I found a living Eighth Air Force Veteran among my relatives.

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Soundbreaker Welch?, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    His name is Daniel Freitas. He is my great Uncle in-law, the husband of my Great Aunt. He's a really friendly old man, and he likes Golf and Flyfishing.

    I didn't even realize until two nights ago that he was a veteran! In a Christmas Card he mentioned he was a part of the 401st and I was suprised. I suppose I could have heard about it when I was younger and it didn't ring a bell. But now I know for certain. I did know my grandfather was on a submarine in WWII, but my dad says he never talked about it much, and now he's dead.

    So I got to talk to Uncle Daniel on the phone ten minutes ago and learned more about his wartime experiances.

    Before I go into what he said here is a quick history of what the 401st Bomb Group did. It was made up of four Bomb Squadrons.

    For the Record - Accomplishments of the 401st Bomb Group

    * Two Distinguished Unit Citations
    * Best bombing accuracy record among B-17 groups in the Eighth Air Force
    * Second lowest loss ratio among B-17 groups in the Eighth Air Force
    * First group in the ETO to complete 100 combat missions in seven months
    * Combat missions: 254
    * Accredited sorties: 7,413
    * Percentage of aircraft available for each mission: 95.6%
    * Aircraft lost on operational missions: 94
    * Aircraft returning with battle damage: 1,872
    * Total personnel entering enemy territory: 69,910
    * Total battle casualties (KIA, MIA, wounded): 1,078
    * Tons of bombs dropped (all targets): 17,784
    * Rounds of ammunition fired: 916,920
    * Enemy aircraft claimed (confirmed): 193
    * Individual awards and decorations: 11,884

    Mr. Freitas belonged to the 401st Bomb Group in England, one of the units of the Eighth Air Force in England. He was a Radio Operator on a B-17 Flying Fortress during WWII. I didn't find out his military rank, or his squadron, I should have. Today he still likes radio, and is a member of the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club.

    He said he flew over Germany and that two of his crew members were killed while flying in another plane than his, and that ended the original crew. I think he also said, It was a bit hard talking over the phone, that one of the waist gunners in his crew was also wounded, and that one time his Bombardier was the only survivor from a B-17 that exploded. The Bombardier was blown out from the nose and his parachute opened and he survived, but the navigator didn't. He said that if the Navigator had been wearing the bombardiers parachute, he may have survived.

    I didn't ask him if it's ok that I'm telling you guys these things, but he is pretty active in many WWII organizations, including one of the Directors of 401st Bomb Group Association, an Event Organizer of the Collings Foundation, Secretary/Treasurer of the Doolittle Chapter of the 8AFHS, and is also active in Navy, Marine veteran organizations, ect. He sure gets around! I imagine he's told a lot of other people about his WWII memories over the years. But I'll ask him next time.

    Here is the 401st Bomb Group association and if you look down the directors you can find his name on the list. The site also has a lot of other information about the group you might find interesting.

    The 401st Bomb Group Association

    I'm glad to have found a veteran in the family from WWII still living and also one who flew planes!

    Merry Christmas to everybody!
     
  2. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Very cool. Get as much info from him as you can. I am sure there are a tremendous amount of good stories there in his mind.
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Very cool. Suggest you talk to him as much as possible before you can't anymore. Had my sister in law's father (who was a top turret gunner in a B17) die a few years back and every so often a question pops into my mind that I think he would know the answer to but he is no longer available.

    It's amazing how much you learn by just talking to them.
     
  4. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    It is.

    That's great, Welch.
     
  5. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Excellent SB... my grandfather was a butterbar bombardier in the 349th Bomb Sqdn, 100th Bomb Group, 8th AF in 1944. He never talked about it much at all, I think the bombing and other bombers and buddies lost tormented him...

    They did get shot down by flak over france though on his 25th mission. French resistance rescued him, and he had a 12" scar going up his midsection from shrapnel.
     
  6. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    Thanks guys!

    Yeah, I don't know for sure but I think the memories may not be too painful for him to retell them to me. Consideration is important, so if he doesn't want to talk about an episode too much I'll try not to press him too much.


    timshatz, thats too bad about your relative. I would be sad if Mr. Freitas died too. Right now he is about 83 so you never know at that age when a person has got to go. But many of the veterans alive today seem have lived full lives at least and have had a long life.


    Well, I hope everybody is having a Happy New Year, and by the way, try not to get too drunk.
     
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