PFc. Pat(ricia), Lt. Walt Foster, and Pfc. Oscar
Loan/Athies Airfield, France
16 December 1944
Lt. Walter E. Foster. Site No. 13 Earls Colne Airfield 1944.
Martin B-26 Marauder (VT-W, serial number 42-107622 "Stars 'N Gripes") of the 323rd Bomb Group, 453rd Bomb Squadron bombs the target during a mission on June 22, 1944 to the Armentierres Marshaling Yard.
Box II, Flight 1 on the mission (led by Maj. Alfred A. Blomberg-Pilot, 1st Lt. Al Allision-Navigator, 1st Lt. Walt Foster-Bombardier, Staff Sergeant T. S. Davies- Engineer/Gunner, Staff Sergeant J.N. Morgan-Radio/Gunner and Staff Sergeant F. J. S____ -Tail Gunner) in WT-G "Kactus Kid" (456the Bomb Squadron) scored what was presumed to be a direct hit on a German munitions train as it pulled into the railyard. The resulting explosion created a plume of smoke that reached approximately 12,000 feet.
Thirty-six Marauders attacked the target, 33 of which were able to drop 16 x 250 pound general purpose bombs each on the primary target. Three aircraft were unable to attack due to battle damage from intense, heavy and accurate flak encountered over the target area. Bombing was from 11,400 feet by Flights of six aircraft. Twenty-three of the 36 attacking Marauders sustained Class A battle damage. Three Marauders were so badly damaged that they were forced to make emergency and/or crash landings at an emergency airfield away from their base at Earls Colne Airfield, Essex County, England. The mission was run late in the day, and it was night when the crews landed in England.
Earls Colne Airfield Dispersal Areas Aerial - War Time
The photograph has been annotated with the dispersal sites within view and certain building numbers, all but one of which are within Site No. 2 Communal. Please refer to the Earls Colne Site Plan - Schedule of Buildings for the legend, which is reproduced to the extent possible below.. Building 498 is likely the Nissen hut shared by Lts. Foster, Rush, Stirneman, Guldemond and Lemmon with their puppy, Burma.
SITE NO. 2 COMMUNAL
166 Picket Post
167 Grocery Store
168 Tank Tower
169 Ration Store
170 Breakroom Ration Store
171 Tailors and Barber Shop
172 Latrines Sergts.
173 Sergts. Showers
174 Sergts. Mess
175 A/IN’s Dining Room & ___
176 Post Office
177 Latrine Block A/IN’s
178 Showers & Ablut. A/IN’s
179 Fuel Compound
180 M & E Plinth
181 Stand-By Set House
182 Gymnasium & Chapel
184 Officers’ Bath House
185 -186 Officers’ Mess
187 Squash Racquet Court
188 C/O’s Quarters
SITE AREA NO. 3 COMUNAL
194 Picket Post
195 Sergts. Mess
196 Sergts. Showers
197 Officers’ Baths
198 Boiler House
199 Officers’ Mess
200 Latrine Block A/IN’s
201 – 202 Showers Blocks A/IN’s (2)
203 M & E Plinth
204 Dining Room
205 Institute & W.A.A.E.T.
206 Education Block
207 Local Produce Store
208 Ration Store
209 Fuel Compound
SITE NO. 4 QUARTERS
215 Picket Post
216 - 219 A/IN’s Barracks (4)
220 A/IN’s Latrines
221 Sergts. & A/IN’s Dining Room
222 Sergts. & A/INS Ablutions
223 A/IN’s Barracks
224 Fuel Compound
225 A/IN’s Latrines
226 - 231 A/IN’s Barracks (4)
SITE NO. 5 QUARTERS
237 Picket Post
238 Officers’ Quarters
239 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrines
240 - 342 Officers’ Quarters (3)
243 A/IN’s Barracks
244 -245 Sergts. Quarters (2)
246 Sergts. Latrines & Dining Room
247 – 249 Sergts. Quarters (3)
250 Sergts. Latrines & Dining Room
251 Sergts. Ablutions
252 Sergts. Latrines & Dining Room
253 - 257 Sergts. Quarters (5)
258 Sergts. A/IN’s Ablutions
259 M & E Plinth
260 – 262 A/IN’s Barracks (3)
263 A/IN’S Latrines & Dining Room
264 - 259 A/IN’s Barracks (6)
270 M & E Plinth
272 – 277 A/IN’S Barracks (7)
SITE No. 6 QUARTERS
282 Picket Post
283 A/IN’s Barracks
284 Officer’s Quarters
285 Static Water Tank
286 – 287 Officers’ Latrines & Ablutions (2)
288 – 294 Officers’ Quarters (7)
295 M & E Plinth
296 – 297 Sergts. Lat. & Dining Room (2)
298 – 302 Sergts. Quarters (5)
303 A/IN’s Barracks
304 Sergts. Barracks
305 Sergts. & A/IN’s Ablutions
306 – 307 A/IN’S Lat. & Dining Room (2)
308 – 310 A/IN’S Quarters (3)
311 A/IN’S Latrines & Dining Room
312 – 317 A/IN’S Barracks (4)
SITE NO. 7 QUARTERS
323 Picket Post
324 – 327 Officers’ Quarters (4)
328 Sergts. Dining Room
329 – 324 Sergts. Quarters (5)
325 Sergts. Latrines
326 -527 Sergts. Lat. & Dining Room (2)
328 - 230 Sergts. Quarters (3)
331 - 332 A/IN’S Latrines (2)
332 -351 A/IN’S Barracks (20)
352 A/IN’s Latrines & Dining Room
353 Sergts. & A/IN’S Ablutions
354 -358 A/IN’S Barracks (5)
359 A/IN’s Latrines & Dining Room
360 Officers’ Latrines & Ablutions
361 Sergts. Ablutions
SITE NO. 8 W.A.A.F.
265 Picket Post & Reception Room
368 Static Water Tank
369 Sergts. Mess & A/IN Dining Hall
370 Sick Quarters (6 Bed)
371 Officers’ Mess w/ Show. & Ablu.
372 – 375 A/IN’s Barracks (w/o Lat.) (4)
376 – 377 Sergts. & A/IN’s Barr. (w/ Lat. & Baths) (2)
378 Sergts. & A/IN’s Baths & Decontam.
379 Sergts. & A/IN’s Lat. & Ablutions
380 – 386 A/IN’S Barr. (w/ Lat. & Baths (7)
SITE No. 9 W.A.A.F.
392 Fuel Compound
393 Ablutions Block
394 Latrine & Bath Block
395 Sergts. Quarters (w/ Latrine)
396 Static Water Tank
397 – 400 A/IN’s Quarters (w/ Lat.) (4)
401 M & E Plinth
403 – 405 A/IN’s Quarters (w/ Lat.) (4)
SITE No. 10 Sick QUARTERS
412 Picket Post
413 M & E Plinth
414 Sergts. A/IN’s Quarters
415 Sergts. & IN’s Lat. & Dining Hall
416 Ambulance Garage & Mortuary
417 Static Water Tank
418 Sick Quarters
419 Sick Quarters Amen.
420 Pump House
421 L. C. Reservoir & Suction Tank
SITE No. 11 QUARTERS
427 Picket Post
428 Static Water Tank
429 – 430 A/IN’s Barracks (w/ Lat.) (2)
431 – 432 A/IN’s Latrine & Dining Room
433 Sergts. & A/IN’s Ablutions
434 A/IN’s Barracks
435 - 440 A/IN’s Barr. (1 w/ Lat. & 4 w/o Lat.)
SITE No. 12 QUARTERS
446 Picket Post
447 Officers’ Latrines & Ablutions
448 – 452 Officers’ Quarters (5)
454 Officers’ Latrines
455 – 456 Sergts. Quarters (2)
457 – 461 A/IN’s Barracks (5)
462 A/IN’s Latrines & Dining Room
463 – 464 Sergts. Lat. & Dining Room (2)
465 Sergts. Quarters
466 Sergts. Latrines
467 Sergts. Dining Room
468 Sergts. Ablutions
469 – 474 Sergts. Quarters (14)
475 A/IN’s Barracks
476 Sergts. & A/IN’s Ablutions
477 M & E. Plinth
478 – 481 A/IN’s Barracks (4)
482 A/In’s Latrines & Dining Room
483 A/I’S Latrines
484 - 488 A/IN’S Barracks (5)
448 Static Water Tank
490 Fuel Compound
SITE No. 13 QUARTERS
496 Picket Post
497 - 503 Officers’ Quarters (6)
504 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrines
506 – 510 Sergts. Quarters (5)
511 – 512 Sergts. Lat. & Dining Room (2)
513 Sergts. Dining Room
514 – 515 Sergts. Quarters (2)
516 Sergts. Ablutions
517 – 518 Sergts. Quarters (2)
520 – 521 Officers’ Quarters (2)
522 Airmen’s Latrines
523 – 528 A/IN’s Barracks (6)
529 A/IN’s Barracks
530 – 531 A/IN’s Lat. & Dining Room (2)
532 A/IN’s Barracks
533 – 539 A/IN’s Barracks (7)
540 A/IN’s Barracks
SITE No. 14 SEWAGE DISPOSAL
446 Sewage Drain Beds
447 Pool House
448 Sequestr. Tanks (_ Compartmt.)
449 Dosing Chamber
550 Percolating Filters (2)
551 Holding Tanks (2)
War-Time Aerial Photograph of Earls Colne Airfield Dispersal Areas. Annotations have been added to identify the locations of Sites and Buildings. Please refer to the RAF Site Plan - Earls Colne Airfield Dispersal Areas for the Legend. All buildings noted (with the exception of building 498 in Site No. 13, which appears to have been the Nissen hut that was the Officers' Quarters of Lts. Rush, Stirneman, Lemmon, Guldemond and Foster) are within Site No. 2 Communal.
Earls Colne Airfield Nissen Huts in what appears to be Site No. 13, Buildings 501 (foreground) and 500 on the right. In the chapter of his book "Brave Men"entitled "The Flying Wedge ", Ernie Pyle, the famous war correspondent that brought the war home to anxious families and friends, describes a Nissen hut with wooden signs outside of its door. Each of the signs, he wrote, represented one of the occupants of the Officers' Quarters. Pyle noted that because dogs were such a big part of the airmen of the 456th Bomb Squadron's lives, they included a sign for each of the dogs and pups that inhabited the huts with them. The photograph from the Collection of Lt. Col. Walt Foster, appears to be possibly of the Nissen hut and signs that Pyle described. Before including the story of his time with the 456th in his book, Pyle had written a newspaper column describing his two weeks with the 456th Bomb Squadron in Earls Colne, Essex in May 1944. Pyle spent one week living with the officers of one Nissen jut shared by Capt. William "Chief" Collins, Lt. Jack "Red Dog" Arnold, Lt. Frank Burgmeier and two or three other officers. Pyle describes two holes in the ceiling of the Nissen hut and how they got there. One of the officers, likely Chief Collins, was fired up and decided to discharge his service revolver through the ceiling. Then, he bet one of the other officer's he couldn't shoot a bull through the same hole, which turned out to be a good bet.
A Sergeant with a smile and mail in Site No. 13 Earls Colne Airfield. He appears to be standing with building no. 496, Picket Post, behind his right shoulder. The Nissen huts adjacent to it appear to be building nos. 497 and 498, which were officers' quarters. Behind them with the angled, as opposed to curved roof, are the officers' latrine and ablutions buildings. Building no. 498 was most likely the Officers' Quarters of Lt. Leo Dale Rush - Bombardier, Lt. Charles H. Stirneman - Bombardier, Lt. Thomas Lemmon - Pilot, Lt. John Guldemond - Pilot, Lt. Walt Foster - Bombardier and Pfc. Burma, their puppy, who was one of Pfc. Gin Fizz's offspring. (See Brave Men, The Flying Wedge by Ernie Pyle re- Pfc. Gin Fizz.) In the distance in the right upper corner of the image, there appears to be tail sections of two B-26 Marauders, which would have been on the hardstands just northeast of the Brick House Farm. (See Earls Colne Record Site Plan - RAF Museum)
1st Lt. Leo Dale Rush, Jr. taken between December 1943 and May 20, 1944 in Quarters Area No. 13, Earls Colne Airfield
The signatures are from top to bottom -
Lt. Col. Robert O. “Bob” Barker
Commanding Officer, 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
From London, Ohio, a graduate of Ohio State University.
Lt. Thomas “Lemon” Lemmon
Pilot, 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
Flew with Guldemond as his co-pilot in 778 WT-K Patty’s Pig in the right-wing slot off of 033 WT-A Ole 33 Gal, whose crew was leading the flight of six Marauders, on your father’s(Rush's) last mission. Shared an Officers’ Quarters with your father (Rush) and the others noted in Guldemond below.
Lt. Bird / Capt. Paul E. Warf
456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
Lt. Gen. John O. Moench’s book, Marauder Men, lists a Donald L. Bird and an A. L. Bird. The first and middle name are illegible, and the surname is almost illegible. It could be the signature of Capt. Warf, the pilot leading a flight of six in Ole 33 Gal.
Lt. John Guldemond
Co-Pilot and Pilot, 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
From New Jersey, Guldemond shared Officers’ Quarters No. 8 in Site Area No. 13 at the north end of Earls Colne Airfield with your father (Rush), Lt. Charles H. Stirneman, Lemmon and Foster and their puppy, Burma, who was one of the puppies of Gin Fizz, the dog written about by Ernie Pyle in Brave Men. Their Quarters was dubbed “The Black Hole of Calcutta”. See Lemmon above regarding your father’s last mission.
Lt. Stanley G. Sussman
Co-Pilot, 46th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
Flew as a co-pilot on 861 WT-N Weary Willie, Jr. in one of the other flight leads on your father’s last mission.
Lt. Raymond J. Lishka
Pilot, 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
Flew in 81- WT-U Klassie Lassie in a different flight of six on your father’s last mission.
Lt. Walter E. “Walt” Foster
Lead Bombardier/Navigator, 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group
From Spencerport, New York, shared Officer’s Quarters with your father. See Guldemond above.
Lt. Theodore J. Witt
456th Bomb Squadron, 323d Bomb Group
Flew in 964 WT-L Hades Lady in a different flight of six on your father’s last mission.
Some of the signatures are very legible, such as those of Guldemond, Lishka and Foster. (You have an excellent example of Guldemond’s signature from the letter he sent to your mother. I’m familiar with my father’s (Foster's) signature. Lishka’s was easy to identify, having seen it on dozens of loading lists.) After identifying the easy ones, I looked for any of the other officers who shared a living quarters with your father, which led me to Lemmon’s signature. Next, I identified Witt’s signature by looking in Marauder Men for a surname that ended in “itt” with the first name of “Theodore” --- I’d seen the surnames of Pruitt, Cruitt and Witt on loading lists, but only Witt had the first name of Theodore. Guldemond, Lemmon, Lishka, Witt and Sussman were on the loading list for your father’s last mission, which helped me identify Sussman’s signature.
The signature at the top of the bill was difficult to make out at first. The clue came from the clipping of the letter Lt. Col. Barker sent to your mother, which was published in a local newspaper. In it, Barker writes that he and other members of the 456th Bomb Squadron attended your father’s graveside service at Cambridge American Cemetery. That made me wonder whether the short snorter was signed by the officers who attended it in lieu of a guest registry --- it would have been a touching tribute and a way to wish a fallen colleague good luck on his journey that could be sent to loved ones. Studying the top signature (with a surname that clearly ended in “er”) with that possibility in mind, I realized it was Barker’s, having seen it on certifications of my father’s combat service records.
There’s one signature about which I’m mostly uncertain. It looks like the surname of the third signature from the top is “Bird”. There is a photograph of an airman named “Bird” sitting on a motorcycle among my father’s (Foster's) collection. I believe there is also a photograph of a “Donald Bird” in Marauder Men. I cannot make out the first or middle name of the signature. So, Lt. Bird is an educated guess. However, Bird was not on your father’s last mission. The last name appears to be four letters, with the third being “r”. The middle name looks like it could be “Edward”. I believe Capt. Warf, the pilot on your father’s last mission, would have attended his graveside services. If I had to guess, I would go with the signature as being that of Capt. Warf, particularly given the number of times your father flew with him.
Over the nine years I’ve been researching my father’s service and the history of the 456th Bomb Squadron, I’ve discovered that by spending time with these records and photographs, they begin to come to life and tell a story. Ah-ha insights emerge with patience. For example, among my father’s collection is as photograph of him with four other officers and a puppy. On the back of the photograph, he had written “me, Rush, Stirneman, Lemmon, Guldemond, Burma”. One day, it dawned on me (like it dawned on me that the signature at the top of the short snorter was Barker’s and that it was signed by your father’s colleagues possibly at your father’s graveside service) that it might be a photograph of a proud “family” posing with their newest addition to the family, a puppy. It would have been just like my father to round up the guys for a picture to commemorate the happy occasion. Similarly, there’s a photograph in my father’s collection of him leaving an officers’ quarters that had a sign over the door that said “Black Hole of Calcutta”. On the back of the photograph, he or my mother had written “March 31 - only snow of winter.” Although it stood to reason that it was my father’s living quarters, there was no way to know with any certainty. When I saw the photograph in your father’s collection of an officer (Stirneman) taking photographs in a snow storm outside of an Officers’ Quarters with a sign over the door that said “Black Hole of Calcutta”, it confirmed the suspicion.
Although it’s likely we will never know with certainty whether the officers listed above signed the short snorter at your father’s graveside service at Cambridge American Cemetery, I am relatively certain that it was. “Short snorter” is written at the top of the dollar bill in my father’s handwriting. Examining the evidence of the writing instruments used by each of the officers, it looks like Barker and my father used the same one. I can see my father taking the dollar bill from his wallet, writing “short snorter” on the top edge of the bill and asking Barker to sign it first as their commanding officer. It would stand to reason that my father would have been the last to sign as the originator, although he signed second to last.
Lt. Charles H. Stirneman of San Bernardino, California reading in the Nissen hut he shared with Lt. Leo Dale Rush, Jr. of New Mexico, Lt. John Guldemond of New Jersey, Lt. Thomas Lemmon, Lt. Walter E. Foster of Upstate New York and their puppy, Burma of Essex. The occupants dubbed their quarters "The Black Hole of Calcutta". It is believed to have been Nissen hut "8" located in Site No. 13 at Earls Colne Airfield, which was the northernmost living quarters site on base. The area was adjacent to the Brick House Farm, where a farmer plowed his fields with a horse-drawn plow as the airmen rode their bikes from the living and communal areas out to the tarmac for missions.
Lt. Walt Foster was a navigator and bombardier from Upstate New York who served with the 456th BS during the Second World War. His first combat mission was flown from Earls Colne Airfield on February 3, 1944 to the Ruisseville "No Balls” secret weapon site in WT-U "Klassie Lassie" Serial No. 41-31810. He flew what appears to have been all but two combat missions with the Dorsey crew (Lt. Lawrence J. Dorsey-Pilot, Lt. George Hill-Co-Pilot, Lt. Walt Foster-Navigator/Bombardier, S/Sgt. Emanuel "Manny" Hauser-Crew Chief, S/Sgt. Carl Hofer-Radio Gunner, and S/Sgt. Mike Herrera-Tail Gunner) through May 23, 1944, a total of 30 combat missions. After his last mission with the Dorsey crew, Lt. Foster assumed responsibility as a Flight Lead Bombardier.
Lt. Foster flew his first mission as a Flight Lead Bombardier on May 8, 1944 with Capt. Luke Hargroves in WT-D "Little Mike" to the St. Quentin Coastal Defenses. It was a milk run.
Lt. Foster's first mission with the Helton crew (Lt. John D. "JD" Helton-Pilot, Lt. Paul Watson-Navigator, Lt. Foster-Bombardier) was flown on May 22, 1944 from Earls Colne Airfield to Pierre du Mont Coastal Defenses in WT-B "The Gremlin II" Serial No. 41-31708. The Helton crew flew six combat missions against railroad and highway bridges between Paris and the western French coast (May 25-Seraing Railroad Bridge, Liege, Belgium; May 28-Seraing Railroad Bridge, Liege, Belgium; May 29-Liege/Valbenoit Railroad Bridge, Belgium; May 29-Beauvoir Highway Bridge, France; May 30-Meulum Highway Bridge, France; and June 3-Meziers/Rangalone Highway Bridge, France).
The mission to the Seraing Railroad Bridge on May 25, 1944 has been described as a "mission where everything went to shit." Two 323rd aircraft were lost over the target; three others crash/emergency landed at emergency fields in England, and 28 of 36 323rd Marauders were seriously damaged by heavy, accurate and intense flak over the target area, near Liege, Belgium. It was the 323rd's second attack on the Seraing Railroad Bridge in six days. And they were sent back again three days later on June 28, 1944, this time with the Helton crew flying in the Lead Window Aircraft dropping bundles of small strips of metal or nickels instead of bombs head of the formation to disrupt Luftwaffe radar assisted 88 mm anti-aircraft guns. "The Gremlin II" sustained serious Flak battle damage on this mission, being the first aircraft over the target following the disastrous mission of May 25, 1944. (Each time B-26 crews were sent back to finish a target, Luftwaffe anti-aircraft batteries threw up increasingly intense flak barrages; the crews were highly motivated to take out a target on the first attempt because they knew they would get sent back the next day when the flak would be worse.)
The missions flown by B-26 crews stationed in Essex against railroad and highway bridges and rail marshaling yards in France and Belgium in the days leading up to and following D-Day were critical to the success of Allied ground forces in getting and staying ashore in the cross-Channel invasion. Both German and Allied commanders have credited the B-26 Marauder as the aircraft that did the most significant damage to the German Transportation system.
"On Friday evening [June 11, 1944], nearly midnight, de Guingund had come over to our war room and given Ike the picture. I happened to be present, and recall the main point, which was that because we had busted most of the bridges across the Seine, the Germans couldn't move reinforcements or reserves from the east direct --- they had to go around Paris. So the air people who are meeting at Starmore, whose meeting de Guingund had just attended, were laying on more bridge smashing and marshalling-yard destruction in the Paris area, particularly south of Paris. They also spotted ten vital bridges across the Loire River to the south of the battle area, and had laid on attacks to bust them . . . . . The plan of bombing transportation targets has paid well; if we had left their railroad yards, their bridges intact, we'd have been pushed off the beaches."
-Butcher, Harry C. My Three Years with Eisenhower (1945).
"Long after D-Day, there remained the sobering question as to whether the results of the [Transportation] plan were commensurate with the cost in air effort and ruin inflicted on French and Belgian cities. But those in the best position to know, the German generals, were 'strong in their belief that the various air attacks were ruinous to their counter-offensive plans.'
The plane that did the most damage was the B-26 Marauder developed by the Glen L. Martin Company. A medium bomber, it flew at low altitudes and could be extremely accurate, so it was the principal attacker of the railroad bridges and rail yards. After the war, Rommel's chief of staff, Hans Speidel, said, 'Destruction of railways was making regulated railway supply impossible as early as mid-May 1944 . . . . Lack of fuel paralyzed all movement. The Seine bridges below Paris and the Loire bridges below Orleans were destroyed before 6 June 1944’ . . . .
In a1946 interview, General Jodl said that 'the complete construction of the coastal defenses was not yet finished and never would have been because the necessary sand and concrete could not be brought up. Gordon Harrison, the official historian of the cross-Channel attack, concluded that by D-Day the 'transportation system [in France] was at a point of total collapse,' and this was 'to prove critical in the battle for Normandy.'"
-Ambrose, Stephen E. D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
On the afternoon of June 6, 1944, D-Day, the Helton crew flew the 323rd's combat mission to Caen Road Junctions C-1 and C-2 "Orne Choke Points" located in the city center of Caen near the Orne River. Critical Past footage of this mission captures the Helton crew in flight in WT-B "The Gremlin II" crossing the English Channel. The photographer, Frank Scherschel took a photograph of the briefing session for this mission at Earls Colne Airfield. Lt. Foster is seated in the second row on the middle aisle wearing a ball cap with his bombardier's kit on his left knee. Lt. Helton is seated in the first row, second from the right. This photograph was published in the Time Life 70th Anniversary D-Day special edition. This was Lt. Foster's 42nd combat mission.
On June 10, 1944, the Helton crew flew in the Box II, Flight 2 lead aircraft, WT-A "Ole 33 Gal" Serial No. 41-35033 on a mission to Viaduc de Clecy, a railroad bridge over the Orne River at Clecy. (Lt. Dale Rush, one of Lt. Foster's best friends, had been killed in the bombardier's compartment of WT-A "Ole 33 Gal" just three weeks earlier on May 20, 1944 over Dieppe.) There is Critical Past footage of the bombs of Helton's Flight of six aircraft getting at least two direct hits on the head of the viaduct with numerous direct hits on the highway road underneath the viaduct. The Battle Stations: The B-26 Marauder episode on The History Channel features some of the Critical Past frottage of the 323rd hitting Clecy --- one of the flights of six preceding the Helton flight into the target.
On June 12, 1944, Lt. Helton earned a promotion and 30 days of leave in the States after persuading Generals Marshall, Arnold and Anderson to limit the B-26 combat crew tour of duty before earning leave to 65 missions. The Generals were at Earls Colne meeting with senior combat crews (including Helton and Foster) to announce an unlimited tour of duty for B-26 combat crews.
Lt. Foster flew a total of 16 missions with the Helton crew, mostly in "The Gremlin II" from May 22 through June 15, 1944 when they flew their second to last mission together to the Valognes Supply Dump; this was Lt. Foster's 47th combat mission.
On June 22, 1944, Lt. Foster flew his second Box Lead flight with Maj. Alfred Bolomberg-Pilot and Lt. Al Allison-Navigator in Box II, Flight 1 Lead to the Armentierres Marshalling Yard where they scored a direct hit on a German munitions train as it rolled into the yard. The plume of smoke resulting from the explosion reached 12,000 feet. This was another rough mission with 23 of 36 aircraft sustaining serious damage and three making emergency crash landings away from Earls Colne. This mission helped to solidify Lt. Foster's position as a Lead Bombardier with the 323rd, which has been credited with having among the best bombardiers in the 9th AF. (See Marauder Men, Maj. Gen. Jon O. Mench (USAF Ret.))
On July 18, 1944, Lt. Foster and Lt. Al Allison joined Lt. Col. Robert O. "Bob" Barker's crew flying most often in "Buckeye Battle Cry" WT-O Serial No. 41-31820 with either Lt. Col Barker, the CO of the 456th BS, or, when Lt. Col. Barker was not flying, with Maj. John Bull Stirling, the second in command of the 456th BS. On July 12, 1944, Lt. Allison became the Squadron's Navigator. Due to a lack of records, it's not clear whether Lt. Foster was appointed the Squadron's Bombardier at the same time, although that seems to have been the case at least de facto.
The mission on July 18 was to the Demouville Defended Area just east of Caen. It has been described as the most significant bombing effort of the war, and it was, again, in support of Field Marshall Montgomery, whose troops were bogged down, unable to break through. The 323rd BG was the penultimate B-26 group over the target that day, with all 9th AF bomb groups being sent to the target in an all out effort. The seven preceding B-26 bomb groups were not able to get their bombs within the target area due to flak, smoke and haze over the target. Using the same area bombing technique as the others, Box I led by the Barker crew got all of their bombs within the target area, and Box II got the majority of its bombs in the target area. This was yet another rough mission with 22 of 36 323rd Marauders sustaining serious battle damage, one aircraft lost over the target, one aircraft crash landed in England and five aircraft making emergency landings in the UK. Nine aircrew were killed, 18 aircrew were wounded and 15 aircrew were missing. Heavy, accurate and intense flak was encountered in and out of the target area. Accounts of returning aircrew describe an intense battle involving dueling ground, sea and air forces --- everything seemed to be exploding as aircraft streamed in and out of the target area. This was Lt. Foster's 50th mission.
Lt. Foster flew in the Box lead position on four of the 323rd's mandatory five night missions. On August 6, 1944, Lt. Foster, flying with Maj. John Bull Stirling-Pilot, Capt. William "Chief" Collins-Co-Pilot, and Lt. Al Allusion- Navigator in Box II lead flew from Earls Colne Airfield to the Ile de Cezzembre in WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry". (Night flights were made in boxes of 10 Marauders following a Pathfinder, flying in single file to the target and dropping on Pathfinder flares illuminating the target area.) The night featured a full moon, and the returning crews described the mission as "creepy", as they did for each of the other night missions. The aircrews regarded night mission as being among their worst and most dangerous due in part to the risk of mid-air collisions and the fact that they were "sitting ducks" for Luftwaffe defenses. Maj. Stirling provides an excellent account of this mission in "Strikes" by Ross Harlan. In the same article, Stirling recounts an amusing and typical story of Chief Collins and Red Dog Arnold, with whom the war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, flew during his two-week stay with the 456th BS just prior to the invasion.
On August 27, 1944, the Barker crew flew "Buckeye Battle Cry" WT-O on the first mission flown by the 9th AF from French soil. Lt. Frank Burgmeier flew as GEE Navigator with the Barker crew on that mission from an airfield adjacent to Lessay, France to the Rouen Bridge. Footage of this mission is at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Lt. Foster flew the final combat missions of both Lt. Col. Barker and Maj. John Bull Stirling on September 10 and 22, 1944, respectively, with Barker in "Buckeye Battle Cry" and with Stirling in "Georgia Miss" WT-W. The latter was Lt. Foster's 60th credited combat mission.
Lt. Foster and Capt. Helton flew their 17th and last mission together on October 7, 1944 to the Eskirchen Strong Points; Lt. Burgmeier flew as Navigator, and Lt. Robert Smith flew as Co-Pilot with them in WT-B "The Gremlin II" on that mission.
Lt. Foster flew his 66th and final combat mission on December 1, 1944 from Laon /Athies Airfield just north east of the Town of Laon to the St. Vith/St. Arlautern Strong Points in Germany with Capt. Lou Rehr-Pilot in "City of Sherman" WT-K; it was a training mission for replacement combat crew, and it turned out to be a "milk run".
On December 16, 1944, Lt. Foster, no doubt with mixed feelings, said goodbye to his close tent buddies and very good friends Lt. Frank Burgmeier, PFC Pat(ricia), and PFC Oscar. Lt. Burgmeier still needed one more mission, which he was not able to get until December 23 in a very difficult mission to the Eller Bridge in the Battle of the Bulge. Lt. Robert Smith was also a good friend, as was Lt. John Guldemond. Lt. Foster, Capt. PJ Williamson and Lt. Bradley boarded either a Red Ball Express or troop transport truck to Versailles that afternoon where they slept on cots inside Versailles Palace for several weeks with hundreds of other GI's waiting to go home. Lt. Foster spent Christmas Eve and Christmas 1944 there. The three had just managed to make it out of Laon/Athies Airfield as the Battle of the Bulge broke out in the nearby Ardennes Forest. Once again, lucky.
Serving with the 456th was one of the most significant experiences in Lt. Col. Foster' life, in which service to his country and helping others were consistent themes. He and Lt. Burgmeier lost their close friend Lt. Leo Dale Rush, a bombardier, on May 20, 1944 to flak over Dieppe. Their friend, Lt. Donald Parker, also a bombardier, was killed in action over a German Marshalling Yard on March 26, 1945, after Lt. Foster and Lt. Burgmeier had gone home. Luck was a big factor in determining who survived the war.
The transition back into the lives they had left behind when they were deployed was difficult. The persons their family and loved ones had known no longer existed. So much had changed.
Lt. Foster proposed to his sweetheart, Betty Boyd of Houston, Texas, on St. Valentine's Day 1945; they married on May 28, 1944 and had three children. He rarely spoke of his experience during the Second World War. Like most veterans of his era, he regarded himself as no kind of hero – he said he was merely following orders and doing what he was told to do. He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and served in the Strategic Air Command during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War and the War in South East Asia.
When he retired as the as the highest-ranking and chief navigator in the USAF in the fall of 1967, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was stationed with his family at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, known as “The Showplace of SAC”, and assigned to the 28th Strategic Bombardment Wing. At the time of his retirement, he simultaneously held command positions in two of the three legs of the US Armed Forces’ nuclear triad - he flew in B-52 Stratofortress bombers armed with nuclear weapons, and held a command position in the 44th Strategic Missile Wing (comprised of the 66th, 67th and 68th Strategic Missile Squadrons). The 44th SMW was responsible for operating 150 HGM-30 Minuteman I Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), representing one-third of the United States’ ICBMs, with responsibility over the 44th ’s three squadrons and launch sites located at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota and Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases in North Dakota. He was required to sign a lifetime confidentiality agreement when he left the service, which he honored. As reported in February 2016 by The New York Times, many, if not all, of those secrets he kept (including encryption methods, targets and flight plans) are still classified as Top Secret.
Following his retirement from the USAF, Lt. Col. Foster taught mathematics and history for several years before becoming a full-time investor. In 2008, as a result of the efforts of his youngest daughter, he re-connected with his close tent buddy, Lt. Frank Burgmeier, after having not spoken since 16 December 1944 (63 years), although both attended and were graduated from Syracuse University in the two and one-half to three years following their return to the States. Waiting so long to reconnect was one of their regrets---in many ways they had been as close as brothers as they struggled to survive and keep their spirits up in the harsh conditions and climate in France, which experienced its coldest winter in 50 years in 1944.
Lt. Col. Foster passed away on Christmas Eve 2012, just a few weeks after Betty; they were happily married over 67 years. A Marine Honor Guard led by another veteran of the Second World War firing 21 volleys over his coffin laid him to rest at the historic Lamar Cemetery located just north of Rockport, Texas. The Marine who was a veteran of the Second World War presented Lt. Col. Foster’s two daughters with the flag that had covered his coffin.
- May 2018
Military | Colonel | Pilot - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
Born on October 9, 1919 in London, Ohio, Lt. Col. Barker was graduated from Ohio State University ("OSU"). He earned his "wings" at "The West Point of the Air" at Randolph Field, Texas. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach, SC group that comprised...
Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
Lt. Burgmeier grew up in Upstate New York. He married his wife, Tedi, in July 1943, just days before he left for his tour of duty as a navigator for the 323rd Bombardment Group. He kept a diary, which has been invaluable to historians studying the...
Military | Private First Class | Mascot | 323rd Bomb Group
Military | Private First Class | Flight Surgeon/Pet | 323rd Bomb Group
One of PFC Gin Fizz'a puppies. Pat made the trip form Earls Colne to Lessay to Chartes to Laon and probably a few other stations.
Military | Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
Military | Colonel | Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
JD Helton was from the Waco, Texas area and served as a B-26 Marauder pilot during the Second World War. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach contingent that comprised the 456th BS.
Military | First Lieutenant | 323rd Bomb Group
Military | Private First Class | Flight surgeon/Pet | 323rd Bomb Group
Oscar makes a cameo appearance in the 1943 video of a 323rd mission. He's over by the bicycles parked soon the side of the Situation Room, which was across the road and up a little bit from the grouping of officers' quarters at Site No. 13 at Earls...
Military | Lieutenant Colonel | pilot - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
Military | Lieutenant | Bombardier, B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
Dale Rush served with the 456th BS as a bombardier. He was killed on May 20, 1944 on a mission to Dieppe when "Ole 33 Gal" WT-A Serial No. 41-35033, flying in the Box II, Flight 3 lead position, took a direct hit of heavy flak that shattered the...
Units served with
The 323rd Bombardment Group operated with B-26 Marauders, American medium bombers. They were the first Eighth Air Force Group to fly a medium level bombing mission with this aircraft on 16 July 1943. After flying a total of 33 missions with the Eighth,...
Selected Bibliography of Publications:
The Gremlin II took part in a D-Day Mission to Caen Road Junctions with crew Lt. John D. " JD" Helton - Pilot, Lt. Watson - Navigator and Lt. Walt Foster - Bombardier.
The plane was named “Buckeye Battle Cry” for the OSU fight song.
Military site : airfield
Earls Colne was built in 1941 as an airfield for No.3 Group, RAF Bomber Command, although never used as such. Assigned to the US Eighth Air Force (as Station 358) in 1942, its 36 hardstands were increased to 50, bringing the airfield up to Air Ministry...
Military site : non-airfield
Marks Hall's estate was requisitioned in 1941 for the construction of Earls Colne airfield (USAAF Station 358).