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Lifetime Experiences: With the Headquarters of 2nd Air Division in Norwich

by raymond strong

Contributed by 
raymond strong
People in story: 
raymond strong
Location of story: 
In South Bend, Indiana, and at the HQ. 2nd Air Division in Norwich, England, and at the University of North Carolina.ivision
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 May 2004

I was born on October 8th, 1919, on a farm in Pulaski County, Indiana. I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and graduated from High School In January 1938.This time was during the great depression in the US. However, I was lucky in that I skipped one half of the 4th grade and thus graduated a semester early. I was lucky in that when I was 16 years old, I got a job in the railroad station in South Bend. I worked in the snack bar and news stand in the passenger terminal. I was the only employee from 4 until 11 pm. I was paid $1 a night and got all I could eat. I held this job for 4 years - my last two years in high school and the two years after. In the spring of 1938, one afternoon, while helping my father repair and old Essex automobile, a man, dressed in a suit and tie, walked into the back yard and asked me my name. When I told him, he asked me to consider coming downtown and enrolling in the South Bend College of Commerce. I told him that I didn't have any money and besides no one in my family ever went to a college. He said that he knew that I had a little job and they would let me pay by the week or the month. (By that time I was making $12 a week and got saturday night off!) At the urging of my mother, I did this. I would get up in the morning and go down town and attend classes at the South Bend College of Commerce and a four o'clock I would go to the railroad station and work until 11pm. It was close to midnight when I got home. The College of Commerce was privately owned and was not approved by any accrediting agency. I did this for 18 months - taking accounting, business law, English, and, among otheer courses, I was trained to type. In those days, the only typewriters were the Manual Underwood and Royal. Ilearned to be quite proficient on the typewriter. I also took a course in Gregg Shorthand. There were very few trained male secretaries in those days. Upon graduation, I got a job as secretary to the Chief Research Engineer at Bendix Aviation that had a factory in South Bend. By the Spring of 1941 I was making $50 a month and enjoying the work. But It wasn't long before I received notice that my number had come up and that I would be drafted for one year of service in the U.S. Army.. In August, theytook a bus load of us down to Fort MacPherson in Indianapolis and swore us in. I was among a group of privates that were sent to a base near Wichita Falls, Texas. We were taking our basic training when one day, the 1st Sergeant come out to the muddy drill field and said for me to report to the Captain. I reported and the Captain said that he had my record and it said that I could type. Hewanted to know if that was true and I said yes it was. He set me down to an old Underwood and gove me something to copy. In a very short time, I completed it and he then asked me if it was true that I could take shorthand. I said yes and hep roceeded to dictate a short letter to me. I completed this and gave it to him. He looked at it and hollered for the 1st Sergeant. He said to him "Pvt. Strong has just completed his basic training and I want him here in this office every day from now on." Things were going along just fine. Then came December 7th and Pearl Harbour. In the Spring of 1942 I was sent to Miami Beach, Florida, to attend Officer Candidate School. I had reached the rank of Staff Sergeant while at Shepard Field. I graduated from OCS in the late summer of 1942 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. .About 100 of us new 2nd Lieutenants were sent to New York to await transportation overseas - destination unknown. In two or three weeks we were loaded onto a Puerta Rican banana boat and started out. We were alone - not in a convoy. We traveled the north atlantic route and the weather was very rough. But we finally made port at Liverpool, England. I was seasick the whole trip and barely able to drag my gear off the boat and over to a train. After a long train ride to London, we were pcked up by some large army trucks and taken out to 8th Air Force headquarters near London.
They put 11 of us on one of those big trucks and sent us on a cold,a night ride to an RAF base on the edge of Norwich. This began my career with the Headquarters of the 2nd Air Division. We were quartered in nice brick houses with hot water and steam heat and not far from the nice Officers Mess. It was early October, 1942, and there were very few Americans in or around Norwich. In fact, there were very few Brittish men around because they were all in the service of their country and many were overseas. This meant that there were many pretty, young English lassies around who had not had any attention recently. We who had just arrived and those that had been there just a few weeks felt that it was our duty to give them some entertainment. Of course, as the bomb groups began to arrive with about 3000 men on each base, the competition became much greater.
There were three Air Divisions in the Eighth Air Force. Two of them, the first and third divisions flew B-17 bombers. The Second Air Division flew B-24 bombers. Each Air Division was scheduled to have 15 bomber groups plus a HQ.. and attached service & supply organizations. The Second Air Division and its bomb groups and HQ. & service & supply units were stationed closer to Norwich, for the most part, than those of the other two Divisions. Thus with each Division having about 50,000 people when all 15 bomb groups had arrived A few days ater I arrived at Division Headquarters, I was summoned to the office of the Personnel Officer. He stated that he had my record and it said that I could type and take shorthand and he wanted to know if that was t rue. I said that, yes, I could type and take shorthand. He said "Well, we are just getting organized over here and we are short of a lot of people that we need. Over in the Command Section, which is located about a mile away, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Major Frederick Bryan, has no staff to help him. I know that I amasking you to do something that a corporal or sergeant would normally do, but would you go over there and see if you can help Major Bryan." I said sure, I would be glad to." So you can see that this is another instance of how being able to type helped me to learn and to progress in the organization. My duties started out to just keep up to date the progress chart on each of our 15 bomb groups whose station and runways, and quarters & other things that needed to be finished so that we could station a bomb group at it. As I learned more and as the bomb groups kept arriving, I was given the job of setting up and operating the Battle Casualty Section for our Division. This meant gathering from all of the bomb groups the records of those that were KIA, MIA, wounded, in hospitals, etc. We flew our first mission on November 7th, 1942. The casualties were very high in 1942 and in 1943. But as the war went on, the bombers became better equipped and the crews better trained. But the arrival of more fighter planes and especially the arrival of the P-51 that was able to protect the bombers was significant. The arrival of the Norden bombsight caused the bombing accuracy to improve greatly
Just before Christmas in 1943, all of the Headquarters personnel and all of its functions were move out to Ketteringham Hall, The Command Section, Operstions and Intelligence sections were moved into the Hall itself. But dozens of various sized nissen huts were erected all around the hall for offices, living quarters, mess halls, etc. The space that we had used at Horsham St. Faith, the RAF base, was assigned to the 458th Bomb Group and, with a lengthened runway, was used as a bomber base.
It was very satisfying to watch the improvement of all the operations of the Bomb Groups of the Second Air Division . I was promoted to 1st Lt., Captain, and finally to Major and was made Assistant Adjutant General of the Second Air Divisiion. I t was a very interesting experience and i learned a lot working with many talented men and women. Oh yes, in the summer of 1943 we received our first WAC's. We got about 150 ladies of all kinds of talent.. We got stenographers, linotype operaters, truck drivers, and many other things that we needed. Later, we got another shipment of ladies and at top strength we had almost 300. This made many things run a whole lot easier than before.
When the war was over, after 32 months with the 2nd Air Division, I was sent home with a 30 day leave and the prospect of duty in the Far East. Fortunately, that was was over while I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota awaiting shipment.
While I was in Sioux Falls, and partying with my good friend Harvey Elliott, He suggested that I should go to college. I said that no one in my family had ever gone to a real college. But he kept after me and helped me file an application to the University of North Carolina. He was a graduate of UNC, Class of "38. When I got home late in October 1945, I had a letter from the University of North Carolina stating that if I could get to Chapel Hill by November 1, I could enter a class that was beginning on that date. I did not even unpack. I got on a train and after 2 or 3 days, I arrived in Durham, N. C. and took a bus the last 10 miles to Chapel Hill. I graduated in March 1948. But after I had been in Chapel a few weeks, I realized that the G.I.Bill was great, it wasn't quite enough to pay all my expenses. Soneone suggested that I go up to see Mr. Edwin Lanier, the Student Aid Officer. I went to see Mr. Lanier and he said that maybe could find something for me to do on campus. He asked me what I could do. And I quickly said that I could type! And that I could take shorthand! He hesitated and said that maybe could find something for me right here in his office. I said that I had to go to class but I could come up to his office when I was not in class and do whatever he wanted done. He said not to worry. He would line up the work and I could do it whenever I could. And for me to keep track of the hours and he would pay me forty cents an an hour. Ed was also Director of Central Records and I did a lot of that kind of work for him. I went back to South Bend and worked for several months with Standard Oil Co. I did not like selling and in the Spring of 1949 I called Mr. Lanier and told him that I wanted to come back to Chapel Hill and go to gtaduate school. I asked him if he could find some work for me. Hsaid that I could work for him again and hewould pay me $1 an hour. Iwent back to Chapel Hill and the Chancellor called Mr. Lanier and told him that he could put me on the full time staff and pay me $300 a month. I stayed in Grauate School in Economics for a while but I got more interested in the administrative duties I had asumed for the University. I gave up graduate school, married a Chapel Hill Girl, and eventually became the University Registrar. I retired in 1985 but worked part time for Dr. Harold Wallace, one of the Vice Chancelors for the next 10 years.

I am a charter member of the Second Air Division Association. That is another story that perhaps I will find time to write sometime down the road.

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Message 1 - Lifetime Experiences

Posted on: 05 May 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Welcome to the site. You have kicked off with a real cracker of a story. I enjoyed every word of it and I look forward to reading a lot more.

Best wishes,


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