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Robert  F.  Laas

 

Personal Legacy
ROBERT F. "BOB" LAAS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

September 1, 1988

Dear Will:

Thank you for your letter in June. I know I am slow in writing; sorry. When I was ask to re-enlist at time of discharge, I told them all I wanted was a faint remembrance. Sorry to say at my age it gets more dim as the years go by.

At a local meeting of men in the 8th Air Force, clipping enclosed, I found a man that I think was on the first crew to live to finish a tour of duty (my crew was the second). His name is Don V. Chase, 3 South Rego Way, Hot Springs Village, AR 71909. This address, as well as others, came from the 2nd Air division Association, 8th Air Force, P. O. Box Drawer B, Ipswitch, Mass 01938. It has several pages of 44th names in it. That is where I got my navigator's address from.

Let me correct that. The correct address is Benard Abrams, 25211 Buckskin Dr., Laguna Hills, CA 92653. That should be in your general area.

I am enclosing a picture of one of our extra "doors" we so often received from the Germans. I do remember out of seven missions, we had to land in southern England because of damage to the plane. Also enclosed is a picture of my crew. I sure would like to have it back. Picture Left to Right, back row are Thames, pilot; Kemmer, pictured in 14th bomb wing book listed as 14th C.B.W. weddings, the groom, Nav.; Abrams, bomb; Nav. Naude; Eng. Carlson. Lower row Jack N. Payton, W. gunner and Eng.; MacDonnel Ball; James H. Rigsby, radio; V. E. Johnson, tail; and me, right waist and armament.

I remember many things - some funny, some sad. Our crew made the first six-day light Berlin raids. That was not funny. On the first one (we flew lead most of the time) we had a hot shot command officer with us and he didn't like the first run so he said, "Take it around again." The second run there were ships under us. You guessed it - "Take it around again." On the third run, we dropped our bombs. By this time the clear sky was filled with smoke from the ground guns.

At the a.m. briefing the briefing officer sure made us feel good. He said in the area there were 800 guns over 108mm, but not to worry, only 600 could come to bear on us at any one time. They did. That could be one of the reasons I don't fly anymore.

One thing that still lives in my memory as if it were yesterday is - on a mission, I don't recall which one, we were receiving heavy ground fire. Our right wing man got a direct hit and slid out of formation. Just after clearing the group, the ship blew up. As we saw four chutes opened, we all cheered, then all four chutes caught fire and nothing but little pieces fell to the ground.

On a lighter note, on another mission, we received heavy ground fire (I really think that was on all missions). We received a hit in the right side just ahead of my right guns. My steel helmet looked as if it had been hit with buckshot. I looked around and Payton, left gunner, was on his hands and knees. I ask him if he was hurt and he replied, "I'm not hurt. A piece hit me on the head and I'm trying to find it." Since we were also under heavy fighter attack, I kicked him in the best place and told him to get back on the guns.

At this time we checked on Mac in the ball. You see the hit had severed the main strut that held the ball in the ship and it was hanging by the safety cables. The flak had come in, hit the shaft and bounced down on us. As was standard procedures, we used signals to see if Mac was all right. All communications to the ball was shot out. He was okay, so when flak and fighters left, we rolled him around and good ole Mac climbed out, unruffled, started to pump up the ball with the manual pump. As he stood there, he was looking out at the formation. All of a sudden in the slow Alabama drawl came $%#&$%# "There isn't suppose to be a window here." You see he had been looking out a window size hole in the side of the ship.

This has been a rambling letter, but that's how I think today. I will write Don Chase and see if it is the same one. I have been or talked to the following of my crew since I got out.

Jack N. Payton lived in Houston after the war - part of the time with me. He was going to the University of Houston and taking baby pictures. His company name was Nicholis Pictures. He just vanished and I haven't heard from him in 30 years.

James H. Rigsby worked for Sears in Dallas and I saw him about 25 years ago.

A. N. MacDonnell and I talk or write several times a year and I saw him three years ago. I talked to Skipper, Jack several months ago.

V. E. Johnson from Denver died several years ago.

I have written and talked to Abrams several times this year. The rest I don't know. I think that's still a good average after 40+ years.

That's all for now. Thanks for your letters and log. I will try to come to Ft. Worth for a day or two next year, Lord willing.

Thanks again.

Bob Laas
235 W. Glenn
Bellville, TX 77418

P.S. Any errors are due to the computer - that's what everyone blames things on.

P.S.S. I also have my flight log with mission dates.

May 21, 1988

Dear Will:

Thank you for the 44th log book. I would like to get them. How?

Due to your letter, I received a letter from Jack Butler and will call him next time I am in Houston. After 40+ years in Houston, I don't go back unless I just have to. I thought after I left the 44th I was through with combat. I Just can't get enough. So I taught 31 years of junior high in inter-city schools. Now retired (semi) and flak happy, my wife and I are doing great.

I finished my missions June 2nd. Was 21 (years old) June 3 and D-Day was June 6th. My crew was only the second one to finish out of the barracks I was in. I have seen some of my crew since returning home, mainly MacDonnell, and Vernon Johnson, the tail gunner. I am sorry to say Vernon died several years ago at age 65.

I have a scrap book some place. It has been a long time ago. When I find it, I will write more information.

A friend of mine here belongs to the Second Air Division Association and I got our navigator's name and address from it. It is Benard Abrams, Box 1110, Hartford, CT 06101.

All for now.

Sincerely,

Robert (Bob) F. Laas
235 West Glenn
Bellville, TX 77418



October 6, 1988

Dear Will:

I do not know how you find time to write all the letters you seem to put out. I do thank you for the answers to my letters. If you can give me a copy of the unposed picture of my crew, I would appreciate it. You may use the stuff I sent you.

The crew picture I sent of the crew was posed with a plane that was not ours. Our plane was called Miss It. A lady in a swim suit in a swan dive. We let another crew use it for a mission. Guess what, we missed it. It didn't come back. McDonnell and I see or hear from each other several times a year. He is one nice guy.

As I said before, I have lost track of Jack Payton. I saw him a lot in the 50's. In Houston, lost track of him since. Rigsby is some place around Dallas. Saw him one time there. He worked for Sears. Jack Thames told me, when I talked to him, that he had a security company some place around Dallas. That sure covers a lot of ground.

That's all for now. Thanks again.

Best to you and yours...Keep up the good work.

Bob (Laas)





ROBERT F. LAAS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

30 April 1989

3295 North H Street
San Bernardino, CA 92405

Dear Will:

I guess you are up to your ears trying to get ready for Ft. Worth.

I would like to make a clarification on the picture I sent of our crew in front of "Flak Alley." That was not our ship. It was one the Air Force PR people used to make our first group picture. Our plane was "Miss It." Before we finished our tour, some crew used it for their mission and guess what? We missed it. It never came back. The best I can remember, we flew lead crew for a number of our last missions and used a number of ships and as for who posed for me? I wish I had that good of a memory. That hole wasn't in "Flak Alley," but one of the ships we used. I don't know who called my hand on "Flak Alley," but he was right.

Keep the Logbook coming. I will try to write some more memories later.

Best to all and have a good time in Texas.

Bob Laas
 
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