S/Sgt. Melbourne Rhys Ponton
Here's what I have. It is taken from a scrapbook specifically designed to record military/war related information and experiences .
Name: Melbourne Rhys Ponton
Born: 9/11/18 in Wales, UK arrived in U.S.A. with mother 12/25/1919 at Ellis Island.
Enlisted: 2/3/43 at Wilkes Barre, PA. He first went into the Aviation Cadet program and later to gunnery school (belly gunner) after washing out of flight training.
From home he first went to Miami,
FL. Then he was sent to attend some schooling at Xavier Univ. in Cincinnati, OH. From there he went to Nashville, TN, Maxwell Fld.,
AL, Helena Aero Tech, AR, Buckley Fld., CO, Harlingen TX,
Fresno, CA, Tonopah, NV, Hamilton Fld., CA, and lastly to Amarillo, TX.
His route to combat appears to have been:
Amarillo, TX to Grenier Fld, NH (8/14/44) to Newfoundland (8/17/44) to Azores (9/3/44), to Marrakech, No. Africa (9/4/44) to Tunis, Tunisia (9/8/44) to Gioia, It.
(9/9/44) to Manduria, It. (9/10/44) to U.S.A. (12/10/44)
Ending Rank Staff Sgt. (11/44)
Assigned to 722 Bomb SQDN, 450 Bomb Group
Missions (all in 1944):
9/18 Budapest, Hungry
9/20 40 miles north of Vienna, Austria
9/22 Larissia, Greece
9/24 Airfield 5 miles from Athens
10/4 Brenner Pass
10/7 Vienna, Austria - his plane was shot down on this mission - my information is that the plane was shot down over Yugoslavia.
10/21 MIA telegram received by my mother, Eva J. Ponton, in Scranton, PA
Also in the scrapbook is a letter my mother received from a Mrs. Gene Nalley (I think) who was living in Livermore, KY at the time (10/22/44).
It appears to indicate that my father was a member of his crew. On 10/22/44 Mrs. Nalley received word that her husband, Gene, was MIA since 10/7 over Austria - the same news my mother received.
On 10/29 my mother received another letter from Mrs. Nalley responding to a letter she had received from my mother. In it she indicates that she has received 2 "notes" from her husband
(one while in Yugo. and one from a hospital in Italy). She goes on to say that her husband was the only one of the crew to be injured before they had to bail out. According to her letter,
her husband (Gene) said "...he stopped a chunk of stell (probably steel) from an 88 millimeter shell and then got more (injuries?) when his chute hit a rock clift, He didn't say any thing about
any of the others except that they might be worse than he was. I (Mrs. Nalley) don't believe they are tho. Going by a letter I got from Mrs. McCarthy (another crew member's wife?).
She said some had their ankles broke and Mel (my father) was hurt in groin of his leg (my Dad's chute harness was not on properly and when the chute popped, it injured his hamstring pretty badly)".
She goes on to say, "I don't believe Gene is with any of the others. He said he had lost lots of blood and had yellow jaundice and the did think malaria but maybe not now."
Later in her letter, Mrs. Nalley (Ovodiah?) goes on to mention having received a lot of letter from other wives and makes reference to a Lt. Burns and someone named Wesner.
Around 11/29/44, my mother received a letter from a 1st Lt. K. H. Burns 0-714649 (I think) dated 11/14. It contains some interesting info. First, he speculates that my day might
be returned to the States if he is MIA for 42 days and at the time of his letter, it has been 38 days. He says that the 5 crew members got back and have continued to fly.
Although he does not reveal their names, they are the Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Radar Operator and the/a Waist Gunner (it kind of makes me wonder what position
Nalley held as he appears to have been an officer and I can't think of any other positions that would have been held by officers). He also says, "The Bombardier & Engineer have broken
ankles they are with Mel. Mel's injury occured when he opened his chute. I do not think it is serious though. Mostly I expect; bruises and shock. The tail gunner & nose gunner
are in the hospital in Italy. They are all O.K". the letter is signed "Kenneth H. Burns."
It breaks my heart to read these letters and realize what these people were experiencing at the time. It is like entering a time machine and being whisked back to a time I never knew and a place
I never was - although, in a way, I was - I was born 9/23/44 - just a couple of weeks before my father's plane was shot down and he didn't find out about his son until after his return from Yugo.
I can't find any reference to Gene Nalley, Kenneth Burns or anyone named Wesner. There are 3 McCarthys - Jack, Robert H. and William J.
I relocated the copy the change of station orders upon which my father's name appears. I received it in 1996 from Samuel Stein of Stoughton, MA. The orders are dated 9/10/44.
There are 2 major groupings of individuals. The first appears to be a confirmation of assignment to the 450th. Listed in this first group are:
- 2nd Lt Harry (NMI) Amdur 0820877 AC
- 2nd Lt Alfred B. Rollins Jr 0825994 AC
- 2nd Lt William C. Kasdorf 0716460 AC
- 1st Lt Enoch S. Cody 0663239
- Sgt Harry W. Ashworth 34773117
- S/Sgt Wayne E. Fisk 37388817 (indicated in a had written note as deceased)
- Sgt John A. Sforza 12220310
- Cpl Nils I. Pearson 31439902
- Cpl Rankin B. Carter 38458788
- Cpl Owen M. Bolin 14202926
The second grouping is broken into 2 groups. Those assigned to the 450th and those assigned to the 449th. Within these to groupings are subgroupings of 10 people and may indicate flight crews.
All of the names I referenced above appear in one of these subgroupings including my father:
Assigned to 450th
- 2nd Lt Robert H. Mccarthy 0705405 AC
- 2nd Lt Kenneth H. Burns 0714649 AC
- F/O Don C. Hall T126534
- F/O Robert L. Wesner T3363
- Cpl William E. Hunt 39045095
- Cpl Carl (NMI) Cardinalli 39119196
- Cpl Melbourne R. Ponton 13116508
- Cpl Gene C. Nalley 35811969
- Cpl Virgil E. Nelson 17131779
- Cpl Thaddeus J Wenzka 32280473
- 1st Lt Aubrey L. Narramore 0687338 AC
- 2nd Lt Allen B. Doger Jr 0810246 AC
- 2nd Lt James H. Kenna 02056611 AC
- F/O William E. Courtney Jr T123313
- T/Sgt Eugene J. Remmell 33065971
- Cpl William A. Parrish 13105611
- S/Sgt William M. Spera 15076556
- T/Sgt James M. Hobbs 18067673
- S/Sgt Norman (NMI) Gilkey 39172909
- Cpl Charles T. Dobson 33733000
- 2nd Lt George A. Hesse Jr 0711200 AC
- 2nd Lt Guy E. Nichols 0822235 AC
- 2nd Lt Robert (NMI) Deitrich 02056354 AC
- 2nd Lt Ralph J. Palmer 0776786 AC
- Cpl Russel R. Irwin 33759597
- Cpl Leonard E. Oldham 15195746
- Cpl James E. Murphy 37562803
- Cpl Grady L. Mitcham 38522254
- Cpl James J. Wentzel 31347395
- Cpl Darrell M. Goldie 37682206
- 2nd Lt Harold B. Hall 0822428 AC
- 2nd Lt William R. Fisher 0822403 AC
- F/O Elihu J. Michnoff T126393
- 2nd Lt John W. Keil 0718104 AC
- Cpl Earl W. Coons 32856146
- Cpl Hudson (NMI) Branham 13120032
- Cpl Jerome (NMI) Schwartzman 12084684
- Cpl Duane T. Hill 39298887
- Cpl Frank A. Heselton 35296493
----Note: This group confirms that the name groupings are flight crews of 10 - the crew picture on the web site is of this crew before they left the U.S.A. and all above names are in the picture
Information provided by Mel Ponton Jr. son of Melbourne Ponton
Link To Crew Information
Link To Escape Statement