Lt. Col. Robert Oxley Barker, Commanding Officer, 456th Bombardment Squadron
WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry" was reserved for the crew ( usually Barker or Stirling) leading other 456th BS aircrews on combat missions. The aircraft was named after the Ohio State University fight song and Lt. Col. Robert Oaxley Barker's alma mater. Lt. Col. Barker, the Commanding Officer of the 456th BS, is picutred standing, third from left.
Lt. Col. Robert O. Barkerker, Commanding Officer of the 456th Bomb Squadron, letter to Mrs. Dorene V. Rush expressing his condolences for the death of her husband, Lt. Leo Dale Rush, Jr., a lead bombardier, who died of wounds sustained in action.
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.
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)
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 the 456th BS. The original Barker crew was made up of Capt. Barker-P, Lt. Paul E. Warf-N, Lt. Robert Covarrubias-B, S/Sgt. Fredrick C. Butcher, S/Sgt. David Fefer, and M/Sgt. William J. Garrick. Barker eventually became the Commanding Officer of the 456th BS.
On the last mission of the day on June 6, 1944, the Barker crew, flying in WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry" named after the OSU fight song, led the group of 36 323rd B-26 Marauders to Caen Road Juncitons C-1 and C-2 over the Orne River. The group attacked the target in three groups of 12 aircraft flying in groups of four aircraft per flight. The formation reduced its altitude to just under 4,000 feet to get under the cloud cover by dong two 360 degree spiral turns off the French Coast. After crossing into France, the formation made a right turn at Mezidon to fly further inland and attack the target by flying parallel to the Orne toward the Atlantic coast. A Luftwaffe light flak battery positioned at the Mezidon Marshalling Yard must have been caught preoccupied or off guard as Box I, let by Barker, flew over. Box II encountered little flak. The Box III lead and the 11 aircraft following that crew were not as fortunate. Maj. Paul Stach and crew were shot down near Mezidon. It was dark when the formation, minus the Stach crew, returned to base at Earls Colne, England.
On July 18, 1944, Lt. Col Barker, now flying in WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry"with Lt. Al Allision-N and Lt. Walt Foster-B, led 36 323rd BG aircraft to the Demouville Defended Area just east of Caen. The bombing of Demouville has been described as the largest bombing effort of the Second World War. The 323rd was the tenth of eleven 9th Bomb Command groups over the target. Although none of the other 9th AF groups had been able to get their bombs in the target area (all employing an area or carpet bombing simultaneous release technique), all bombs dropped by the Box led by the Barker crew fell within the target area, despite the cloud of smoke and dust in the target area. In return, the group had to sustain significant battle damage to a significant percentage of its aircraft.
Lt. Col. Barker again flying in "Buckeye Battle Cry" with Lts. Allison, Foster and Burgmeier as GEE Navigator, led agroup of 36 323rd aircraft in the first mission flown by the 9th Bomb Command off of French soil from the airfield near Lessay (where Charles Lindburgh had landed in his cross Atlantioc flight) to a bridge near Rouen. Footage of this historic mission is at National Archives in College Park,Maryland.
On September 9/10, 1944, Lt. Col. Barker flying again in "Buckeye Battle Cry" with Lts. Allison and Foster, appears to have flown his last mission with the 323rd, leading a group of 36 aircraft to Fort du Haye Supply Post from an airfield near Chartes in a highly successful mission. This was also Lt. Allison's last mission with the 323rd. 323rd combat crews regarded night missions as "the worst" they had to fly. The aircraft flew in boxes of 9 in single file to the target without their lights on, increasing the risk of getting lost (and possibly straying over a Luftwaffe heavy flak gun) and colliding midair with another aircraft.
Lt. Foster indicated after the war that he had a great deal of respect for LT. Col. Barker, who held the lead crew members to exacting standards to ensure the success of the mission. Both Lts. Walt Foster and Frank Burgmeier, a lead navigoator for the 456th, indicated they very much enjoyed flying with Lt. Col. Barker, who treated his crew members very well. He exhibited grit and leadership, leading the group on missions to very heavily defended targets undeterred by the barrages of flak encountered in and out of the target areas.
Col. Barker passed away on December 12, 2002 in the Mesa, Arizona area. He was survived by his wife of 60 year, Maxine, and three children and several grandchildren.
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 | 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 | 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 plane was named “Buckeye Battle Cry” for the OSU fight song.
||London, Ohio, USA
||9 October 1919
||Mesa, Arizona, USA area
||12 December 2002
||Athens County, Ohio, USA