Sgt. Frank Reed
2014 Hall of Fame Member
Frank Reed, sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps
In late November, 1943, Frank Reed joined the army air corps, hoping to be a gunner on a bomber bidding goodbye to his mother, Frank left Alice, Texas, for basic training at shepherd field, near Wichita Falls, Texas.
Having failed the mechanic’s and radio tests, Frank did well on the armorers test… gunnery, which is what he wanted. After a day-long physical, of which ten of the 30 men in the barracks passed, the would-be gunners were given a certificate, corporal’s stripes and a six dollar a month raise. In armorers’ school, Frank learned how to care for the .50 caliber machine guns that he would fight with.
The group traveled by train, first class, to Fort Myers, Florida, for gunners’ training. Their first weapon was a bb gun. They shot skeet, moving targets and towed targets in the air, completing the three month training. Assigned to a new, four engined, B-24 bomber, Frank and his new crew trained hard at the skills they would need over Germany… precision Bombing, gunnery and simply surviving in the thin, sub-zero air.
In England, with the 8th Air Force, Frank’s group was based two hundred miles north of London. Quonset huts and outside privies were the order of the day. On January seventh; Frank flew his first mission. Just getting airborne in the dark in a big bomber full of high explosive and aviation gas was frightening. Once aloft, clawing for altitude and trying to assemble in a sky full other bombers,
In the dark, was terrifying and sometimes fatal w h e n a huge ball of flame meant two planes had collided in the dark night. The target for the seventh was a manufacturing complex in Mannheim. As soon as they crossed into France, they began to get flack. Fighters were light. Recalled Frank, “The flak got my attention. It was the first time somebody was trying to kill me. We dropped our bombs and went home. We lost one plane.” The entire tail assembly of Frank’s plane was eventually so badly shot up by flak and fighters that it had to be replaced. Notes Frank, “that got my attention because my tall gunner’s turret was right in the middle.”
On February 20th, the group attacked Brunswick, Germany. After their fighter escort, short of gas, turned back, German fighters jumped the group and kept up their attacks through the flak over the target, an aircraft factory. The Germans stayed with the group until American fighters drove them off. The group attacked with 33 planes that day and lost thirty men.
Frank and his crew flew their last mission on may 15, to Siracourt, France…Oh Happy days! 30 missions! The plane was scrapped for parts.
Frank remembered, “By the time my crew finished our tour, our original group of seventy-two crews had lost fifty-seven. By the end of the war, the group lost one hundred and forty planes and crews.”