In December, 1943, the crew was assigned to England just five months after the 392nd BG was deployed, and wound up at the 579th Bomb Squadron of the 392nd Bomb Group at Wendling Air Station. On their first mission into Germany, they were awarded the Presidential Citation and Dallas earned the respect of his crew and base commander when he landed on the runway in his B24 Sweet Chariot with the nose wheel shot off. It was understood that you had to be tough and on the ball if you wanted to fly with the Books Crew, but that's the way the crew wanted.
Books and his crew went on to fly 6 more missions, in 5 different aircraft. On 17 March 1044, the 579th acquired a new aircraft. The next day, on the Books crew's 8th mission, the aircraft, now dubbed "Old Glory," flew its first mission and last mission.
The 392nd Bomb Group put up 28 aircraft for the raid, 4 aborted for mechanical difficulties, 2 others were lost in a mid-air collision over France and 14 shot-down with another 9 damaged. That mission had the greatest loss of any mission flown with the 392nd B.G.
The target was the Dornier Aircraft Assembly Plant at Friedrichshafen. Flak was extremely heavy over the target, and as the aircraft bombed, they were attacked by approximately 75 enemy fighters. Everyone was reduced to fighting for survival, so reports were sketchy at best. After dropping its bombs, the Books' aircraft was under attack by a pack of up to 80 fighters 80 miles from the target. Then a round hit the oxygen tank that exploded and blew S/Sgt Strickler out of the aircraft.
Strickler was soon captured by a German soldier, home on leave and was taken to the local Inn, for interrogation. He was given a beer by the innkeeper, but the atmosphere soon changed, when locals turned up.Colonel Keilman in charge of the mission stated he saw Lt. Book's aircraft with a fire on the flight deck, at low altitude, but apparently under control.
The aircraft crashed near the village of Hardt, on the German-Swiss border. German accounts state that 9 bodies were recovered, with 3 badly burned.
The 9 bodies were later taken by horse drawn wagon and placed outside the village fire station. The watches on the dead airmen were still running and the uniforms were intact. Three of the badly burnt bodies were undentifiable. Strickler agreed to visit the crashsite, to identify his crew members and was later taken to a p.o.w hospital at Rottweil.
The POW Strickler made 10, which accounted for the crew. The Germans buried the bodies in the cemetery at Locherhof on March 21, 1944. Later, Graves Registration moved all bodies to the American Military Cemetery at St. Alvord, France. Then eventually the bodies were returned to the U.S.
Read Col. Myron Keilman's account of the mission here
1st Lt. Dallas O. Books was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on February 3, 1919, the son of Fire Chief Oliver and Mrs Oliver Books, brother of Duane. His wife Gratia Owen Books and son Robert Dallas Books, age 2, resided with her parents at Durand. He graduated from Eau Claire High School and the Eau Claire State Teachers College.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940 and entered aviation training. His flight training took him to Muskogee, Oklahoma and Randolph Field, Texas. He graduated and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, with pilot wings, in June, 1941 at Kelly Field, Texas.
Books was assigned to coastal patrol duty on the East Coast, but then was selected as an A-20 instructor. He attended B-25 school in South Carolina, and qualified to fly a B-17 in Florida. He then underwent intensive training as a B-24 pilot at Clovis and Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was said of him that he could fly any aircraft in the Army Air Corps' inventory.
In December, 1943, he was assigned to England, and wound up at the 579th Bomb Squadron of the 392nd Bomb Group at Wendling Air Station. A crew was assembled, and on his first mission, he managed to crash-land his aircraft at the base after German fighters had shot the nose gear assembly off.
He and his crew went on to fly 6 more missions, in 5 different aircraft. The 579th acquired a new aircraft, and Books became the pilot. The next day, on the crew's 8th mission, the aircraft was shot down by German fighters.
Lt. Books is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. His death on 18 March 1944 was surely a shock to his family, community, and country. Over 75 years later he is still missed by his family.
2nd Lt. Harry E. Gray, age 23, born 2 June 1920; Osborne, Kansas; died 18 March 1944; burial Osborne Cemetery.
Harry had made eight missions over Germany, including the Berlin raid on 6 March 1944. He was decorated for meritorous service, receiving the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Cluster. He left for overseas duty the latter part of December 1943. He entered the service in October of 1942, He graduated from Bethany College and had taught school for one year before he was called to the services of his country.
He had a wife, Mary Ella Christian Grey, and small daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who lived in Lindsborg. His parents Mr. and Mrs Herman Gray lived 4 miles north of the city of Osborne. He had three older brothers Lloyd, Glenn and Harold, and three older sisters, Florence, Evelyn and Mary Louise.
He was a faithful and dependable citizen, a young man of good habits who improved with every opportunity. He attended the Christian Church and the Hi-Y. Then came the call to service for his country. As we think of Harry Gray, we will be better builders.
Capt. John E. Slowik, Hartford, Connecticut, age 26; born 28 July 1917; died 18 March 1944; burial Mt. St. Benedict Cemetery.
John Slowik was the navigator on the Books plane, 18 March, 1944, flying in the deputy lead position.
John was one of the outstanding swimmers at Hartford High and in Trinity College aquatic history, and was one of the most popular members of the student body in his days at the high school and at Trinity. The dashes and the backstroke were his best events when he was swimming. Rated one of the best backstrokers in the East, he hung up an unofficial record for the 150-yard event.
He graduated from Trinity College in 1939 and was an engineer with the state highway department prior to entering the service in July of 1941. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs John Slowik and had two sisters, Mrs. Genevieve Spirito of Florida and Mrs. Katherine Bowers of Minnesota. John was a fine sportsman. His death was hard-felt by a host of friends. His bunkmate at Wendling, England, Bill Cetin of Sturtevant, WI. said of him, "John was a very wonderful person and it was an honor to know him." John Slowik's diary
S/Sgt. Clifford T. Porter, Bombardier; Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, died 18 March 1944; burial, group burial with three other crew members at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery," , St Louis, Missouri.
Clifford entered the service at Renton Washington, in January of 1943 and received his training at Denver Colorado, Laredo, Texas, and Alamagordo, N.M. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Porter, of Dakotah Beach. No other info is available at this time.
S/Sgt. Everette N. Morris, nickname "Jim," age 22, born 24 March 1921, died 18 March 1944; burial First Methodist Church Cemetery, Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania.
Everette Morris left the US in December of 1943 for England. En route he met his cousin Pvt. Roger Morris in Brazil, and they were privileged to spend Christmas Day together.
He had written home that he had completed several bombing missions over Germany, including Gotha on 24 Feb 44 and a Berlin target, Genshagen, on 6 March 44.
He was a graduate of the Fawn Township Vocational High School, Class of 1938, attended Albright College and took a two year course at Temple University Pre-Law School. Before his enlistment, he was employed at Port Deposit, MD, and prior to that, he was a member of the editorial staff of The Gazette and Daily, in York.
Surviving were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. Everett Morris and his wife Mrs. Sara Anderson Morris, a sister, Mrs. Dale Marsteller, New Park, and two brothers, Rolland and Russell, both of Fawn Grove. In one of his last letters home Jim told his family, "It is going to take more that bond buyers and flag worshipers to do the job and it isn't over yet. We hope just as you do that it is near the end, but how can anyone tell."
T/Sgt. George E. Slack, age 20, born 15 May 1924, Woburn, Mass.; died 18 March 1944; burial Woodbrook Cemetery;
George Slack, was born in England, on May 15, 1924. He graduated from the Woburn High School in 1942. Before entering the service he was employed at the General Ship and Engine Works in East Boston. He was active in the affairs of the young people at the North Congregational Church and was President of the Senior Christian Endeavor.
In September of 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and received his basic training at New Orleans, LA. Later he trained at the Technical Radio School in Chicago, Ill. His final training was at Alamogordo, New Mexico. He then left for overseas and was stationed in England. He was awarded the purple heart and the Presidential Citation. George was survived by his mother Mrs. Alice G. Slack, four brothers Robert, Roger, Raymond, and Wilfred and a sister, Greta. George's nickname was "Red".
S/SGT Chester C. Strickler of Reedley, California; born 5 August 1912; POW on 18 March 1944; died 17 May 1998, Age 85. Graveside services held on 20 May 1998 at Parlier District Cemetery. Chester's nickname was "Chet."
Chet Strickler was the only survivor of the Books Crew, When the last wave of fighters came through the formation, a round hit one of the oxygen tanks next to his head; the tank exploded and pushed him out the right waist window. That was the last time he ever saw his crew.
In a letter to Everette Morris's mother Strickler wrote. "The name of our ship was 'Old Glory.' We just got the new ship that morning of the day we were shot down; so we gave it a name before we took off. That was the first raid for that ship. We had been flying different planes. It was about 3:15 when the ship blew up. I remember the time when I hit land very well. I can tell you that God was with with me every second of that hell in the air, and I can assure you that every man in that ship was fighting to the last split second, fighting to the end." July 29, 1945...
Norman Willig was a replacement gunner on the Books Crew, 18, Mar 44.
S/Sgt. Norman K. Willig, age 19; born 23 Dec 1924, Salem, Oregon; died 18 Mar 1944; burial Belcrest Cemetery.
He was survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Fred Buckner both of Salem, a grandmother Mrs. George Willig, three brothers Sgt. Leroy Willig of Fairbanks Alaska, Capt. Lester Willig of Ft. Eustis, Va. and Phillip Willig.
In one of his last letters home, he sent his mother $150.00 he won playing poker at the Wendling Base in England. He also wrote, "You know it isn't bad enough that the Germans shoot at me, these damn medics chase me all over this island (England) trying to shoot me too and that damn needle looks a foot long." Your loving son Norman. P.S. Could you get ahold of a pen and send it to me. This one is about shot...."
Sgt. Robert G. Hampton, Chattanooga, TN; died 18 March 1944, burial in group with three other crew members at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, Missouri.
"Glenn", as he was known, was the son of Camuel A. and Dora Y. Hampton and brother of Mary Jo Hampton (Zorn) and Sue Hampton (Garrett). He was an honor graduate of Central High School in Chattanooga, TN and attended the University of Chattanooga for a short period. Prior to his military service, he was employed as a draftsman at Combustion Engineering. He entered the military at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. and trained at Alamogordo, New Mexico. After finishing his training, just prior to being assigned to England, he had an emergency appendectomy which prevented him from taking leave before leaving for England. He preferred to stay with his group. He was a very loyal and dedicated young man.
S/Sgt. Daniel C. Jones, age 21; born 1 Nov. 1923; died 18 March 1944; burial, Calvary Cemetery, Youngstown, Ohio.
Daniel Jones entered the army 17 Jan, 1941. He trained at Charlotte, NC, McDill Field in Florida, and in California. He was the son of Daniel and Florence Jones.
He attended South High School and was a member of St. Patricks Church. Daniel was the oldest child in his family and had four brothers Thomas, Robert, John and Ralph and four sisters Jane, Florence, Rachael Ann and Mary Lou, all of Youngstown. He had been on 8 combat missions. The mission of March 18 was his first flight with the Books Crew. Daniel was well known in the 579th but had no permanent crew. He was trained as an aerial gunner in all positions and was made available to other crews when needed. On his A2 jacket, his name tag read, "I am available Jones".