Armed with the box of information that our grandmother received as a result of her constant letter writing to the US Army, my cousin Jim and I proceeded to find the 392nd Bomb Group contact Clifford Peterson, who was also shot down on March 18, 1944. A great relationship developed with Cliff, and, as a result, Jim and I joined the 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association and attended our first 392nd Reunion in September of 1991.
The 392nd Veterans made Cousin Jim and I feel at home, and we became part of the group. We have attended many reunions of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society and the Second Air Division Association. At the reunions we constantly heard, “ You boys are too young for WWII. Did your father fly in the war?” We never missed a chance to tell the story. Many knew who Jim and I were, the Books Crew boys, and nephews of S/Sgt. Everette Morris.
Every reunion since 1991 has been a memorable experience; however, there is one that I will not soon forget. Before my last research trip in Germany in 1996, I spoke to Ernie Barber, who is the 392nd Group's archivist. During the war he was crew chief for several 392nd aircraft. One of the ships named “Hard To Get” was shot down on the Friedrichshafen mission and crashed near the Books Crew ship in Hardt, Germany.
Knowing that I was planning a research trip to the Black Forest, Ernie called me on the phone before I left. He said in that conversation, “Bring me back a piece of my plane Jim." I responded, “Sure Ernie, not a problem." I really didn’t think we would find any wreckage, but one evening while at the home of Carsten Kohlman (my German counterpart), a man came to visit with a Vickers Control Valve taken from the crash site of “Hard To Get."
That valve was presented to Ernie at the 392nd Stand Alone Reunion in Orlando on February 23, 1997. It was an emotional moment, made even more special by the attendance of Bill Davis, son of Sgt. Roy Davis, Flight Engineer on “Hard To Get."
Also in attendance was a combat veteran of the March 18 raid on Friedrichshaften, Jim Muldoon. I had alway wanted to meet him, and finally we were able to sit down and talk about his memories about that day. As he looked through some of my research materials on the raid, we talked, and in one of his statements that I will not forget, he said, “You know, looking at this brings back memories; you don’t think about what happened to those men that didn’t make it after the mission was over, but I can remember looking out the window and seeing B24’s explode in flames and just disappear."
I had been told that Jim Muldoon was a man of few words, and when I asked him to write something in my Liberators of Wendling book, he paused a minute and wrote, "To Jim, from a survivor, Jim Muldoon."
Shortly thereafter, we began searching the National Archives for anything and everything we could get our hands on concerning the March 18th Mission. All the information was photocopied, studied, and documented. On one of our trips a major find came at the Archives in Suitland, Maryland just before the big transfer of materials to College Park, the new facility. We found a file that contained the original un-translated German documents about the plane crash, the dog tags of several Books Crew members, plus a notebook that Uncle Jim had when he was killed. We had no idea that these items were available or that they even existed. Finally, we had something tangible and personal. If only our grandmother had been still alive to share in this.
We also started a yearly trip to Geneseo, New York home of the National War Planes Museum and large WWII Airshow, to find out about the planes and the men that flew the missions. What was this bomber called the B24 Liberator that our uncle was flying in when he was killed? We needed to find out.