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Station 152

September 15, 2022

Adele and I visited the site of an Air Force Base known as Station 152, located near a village called Debach. When I learned that Dad had been in the 863rd Squadron of the 493rd Bomb Group (from one of dad’s family newsletters Adele had kept) I quickly found the museum associated with it.

Adele and Darren Jelley

We soon learned that Darren Jelley had extensive knowledge of the unit and it’s history.

Back row, second from left

Darren sent us this photo of dad‘s crew taken at Debach. We were very surprised, because nothing came down to is through Dad or the family, or through the US Air Force archives.

The 863rd Squadron living areas were over there

All that remains of the base is some concrete paving, the control tower building, and other buildings which have been used by the farm since the base closed. Richard, the owner of the farm, is very supportive of the museum efforts and himself is a collector.

Darren explaining how the bombers found their way home

We drove around what is left of the runways and taxiways, where the mess halls had been, where the crew quarters were, and where the aircraft parking handstands had been.

Richard’s collection of old military trucks
Richard Taylor, right

The volunteers in this museum do a lot of programs for school children, and they are diligent in presenting factual stories and correctly restored equipment.

B-17 engine

Dad told me once that his job as navigator included pulling the propellers through a cycle by hand during preflight. This brought oil up into the cylinders.

Darren has the records of our dad‘s missions, obtained from microfilm records held by the US in its archives. The last two missions he flew were food drops to the starving Dutch people in Holland; one where the big airport is now and another over a golf course. They flew at 400 feet and dropped 10-1 British rations, ten days for one man’s worth of food. (May 1945).

B-17 of the 493rd Bomb Group

Darren also had records of the two combat missions Dad flew, April 1945, which must have been very difficult for him. One was to Czechoslovakia, where German jet fighters shot down four of the aircraft on the mission. The other was over Royan in France. I suspect that Dad did not have any mementos from the war because he wanted to forget about it. The paperwork Darren had included crew lists and formation position. I will write more about that in the future.

493 Bomb Group Memorial

See https://493bgdebach.co.uk/ for much more of the story, thanks to Richard Taylor for his commitment, and to Darren Jelley for his passion in wanting to tell the story.

From → Writing Fiction

5 Comments
  1. kay wischkaemper permalink

    Fascinating Robert. Am very glad you and Adele got to see actual recordings of your Dads missions and get a glimpse of his untold story. I loved the old photograph. Thanks, Kay

  2. ponyjuicediomedes90505 permalink

    Robert,

    What a compelling story of discovery for you!! Read it all with great interest. Hooray for your dad and so glad he served. My dad was captain of a mine sweeper in the Pacific, and recall that’s why I booked your B&B – to hand over 3 photograph albums to the curator at the Nimitz.

    He wanted all the pics, and said it was the finest personal collection of photos he had seen as most family memorabilia is physical items not photo. Only photo journalists hired by the military had collections”. My dad liked his Leica! The museum’s digital archivist digitized all 3 albums with the intention of placing some photos into the exhibit. Our family was so grateful.

    Loved your photo journal of standing on the grounds where your dad served so valiantly. Will be forwarding it to lifelong Dutch friends for the food drop info.

    My best to you,

    Mary L Anderson, MD

  3. Kathy Brown permalink

    So thankful to those before us who bravely fought for the freedoms we all enjoy today. We will always remember their sacrifices.

  4. ponyjuicediomedes90505 permalink

    Hi Robert,

    From the son of Kees Velzeboer – one of 4 siblings we grew up with in Meyerland suburb of Houston, Tx. Thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of the recollections your story triggered for him.

    My best,

    Dr Mary Anderson

  5. Chip Frazier permalink

    Thank you for sharing your dad’s WW II experience!

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