Heroes: the Army Air Corps


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 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




 image of pilot & navigator
June 9, 1944. Image of Joseph J. Gilinsky [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.

Joseph J. Gilinsky, Sr.

B-17 Navigator, 94th Bomb Group, 332-333 Squadron
8th Air Force, U. S. Army Air Corps

Often I have wondered as to the "transition" of a "citizen soldier" from a war bearing footing unto what happens when the world finally is at peace. At least, for a little while.

We can now continue with the story of Mr.Joseph J. Gilinsky - Navigator who flew with his crew over occupied Europe for some 35 missions -- many deep into the heartland of Germany.

The war finally ended and Mr. Gilinsky was faced with a decision. The decision was made and the following is a continuation of his oral history of experiences.


Having elected to not run for the civilian world...

Having elected to not run for the civilian world, I remained on active duty with the air force. Hundreds of observers were posted to AACS, a joint communications program with our Navy-cousins. Not to worry that we were not communication techs -- I was even tone deaf.

A memorable assignment was to Columbus, Ms. We rented an apartment from the Stark sisters -- who endorsed my military pay checks. The banker knew us from the Episcopal Church -- but policy was policy.

I was soon assigned to Hawaii -- for 24 hours, then forwarded to Guam/and or Iwo Jima with a Lt. Taliafero. Tali volunteered to take the Iwo tour, SoI remained on Guam.

Our first born, Joseph, kept his Mom, and my wonderful in-laws company , for the next six months. The bachelor quarters were screened, but not much more substantial than chicken houses. Carol was able to join us much earlier than the usual wait, because of our Navy-joint status. We were given the opportunity to scrounge for building items--one Navy chief 'explained' that while everything was really government property -- he had possession, and I must find appropriate items -- probably money -- to swap.

Les Stoeber became my building partner.

We uprooted the flooring from abandoned buildings to construct livable interiors within standing quonset huts. Each hut was 120 feet , divided for two families. The three huts were then u-shape arranged--thus providing a courtyard. Les insisted that we had to dismantle and rebuild our kitchen sink counter -- just on a technicality -- we had failed to allow for 'toe space'.

The water line was constructed from oil pipes, long abandoned in the dump. Our flight surgeon assured us that the oil in the pipes would not harms us. This line was connected to a raised tank. The tank was 'fed' by tanker trucks. The pipes were exposed to the sun, providing our first radiant heated water.

There was not room to properly place the sewer line below the floor. So the line was placed above the bathroom floor providing a real 'throne' above same.

Cats were a real treasure. The smaller rodents boarded elsewhere. I got a lot of broom practice chasing the big-cousins.

There were many flights to Enewietok, Kwajalien, Iwo, Wake, Johnson, Okinawa, Hawaii, Philippine and the Marshall Islands, but we never went to nearby Saipan.

Our officer club was well attended by civilian construction workers, who enjoyed swapping cash for luxury that they helped to build. Arrangements were made to purchase slot machines in Hawaii. Our twin engine C-46 also provided transport for [our] beloved 'wringer' washing machines. Our instructions were to dump the washers before dumping any slots, in the event one of the two engines were lost.

There were also other quarters proximate to our Quonset -- some were niftier than were others. The sewer system was tight until it fed into the pit -- then loosely covered by scrap siding. One telephone instrument served the entire compound.

We were all great customers of Sears and Montgomery Ward -- both proximate to West Coast APO. This made shipping charges almost nil. Our refrigerators were of the kerosene-heat variety. We had no kerosene, so [we] used jerry-rigged electrical, cone shaped heating elements to make things function. The heating elements lasted very well, until we lost our compound electrical generators -- the elements then cracked upon cooling.

I was transferred to a troop carrier unit as a navigator on very dependable C-54, four engine craft. Our destinations were to islands earlier mentioned, as well as to Japan. John and Margaret Rice, formerly of our compound, were now stationed near the Japanese air field we serviced. John advised me, on one trip, that the post exchange was having a sale on dinner sets. We would have to catch the first of the elevator trips -- OR RACE UP FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS. We raced. I, yet get breathless, in even remembering the experience. I gave one set to my folks and one to Carol's parents. We yet enjoy using these on feast days.

Half of our troop carrier squadron was assigned to the BERLIN AIR LIFT. I am happy to be able to report that I was not in the half so selected.

Carol and Joseph depended upon hospitality of neighbors, whenever a storm threatened Guam. Crews evacuated all flyable craft, navigating the tail winds available and predictable.

Les commanded a communications unit that collected and forwarded weather observations from and to worldwide locations. Les and Jerry Stoeber were stationed in Hawaii, at Hickham Field -- when we were ship transported back to the states. They treated us royally -- food and sightseeing. We were not to again see nor enjoy their company. I located their son, some 55 years later as he was settling the estate of very recently deceased Les.

We were next assigned to Mather Air Force Base, near Sacramento, California. I was cross trained as bombardier -- visual and radar. I did radar navigation training. We utilized the B-25 craft, as did the Doolittle Raiders bombing Japan.

Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana, was our next assignment. This assignment was to the 55th Reconnaissance Wing. Our mission was aerial reconnaissance -- both visual and radar as well as electronic surveillance. This was later experienced by others --over and near countries of the Red-Bloc (Soviet Union and her allies).

I grew up on and near Barksdale, attended school in nearby Shreveport. My folks were yet living there Carol's parents were in nearby West Monroe -- this was great duty. Soon after we discovered that another bundle of joy was expected, our group was transferred to Ramey Air Force Base, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

We were not long at Ramey. Carol was yet pregnant and with my great in-laws in West Monroe -- when we got orders for a short -- temporary duty assignment to Bassingbourne, a British air base, near Cambridge, England. The shortness was extended to four months. England was yet cold and damp, but considerably more comfortable than during the World War II period. We did a lot of flying -- even went back to the Azores.

Our wonderful daughter, Priscilla, was born during this assignment. All of the family was able to join me in rented, civilian quarters in Arecibo -- about 30 minutes from our base. Carol became the heroine of the 'spouse corps'. She had just learned to drive and was not afraid of native drivers -- who assumed right-of-way, by merely tooting their horns.

May 1952, I was given the opportunity to select 'unlimited' active duty or to be released from active duty. We opted for the civilian world, and had a very fortunate, 36 YEAR sales career with the STATE FARM INSURANCE companies.


The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Joseph J. Gilinsky.

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Joseph J. Gilinsky our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during and after 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".


Original story transcribed e-mail messages received on
19 December 2001
Additional notations and corrections made on 2 January 2002.


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