September 24, 2012 Rotogram: 12

Mississippi National Guard

Adjutant General Leon Collins, commander of Mississippi’s Army and Air National Guards, reports on the more than 12,000 strong force.

Next Week: Fall Social

Instead of the weekly lunch meeting, we will meet in the evening for fellowship flavored with community service. Social hour begins at 5:30 with dinner at 6:30.

Help Raise the Roof

At the fall social, the second annual balloon golf ball drop and bingo will raise money for a Habitat for Humanity roof. Our goal this year is to raise somewhere around $3,000.

As with last year, Bobby Crosland’s friend from Tupelo will hoist a bucket of tagged golf balls in his hot air balloon over the driving ranging. The three balls that drop closest to the hole win a cash prize.

Be sure to reserve your golf balls and sign up for the dinner on the sheet on your lunch table today.

GSE to Australia

The District 6820 Group Study Exchange team leaves for Australia on October 4. Clad in her team’s green, Katie Frantes, our representative, briefly outlined her expectations.

As Mississippi State University’s coordinator of the Office of International Education, she is looking forward to visiting five Down Under universities. In particular, she hopes to lay the groundwork for a direct exchange for MSU in Canberra, New South Wales.

She and her team will stay over for additional week’s travel.

Frantes works with inbound and outbound exchange students, has been an English as a second language teacher, and has taught in France and Indonesia.

GSE is a cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early stages of their careers.


The Board of Directors accepted the resignations of Jim McReynolds, Lee Beck and Jack Riekhof.

 For the Record—September 17

Invocation and Pledge:     Nancy Walsh

Attendance:                                     50.4%

Present — 92 (29 exempt, 1 honorary)

Absent — 89 (17 exempt, 10 honorary)

Guests: Jimmy McCluskey of Waco, Tex., was our visiting Rotarian. Guests of members were Ann Chiles of Frank Chiles, Daniel Smith of Mike Cayson, Mike White of Eddie Keith, Nathan Moore of John Rush, and Straton Karatassos of Roy Ruby. Guests of the Club were Katie Frantes, outbound GSE member, and Giulia Martinoli, Rotary Youth Exchange student.

Flying Boxcars and 18-year-old Sergeants at War

September 17 — At the age of 16, John Fraiser left Greenwood for Mississippi State College. At 17, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. At 18, he was a staff sergeant, turret gunner, and armorer aboard a B-24 Liberator.

Flying out of San Giovanni, Italy, in the Foggia air fields complex, he was in the 742nd squadron of the 455th bomb group of 150 planes. In January of 1944, the “Vulgar Vultures” were part of the newly formed 15th Air Force assigned to attack petroleum production, airfields and support industries.

In the fall of 1943, the Allied invasion of Italy from North Africa had established a foothold in what Winston Churchill called the soft underbelly of the Axis. The primary air war strategy was to weaken Germany’s ability to defend its possessions by air. Target number one was the Romanian Ploesti oil fields, producing more than a third of all Axis oil supplies.

On the first three raids, the 15th Air Force lost 1,351 crewmen, about a third of its force.

“Ours was always a strategic bombing of specific targets by day as opposed to blanket night time bombing by the RAF,” said Fraiser. “Churchill wanted the civilian population to get a taste of what was happening in England.”

With a short body and long wing span, the B-24 was nicknamed the “Flying Boxcar” or “Flying Mack Truck.” Its fabled Davis wing was made for high speed, not for landing maneuverability.

Controlled by flaps, the Liberator had a glide angle that was “right angle to the ground” said Fraiser. “Essentially, instead of landing we made a controlled crash at 110 to 120 miles per hour as the pilot cut the engines right above the ground.”

This contrasted with the B-17 which could cut its engines over the mainland and glide across the English Channel. However, the Flying Boxcar could carry almost twice the bomb load of a Flying Fortress.

Squadrons usually bombed at between 22,000 and 25,000 feet. As the armorer, Fraiser pulled pins to ready the bombs. He had to replace them if they did not drop. When bombs got stuck, crews had to shake them loose over the Adriatic.

“For insurance, we got a hacksaw before we left the states,” said Fraiser. “Only the engineer or ‘yours truly’ could put hands on it.”

The nine member crew comprised a pilot, co-pilot, engineer/waist gunner, turret gunner/armorer, navigator/bombardier, radio man/waist gunner, ball gunner, tail gunner, and nose gunner. Each member was equipped with an oxygen mask, Mae West life vest, and flak helmet.

At 20,000 feet, they had to avoid oxygen depletion and frostbite. Fraiser noted that, one time, his moustache froze to his oxygen mask.

A lead plane, two on the side, one below, and two in the back formed a squadron. At the target they went in single file, dropped bombs and got out as quickly as possible.

Fraiser showed a picture of the unit’s 25 year-old lieutenant colonel’s fly-by as he finished his last mission. Buzzing the squadron at low altitude, he put out every fire in every tent.

And, speaking of tents, he showed his crew’s mascot, George the North African dog. As the fifth crew to have George, they trained him to retrieve the toilet paper and carry it to the “outdoor facilities.”

B-24 Liberator

  • B-24Wing span: 110 ft.
  • Fuselage: 18 ft. by 66 ft.
  • Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney 1250 h.p. turbo supercharged
  • Maximum weight: 60,000 lbs.
    • without load 32,505 lbs.
  • Top speed rating: 300 m.p.h.
  • Range: 2,800 mi.
  • Ceiling: 30,000 ft.
  • Bomb bay capacity: 8,000 lb.
    •   normal load 8-500 lb. RDX or 5-1,000 lb. RDX
  • Fifty caliber machine guns: 10
  • Est. cost 1944: $200,000+
  • More than 18,500 used in WWII
  • Flew more missions, dropped more bombs, destroyed more targets than any WWII aircraft.

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