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S/Sgt. Wilbur L. Butler
722nd Squadron


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…In 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 Conductor.

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 aisle.

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 WWII

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 #2.

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 order.

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 28 days.

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 notes)

JOHNNY DID MAKE IT BACK TO OUR BASE 63 DAYS LATER

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 sorties.

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 excellent job.

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 scare.

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 good.

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 our B-24's.

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

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