Heroes: the Army Air Corps
"...I was the only man wounded on our crew. A small piece of shrapnel is yet above my left ear. The scar was readily seen before Elvis helped folk to appreciate sideburns. A frozen mist enveloped all of the interior of our navigation area. I was sure that it would vaporize to a harmful gas, when we descended to a warm altitude. Time and heat helped me to realize this was only the 'liquid' from our relief cans, splattered and vaporized about the area..."
Joseph J. Gilinsky, Sr.
- Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
- Unit: 94th Bomb Group/332nd - 333rd Bomb Sqn. [Heavy]
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: 2nd Lt., Navigator, Purple Heart
- Birth Year: 1921
- Entered Service: New Orleans, LA
My designated (mission) number was finally 35
Cadet Training...and beyond
"I enlisted in the U. S. Air Corps on the 15th of September 1942 in New Orleans on my 18th birthday. My mother reluctantly signed the papers. I had been previously tested and qualified for cadet training.
I was then shipped to Camp Beauregard for initial basic training and then sent to Keesler Field, Mississippi for more training. This was until cadet space was made available. While there I chased prisoners, did some KP (kitchen police), marched and marched and slept in eight man tents on canvas cots. We got a lot of heckling by the prisoners, mess sergeants and the drill instructors.
From Keesler, we were shipped off to Nashville, Tennessee for cadet indoctrination -- testing and information that all did not really prefer to be pilots. I chose the navigation route. I remember coal soot was flying in Nashville and being broke, for we had no pay records for the entire group. There was also no money from home as I 'learned the military way' my Dad said.
Also prevalent at Nashville were the measles and this was not acknowledged by any cadets until after shipment to the next base, Selmam Field, Monroe, Louisiana.
There at Selmam Field, we completed 'pre-flight' and began navigation training.
While at Selmam, I met Carol via a cousin, Claudia, and the 'career' was on the fast track.
I was grounded with the measles and hit the ground running -- G. I. boots, no tennies and no excuses accepted for having been in the hospital.
I graduated in August of 1943 and was commissioned 2nd Lt. I did not turn 19 until September 15th.
My first assignment as a navigator was to EPHRATA, WASHINGTON. One of my first tasks was to 'navigate a celestial training mission' in a trainer. Probably called a link trainer. Any season of stars were presentable; BUT, the sextant had to be held in a unique position to be able to make appropriate observations. Fortunately, this 18 year old accepted - no begged for assistance - rather than throwing the sextant or doing something even more foolish. We had no training on this trainer in navigation school.
There I met and was assigned to my crew. Our pilot was Ed. Johnson of Borger, Texas. Our co-pilot was Lloyd F. Conklin Lloyd Conklin - Co Pilot of Peekskill, New York. Our first bombardier, cannot recall his name, was replaced by Henry Kearley [Cearley]of Arkansas. Our radio operator was ------ Marullo of Rhode Island. Since the war, only Lloyd Conklin has remained in touch.
The crew went to Rapid City, South Dakota for three months of training and many medical exams -- but all passed, 'if body was warm'.
American Indians were the minority in South Dakota and got much less respect than our minorities in Louisiana.
The final departure move from Rapid City was by military train. The enlisted crew were surely on the train, but not remembered as being seen. The troop cars were triple deck sleepers. Neither porters nor linen are remembered. My bombardier kept borrowing money to play in the poker game. He finally paid the gigantic -twenty dollar debt -- many months later.
We were assigned our airplane -- the B17. The nagivator table was behind the bombardier position. Umbilicals included electricity for the suit, oxygen hose, communication cords and these always seeming to be non-coordinated.
At this time I used half of my month salary to purchase a 'ring for Carol'. She later said that I never 'asked her' , but, she never sent it back.
Off to England and the 'Jolly Roger'
December, we began our journey to England and the 8th Air Force. Our base 94th Bomb Group was Bury/St. Edmunds -- east of Cambridge and south of "the wash".
We arrived in Northern Scotland on Christmas Eve. I had carried my 'packages' to be opened in a timely manner. Our plane was taken from us to be 'combat theater modified'. I probably saw it after that, but surely would not have identified it.
Our waist gunners, lower ball gunner [Kauhner], tail gunner, radio operator and engineer -- upper turret gunner [Maruillo] had been assigned as they completed their respective schools. I do not recall the timing of these assignments. Only the engineer failed to complete his missions. This was due to battle 'fatigue'. He was older than the others and remained on duty as a ground mechanic. I recall that one of the waist gunners was a New York City policeman and of Irish descent. I -- much later had a chance encounter with 'Keuhner'. He had matured, and would no longer fit into the ball-turret position.
At Bury St. Edmunds,Heavy Bombers: 94th Bomb Group we were allowed to name our plane, 'the Jolly Roger'[according to co-pilot, Lloyd Conklin, the plane was called the 'Thundermug']. Some of our missions were flown in it -- many were not.
Image of the noseart entitled "Thundermug" from a verbal description given by the co-pilot, Lloyd Conklin during a phone interview.
Image is as accurate as we can make it without actually seeing the nose art.
6 August 2003
"See what you've brought about!!" (Edward Johnson)
Another crew member is located!
On August 6th, we were contacted by Mr.Edward Johnson, the 1st Pilot who crewed with Mr. Lloyd Conklin and Mr. Joseph J. Gilinsky, Jr.on the "Thunder Mug" during their bombing missions over Europe.
In one of Mr. Johnson's messages, he writes about their aircraft:
"... Actually we flew both of those planes when we first got to the 94th BG. we were assigned the "Thunder Mug" an older E-model 17 named by another crew, new crews were commonly given expendable aircraft as their survival history was rather grim! after five missions in the E we got a brand new G model which we named "Jolly Roger", Scull & Crossbones wearing a top hat with cane a martini glass with two olives how about that!!
We flew the JR ("Jolly Roger") on 21 missions, she was damaged so badly we got a replacement, the latest G with many improvements, we didn't name this one as we had only 4 missions to go and our main goal now was survival which obviously we did in May 1944, sure takes a while to tell these War stories but that should wrap up the name bit I don't often get into such as this in not my best memories..."
June 9, 1944. Image of Joseph J. Gilinksy [left] and Lloyd F. Conklin
taken after completion of assigned missions. Image was taken in England.
Gilinsky and Conklin have stayed in touch with one another over the years
mainly by the exchanging of Christmas cards. The events as related by both
men and told on these web pages, have sparked a renewed friendship of
these two former B-17 crew members.
Researcher Note: In discussing the information sent to this researcher with both men, Lloyd Conklin and Joseph Gilinsky, the following list of crew members can be accounted for. Note that not all of the men are known as of this writing [28 August 2002]:
B-17G: Serial #42-29670 "Thunder Mug"
Roll Call Sign: Van Nan - Q Queenie
1st Pilot - Ed Johnson from Texas
Co Pilot - Lloyd Conklin from Peekskill, New York
Bombadier - Henry (Keith?) Cearley (Now Deceased)*
Navigator - Joseph J. Gilinsky,Sr. from Shreveport, Louisiana
Radio Operator - ***** Marullo from Rhode Island
Engineer/Top Turret - ****** Zimmerman
Ball Turret - ****** Kauhner, ex-New York City Policeman
Waist Gunner - (not known)
Waist Gunner - (not known)
Tail Gunner - (not known)
*Note: H. K. Cearley graduated from bombardier school at Midlands, TX class 43-09. (Information supplied by
B-17G with markings of the 94Bomb Group
From: The Mighty Eight by Roger A. Freeman
Notation of the history of the B-17, #42-29670:
Del Cheyenne 31/1/43; Pueblo 18/2/43; Salina 15/2/43; Brookley 19/3/43; Smoky Hill 23/3/43; Dow Fd 18/4/43; ass 333BS/94BG Bassinbourn 22/4/43; tran 544BS/384BG (SU-K) Grafton Underwood 16/7/43; MIA Hamburg 25/4/43 w/Hall, flak, cr Hamburg; 2KIA/8POW.
A translation of the above entry:
42-29670 was delivered at Cheyenne January 31, 1943; Pueblo February 18, 1943; Salina February 15, 1943; Brookley March 19, 1943; Smokey Hill March 23, 1943; Dow Field April 18, 1943; Assigned: 544th Bomb Squadron, 94th Bomb Group Bassingbourn April 22, 1943; Transferred: 544th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group (SU-K) Grafton Underwood July 16, 1943; MIA Hamburg July 25, 1943; w/Hall, flak, cr Hamburg; 2 KIA, 8 POW. THUNDERMUG
(From The B-17 Flying Fortress Story by Roger A. Freeman, pp. 123.)
Note: According to the official 94th Bomb Group web site: the 94th Bomb Group Association, they have listed the plane above as the plane that was flown by this crew.
Their notation includes the following under the title of Aircraft Name and Numbers of the 94th Bomb Group:
42-29670 Thundermug -- 333rd Bomb Squadron -- Pilot: Bevins, Colby, Conklin
Del Cheyenne 11/11/43; Gr island 3/12/43; Presque Is 14/12/43; Nutts corner, UK 20/12/43; ass 332BS/94BG (XM-F) Rougham 21/12/43; MIA Munich 31/7/43 w/Ellis; flak, ditched Channel; 10RTD.
HELLO MR MAIER
A translation of the above entry:
42-38007 was delivered Chyenne on November 11, 1943; Gr Island on December 3, 1943; Presque Island on December 14, 1943; Nutts Corner, United Kingdom on December 20, 1943; assigned 332nd Bomb Squadron, 94th Bomb Group (XM-F) Rougham on December 21, 1943; Missing In Action Munich July 7, 1943 (error? should be July 7, 1944?) with Ellis; flak, ditched Channel; 10RTD (returned to duty?).
HELLO MR MAIER
(From The B-17 Flying Fortress Story by Roger A. Freeman, pp. 182.)
Speculation: The pilot of the JOLLY ROGER recalls the number of the aircraft as 42-38007 -- or at least the 42- and the 007. The call sign was "F-freddie" with the "F" the final number in the serial number. Though the information is in itself conclusive, it is a fair guess that this is the same plane.
Information on the Operational Bomb Groups:
Identification: TRIANGLE G
B-17F & G in olive and grey factory finish. Natural metal B-17G from March 1944. Squadron codes: 331BS -- QE; 332BS -- XM; 333BS -- TS; 410BS -- GL; in grey on camouflage, forward of national insignia both sides of fuselage; a/c leter aft. Odd examples of squadron codes on rear fuselage right side. No fuselage squadron codes applied to replacement a/c from late 1944 and existing codes gradually removed. A/c letter retained on rear fuselage. No a/c letter on fin until July 1943. I not normally used as a/c letter. Group markings: A in square, from July 1943. Red wing cheveron (upper right/lower left) from late 1944. All yellow tail, yellow wing tips, and red rear fuselage band from late January 1945; existing tail and wing markings remained. Squadron colours on engine cowlings from late 1944: 331BS -- Dark blue, 332BS -- red, 333BS -- bright green, 410BS -- yellow.
Source: The Mighty Eight (A History of the Units, Men and Machines of the US ith Air Forece), by Roger A. Freeman. pp. 287
Twenty five was the magic number when we started our missions. This was gradually increased. I believe my designated number was finally 35!
Our quarters were pre-fabs, coal heated -- always damp and cold. Often we would disconnect the chimney and start the fire -- fill the stove to the top with coal and reconnect the chimney and enjoy the ruby red stove.
Officer crews shared crew quarters, together as a crew. The enlisted crew was also placed together, but, separate from the officers.
The bunks had stretch-springs and a three bicuit mattress.
Food was good, but never fancy. I can remember waiting for the mess to open, 'to be ahead of the chow hounds' -- poking fun at ourselves.
Old London Town
English bikes were our mode of transportation. I never remember one being stolen, nor of locking them. Brittan taxi and civililian rail roads were available for off base travel.
Short passes to London were always treasured. Perhaps, we were afraid of seeing Europe -- at ground level, before seeing enough of England.
Our first attempt was from a school that must have been closer than our eventual assignment to our base. We rode buses, until the buses stopped running, and then realized we had better start walking back to school. Of couse I fell asleep in class the next morning -- awakening by only self was a rude experience. I learned to not be so selfish in the future.
The 'tube' is yet a great way to travel in London. I cannot forget my first entrance. Bunks were lining the subway walls of this air raid shelter -- sort of like walking in the bedroom of another, as I made my trip to the subway. Most of the occupants were children. I learned taht it was not as painful for them to sleep in those suroundings as it would be to arise from home bed and go to a bomb shelter.
Available and inexpensive lodging was often available via the Red Cross. Movement to bomb shelters was optional.
'Jerry' was frequently overhead after dark -- the 'v-bomb rockets' were also threatening, even during the day. Folks never feared the noise of the rocket jet-engine, but hit the ground when the silent gliding phase began.
Another memorable experience was that of eating oatmeal -- 'sugared' with salt. I was later advised that 'everyone' knew that sugar was too precious to be on the table in a sugar bowl.
All rooms had heavy blackout curtains, almost always made of heavy dark blue cloth. There was plenty of trouble if either 'jerry' or the air raid warden spotted light escaping the curtain. It was also the custom for active, U. S. air crew members to wear a patch of this blue cloth beneath the silver wings, worn on the dress jackets. My crew never followed this practice.
Shortly before 'D-Day', the military police were scouring the streets looking for the military folk, who might be deserters. I was so challenged one evening with the inquiry as to my unit. My response was apparently too flip or vague and I was ordered by a patrolling major to get into the jeep. He complained that I had no blue patch under my wings. I was taken to the MP office to have my pass inspected and told to return to base, because the pass was not signed by a colonel, only a lt. colonel. I very emotionally inquired as to the identity of this offending major, and learned that his sir-name was HITLER. Too much for this teen aged lieutenant, and I broke into tears. I later called my base and was told to remain on pass and to forget about the 'blue patch'.
There were not many three day passes to London, but visits there are yet vivid -- whereas days on the base tend to blend together in my memory bank.
Another recollection is that of a visit to a London banker. My supply of pound-notes, paper currency, was very thin. I had no checks on my account with the New Orleans Hibernia Bank, and only my word that there was such an account, but the banker had me sigh a draft and gave me the desired amount. Months later, I was unable to cash a check at an Officer's club at a military base near Memphis. My sister wired money to me at my next stop.
Many training missions were flown in addition to those of combat. Emphasis was always on 'tight formations' so that the combined firepower of the group would be a hazard to opposing aircraft. It was 'unlucky' to be a struggling craft away from the group.
In retrospect, this seems war-cushy, but, the movement from civilization to aerial challenges was never appreciated as being 'cushy'.
We were always advised the 'nigh before' to be available. A crystal ball was not necessary to know that if was wise to get as much rest as possible. I do not remember any crew member voluntarily missing those precious moments of rest, before the early morning awakenings. Nor do I remember going to breakfast before the briefings.
Target routes were marked on maps attached to the wall. Known anti-aircraft areas were indicated, to facilitate attempts to return solo -- if necessary. Alternate targets were shown, should weather preclude hitting the 'primary'. (Our missions were always in the day, whereas those of the British were night ones.) We were advised when and where to expect fighter escorts as well as the expected number of enemy fighters to expect.
Elaborate preflight navigation and weather information were made available. Temperatures and bombing altitudes were important, as were many other items. I can remember 'swapping info' to the gunners, who installed and cleaned our 50 caliber weapons, so they may not have attended all of our briefings.
Timely rendezvous were scheduled by all aircraft participating that day. The day of a bombing mission could never have been a surprise to the enemy. I do not remember ever participating in a 'ruse' to fake a day of bombing attacks. Air time from the enemy coast to the target was usually about an hour shorter than was the return time to the enemy coast.
We were on oxygen all of this time. I can yet remember the saliva frozen between my cheeks and the masks. Throat mikes were necessary for communication. Silk gloves were worn beneath the electric gloves and British, two piece long johns were worn beneath the electric suits. Parachute harnesses were strapped on top of the coveralls. Portable chutes were carried to attach 'as needed'. Leather helmets accomadated our headsets and provided support for the oxygen masks. I probably removed more hair from these helmets than I now sport, some sixty later years.
Some of the scariest British moments were not flying, but trying to hang aboard the jeeps transporting us the the B17.
Machine guns were test fired over the English Channel. The bombardier would go to the bomb bay to 'arm' the bombs. In the event the mission was aborted, he had to return to replace the safety hardware.
Our group was jumped by enemy fighters after dropping our bombs on yet another mission, causing our formation to lose nine of our planes. Multiply times ten, and project the loss as such for the entire 8th Air Force -- that was a lot of people and planes. Fortunately, our group was the only one to suffer the loss that day.
I was the only man wounded on our crew.
A small piece of shrapnel is yet above my left ear. The scar was readily seen before Elvis helped folk to appreciate sideburns. A frozen mist enveloped all of the interior of our navigation area. I was sure that it would vaporize to a harmful gas, when we descended to a warm altitude. Time and heat helped me to realize this was only the 'liquid' from our relief cans, splattered and vaporized about the area.
The crew progress with their number of missions during my recuperative period, so I had the privilege of completing the tour with others, as well as our original crew. I asked for special permission to remove part of the helmet that was over the pressure bandage of my wound. No heroics. I just wanted to complete my tour. All hades broke loose when they changed the mission to an alternate target -- pulled the navigators off all craft except the lead crews and substituted gunners in this position. I never actually flew with the modified helmet after that experience. A 19-year old explained that they now 'owed me a pass to London'. I can yet remember the stares of little kids at my pressure bandage -- never saw another on the street, either.
The trip to Berlin was a BIG one. It was a maximum effort involving all available equipment. The first attempt was aborted before we reached the target area. Returning aircraft were flying back too close to us and leaving their icy, con trails to further confuse and aggravate. I do not remember any other targets being attacked before the Berlin missions were actually initiated. The black puffs of anti aircraft shells are to this day -- very memorable.
Our crew was not hit that day, but our country lost many planes to enemy fighters and anti aircraft.
My combat tour was completed the day before D-DAY. I fully expected to be returned to the States to get married. Big time wrong. Half of the air crews were promptly rotated to the States -- my half were kept in readiness, in the event we were soon again needed in Europe. None of the latter was explained. (Those rotated back to the States were given additional training and served on B29's in the Pacific theater.
My 90 day cooling off period included some great duty. One event included the transporting of a C47, winterized craft to the Ukraine via Gibraltar, Tunis, and Egypt. We swapped this for a craft that was not winterized to return to England. Rome had just been liberated but we chose to return to England. The pilot had allowed us to vote -- mine was the swing vote to hurry back.
Our return route included Marseille, France. My first opportunity to see the French, Afro troops -- who spoke only French. The wind was blowing so strong the day of our scheduled departure, that we could not taxi our craft. The pilot got special permission to head the craft into the wind, from our parking area, gun the engines and take off much like a kite.
We stopped in Paris. I can only remember a headache from sniffing too much perfume and also seeing Notre Dame.
My Stateside orders were yet not ready when we got back to our base, but I had the good fortune to get duty of ferrying a war weary B17 back to the States via the south Atlantic route. The admonition to hurry back, so that I might get even another trip to the States was not quite the entire truth. There was no second trip.
Our air base was located between Warton-by-the Sea and Liverpool. The former included an impressive boardwalk overlooking the beach area. It was frequently full of 'on holiday' folk and is sometimes the scene of Brit movies. Duty was often very light and almost boring for those awaiting orders to return to home...for others, it was very busy with the modification and delivery of aircraft closer to the fighting.
Returning to the States
My orders to return to the States were cut in early November. I can remember hitchhiking from Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to New Orleans to see my Mother in Touro Hospital; but, nothing of the departure from England nor of the etc. of the air travel from England to the U.S.
It was at this time that I learned my check writing ability was not appreciated in Memphis.
Carol's Mother did not chaperone us from Monroe to New Orleans, but she surely gave the porter instructions to assure our 'safe' arrival. The week in New Orleans, included my Sister and Mother and was memorable in every detail -- as I returned to the e/t/o (European Theater of Operations). I had short visits to Peekskill, New York to visit the Conklin family of my earlier mentioned pilot and to Worchester, Mass. to visit Grandparents. These visit were each of just a few hours and made by train from New York.
Carol was a student at LSU in Baton Rouge, so that part of my journey was completed by bus. I was told that her folks needed 'a little time' to prepare for the wedding, so we waited. The car rental folk were not anxious to rent a car to me until they were reminded by the gasoline-ration board as to why gasoline was being rationed. Her folks sent a newspaper clipping -- almost full page -- of the approaching event. We used this to persuade those at the wedding license department to issue this important document. They really did not want to issue a certificate in Baton Rouge that would be needed in West Monroe.
The ceremony was a lovely one at the Watts home of F. L. and Vera Faye, my wonderful in-laws. Sister Shirley, Dad, aunts Pat and Claudia and friends of the Watts family helped to make this both official and a 'good time'. Two of my navigation instructors surprised us by visiting immediately after the ceremony. They had processed many students during the last fifteen months, so we were surprised to be remembered by their self invitation after noting the newspaper.
I am now in my mid seventies and yet remembering the age difference, and respect given, to 'seniors' only in mid forty years at that time of my life.
Our 'honeymoon' included the visit to New Orleans and the train trip to Miami Beach. The military had liberated some, or all, of those fab hotels for R and R and processing of returning air personnel. Pilot, Lloyd Conklin, was at my last Brit base but none of the crew was in Miami with us.
Flight training and living -- Texas style
The processing included my selection and qualifying to attend pilot training. But I was again put in a holding-status an assigned to Ellington Field, between Houston and Galveston, Texas.
The early days of the Texas assignment seemed framed by the lack of personal transportation and the proximity of tasty food. We found a furnished house in Texas City, Texas. This was '3 rides' from Ellington. Folks with cars were generous in offering rides, and the danger that later developed was not a recognized hazard. I did not smoke and soon met a civilian who was happy to swap rides for my two pack a day.
Carol used her days to prepare feasts for every evening, and the battle of the personal bulge seemed a long way from beginning.
Our next assignment was soon completed and was to San Antonio, Texas. Transportation was coordinated with assistance of the gasoline ration bureau. An individual having business to accomplish in San Antonio was very happy to cooperate. He even assisted us in locating modest civilian quarters. Today, this might be called a one room apartment.
Carol visited Monroe family when I was first assigned to Uvalde, Texas. This was the site where we were trained to fly the single wing PT 17 and the two wing PT13, now used frequently in crop dusting. Air sickness was not a curse, as experienced in the navigation trainers, nor was a problem in the larger transport and bomber craft. Student officers surely had a better life than did the cadets, but there were some of the traditional restrictions that seem related to training opportunities.
Our wives were nearby, but only seen on weekends. A nearby motel was converted by the owners to accommodate this situation. Carol joined the group a little late and 'burned' as she tried to catch up to the sun tan schedule.
Flight instructors were civilian and quite competent. My instructor was a Mr. Byrd. Some of his other students were cadets from Brazil. I do not remember their soccer skills, and am not certain these were demonstrated. The airfield was all grass, no runways, and tolerated rough landings. All flying was in daylight. Communication was by signal beacon, red or green light signals allowed taking off or landing.
We were able to purchase a seven year old, Buick convertible from one of the fellow student officers. It ran well...for a while.
The next assignment was the Rio Grande Valley, to Mission, Texas. Living accommodations were very difficult to obtain. One lady told me that "even boys from Texas could not find a living place'. I explained that I had gone to grade school in Galveston, so she said that we could come back and sleep on her floor, if necessary. We found a very modest location, twenty miles from base.
My depth perception began to falter, and my aptitude for the next craft left much to be desired. The flight surgeon wanted the instructors to do 'the dirty deed'. The instructors wanted the flight surgeon to eliminate me from pilot training.
Orders were cut sending me back to the real world at Ellington Field. I was assigned to teach navigation to young student officers from China. The Red Army was not yet a recognized factor and never mentioned by the students.
We had many interesting experiences.
Afterthoughts and in retrospect
Colonel Charles Lindberg first gained fame as the first aviator to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. He is the same person whose son was kidnapped for ransom. The son was not again seen alive. Lindberg had more bad luck in being fooled by General Goering into thinking that the free world had no chance against the Nazi war machine -- he also did some important aerial engineering work over the Pacific. This work included maximizing aircraft efficiency by altering air speed, determining at which speed, gross weight, fuel settings the craft might get the maximum cruising distance.
This provided many class room hours of instruction for our Chinese students.
I am not an engineer, nor do I speak any of the Chinese dialects. Class outlines were furnished for the instructor to utilize. We had an interpreter to pass my thoughts to the Chinese students. One of the students spoke to me on the q/t to explain that Major Hsu was not telling them the same things that I was presenting. Now I really had a series of challenges...protect my information source, challenge the interpreter, in private, in such a way that he not 'lose face', but to get us back on the right track. His explanation was to the effect that he had been trying to 'help me' by explaining a previously used curriculum. I really believe that he got on the verbatim interpretation track after that encounter.
This is about the time my Uncle returned from POW [prisoner of war] status and becomes the benchmark of my recollection of the end of World War II.
Shortly after this I was assigned to AACS/Hawaii/Guam/California for cross training as a bombardier and radar operator to a RECON.STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND UNIT at Barksdale, Bossier City, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, England. We piked sticks at the RED BEAR, radar mapping a jillion targets and finally left the service in the Spring of 1952 -- almost ten years after entering the service.
I never had a draft number.
I never had a military discharge, having been released from active duty 'by orders'.
My dental career was cut short by digital ineptness -- a real downer. I joined State Farm Insurance when there were only five representatives in the Greater New Orleans area, was blessed with 36 years working in a sales capacity during my optimum period, and traveled to many sightseeing spots. East Jefferson [ Parish Louisiana] is now my 'area of operation'.
Questions and answers
After receiving many "installments" of Joe Gilinsky's story about his experiences in World War II, we have decided to ask a few questions regarding specific details of the story as submitted. The following questions and answers are most interesting and enlightening.
1. Q. Have you ever written down your experiences during the war before? Or is all of the information basically from memory?
A. There were no previously recorded instances...all of my remarks are from memory.
2. Q. Can you describe your specific duties on a typical B-29 mission... (think I have asked this before in one form or another?) Sort of an item by item description of a specific mission if you recall. I know it has been a very long time -- but I am curious as to what YOU saw and experienced. Just something to mull over.
A. Specific recollections are vague. Crew members were advised of en route expectations and sightings. Pilot was kept advised as to headings, eta (Estimated Time Over Target), etc., Remember, these were B-17's -- not B-29's.
3. Q. I believe I asked you briefly the other day; but, did your plane take battle damage during any or all missions...if so what do you recall? Did your group lose aircraft while you were with them?
A. There was some damage to the front plexiglas nose compartment, when I was wounded -- but there was no great rush of entering air. Incidental flak damage was almost routine on almost all aircraft during missions. I do not recall any major structural damage. We lost ten aircraft from my group the day I was wounded, but that was almost the only 8th Air Force losses that day. The scar of my scalp wound is almost two inches -- it could have been much smaller, if they had not washed away the locator marks while prepping me.
4. Q. You briefly mentioned about your duty as a gunner? Can you give details?
A. I remember one gun position being at the navigator position -- another on the other side of the plane, 'shared' by the bombardier and navigator. I can remember the pilot being proud that we never froze when called upon to use them. Our gunners did not have to -- but chose to clean and install these for the navigator and bombardier. Perhaps, they believed that this made them safer.
5. Q. During a mission over Europe/Germany can you describe any incidents of attacks by German fighters on your group of planes? What about the flak?
A. Fighter attacks were sometimes by surprise, and sometimes after brief stalking. Of course they would come 'out of the sun' when possible. The flak was probably feared more than the fighters. We were committed to fly in formation, with no evasive action in the target area. AA (antiaircraft fire) would bracket us, often producing the sky full of bad stuff through which we had to fly. Movies of attacking fighter craft do not produce the mental anxiety yet caused by seeing the 'black puffs' of aa smoke.
6. Q. Did your escort "little buddies" accompany your group all the way to the target? If so, what type of escorts where they? P-47? P-51?
A. Escorts varied by type of craft... P-47 [and] P-51 and even P-38. There was usually only one type protecting us, at a time. We always rejoiced at seeing the twin body id [identification] of the P-38.
7. Q. Can you describe the incident of your injury in any detail? Circumstances, what mission? I believe that you said it was during a fighter attack? The object that hit you...shrapnel, part of a bullet?
A. The injury etc. is covered above. It was probably toward the end of my tour. Fight aircraft were the culprit.
8. Q. After the war, when you went on with your career in the Air Force...what type of aircraft did you train and eventually fly in? B-29? B-36? B-47? You indicated that you were also trained as a bombardier and radar operator?
A. I flew in transport aircraft while in the Pacific -- C-46, C-47, C-48 for a total of 24 months.
We flew navigation-check missions, reinspect ions of facilities on Kwajalien, Enewietok, Johnson, Iwo Jima and Wake Islands. These craft were twin engine C-46 and required the skills of our better pilots.
After my assignment from AACS to so-called troop carrier -- we flew in four engine C-54 craft. We serviced Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Philippean Islands. I continued to occupy family quarters in the communication area, but never again visited their working area -- no problem, just the way it was.
We returned to the states by boat in 1948 by way of Honolula and San Francisco.
I was assigned to Mather Field, Sacramento, California. The bombing training was in B-25 craft. I do not remember the craft used for the radar navigation and radar bombing.
My next duty station was at Barksdale. We had RB-29 and RB-50 craft. The RB-47 were there as I departed the service in early 1952. I never flew in a military jet.
We, at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words, have been given permission to run the following account by a friend of Joe Gilinsky, who took a memorable ride in a B-17. The account is moving and one can almost feel the excitement of this flight as the plane is put through it's paces.
Here is the account of Joe's friend, Johnathan...
"A post war visit by a friend visiting my old alma mata--the B17. I was the navigator and had to 'skin the cat' to enter the front hatch. My girth was a 'bit' snugger in those days.
Thought you'd be interested to hear I took a ride on a B17 Saturday. We had a warbirds air show with lots of WWII airplanes: B17, B24, B25, P40 Warhawk, P51 Mustang and F4U Corsair. I got to watch the B25 and F4U fly. The F4U was really impressive, but I wished I could have seen the P51 fly, too. The B25 was fun to watch - God knows how they ever got those things off that carrier's deck for the Doolittle raid. They were selling rides on the B17, so I signed up. It was really a thrill.
Before we got in, they briefed us about where to sit, etc. We boarded by the door in the back on the right side of the plane. We all wanted to do the chin up, a la Gregory Peck in 12 O'Clock High, but the crew chief reminded us that that door is only inches from the spinning prop, so we all thought better of it. Bailing out of the door must have been tricky because of the prop.
We had to strap down on pads in the waist gunner's area and radio operator's area. There were 7 of us, including a USAF Brig Gen. Once we got airborne, they let us unbuckle and we had the run of the ship, except for the tail gunner's post. For some reason, they had that blocked off. I went forward as soon as I unbuckled, squeezed sideways through the bombay catwalk, twisted around the top turret stuff, then had to drop down to hands and knees to crawl underneath the pilot and copilot to get into the nose.
I sat on the navigator's desk for a while, then went up and sat on the bombardier's tiny little seat and took in the view. They didn't give either one of you much to sit on. It was a magnificent sensation to see the world from inside that plexiglass. I was struck by how much the plexiglass distorts vision and wondered how the bombardier could have aimed at German fighters during headon attacks. Maybe they were out of range when they were that far out, but it seemed it would be hard to see them through the plexiglass until they were right on top of you (then it would be so fast, with them closing at a combined speed of 500 mph). I also wondered how the chin turret was aimed and fired because I didn't see any equipment that was an obvious candidate. We couldn't see through the bombsight, but the gyro still worked (you could see it adjusting when the plane banked). The noise was really bad. We couldn't talk except by shouting in each other's ear. It was obvious why you had to have an internal radio system to talk to one another.
When we took off, the pilot banked and came back around to do a flyby for the crowd at about 200 feet. Then we climbed out to 1500-2000 feet (I had estimated that altitude at first while up in the nose, based on my one and only flying lesson, and was pleased to see it was true later by looking over the pilot's shoulder at the altimeter) and flew out over Lake Murray (a large artificial lake in the northwest), then over downtown and finally out to the main commercial airport before coming back home again. During part of the journey I had to relinquish my seat in the nose so the others could enjoy, and I crawled/squeezed/wiggled my way back to the waist gunners area. They had the plexiglass off over the radio operator's area and the wind was whistling by at 160 mph. They said it was great viewing from there, but I had my glasses on and was afraid they'd be blown off if I took the chance.
The view was really good from the waist gunners windows, too. Toward the end of the flight, I noticed that everybody had come back from the nose, except the BG, so once again I crawled/wiggled/squeezed forward to the nose. He and I sat in the nose admiring the view and marveling at the experience. When we came back to the airfield the pilot did another flyby low over the runway, then pulled up and banked to the right. I told the BG I was amazed that something that big could be so graceful. We were both up in the bombardier's place when we did the flyby and that was really thrilling because it felt like were personally flying alone, diving down and swooping like a bird over the runway, banking for the crowd below.
It was a great thrill and it allows me to understand and appreciate more when I see the old films of the war with the B17s. I now know where the crew members are and what the inside looks like. I cannot understand how any human could fit in the ball turret. It seems impossible to get into or out of.
When I got home, I told Pris I had done the same thing as you, except for three minor differences:
1. My "mission" lasted thirty minutes rather than nine hours.
2. The temperature was 100 degrees warmer (we were at 70 degrees).
3. Nobody tried to kill me.
Other than that, it must have been just like it.
I took some pictures and will bring them to show you. Also, I picked up a souvenir for you as a stocking stuffer. See you at Christmas,
Have you every wondered just what does a "citizen soldier" do -- when the war is over and the world is at peace -- at least for a little while? Why not read on and see.
We now continue with the latest addition to our "oral history" of Mr.Joseph J. Gilinsky -- talking of his "post war years".
Just click on the link to read on...
The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Joseph Gilinsky.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Joseph Gilinsky our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Gilinsky's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".
Here are some interesting links that are related to this story:
94th Bomb Group Association
8th Air Force: 94th Bomb Group
94th Bomb Group Scholarship
94th Bomb Group
USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search
USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search Help
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
Original story transcribed from e-mail messages received from
10 August through 19 August 2001
Story additions made on 28 August 2001
Story additions/corrections made on 26 November 2001
Story modified on 15 December 2001
Story added to on 2 January 2002 with the addition of the "Post War Years".
Story modified on 16 August 2003
1944 Photograph of Joseph Gilinsky and Lloyd Conklin courtesy of Joseph J. Gilinsky and was used with his kind permission. We wish to express our heartfelt "Thanks" for Mr. Gilinsky's contribution.
September 5, 2002.
Would YOU be interested in adding YOUR story --
or a loved-one's story? We have made it very
easy for you to do so.
By clicking on the link below, you will be sent
to our "Veterans Survey Form" page where a survey form
has been set up to conviently record your story.
It is fast -- convenient and easy to fill out --
Just fill in the blanks!
We would love to tell your story on
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.
WW II Stories: Veterans Survey Form
© Copyright 2001-2006
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words
All Rights Reserved
Updated on 20 February 2006...1557:05 CST