NAVIGATING THROUGH WORLD WAR II

A MEMOIR OF THE WAR YEARS

By Gordon W. Weir

Hello to all surfers interested in World War II and aviation. That's my portrait below, taken in 1944. I may sometimes fancy that I still resemble that young man, but I'm halfway through my eighth decade. When I look in the mirror I see a bearded, thinner face, roughed by time, but the story I tell is his.
Gordon W. Weir

The Navigator posing as Intrepid Airman.
This portrait, taken by the Group photographer in our B-17 days, was featured on
a page of a history of the 493rd Bomb Group, but alas...it bears someone else's name.
Thus is Clio, the muse of History, amused.
 

"Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember with advantages What feats he did ...."
Shakespeare, Henry V

"I am publishing my own memoirs, not theirs, and we all know that no three honest witnesses of a simple brawl can agree on the details."
General William Tecumseh Sherman's reply to his critics in the preface to the second edition of his Memoirs:


DEDICATION

IN MEMORIAM

Friends of My Youth: Good Men Gone!
 

Robert Conrad 1922-1941)

Photo comes from the Venice, California, High School Yearbook for 1940.
Bob was a scholar and active student leader in several fields.
To be prepared for the war he saw coming to us, he enlisted in the Navy at the age of eighteen.

William K. Thayer,
"Bill" (1922-1944)

 Photo comes from the Greenfield, Mass., High School Yearbook for 1940. Bill was my closest friend in Greenfield.


Gordon W. Weir
Lincoln, Nebraska; March 1943

 

PREFACE

This is the story of my war years, written more than a half century after the events described. My story is inspired by looking again at photos from those years, by reading the memoir of my pilot in combat, Ellis M. Woodward, and by talking with my co-pilot of the war, Bill Rawson, and with others who flew in the 8th Air Force.

In 1943-1945 none of us considered writing our memoirs 50 years later a likely option. We were aware, however, that we and the nation were caught up in some defining actions of the century. In those years we all had our private war as young men adapting to the military life, striving to learn our specialities, and facing the hazards of flying and combat. The early '40s were not the happiest or most significant years of my life. The years of fulfillment came later with marriage to a beautiful and intelligent woman, sons and daughter growing to adults, and a career with the U.S. Geological Survey trying to comprehend the history of the Earth. Nevertheless, the early 40's marked me by many strange happenings. It was a time when I was stirred by the juices of youth, and faced the complexities of the world with optimism and an unadmitted innocence.

Memoirs are by their nature peculiarly personal. With the spin of time some events fade in memory, but others are as clear as yesterday's. No doubt, in the propaganda-loaded 40's mistaken beliefs common to many were common to me. But if we believed them, they were "true" at the time. All the following paragraphs should be flagged with a cautionary, "As I recall ...", but for me they are true.


Part I: American Adventures

"'Tis the star-spangled banner; oh long may it wave oe'r the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
Francis Scott Key, The Star-Spangled Banner

The Years Before

The War Comes to Us

Enlisting in the Army Air Force

Months of Training
 

Part II: Combat Europe

"The view of any combat crewman is necessarily more personal than strategic."
General H. H. Arnold, 1946, Global Mission., p. 485

To the European Theatre of Operations

The Eighth Air Force

Liberating Europe with a "Liberator"

Into German Skies in a "Flying Fortress"—the B-17

Off-Base Recreations

October Onward

Reflections
 

Part III: Stateside Again

"He that outlives this day and comes safe home ...."
Shakespeare, Henry V

Homecoming

Air Force Training Again

The Last Months

Last Thoughts 


A Brief History of the 493rd Heavy Bombardment Group

Mission List

Booklist and More WWII Aviation Sites


A sad note: Gordon Weir died October 5th 2011, just four days short of his 89th birthday. He made many friends over the years and is greatly missed. Shortly before he died, he donated his 8th Air Force memoirs, photo collection, and mission documents to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Georgia.