S/Sgt. Wilbur L. Butler
Rayna, Ellen and Wilbur Butler - 1945
Wilbur by Boobie Trap
Butler, Dalsandro, Andy Deal & Earl Nall
Wilbur in 2000
Wilbur's 90th Birthday Cake
I have been asked by several relatives and friends to write
about my experience while serving in the Armed Services. As I have been giving
it thought perhaps I should start at the beginning. I was born in a farm house
of which my parents owned in Pennsylvania we called up on the hill. I was the
first of three siblings, the other two were girls, Luva and Roberta. Our
parents were Lawrence George Butler, and Lila May Erway Butler. Dad was born in
Asaph, Pennsylvania and as the family was large Dad somehow was brought to
the farm which he later bought. I do not know the whole story of how he got
from his family. I grew up a t a time when things were not as abundant as today
and life was a little more difficult in may ways, but as I recall it was
enjoyable most of the time, mostly because we made it that way. As I was born, December 2, 1919, I endured the depression years. I t was a small dairy farm and was
called upon to work at a young age to help my Dad care for the livestock, like
chickens, pigs, cattle and houses. I learned to milk by hand, the only at that
time, when it was difficult to hold the pail between my legs while milking the
cows. So many other farm duties that are laborious, like tilling the soil etc
my minds eye I see myself a small boy driving the horses behind the drag
tilling the soil.
My schooling was in Littler Marsh, first in a two room
school, at fifth grade a consoled school was built from which I graduated in
1938. During these years cash was in short supply and as you can guess I looked
for work that would give me money to spend. I worked at several short term
jobs, highway construction, a construction job at Wellsboro Corning Glass Co.,
operating a powdered milk machine in Middlebury which was 12 hour shifts. It
was a two man job, one to fire the boiler providing steam to the dryer that I
operated. My next job was working in The Market Basket store located in
Wellsboro. After a few months the supervisor told me he needed help in a Corning store and would I go there to work. I thought what would a farm boy do in the
city? I told my parents and my Mom said we have a cousin in Corning perhaps I
could stay with them. They were contacted and said to come down. The cousin
was, Leva Confer, her husband Howard and two children Helen and Lewis. I
enjoyed living with them.
Howard was a railroad engineer, for the New York Central.
After a few months in the store, with pay being $12.50 a week I paid Leva $6.00
and drove a car.
One day Howard said you can do better go over in town to the
Train Master's office, and tell him you want a job on the railroad. That I did,
he was Mr. P. M. Barrow. He said Lad look here two sheets of names, I think
it would be useless to add your name. I told Howard what Mr. Barrow said I would
not be getting on for a long time
.said lad look here two sheets full of names.
I think it would be useless to add your name. I told Howard I didn't have a
chance of getting a job. About two weeks later Howard told me to again go over
to see the Train Master. I told him I was just over there. He said, I sad go
over and tell Mr. Barrow you want a job on the railroad. So to be obedient I
did as was told feeling very foolish as I went into his office. Mr. Barrow
said, Butler, do you know Howard Confer? I said yes he is married to my cousin
and I am staying with them. He said, now Mr. Butler I will be needing you in a
couple of weeks, so be available. I found out it is who you know that can help.
I went to work on the railroad January 24, 1941, with pay more thane double
working first as a railroad brakeman and after a few years promoted to freight
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and our
Country was at war. Five of my boy friends decided we wanted to defend our
Country. We were to Elmira, NY to a recruiting office and enlisted in the Armed
Services. We were sent to Niagara Falls which was a delay in route to Jefferson
Barracks. There we would be going through basic training. From basic training
in Missouri, I was sent to Victorville, California, a pilot training airbase.
After arriving I was schooled in AM (aircraft mechanic matinees) for several
weeks. After finishing school I was assigned a single engine plane and a crew
so as to service and maintain it. I enjoyed my job and had a good crew.
In June I received news that my father was seriously ill. I
applied and received a furlough. By the time I got home he had passed away.
After returning to Victorville after some few months I was called into the
office and was told my Mother had sent a letter to the Government requesting my
release as she was left alone with a farm to care for. I was told if I
approved I would be transferred to the Army Reserved Corps. This was
accomplished and I went home to help Mom with the farm. After a few months I
received a notice I would loose my rights on the NYC railroad out of Corning if I did not sign up in 30 days. I was employed for a year on the RR before
enlisting in service. I did not want loose out on the RR, so we discussed what
to do with the farm. Mom said it best she sold it. Her brother Forida Erway
said he would buy it. This he did, but I felt very bad for what he gave Mother
was far too little.
I worked for a few months on the railroad and again was
called back to service. I was much in love with my school sweetheart and
decided its time we get married. Things were in a jumble, like leaving the RR,
marriage planes, and having to go to Maryland to meet with Army Officer to be
placed back in service. We were married January 29, 1942 in the Shortsville Baptist Church. Our honeymoon was a trip to Maryland by rail from Elmira. A night run and train filled with soldiers. Ellen sat on an aisle seat next to a
soldier that kept falling asleep, his head falling on Ellen, so it was on going
for Ellen to bump him awake. No seat for me so I sat on our luggage in the
I was again on the way back to serve in the army by way of
going to Miami Beach to go again through basic training, after which I was
assigned to the air Force and sent to Victorville, California. Part of that
story is above.
My training now was for being a member of a combat crew on a
B-24, flying on bombing missions in enemy territory. Training meant being
stationed at different Airfields for various instructions. One was in Georgia and in the meantime Ellen, my dear wife, gave birth to our first child, a girl we
named Rayna Kay. My dear Ellen brought baby Rayna, 12 weeks old, to Savannah so I could see me so I could see our daughter before being sent overseas. It must
have been somewhat trying for Ellen to travel alone by train with a baby, but
how thankful I was she did so I could see Rayna. At this point I should add
upon being discharged from service my dear Ellen gave birth to our second
child, a boy we named Barry Lawerance.
Now for the story of my service in
This is s continuing story of a great old war bird, B-24
bearing the name of Boobie Trap. She was pictured in our April 2005 edition of
Cottontails returning from a mission to Ploesti April 5, 1944. She was assigned to the following crew on our 4th mission, July 4, 1944. However she was the plane we flew on our very first mission June 5, 1944. Pilot, Lt. Thomas Feasel, Co-Pilot, Lt. Glen P. Stine, Bombardier Lt. Francis Johnny Byrne,
Navigator Lt. Joshua Fiero III, Radio operator Robert Massey, Engineer Curtis
Orwig, Armor gunner Andrew Deal, Tail Gunner James Cosenza, Ball Gunner Earl
Nall and 2nd Engineer and Gunner, Wilbur Butler. We were part of the
450th Bomb Group, 722nd Squadron. A great crew.
Boobie Trap number 41-29332 was to be our plane in combat
and take us on 17 of the 39 sorties it took to get in our 50 missions. We were
somewhat disappointed to get Boobie Trap after ferrying a brand new B-24 from
the States for she had been through the war, so to speak, and showed her battle
marks with numerous patched flak holes. We became very proud of that plane for
she got us back to our base in Manduria after each mission except one as Boobie
Trap made a forced landing at a C-47 and glider field north of Rome, more about that in the listing of missions we were called to fly against the enemy.
Since this is about the above crew experience flying bombing
missions with Boobie Trap, I'll list briefly, the date and mission from a few
notes I made.
June 5, 1944 mission Number 1, plane Boobie Trap, target Bologna marshaling yards. Saw enemy fighters in the area but did not attack, flak was
heavy and accurate, piercing cowl #4 engine and leading edge on wing inboard of
June 6 and 9 our crew flew missions in Passionate Witch.
June 10, 1944 sortie #4, on this date Boobie Trap was
assigned to our crew as our plane to fly in combat against the enemy. My notes
say she has to go for the rest of our missions if God is willing. Target Trieste, an oil refinery in northern Italy. An easy mission, we called it a milk run.
June 11, 1944 Boobie Trap off on another mission. Target Constant, Romania with 20, 250 pound bombs, another oil refinery. The old girl did not do
too well as a super charger boot blew out, could not keep our altitude or keep
up with the group. Turned back.
June 13, 1944 On our way again with Boobie Trap, target
engine assembly plant near Munich. Bomb load 5, 1000 pound bombs. ME-109's came after us but an escort of P-38's and P51's saved our necks. But flak
did get us pretty good.
June 16, 1944 Flew in Mail Call as Boobie Trap is our of
June 22, 1944 Another mission with Male Call. Flak is
light but accurate and after returning while I was inspecting the plane for
damage seeing a large hole in one of the engine cowlings caused a second look.
It was the head out of a 88 projectile with the letters J P S. The same
initials of co-pilot, Stine. I told Lt. Stine the Gerries are out to get you
for they even put your initials on their shells. He took it for a souvenir.
June 25th and 26th went on missions
but not with Boobie Trap.
June 30th, 1944 Boobie Trap is on line again.
Target, Zagreg, and Airdrome. The weather was extremely bad and old Boobie Trap
didn't do so good # 4 booster went out just before the target burning a hole
through the manifold. We were flying in # 4 position and one of the planes
being hit crossed in front of us narrowly missing us and almost knocked us out
of the air. It caused our plane to all but go all the way over and the gravity
pull pinned us to the side of the plane in what ever position you were in. No
way could we bail out. Praise the Lord, Tommy brought the plane under control
after swaying back and forth several times. Fuel pressure dropped and we had to
feather #2 engine. Gas had to be pumped out of #2 into tank #1. Was able then
to restart #2 engine.
July 2, 1944 Broke in a new plane. Target, Budapest Airdrome. Concerned about getting back as fuel transfer pumps did not work.
July 3, 1944 Boobie Trap is back. Target, Giurgiu oil storage in Rumania. Not a bad mission for us but it made me a little sick to
see two that were hit and blew up. Some crew members got out as I saw 5 chute
open some reported 5 or 7 chutes from another plane. Today makes 20 missions in
July 4, 1944 Our crew did not fly but our bombardier,
Frances Johnny Byrne, flew with another crew, Volk's crew. Johnny didn't want
to go and the ship # 177 went down. He is one swell guy and we will miss him
but somehow I feel by God's grace, the Lord willing, he will make it back. (My
JOHNNY DID MAKE IT BACK TO OUR BASE 63 DAYS
July 5, 1944 Boobie Trap goes to Toulon submarine pens.
Another long trip which caused us to sweat out our fuel supply. Some planes
landed at Corisca.
July 7, 1944 We again flew in a new ship which for some
reason we always disliked. All went well.
July 9, 1944 To Ploesti we go again, ship # 927, My Akin,
with a picture of a Jackass. A mission to bomb Ploesti is always bad news. Flak
disabled hydraulic system, AC system, making it impossible to operate
superchargers. Thanks of some feature that can be hand operated.
July 12, 1944 Boobie Trap doing her thing again. Target,
railroad bridge, Nice, France. Co-pilot for this mission was Capt. Stevens.
Weather bad. Four planes are missing.
July 21, 1944 Boobie Trap, target ball bearing plant, Germany. Had to trun back due to weather but we still encountered flak.
July 22, 1944 Boobie Trap goes to PLOESTI again and a
tough mission. Saw two Liberators go down, some of the crew bailed out before
the plane exploded. It was Boobie Trap's 50th mission. She has stood
the ravages of war quite well. Our crew was glad to have her as our bomb on 17
July 27, 1944 Plane was Bachelor Blitz. Target Budapest, armament plant. Plane on our right got a direct hit, and caught fire. I did see
4 that were able to bail out. Very sad sight.
July 31, 1944 Boobie Trap to Rumania a target near Ploesti.
August 9, 1944 Plane # 293, target Budapest Airdrome. Had
a huge escort of P-38's and P-51's.
August 12, 1944 Boobie Trap is ready again with 4 new
engines. Target, LaCiotat, France, a gun emplacement. S-2 says we did an
August 13, 1944 Boobie Trap on another run. Target Toulon France. Bomb load 10, 500 pound bombs. We just about blow the end off the island.
Another milk run.
August 14, 1944 Boobie Trap at it again. Target Savona, Italy. Target another gun emplacement. She was gibing us trouble over the target #2
prop running away had to cut the engine but could not feather it. Pilot ordered
to lighten our load. So we started throwing things out, like ammunition, flak
vests and anything loose. We made a forced landing at C-47 and glider field. We
were unable to get a message to our base so we were listed Missing in Action.
Got the old girl fixed and back home the next day.
August 17, 1944 Our crew make another Ploesti mission but
our plane was #9271, a rough one as flak was intense. 30 holes cutting
hydraulic lines and wiring to tail turret cut. Several boys wounded but not on
our crew. Major McWhorter our C.O. got a piece of flak in his sitting position.
August 20, 1944 Boobie Trap takes us on another mission.
Target Szolnok, Hungary. Bad weather made it very difficult to keep formation.
August 24, 1944 Boobie Trap doing her thing again, an easy
mission. Did get a little anxious on returning as we saw a pack of fighters off
in a distance but caused us no harm.
August 26, 1944 Boobie Trap's mission is to Giurgiu, Rumania. A ferry boat on the Danube. Encountered heavy flak little damage to us.
Thanks to our escort, enemy fighter panes was engaged in dogfight with P-38's.
August 29, 1944 Flying in #458, Queen Ann. I mention this
for it was the first time our crew was chosen to fly lead position and Pilot
Lt. Feasel did a good job.
September 10, 1944 Target Vienna, Austria, a tank factory. The enemy met to protect it as flak was intense and accurate
peppering us good and few ships were lost. Two out of our group went down it
looked like all got out of one plane. We flew in # 519, a 721st ship, radar equipped.
Our crew will not be making anymore missions with good old
Boobie Trap as we were told September 24th she is or will be sent
back to the States. We learned to put our confidence in the old girl even
though she sure did show her battle scars.
September 13, 1944 A mission with plane # 387, Fast Freight,
to Ora, Italy.
September 19, 1944 This mission was with another crew for radio
operator Bob Massey and myself, Wilbur Butler, flying with Hoffman's crew. Our
pilot, Lt. Thomas Feasel has finished. He got his 50 missions and he was an
excellent pilot. We gibe him credit for his ability for saving us from going
down when our plane all but flipped all the way over.
September 21, 1944 Target Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, a railroad bridge. Flew in ship # 928. Our Co-pilot, Lt. Glenn P. Stine flew
his first mission as first pilot. Over the target flak was getting us and ship
flying # 3 position got a bad hit, left the formation then came back in the
formation directly at us. The pilot put the craft in a steep dive to avoid a
collision. The plane came so close that it cut our antenna running along the
top of our bomber. The tail gunner was thrown out of his turret, armor gunner
and radio operator were thrown up against the top of the fuselage. A good
September 24, 1944 Lt. Stine and crew flew on a mission to Athens, Greece.
September 26, 1944 Our crew received orders to fly to Rome on a few days leave. We checked in at the Air Force Rest Camp. A good time. We
visited several historical places and had an audience with the Pope.
October 7, 1944 Our crew has been assigned another bomber
to finish our missions. Illegal Eagle # 285. Target was an oil storage base, Vienna, Austria. The boys with their 88's were out to get us and did a job. They broke up
our formation, our group lost several ships and others were badly damaged. We
did well getting only 6 holes. My intercom phone was shot out before going over
the target. We returned alone which is never good however after a few minutes
two P-38's showed up and flew on our wing for about an hour. That made us feel
October 16, 1944 Vienna, Austria again, oil refinery, flew
the Eagle. The bad part of this mission was the weather. Went up to 27,000 feet and still could not get out of the clouds and cold temperature dropped to 37 degrees
centigrade. Frost covered the guns, bombs and Plexiglas.
October 23, 1944 Praise the Lord, this is our final
mission for all our crew except Lt. Stine and radio operator Bob Massey. Have a
harrowing story to tell about them later. Our mission is to bomb railroad
yards. Flew the Eagle, flak heavy to moderate but we were attacked by enemy
fighters and some crews got hit pretty bad. Some crew members were wounded real
bad but all planes returned to the base.
This made our 50 mission for all but 2 and by the Grace of
God we are able to return home. While we are pleased to finish I am very
saddened for those that did not make it. At our base in Manduria we stayed in
an old Italian barracks and across the hall from our room seven crews occupied
that room. Some did not return after their first mission. I do not know the
fate of those men but our ball gunner from Tennessee, Earl Nall said he in no
way was going to go in that room. In my minds eye I will never forget horror of
seeing a plane getting a direct hit, blown apart and gong down in flames.
We were anxious to see our whole crew finish. Lt. Stine and
Robert Massey had another mission to make. On October 14, 1944 they went on a bombing mission to Greece to bomb an area so gliders could go in but the cloud
cover was such all craft returned to base. Gliders having propriety over
powered craft, the B-24's had to circle the field until the runways could be
cleared. The bombers final landed and we were sweating out the boys and Lt.
Stine and crew did not come in. We went to find out what happened to them and
was told a plane had crash landed in a grape vineyard outside of Manduria with
bomb s still aboard. All in the crew got out. A miracle! The next day our
navigator, Lt. Fiero and myself, Wilbur Butler, got a truck and went to see the
crash. I can not properly explain what we saw. Both outboard engines were torn
off, the fuselage was broken apart back of the bomb bay. All crew members
walked away. One was injured and was hospitalized with cuts and bruises, that
was our radio man Bob Massey., The problem was they ran out of gas but later
found there was still fuel in the auxiliary tanks. The engineer had not
transferred all the fuel. I will credit Lt. Stine for his unusual ability to be
able to bring in a B-24 bomber for a smooth landing is why the crew survived so
well. This plane was still loaded with 5000 pounds of bombs. Of the many landings in training and on missions Lt. Stine did best on landing
This concludes another story of a crew that was part of the
450th Bombardment Group, the Cottontails that played a good part in
helping to bring down a terrible corrupt enemy and bring freedom to a depressed
people. May God be pleased that we as Americans always maintain and be thankful
for our FREEDOM.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Note During my service as a member of our bomber crew I
was awarded some medals, one being the Distinguish Flying Cross.
Information courtesy of Wilbur Butler
Link To Crew Picture