maiden flight of the F-117 was conducted in 1981 and it achieved initial operating capability status in October 1983. The airplane was finally revealed to the world in November 1988.
SST – L-1011 Tri Star – C-5A Galaxy
Some of Ernest’s other projects included design work on the C-130 Hercules, The Constellation, the C-141 Starlifter, the L-2000 “SST” Supersonic Transport (he worked on the SST for several years and was quite disappointed when it never came to fruition), the L-1011 Tri-Star, and the immense military transport, the C-5A Galaxy.
My father made it a point to take a flight on the French Concorde. He described to my mother Bernice what it was like to go twice the speed of sound, telling her enthusiastically, “I felt like an astronaut.” My mother smiled, knowing his fondness for NASA and the space program. My father then added, “Well, the closest I’ll ever get to being an astronaut."
Following his retirement in 1988, my parents resided along the Venice Canals in California, partnering in Los Angeles real estate investments and traveling extensively. Influenced by the art work of my mother Bernice and my grandmother Blanche, my father delved into drawing, ceramics and stained glass, and studied art at Santa Monica College.
Onto the Trail of the Clear Blue
My father, Ernest Anders Erickson passed away on June 7th, 2013 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 90. He is survived by this writer, my wife Elena (of Venice & Oakland, CA.); nephews Michael Boutrous, Nick Boutrous and son Alex (all of Bismarck, ND); nephews Allan Boutrous and Steven Boutrous, his wife Stella and their daughter Lexi (all of Berkeley, CA); nephew Attas Boutrous and his daughters Sophia (of Bismarck), Raquel and Olivia (both of Fort Collins, Colorado), and Christiane (of Denver, Colorado); numerous cousins throughout the United States and Sweden; and his many friends along the Venice Canals.
My father would surely enjoy it if you peer out the window the next time you are flying, and are able to share in his sense of wonder and amazement at the clouds and the heavens, as you soar through the sky high above the earth. Lindbergh once said, "Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it, but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.” Aviators, astronauts and aircraft designers enable us to view the planet which we call home from the vantage point of distance. The U.S. aviators who served and sacrificed their lives in the Second World War helped ensure that the landscape we can better describe from this perspective shall be forever richer.
Dedicated to my father's name-sake, my uncle Ernest Julius Erickson (361st Infantry)
and my grandfather Frank Severin Erickson (308th Infantry and survivor of the 'Lost Battalion').
Both served in 1917 – 1918 and took part in the Meuse Argonne Offensive in France.
Photos attached to original Biography:
1. Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle & Lt. Ernest A. Erickson June 1944
Horham Airfield - Standing below Lady Fortune (Carmen’s Folly) 42-97858
2. Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson receives the Distinguished Flying Cross
presented to him by Colonel Karl Truesdell Jr. at Horham Airfield June 1944
3. The original Lili of the Lamplight crew 1944
4. Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson standing in front of the 'Lily of the Lamplight' (44-6085) June 1944
5. The only known photograph of the B-17 - 'Lili of the Lamplight' (44-6085) in flight
6. Bismarck Tribune Article - October 5, 1944 - "Lili of the Lamplight Was My
Lucky Lady, Pilot Says."
7. Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson at Foggia Airfield in Italy - August 1944
8. Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson receives the Distinguished Flying Cross,
presented to him by Colonel Karl Truesdell Jr. at Horham Airfield June 1944
9. Ernest Anders Erickson (bottom row on the left) at Gatow Airfield in Berlin with a German F-104 Starfighter (The Zell Project)
10. Ernest Anders & Bernice Lane (Hesslein) Erickson – Venice, California 1999
Military | Colonel | Pilot | 95th Bomb Group
Assigned to 334BS, 95BG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) Rechlin in B-17 44-6085 25-Aug-44; flak hit #3 & 4 feathered, on descent losing a wing before disintegrating, crashed Schwabach-Schwankenheim, near Stettin, Germany Prisoner of War (POW) MACR...
Units served with
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...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 4/3/44; Kearney 22/3/44; Dow Fd 7/4/44; Assigned 96BG Snetterton 7/4/44; transferred 336BS/95BG Horham 8/4/44; with W.G. Helm force landed A-71 Clastres, France 29/12/44; 85m, Missing in Action Chemnitz 3/3/45 with Bob Duncan, Co...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Tulsa 6/2/44; Grenier 3/3/44; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-M] Horham 17/3/44; with R.V. Mercer force landed Framlingham AFB 25/12/44 with engine failure; battle damaged Berlin 3/2/45 with H. Palmer; force landed Charleroi, Bel; 97m, repaired & ret...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Tulsa 20/3/44; Kearney 2/4/44; Grenier 21/4/44; Assigned 412BS/95BG [QW-B] Horham 22/4/44 STAND BY; 335BS [OE-B]; with W.C. Shaw force landed Thorpe Abbotts afb 16/12/44; 87m, battle damaged Leipzig 6/4/45 with Bob Davis, Co-pilot: Larry...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 19/5/43; Gore 20/5/43; Smoky Hill 30/5/43; Wright 30/6/43; Smoky Hill 20/7/43; Kearney 22/7/43; Dow Fd 25/7/43; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-B] Horham 28/7/43; 54m, transferred APH with Azon for Aphrodite missions, Knettishall; Aphrodite...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 30/12/43; Gt Falls 3/1/44; Cheyenne 5/1/44; Kearney 13/1/44; Assigned 412BS/95BG [QW-Q] Horham 17/2/44; aborted after take off for Dusseldorf 9/9/44 with Bill Lahl, Co-pilot: Theo Bennett, Navigator: Maurice Schwartz(wia), Bombardier...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Denver 3/1/44; Kearney 28/1/44; Assigned 447BG Rattlesden 9/2/44; transferred 334BS/95BG [BG-G] Horham; 89m, on night navigation training mission 6/11/44 left u/c collapsed on landing with Warren Helm, Co-pilot: Maurice Londer, Navigator:...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 13/1/44; Dalhart 29/1/44; Presque Is 29/2/44; Assigned 92BG, transferred 334BS/95BG [BG-P] Horham 1/3/44; 54m, Missing in Action Politz 25/8/44 with Howard Bussen, Co-pilot: Bill Mills, Navigator: John Cassenti, Bombardier: Paul...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 13/1/44; Dalhart 28/1/44; Presque Is 29/2/44; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-F] Horham 3/3/44; 12m, Missing in Action Freidrichshafen 24/4/44 with Ed Cunningham, Co-pilot: Tony Bowden, Navigator: Ed Bartlett, Bombardier: Isidore Markowitz,...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 19/12/43; Gr Island 1/1/44; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-E] Horham 8/2/44;
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 6/1/44; Gr Island 16/1/44/ Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-K] Horham 11/2/44; 45 missions, Missing in Action Schweinfurt 19/7/44 with Tony Hamlik, Co-pilot: George Rudloff, Navigator: Hal Smith, Bombardier: Bob Diles, Flight engineer/top...
27 March 1944
This mission might be likened to a "shotgun blast" as a combined force 714 heavy bombers are despatched form all three Air Divisions to attack 11 different German airfields and air depots in France. Mission summary follows:
28 March 1944
A force of 450 heavy bombers from all three Air Divisions is despatched to bomb the German E-Boat pens at Ijmuiden, Holland and German airfields in France. Mission Summary follows:
1 April 1944
The industrial areas of Ludwigshafen was the traget for this mission, but the mission was frustrated by heavy cloud cover and navigational errors that resulted in the mission going haywire. 3rd Air Division and 2nd Air Division despatch heavy bombers....
Military site : airfield
Horham airfield was planned and built for RAF use, but handed over to the Eighth Air Force and used initially by the 47th Bomb Group. When they joined the Twelfth Air Force in January 1943, it became home to the B-26 Marauders of the 323rd Bomb Group....
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