The Eighth Air Force Historical Society
Virginia Chapter

Stories and Events

Virginia War Memorial

 

Letter from Kevin Flecknor in the UK

 

Subject: B-17 Memphis Belle takes flight over Richmond

 

Letter to the Editor by Frances Nunnally

 

Firestones Celebrate 65th Wedding Anniversary

 

Porcelain Unicorn

 

B-17 Mid Air Collision 1943

 

8th Air Force Historical Society on You Tube!
 

457th Bomb Group - Raf Glatton - Reunion Memorial Service 2010

 

Ozzie & Joyce Osborn

 

Wonderful Photos of Old Planes


WWII Trivia
 

Film Found of B-29 Crew Rescued by Submarine
 

For Hampton vet, flying in a B17 bomber with radar in WWII was high-tech
 

Twelve O'Clock High

 

The Dorden Bombsight and the

 

U.S. Naval Proving Ground

 

A Thought on Christmas Eve Story

A Veteran's Day Story by Malcolm Osborn

Memories of World War II by Jimmy Boehling

Our Unforgettable Mission (added 9/26/10)

Veteran Gets Metals 66 years after War Experience (added 9/26/10)

Story by Bill Greenwell

American Military Cemetery, Madingly

Floyd Richmond Article

Darrell "Shifty" Powers

Memories of World War II, Excerpts by Jimmy Boehling

Memorial Day Poem

Story of a WWII Combat Pilot by Lew Burke

The Jim Kelley Story

The Path to be an 8th AF, Army Corps Pilot

My WWII Experiences  - Interview with James R. Knaub

Poem - James Randolph Knaub

Story by Frances Nunnally

Story by John Pearson

Book Signing at the Udvar-Hazy Dulles Airport

Here are the photos that John Payne took on Friday June 3rd at the Virginia War Memorial . It was the retirement celebration for Jon Hatfield , the retiring the Executive Director.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/136789162@N07/shares/R6owJy

 
In the very first photo ( left to right ) are WWII veterans Stuart Seaton , Ryland Bailey and Ellis Cunningham. Ellis took part in the WWII exhibit on Bon Air Victorian Day . One of the middle photos is of his friend Stuart Seaton, VMI class of 1941, who was a 24-year-old Major, 463rd Parachute, defending the Bastogne area in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec.1944. With Stuart in the photo is Del. John O'Bannon ( R-Henrico ) who is Chairman of the Virginia War Memorial .
 
The very last photo is of John, his friend Ellis Cunningham (Navy gunnery officer on LST-989), and Paul Galanti (one wing of the War Memorial building is named for him).

Letter from Kevin Flecknor in the UK


Washington Post Article - Story written by John Kelly about Tom Creekmore and Lew Burke.

Subject: B-17 Memphis Belle takes flight over Richmond

The Movie "Memphis Belle", a restored WWII B-17 "flying fortress" bomber will take to the skies over Richmond on Monday September 9th ( Media flight September 9th at 2pm, Public flights and Ground tours available on September 14th)

Sixty eight years ago these aircraft flew from bases far from home in an attempt to bring freedom to oppressed peoples. Our B-17 mission for today is to educate the people of America about the courageous WWII veterans, and remember those brave aircrew who never made it home. "Memphis Belle" is a living museum, our heritage not in mothballs or the pages of a dusty book, but real life, three dimensions, here and now. You are invited to come touch the past and fly through ageless skies.


NOTE TO THE MEDIA: MEDIA FLIGHTS & LOCAL VETERAN INTERVIEWS -
Monday, September 9th at 2pm

The Liberty Foundations 2013 Salute to Veterans tour will be arriving in Richmond at the Hanover County Municipal Airport (  Hova Flight Servised FBO, 11152 Airpark Road) on Monday September 9th,  2013 at 2pm for media opportunities.  On display will be the famous Boeing B-17 “Memphis  Belle” celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the Memphis Belle's historic last mission and first visit to Richmond.

We are offering two (2) seats for your news organization to participate in the Monday Media Flight.  During the press flight you are only in a seat for takeoff and landing and can visit the cockpit, glass nose, and all the crew positions to get a feel for what the B-17 was like. The day’s media flights are closed to the general public and only available to pre-scheduled media, seats are limited.  The aircraft will be open to the public and available for flights and ground tours on Saturday September 14th.  We will also have local WWII B-17 veterans out to fly with you on the press flights and available for interviews.

As our B-17 flies around town this weekend, its famous silhouette and unique sound will draw a great deal of attention.  It is only through the news coverage and reporting from our media patrons that allow people to know where to come out to see and experience this ultimate history lesson.  It is only through your efforts and the public’s support that we can continue to keep the B-17 on tour and from being permanently silenced to sit in a museum.

Due to seat request by other media constitutes, please let us know if you are able to fly or attend.

If you have any special request or would like to schedule a different time for live interviews, please contact Scott Maher at (918) 340-0243 or
smaher@libertyfoundation.org<mailto:smaher@libertyfoundation.org>;.

 

Letters to the Editor

Remembering an odyssey of death

Editor, Times-Dispatch:
I can identify with Correspondent of the Day Odette Cook. She writes about the horrifying events that befell nearly 15,000 men, women and children in Paris on July 16, 1942.
My brother Leopold was there, but because he worked underground, he escaped detection and deportation to the Auschwitz death camp on that day.
However, in 1944 he was betrayed and thus began his odyssey through Hitler's concentration camps. First Auschwitz, then Mauthausen, Mittelbau Dora and finally Flossenburg.
My daughter Heidi and I have spent many years attempting to reveal my brother's final fate. Although his trail ends in Flossenburg, his name does not appear in the camp's official death book.
And so like millions of other men, women and children who met a cruel death at the hands of the Nazis, Leopold's final resting place will never be known.

Frances Nunnally.
Richmond.

Newsletter from Nuthhamstead Airfield Museum, Dec. 2011

 

Congratulations to Abe and Ernestine Firestone who recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary!!

 Porcelain Unicorn

A British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film making contest for aspiring directors. It's titled "Tell It Your Way". There were over 600 entries.

The film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative & be a compelling story. The winner was "Porcelain Unicorn" from American director Keegan Wilcox. 

It's a story of the lifetimes of two people who are totally opposite, yet, very much the same - all told in less than 3 minutes.

A Dying Breed? Not these kind of men! - a story by Sean Gates about his grandfather, Ordway B. Gates, Jr.
http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2012/012012/01102012/672700/index_html?page=1

A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II.

An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron.

When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through... connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged.

There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.

Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew... miraculously!

The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart.

While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.
When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
Joseph V Capuano
stars and stripes forever
 

 

Eighth Air Force Historical Society is on You Tube!! Click to watch! (added 4/6/11)

 
457th Bomb Group - Raf Glatton - Reunion Memorial Service 2010 (added from our Message Board by Jerry Wright.

 

 

Letter by Ozzie & Joyce Osborn
My Good Friends - Poor Joyce has a bad head cold, but nevertheless was up early this morning as we drove to the Cambridge American Cemetery together.  Christmas Eve 1944 would see the largest air armada ever assembled in the whole history of aviation before or since, some 2,032 heavy bombers as well as nearly 1,000 fighters - some of these fighters taking off from newly won airfields in Belgium. The weather in the UK was atrocious with sub zero temperatures and freezing thick fog.  The Mighty 8th AAF had been grounded for a few days by the bad weather, and today the orders were for every aircraft that was available to be launched in support missions for what we now know as 'The Battle of the Bulge'.
 
The first aircraft taking off from Nuthampstead would crash after stalling out with black ice on the wings.  The whole crew escaped without serious injuries.  The second aircraft to crash that day, had Harrod and Flores in the nose. Both of these young Americans would die this cold Christmas Eve, Harrod some 40 minutes after being cut free, Flores still in the stricken ship when the bomb load exploded. 
 
The concussion from the explosions was felt across the airfield, but in the little chapel at the rear of Group HQ and Operations, now Barker's Farm, the shock wave blew over two vases of flowers which fell onto the altar scattering their contents.  I find that symbolism so moving, that as a young American airman paid the ultimate sacrifice on Christmas Eve, so flowers were scattered on the altar of the little 398th chapel. 

So Joyce helped me raise my flag at Madingley today - as Mike Green, the Superintendent, played both national anthems and stood and saluted.

Then Joyce and I walked to the grave of David Flores - Harrod's body was repatriated after the war.  I careful rubbed sand into the inscription on Flores' headstone. Not just any sand however, this sand comes directly from Omaha Beach, Normandy, and is brought over especially by the ABMC for just these type of occasions.
 
It was cold today, but clear, after a mild frost during the night.  I shall be going back to the cemetery soon, to carefully bring my flag down at 1630 as Taps is played over the Carillon system. Mike will help me fold it thirteen times, then it will be proudly brought home and once again will sit in my little bedroom study until the next time.
 
So my friends, today we remembered that mighty mission by the world's most powerful air force.  As I gave my tours this past year at the cemetery, especially to the groups of visiting air cadets from the UK Air Training Corps, I told people of this Christmas Eve mission and asked them to promise me that this Christmas Eve they might pause amongst all the preparations and just remember those young airmen who made this peaceful time in the UK so possible.
 
Many of the returning crews would find their home airfields socked in by the weather and had to land away at other bases. These other bases would soon run out of bed-spaces, so men bedded down on gymnasium floors. In the Ardennes however, shivering GIs were in freezing foxholes. But because of men like Flores and Harrod, the Battle of the Bulge would fail, but for all those involved, in the air and on the ground, it came at a steep price.
 
We must never forget. I will never forget.   I remember composing these four lines for the 398th BG memorial at Nuthampstead.
 

'Their wings of silver touched the passing clouds,
made soft white trails across the azure blue,
but not for them this life we share on earth,
they sacrificed that gift for me and you.'

Happy Christmas to you all.
 
Ozzie & Joyce Osborn xxxx

 

WWII TRIVIA:

You might enjoy this from Col D. G. Swinford, USMC, Ret and history buff.

You would really have to dig deep to assemble this kind of historical info.

1. The first German serviceman killed in WW II was killed by the Japanese (China , 1937), the first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940); and the highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps.  So much for allies.

2. The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN.  He was wounded and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age.  His benefits were later restored by act of Congress.

3. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced 'sink us'), the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry Division was the Swastika, and Hitler's private train was named 'Amerika.'  All three were soon changed for PR purposes.

4. More US servicemen died in the Air Corps than the Marine Corps.  While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%.

5. Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot.  You were either an ace, or a target.  For instance, Japanese Ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes.  He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.

6. It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th round with a tracer round to aid in aiming.  This was a mistake.  Tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target 80% of your rounds were missing.  Worse yet tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction.  Worst of all, it was the practice to load a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell when you were out of ammo.  This was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy!  Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.

.........AND YOU'VE GOT TO LOVE THIS ONE

7. When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it.  This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen. Patton who had himself photographed in the act.

8. German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City .... but they decided it wasn't worth the effort.

9. German submarine U-120 was sunk by a malfunctioning toilet.

10. Among the first 'Germans' captured at Normandy were several Koreans.  They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were captured by the US Army.

AND THE BEST FOR LAST....

11. Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 United States and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands.  21 troops were killed in the assault on the island.  It could have been worse if there had been any Japanese on the island.

FILM FOUND OF B-29 CREW RESCUED BY SUBMARINE - FROM 1945

                     http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid34762914001?bctid=672454611001

This is worth watching... About 2.5 mins.  An entire crew of a B-29 (12 aviators) was rescued by a US submarine after their plane was shot down in 1945, 70 miles off the coast of Japan.

The entire rescue was filmed in color film, but then sat in a guy's closet until now.

This is a story from a Denver TV station of one of those rescued aviators to whom the video was delivered. It also shows their transfer to another submarine that is likely headed back to port before the one that accomplished the rescue."

Can you imagine 65 yrs AFTER your rescue you get to watch it on film?


FUNNY STORIES!!!!

Four old B-17 pilots who met once in a while were walking in a part of town that was not familiar to them.  They saw a sign on a building advertising that it was a bar.  In the window it stated beers were ten cents apiece.  They looked in the door and the bartender invited them in.  They ordered four beers and sure enough the owner only charged ten cents apiece.  After three or four more rounds they asked how he could stay in business just charging ten cents for a glass of beer.  He stated he had hit the lottery for twenty million and always wanted to own a bar so he bought this one.  He had no problem serving beer at a loss because he had all that money.

 
One of the B-17 pilots had noticed seven other guys at the end of the bar and they were not drinking.  He asked the bartender why those guys were there if they were not drinking.  The bartender explained that they were old B-24 pilots and they were waiting for happy hour when beer was half price.

Reprinted with permission from the Newport News Daily Press (20 March 2011)

 

For Hampton vet, flying in a B17 bomber with radar in WWII was high-tech


Abe Firestone, a member of the 34th bomb group of the 8th Air Force during World War II, participated in one of the largest bombing runs of the war in a raid over Berlin. Firestone is seen above at his home in Hampton on Feb. 25 posing with a photo taken in 1945. (Sangjib Min, Daily Press / March 19, 2011)

 

HAMPTON – Abe Firestone never flew in an airplane before the start of World War II, but he longed for it in the worst way.

Growing up in Brooklyn, he devoured pulp magazines with stories of adventurous pilots. Then came Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart - the first movie star to enter war service - who appeared in a recruiting film for young fliers. That sealed it.

"I said, 'Wow, that's great,'" Firestone recalled.


In 1943, he left his job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and entered the military. After training as a navigator, he was offered the chance to do something that sounded a bit more mysterious.

"It was so secret, they sent the FBI around to my old neighborhood (in Brooklyn) and asked my neighbors if I was OK, so to speak," recalled Firestone, now 88. "It scared the heck out of my parents."

The hush-hush program?

Radar.

It doesn't seem so high-tech today, with U.S. armed forces employing everything from predator drones to stealth aircraft to find and evade the enemy.

But in the 1940s, radar as a tool for bombing runs stood on the cutting edge of the Allied war effort. The idea of using electromagnetic waves to determine the altitude, direction, range or speed of objects, both fixed and moving, wasn't something out of a pulp magazine. It was very real.

Radar operators were known as Mickey Men because the early equipment had circular antenna that resembled Mickey Mouse ears.

They played a key role in daylight bombing runs when skies were overcast and bombardiers could not see their targets. That was often the case during the bad winter of 1944 into 1945, Firestone recalled.

Radar operators fed data to the bombardiers - distance to target and other information – that was fed into the Norden bombsight, another high-tech, super-secret piece of equipment. The bombsight contained an analog computer that crunched the numbers and dropped the bombs.

In a formation, only the lead bomber was equipped with radar. Firestone said he never felt any additional pressure by constantly running at the front of the formation.

"You never thought about it," he said. "You did your job as best you could."

Firestone flew in a B-17 Flying Fortress, the workhorse bomber of the U.S. fleet. As a first lieutenant serving in the 34th Bomb Group of the 8th Air force, he ended up flying 24 combat missions through 1944 and 1945.

And he survived a few close calls.

After a mission over Bremen, his aircraft returned with 150 holes. In another instance, a direct hit from a German anti-aircraft gun went through the wing, between two engines.

He also witnessed the frightening introduction of German jet fighters, which entered the war too late to make a real difference.

On another mission, his heated suit caught fire.

"Well, that was funny in retrospect," he said.

The highlight of his adventures in the sky came almost 66 years ago to the day, when more than 1,000 bombers rumbled over Berlin in what press accounts have described as one of the largest bombing runs of the war.

It happened on March 18, 1945.

"We didn't realize it until after we had taken off and returned how big of a mission it really was," he said.

He does remember the fear of not knowing what each mission would bring.

"You always wondered when you went out, is this going to be my last mission," he said. "It was a little scary, but when you're young and foolish I guess . . . no, it was scary."

A 1945 photo shows the crew of the B-17 Knockout Dropper, including Abe Firestone of Hampton at top left. As a navigator/bombardier in the lead plane, it was Firestone’s job to serve as a marker for other planes and bomb drops.

"Twelve O’Clock High"

Not only is "Twelve O’Clock High" regarded as one of the best movies of all time and widely used in both military and civilian leadership training, it is generally considered the most realistic representation of air combat in World War II.

The screenplay for the movie was written by Beirne Lay, Jr. and Sy Bartlett, both 8th Air Force veterans, who also wrote the book that was the basis of the movie. Lay, who served in the Air Corps for several years in the 1930s and was a qualified aviator, was one of the original six officers who accompanied Brig. Gen, Ira Eaker to England to establish the advanced element of the Eighth Air Force. He flew a number of combat missions and rose to command the 487th Bomb Group. He was shot down over France and with the help of the underground made his way back to England. Bartlett was an aide to Maj. Gen, Carl Spaatz. He served as an intelligence officer in both Europe and the Pacific.

The story and many of the characters are loosely based on several actual incidents and individuals. The movie’s "hard luck group," the fictional 918th Bomb Group, stationed at Archbury, was based on the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh. Many of the incidents that led to the relief of Col, Keith Davenport by Brig. Gen. Frank Savage in the movie were based on events viewed by Lay and Bartlett. In November 1942, Eaker (accompanied by Bartlett), visited Thurleigh and found that there was no MP on the gate and that they were able to enter the base unchallenged. When he saw that was a reflection of lax conditions elsewhere on the base, Eaker knew that the group commander, Col. Charles B. "Chip" Overacker, would have to be relieved. In the following six weeks, the 306th’s record, as measured by bombs on target, became the worst in the 8th Air Force. Eaker, accompanied by Col. Frank Armstrong and Beirne Lay, returned to Thurleigh. Conditions on the base were largely unchanged and Eaker replaced Overacker with Armstrong on the spot. This mirrors the scene in the movie. Clearly, Maj. Gen. Pritchard is based on Ira Eaker, Frank Savage is Armstrong, and Keith Davenport is Overacker.

Other characters in the movie are also based on actual people. Maj. Joe Cobb, who became Air Exec, is based on Paul Tibbetts. Tibbetts, who was in the 97th BG with Frank Armstrong, is better known as the pilot of the Enola Gay. Lt. Jesse Bishop’s Medal of Honor mission is based on the actions of Flight Officer John Morgan. In fact, the description of Bishop’s actions is taken almost verbatim from Morgan’s Medal of Honor citation. Sergeant McIllhenny, Savage’s clerk and driver who kept losing (and regaining) his stripes, was based on Sgt. Donald Bevan, a driver in the 306th when Armstrong was there. Although Bevan got some notoriety as a "stowaway gunner" in 1943, he was a qualified aerial gunner and flew 17 missions.

The targets for the "big mission" aren’t named in the movie but the novel specifies that the targets are the ball bearing plants in "Hambrueken" (actually Schweinfurt) and the Messerschmidt plant in "Bonhofen" (Regensburg). The movie’s "big mission" was actually a composite of the first B-17 mission into Germany (on 27 January 1943) and the double mission against Schweinfurt and Regensburg on 17 August 1943. Lay and Bartlett took liberties with the chronology. Armstrong commanded the 306th for six weeks starting in January 1943. He led in the 27 January mission into Germany but he was not there for the 17 August mission. Bartlett flew with Armstrong on the mission to Germany. Lay was co-pilot of the Picadilly Lily on the Schweinfurt-Regensburg missions. You may remember that Frank Savage flew a B-17 with the same name in the movie.

There were some differences as well. The biggest difference is that Frank Armstrong did not have a breakdown. In fact, he finished his tour in England, returned to the United States to transition to B-29s, and later commanded a B-29 wing in the Pacific. He retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant general in 1962. It is said that the breakdown happened to another commander after four rough missions. Col. Overacker was assigned to the Proving Ground Command in Florida and, unlike Keith Davenport, had no further role in the story. He retired from the Air Force as colonel in 1956.

The basic story was recycled twice. The television series Twelve O’Clock High ran for three seasons, 1964-67. It was also the basis for the 1963 movie A Gathering of Eagles that starred Rock Hudson. In that movie, Col. Jim Caldwell (Rock Hudson) relieves a Strategic Air Command wing commander after the wing fails an operational readiness inspection.

 

The Norden Bombsight and the U.S. Naval Proving Ground
Robert V. Gates

Beginning on page 16 of the December 2010 issue of the 8TH AF NEWS is an article authored by our own Bob Gates.  We all know that Bob is the Editor, Publisher, Copy Boy and Circulation Manager of our own Virginia Chapter news letter, "PLANE TALK." 

   Carl Norden The Norden Bombsight and the Army Air Force are forever linked in public memory.  Less well remembered, however, is the fact that the bombsight was developed by Carl Norden for the U.S. Navy. 
    Prior to World War I, military theorists thought of aircraft, when they thought of them at all, in scout or reconnaissance roles.  More thought was given to their utility as bombers during the war.  Bombing missions were attempted from low altitudes by aircraft carrying only small loads of bombs.  Bombs were dropped by the pilot or observer without the benefit of an aiming device, or bombsight.  Needless to say, bombing was hit or miss – mostly miss.
    Later in the war more attention was given to the development of aircraft that were capable of carrying larger bomb loads.  The British began experimenting with bombsights in 1916.  The most promising, developed by Lt. Cdr. Harry E. Wimperis of the Royal Naval Service’s Imperial College of Science, was described as “little more than a board fitted with a bubble level and two adjustable rifle sights.”  Predetermined bombing tables and levers to adjust for altitude and speed were used to achieve an accuracy of “hundreds of feet.”  A primary source of inaccuracy was the random pitch and roll of the aircraft during the bombing run.
    The U.S. Navy considered ships to be the primary targets of its bombardment missions.  In its search for an effective means of accomplishing this mission it considered level bombing, dive bombing, glide bombing, and aerial torpedo attack.  In June and July of 1921 Army airmen and Navy aviators dropped bombs on a variety of targets including the anchored German battleship Ostfriesland.  The Navy pilots dropped bombs from an altitude of less than 2500 feet and achieved hits with only 19 percent of them.  Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell’s Army pilots did somewhat better – 30 percent of their bombs hit the Ostfriesland.
    A 1924 report for the Secretary of the Navy concluded that “it is absurd to think that either the aerial bomb or the submarine torpedo have furnished the effectual answer to the capital ship.”  The Army came to the same conclusion.
    The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) had the responsibility for developing bombsights for the Navy.  In January 1920 BuOrd contracted with Carl L. Norden to improve the Navy Mark III bombsight, a modified Wimperis device.
    Norden, born in Semarang, Java to Dutch parents, studied mechanical engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich and immigrated to the United States in 1904.  He worked for Elmer Sperry for two years developing ship gyrostabilizers.  Their relationship was a rocky one – Sperry disliked Norden’s appetite for “vile black cigars” and Norden resented Sperry’s proposal that Norden sign over his future gyrostabilizer patents to the Sperry Gyroscope Company.  They parted ways in 1913 although they worked together on various projects during World War I.
    Norden’s first efforts included adding gyro-stabilization to the bombsight along with a telescope to better sight the target and a means for providing flight directions to the pilot.  When the results were unsatisfactory, Norden used Navy funding for three pilot direction indicators (PDI) for the Mark III bombsight and family funds to continue work on a better bombsight.  In June 1922, impressed with his progress, the Navy contracted with him for three experimental bombsights designated the Mark XI.
    A year later the Navy was concerned that the project was too big for one man, especially the man they knew as “Old Man Dynamite” because he was so difficult to work with due to his generally unsociable and reclusive nature.  They sent him a collaborator, Theodore Barth, who was known as a practical engineer and a man who could get things done.  This successful relationship lasted until both men retired after World War II.
    Norden worked out of his home and Barth’s apartment, and, using the equipment and skilled labor of the Witteman-Lewis Aircraft Company delivered the three PDIs and three experimental Mark XI bombsights – all handmade – to the Navy in the winter of 1923 and spring of 1924.  Bench and flight testing of the Mark XI was conducted at the U.S. Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia in 1924.  Neither Norden nor the Navy was pleased with the performance of the bombsights as test bombs fell with “alarming irregularity.”  The Navy also believed that the sight was too complicated.
    Many changes were identified during the initial testing and BuOrd contracted with Norden for modifications to two of the Mark XI bombsights.  The modified bombsights were delivered to Dahlgren for flight testing in 1925.  Tests during the summer and fall of 1925 showed that the changes were worthwhile.  The eighteen bombs that were dropped from an altitude of 3000 feet in the final test achieved a mean impact point that was nine feet short in range but 187 feet to the right of the flight path.
    The Navy test bombardier was impressed but reported that the sight was too complex and required “both hands, both feet, and the teeth” to operate.  In an open cockpit, the wind and cold made fine adjustments to the sight nearly impossible.  Norden viewed the basic design as good and the problems correctable.  He left Barth in New York to consult with the Navy and went to Zurich for a year to work on design changes.  
    The Navy completed testing of the Mark XI in October 1927 and, despite continuing problems with leveling, vibration, and the PDI, began negotiations with Norden and Barth for the purchase of eight Mark XI bombsights and PDIs.  Norden and Barth balked at the proposal because they considered themselves consulting engineers not production contractors.  In 1928, after additional encouragement from the Navy and some unwritten agreements, they agreed to form Carl L. Norden, Incorporated.  They agreed to produce and deliver eighty Mark XI sights with spare parts and toolkits for $384,000.  They also agreed to transfer all patents, models, and designs to the government two years later.  Norden said he was paid $1 for these rights although Navy records show he was paid $250.  A very low price in either case.MK-15 Bombsight
    Bureau of Ordnance testing related to the development of the Mark XI bombsight at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia began in 1922.  In the five and a half year period leading up to the production contract, Norden and Barth visited Dahlgren 51 times.  The bench and flight testing at Dahlgren are credited with uncovering numerous design and performance issues.  Dahlgren was also the site of the first school to teach mechanics how to maintain the Mark XI bombsight.
    Production of the Mark XI began slowly and Norden and the Navy tested and improved each sight as it was produced.  Norden shipped the first three Mark XI bombsights to Dahlgren for testing in early 1929.  The bombsights were essentially handmade and production continued at three units per month.  With all of its shortcomings and complexity, the Mark XI represented a significant improvement over other bombsights.  However, it did not resolve the limitations of high altitude horizontal bombing.
    After signing the contract with the Navy Norden went to his mother’s Zurich home to work on his next design, the Mark XV.  This was the bombsight (known as the M-series by the Army Air Force) that was used by both the Army and the Navy during World War II.  Two prototypes of the Mark XV, a timing sight and a synchronous sight, were delivered to Dahlgren in February 1931 for evaluation.
    Bombsights are of two types:  timing and synchronous.  A timing sight uses a telescope and a timer to measure the movement of a point on the ground relative to the aircraft.  The time and aircraft altitude are used with a ballistics table to determine the angle at which the telescope should be set.  If the pilot keeps the aircraft at the same altitude and speed, then the bombs should be released when the target appears in the telescope.  Variations in aircraft altitude and speed, as well as wind, are the major causes of inaccuracy.  The Mark XI was perhaps the best of the timing bombsights.
    In synchronous bombsights, the bombardier adjusted the speed of a wheel or gear in the bombsight mechanism to match the movement of the aircraft over a point on the ground.  This synchronized the bombsight with the aircraft’s ground speed.  Norden described his Mark XV sight as being able to provide ground speed, angles of drift, and true air speed.  It could also hold a true compass course and compensate for earth rotation.
    The timing method required a long bombing run at a fixed speed and altitude.  Conversely, the synchronous sight precluded a long bombing run since ground speed was computed as an instantaneous rate.  Navy bombardiers at Dahlgren found that they could adjust the Mark XV sight in 6 seconds compared to 50 seconds for the Mark XI.
    Testing at Dahlgren was intended to identify deficiencies in a new concept not as acceptance tests.  For this reason, the Naval Proving Ground conducted extensive bench tests of the components of the sight as well as intensive flight testing.  Dahlgren provided a final report to BuOrd containing 33 pages of deficiencies and suggested corrective actions.  Flight tests showed that the Mark XV was twice as accurate as the Mark XI (i.e., the percentage of hits was twice as high).  Testing ended in August 1931 when BuOrd issued a production contract for the Mark XV bombsight.
    The Mark XV was given more tests than any other sight ever developed by BuOrd.  Life tests of various components and analytical studies continued into 1932.  On April 18, 1932 the first order for the new sight was placed – thirty-two for the Navy and twenty-three for the Army.  The Navy received its first production unit in September 1932 and the Army received its in April 1933.  The sights continued to be nearly handmade and every unit went to Dahlgren for calibration and acceptance testing. 
    The Naval Proving Ground received Norden’s next improvement – the Stabilized Bombing Approach Equipment (SBAE) – in February 1935.  The SBAE, an automatic flight control system, transferred adjustments of the bombsight’s controls through mechanical linkages to the azimuth gyro and allowed the bombardier to fly the aircraft in roll and yaw.  Testing revealed both the strengths and weaknesses of the prototype.  Flight tests showed a 30 percent improvement in Mark XV accuracy in smooth air and 39 percent improvement in rough air. The first production models were available in late 1936 and production began in June 1937 at the rate of seven to ten per month.
    The Army Air Corps had long worked with the Sperry Corporation to equip its aircraft with autopilots.  Carl Norden, who continued to compete with Sperry, preferred to work with the Navy rather than the Army.  (He once told an Army Colonel “No man can serve the Lord and the Devil at the same time – and I work for the Navy.”)  He argued that it was a duplication of effort for the Army to equip its aircraft with both Sperry autopilots and Norden SBAEs. 
    The tests at Dahlgren compared the Norden SBAE with the Sperry autopilot and concluded that the SBAE “… is at least the equal of if not superior to the Sperry gyro-pilot.”  The Army continued to try to connect the Norden bombsight and the Sperry A-2 autopilot – without success. 
    When the Air Corps continued to pursue an SBAE replacement, the Navy responded by developing an adapter that allowed the Norden bombsight to be connected to the Sperry A-3 autopilot.  Dahlgren completed tests of the adapter in August 1941 and forty units were produced between September and December.
    The Army Air Force asked Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator to develop new automatic flight control equipment (AFCE) with electronic parts to link the A-3 autopilot and the Norden bombsight without the Navy’s adapter.  This system (designated the C-1), ordered into production in October 1941, was the standard autopilot/AFCE/SBAE for the remainder of World War II.
    Procurement became a major headache because the Navy refused to share production with the Army.  Between 1932 and 1938, the Norden Company produced only 121 bombsights per year.  Even after Norden added additional production sources to meet Army Air Force needs, shortages of materials, specialized machine tools, and skilled labor kept production below required levels.  There was a major shortage of bombsights that extended to late 1943.
    All bombsights continued to go to Dahlgren for bench and flight testing.  It was estimated that this process delayed delivery for four to five weeks.  Although BuOrd refused to eliminate the Dahlgren testing, they did make some concessions – one bombsight of every ten produced would be sent to Dahlgren for testing.  They also agreed that bench testing would be completed on the day that the sight was received.  Further, Dahlgren would only flight test the number of sights that could be completed within 15 days of bench testing.
    As the war went on, it became clear that Army Air Force performance requirements exceeded those of the Navy and that the Navy had little interest in modifying the sight since it had chosen dive bombing as its preferred means of attacking moving targets.  Thus, improvements to the bombsight were motivated by the Army and, by late in the war, were being developed by someone other than the Norden Company.
    Between 1932 and the end of World War II, nearly 90,000 Mark XV (or M-9) bombsights – 81,537 for the Army Air Force and 8,353 for the Navy – were produced at a total cost of $1.1 billion.  Production began to catch up with demand by late 1943, but mass production techniques also led to declining quality.  The Norden Company was not interested in helping to solve the problem and in late 1944, 75 to 80 percent of all sights produced failed to meet specifications.
    The accuracy achieved at Dahlgren was never duplicated in combat.  The Navy specification was for 2.5 mils (or 2.5 feet mean miss for every 1000 feet of altitude).  The inherent accuracy of the 1944 Norden sights was 14 mils.  By some reports, the accuracy achieved in combat was more than 50 mils. 
    While some used the discrepancy between design and operational accuracy to question the effectiveness of high altitude bombing, the performance of the Eighth Air Force in Europe refutes this.  In the end, seven and a half million bombs were dropped from an average altitude of 21,000 feet with 31.8 percent of them falling within 1,000 feet of the aiming point.  While this did not meet prewar expectations for precision, it did stop German oil production and destroyed 20 percent of German war production in the last 16 months of the conflict.
    This article began by noting that the Navy’s role in the development of the Norden bombsight is less well known than is its use by the Army Air Force in World War II.  Even less known is the role that the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia played in the development, testing, and acceptance of the Norden bombsights beginning soon after World War I.  It’s clear that both deserve credit for their significant contributions to the breakthrough capability represented by the Norden bombsight.


Naval Proving Ground Air Detail, July 1, 1942


A Thought On Christmas Eve Story

The pictures are of Madingley Cemetery.  Madingley is where some 3,800 + airmen are buried.  They are represented by the crosses which you can see in the edge of one of the pictures.  These represent mostly just those U.S. 8th AF personnel who were either killed in England from crashes on take off or landings, mid-air collisions or returning as part of a crew killed in an aircraft that return to England.  Some were bodies recovered from the North Sea.  This does not represent all the fatalities in the 8th since over fifty thousand were either killed or missing in action during the time the 8th served in Europe.
 
Let me suggest that you "Google Madingley Cemetery" and read the impressive write up.

Yule Tide Story You've Never Heard


A Veteran's Day Story by Malcolm Osborn (added 11/14/2010) Read it here!

Dear Friends - Always a humbling moment for me.  I was so proud to lay the floral tribute to the 398th BG once again this year.

Never forgotten.

Warmest regards,
Ozzie
 

Memories of World War II by Jimmy Boehling

Part III (added 9/28/10)
Part II
Part I
(these are .pdf files and may take a few minutes to upload, please be patient)

More to follow.

 

Our Unforgettable Mission
Lt. Col. James R. Maris
392nd Bomb Group - 578th Bomb Squadron.

Mission 23
Worth Every "Penny" Of It!
www.b24.net

 

Veteran Gets Metals 66 years after War Experience
Article from Chesterfield Observer, September 22, 2010

 

Story by Bill Greenwell

"An excerpt from "Feather Merchant" - A book by Bill Greenwell

Read his story here - Page 1 | Page 2


 


I paid one of my regular visits to the American Military Cemetery, Madingley.  A bright early Autumn day, the first of the autumn colours appearing in the trees, leaves gently drifting down amongst the crosses beneath the trees.

Rest in peace my friends.

LEST WE FORGET
Ozzie (Malcolm Osborn)
 


Tailgunner, Floyd Richmond, a member of the crew #13, of the 4th Squadron, 34th Bomb Group was recently portrayed in the 8th Air Force Magazine. Click here for the article. Provided by Abe Firestone.


Honoring Darrell "Shifty" Powers (Story provided by John Forsyth)
 
Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle", the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.

Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . " at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was. At that point he said "I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem"  I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day.   (At 'Operation Market Garden' in September of 1944, arrogant, swaggering fool and limey bastard Field Marshall Montgomery got 7000 men killed in one weekend by ignoring the Dutch underground's warning not to come to the Rhine Bridge in Arnhem because the Second SS Panzer Division had hunkered down in the forest.)  Failed Operation Market Garden put the 2000 surviving allied soldiers in Nazi prison camps, and later became a book and movie called 'One Bridge Too Far'.  I wish I could piss on Montgomery's grave!

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said "Yes. And it's real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip." My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on June 17 after fighting cancer.   There was no parade.   No big event in Staples Center.   No wall-to-wall back-to-back 24x7 news coverage.   No weeping fans on television.

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.
 
Rest in peace, Shifty.   May God Bless and keep you always.  Thank you for giving America your youth.  Maybe it's best you don't see what comes of your sacrifice now we have a Trojan Horse in the Whitehouse.
 

Memories of World War II by Jimmy Boehling

Part I
Part II

(these are .pdf files and may take a few minutes to upload, please be patient)

More to follow.


Memorial Day Poem -

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty - they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars - they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll
 

Story of a WWII Combat Pilot by Lew Burke

Why I Should Have Been Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross


The Jim Kelley Story

Prisoner of War Bulletin (sample of bulletins that were sent to Mr. Kelley's mother while he was a prisoner of war)


The Path To Be An 8th Air Force, Army Air Corps Pilot by Bob Noziglia


B-17 Crew.  Bob Noziglia is 2nd from the left, front row.


Jean Knaub Hughes sent us a portion of an interview her mother did with her dad simply called:

MY WWII EXPERIENCES
Interview with James R. Knaub
by Catherine A. Knaub
Provided by Jean Knaub Hughes

Daddy had such a hard time talking about what he did and his missions, etc., that I suggested to Mama that she use a tape recorder and then she could start and stop the interview when Daddy got too emotional. Then they could start it again later. Believe it or not, over a long period of time, she was able to get him to tell her about ALL of his missions and explain a little more detail about what he remembered too.

I think it is a fascinating account and everyone in our family truly treasures our own personal edition of the interview that my sister, Sandra K. Armstrong, was kind enough to transcribe into a written format. Here is part of that interview and I used a picture of Mama and Daddy during that time and added it at the beginning of the pages I am sharing. I hope everyone enjoys my father's personal account of his part in our nation's history! It is one of the things about my parents that makes my heart swell with pride and I feel it is truly a family treasure!

I also am including an exert from the 91st BG about the Komet attack on Daddy's plane in which you will be able to tell that the author got some of the "language" about the mission through my father's account. The author, Lowell L. Getz had written to my mother and my sister for information about the Komet attack and Daddy's personal account.

About James R. Knaub | James R. Knaub World War II Honoree | Interview with James R. Knaub |
Exert about the August 16, 1944 Komet attack from: http://www.91stbombgroup.com/mary_ruth/Chapter_7.htm
 

James Randolph Knaub
My Father, My Hero

In a B-17 in World War II
the 91st Bomb Group is with whom he flew.
He flew 30 missions with 7 in the lead plane
and prayed for peace for our country again.

An honorable man who never patted himself on the back,
he fought a Me163B Rocket Fighter attack.
He treated a wounded comrade then turned to his waist gun,
And fought bravely as the Mustangs finished what he and his crew had begun.

There were many brave missions, and more stories to tell
about the love of his country, and devotion to family as well.
He believed in our nation, our flag and her glory,
I am only beginning to tell of a hero and his story.

The honors, awards and the medals he wore,
are a fitting tribute to the man I adore.
His Distinguished Flying Cross was among many received,
yet he had a quiet dignity about all he achieved.

Now he is resting with "folded wings"
but I won't be silent about my pride in him.
Just look through the clouds in the far away sky,
for to protect us again, my Hero flies.
 
Lovingly by: Jean Knaub Hughes

 

James R. Knaub (passed away, Presidents' Day, 2.17.1997)
91st BG (H)
323rd Squadron
Radio Operator and Waist Gunner
B-17s: "Outhouse Mouse," "Betty Lou's Buggy" and "Ramblin' Rebel"
  

Dear Sir,

 

            Sitting in her armchair in the living room, this aged grandmother is expected to be watching the “Food Channel” or the Lifetime tear jerker movie.  But – NO – she’s tuned in the “Memphis Belle.”  Her teas cools on the table beside her as her thoughts stroll back to World War II and the dramas unfolding over England’s green countryside.

            Yes, I was there.  First in London during the Blitz when the Luftwaffe pounded England’s cities in rubble.  The later, in Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia as a member of the ATS, the women’s section of the British Army.

 

            We were stationed in Gibraltar Barracks, a huge training center for British Troops.  Our platoon consisted largely of refugee girls from Hitler’s Nazi occupied Europe.  At dawn, we were awakened by the roar of the Fortresses taking off on missions over the Continent.  At night we jitterbugged at the local “Corn Exchange” to the popular tunes of the times.

 

            The winters were long and hard.  But the cold we felt in our hearts was not due to the ice and snow on the parade ground outside.  We trembled at the thought of what would happen if the Nazis would be able to invade England after all.  And our families back home were constantly on our minds.  Were they still alive?  Were they hungry, cold, sick?

 

            But the Royal Air Force boys by night and the Eighth Air Force boys by day kept the enemy at bay.  And finally turned the tide.  VICTORY!

 

            My own way gradually led back to Vienna, my former hometown.  I crossed a continent in shambles, with cities reduced to rubble, and displaced persons everywhere.  In Vienna I stood outside the house where I was born and grew up, and felt the emptiness all around.  My family was gone, their last resting places known to none.

 

            But life went for us went on and the years passed.  There were children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.  Yet, clear as crystal, the memories remained. We think of the many thousands of fine young men who gave their lives to defeat the EVIL that threatened to engulf the world.

 

            Thank you, Mighty Eighth!

 

                                                            Sincerely,

 

                                                                        Frances Nunnally

 

Story Submitted by John Pearson, March 7, 2009

In April 1945 I was a navigator on a B-17 in the 457th Bomb Group at Glatton, England.  On April 5, my co-pilot, Jack Taifer, was killed during take-off on a mission.  Our crew had the day off but Jack had been called out to fly the tail gunner position in a lead B-17, Miss Ida.  When his plane was just about leaving the ground, the tower advised the pilot that flames could be seen coming from #2 engine.  About a mile off the runway, the plane went into the ground and exploded.  Only the navigator survived.

My crew was flying it’s second mission after that crash.  During take-off, I was standing in the nose looking out the astrodome.  I just happened to glance around to my left and out the window, and saw flames shooting out of #2 engine.  I immediately notified the pilot, Jerry Sharrock, by intercom and he did a swift job of feathering that engine.  We were at about 100 feet, and had to circle while the rest of the planes took off before we could land.

After landing we taxied to a spare B-17 where we transferred to it, then overtook the formation to complete the mission.

I have returned to England seven times in recent years to attend the 457th Association reunions.  We attend the Memorial Day ceremony at the American Military Cemetery at Madingly at which time I visit Jack’s grave.

To this day, I am convinced that the disaster that happened to Jack Taifer and crew may have happened to us if Jerry Sharrock had not been so quick and skillful in feathering the engine.  In fact, in some discussions with some other 457th members at reunions in recent years, they suspected that a saboteur was at work on the base while the planes were parked at night.

Other 457th BG Links:
Mighty 8th AF, 457 BG

Video - 457th BG First Mission

 
 

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Website Last Updated: 08/06/2016