Monday, December 31, 2007

Lest We Forget... A New Year's Photo

As we begin a new year, may our prayers be for peace around the world. The photo below is a poignant reminder that some give all. My friend Frank Irgang, who as a young infantryman landed at Normandy on D-Day and fought his way across Europe, sent me this email, and it is worth sharing with everyone.

Photo by Todd Heisler
The Rocky Mountain News

When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac.

During the arrival of another Marine's casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said.

"They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."


December 2007 A Great Month for Untold Valor

Untold Valor sold 600 copies in the month of December. Thanks to all who purchased the book.

2 Books of Note

I've picked up a couple of very interesting books in the past two weeks. The first, Down to Earth: A Fighter Pilot's Experiences of Surviving Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain, Dieppe and D-Day, is by Squadron Leader Kenneth Butterworth McGlashan, AFC, with Owen Zupp. I found out about this book during a history discussion on Amazon, and became acquainted with the co-author, Owen Zupp, an Australian pilot for Quantas Airlines who shares my passion for aviation and aviation history. Owen and I traded books by mail. The book was published by Grub Street Press, London in 2007. Owen conducted many interviews with the late Mr. McGlashan to write this outstanding account.

McGlashan started his RAF career in 1939 in a Hawker biplane, and ended it in the jet era of the 1950's. Shot down over the beaches of Dunkirk in heated aerial combat, McGlashan returns to England to fly again. He flies in support of the ill-fated invasion at Dieppe and takes on clandestine night operations before D-Day.

The book is illustrated with photographs spanning Mr. McGlashan's interesting career.

You can buy this book here: This is from The book is not available on US Amazon at this time.

The second book I picked up at a used book store. It is entitled Flying Through the Fire: FIDO--The Fogbusters of World War Two: Freeing the RAF's Airfields from the Fog Menace by Geoffery Williams. This book, published in 1996 by Grange Books, London, chronicles the British attempt to control the fog and low clouds that caused many Allied aircraft to crash upon return to base. Early in the war, many British bombers returned from harrowing missions unable to find their bases, which were completely fog-bound. This took a savage toll on aircraft and aircrew. Winston Churchill prompted the government's Petroleum Warfare Department to develop a cure for this problem, and they came up with FIDO--Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation. Lines of burners feulled by thousands of gallons of petrol were installed beside runways to literally burn off the fog, thereby allowing aircraft to take off and land safely. Over 100 photos accompany this fascinating book.

And on that note, Happy New Year to all readers. I look forward to many postings in 2008, and will be working on two books in the coming year. First, the 95th Bomb Group history, and second, a sequel to Untold Valor tentatively entitled Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of Aerial Combat in the Pacific.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Artist Profile: Scott Nelson

I ran across a print by Scott Nelson around a month ago and purchased it. Scott and I then struck up an email dialogue about our shared passion of World War Two aviation. Scott is a farmer and rancher by trade who puts in long hours tending the farm, but in his spare time, he is an artist, and a mighty good one, too. Though Scott tends to downplay his art due to the fact he is self-taught, I think it's some of the best aviation art on the market, and here's why:

1. Nelson seeks out veterans with outstanding stories, talks to them until he knows the story inside and out, and then paints the crucial moments from the vets' experiences.

2. Nelson focuses on veterans from the West, especially the Dakotas, and preserves the aviation history of this sparsely-populated region.
3. Nelson's art is packed with action, and is rendered in brilliant colors with superb attention to detail.
4. All of Nelson's prints are signed by both himself and the subject of the print. Prints that are signed in this way are standard in the aviation art world, but what makes Scott's work extraordinary is that his prints are still relatively unknown nationally and his prices are much lower than bigger-name aviation artists.
Visit Scott Nelson's website:
Visit Scott Nelson's eBay store:
Currently, no prints for sale, but check back often.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Book Winner Chosen

I selected the winner of the Christmas book drawing today. It was fair and scientific. I put the names on pieces of paper and had my son Matt draw the winner. And the winner is...

Les Poitras, of Massachusetts.

Les, get in touch with me about how you want the book signed and inscribed.

My thanks to all who entered. The most distant entry was from India.

Enjoy the book, Les!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning in Idaho

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah and other seasonal greetings to blog readers. We had about a foot of snow yesterday so today we woke up to a Bing Crosby 'White Christmas'.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Beautiful Photo of B-17s

Sent to me today by Maurice Rockett, 95th Bomb Group bombardier, WWII.

1/6 Scale German Army Diorama---You Must See This

A British man named Peter Shaw built a complete scene of a German unit deboarding a train. The whole scene is one-sixth scale. This link has many photos of an incredible task of setting up a 1/6 world to look real.

Thanks to my brother John Morris for the tip and the site.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Holiday Gift Chance for My Blog Readers

Dear readers:
In the spirit of the holiday season, I am offering you the chance to enter into a drawing for a FREE copy of my book, signed by me and shipped at my expense (to the US--if you live overseas, you have to pay the shipping).

This is just my way of saying 'thank you' to those who drop by and read the blog. Everybody is eligible, whether you already have a book or not (you can always give it away as a gift).

All you have to do to enter is send me an email with "UNTOLD VALOR HOLIDAY BOOK" in the title and your name and address. My email address is found on my book website at . I will not use your name and address for any promotion. This is strictly for fun and as my way of saying 'Thanks!'.

This would make a great gift for a veteran of the Air Corps in World War Two or anyone interested in the air war. Maybe it would make a great gift for you.

Again, signed/inscribed to your specifications, and mailed at my expense.

Follow the instructions and good luck. I will draw the winner from all entries and let you know in next week on Tuesday who wins.

By the way, the book is currently sold out on Amazon. It has been selling briskly and has good reviews. Check out the Amazon reviews here:

Check out my book website here for more detailed information and more reviews:
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to all.
Rob Morris

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Site Dedicated to Remembering a Forgotten Airman

The crew of the 'Jolly Roger', of the 385th Bomb Group. Joe Schreppel is back row, far left.

Scott Nelson of North Dakota wrote me that he is in the process of illustrating a website dedicated to the memory of Sgt. Joe Schreppel of Kansas, a B-17 Tailgunner who is listed as 'unknown' on his grave marker. Scott writes:

"I am in the process, illustrating a web site from Belgium about an airman that was shot down there during the first Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43). He landed in his parachute mortally wounded and was aided by some Belgium Boy Scouts, and he told them his name before he died and that he was from Kansas. German authorities imprisoned several Belgium civilians who had helped and shown sympathy toward this airman. For some reason this airman was buried as "unknown" and even after the war (body was moved to one of the Belgium US Cemeteries) it is still inscribed as unknown. This website's mission is to try and get that changed. My pictures will be up on the site hopefully in the next couple weeks. The site in case you are interested is:"
This site is run by the son of the man who aided the mortally wounded Schreppel after he landed. Schreppel had time to communicate briefly with the young Scouts before he passed away.

This is a very interesting website and I recommend it. I look forward to seeing Scott's artwork on this site. I think his stuff is great. Check out some of his work at his artist website:

An Exercise in Humility

Another book signing last night, though I doubt John Grisham or J.K. Rowling have the same experiences. The manager of the book department at a large bookseller here in town asked me to do a signing about a month ago. I'm not a big fan of these, but they are part of the contract with the publisher and they are a good way to get the book out there, so I said yes.

The last two times I did signings, they were advertised on the store's marquee, which is on the busiest street in town. I noted this week that there was no advertising--not an auspicious start.

When I showed up last night, it dawned on me that they had entirely forgotten I was coming. There was no table, no chair, no pens. Luckily, they did have books on the shelf.

I was supposed to sign from five to eight, but packed up and went home at 7:30 after selling six books. Granted, those six people were happy to get them, but the lack of effort on the part of the store, coupled with the fact that Idaho Falls is not much of an aviation town, doomed my signing to failure.

In any case, this will keep me very humble.

Below is a photo of people lined up to get a signed copy of my book 'Untold Valor'. Pushing and shoving was not a problem this evening.

An Overdue Wyoming Tribute

As a former resident of the great state of Wyoming, which remains the best place I've ever lived, I was saddened to receive a letter a few weeks ago from Scott Nelson, a farmer/rancher/aviation artist from North Dakota, who became friends with the late Gale 'Buck' Cleven, of the 100th Bomb Group.

Scott wrote me: "When Buck passed away in Sheridan, Wyoming, I tried to get the papaer there to run an obituary on him--Buck always considered himself as a Wyoming native and I thought it would be nice if the state would recognize him. No luck. Guess they figured he wasn't 'important' enough.

I then contacted the small Lemmon, South Dakota paper and they thought it was very important and they ran it, with some errors. This is the only obituary run of Buck that I know of--unfortunately, this small paper is not on the AP wire so the story went no further."

Time to rectify that situation, Scott. What follows is the obituary for Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven in its entirety, though it may take me a while to type it all. Because, Buck, you were and are an American hero and you deserve it.

'Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven passed from this life on November 17, 2006. Born December 27, 1919 in the Lemmon (SD) area, he moved to the Casper, Wyoming area where he worked on drilling crews and worked his way through the University of Wyoming. Dr. Cleven received degrees from Harvard and his geological doctorate degree at George Washington University. Dr. Cleven led a very accomplished life including fighting in three wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), held a post at the Petnagon and was in charge of EDP information at Hughes Aircraft. Later, Dr. Cleven reorganized staffing and leadership at Webber University in Florida. Dr. Cleven retired in Dickinson, North Dakota and later at the Sugarland Ridge Retirement Center in Sheridan, Wyoming, where he resided until his death.

There are several books and web site postings of Buck's service in WWII including Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. In Masters of the Air, author Donald Miller credits Cleven, Eighth Air Force Squadron Commander, for giging the 100th Bomb Group its personality. Miller's book retells Major Cleven's story: 'On October 8, 1943, Major Buck Clevens (sic) was shot down over Bremen by three Luftwaffe fighters when they flew out of the sun and tore into his fortress, knocking out three engines, blowing holes in the tail and nose, sheering of a good part of the left wing. The situation hopeless, Cleven ordered the crew to jump. He was the last man out of the plane. When he jumped the bomber was only about 2,000 feet from the ground. Hanging from his parachute, Cleven saw he was going to land near a small farm house. He spun out of control and went flying through the open back door and into the kitchen, knocking over furniture and a small iron stove. The farmer's wife and daughter began screaming hysterically and, in a flash, the farmer had a pitchfork pressed against Cleven's chest. 'In my pitiful high school German I tried to convince him I was a good guy. But he wasn't buying it.'

Buck was taken to a prison camp where he spent about 18 months before escaping to Allied lines. Cleven escaped while being marched to Moosburg's Stalag VIIA. Among his many accomplishments during his time of service, Buck earned a Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star, Bronze Star. The DFC was for his heroic participation in the 'double-strike' of Regensburg and Schweinfurt on August 17, 1943. Sixty bombers and almost 600 men were lost. The aircraft factories and ball bearing plants were being guarded by the most formidable aerial defenses in the world at the time. Cleven was in the vulnerable low squadron--so called the Coffin Corner, the last and lowest group in the bomber stream. Cleven's plane was being shredded by enemy fighters. Cleven's co-pilot panicked and prepared to bail out. Cleven ordered his co-pilot to stay put. His words were heard over the interphone and had a magical effect on the rest of the crew. They stuck to their guns. His actions that day at Regensburg were said to 'electrify the base'. Lt. Col. Bierne Lay (who would later write the famous 'Twelve O'Clock High) recommended Cleven for a Medal of Honor. This was downgraded to a DFC, but Cleven never went to pick up the medal, claiming he didn't deserve it. He was quoted as saying, "Medal, hell, I needed an aspirin".

More history of Dr. Cleven's leadership at Hughes Aircraft is detailed in The King and the Seven Dwarfs, by Barney Oldfield.

Dr. Cleven is survived by his wife Lee Cleven of Ooltwah, TN, his sister Doris Shaw and one nephew of Dallas, TX. He was proceeded in death by his first wife Marge Cleven. His remains were laid to rest in Sante Fe, New Mexico."

Rest in peace, Buck. Wyoming honors you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remembering Gale 'Buck' Cleven, 100th Bomb Group

In artist Scott Nelson's painting, Gale Cleven mans the left seat as his plane goes down over Germany and his crewmates bail out.

I recently bought an outstanding art print by North Dakota artist Scott Nelson. Scott knew 100th Bomb Group commander Gale 'Buck' Cleven quite well through a mutual friend, and Mr. Cleven told Scott his story. Scott in turn made a painting of the shooting down of Cleven's B-17, which was made into a limited edition print and signed by both.

When Scott sent me this print, he also sent more information about Mr. Cleven. As a former Wyoming resident with strong ties to the state, I was suprised to learn that Cleven was a Wyoming native, from the Sheridan area. And I was disturbed to find that when Scott sent the Wyoming papers an obituary about the passing of this great WWII veteran, none of the Wyoming papers ran the obituary, ostensibly because they had never heard of him and didn't think the obit was of any interest.

As a former Wyomingite, I am going to try to rectify this great wrong to a good man by running his story here. I will be adding the obituary Scott wrote in a day or so, plus more photos of Mr. Cleven.







Medals:Distinguished Service Cross- Sept. 10, 1943 for Regensburg Mission August 17, 1943 Distinguished Flying Cross- Nov 30, 1943 for Paris Mission Sept 3, 1943 Air Medal-Aug 6, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Aug 22, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Sept 24, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Oct 20, 1943 Major Gale Cleven passed away on Nov 17, 2006 at the age of 87 years old.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Survivor Remembers Pearl Harbor--Dec. 7, 1941

Survivors Remember Pearl Harbor

by Audrey McAVOY

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — Everett Hyland was ferrying ammunition to an anti-aircraft gun aboard the USS Pennsylvania on Dec. 7, 1941, when a bomb hit, throwing him down.
"I never heard anything. The only thing I knew I was flat on my face and my arms were extended in front of me and they were all purple and bleeding," Hyland said. "I ended up pretty well banged up."

On Friday, Hyland joined some 50 survivors and hundreds more family members and officials at a Pearl Harbor pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial to honor the attack's victims.
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the time of the attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and Chinook helicopters flew over in formation, followed by a B-2 stealth bomber.

The USS Pennsylvania was among the last ships hit by Japanese bombs 66 years ago as it was dry-docked and not sitting in Battleship Row. The vessel escaped with moderate damage and set sail again after being repaired. Even so, 15 men aboard were killed and 38 men were wounded. Fourteen were judged missing in action.

The casualties added to the overall Pearl Harbor attack toll of 2,388 dead and 1,178 wounded. The shocking assault thrust the United States into World War II.

Hyland spent nine months in the hospital recovering from the blast. Shrapnel tore through his left leg and he lost part of his left elbow and bicep. He suffered flash burns that seared skin off his arms and legs.

"I got a quick facial out of it," joked Hyland, 84. His brother, after visiting the burn unit where Hyland was staying, "said we looked like roast turkeys lined up."

This year, survivors and their family members are dedicating a new memorial for the USS Oklahoma, which lost 429 sailors and Marines — the second greatest loss of life among any of the battleships in Pearl Harbor.

About 18 of the estimated 90 living survivors who were aboard the USS Oklahoma were expected to join Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and other dignitaries for the dedication of the $1.2 million memorial.

The monument includes 429 white marble standards, each with the name of a fallen sailor or Marine, surrounded by black granite panels etched with a silhouette of the battleship and notable quotes from World War II-era figures that were selected by some of the survivors, said retired Navy Rear Adm. Greg Slavonic, co-chair of the USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee.
The Oklahoma was hit with the first torpedo of the morning assault. It capsized after being struck by eight more, trapping 400 men in its overturned hull. About 30 of the trapped men were later rescued by Pearl Harbor Navy Yard workers who hammered their way through the ship's metal.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Tucker McHugh, who co-chaired the USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee, said he thinks the memorial will bring some sense of closure to those who survived and even to those who perished.

"I think there's been a void in the minds and hearts of these shipmates that their shipmates were never honored with a lasting memorial," McHugh said. "Total closure might come when the last survivor passes away and they're all reunited together.

"Even though 429 soldiers and Marines died, I believe they're still with us. I think they're looking down and saying, 'Thank you.'"

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack as a 17-year-old high school senior and who later received the Medal of Honor for fighting in Europe, said he hoped the ceremony would prompt people to think of those serving today.

"There are over 1.4 million in many countries, not just Iraq and Afghanistan, serving us, ready to stand in harms way for us," Inouye told The Associated Press this week. "And there are an equal number of families, children and wives and husbands spending time at home thinking about them."

Inouye has regularly participated in annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremonies since he became a U.S. senator in the 1960s. But he's missing this year's event because of Senate business.

Organizers expected about 2,500 people to attend Friday's ceremony. But it was likely to be smaller than the 65th anniversary, which drew some 500 survivors and their families.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Outstanding B-24 Video: Watch it Here

My friend Marilyn Walton, whose father was a B-24 crewman, emailed me about this outstanding B-24 tribute on Youtube. I checked it out. It is outstanding. Watch it by clicking here:
If this incredibly powerful video does not choke you up, nothing will.
These were brave men.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Emotional Video Tribute to 8th Air Force B-17 Crews

There is a fantastic tribute to 8th Air Force B-17 crews on Youtube. I only wish it were dedicated to all WWII airmen, of all Air Forces. The 15th Air Force also participated heavily in Europe, as did the 9th Tactical Air Force.

View it here:

The painting accompanying this blog entry is by one of my new favorite aviation artists, a self-taught North Dakotan by the name of Scott Nelson. It shows Gale 'Buck' Cleven's B-17, of the 100th Bomb Group, going down. Scott's prints are excellent and affordable. All are co-signed by the subject of the painting, after careful research and dicussion with the individual. I recommend buying them now before they begin to go up in value. I am the proud owner of this particular piece.

Check out some of Scott's other works here:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Honoring the Fallen at Christmas Time--Arlington National Cemetery

My friend Frank Irgang , himself a veteran of the D-Day landing and of the violent struggle across Europe in World War Two, sent me a poignant email today showing wreaths on the graves of our honored dead at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, DC.
The email forwarded by Frank reads:
"Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell,
the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell...
Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington , Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

God bless you, Mr. Worcester.