Thursday, June 28, 2007

Three Airmen Meet, Remember their War Years

Les Poitras, mentioned in a previous post, has been spending a lot of his time lately gathering stories and information about the Mighty Eighth, and the 100th BG in particular. His grandfather, Leslie Moore, flew as a B-17 ball turret gunner in the 100th.

In April of this year, 100th BG Lead Navigator Harry Crosby hosted a get-together at his home with several other Air Corps vets. Bill Bates was also in the 100th Bomb Group as a bombardier. John Silvus was a B-24 navigator in the 448th Bomb Group. Along with Harry's daughter and some other younger relatives, Les sat down to an afternoon of reminiscing with these fellows.

Harry Crosby has always been an inspiration to me. I read his book "A Wing and a Prayer" many years ago. It is one of the finest memoirs of the air war and is still in print. Crosby knows a thing or two about writing--he was an English professor after the war. I can't recommend his book highly enough. The Amazon link to the book is

Les recounted this meeting in an email in April. Also, near the end of this email, there is a link to additional photos of this meeting. What follows is Les's email from April 21, 2007. Les writes:

"Hi Everyone,

I had a really wonderful experience this weekend that I'd like to share with you all.

Harry Crosby, through the graciousness of himself and his daughter, Rebecca Crosby, welcomed 100th Bomb Group B-17 bombardier Bill Bates, 448th Bomb Group B-24 navigator John Silvis to his home. Also attending were the son of a 100th Bomb Group B-17 waist gunner, Jack O'Leary, and the grandson of a 100th Bomb Group B-17 ball turret gunner, yours truly. We met in Harry's place in Massachusetts.

This was a "mini-reunion", of sorts, of three WWII veterans who risked their lives and fought courageously in the most fearsome air battles the United States has ever encountered in its successful effort to defeat fascism over Nazi occupied Europe.

Harry Crosby, a lead navigator of the 100th Bomb Group from near the beginning of hostilities to the end, is one of the most beloved and legendary members of the 100th Bomb Group and one of the group's founding historians. He saw and experienced it all, from the more experimental missions near the beginning of the war, where most crews were lost in horrific and tragic air battles, through D-Day to the end of hostilities. Two days ago, in his apartment, he simply called himself "very lucky". He is the author of "A Wing and a Prayer", a highly acclaimed and beloved book by 100th Bomb Group veterans, historians and enthusiasts. He has a PHD from Stanford University in American Literature and it shows in his writing. From left: Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal, Frederick Sutterlin, and Harry Crosby during the war. (100th Photo Archives)

When we walked into his apartment yesterday, I was filled with awe as I witnessed a soft spoken, gentle man. I was choked up as I listened to three guys in their mid-eighties talk, who, just like my grandfather, participated in something so horrific and took so much courage, yet they all pretty much said "they didn't have time to be scared" (paraphrase). They were just "doing their job".

After leaving Harry Crosby's place and driving Bill & John to their assisted living facility, Bill & John invited me to the pub in their place for a drink. We were each poured small glasses of Seagram's V.O. per John's request. I held my glass up and said: "To World War II Heroes" (one hero on each side of me). Both looked up into the air with pride, raised the glass to their mouths and took a drink. Then I looked at each of them and said: "You two are WWII heroes!". They both looked at me, shrugged their shoulders, looked down and said something to the effect of: "naw" and then changed the subject. Like all the other vets, they see the ones who didn't come home as heroes.

It was a great day, as I kept thinking the whole time, these are the great men my grandfather served with. In the case of Bill Bates, on the SAME CREW, same plane where Bill was in the nose and my grandfather was in the ball turret. In a few of the photos, the three vets are side by side. Harry is holding his "A-2 Jacket" and Bill is holding my grandfather's painted A-2 "Yankee Wahine" jacket. Left to right: John Silvus, Harry Crosby, Bill Bates. Harry is holding his A-2 jacket, and Bill is holding Leslie Moore's.

To top off the day, Harry and Rebecca signed our copies of Harry's "A Wing and a Prayer".

Even though it was a great day for me, I could tell it was an even greater day for the vets. Bill and John kept thanking me over and over again. I kept responding with: "the pleasure is all mine". I could tell that they enjoyed the day more than me, because they were there more than 60 years ago.

Anyway, here is the link to the photos, both poor and good quality (I didn't want to delete any of them).

Thank you to all WWII veterans and the historians who keep their memory alive and to all families who provide photos and info to help "fill in the gaps"!"


Alber4t Buse said...

Thank You for taking the time remember and pictures of these Vets. I only hope our youth are reminded every now and then of the great sacrifices and some vets the ultimate sacrifice. I enjoyed your interviews. Again THANK YOU Al Buse East Granby, CT

Brian Miller said...

Mr. Noris,

Having just finished re-reading Mr. Crosby's book I enjoyed reading your story. A WWII airplane "buff" I visited Thrope Abbotts last year. I am returning again this September to further explore the AAF Bases in Eastern England and the museum. Will enjoy any updates you have.

Best Regards, Brian Miller