Lt. Frank Burgmeier Laon/Athies Airfiled around December 16, 1944. Lt. Foster took this photograph of his good friend and tent buddy, "Burgmeier", just before Lt. Foster left Laon to head home. Lt. Burgmeier still needed one more mission. The two had shared a tent in perfect accord since arriving at Lessay in August. Although both attended Syracuse University immediately following their return to the States, both earning their degrees (Frank-Jounalism and Walt-Accounting) in three years, they never saw each other again. They reconnected through correspondence in 2008. Putting their war lives behind them was difficult as they tried to adjust to civilian, peacetime life. LT. Foster had a new bride and expectant mother to support, and Frank was tring to become reacquainted with his bride, Tedi.
Their existence had been a struggle for survival in Laon during a bitterly cold winter with meager supplies and scavenged wood for heaitng fuel. . Much of their time was spent cutting wood , preparing for scrubbed mostly missions or training other officers in a hectic schedule. The food at Laon was lousy---they cut up turnips and onions acquirred locally to give it flavor. The two shared the unique, dry and very funny 456th sense of humor,. They had a great deal of respect for each other, both having carried the burden of significant responsibility flying box leads after they had become experienced and proven their leadership. As leads, both were required to serve as "floaters" and flew with most of the lead pilots, who were highly skilled. Both flew several missions with with Helton and Stirling.
The Foster/Burgmeier tent was always set up next to the Guldemond tent and the Lt. Robert Smith's tent. At Laon, Frank and Walt had a tent mate named Sam, who apparently never said much, preferring to read quietly on his own. Their pets, Pat and Oscar were a source of love and warmth during a cold, wet winter.
Lt. Frank Burgmeier-Lead Navigator (Left) and Lt. Walt Foster-Lead Bombardier (Right) outside of their tent near Lessay, France August-September 1944. To pass time, they played Gin Rummy (Frank usually won), read and built furniture. They also rode bikes and went to the Red Cross for movies and coffee and donuts.
Lt. Owens and Lt. Frank Burgmeier outside of Officers' Mess Earls Colne Airfield, Essex Feb. - July 1944.
December 2, 1944, the morning after Lt. Foster's Final Mission Party. Note the at least 18 empty champagne bottles lined up near them and their slightly grim or peaked expressions. (L -R) Lt. Donald Parker -Bombardier, Lt. Erwin, Lt. Robert Smith-Pilot, and Lt. John Guldemond -Pilot. They are in front of either the Foster/Burgmeier Tent or the Guldemond tent. Laon/Athies Afield, France. Sadly, Lt. Parker was killed in action about 12 weeks later.
Lessay, France August -September 1944 (L - R) Lt. Walt Foster-B, Lt. Robert Smith-P, Lt. Frank Burgmeier-N, Lt. Erwin.
Lr. Frank Burgmeier taken sometime after November 1943 and before May 20, 1944
1st Lt. Leo Dale Rush, Jr. taken between December 1943 and May 20, 1944 in Quarters Area No. 13, Earls Colne Airfield
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.
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)
Lt. Victor Jacobs - B, Capt. Lou Rehr - P, Lt. Frank Burgmeier, and James Siegling, . Laon Athies Airfield, France, November 1944. Pictured with "Ole 33 Gal", WT- A.
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 323rd BG and 456th Bombardment Squadron.
Lt. Burgmeier flew his first combat mission from Earls Colne Airfield on Wednesday, December 22, 1943 to Cornette with Lt. John D. Helton, most likely in WT-B "The Gremlin II" Serial No. 41-31708.
On June 6, 1944, Lt. Burgmeier-Navigator flew the 323rd's first mission of the day with Capt. John Bull Stirling-Pilot and Lt. W. R. Hutchins-Bombardier in a Flight Lead to a German coastal battery on Utah Beach. It was his 39th combat mission. Lt. Burgmeier wrote Chapter One of Marauder: Memoir of a B-26 Pilot in Europe During World War II by Louis S. Rehr with Carlton R. Rehr. It is an excellent account of his D-Day mission. Frank also was interviewed by the local television news station on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
On August 25, 1944, Lt. Burgmeier landed on French soil for the first time at an airfield near Lessay. Lt. Burgmeier and Lt. Walt Foster set up a tent, which they shared with another officer. During the remainder of their stay in France, Lts. Burgmeier and Foster were close friends and tent mates along with their pets, PFC. Pat(ricin), a mutt, and PFC. Oscar, a Jack Russell Terrier, who, along with the sense of humor that was typical of the 456th combat crews, kept their morale up and kept them warm during a bitterly cold winter.
On Sunday, August 27, 1944, Lt. Burgmeier flew as GEE Navigator with the Barker crew (Lt. Col. Robert O. Barker-Pilot, Lt. Al Allision-Navigator, Lt. Walt Foster-Bombarider) from Lessay, France to a Rouen Bridge. (GEE Navigation was a form of navigation using radar.) This was Lt. Burgmeier's 54th combat mission. Footage of this mission is at National Arhives in College Park, Maryland. It was the first combat mission flown by the 9th AF off of French soil.
On November 19, 1944, Lt. Burgmeier, with Capt. Louis Rehr-Pilot and Lt. Victor Jacobs-Bombardier, flew in a Box Lead to a heavily defended area in Germany, the Merzig Strong Points. For this mission, the Reher crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On December 16, 1944, Lt. Foster left for home, leaving Lt. Burgmeier to sweat out the one additional mission he needed to complet his 65 missions for a complete tour of duty. Tensions were high, as the Battle of the Bulge had just broken out only a few miles from Laon/Athies Airfield. The ground shook from artillery mortars exploding nearby. The 323rd prepared for an emergency evacuation, not knowing if they would make it out. The weather kept the 323rd grounded until December 23, 1944, when the they flew to the Eller Bridge in Germany.
The mission to the Eller Bridge was one of the roughest flown by the 323rd, and Lt. Burgmeier, flying once again with the Rehr crew, was very fortunate to have returned form it alive. Another B-26 BG had preceded the 323rd to the target area without the fighter escort that was to have acompanied them, and lost many aircraft to fighter attacks. The 323rd did have fighter cover and still lost six aircraft (one over the target and five back at base), three officers and three enlisted men were killed on that mission.
Shortly after December 27, 1944, Lt. Burgmeier was flown back to England where he spent New Year's Eve. In early Janiuary, he boarded the New Amsterdam and headed home to his wife, Tedi---his reason for fighting.
"Reflecting on my departure from my wartime buddies----it was a period of withdrawl for me. My close tent buddies, my crew and the entire squadron had been my family for over a year----a year filled with memorable events that are still sharp in my memory. I felt that I had come into my own in a position of responsibility where I had won mutual respect. I went home with mixed emotions facing my new bride whom I had only been with a couple of nights before we were shipped out. I was entering into this new phase of life almost with the same trepidation that I launched iinto combat. I was very perplexed in this period as I had expected a great exhultaiton when I hit the States but arrived here in a somewhat dulled and confused state. The flight surgeons recognized this and I was sent to a luxurious rest camp at Lake Lure in the North Carolina Mountains where I gradually statrted to come around thanks to my patient and understading wife--- and I statrted to feel human again. "
-Combat War Diary, Lt. Frank Burgmeier
Lts. Burgmeier and Foster finally reconnected in 2008, after nearly 65 years. Lt. Burgmeier and Tedi had three children. He still lives in Upstate New York with his faithful companion, Sparky, where he runs a public relaitons firm.
Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Bombardier | 323rd Bomb Group
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...
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 | 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...
Military | Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
Lt. Smith flew as Co-Pilot in "The Gremlin II" WT-B with Capt. JD Helton -Pilot (who had returned from leave), Lt. Frank Burgmeier - N, Lt. Walt Foster - B from Chartes on October 8, 1944 to the Eskirchen Supply Depot, Holland.
Military | Colonel | B-26 Marauder Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
Maj. Stirling served as a B-26 Marauder pilot with the 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group, and 9th Air Force during the Second World War. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach, South Carolina group that first comprised the 456th Bomb Squadron....
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.
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).