39th Bomb Group (VH)

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"City of New Bern" ("Strato Wolf") - B-29 # Unknown
"Strato Wolf II" - B-29 # 44-69898

First Aircraft of P-21
Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Hill, RG

Standing L to R
M/Sgt Joseph W. Glezman Flight Engineer 
T/Sgt Charles F. Sauermelch, Jr. CFC Gunner
S/Sgt Benjamin F. Hill Right Gunner
Sgt Sherburne P. Hill* Left Gunner
S/Sgt Richard D. Henkle Tail Gunner
T/Sgt Frank J. Policastro Radio Operator
Kneeling L to R:
1st Lt  Donald L. Erb Navigator
1st Lt  Raymond E. Nation Bombardier
Capt Woodland M. Styron  Airplane Commander 
1st Lt  Rolla P. Knibbe Pilot
1st Lt Leo J. Laux Radar Observer

*Dec 2001 - Ben Hill, RG notified us that Sgt John I. Saarinen replaced Sherburne Hill as Left Gunner

 Crew 22 
Honor Roll
M/Sgt Joseph W. Glezman
Flight Engineer
16 November 1976
1st Lt Rolla P. Knibbe
August 1985
1st Lt Leo J. Laux
Radar Observer
02 September 1996
Capt Woodland M. Styron
Airplane Commander
30 October 2002
T/Sgt Frank J. Policastro
Radio Operator
03 December 2002
S/Sgt Benjamin F. Hill
Right Gunner
31 October 2003
S/Sgt Theron W. Worsham
Ground Crew Chief
25 April 1993
Sgt John I. Saarinen
Right Gunner
06 June 2012
T/Sgt Charles F. Sauermelch, Jr.
Left Gunner
08 April 2014


24 May 2015: Added Saarenin and Sauermelch to Crew Honor Roll.

The Status of Donald Erb and Richard D. Henkle are unknown at this time.

8 Nov 2007 - Added photo of Crew 22's first B-29 "City of New Bern" to this crew's 3rd Mission Page

July 13, 1944 found 195 "combat crewmen" shipped to Alamogordo, New Mexico for training. These orders did not include officers. We, enlisted men, were being trained, as were the officers. The planes we flew were painted olive drab and I was told that they were the factory prototypes, We were the test crews. Since the rush was on to get the B-29's into combat, they were working the bugs out as we flew. 

A factor representative accompanied each flight, clip board and all. It was an adventure. The engines always overheated. This was especially true as we lined up on the ramp waiting for our turn for take-off. Many times' cylinder head temperature reached redline when full power was applied for take-off. More than one plane never got more than 50 feet off the ground.

The scenario as I understand it went like this
Hot engine: Open cowl flaps
Cowling flaps too large Increased resistance, slower speed
Throttle back to cool engines Not advised at 50 feet 

More than one aluminum bird pancaked in the desert sand. No harm done! Just jack up the plane, lower the wheels, tow her to a hanger, replace all four props, check her over and she was flying the next day. 

It was at this base that we learned much of the craft of being a crewmember of a B-29. I took electrical specialist as my second MOS. I'm sure happy they never needed me because I really never felt adequate in that role. 

The air base, I was told, had been originally built for the British. It was built in a triangle, the triangle being formed by three runways that almost touched at each corner. The rest of the base was spread all around the sides of the runways. You needed a bus to go anywhere. The swimming pool is where most of us went as often as we could. Not only was the cool water a needed respite in the desert but the WACS went swimming also in the afternoon. In fact, their barracks were next to the pool area and the PX. 

The town of Alamogordo was not much to speak of but one tavern in town made the best whiskey sours I ever tasted. It was the heat maybe; anything would have tasted good. Three-day passes were good for a bus trip up into the mountains. Get a motel room and rent a cow pony and ride all over the place. I loved it but had a hard time finding guys that would rather ride horses than chase skirts and get bombed. 

Crew 21 Flight A through Crew 37 Flight C arrived at Smoky Hill Army Air Base on November 15, 1944. We arrived in crew assignments, but we had never met each other until then. First was phase training and learning to do our combat jobs properly and I loved it. Night flying included many "touch and go's" (hits and gits), cross country navigation, round robin flights, bombing runs, camera target practice and live ammunition when we had convinced our instructors that we wouldn't shoot down the plane flying on our wing. 

When pilots first started doing night take-offs, many of them were rotating too steeply and were dragging the tailskid (that's why they Were put! r guess). The skid sparks at night annoyed the flight instructors so they decided to paint the skids with white paint. Any pilot who left his mark on the runway had to buy drinks for the other pilots flying that night, Styron never bought a drink so he informed us!

Christmas of 1944 brought my wife of 6 months to visit me in Salina, Kansas. We were scheduled for a round robin mission to Seattle, Washington ion her first day in town. Before we had gone far, we began to lose oil in one engine (so what's new about that?) and eventually had to feather it. Not much later we lost another one Capt. Styron was for continuing. but the engineer convinced him that the remaining two were overheating enough to get your attention. We made an emergency landing at what we thought was an active air base on the navigational charts. We communicated with the tower after we laneded, to learn we landed at a decommissioned field with only a skeleton crew maintenance crew. The radio tower we had talked to was some 50 miles away. We couldn't take off on two engines so the Army Air Corps sent a B-17 with a repair crew on board and tools and parts. My crewmates were thrilled at the prospect of a night in town. I wanted to go back to my bride. Our good Captain had the B-17 take me back that night and even gave me keys to his car He flew the mechanics back the next day.

61st Squadron Crew Index
Source: Information submitted by Sherburne P. Hill, Crew 22 and 3rd Photo Recon for
"History of the 39th Bomb Group"; Ben Hill, RG; Harry Hink, P-27, Pilot