My Life-Long Quest for my World War II Airman Father

The title "Carrying Fire" is taken from Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, in which Sheriff Ed Tom Bell talks about his own father. “I had two dreams about him after he died. I don’t remember the first one all that well. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothing. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen that he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

398th Bomb Group Research


Anstey Castle Mound And Moat,  St. George's Church, 


Yesterday I mentioned the tragedy of the crash of Command PFF plane 42-97746 in the village of Anstey, just a few miles south of the main runway. Fortunately the large bomber missed all houses and crashed into the moat surrounding the old Anstey castle mound behind St. George’s church. All ten crewmen were killed including pilot William Meyran and Command pilot Charles Khourie.

This tragic event would later become the impetus for serious research into the 398th Bomb Group. In the fall of 1972, three local Englishmen, Vic Jenkins, Malcolm “Ozzie” Osborne, and John Knight explored the crash site. Ozzie explains it best: “One October day in 1972 we climbed Anstey Castle mound, together with a colleague of mine from work. All we knew was Vic’s information that a B17G Flying Fortress had crashed into the mound shortly after taking off from Nuthampstead, with the loss of all onboard. Up on the mound this grey October day, my colleague, John Knight, suddenly called out “look what I have found”. It was the case of a wrist watch, no glass, hands or strap. John wet his finger and rubbed the back of the case and we saw the name ‘William L Meyran’ engraved on the back. That made the hairs go up on the back of my neck, suddenly this all became extremely emotional, it truly brought home the fact that 10 young American Airmen had perished on this spot. Who were they? What were their names? Where were they headed for that day? Why did they crash? There were so many questions, but nowhere or nobody to turn to for answers.”

“I decided then and there that I would not rest until I found out all I could about Nuthampstead, the Bomb Group known as the 398th, its four Squadrons and those young men who gave their lives on that Medieval Castle Mound. So I came up with the name ‘Nuthampstead Airfield Research Society’ (NARS) – how original. A society with only two members, well why not? So in 1972 we began our research quest.”



My Son Jeff And Me, Joyce and Malcolm Osborn, And My Brother Steve At Cambridge American Cemetery

From this humble beginning has grown a great deal of serious research, and has led to the formation of the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association, the quarterly publication Flak News, the erection of an impressive memorial at the Woodman Inn adjacent to the old Nuthampstead base, the creation of a beautiful stained-glass memorial window at St. George’s church in Anstey, and more.


Perhaps because the 398th was a late arrival to the air war and only saw one year of combat, they have received little attention from 8th Air Force historians. But their contribution to Allied victory was noble and significant. Malcolm Osborne’s forty years of research is invaluable in telling their story, as are the efforts of Allen Ostrom, Cliff and Stan Bishop, and others.


 

Several books on the history of the group are invaluable aids. The first is Allen Ostrom’s 398th Remembrances, now available in re-publication. Another is Cliff Bishop’s fine Fortresses Over Nuthampstead, filled with valuable information including mission and aircraft histories, lists of KIAs, MIAs POWs, and much more. 



And Malcom Osborn has just finished a new book, A Photographic Journey With The 398th Bombardment Group. The 398th's quarterly publication, Flak News, edited for decades by Allen Ostrom, is a font of information and stories. And the website, 398th.org, is also filled with valuable information and personal histories, as well as Flak News articles.