KENNETH L. ERHARD|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy from Ken's widow Gloria)
Rt. 4 Box 652A
Marshall, TX 75670-8904
How can I ever thank you for the stirring write-ups you sent in your last letter? My heart swelled with pride, tears and longing to share this with Ken. To pacify myself, I believe Ken knew about it and was there in spirit. Ken was 71 years old when he died from service-connected disabilities, but to many of his friends, family and to me, he was forever vibrant and youthful and to some friends, he was known as "Kenny Boy."
Until this year, I did not know what the target was for "Miss Dianne," and the 15 other bombers. There were many things he refused to discuss as I can only suppose much was still "Top Secret" to him anyway. I don't know because I, too, was cleared all the way as a civilian employee in Finance and Accounting Department, Military Pay Section during World War II, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam. I worked first for the Navy then Army, Air Force, Army (Fitzsimons General Hospital), Air Force and finally a supervisor at the Air Force Accounting and Financial Division, Denver. Yes! I was military - Just could not wear a uniform due to the old back.
Much was learned about working with ex-POWs as the wars came and went. It is a pity there were no "rap" sessions for World War II POWs. They were screamed at by a doctor at Camp Lucky Strike, "O.K.! You were a POW!! So what? Forget it!!" Many were looked down on by so-called friends and yes, families! They did not share nightmares as the wives did. They did not share sudden mood swings, nor alcoholism for many, nor chain smoking and the list goes on. The ex-POW had (has) diseases brought on by impoverishments never heard of before and V.A. Committees sit there scratching their heads wondering, "Where do we go from here?"
Sorry to be on such a tangent as the above, but it is frustrating to the ex-POW and other veterans as well to be sick, hurting, old before one's time and not be able to receive benefits for their illnesses.
All ex-POWs should receive 100% disability. Every one of them was hurt either mentally or physically. They are all to be considered heroes. Every last one!! Ken had his private health insurance, but he chose to go to V.A. Hospitals so he would be with his buddies. His insurance paid for every visit, every pill, and every surgery (of which there were many). He did not have free treatment. He tried experimental medicines in order to help others buy over-the-counter. He was one brave man among many and my admiration of him is overwhelming. And I miss him like crazy because I am so selfish!
There's one more thing I'd ask of you besides the pictures, of course. I need the addresses of those I should write for the monument and their enthusiasm of the American continent who were not able to attend the soul-stirring ceremonies -- at your convenience, of course. I would also like to know when you and Irene will be going to Barksdale AFB as I'd like to meet you there. It is only 45 miles or so from here.
A little tid-bit that might be of interest to you as a historian. Barksdale was named, I'm pretty sure, of a relation of mine. His middle name Hoy, from Mississippi, as my family name was - my great, great grandfather was a federal judge and changed the spelling to Hoye, saying, "A man has a right to spell his name as he so chooses." I must have my daughter check into it as she is into genealogy.
Thank you for letting me "bend your ear" over certain things.
"May He hold you forever in the hollow of His hand."
Kenneth Lynn Erhard
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
5920 East University Blvd.
Dallas, Texas 75206
May 17, 1985
Your letter dated 1 May 1985 was received on the 13th as I had just returned from Stalag XVLL-B 40th reunion held in Clearwater Beach, Florida. I, like you, have been looking for older members of the 67th Bomb Squadron, 44th bomb Group. I literally stayed in the service after being a prisoner of war for 26 months. I rejoined the 44th Bomb Group, 4109th A & E Maintenance Squadron in 1952 before going to Chennault AFB, LA where I got out of the service in 1954.
I had been with the 22nd Bomb Group, which I joined in Okinawa in 1946. So, you see, other than my POW time, I had considerable time with the 44th Bomb Group.
As you have stated, Captain Price as the A/C due to the fact Captain Williams was ill that day, 8 March 1943. You can rest assure it was no fault of the ground crews that we were shot down and could not return to base. We were hit by FW190s as well as flak amid ship. Needless to say with oxygen and hydraulic lines, fire was inevitable. The bail out bell was sounded, which, by this time, the ship was well aflame. Due to the nose attack, the flight deck personnel did not make it. I assisted Iris Wyer and Duane Devars out the right waist window. Also checked on Fleshmann, but he was already dead. I bailed out the right waist window and upon hitting the ground I saw Lt. Gross coming down. His whole abdomen was ripped open and he died in my arms with the German soldiers looking on. The Lieutenant told me to take his watch and give it to his mother, but the Germans took the watch away from me.
Devars and Wyer were captured a day or two later. At least they had a few more hour's freedom than I did. While descending from the burning ship, I was shot at by FWs and ME109s. All three survivors suffered flak wounds and burns.
The "Miss Dianne" was a good ship. I never had any fear of flying in it due to the effort of one of the best ground crews in the 44th Bomb Group. I had flown in the Miss Dianne six different times and for some unknown reason just before the seventh mission came up, I went around telling my buddies I would see them after the war. Something was going to happen on that seventh mission. I really had the jitters that day and my buddies tried to get me to take sick call; being a gung-ho fly boy all of 20 years old, I flew that fateful mission.
Yes, I was a volunteer form the Armament Section and was flying my 13th mission when we were shot down.
Upon being captured and after the lieutenant died, the German soldiers turned me over to the Luftwaffe and SS troops. I was taken to a lazarette for treatment of flak wounds and burns. Whatever the medication was for burns I did not suffer scars. I was treated by French doctors and watched by German doctors. From the lazarette I was taken by train to Dulag Luft for interrogation, beat around a little, spent approximately ten days in solitary confinement. After that, I was taken to Stalag VII-A, Moosberg, Bavaria. Stayed there until September 1943 and was sent to Stalag XVII-B to wait out the war. There were approximately 1,500 of us shipped by box cars called 40x8's.
Random thoughts: Combat personnel as POWs John Susan, Ralph C. Ernst, Gilbert Wantke, Augustine (repatriated).
Captain Price, KIA A/C
Lt. Forrest, KIA Copilot
Lt. Gross, KIA Bombardier
Lt. Augustine, KIA Navigator
Sgt. Snell, KIA Engineer
Sgt. Fleshmann, KIA Tail Gunner
Sgt. Jester, KIA Radio Operator
Sgt. Wyer, POW Right Waist Gunner
Sgt. Devars, POW Belly Gunner
Sgt. Erhard, POW Left Waist Gunner
Michael Denny, reg. R/O not on flight 3/8/43.
I have two books - 14th Combat Bomb Wing and Liberators Over Europe (44th). Jack Evans of the 67th Armament let me have back in 1948, issued by Capt. Ursell Hervell Group Photo and William B. Taylor, Lt. Col. If you do not have a copy, I could loan them to you for some information you could possibly glean from. I would have to insist upon their return as there are a lot of memories and information contained therein. Please advise me.
I keep running over names, faces, and pictures, but my memory is slipping somewhat.
I regret to inform you that Devars is no longer with us. He died 2/8/79.
I have sent cards, letters, etc. trying to locate Iris Wyer - all to no avail. The last address I had was Clarkesburg, West Virginia.
Having just returned form Florida on the 12th I will not be able to make the 44th Reunion in Rapid City. Please extend my thoughts and best wishes to all that may have remembered me. Maybe the next time around I'll be able to make it...only God knows.
Am enclosing a couple of snaps that may be beneficial to you.
Very respectfully yours in 44th Bomb Group memories,
Kenneth Lynn Erhard
AX-POW and proudly a former member of the 44th bomb Group.
8 March 1943 [legacy, Kenneth Erhard]
This is straight from the ROH except for the mention of the death of Devars in 1979.
Erhard, Kenneth L. (Price crew)
March 8, 1943
S/Sgt. Kenneth L. Erhard relates his experience:
We were hit by FW 190s as well as flak amid ship. Needless to say, with oxygen and hydraulic line damage, fire was inevitable. The bail out bell was sounded, which by this time, the ship was well aflame. Due to the nose attack (by the enemy aircraft) the flight deck personnel did not make it out. I assisted Iris Wyer and Duane Devars out the right waist window; also checked on Fleshman, but he was already dead. I bailed out the right waist window and upon hitting the ground, I saw Lt. Gross coming down. His whole abdomen was ripped open and he died in my arms with the German soldiers looking on. The Lieutenant told me to take his watch and give it to his mother, but the Germans took the watch away from me.
While descending from the burning ship, I was shot at by FWs and ME 109s. All three of us survivors suffered flak wounds and burns. Devars and Wyer were captured a day or two later.
I was a volunteer from the Armament Section and was flying my 13th mission. Upon being captured, and after Lt. Gross died, the German soldiers turned me over to the Luftwaffe and SS troops. I was taken to a lazarette for treatment of those flak wounds and burns. Whatever the medication for burns was I did not suffer scars. I was treated by French doctors and watched by German doctors. From there I was taken by train to Dulag Luft for interrogation, beat around a little, spent approximately ten days in solitary confinement. After that I was taken to Stalag VII-A, Moosberg, Bavaria..."
I regret to tell you that Deane Devars died 8 February 1979.