Ed Nebinger was a Second Lieutenant at 19 years of age. He served as fighter pilot with the 360th Fighter Squadron of the 356th Fighter Group, flying missions from Martlesham Heath, England. Along with the other officers, he lived nearby in Playford Hall, which they called 'the Castle', and it was while living here that he made friends with 'the ABCs', pilots Rich Andrino, Ray Burwell, and Bill Crump. Ed has written a memoir of their time as pilots, as young men meeting new people in wartime Britain and the losses they endured. Andrino was the only one of the four not to survive the war, he was killed flying a mission on Christmas Day 1944.
HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS TURN USAAF PILOTS
Ed Nebinger and Ed 'Ody' Thoma were friends at Liberty High School, Bethlehem, PA. They enlisted at the same time and went through basic, preflight and primary flight training together. While at Greenville for advanced training, Ody struggled with formation flying and was re-assigned as a multi-engine pilot.
Their routes diverged until both were stationed in England, Ed at Martlesham Heath, and Ody at Grafton Underwood. Before Ed could fly over to visit his friend though he received the news from Ody's fiancé Mellie that he has been killed in action. Her telegram ended with the words 'Both families devastated. My world destroyed. Pls try to get more info.'
In his memoir, he wrote 'this was terrible news to me, as I had not only lost my Bethlehem buddy but realized how agonizing it must be for Mellie, as the two were so deeply in love, with bright plans for the future. Now that world had come crashing down.'
Ed borrowed the groups UC-61 liaison aircraft and fly to Grafton Underwood to find out what had happened. Ody had been hit by flak over the target and was killed immediately. His co-pilot Robert Strand was also injured but managed to get the aircraft and crew back safely. Ed wrote a letter to Mellie to let her know as much about what had happened as possible.
MEETING ANNE RADCLIFFE
After Operation Market Garden, Ed Nebinger went to London on leave with Ed Pleasant, Fritz Rideout and Bob Gleason. One evening, Ed and Rideout went to the Jules Club in Piccadilly where he literally bumped into WAAF officer, Anne Radcliffe.
Anne's husband had been killed in action in 1942, and so, although they both sensed the connection between them, they took things slowly. Ed remembers: 'I began to talk of marriage, but she said "No, not yet; I feel it too, but we scarcely know one another and this is wartime." She paused, then added, "I do not want to go through that again. We need to finish our jobs, keep our minds on staying alive, and get this damned war over with first."'
Anne invited Ed to visit her parents at Wormley in mid-February 1945. The visit went well and both she and Ed felt closer than ever to one another.
Anne was killed when a V-2 rocket struck Smithfield Market on 8 March 1945. There was a special RAF memorial ceremony in the chapel at Uxbridge. Ed was there, sitting alongside Anne's parents. Ed writes 'the chapel was packed with RAF personnel - a sea of blue, a testimony to the respect with which Anne was held by her fellow officers. There was no coffin, no remains, only the memory of a special person.'
In his memoir, Ed reflected 'the losses of Andrino and Ody Thoma, which I felt deeply, could be rationalized to some degree by the fact that they were both engaged in active combat - in fact trying to do harm to the enemy. But the loss of Anne felt so personal and so outrageous that I felt I with all my senses and to the depth of my very soul; in fact, it dominated every waking moment of my life. This fine woman, who I loved deeply, had already lost a husband in the war and had spent several years of her young life helping to defend her countrymen from death and destruction from incoming bombers and V-1 bombs. And now, to be robbed of her life by an incredible ten-thousand-to-one or greater shot seemed to defy all logic and rationale, and I lay awake night after night trying to grasp the fact that it had really happened.'
AFTER THE WAR
Ed served in the USAF for 23 years and retired as a Lt. Colonel. He was stationed in the Philippines during the Korean conflict, and flew Mustangs in Korea.
After retiring from the US Air Force, Ed since received a MBA from the University of Maryland. In 1973, he founded Forecast International Inc., which provides market intelligence forecasting, proprietary research and consulting services for the worldwide Aerospace, Defense, Electronics and Power Systems industries. He remains the company's CEO. He and his wife Marge live in New Fairfield, CT.
Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 356th Fighter Group
Assigned to 360FS, 356FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) area support mission to Bonn in P-51 44-15307. Chasing a Fw190 at low level in the vicinity of Bonn, Germany when the E/A pulled up and over a small copse of trees, following closely, A/C hit...
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Military | Captain | Fighter pilot | 356th Fighter Group
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Military | Captain | Flight Surgeon | 356th Fighter Group
Doc Carey was well-regarded by 360th Fighter Squadron pilots. Ed Nebinger remembered Doc Carey as good natured and recalled that at the squadron's VE Day party he 'dug into his liberally guarded supply of mission whiskey, and was applying it liberally...
Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot, Pilot | 356th Fighter Group
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Military | Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 356th Fighter Group
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Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot | 356th Fighter Group
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Military | Section Controller
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Military | Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 356th Fighter Group
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Units served with
The 356th Fighter Group flew 413 missions between 15 October 1943 and 7 May 1945 and suffered the highest ratio of losses to enemy aircraft claims of any Eighth Air Force Group. This gave the Group the reputation of being the 'hard luck' outfit. The...
Ed Nebinger's aircraft. He named it 'Miss Ginny' after Virginia Power, a friend of his back home. He had met her in Montgomery, AL when he was an aviation cadet at Maxwell AFB and they kept up a correspondence during the war.
Military site : airfield
Opened in 1917 as home to the RFC Aeroplane Experimental Unit, Martlesham Heath became well known during the 1920s-30s as home to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment. Used as an RAF fighter station from 1939, with only a grass airfield...
Military site : non-airfield