Legacy Page
 

Home
Back

 

 

Legacy Of:

Lester  A.  Arms

 

Personal Legacy
LESTER A. ARMS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

Dear Will Lundy:

Thanks for accepting the job of 44th B.G. Historian. I appreciate the time you are devoting to this project. I am glad someone is giving of his time to perpetuate the history of this group. Without a doubt, it is deserving of this honor.

First of all I am asking a favor. In the August 1989 issue of 44th Logbook, Jim Wright wrote of the 25 April 1945 raid on Hallien, Austria being the last mission by the 44th.

Joe Testa's crew, of which I was a bombardier, was the lead crew. We were still at Shipdham on V.E. Day and I "obtained" the strike photo form my bombardier's file. In June 1986, I made the mistake of sending it, along with some other material to David Klaus, Captain USAF who supposedly was writing a history of the 44th BG. He has promised to make a copy and send it back. As you are aware of, none of such material was returned to the senders. The photo which is approximately 8x8 is on a legal size sheet of paper and typed at the bottom as follows: Target, Hallien; date: 25 April 1945; Crew: Captain Testa; Bombardier: Captain Arms; Results: Excellent.

I sure would appreciate any information you can supply that might enable me to get this back. All correspondence to Captain Klayus has been ignored.

Jim Wright most likely received his flak wound over Berchtesgaden. It was a poorly planned route from the IP to target. The route it took us over Salzburg and out over Berchtesgaden. The high elevation of Berchtesgaden made the guns only 10,000 or 11,000 feet below us and they really peppered us as we flew over.

I will ramble with some of my recollections, hoping not to bore you too much. I am confident you will have no interest in publishing, but perhaps you can gather from this something I might be able to assist you with. As you can see, I am a lousy letter writer, so if answering any questions on a cassette would be an improvement, it would be okay with me.

Bill Cameron's letter mentioning the stump, brain and skull made me wonder if he was in the 492nd BG. I was with the 492nd from its formation at Blythe, CA until it ceased to operate as a heavy bombardment group.

Let me give you my sketches of the skull, brain and stump.

I will start with the brain (Lt. Col. Jack Turnbull). I knew him the longest. After serving 18 months with the infantry, I was accepted as an aviation cadet, graduating form Midland, TX December 1942. I was assigned to the 12th Anti-Sub Squadron at Langley Field, VA from which we flew anti-sub patrols in B-18s. Turnbull, then a captain, was operations officer. In September 1943, the Navy took over sub patrol and we were shipped to Blythe, CA where the 492nd BG was formed. Captain Turnbull was the operations officer. I was group bombardier.

We were transferred to Alamorgardo, NM via the Tactical Training Center at Orlando, FL.

Col. Turnbull (aka the brain) was respected for his intelligence, abilities and was respected by those who served with him. He was an interesting person. He was on the field hockey team in the 1932 Olympics (Los Angeles) and in the LaCross team in 1936 (Berlin, Germany).

He had the misfortune of being on a staff that would keep him from exercising his full potential. I always suspected he was somewhat resented because flying personnel would contact him with any situation that would arise, knowing he could give good, intelligent advice.

He was transferred to the 44th BG along with Col. Snavely after the 492nd was set down. He was killed October 18, 1944.

One of the two survivors of the two planes that crashed in a cloud over Belgium looked me up upon returning to Shipdham.

When Major Bruce Turnbull contacted me in May 1987, I could furnish him with some snapshots, overseas orders (we were in the same plane along with Col. Snavely) the flight log and some orders I had that included him.

In October of that year, I had the privilege of meeting this fine gentleman when visiting West Point where he was the Associate Director of Admissions.

As I had found out from the survivor who contacted me, Col. Turnbull was buried by some Belgium Nuns. They also took care of the survivors. Major Turnbull had a picture of his uncle's casket along with the Belgium underground that buried him. His son-in-law, a captain in the infantry in Germany, had visited the convent where he met a Nun who helped with the burial. She was a novice at the time. From their files, she obtained the pictures.

Lt. Col. Louis C. Adams (aka the stump), because of his height and overall physical build. He flew the companion on our flight overseas. He had determined to be the first at our overseas base, but arrived last by a week or so. He was a victim of an exotic tropic ailment. Only two on our plane and no more than four or five in his plane knew the real cause of his problem.

Soon after the 492nd became operational it was determined to send him back to the States. I was at the briefing of the Mission, of which he was command pilot that had done him in. He drove another nail in the coffin while flying with our crew. We lost an engine on the bomb run, so the deputy took over. As we crossed the coastline and started our descent, another engine acted up momentarily. We were forced to make a dead-stick landing on a field other than Nortkpichingham. When he called from their OPTS room to report our whereabouts, we detected something was amiss. Then we did something I don't believe we would have done had I been the pilot.

Joe Testa, being a very conscientious person, we filled the bad engine with oil, took on a minimal amount of gas, took off and re-feathered the engine when airborne. It was night, fog set in and we had difficulty finding our base. Anyway, we made it. We then found that Col. Adams had called May Day and not canceled out and the British Air Sea Patrol was frantically looking for a downed B-24.

Col. Eugene Snavely (aka the skull) because of his baldhead. He is now deceased.

We had flown nine missions with the 492nd when transferred to the 44th. After ten or 11 weeks of operation and 66 missions, we had 530 KIA and 58 MIA. When considering a group had about l725 flying personnel, it is apparent why the 492nd was out of business.

Soon after our transfer to the 44th, Col. Snavely and Turnbull were also assigned with the 44th. Col. Snavely was not respected nor liked and we, as a crew, were looked upon as bringing him with us. Of course, we had nothing to do with it and would not have opted for his transfer.

The flight crews accepted us, but SQ and GP staff treated us like illegitimate children at a family reunion. Most of our 20 missions we flew with the 44th were last-minute notices. A lead crew wasn't able to fly for one reason or another. A quick shave while the 6x6 waited, down for the briefing and off.

A bit of irony. January 16, 1945, we flew a mission to Politz Refinery north of Dresden, Germany and Col. Snavely was command pilot. I believe this was the only time he flew with us.

We were on the bomb run, doors open and target in the bombsight when we got hit in No. 2 engine. Fire was past the waist gunner and the prop was vibrating badly. I salvoed the bombs as Captain Testa dove to 16,000 feet. The fire went out but the terrific vibration continued. As we prepared to bail out, the engine froze and the prop was flat causing a drag.

Believe me, it is a lonesome feeling seeing the bomber stream leaving us, along with the escort fighters. Here we were - 600 miles form our base and 400 miles from our lines. We soon lost No. 4 engine and had to lighten the plane. Out went our guns, ammo, bombsight, flak vests, helmets and anything we could throw out. The weather was unusually clear. We could see horizon to horizon. For some unknown reason, no fighters came up to do us in.

Before reaching the Rhine, we lost another engine but let it windmill for what good it might do.

Knowing the French Army had taken Strasbourg and the Battle of Haguenau Forest still going on, we crossed the Rhine at Strasbourg, trying to make Nancy. We were flying at about 10,000 feet when an ack ack shell went through the wing between No. 3 engine and the fuselage. That emptied our gas tanks so we bailed out in the Alsise Lorrain area in the 44th Infantry Division territory. For some reason a fighter pilot reported to our group he saw us go all the way down when we dove to put out the fire. So, when we showed up about a week later in C-47 it came as a surprise and possibly a disappointment to he group. With no intention of jest - we were told more than once, "We didn't mind you coming back, but you didn't have to bring the Old Man with you."

Anyway, we got in the 29 of the 30 required missions. Our plane was taken by the SQ Staff for the flight home. We managed to change three engines in the war-weary plane they gave us. We would have changed all four but could only find three. We, as you well know, were the last scheduled to leave for the States. The old plane had a coating of oil in the port side due to the bad engine, but we made it.

I sure was pleased to see you honored General Johnson at Ft. worth. A very good officer and gentleman. He flew a mission with us, but it was recalled, probably due to weather. He presented me with the DFC. Pictures were taken but I never received one because VE Day was near.

A footnote to Col. Adams. While at West Point visiting with Major Turnbull, among the personal effects of Col. Turnbull the family received was a picture of col. Adams all swathed in bandages. It brought to mind a ridiculous affair when the 492nd had a party after we were set down.

Beyond all doubt you are bored with this, but knowing this, maybe something will come up I can help you with. Since much of this is of a personal nature, I leave it to your judgment of passing any of it on.

Cheers and all the best

Lester A. Arms (aka Gooch)
8339 Washington St.
St. Louis, MO 63114



LESTER A. ARMS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

September 30, 1986

Hi, Will:

This is in reply to your letter of September 23rd. Regarding the mission of 16 January 1945, Dubowsky made a career out of the Air Force and wrote an article about the mission for a 2nd Air Division publication. I made some changes according to my recollection sand sent them in.

I believe between Dubowsky and me it is substantially accurate. We were members of the 66th Squadron, but the plane we used was from another squadron (68th). On that day, our regular plane was not available.

The tour at Bovington was to try to determine some sort of trajectory or fighter wing tanks filled with napalm. Some Germans were by-passed at Bordeaux, France, and it was determined that it was time to get them out of their fortifications. The napalm had to be transferred from 55-gallon drums which was tricky and the wing tanks had a trajectory of a falling leaf. The hot shot in charge of the project didn't like my suggestion that we just load the drums into the planes and drop them so we really just goofed our time away there.

As to the names in your letter, I regret, but I am blank. Perhaps the orders I enclosed will tie some loose ends for you. I have lost out since I have never attended any reunions and time has taken its toll in the old memory box.

Hopefully, what I send is of some help.

All the best,

Les A. Arms




LESTER A. ARMS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

September 13, 1986

Hi, Will:

I received your letter of 9 September regarding the 44th book. I will answer your question as to what squadron I flew with. It was the 66th.

I went overseas in April 1944 as group bombardier with the 492nd B.G. Due to excessive losses we ceased as a bomb group in August 1944 (530 KIA; 58 MIA) after ten weeks of operation.

I was on one of the ten crews re-assigned to the 44th. We had flown nine missions with the 492nd and got 20 with the 44th. I have a copy of these orders. If they would be of interest to you. Let me know. I will have a copy made for you.

Col. Snavely, the C.O. was with us when we bailed out in the Alsace Lorrine area January 16, 1945, and we led the last mission of the 44th and 8th AF to Hallien Austria 25 April 1945.

I was in Joe Testa (now deceased) crew.

If I can supply you with any information, let me know.

Sincerely,

Lester A. Arms
8339 Washing St.
St. Louis, MO 63114




LESTER A. ARMS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

8339 Washington St.
St. Louis, MO 63114

Dear Will:

Thanks for accepting the job of 44th B.G. Historian. I appreciate the time you are devoting to this project. I am glad someone is giving of his time to perpetuate the history of this group. Without a doubt, it is deserving of this honor.

First of all, I am asking a favor. In the August 1989 issue of the 44th Log Book, Jim Wright wrote of the 25 April 1945 raid on Hallien, Austria being the last mission by the 44th.

Joe Testa's crew, of which I was a bombardier, was the lead crew. We were still at Shipdham on V.E. Day and I "obtained" the strike photo from my bombardier's file. In June 1986, I made the mistake of sending it, along with some other material, to David Klaus, Captain USAF who supposedly was writing a history of the 44th B.G. He has promised to make a copy and send it back. As you are aware of, none of such material was returned to the senders. The photo which is approximately 8" x 8" is on a legal size sheet of paper and typed at the bottom as follows:

TARGET: HALIEN
DATE: 25 APRIL '45
CREW: CAPTAIN TESTA
BOMBARDIER: CAPTAIN ARMS
RESULTS: EXCELLENT

I sure would appreciate any information you can supply that might enable me to get this back. All correspondence to Captain Klaus has been ignored.

Jim Wright most likely, received his flak wound over Berchtesgaden. It was a poorly planned route from the I.P. to target. The route took us over Salzburg and out over Berchtesgaden. The high elevation of Berchtesgaden made the guns only 10,000 or 11,000 feet below us and they really peppered us as we flew over.

I will ramble with some of my recollections, hoping not to bore you too much. I am confident you will have no interest in publishing, but perhaps you can gather from this something I might be able to assist you with. As you can see, I am a lousy letter writer, so if answering any questions on a cassette would be an improvement, it would be okay with me.

Bill Cameron's letter (page 21) mentioning the stump, brain and skull made me wonder if he was in the 492nd B.G. I was with the 492nd from its formation at Blythe, California until it ceased to operate as a heavy bombardment group.

Let me give you my sketches of the skull, brain, and stump.

I will start with the brain (Lt. Col. Jack Turnbull). I knew him the longest. After serving 18 months with the infantry, I was accepted as an aviation cadet, graduating from Midland, TX December 1942. I was assigned to the 12th anti-sub squadron at Langley Field, VA from which we flew anti-sub patrols in B-18s. Turnbull, then a captain, was operations officer. In September 1943, the Navy took over subpatrol and we were shipped to Blythe, CA where the 492nd BG was formed. Captain Turnbull was the operations officer. I was group bombardier.

We were transferred to Alamorgardo, NM via the Tactical Training Center at Orlando, Florida.

Col. Turnbull (AKA, the brain) was respected for his intelligence, abilities and was respected by those who served with him. He was an interesting person. He was on the field hockey team in the 1932 Olympics (Los Angeles) and in the LaCross team in 1936 (Berlin, Germany).

He had the misfortune of being on a staff that would keep him from exercising his full potential. I always suspected he was somewhat resented because flying personnel would contact him with any situation that would arise, knowing he could give good intelligent advice.

He was transferred to the 44th B.G. along with Col. Snavely after the 492nd was set down. He was killed October 18, 1944.

One of the two survivors of the two planes that crashed in a cloud over Belgium looked me up upon returning to Shipdham.

When Major Bruce Turnbull contacted me in May 1987, I could furnish him with some snapshots, overseas orders (we were in the same plane along with Col. Snavely) the flight log and some orders I had that included him.

In October of that year, I had the privilege of meeting this fine gentleman when visiting West Point where he was the Associate Director of Admissions.

As I had found out from the survivor who contacted me, Col. Turnbull was buried by some Belgium nuns. They also took care of the survivors. Major Turnbull had a picture of his uncle
S casket along with the Belgium underground that buried him. His son-in-law, a captain in the infantry in Germany, had visited the convent where he met a nun who helped with the burial. She was a novice at the time. From their files, she obtained the pictures.

Lt. Col. Louis C. Adams (AKA the stump), because of his height and overall physical build.

He flew the companion on our flight overseas. He had determined to be the first at our overseas base, but arrived last by a week or so.

He was a victim of an exotic tropic ailment. Only two on our plane and no more than four or five in his plane knew the real cause of his problem.

Soon after the 492nd became operational, it was determined to send him back to the states. I was at the briefing of the mission, of which he was command pilot that done him in. He drove another nail in the coffin while flying with our crew. He lost an engine on the bomb run, so the deputy took over. As we crossed the coast line and started our descent, another engine acted up momentarily. We were forced to make a dead-stick landing on a field other than North Pickingham. When he called from their OPTS room to report our whereabouts, we detected something was amiss. Then we did something I don't believe we would have done had I been the pilot.

Joe Testa, being a very conscientious person, we filled the bad engine with oil, took on a minimal amount of gas, took off and re-feathered the engine when airborne. It was night, fog set in and we had difficulty finding our base. Anyway, we made it. We then found that Col. Adams had called May Day and not canceled out and the British Air Sea Patrol was frantically looking for a downed B-24.

Col. Eugene Snavely (AKA the skull) because of bald head. He is now deceased.

We had flown 9 missions with the 492nd when transferred to the 44th. After ten or 11 weeks of operation and 66 missions, we had 530 KIA and 58 MIA. When considering a group had about 725 fling personnel, it is apparent why the 492nd was out of business.

Soon after our transfer to the 44th, Col. Snavely and Turnbull were also assigned with the 44th. Col. Snavely was not respected nor liked and we, as a crew, were looked upon as bringing him with us. Of course, we had nothing to do with it and would not have opted for his transfer.

The flight crews accepted us, but squadron and group staff treated us like illegitimate children at a family reunion. Most of our 20 missions we flew with the 44th were last-minute notices. A lead crew wasn't able to fly for one reason or another. A quick shave while the 6x6 waited, down for the briefing and off.

A bit of irony. January 16, 1945, we flew a mission to Politz Refinery north of Dresden, Germany and Col. Snavely was command pilot. I believe this was the only time he flew with us.

We were on the bomb run, doors open and target in the bomb sight when we got hit in No. 2 engine. Fire was past the waist gunner and the prop was vibrating badly. I salvoed the bombs as Captain Testa dove to 16,000 feet. The fire went out but the terrific vibration continued. As we prepared to bail out, the engine froze and the prop was flat causing a drag.

Believe me, it is a lonesome feeling seeing the bomber stream leaving us, along with the escort fighters. Here we were - 600 miles from our base and 400 miles from our lines. We soon lost No. 4 engine and had to lighten the plane. Out went our guns, ammo, bombsight, flak vests, helmets and anything we could throw out. The weather was unusually clear, we could see horizon to horizon. For some unknown reason no fighters came up to do us in.

Before reaching the Rhine, we lost another engine but let it windmill for what good it might do.

Knowing the French Army had taken Strasbourg and the Battle of Haguenau Forest still going on, we crossed the Rhine at Strasbourg, trying to make Nancy. We were flying at about 10,000 feet when an ack ack shell went through the wing between No. 3 engine and the fuselage. That emptied our gas tanks so we bailed out in the Alise Lorrain area in the 44th infantry division territory. For some reason a fighter pilot reported to our group that he saw us go all the way down when we dove to put out the fire. So, when we showed up about a week later in C-47, it came as a surprise and possibly a disappointment to the group. With no intention of jest, we were told more than once, "We didn't mind you coming back, but you didn't have to bring the Old Man with you."

Anyway, we got in the 29 of the 30 required missions. Our plane was taken by the squadron staff for the flight home. We managed to change three engines in the war-weary plane they gave us. We would have changed all four but could only find three. We, as you well know, were the last scheduled to leave for the states. The old plane had a coating of oil in the prop side due to the bad engine, but we made it.

I sure was pleased to see you honored General Johnson at Ft. Worth. A very good officer and gentleman. He flew a mission with us, but it was recalled, probably due to weather. He presented me with the D.F.C. Pictures were taken but I never received one because V.E. Day was near.

A footnote to Col. Adams. While at West Point visiting with Major Turnbull, among the personal effects of Col. Turnbull, the family received, was a picture of Col. Adams all swathed in bandages. It brought to mind a ridiculous affair when the 492nd had a party after we were set down.

Beyond all doubt you are bored with this, but knowing this, maybe something will come up I can help you with. Since much of this is of a personal nature, I leave it to your judgment of passing any of it on.

Cheers and all the best,

Lester A. Arms (AKA Gooch)
 
Send mail to Support@8thAirForce.com with questions or comments about this web site.   Copyright 2013 8thAirForce.com
Last modified: 01/26/14