A Rare Original “D-Day Clicker” Found

 

A rare D-Day “clicker” security device used by British and American Paratroopers
landing on Normandy during the evening of June 5 and early hours of June 6, 1944.
Located in Birmingham in time to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in tribute.
Photo courtesy of ACME Whistles, manufacturer in WWII

 

In a desperate bid to retrieve a missing part of history from June 6, 1944, a campaign was launched to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the veterans who served and were likely saved by it.  A top secret security device used by British and American paratroopers in evading German forces behind enemy lines, an original “clicker” had not been seen since WWII.  Upon parachuting into Normandy in 1944, paratroopers were ordered to use the device only for the initial 24 hour period and discard thereafter to prevent falling into German hands.

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ACME Whistles News, Military (UK)

How We Found The Lost ACME Clicker

Earlier this month we launched a campaign to find the “Lost D-Day Clickers” produced by ACME Whistles for use by the 101st American Airborne Division in June 1944.  Their purpose at the time of manufacture was kept top secret but later became evident that these clickers, which we produced in complete secrecy, were a vital piece of survival equipment for the heroic paratroopers involved in the famous D-Day Landings during World War II.

We have been delighted with the incredible coverage that the “Search For The Lost Clickers” campaign has had and we’d like to take a moment here to say a very sincere Thank You to everyone who helped to spread the word about the campaign. We even had the opportunity to appear on BBC News.

As a result of the campaign’s coverage, we are overjoyed to be able to reveal that we have been successful in our attempts to locate one of these lost pieces of significant military history.  To our amazement, we found a clicker located in Birmingham, just a short drive from the ACME Whistles factory!

The clicker was found by Diarmid and Liz who discovered it amongst the collection of military items kept by Liz’s father, Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond (1906 -1997).  Speaking about the significant find, they said: “Whilst sorting through Liz’s father’s collections, we came across the clicker and realised what it was.  However, until we read the news about ACME’s ‘Search for the Lost Clickers’ – we hadn’t realised how rare they were,” said Diarmid.  “It’s great to help save this little part of history for others to enjoy.

After investigation of other items from the same period in Geoffrey’s collections, Liz and her family were able to place their father in the Normandy region at the time of the D-Day Landings – thanks to notes and memoirs he wrote during the war.  Although there is no direct reference to the clicker within his writings, or any indication of how it came into his possession, it clearly indicates Geoffrey arrived in Normandy and was working on the vehicle staging areas during that time.

WWII Normandy clicker and artifacts of Capt Geoffrey Kemp Bond (UK)

Our objective at the start of this campaign was to honor the memories of all the brave heroes who fought in World War II as part of the D-Day 75 commemorations by attempting to preserve an extremely rare piece of D-Day history.  Thanks to Diarmid and Liz reading about our campaign and reaching out to us, we are now extremely proud to be able to say that one of the few remaining original clickers has found its way back to its factory birthplace and is now part of an ACME Whistles display at our headquarters in Birmingham.

“During the war, the order to produce 7000 clickers would have been Top Secret, so we wouldn’t have been allowed to keep a clicker even if we had wanted to. Therefore, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we put out a search around the world from Europe to America to try and find an original clicker to ensure this part of D-Day history could be kept.  Little did we know that we’d find one so close to the factory in Birmingham!”

Simon Topman, Managing Director of ACME Whistles

Simon Topman, Managing Director of ACME Whistles

 

“My father was an avid collector and interested in history.  Stamps were his thing but keeping these military items would have appealed with the view of saving a piece of history.   I think the clicker now being displayed back at the factory where it was made would have really put a smile on his face.”

Liz, Daughter of Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond  (1906 – 1997)

 

Acme 470 clicker used during the D-Day landings by British and American paratroopers in 1944,
as a means of communicating with allied troops.

Story of Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond  (1906-1997)

Geoffrey Kemp Bond was a schoolmaster at the Royal Masonic Junior School, Bushey, Watford, Hertfordshire prior to being called up for service and went into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and reported to the Hillsea Barracks, Portsmouth as Private 10583753 in the Spring of 1942.  He was originally due to be called up in 1941 but unfortunately broke his ankle very badly playing football with the schoolboys and when call-up did come, which would have been for the North Africa campaign, he was deferred for another year. When he did join up he was amongst the oldest of the recruits and from March to May went to various companies and training camps including Woollaton Park, Nottingham.

In July 1942 he was sent to Chilwell where the job he was given was “chasing” i.e. finding spares and items needed urgently by Military Transport.  This is where he gained a wide-ranging knowledge of all the vehicles being built and developed.  He then applied for a commission and was transferred to Bicester. There he was trained in all aspects of ordnance procedures – organisation – branches – paperwork and weapons and mock attacks and so on.  He passed and was sent to Officer Training School at Repton where he received his commission as a Lieutenant.

He was allocated to Armoured Fighting Vehicle Park divided into A tracked vehicles and B wheeled vehicles – he went into A at this stage and in particular Troop Carriers.  It became clear that they were being prepared for the long awaited ‘Second Front’. During this period, he went to Chilwell, Handforth (Cheshire), Craven Arms (waterproofing course – BOSTIK and high steel plates fitted to the sides of vehicles) and a mock battle practice in North Wales.

WWII Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond (UK)

The unit had all its carriers they expected instinctively to move South, but went to Walton-on-the-Naze for a week (possibly to back up the false rumours of the invasion being in Norway).  They were still there when the invasion in Normandy began.  After this they were embarked onto a tramp ship at Tilbury to go down the Thames Estuary, through the Dover Straits, and across to the landing beaches.  They arrived on about D+8 and he described what he saw as “the biggest jungle of shipping you can imagine”.

They were kept lying at anchor for 2 days before being ordered ashore and told to contact 17 Vehicle Park.  It was late in the day when the company of 6 carriers started the slow crawl up the beach where they lined up and stripped off the BOSTIK to stop the engines overheating.  He had to wait overnight as he had no instructions where the Vehicle Park was, and the Beach Master had gone off for the night. The next morning they were instructed to go to Bayeux and then turn back to the village of Vaux-sur-Aure where 4 Vehicle Park was to be set up in fields with high hedges and wide dry ditches around them. They could hear the battle for Tilly a few miles away. The REME mechanics prepared the carriers immediately and sent them off loaded with infantrymen to the front.

The Vehicle Park was set up in this field with vehicles as they arrived from the beaches parked down one side and the cookhouse and sleeping tents – set up in the wide ditch – down the other side.  They could hear the battle for Tilly getting louder and quieter as it raged on.

Signed book and note to Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond from Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery,
A senior British Army officer nicknamed “Monty” who fought in both WWI and WWII.

Lt Bond’s routine was to go in a Utility vehicle (Tilly for short) and a couple of 3 tonners with drivers to fields near the sea each morning where carriers had been landed and the men drove the carriers back. He observed the Mulberry Harbour being built day by day until the vehicles were able to be driven over pontoon roadways to shore.  He described the traffic as being enormous and that a bypass was being built round Bayeux to move the traffic through quickly.  He remembers seeing Monty in the main street in Bayeux driving past in an open Staff Car, acknowledging everyone’s salutes with a grin!

Bond was then transferred to B Vehicle Park on the other side of Vaux-sur-Aure and found himself in charge of older men who had been called up from driving lorries and trucks to do the same in France.  He was there through to October.

Geoffrey was later sent on behind the army to a vehicle park in Woluwe, Brussels.  By the time of the surrender to mark the end of the war, Bond was a Captain and in charge of a MT depot in Twistringen.  This involved searching out the dumps of German equipment all over the countryside and storing them together in the MT depot. After demobilisation in 1946, Geoffrey returned to teaching and eventually became a headmaster.

Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond, pictured in the middle of the back row.

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The small metal life-saving tool was used by troops at Normandy in attempt to determine whether among friend or foe in pitch black conditions.  Every paratrooper was issued a clicker and, upon being dropped into darkness on the eve of D-Day, were told to utilize if suspecting someone was near.  (On the night of the invasion, only approximately 15% of paratroopers landed in the right location and clearly at a disadvantage.)  They were instructed to click once and, if heard two clicks in reply, that meant friend. No response meant something else, Simon Topman noted.

General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the American 101st Airborne Division at Normandy, introduced the use of the “cricket” in 1944 for the 101st and would soon discover first hand its value.

I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate.  Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side.  I drew my pistol and got all set.  Then I heard the click.  That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

The “crickets” have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself.

British 470 Acme clicker developed to allow British forces to communicate with Allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

The Managing Director at ACME Whistles said the quiet noise created by the clickers was the “original sound of D-Day” and was a hugely important tool for soldiers to find allies in unfamiliar conditions.  The ACME Whistles Birmingham-based factory was given the “top secret” task of making 7,000 clickers, six months prior to D-Day.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air. World War II combat photos

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This British History once again Marks its Valued Contribution to Allies

in Honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

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A Widow’s Journey to a Husband’s Valor

July 17, 1944

1st Lt. Billie D. Harris USAF and wife Peggy

Peggy and 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris (USAF) were married six weeks prior to his deployment in WWII.  Billie, a fighter pilot, would fly his last mission on July 17, 1944 over Nazi-occupied northern France.  With his plane shot down, he crashed into the woods near a small town in Normandy and did not survive.

Peggy, however, would receive no telegram or a knock on the door, nothing definitive to explain what had happened to her husband during his WWII service.  Initially he was reported missing, then alive and coming home, followed by a letter stating he was killed and buried in one cemetery, and then buried in another.  “Perhaps those weren’t his remains at all” would soon follow.

American planes flying over Northern France 
July, 1944

For Peggy, it was extremely frustrating and painful as she continued to wait for answers. Months turned into years and years into decades.  She wrote repeatedly to her Congressman for answers and the last response in 2005, from the Vice-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stated Billie was still listed as “missing in action according to the National Archives,” although their records actually reflect “KIA.”

In the repeated absence of answers denied for decades, Billie’s cousin, Alton Harvey, felt closure was owed Peggy at long last and requested Billie’s service records.  In those would be revealed the long awaited history regarding the events and resting place of 1st Lt Billie Harris.  He was buried at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, in the WWII Cemetery and Memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe.  That, however, is not how they first discovered their long-awaited answers and not where the story ends.

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

After requesting Billie’s service records in 2005, they were told a woman in France had also placed a request.   Puzzled, Peggy and Alton contacted her and were informed, by a French citizen 61 years following the death of her husband, that 1st Lt. Harris was buried in Normandy.

Peggy was told the small Normandy town of Les Ventes had named their main road “Place Billie D. Harris” where townspeople have marched every year since 1944 to honor in part his sacrifice.  It had been witnessed on that fateful day of Billie’s last mission that he had veered his downed plane into the woods and avoided crashing into the town itself.  Out of great respect and gratitude, he was initially buried in  their cemetery with honor, prior to his later removal to the American cemetery in Normandy.

Les Ventes, Normandy
The town saved by 1st Lt Billie Harris USAF
when veering from the town and crashing in a forest
upon being shot down by Nazi forces, July 17, 1944

Steet sign marking the sacrifice by 1st Lt Billie D. Harris USAF
in saving the town of Les Ventes during WWII
July 17, 1944

Overwhelmed by this news, Peggy was invited to attend a commemoration in honor of her husband by the townspeople.  Welcomed with open arms and gratitude, Peggy finally received details forever sought and needed, and the opportunity to at long last view her husband’s grave.

Peggy S. Harris, a World War II widow,
visits the grave of her husband, 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris for the first time in 2005
after more than 60 years in her attempt to discover his whereabouts
Normandy American Cemetery in France
(Courtesy photo)

1st Lt Billie D. Harris USAF
American Cemetery and Memorial
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

Villagers march along the Place Billie D. Harris 3 times a year, in part for commemoration for Billie’s sacrifice, and still place flowers on his grave to this day.  The admiration for her husband is now extended to Peggy and she makes an annual pilgrimage, even visiting the forest of her husband’s crash with the sole remaining witness of that day.

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Peggy and Billie’s love story began in 1942.  Peggy Harris, a native of Vernon, Texas, was working as an electrical instrument mechanic at Altus Air Force Base.   She loved poetry and the opera and would initially hear from 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris, a native of Altus, Oklahoma, via letters sent through his father (her boss and apparent matchmaker).  Although she tried to discourage Billie, their letter campaign commenced and continued until  finally meeting at a hanger at Altus AFB,  they quickly became inseparable.

Although their life together was brief, Peggy would remain forever devoted to her husband and a life-long widow.  “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him for all of mine.”

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

Since learning of her husband’s burial at Normandy, Peggy sends flowers to adorn his grave ten times a year which includes anniversaries, his birthday, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Christmas, among others.  The staff at the American Cemetery believe she is the last surviving WWII widow visiting her husband’s grave, which has been a comfort denied her for a lifetime.

 

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With Deep Respect and Gratitude

For Your Service and Sacrifice

MEMORIAL DAY
2019

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Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

 

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Classified British Life-savers in D-Day Landings

Acme 470 clicker used during 1944 D-Day landings as a means of communicating with allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

In approaching the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, perhaps there is history, unbeknownst to many, on safeguards instilled for British and American paratroopers prior to 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944 – along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.

This particular defense was secretly crafted and classified by the British and also used by American forces.  “I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division claims he introduced the use of the cricket in 1944.  An order was placed with J Hudson and Co. and the factory increased production to meet the large order, producing the quantity with existing stock. Genuine examples exist in brass and nickel.  Initially, the nickel version was utilized and the remainder were made of brass.  Today the numbers that are emerging indicate that for every seven to ten brass versions found, there is one nickel version.   This most likely indicates that nickel was the minority of the order make up  and the brass version was predominant.

The crickets were used during the night of June 5th / 6th 1944 by the young men of the 101st with the intention that they should be discarded thereafter. Many of the men retained their ‘crickets’ long after the war and they have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself.

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Desperate bid to track down life-saving ‘clickers’ British soldiers used in D-Day landings

The Evening Standard (UK)
Olivia Tobin

Manufacturers from ACME Whistles are attempting to trace the “lost clickers” of the Normandy Landings, a life-saving tool of the invasion, to mark the 75th anniversary.  The small metal device was used by troops abroad to try to determine if among friends or foes in pitch black conditions.  Every paratrooper was issued a clicker and upon being dropped into darkness on the eve of D-Day, were told to utilize if suspecting someone was near. (On the night of the invasion, only approximately 15% of paratroopers landed in the right location.) They were instructed to click once and, if heard two clicks in reply, that meant friend.   No response meant something else, Simon Topman noted.

ACME’s Campaign To Find The Lost D-Day Clickers

British 470 Acme clicker developed to allow British forces to communicate with Allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

On D-Day – June 6, 1944 – World War Two Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France which was code-named Operation ‘Overlord’.  It marked the beginning of a long campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.  By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold on the Normandy beaches and could begin advancing into France.

The Managing Director at ACME Whistles said the quiet noise created by the clickers was the “original sound of D-Day” and was a hugely important tool for soldiers to find allies in unfamiliar conditions.  The ACME Whistles Birmingham-based factory was given the “top secret” task of making 7,000 clickers, six months prior to D-Day.

Simon Topman, Managing Director, of Acme Whistles
Photo – Evening Standard

Paperwork and instructions regarding the task were provided and the plans swiftly rushed away to London afterward.  Because of the secrecy, the factory could not be left with even one clicker and have not seen any since dispatched to soldiers in WWII.

Mr. Topman called the clickers “vital” for soldiers’ safety.  “No one knew of their existence and no German soldiers had them.  They were to be used only in the first 24 hours of landing to stop Germans from making their own or trying to mimic them.   It was only later we discovered their purpose.”

The importance of the devices was also highlighted when the factory creating them was targeted.  The factory itself was bombed when incendiary bombs were dropped and one found its way down the lift shaft, exploding in the cellar.  Whistles were sent raining out into the streets of Birmingham and a third of the factory was demolished, but so essential were its products that it was rebuilt in just four days.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air. World War II combat photos

During World War II, ACME played a vital role in the war effort.  There was no commercial trade, as production was given over entirely to making whistles for the war effort and,  of course, Clickers.

Supported by The Royal British Legion and intended to meaningfully mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, ACME Whistles is now appealing to people to try to trace the historical tools.

“It would be absolutely lovely to be able to put one in our showroom maybe, even for a few weeks, and be able to say it’s here.  It’s the original sound of D-Day and the sound of history. We would love to find as many of the original Clickers as possible.”

“Perhaps your great Grandfather was a D-Day veteran and has a box of war medals where it could lie unknown?  Maybe an elderly neighbor is a widow of a D-Day veteran who doesn’t realize the significance of the unassuming Clicker?   We ask that people start seeking them out, to see if they can unearth a lost piece of sound history.”

If you believe you’re in possession of an original ACME Clicker please contact: Ben McFarlane, Ben.McFarlane@ACMEwhistles.co.uk, 0121 554 2124 or feel free to message on Instagram: @ACME_whistles.

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Perhaps this bit of British history will again mark its valued contribution

by Allies in honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

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The Passing of a Hero

Lt Col. Richard E. Cole
1915 – 2019

Lt Col Richard E Cole (USAAC, USAAF)
Co-Pilot to Lt Col James H Doolittle, attack group leader
Doolittle Tokyo Raid on Japan – April 18, 1942
U.S. response to Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor

The last surviving member of the WWII Doolittle Tokyo Raiders has passed away at 103.  2nd Lt Richard Cole was one of 80 airmen volunteering for the highly classified and dangerous operation, April 18, 1942, in retaliation for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Lt Col James H. Doolittle, mission leader, would give the airmen every option to withdraw. All remained steadfast in accepting the inherent danger.

Richard Eugene Cole was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. Enlisting in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on November 22, 1940, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Randolph Field, Texas on July 12, 1941.  His first assignment was as a B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 34th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group at Pendleton, Oregon from July 1941 until selection for the Doolittle mission in February 1942.  Lt. Cole would serve as co-pilot to Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle in the lead crew of 16 modified B-25 medium bombers.

Recruited from the Army Air Force, 17th Bombardment Group, the airmen were among the first to receive B-25 medium bombers, integral for the mission, and some of the finest pilots from 35 states.  Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, aviation legend and attack group leader, would oversee the operation and a maneuver never previously attempted – the unprecedented launching of B-25 bombers from a carrier deck, the USS Hornet, off the coast of Japan.   Following a mere  three weeks of simulated practice, the mission moved forward.   Highly cloaked in secrecy, the destination  remained unknown to the airmen until briefed at sea.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle (left), attack group leader of the Army Air Forces. The group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities. The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Passing beneath the Golden Gate on the carrier USS Hornet, as the waves of  thousands cheered their departure, the hearts and hopes of a nation sailed for those sacrificed at Pearl Harbor.  10,000 Navy personnel and a task force of ships would deliver 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crewmen within striking distance of Japan.   In a high-risk launching of bombers in the western Pacific, they were all prime targets for Japanese  forces.

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet
In route to the mission’s launching point for the Tokyo Raid
One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance
(U.S. Navy photo)

Lt. Col. Doolittle’s B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from USS Hornet – 18 April 1942
(U.S. Navy photo)

Departure of an Army B-25 from the deck of the USS HORNET in the first U.S. air raid on Japan
Doolittle Tokyo Raid, April 18,1942
National Archives and Records Administration

Ultimately detected by the Japanese, hours prior to takeoff and 200 miles further out to sea than dictated, immediate departure in rough seas was required of the airmen.  What was always a dangerous mission was now possibly suicidal, as it was doubtful they had sufficient fuel to reach China following their raid.  Led by Lt Col James H. Doolittle, 16 B-25 bombers were swiftly launched from the carrier deck of the USS Hornet, weighed down with extra gas and stripped of unnecessary equipment, flying 200 feet above the waves toward the Japanese coast. Their targets were industrial and military installations in Japan with  escape to safe-landing destinations in China. With fuel consumption a major concern, as well as threat of anti-aircraft fire and enemy interception, it was a risky endeavor for safe passage of these men.

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole (front right), copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Cole, at the age of 98, is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

The raid would claim a sacrifice in return.  Although most of the 80 valiant men would survive, one would  lose his life  in parachuting over China and two by ditching off the China coast.  Three of eight airmen, captured by the Japanese, would die by execution.  A fourth perished in a Japanese prison as the others endured harsh and extreme confinement.  Essentially all  16  bombers  inevitably were  lost.  Of the 15 reaching China, 11 were destroyed  during bail-outs and 1 crash-landing, while 3 were ditched at sea. The remaining, seriously low on fuel, was confiscated on landing in Russia and the crew incarcerated.

Following their raid over Tokyo, without incident, the Doolittle crew’s navigator calculated their fuel would land them 180 miles short of the Chinese coast and their safe landing.  Their savior was a powerful developing storm with winds from east to west which would propel them over China.  They endured the subsequent flying at night in stormy weather until forced to parachute from the plane when their fuel was depleted.  Lt. Cole’s ultimate destination was a tree where he spent the night, hanging twelve feet from the ground, until connecting with his safely landed crew members the following morning.  Spared from detection and capture by the Japanese, they were rescued by Chinese nationalist forces which ultimately connected them with their remaining Raider crews.

In the aftermath of the raid, the Japanese Army were conducting a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China.  In effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan. they were searching for surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

Despite the minimal effect of the bombing, the mission proved a definitive success in its reciprocal lesson of vulnerability which took a toll on Imperial Japan and its military strategy. The undertaking by these Raiders, 131 days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, greatly boosted American and Allied morale and would generate strategic benefits for the U.S. in the Battle of Midway with subsequent disaster for the Japanese in the number of ships and pilots lost.

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In long overdue recognition, Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of WWII were honored with  a Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.   Bestowed for their tremendous valor and sacrifice at a pivotal point in our military history, it is one of our nation’s highest awards.  Lt. Richard Cole (below) was the only one of 4 surviving Doolittle Raiders able to witness the legislative signing in an Oval Office ceremony on May 23, 2014.

 

In full circle of Lt Col Richard Cole’s Air Force career, his memorial was held at Randolph Air Base-San Antonio, the site of earning his wings on July 12, 1941, prior to his February, 1942 acceptance in the raid.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, addresses the family of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas April 18, 2019. Cole was the last surviving Doolittle Raider who took part in the storied World War II raid on Tokyo and was a founding Airman of the USAF Special Operations community.

Memorial service for retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole. Last surviving member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Founding Airman of the USAF Special Operations Community. Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Air Base April 18, 2019 (Photo by Tristin English)

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Final Doolittle Raider’s Tradition of Honor
and Legacy of Valor Celebrated at Memorial

Dan Hawkins | Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs | April 19, 2019

The tradition of honor and legacy of valor that defined the life of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole were celebrated during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph April 18.

On the day marking the 77th anniversary of the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo raid and in a hangar surrounded by vintage aircraft linked to the Doolittle Raider’s career, Cole’s family and friends, Air Force senior leaders, and Airmen of all ranks gathered to recognize the accomplishments of the humble warrior from Ohio who answered his nation’s call in America’s darkest days.

Rich Cole, Lt. Col. Cole’s son and a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. like his father, spoke passionately about his father and his willingness to be a wingman and leader, defending his country with his life.  “All the (Doolittle Raiders) considered they were doing their job and didn’t expect the adoration they received upon returning home,” Rich Cole said. “One of the greatest lessons my dad imparted on us was that being willing to do something impossible and die for your country was an honorable thing.”

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson talked to those gathered about the strategic importance of the Doolittle Raiders and their risky mission to fly, fight, and win in retaliation against Japan for their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor just months earlier.

“(The Raiders) planned the unthinkable,” Wilson said. “To strike Tokyo from an aircraft carrier…with a land-based bomber.  If the 16-ship package had been discovered by Japanese subs, it could have ended what was left of the U.S. fleet in the Pacific.”

Wilson recounted how Cole once described heroes as those “who took risks that brought about important consequences,” but never counted himself among them.

“When America was at its lowest point, it needed a hero,” Wilson said. “(America) found 80 of them who put the country on their back and flew straight into the heart of the enemy.  For this, we will never forget.”

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the audience several stories centered on Cole and how unassuming he was about his career, which included becoming one of the first air commandos in the U.S. special operations community, viewing his own place in history simply as someone doing their job as part of the big picture.

“(Cole) and the Doolittle Raiders made the impossible possible since 1942 as pioneers of global strike,” Goldfein said. “On that fateful day, Lt Cole and his fellow wingmen cemented the very notion of joint airpower with the clear statement that America’s Air Force can hold any target at risk anywhere, anytime.”

Acknowledging the Cole family’s loss, the chief of staff spoke to Cole’s significant contributions to our nation’s defense and lifetime place in the Air Force family as “one of the rare giants of the Greatest Generation.”

“(Cole’s) legacy will endure because as long as there is a United States Air Force, Airmen will toast him and his fellow Doolittle Raiders,” Goldfein said.  “We are better prepared today to defend our great nation because of him…and because of you.”

American Career Officer

U.S. Army (USAAC, USAAF) 1940-1947
U.S. Air Force 1947-1966
World War II 1941-1945
Cold War 1945-1966
Korean War Theater 1952-1953

Bronze Star
Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (2)

His 1st (of 3) Distinguished Flying Cross Citations reads:

For extraordinary achievement while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942.  Captain Cole volunteered for this mission, knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote and executed his part in it with great skill and daring.   This achievement reflects high credit on Captain Cole and the military services.

Image by Air Force Magazine

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Lt Col Richard Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

 

In Profound Gratitude for your Service

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Capturing the Moment

Miracle on the Hudson

US Airways flight 1549, piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger
Emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River
January 15, 2009
Credit: Steven Day / AP

America’s military veterans never fail to persevere and inspire in their duty and missions.  How many iconic moments have forever been forged in our minds, our hearts, and on film to commemorate and revisit their heroism at home or abroad.  Such was exemplified by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, veteran USAF fighter pilot and US Air Force Academy graduate, January 15, 2009, during his extraordinary Hudson River landing in saving 155 souls in the process.

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Honoring “The Miracle on the Hudson” Pilot

On January 15, 2009 – ten years ago today – New Yorkers watched in awe as an Airbus A320 glided into the Hudson River with a splash.

Moments later, its passengers and crew calmly began climbing out onto the wings of the floating aircraft. All had survived, with few injuries. The event appropriately became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

A few minutes earlier, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia Airport just before 3:30 pm. It was a clear, crisp day, and all was normal.

Suddenly, a flock of geese smashed into the nose, wings, and the engines of the plane. The airplane in crisis, control was shifted to its captain, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger.  A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Sullenberger’s career began as a fighter pilot thirty-five years earlier. Sully’s military training, and lessons learned since, would show themselves in the most dangerous three and a half minutes of his career.


On the tenth anniversary of this incredible event, take a moment to watch the story of Sully and Flight 1549, as told by George Clooney.

The story of the “Miracle on the Hudson” captivated the nation in a time when many Americans were still reeling from the financial crisis, and in a city still scarred by September 11th. The five-minute flight of 1549 gave us hope, reminding us of the best of who we are as Americans, and that, in the end, we’re all on the same team.

James C. Roberts
President & Founder

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In Profound Gratitude for All who Serve

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A Christmas Truce – 1944

Infantrymen of the US First Army in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest
advance to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Christmas 1944

December 24th

Three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were lost in the snow-covered Ardennes forest.  They wandered for three days, unable to find their unit.  If shelter was not found soon, the injured soldier would most likely die.

Lost, cold, and in pain, with the sounds of war exploding everywhere, the thought of returning home to family kept them going.  Eventually stumbling upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods, they knocked on the door.

When Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son Fritz heard the knock, they were terrified. Elisabeth cracked the door open, shocked to see three enemy soldiers on her doorstep.

Upon viewing the injured man, Frau Vincken’s compassion welcomed them inside.  She had little – a single chicken was all she could produce for the war-weary soldiers – but willingly offered them all she had.  As the chicken roasted in the oven, there was another unexpected knock. Her son opened the door, assuming there were more lost Americans.  The four men standing outside the cottage were not Americans.  They were Germans.

The punishment for harboring enemy soldiers was death.  Elisabeth, fearing for her life, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside.

The German soldiers explained they were lost and hungry and asked for Christmas Eve refuge in her home.  Elisabeth told them they were welcome to share what little food she had but warned she had other “guests.” The German soldiers sternly asked if they were Americans.

Frau Vincken nodded. “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen,” she said. “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”

She told the German soldiers to leave their weapons outdoors and then invited them inside.  The tension in the air was palpable as the German and American soldiers stared at each other.

What happened next can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One of the German soldiers, a former medical student, noticed the badly injured American soldier.  The German had compassion towards his enemy and offered to tend his wounds – a simple act of kindness that eased the tension. The American soldiers began to converse using what little German they knew.

Frau Vincken finished preparing supper and motioned for everyone to sit at the table.  As they said grace, the exhausted soldiers forgot about the war – if only for a moment.  Several of the soldiers – both American and German – had tears in their eyes as they ate their humble Christmas dinner. That evening, enemies declared an informal truce as the spirit of Christmas filled Frau Vincken’s tiny home.

The next morning, the German soldiers provided directions to the American front lines – and provided the Americans with a compass.  They shook hands, thanked Frau Vincken for her hospitality, and went their separate ways.

With carnage all around them, the Spirit of Christmas proved to be a more powerful force than the hatred of war.

James C. Roberts
American Veterans Center

Christmas 2018

Christmas wreaths placed on veteran graves in remembrance
Arlington National Cemetery

American forces, far from home, in unending service at Christmas

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Christmas Blessings in Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present

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U.S. Joint Military Services

GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Home of the Brave – 11/11/18

Capt. John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo

Capt John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo
Pilot and Operations Officer
351st Bomb Squadron and 350th Bomb Squadron
100th Bomb Group
(Photo courtesy of Matt Mabe)

John Luckadoo was born March 16, 1922 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  For John, the climate made it a depressing area to be raised as a boy and he longed to leave one day.  Set on the bend of the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, the weather would frequently include clouds, rain, and fog.  Little did Luckadoo realize, years later, he would experience the same weather in England while in combat as a B-17 pilot.

A sophomore in college when Pearl Harbor was attacked, John yearned to be a pilot and joined the Army Air Corp after acceptance as an Aviation Cadet.  Initially on a two-month furlough with so many others in the pipeline, he was finally called early in 1942 to Montgomery, Alabama for six-weeks of pre-flight training and selected as wing adjutant of 4,000 cadets.  From there, they were transferred to the base in Avon Park, FL for primary training where he flew the old Steerman Yellow Peril, a PT-17 built by Boeing.

During initial flight training in Florida, Luckadoo was Captain of his Cadet class through Primary, as well as Basic and Advanced.   Sent to Shaw Field, SC for Basic training, they received a much more powerful low-wing airplane, the Vultee BT-13, with 450 horsepower in which they learned both night and formation flying.

Luckadoo and his fellow advanced graduate students, less than 30 days out from flight school, were to be assigned as Co-Pilots in the new B-17s for overseas duty.  The aircraft was an enormous plane and a quantum leap from the small twin-engine AT-10s flown during advanced training,  so it was a pretty rude awakening   The huge 4-engine plane with a 10-man crew was mounted with thirteen 50-caliber machine guns and described as a war machine.  The flying fortress would protect itself very adequately at high altitude and particularly in mass formation.  Nevertheless, it was an overwhelming experience with no prior introduction to the aircraft at all.

At the behest of his pilot who became his instructor, John more quickly learned the operation of the plane and was extremely impressed with the B-17’s capability of flight and its handling characteristics.

Cadet John Luckadoo
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo collection)

Cadet John Luckadoo during stateside training
Avon Park, FL base
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

Capt John H. Luckadoo
350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group
13 Feb 1944
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

2nd Lt. Luckadoo was with the original 100th Bomb Group cadre to arrive in England and the 351st Bomb Squadron based at Thorpe Abbotts.  He initially flew 21 missions with the 351st and the Lt. Glenn Dye Crew aboard the “SUNNY,” which was later lost on Sept 03, 1943 when shot down with the crew of Lt Richard King.

Following his 21 missions, Luckadoo was then checked out as a First Pilot and became Operations Officer first for the 351st Squadron and later for the 350th, as well.  He would then complete his tour as Captain with Bill DeSanders on 13 February, 1944.

Losses had begun to mount in groups already operational with the newly commissioned Eighth Air Force in England.  As the urgency for bomber crews escalated and, with scarcely 80 days in the B-17s, these newly integrated co-pilots of the 100th BG were released and found themselves spanning the North Atlantic, combat bound. With many having precious little time at the controls of the aircraft and sorely lacking in vital information techniques and emergency procedures, formidable risks were inherent.  As a consequence, of the nearly 40 members of the class of 43-B who replaced the original co-pilots of the 100th, only 4 completed their combat tours.

In all, this class of pilots actually sustained approximately a 90% loss factor within the first four months the group was operational.

Bar card at Thorpe Abbotts base, noting completion of 25 missions
(John Luckadoo collection)

Capt. John H. Luckadoo and Capt William D. DeSanders
350th Bomb Squadron
“Alice from Dallas II”
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo)

SUNNY II – Pilot Glen Dye crew
351st Bomb Squadron
Kneeling from left:
Francis C. Chaney – BOM, Timothy J. Cavanaugh – NAV
Ollen Turner – 351st Squadron Commander
Glen Dye – Pilot and John H. Luckadoo – Co-Pilot
(100th Photo Archives)

Capt Glenn Dye Crew with Sunny II
351st Bomb Squadron
(Photo courtesy of Guy Davis)

This  B-17 F  “Sunny II”  of the 100th Bomb Group and 351st Bomb Squadron, with its full crew led by Capt. Glenn Dye, presented its freshly painted nose-art.  The photo was taken at Thorpe Abbotts, England, in October 1943.  The plane would later be lost in crash landing safely with another crew on 30th December, 1943.

351st Squadron Officers of 100th Bomb Group
From left: Howard Keel – 351st Pilot, William Carleton – Engineering Officer
Alvin Barker – Operations Officer, destined to lose his life on the October 8th, 1943 Bremen mission, E. C. “Doc” Kinder – 351st famous Flight Surgeon and John “Lucky” Luckadoo – 351st Pilot who replaced Barker as Operations Officer following the Bremen mission on 8 Oct 1943
(100th Photo Archives)

In serving as operations officer for both the 351st and later 350th Bomb Squadrons, Luckadoo would become the only Operations Officer of two 100th Bomb Group Squadrons.  Following completion of his additional missions with the 35oth on 13 Feb 1944, Capt Luckadoo was offered Command of the 350th but decided instead on returning to the States with a record of 25 missions flown.

W.C. Gregg, John Luckadoo, Danny Schmucker, and Edward Moffly
Photo taken stateside following their return from England
(Photo collection of John Luckadoo)

The 100 Bomb Group flew its last combat mission of World War II on 10 April 1945.  In December 1945, the group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  Capt Luckadoo, as one of the 100th’s most respected officers, continued passing on his knowledge stateside in the Training Command of the 3rd Army Air Force.

French Legion of Honor presented to John Luckadoo
Courtesy of the John Luckadoo Collection

John Luckadoo is a frequent speaker in accepting requests from schools, churches, organizations and the media to convey his remarkable experience of service during WWII.

Capt John H. Luckadoo (Ret.)

In Gratitude for your Service and All who Serve

VETERANS DAY
2018

United States Joint Services
Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy

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