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In Memory of 2nd Lt. William J. Hamrick, 440th TCG/96th TCS

Bill HamrickThe 440th Troop Carrier Group website and community wishes to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of 2nd Lieutenant William J. Hamrick, 440th Troop Carrier Group, 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, navigator and flight leader. He passed away on March 16, 2013.

In a 2009 interview, Hamrick recalled the arrival of the group commander after he had been shot down.

“Colonel Krebs and Major Ottoman had been lost at Bastogne,” he said. “I remember them walking in with their straw hats on. We had a big rally for them.”

Hamrick also recalled a joke he played on Major Ottoman shortly afterwards.

“I said to Major Ottoman, ‘Could you tell me why in the world they sent a bombardier to this unit?’ Ottoman was livid and reported me to Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, our squadron commander. Colonel Johnson and I flew together on a zig-zag pattern and he said to me, ‘Could you direct us back?’ By golly, I got us back and Johnson and I have been friends ever since,” he laughed.

Hamrick also recalled an incident from Operation Varsity.

“Colonel Johnson’s plane was hit in the nose while we were dropping over the Rhine. Capt. James Robertson was the co-pilot and he was trying to use the firefighting equipment to get the flame out,” he said. “Capt. Aldo Tombari got so excited that Johnson had to tell him to sit down because he had to make an emergency landing.”

“2nd Lieutenant Aymon Prudhomme was the pilot of the right wingman plane and 1st Lieutenant Joseph Turecky was the co-pilot. They had a hole in their gas tank and had to set it down. Nobody mentioned anything about that episode until our 1996 reunion in St. Louis. I told Turecky ‘Do you know who told you to land at Wesel?’ He shook his head and said, ‘No.’ I smiled and said, ‘Well you’re looking at him!’” he chuckled.

Though decades later, he could still not get the images of the war out of his mind.

On one particular day, he flew as a navigator with 1st Lt. David Brown, 1st Lt. James Murphy and Sgt. Thomas Pinto on a mission to deliver five-gallon jerricans of fuel to the Third Army. The flight was a routine flight and they made their way back to Metz. He didn’t fly with them the next day but remembers clearly what happened.

“Murphy and Brown slid in a little too close on takeoff and they started to roll out to the left. I could tell the pilot was trying to pull up but the weight of the cargo shifted to the left and they couldn’t pull it up. They came down but didn’t make it out. The plane hit and went off like a bomb had exploded. They were hauling gas,” he said.

“When I got there, their bodies were already taken off. Murphy was a guy who always liked to fly with jump boots on. I saw his leg with a boot by the tail of the aircraft. Pinto, the crew chief, was a Brooklynese kind of a fellow. I saw his coveralls there. He was the only one still with his body in good condition, the rest were consumed by the flames,” he sobbed out of remembrance.

“We lost other guys but seeing that was hard. I still feel deeply hurt. I did get a weeks pass on the Riviera to get over the shock of it, but it never really went away. I flew with the crew the day before it happened. They were all nice young men.”

Lieutenant Hamrick, you are already missed. We salute you!

Here is his obituary published March 18, 2013 in the TribStar:

March 18, 2013

William “Bill” Jean Hamrick, 88, of Terre Haute, passed away Saturday, March 16, 2013. He was born in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, on Nov. 27, 1924, to Floyd and Katherine (Russell) Hamrick. He was a graduate of Indiana State Teacher’s College (now Indiana State University) with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1948 and 1951, respectively. He retired in 1989 from Vigo County Schools, where he had been the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.

Bill was a decorated World War II veteran with the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as a lieutenant with the 440th carrier group of the 96th squadron. He was a navigator in the European campaign against Germany. After the end of the war, Bill returned to Terre Haute and started a career in education.

He was a career educator with Vigo County School Corporation for 40 years.  During that time, he served as teacher, counselor, assistant principal, coordinator of Guidance and Special Education, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, acting Superintendent and 20 years as assistant Superintendent for Instruction. He served one year at the state level as Indiana Director of Guidance Services and six years as consultant with the American Schools in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. He also served as a developer of the Covered Bridge Special Education District. Under his supervision the Washington Alternative High School was developed in Vigo County.

After retirement, Bill was an active member of the Wabash Valley Art Guild, where he painted as a water colorist. His work was award-winning and exhibited in many locations in/around southern Indiana. He also was an active member of Memorial United Methodist Church and he served as chairman of the Administration Board and Pastor Parish Committee.

Other civic contributions include serving 23 years as Board of Directors of the Hamilton Mental Health Center from its inception through building and program development. He also was a member of Vigo Country Coordinating Council and co-founder of the 4-C Child Care Services of Vigo County. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Terre Haute Symphony and Vigo Country Historical Society and was a member of the Kiwanis Club.

Survivors include his loving wife of nearly 57 years, Mary Claire (Thomas) Hamrick, whom he married on June 30, 1956; one son, Charles “Chuck” Hamrick of Woodstock, Ga., and his fiancé Margo Held; one daughter, Sally A. (Hamrick) Robertson of Laurel, Md.; one brother, Donald Hamrick of Terre Haute and his wife Joanna; six grandchildren, Michelle Hamrick, Marie (Hamrick) Anstead and her husband Charles, Heather (Hamrick-Ormiston) LeClear and her husband Robert, Charles “Chas” Hamrick, Monet (Hamrick) Luloh and her husband Alex, and Samantha Robertson; six great-grandchildren, Amanda (Ormiston) Roberts and her husband Brandon, Darin Ormiston Jr. and his wife Angie, Austin Charles Ormiston, and Charles “Chase” Anstead; and five great-great-grandchildren, Rowen, Bailey, Lilly and Irelynn Roberts and Damien Ormiston. He was preceded in death by his parents; and his brother Robert.

Visitation will be Tuesday, March 19, 2013, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at Callahan-DeBaun Funeral Home, 2425 Wabash Ave., Terre Haute, with funeral services at 2 p.m. with Pastor Scott Johnson officiating. Burial will follow at Roselawn Memorial Park in Terre Haute. The family asks that contributions be made to Memorial United Methodist Church, 2701 Poplar Street, Terre Haute, in lieu of flowers. Online condolences can be made at:

www.callahanfuneralhome.com

Chronology of the 440th Troop Carrier Group

Originally published as “Diary of Events” in DZ Europe: The Story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group.

7 June 1943:               Original cadre assembled at Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics, Orlando, Fla., held preactivation meeting, and began four-week course.

1 July 1943:                 440th Troop Carrier Group was formally activated at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Ind.

5 July 1943:                 Original cadre arrived at Baer Field from Orlando.

10 July 1943:               440th arrived at Sedalia Army Air Base, Warrensburg, Mo., to begin training.

7 September 1943:      440th arrived at Alliance Army Air Base, Alliance, Neb.

17 December 1943:     440th air echelon arrived at Pope Field, Fort Bragg, N.C.

4 January 1944:           440th ground echelon arrived at Pope Field.

4-9 January 1944:        Training maneuvers. Five missions were flown with the 17th Airborne Division and the 282d Airborne Engineers.

17-29 January 1944:    Bivouacs at Knollwood and Lumberton, N.C.

14-15 February 1944:  440th arrived at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Ind., to stage for overseas movement.

21-23 February 1944:  Air echelon took off from Baer Field on first leg of overseas flight.

23 February 1944:       Ground echelon arrived at Camp Shanks, N.Y., port of embarkation.

22-25 February 1944:  Air echelon departed Morrison Field, Fla., for United Kingdom via Porto Rico, British Guiana, Belem and Natal, Brazil, Ascension Island and Fernando Island, Liberia, Dakar, and Marrakech.

5-8 March 1944:           Air echelon arrived in England at St. Mawgan, Cornwall, and Valley, Wales.

8-11 March 1944:        Air echelon proceeded to AAF Station No. 481¸ Bottesford, Nottinghamshire, England, to set up its first overseas headquarters.

14 March 1944:           440th ground echelon sailed from New York Harbor on HMT “Louis Pasteur.”

15 March 1944:           Colonel Frank X Krebs assumed command of AAF Station No. 481 in addition to his duties as Group Commander.

18 March 1944:           The 440th flew its first mission in the ETO. Eleven patients were evacuated from a hospital in Pershore, North Ireland, to England.

22 March 1944:           The “Louis Pasteur” docked at Liverpool.

23 March 1944:           440th ground echelon joined the air echelon at Station No. 481, Bottesford.

11 April 1944:             Practice mission PAYLOAD. 440th executed paradrop with 456th Parachute Field Artillery.

13 April 1944:             Practice mission PITCH. 440th executed paradrop with 1st Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry.

15 April 1944:             First 440th formal inspection and review in ETO held on runway at Bottesford.

18 April 1944:             Practice mission FAITHFUL. 440th carried units of the 82d Airborne Division.

22 April 1944:             Practice mission PLAYPALL. 440th carried units of 82d Airborne Division.

24 April 1944:             Practice mission HOPEFUL. 440th carried units of 82d Airborne Division.

26 April 1944:             440th arrived at Station No. 463, Exeter, Devon, in change of station.

1 May 1944:                General Omar Bradley visited the 440th at Exeter.

10 May 1944:              440th Airdrome Defense Unit activated.

12 May 1944:               Practice mission EAGLE. 440th carried units of 101st Airborne Division in practice paradrop.

27 May 1944:              All personnel restricted to base.

3 June 1944:                Base completely sealed off. Recognition stripes of black and white were painted on all aircraft and gliders.

5 June 1944:                Final briefings were held. Paratroopers appeared on field with full equipment.

Paratroopers get final instructions before leaving on aircraft 43-15087, chalk #2, piloted by Capt. Matt J. Luoma of the 95th Troop Carrier Squadron

6 June 1944:                D-Day! Mission NEPTUNE BIGOT! 3d Battalion of 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and two platoons of Company C, 326th Airborne Engineers Battalion, all of the 101st Airborne Division, were parachuted into Normandy from forty-five 440th aircraft at 0143.

7 June 1944:                Mission MEMPHIS! 440th participated in daylight aerial resupply drop to 101st Airborne in Normandy.

23-24 June 1944:         First 440th landings in France. Eleven serials flew resupply missions, carrying ammunition to newly-constructed airstrips on Normandy coast.

1 July 1944:                 First anniversary of 440th Troop Carrier Group celebrated with parade and field day at Exeter airdrome. The Group’s first Purple Heart was awarded to S/Sgt. Ernest Iannuccilli for wounds received on D-Day.

11 July 1944:              First Air Medal awarded to 298 air crew members of 440th for participation in the Normandy missions.

14 July 1944:             Colonel Frank X. Krebs awarded Distinguished Flying Cross.

16 July 1944:             Air excelons of 95th, 96th and 97th Squadrons took off from Exeter for secret flight to Italy via Marrakech.

18 July 1944:             Air echelon arrived at Ombrone airstrip, near city of Grosseto, Italy.

30 July 1944:             Ombrone based aircraft executed a simulated day paradrop.

5 August 1944:          Ombrone based aircraft executed a simulated night paradrop.

7 August 1944:           A 440th Provisional Troop Carrier Group was formed in England from an augmented 98th Squadron, 285 men arrived at Station No. 469, Ramsbury.

8 August 1944:           Lt. Gen. Eaker, Maj. Gen. Cannon, and Brig. Gen. Williams visited the 440th at Ombrone airstrip.

10 August 1944:         In a resupply mission to Mortain, France, from Ramsbury, England, the Provisional 440th dropped supplies to the encircled “Lost Battalion” during the Allied breakthrough in Northern France.

12 August 1944:         The 98th Squadron participated in a review of the 1st Allied Airborne Army by Gen. Eisenhower near Ramsbury, England.

15 August 1944:         The invasion of Southern France! Operation BIGOT DRAGOON, Mission ALBATROSS! Forty-five aircraft of the 440th at Ombrone, Italy, carried the 2d Battaltion of the 517th Parachute Infantry on the paradrop near LeMuy, France…Mission DOVE followed in the afternoon. 48 aircraft towed gliders carrying the 602d Field Artillery Battalion and the 442d Anti-Tank Company.

23 August 1944:          Distinguished Unit Citation awarded 440th Troop Carrier Group for work in Normandy.

24 August 1944:          Air echelon departed from Ombrone and arrived at Gibraltar.

25 August 1944:           Air echelon arrived back at Exeter Airdrome.

C-47 numbered 43-15076 seen in this photograph taken shortly after the explosion at RAF Fulbeck.

30 August 1944:           Air echelon departed Exeter and arrived at Station No. 488, Fulbeck, England, to prepare for new combat mission.

4 September 1944:      Air echelon returned to Exeter after mission had been cancelled.

9 September 1944:      Advance echelon departed from Exeter and arrived at airstrip A-62, near Reims, France, in the first change of station to the continent.

11 September 1944:    Air echelon departed from Reims for Fulbeck, England, after bringing more personnel to Reims.

12 September 1944:    Additional personnel brought from Exeter to Fulbeck.

Paratroopers drop from their C-47 transports during Operation Market Garden

17 September 1944:    Mission MARKET! 440th dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines in Holland, near Groesbeek, Colonel Frank X. Krebs and crew missing in action.

18 September 1944:    Second day of MARKET missions with gliders towed into Holland. Lt. Colonel Lloyd C. Waldorf assumed command of the 440th.

23 September 1944:    Second glider tow into Holland. Major William R. Cooper, commanding officer of 96th Squadron, missing in action with crew.

24 September 1944:    All personnel at Fulbeck returned to Exeter.

26-29 September 1944: Glider pilots returned to Exeter from Holland.


30 September 1944:
    Scattered elements of 440th finally gather from Reims, Exeter, Fulbeck at newly designated base, airstrip A-35, near LeMans, France.

5 October 1944:          Lt. Colonel George M. Johnson, Jr., assumed command of the 96th Squadron.

16 October 1944:        440th Troop Carrier Group awarded its first Bronze Battle Star for the Normandy campaign.

18 October 1944:        440th reviewed at A-35 by Lt. Gen. Bereton and Maj. Gen. Williams on occasion of presentation of Distinguished Flying Crosses for Normandy missions. Second Bronze Battle Star was awarded the 440th for participation in the Southern France campaign.

22 October 1944:        440th aircraft began to operate from the nearby airstrip A-38 because of poor condition of A-35.

29 October 1944:        Colonel Krebs returned to the 440th after his escape from German-held Holland and reassumed command of the Group.

4-5 November 1944:   440th moved from Le Mans to new station at A-50, Bricy, near Orleans, France.

1 November 1944:      440th participated in Armistice Day parade in Orleans.

12 November 1944:    Lt. Colonel Waldorf transferred to AAF Hq., London. Lt. Colonel Bridgman assumed duties as Executive Officer.

12-16 December 1944: Air echelon sojourned at Oakley airdrome, near Oxford, England, for the purpose of executing Practice Mission HOT with 17th Airborne Division. Weather was bad throughout the four days and the mission was cancelled. The 440th returned to Orleans.

24 December 1944:     The 440th was alerted and restricted as Von Runstedt’s counter-offensive in the Ardennes rolled forward! Precautions were taken against any possible outbreak by German prisoners of war.

25 December 1944:     440th celebrated its first Christmas overseas.

26 December 1944:     Operation REPULSE! The first plane and glider with medical supplies, and ten aircraft and gliders with gasoline were flown into Bastogne to resupply the trapped 101st Airborne Div.

27 December 1944:     Operation REPULSE continued! Thirteen aircraft towed gliders loaded with ammunition into Bastogne. 440th suffered its heaviest losses.

29 December 1944:     Glider pilots returned from Bastogne.

30 December 1944:     440th was awarded its third Bronze Battle Star for participating in the Rome-Arno campaign.

31 January 1945:         440th awarded its fourth Bronze Battle Star for participation in the Northern France campaign.

1 February 1945:         Ten aircraft of the 98th Squadron, led by Lt. Colonel Neal¸ departed for Marseilles to ferry French troops between the front and North Africa.

3 February 1945:         Three aircraft of the 96th Squadron dropped rations and ammunition in an aerial resupply mission near Durbuy, Belgium.

13 February 1945:       Mission REDBALL! The 440th executed a resupply paradrop of rations and gasoline to units on the front near Bleialf, Germany, who were cut off from rear supply depots by muddy, impassable roads. The paradrop, led by Lt. Colonel Johnson, was made five miles from the fighting front.

4 March 1945:             Major Howard H. Cloud, Group Glider Commander, transferred to Hq, IX Troop Carrier Command.

14 March 1945:           Practice mission COMET 440th carried the 3d Battalion of the 515th Parachute Infantry, 13th Airborne Division and Company C of the 129th Airborne Engineers in a practice paradrop in France.

17 March 1945:           Practice mission TOKEN. 440th participated in glider tow dress rehearsal for next combat mission.

C-47s and CG-4 Gliders prior to Operation Varsity in 1945

24 March 1945:           The crossing of the Rhine, Mission VARSITY! The 440th towed a Reconnaissance Platoon, a IX Troop Carrier Command Control Unit, the 517th Signal Company, and the 139th Airborne Engineers, all of the 17th Airborne Division, across the Rhine in 90 gliders to an area near Wesel, Germany.

26 March 1945:           Glider pilots returned from Mission VARSITY.

8 April 1945:                First enemy reaction for the 440th in the long series of gasoline hauls to the front in Germany. Two 97th planes were strafed on the ground at airstrip Y-38. The planes were destroyed, one man killed, and three wounded.

10 April 1945:             A 98th formation was attacked by an enemy plane over airstrip R-1, Germany, during a combat gasoline haul to the front. One aircraft was set afire and crash landed, the entire crew suffering burns and injuries.

21 April 1945:             440th advance echelon moved to A-94, Conflans-Jarny, to facilitate the daily gasoline hauls to the front.

8 May 1945:                V-Day in Europe! 440th paraded in Orleans for the combined Victory celebration and the first Joan of Arc Festival in Orleans for the past five years.

15 May 1945:              The 440th advance echelon returned to Orleans from A-94.

6 June 1945:               D-Day anniversary celebrated. In a ceremony at Chartres, the Croix de Guerre was awarded to Colonel Krebs, Lt. Colonel Bridgman, Lt. Colonel Cannon, Lt. Colonel Anderson, Lt. Colonel Southard, and Lt. Colonel Neal.

22 June 1945:              The 440th was awarded its fifth battle star for the Ardennes campaign.

25 June 1945:              The 440th was awarded its sixth battle star for the Central European campaign.

5 July 1945:                  The 440th was awarded its seventh battle star for the Rhineland campaign.