Heroes: the Army Air Corps
"...It looked like two flocks of birds coming head on. Planes were diving & turning all over the sky. I made a diving turn to my left. Just in time to see two B-17's come together in a blinding flash. In seconds, two planes and 20 men disappeared. Several days later, to my dismay, [I found out that] one of the planes carried my good friend James Cawley*..."
Lloyd F. Conklin
- Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
- Unit: 94th Bomb Group/332nd Bomb Sqn. [Heavy]
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: 2nd Lt., Pilot
- Birth Year: 1922
- Entered Service: Peekskill, New York
If the third missed just in front of you
you felt that the fourth had you for sure?
"I was 19 years old when W. W. II was declared, and was playing semi-pro baseball at the time, with the promise of a try-out with the N. Y. Yankees farm system. As it worked out, the entire ball team decided we should all enlist and do our part to save our freedom. I went in the regular army after passing the test for an aviation cadet, to wait for assignment to flight training school. After 2 months, I went to primary training in Stanford, Texas flying P.Y. 13A. From there, on to Enid, OK. for basics in BT-13A, fondly called 'Vultee Vibrators', and finally to advance training in UC-78 twin engine planes. Upon graduation my orders sent me to Ephrata, Washington. It was here I first met a B-17 aircraft, and it's size scared the hell out of me. Something that large could not fly. Boy did I have a lot to learn.
The trip Was One That I Will Never Forget
It was here in Ephrata that our crew started to form. We were then sent to Rapid City, So. Dakota to train for combat. Upon completion, the next move was to get our plane overseas. The date was December 1942. The trip was one that I will never forget. Up to the time I joined the service, I had never been on a train, and here I am flying this tremendous aircraft over the ocean to a place I read about in school. It was real scary not knowing if we had enough gasoline to reach our destination. Several aircraft did not arrive at Preswick, Scotland, our final destination. Our navigator, Joseph Gilinsky, did a great job. When I asked for an E.T.A., his was right on, and we made landfall right on time. After almost 10 hours of nothing but sky & water, land was a very welcome sight. We left our plane, (the 'Jolly Roger') and traveled by train to Bury St. Edmunds, England to join the 8th Air Force, 94th Bomb Group, 332 Squadron.[Note: See the following sites: 94th Bomb Group and Heavy Bombers: 94th Bomb Group]
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.
I was assigned as co-pilot, Ed. Johnson was 1st Pilot, a fellow from Texas who had a great way to handle our crew -- especially when things got rough. After we got "our plane" we called it 'Thunder Mug'. We made a few flights around the area, more to acquaint ourselves with points of reference.
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..."
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 #????????? "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)
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
Breakfast of (toast & coffee) -- Who Could Eat?
It was Christmas, 1942 and I am thousands of miles away from home for the first time. That night we were on the list for tomorrow's mission. None of our crew slept very much that night, not knowing what to expect. The scuttle-but around was 15-20% chance [of] making back safely on your first mission. That did nothing to ease our worries. We were wakened at 4 A M, had breakfast (toast & coffee) -- who could eat?
[We] went to a nissen hut for briefing. We received all pertinent information, all except the target. Now the time to hold your breath. The officer rolls [down] the map, and there it is. The red line goes across the channel deep into France. We are told that the mission will take about 6 hours flying time. However you will not have any fighter escort. This brought out many groans from the crews. We then checked out our parachutes & rode out to 'Thunder Mug' to warm it up.
You Felt That the Fourth Had You for Sure?
Take off and forming together with the group went very smooth. Going across the channel I called the crew to test their guns. They all call back that all is well, and that they have also checked their oxygen supply. We are at 23,000 ft and I am feeling very cold. Suddenly the plane bounces around quite a bit, and we are having to pay more attention to flying a close formation.
The turbulence was flack. Now little black puffs are all around us. I used to hunt rabbits with my Dad, and now my thoughts were, boy now I know how the rabbit felt. It looked like it was impossible to fly through all of this, and not get hit. The burst would come up at 12 o'clock in front of the plane in groups of four. Each one coming closer. If the third missed just in front of you, you felt that the fourth had you for sure? I have been asked many times 'Were you scared'? If you weren't scared there was something wrong mentally -- funny though I recall the reality setting in after the danger was over.
After several weeks of flying I received a letter from my Mother telling me about a dream she had. Seems like she was asked to christen an airplane. In doing so she said I christen the 'Thunder Mug'.* This put me into shock, as I had not written a letter home. I did not tell her until after I got her letter what we named the plane. My Mother was quite shaken when she heard this.*This crew's call sign was: 'Van Nan Q Queenie'.
Many stories such as this came out during the war, but they made it difficult not to believe in E.S.P.
the 'Big B'
One mission I remember quite well. The red line on the map in the briefing room went all the way across to 'Big B' [Berlin] while we all were looking to hit Germany where it is really personal, we could not refrain from oohing and aahing. Holly cow -- this is it -- and it was one of the worst. Me-109; FW-190's and flak that I swear, you could walk across hit us. We lost 6 ships from our squadron. My navigator, J.[Joseph] Gilinsky Joseph Gilinsky, Navigator caught a piece of shrapnel in the temple. The bombardier Keith Cearley had the leg on his stool shot out from under him, and [there was] a large hole in the plexiglass nose of our ship. Another piece of shrapnel came up through the floor of the cockpit, through the steering column, grazing my right temple & landed in my lap. I asked the pilot Ed. Johnson to look at my head. It was smarting & burning, but not bleeding. It was just a large scratch - close but no cigar. I still have the piece of shrapnel. It is a reminder of a very close call. We visited "Big B" [Berlin] five times during my tour of duty and they all were easy to remember. Thank God for our little friends, the fighter pilots. They kept many Me-109's and FW-190's off our tails thus allowing us many more opportunities to bring gifts to the 'Fuerer'.
[Note: After discussing this event with Mr. Conklin, it is of the opinion that the shrapnel that hit the navigator, Mr. Gilinsky, may have also been part of the same exploding shell that cause the incident described above.
The navigator, Mr. Joe Gilinsky recalls that he may have been knocked unconscious by the piece of shrapnel hitting him and being awakened by one of the crew placing his oxygen mask back on his face. He also recalls the mist in the aircraft from the same shrapnel strike being of a major concern of the crew as possibly being hydrolic fluid.
When asked about the possibility of fighter attacks, he recalled very clearly seeing the smiling faces of German pilots passing within a few feet of their aircraft and waving as they zoomed past].
Two B-17's Come Together in a Blinding Flash
On another mission to Berlin I lost a good friend. James Cawley -- we went all through training together. On this particular mission, the 1st division went in ahead of us, the 3rd division. Due to weather the 1st division did not spot the main target, and they made a turn of 180°, but somehow did not lose enough altitude to fly under us, (the 3rd division). Results -- over 90 aircraft coming together head-on. It looked like two flocks of birds coming head on. Planes were diving & turning all over the sky. I made a diving turn to my left. Just in time to see two B-17's come together in a blinding flash. In seconds, two planes and 20 men disappeared. Several days later, to my dismay, [I found out that] one of the planes carried my good friend James Cawley*. This particular incident really made us even more aware of how short an airmen's future is? *Note: James Cawley was not a member of the same bombing group. He was a radio operator in another group he believes it was the 466th Group. During a phone conversation of 12 November 2001, with Lloyd Conklin, Mr. Conklin informed this researcher that he is in possession of an actual official 8th Air Force photograph that was taken at the time of the collision. The photographs records forever that fateful event.]
Improbable Goal of Completing 25 Missions
In May 9, 1944 I reached the improbable goal of completing 25 missions. However this was not meant that we were finally finished. We were told we had another five missions to go. The mark was raised from 25 to 30. We all knew something was in the wind. My pilot, Ed Johnson was assigned another crew. And I was promoted to 1st. Lt. and took over our crew as captain of our ship. This responsibility was quite different than flying as co-pilot. Now I had 10 men depending on me to bring them home safely. And my worst fear was that I might fail them.
Colonel Get Your Butt Off That Chair
On my first mission as pilot, I approached our plane with the crew preparing to do a physical inspection of the airplane. Standing at our plane was a Lt. Colonel, who told me that he was a West Point graduate, and that he had not seen any combat and had been granted permission to fly with us as an observer? I asked him to ride up in the nose with the bombardier, and navigator, and he was happy to do so.
Halfway to the target we were attacked by several Me-109's & FW-190's. We were really being hit hard, when over the intercom I heard a voice command, 'Colonel get your butt off that chair, grab the gun and start firing!' I couldn't believe my ears. The voice belonged to my navigator [Joe Gilinsky]. Now the funny part was that my navigator was a real quiet, bashful man who never swore or got excited. To hear him command with such authority was quite a change of character. After we landed back at our field and climbed out of the ship, the Colonel walked up to Joe, thanked him for snapping him out of the daze he was in. I guess his first taste of combat was, as it was with all of us, 'frightening'. He complimented us as a crew and thanked us for helping him. We went on to finish our 30 missions and we were one of the few crews to do so without losing a single crew member.
All Sent in Different Directions
This is were we were split up and all sent in different directions. Thus the end of our close knit group. I decided to stay in England for a while and was assigned to a group that flew planes all over Europe. By taking this job I was able to fly many different planes to many destinations. This lasted about 2 months, and I was sent back to the States. I ended up at Westover Field in Mass. instructing new students in B-24 Liberators. While this might sound like a 'cushy' job, to me it was almost as bad as actual combat. I'm sure the many former instructors out there know what I mean.
This lasted for 3 months and then the field became an 'A-26' twin engine combat training group. This was a much welcomed change. We practiced very hard for 1 1/2 months preparing for another tour of combat. This time in the Pacific. Then came V. J.[Victory over Japan] Day, and the end of the war.
We did not get a chance to put all this training to use against Japan. However the words 'War Ends - Japan Surrenders' really was cause for much celebration. Thank God we can finally go home.
The Same Hollow Feeling
Fate has a funny way to make us humble. Here I sit writing about my experiences for something that happened in 1941 -- 60 years ago in "Pearl Harbour" and now I am experiencing the same hollow feeling all over again.
September 11th, 2001 rekindled the same resentment and anger that I felt 60 years ago when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. Then I was young enough to offer my services to my country. Now at eighty all I can do is to make material contributions. What a switch.
We fought back and succeeded then and I am sure with God's help we will do it again."
A few additional notations being added are from a couple of phone conversations with Mr. Lloyd Conklin. These conversations took place on November 12 and 14, 2001.
Mr. Conklin recalls the following: The aircraft flown for the bulk of their missions was painted olive-drab. He recalls the aircraft as being a Boeing B-17G with the nose gun turret. Research has shown that the aircraft flown by Mr. Conklin and navigated by Mr. Gilinsky was Serial #42-29670. The name given the aircraft was the 'Thundermug' of which there were more than one flying over Europe.
This particular plane was given the name by it's crew and named aptly for their 'barracks toilet' which actually consisted of a an illustration of a 'soup tureen' with a bolt of lightning passing through it. The soup tureen was kept in the barracks to be used at night to save walking all the way to the 'facilities' which were located away from the barracks. According to Mr. Conklin, the image was painted only on one side of the aircraft -- the pilot's side. The nose art of 'Thundermug' resembled the following artwork drawn by this researcher:
Mr. Lloyd F. Conklin is originally from Peekskill, NY and currently resides with his wife in Ocala, FL. He is still very active and loves golf and fishing.
A TRIBUTE TO THE MEN
OF "THE MIGHTY EIGHTH"
The years have passed, it seems I'm old
Yet still the memories unfold
Offine young boys in battle dress
Who to their country's call said, "Yes"
Who chose to serve in skies above
For freedom's sake they showed their love.
All volunteers-they asked to fight
To break the back of Hitler's might
They picked the tough est job of all
"The Mighty Eighth" would be their call.
In heavy bombers, crews of ten
We changed from kids to older men
Between the members of each crew
A bond of friendship grew and grew.
This bond of love can never end
For one on each they did depend.
Six miles straight up, no place to hide
They did their job with guts and pride.
The 17's got glamour more
But none surpassed the 24.
They roamed the skies and fought the fight
And brought us home both day and night.
Through heavy flak and fighter's fire
They gave me so much to admire.
Of missions-limit 25
How could we live? How could we survive?
With purest luck I did stay well
Lord knows we had our share of hell.
My heart is sad, the tears they burn
For thousands who did not return.
Their life was sweet - a brimming cup
Yet willingly they gave it up.
Dear God, my life I'd gladly give
If they could have a chance to live.
Each one a hero in my mind
We nevermore will see their kind.
My hair turns white, my body lame
Still proudly do I bear its name.
With love, respect, abiding faith
I can 't forget, "The Mighty Eighth."
Albert P. Hall, 489th BG
Sunshine Chapter News
Mr. Lloyd F. Conklin
27 June 2005
Schenectady, New York
94th Bomb Group, 332nd Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force
World War II Veteran
United States Army Air Corps
The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Lloyd F. Conklin.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Lloyd F. Conklin 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. Conklin'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 hand written notes received on
29 October 2001
Additional notations and corrections made on 26 November 2001.
Story modified on 16 August 2003
September 5, 2002.
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