39th Bomb Group (VH)

Flight Engineer's


purplhrt.gif [The Purple  Heart]

with 1

br_oak2.jpg [Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster]

Unit Citation
and Awards

arpuc.jpg [The Presidental Unit Citation]

Oak Leaf Cluster

Service Awards

amcamp.gif [The American Campaign Medal]

apcm.jpg [The Asiatic-Pacfic Campaign Medal]


star1.gif [Bronze Star]

wwiivic.gif [The Victory Medal, World War II]

[Search Tip: Use " " for better search results ex. "John Q. Doe"; "City of ..."]
Sgt Melvin J. Howard
Flight Engineer

Melvin Josiah Howard was born 2 September 1920 in Carey, Blaine, Idaho to Josiah Howard a well driller and the former Louisa B Park a Doctor of Obstetrics. He had a half brother John (Jack) Tilbury Howard, sister Mrs. Leona Andrus, sister Mrs. Virginia Coulson, a brother Vernal Howard, and a sister Mrs Verda Watkins. Melvin was the youngest child in the family.

Melvin loved sports, he was the quarterback on his high school football team, and was very involved in weight lifting. He graduated from David Starr Jordan high school where he received the Meritorious Service Certificate in 1940.

After graduating from high school he worked as a Machinist for Douglas Aircraft and the Bethlehem Steel Company. When he left his employment at Bethlehem Steel they gave him a letter dated April, 3 1943 which said “The bearer, Melvin J. Howard has been employed by this company as a machinist for a period of the last eighteen months. He is leaving to join the U.S. Army. Howard is a thoroughly competent and experienced precision machinist. He is capable, industrious, dependable and honest.”

After joining the Army Air Force he was stationed in San Antonio and then Amarillo Texas. He next received further training at Lowry Field Denver Colorado. From there he was transferred for a short time to Lincoln A.A.F. in Nebraska. His last assignment before going over seas to the Pacific theatre was Clovis, New Mexico.

Melvin had achieved the rank of Sergeant and was assigned to the Kobler crew as their flight engineer. It is my understanding he flew one other mission before he flew with the Kobler crew. Melvin died 26 May 1945.

Melvin's mother mourned the untimely death of her son Melvin Josiah Howard until she was herself taken in death.

One day while sitting at her secretary with her son, who was home on leave standing next to her, she received the distinct impression that he would be killed in the war. Her heart cried out "but he is so good and so handsome surely not him." She tried to ignore this feeling, even clinging to a hope that he was alive after Harry Slater visited with her and told her that he didn't think there was any chance Melvin could be alive.

Hopefully these histories and pictures will help us know who we lost.

Joyce L. C. Otterstrom

The following was written by Melvin J. Howard, the date is unknown

I, Melvin J. Howard, Son of Josiah Howard who was born in England and Louisa B Park born in Utah they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. My father was a convert. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple. I was born in Carey Idaho September 2, 1920 and was blessed by my father December 5, 1920. I was seven years old when I started to school in Carey Idaho a little country town. We had just one school there and one church house which was our L. D. S. church.

I was baptized on September 1, 1928 by my Uncle Albert Park, Mother’s brother who also lived in Carey. I was confirmed by Uncle Albert the same day.

Miss Briggs was my first grade teacher. I remember at the closing of the first year my class cleaned up our part of the school ground. After we had the trash in a big pile we set it afire and had one of the boys go over to the drug store and buy a big box of marshmallows. The fellow who soon after became her husband got a bunch of willows we took the branches sharpened the end so we could stick them in the marshmallows and had all the toasted marshmallows we could eat.

We had a pony at home we called Pinto. She was such a pretty little pony and real tame when she was caught but as soon as she was loose it was almost impossible to catch her. Once when I was about four years old, Verda and I were on Pinto finally Verda dropped the reigns so as soon as Pinto found out she was loose she started to bucking, kicking and running she soon threw Verda off but I was in front and my foot slipped through the stirrup she threw me off too but my foot being through the stirrup it left me hanging by one foot. What a lot of excitement I caused that day neighbors came running over Mother was frightened terribly and I guess they had reasons to be as my head was sure in dangerous places dangling down with the horses feet. I think my heavenly father must surely of been watching over me then or my head would surely of been crushed or struck by the horses feet. Mother tried so hard to catch her but Pinto would kick at her and away she would go. Virginia finally came and caught her.

About that time Mr. Albertson was at our place talking to daddy in front. When he got ready to go he started backing around not knowing I was playing back of the car. He backed right over me and was certainly frightened when he saw me lying on the ground after he had backed over me. As it happened though the car did not strike me at all. I thought it was rather nice when he gave me a nickel I decided it was quite nice to get run over.

My nick name while I was young was Tarzan and Daddy called me spark plug.

In 1929 we came to California to live. I have great fun on the Beach and have learned to swim. The best boy friend I have is Clifford Beecler. We are in the same room at the U. S. Grant school and have lots of good times together.

On September 4 1932 I received my certificate of graduation from my Primary Association, which I am very proud of, and was ordained a deacon by Brother Jas. L. Shumway on October 24th 1932. About a year ago I started bearing my testimony in testimony meeting on fast day. I have never missed once bearing my testimony since which pleases my mother very much. I am going to try to remember my mothers teaching that as long as I will bear my testimony I will always have one to bear.

Click on the following images to enlarge

25th College Training Dettachment
Marietta, Ohio
1 Sept 1943

Pictured above appear to 2 groups - note 9A & 10A - you can see what appears to be a distinct space between between the 5th and 6th man in the front row - this space is evident in each row. Group 9a has 24 men - Melvin Howard is in 9A - The list of 24 names was made by Melvin in 1943. - Click left side of image to enlarge that area and read names of those pictured - click here to large entire photo.

Melvin is last man on right
others unknown/location unknown

Bottom Row: Left: #1 Melvin Howard
others unknown/location unknown

Age 4
1932 (age 13)

Melvin and Teddy
Melvin (L) and his nephew Dean

Brothers: Melvin, Jack and Vernal

Melvin age 13 with
his sister Virginia

Excerpts From Letters and Family Memories

"I saw the biggest lightening I had ever seen when I was in Amarillo Texas. It started off to one side went over our heads, and spread until covered the entire sky. It lit everything up until it was so bright I could have told if a fellows face was clean. That happened at 10:30 P.M. Afterwards there was a lot more wind and thunder.

I'm using lined paper to write your letter on today in hopes that the
instructor's will think I'm taking notes. Tricky eh what?

I just about quit school I was so darn mad. The Lt. told me I could not go to the gym anymore. I raised hell. But then told him that as long as I could continue to work out at the gym I would be a good boy in school.

I'm going to the U.S.O. tonight and see about those weights. If all is
well, I'll toss them out the window and pick them up later. I hope no
soldier and his girl are below or they will get maimed.

Click images to enlarge
I've put on a good one and one half inches on my chest, in a month. I want to get an eighteen inch arm and a forty eight or fifty inch chest.

I flew a B 17 for about 20 minutes. I was up for 3 hours and I'm going up
again tomorrow for three hours. I'll get some more stick time as usual. I
guess I'll get about 12 hours in the B 17 while I'm here.

I've decided to go on & not stay as an instructor here as I don't have enough time to work out. I think I'll go to California to factory school for 6 weeks then to gunnery. I hope, as that's the only way I'll get any stripes. But then I have muscles; they make up for not having stripes. EXTRA I just lifted 315 lbs while in a prone position.

Oh yea if I go to California I'll take good care of our girls. I mean I'll
kiss Bobby & your girl for you, I know that will make you happy.

Lowry Field is great. They have a swell gym with about 400 lbs of weights a good bar and rings. You can check out towels, shoes, shorts, and all. Good showers too.

I saw a guy, he sure was built swell, what a man, no fooling. I guess my mouth gaped when he beat my prone of 315, he got 320. I mean to tell you he is a man and a half. I didn't get his name but you should see his chest & arms. I think his name is Kolz, no that isn't it, oh yes his name was Howard, that's it what a man!

We only get passes once a week from 1800 Saturday until 1300 Monday so I guess I'll find a church. I looked around Denver Saturday night and Sunday after church. It is really pretty, more trees than I have seen anyplace and the mountains are really pretty.

When I came in the army I had a 39 blouse then a 40 and now a 42. It fits all right in the chest but you should see how the darn things fits in the waist. I've got to get it taken in or put in pillow in. Shirts are just as bad. I have a job now getting anything to fit. All chest, or real man, that's it. I just got back from the gym I was there for three and one half hours. I really feel it now.

I've just been to the gym 3 times now and already fellows want me to be a teacher there but I told them no because I won't have enough time to work out myself. But I help them. I have about 8 fellows now who follow my work out scudule, schudel? Schedule right? How in the hell do you spell it?

I was asked to do a little show here Friday. He wanted me to lift and show off or pose, you know me and my chest and arms. I told him "hell no." He said you like to work out in the gym don't you? I agreed to do the show, said I'll do some practicing around 300 lbs so he said swell He's going to fix me up with a special pass in the middle of the week.

When the war is over I would like to set up a gym. I want to tour around and see other gym's for ideas. I want it to be a really good gym with hot & cold pots and steam baths and things for business men as well as weight lifting. One reason I want to go overseas is so I can save more towards getting a gym.

Mike has a girl in town, without asking me he set up a blind date for me. She has a 41 convertible club coupe so I didn't kick it. I'll wait till after the date & if she isn't a Q.T. I'll kick his butt. I guess I'll give the lucky girl a break, I'll let her drive me around Denver and in the mountains and show me the town, well why not? I have to kick Mike's butt the girl had a honey of a car but she wasn't so cute, I didn't even try to kiss her as I'm getting fussy.

When the war is over I'm going to fix up my car, it will take about a week. I know a lot about engines & how to adjust them. When I get done it will be a 1950 car. (his car was a 1940 Pontiac.)

There is a fellow here in gym who always watches me work out. He asked me what good it was going to do me. He said with the few little holds he knows he could pin me. I said I doubt it. He challenged me so I accepted, I had been working out and was tired. He was faster than hell and knew a lot of holds but he didn't get any on me. He had a small back so I got a bear hug on him and threw him down that way. It took me 4 minutes to pin him. He was embarrassed as a lot of fellows were watching. All he said was, you're to darn strong for me and stepped out of the ring. Now he plans to start to
work out with me and forget wrestling for awhile. That tickled me.
The fellow I used to work out with in Armadillo came here and is just a week behind me in school. He is a really swell fellow. He has been
assigned my lower bunk. We are working out together again. He doesn't smoke or drink and so on I figured he just knew better Sunday morning I found out he is a Mormon so now we go to church together too. I got a extra pass for putting on the weight lifting show I asked for Tuesday so we can go to MIA. (A church organization for the youth) Then we go to the church dance on Saturday.

I know a bit about rubbing down but not as much as I intend to learn, I intend to get some charts and a couple of books on anatomy and body muscles.

The Lt. is ordering a Fackob or Jockson Olympic around 500 lbs or so. It will be a honey. It's a little heavy and big for me to carry off but after the war.

I should ship soon. If I chance to fly over your ship I will drop a weight with a note.

I'm in Lincoln Nebraska now. The camp is a hell hole, not worth a darn, tar paper barracks, coal stoves, plenty of smoke, at night it's colder than hell. The gym here isn't so hot either. All they have is an Olympic York set that only goes to 270 lbs and another that goes to 150 lbs, that's all.

I'm here until I finish processing which shouldn't be long.

I had a swell time while I was at home. I took Bobbie out a couple of
times. I had a good time. She is a good clean girl and a Mormon too.
When I flew back I stopped over in Salt Lake City. I saw the Andrus family.

he next day I went to the temple grounds and really looked it over. I guess I spent a couple of hours there. Talk about cute girls. There are some really cute ones in Salt Lake City. Must go back there after the war is over.

Here is a recipe. It's reallll good. It is a drink out of Soy-a-malt and
wheat germ. Here goes. Use about a pint of water or how much you want to make put in soy-a-malt and shake well till all mixed. I use a little more than directions say to use. After mixed then add your wheat germ and shake well again. Then oh boy its really good and darn good for you, but I guess you know that. I just sit down on my bunk and start mixing mine and of course a lot of fellows look over and smile. So I take my shirt off and with a big chest I put on a show for the slim boy's. I lie on my bunk and smile as I drink it down. They drool no fooling. I don't even let them get a smell of it. I finished off a quart of my drink and it is better than malted milk no fooling.

Next I'm going to Clovis. First of all I get at least 10 days home.

I just finished a work out in the gym. I think I told you the first time I tried a back lever on the rings I did it. It really surprised a few boys who have been trying to do it for weeks and couldn't. They thought I couldn't do it either. Tonight I tried a cork screw in the rings I did it on the third try. Working out really makes me feel good.

Tonight a sergeant tried to pull rank on me. I told him I'd pull muscles on him. He didn't know me very well so he doubted I could. After a few hand to hand tricks he got what I meant and said no more.

Our crew is all together they are a swell bunch of fellows, we took our first flight in a B 29 the other day. It is a honey, really rides smooth, a lot smoother than the B 17 or 24 and a hell of a lot better & there's no comparison in the speed or even bomb load. The engineer is really a busy fellow. We fly again Sunday each mission is around 7 hours and one of them will be 16 hours.

I was in the gym the other day and I felt pretty good so I thought I'd go in high weights so I started at 280, 290, 300, 315, 320, then I hit 325. I think I can beat that next time I try as it went up pretty easy.

I met a cute girl in Kansas City while I stopped over there for a couple of hours. Talk about a build and pretty, she was swell. I even hated to leave there, strange all we did was talk. She went with me to the train and said as I left I sure enjoyed talking with you and I hope I hear from you and see you again. She loves me! I met her through S & H magazine. That is she had just bought a copy when I went to purchase one. She works out with a skip rope and other exercises. She wants to work out with me, can you beat that.

I sure have a good A.C. & the whole crew is pretty good our CFC gunner is really a good boxer won a lot of first place's and has never lost a fight.

He fought in the golden gloves. I sure do have fun nailing him. He can't get over it. It sure makes him mad for me to just take him down when ever I want to but he is getting over it.

Some guys bet me a silver bracelet that I couldn't walk up and down a flight of stairs on my hands. I won the bracelet.

I got to see my sister Verda her husband Roy Watkins is stationed here. I got to take her on board a B 29.

We were flying at 25,000 feet on the 20th when we blew a cylinder. We feathered the engine number one and were going back to Clovis when # 4 engine really started to throw oil so we landed at Rosewell. While we were waiting for them to change engines I went to the gym and here is the good news. They had dumbbells there solid 5# 10# 40# 60# 100#. They only had one 60# so I took the two 40#. They might even be heaver than 40#. I took them back to the plane. We left the B 29 there and took a B 17 home. So now every night I am going to work out. I wish I'd of had a wrench along I could have gotten some swell cables.

It is windy today 40 MPH with gusts of 60 MPH. The sand is sure blowing this is a heck of a place. But I guess I can take it a little longer as it won't be long now till I'll be shipping and going to staging then over seas.

Had a great trip over to Hawaii. We were there for three days. I was in town two days. All I saw were sailors all over the place. I went surfing and saw the best places, parks, and birds. When we left there we went to Kaualjalein Island for refueling and remained over night. Then we left for guess where? We have good weather here nice and hot I've been swimming two times already & not a bad beach a few corals, sharp shells, and so on I'm just a little red now.

I climbed a palm tree and got a big coconut. By the time I finished all my clothes were wet from sweat, in other words it is hotter than hell.

Melvin's last letter was dated 12 May 1945. Melvin died 25 May 1945

Melvin purchased some drinking glasses that he sent home to his mother. They had hula girls on them. She opened the package and put then in her china cupboard without using them. Years later a grandson Larry Coulson was examining them when he discovered that from the inside they were rather naked hula dancers. Melvin's mother was very surprised that he would play such a trick on her but she laughed as hard as the rest of us.

The above material was compiled by Joyce L. C. Otterstrom, niece of Sgt Melvin J. Howard.

Kobler Crew Main Page
61st Squadron Crew Index
Photos & Text Source: Joyce Otterstrom, Niece; Civilian Photo courtesy of Reed & Patty Howard