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William  H.  Novak

 

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BILL NOVAK
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)


156 Jason St.
Pittsfield, MA 01201

February 25, 1988

Dear Will:

(Just noticed that today is the 44th anniversary of my last mission!)

I received your letter and was pleased to hear from you. I was looking through my old records and found the spare copy that is enclosed and thought it might be of interest. I Know that of this group, at least Shannon, R. A. Larson, J. E. Hill, Kessler Whitlock and E. R. Wilson (my crew) eventually joined the 44th. For some reason, which I do not remember, our bombardier John K. Waite 0734766 was not included in these orders.

From Clovis, we went to Topeka, Kansas sometime in May to pick up a B-24 and proceed overseas. However, there were no planes available, so we were sent to Salina, Kansas to check out a B-17 and deliver it to the Eto. From my records, I see that George P. Martin, Benjamin M. Moss, and Richard J. Comey, later with the 44th, were also sent to Salina. Upon arrival in the U.K., some crews neglected to mention that they had trained in B-24s and were assigned to B-17 groups. We, however, went by train from Prestwich to Hethel (later the home of the 389th) and subsequently were assigned to the 44th. The only other group in the U.K. at the time was Timberlake's "Flying Circus," the 93rd.

We joined the 506th, just a matter of a couple of weeks it seems, before the group left for Libya. We spent the month of July waiting for a B-24 to be delivered and spent some of that time at the 93rd base at Hardwick getting some flying time.

A plane became available the first week of August and we flew it down to Africa to join the group. The Ploesti raid was recent history when we arrived but there would be one more shot before we would leave - this time to Foggia, Italy. Wilson, Waite, Mundell and Kosch (a replacement engineer we got when Fry was assigned to Gordon Stevens), flew as fill-ins (Whitlock) with a pilot whose name I do not recall and did not return. I believe the 44th lost eight planes that day. Wilson and Kosch were killed, Waite and Mundell taken prisoner. Mundell later escaped and returned to the U.K.

After return to Shipdham, I was assigned to Jim Bunze who already had ten missions to his credit and flew with him until he finished. I recall flying one mission to Solingen with Lyle Davenport during this period. My last nine or ten were as a substitute with Norman Purdy and Bob Cardenas. I don't believe Cardenas came over with a crew and that accounts for my flights with him. The Bunce copilot was Wayne H. Middleton and bombardier was Richard L. Fisher. The original navigator, whom I replaced, I believe was James D. Young. I understand that he was in a Cairo military hospital when we returned to the U.K.

We went back to Africa, this time to Tunisia. After two missions to bomb airfields at Abbeville, and Conches, in France, and I flew my third to Leghorn in Italy. My original copilot E. W. Roberts (Edgar) flew his first to Wiener-Neustadt with a pilot I believe was Stanley F. Olson (KIA). They did not return and Roberts joined Waite in the same prisoner camp.

My last mission was to Furth on the 25th of February 1944 the end of the "Big Week" during which I flew three missions. Surely you must have a copy of Ursel P. Harvell's "44th Liberators Over Europe," photos of Bunce, myself and crew plus Purdy are included - more perhaps later.
[Yes, 506 shows you completed on 25th]

Sincerely,

Bill Novak

*****

Wednesday, 16 March 1988

Dear Will:

Enclosed you will find a copy of orders that authorized a group of 44th personnel to return to U.K. from Tunis after the second excursion to North Africa. I believe all listed on P2 starting with Meiner and Scott and P3 are 506 Squadron people. This was the second time I had to return form Africa via ATC.

In my earlier letter, I had mentioned that E. W. Roberts had been the copilot on the crew that joined the 44th but I neglected to mention that he was not with us when we flew to Libya. I'm not sure why he left the crew, but I do recall that he was unhappy as a copilot. In any event, the copilot that did go was F/O Carlton R. Horne from Amarillo, Texas. I have no idea what happened to Horne. He might have been sent to another group because I didn't see him at Shipdham after coming back.

You asked about Waite - we did call him Jack, but I doubt that he would use that name officially. He was "John Kellogg Waite," and took pride in that name. Waite was originally from Seattle and I would be surprised if he was living in rural Texas. Although I do recall he had a girlfriend from Muleshoe, Texas who probably was employed at the Clovis, NM Army Air Field when we were stationed there. Those are the only clues I can offer.

I was in San Jose, California last November and checked the phone book since Robert's was a native of San Jose and led me to believe that he loved his hometown and I would expect he would return there, but no E. W. Roberts was listed. I made a couple of calls to Roberts people listed, but no luck.

I was looking at the crew photos in Harvell's book and was reminded of the fact that the air crews are listed by number, 1 to 60, but the photos are not numbered. I do not recognize all of the crews but know enough of them to realize that the placement of photos is not consistent. For crews 1 to 30, the first is in the upper left corner (as one would expect), 2, 3, and 4 below on the left side of the page. The next four run from top to bottom on the right side of the page. This pattern continues through No. 30 and the pattern changes at 31 with 32 alongside on the right and 33 below 31, etc. Thus, No. 48, Capt. James A. Bunce, Jr., and crew are in the photo second from the top on the left. We were called on short notice and did not collect a full complement of crew members. Bunce is standing at the center. I am on his right hand and the short fellow next to me is John Huber, a bombardier (and wearing my jacket, as I recall). Huber was Stevens' bombardier and I can't account for his presence, except that Fisher sort of faded away and Huber could have been filling in.

After the breakup of my original crew, I never really became anybody's buddy and thus did not wonder, at the time, what became of anyone who I just didn't run into after a time. I suppose that helped me to shrug off the tragedies. I shared a room with Harold Schwab for awhile before he was killed, but we did not get chummy.

In one of the back issues of the Logbook (Col. 1, No. 4/5), a photo shows an unidentified B-24 nose art (received from Art Hand), "Greenwich." I don't know whether it was intended to be pronounced "Green Witch," but my recollection is that the plane was named by Lt. Bob Borkoski of the 506th and his hometown was Greenwich ("Grenich"), Conn.

In the meantime, I'll see if I can't jog my memory on some other points. I've mentioned Gordon Stevens a couple of times. Probably as good a friend as I had. He was from Smithfield, NC and liked to boast that he and Ava Gardner were in high school together. He transferred to P-47s after his tour and was killed on a strafing mission.

Sincerely,

Bill Novak




WILLIAM H. NOVAK
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

156 Jason St.
Pittsfield, MA 01201-5906

5 August 2002

Dear Will:

I am writing to inform you that John Y. Reed, ex-major with the 66th Squadron and the 14th Bomb Wing passed away on 16 May 2002 in Matamoras, PA where he had resided since leaving the service sometime in 1946. During my tour with the 506th Squadron, I was not aware that an officer named Reed was a member of the 44th. I was waiting for orders to return to the states after flying my last mission on 25 February 1944.

Captain Jim E. Hill of the 67th and three of his enlisted crewmen were also on hold. Hill told me we had to stay until the next scheduled wards presentation and asked whether I was anxious to leave.

During my exit interview with Bob Kolliner, then 506th S.O., I told him I wanted pilot training and he said he would recommend that in his review, so I did have that incentive. Hill said he would talk to his friend, Johnnie Reed, who was then at 14th Wing to determine whether he could have General Johnson perform the awards presentation at Wing Headquarters, and the General graciously agreed and we were on our way.

I did, in fact, enter the pilot training program after a short stay with the 4th Ferrying Group in Memphis and graduated with the class of 45A with twin engine training. My hope of becoming a P38 long-range reconnaissance pilot was "dashed" when I was sent to the Navigation Training School at Hondo, Texas where I had a seat in an AT-7 about seven feet further forward of one I had back in 1942.

I left the service in August 1945, still in the reserve to enroll in the Mechanical Engineering School at Cornell University, a move that brought me back to active duty in 1951 at Air Materiel Command Headquarters, Dayton, Ohio.

In 1945, I married a young lady from Matamoras, PA and in the summer of 1947, we went to visit her parents and my father-in-law told me he had seen a young man who had just moved into a house up the street wearing a leather jacket with a round emblem patch just like he'd seen me wear. I didn't waste any time walking to the house and found the ex-Major John Y. Reed and have visited him once or twice a year in most of the past 50 years.

John was with a company in Port Jervis, NY, just across the Delaware River, that manufactured stripping containers of a variety of designs and sizes to military specifications, some large enough to contain aircraft wing sections for shipment. John was manager of quality control. He and his wife had one son and three daughters. My wife and I have one daughter and three sons.

John was a physical fitness believer and maintained a trim appearance throughout his years. We both underwent heart bypass surgery, he a number of years earlier at a time when the procedure was relatively new. John, however, was never the same after his son, David, an M.D., at age 48 drowned in a boating accident on Lake Superior in June 1994. The last 18 months of his life, he steadily lost weight and the diagnosis that he briefly mentioned was murky. I last saw him about five months before he died at home, but hooked up to an oxygen supply. I believe his heart just wore out.

Both of my wife's parents have been gone since 1976 and are buried in Florida, so a trip to Matamoras will be a visit to the grave of John Y. Reed, 66th, lying next to his son in a small, wooded cemetery.

Sincerely,

Bill Novak, 506th
 
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