McNamara Crew - Assigned 755th Squadron - April 12, 1944
(Photo: Dave Krakow / ID's Allen Gross)
|1Lt||Myron C McNamara||0742187||Pilot||04-Aug-44||CT||Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594|
|1Lt||Charles N Widestrand||0812704||Co-pilot||Aug-44||CT||Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594|
|1Lt||Allen S Gross||0695652||Navigator||04-Aug-44||CT||Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594|
|1Lt||Leo Z Penn||0547838||Bombardier||04-Aug-44||CT||Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594|
|T/Sgt||Arden E Miller||35434505||Radio Operator||10-Aug-44||CT||Award Distinguished Flying Cross|
|T/Sgt||Joseph J Kupstas||31257123||Flight Engineer||04-Aug-44||CT||Award Distinguished Flying Cross|
|S/Sgt||Lewis E Downey||18071110||Aerial Gunner||04-Aug-44||CT||Award Distinguished Flying Cross|
|Sgt||Allen B Eastman||31265613||Aerial Gunner||12-Apr-44||UNK||Assigned as Combat Crew|
|S/Sgt||John A O'Brien||11081962||Aerial Gunner||04-Aug-44||CT||Award Distinguished Flying Cross|
|S/Sgt||David H Smith||17068155||Aerial Gunner||04-Aug-44||CT||Award Distinguished Flying Cross|
On April 12, 1944, after flying 20 combat missions in 42 days, the 458th had suffered the loss of 16 crews, 15 of these lost in action and 1 due to an accident. This represented 23% of the combat crews that had comprised the original cadre from Tonopah. The 755th was the hardest hit with six of their crews down over the continent. On this date the 755th received the first two replacement crews that came to the 458th, those of Lt Leslie J. Gentry and Lt Myron C. McNamara.
McNamara and crew flew their first combat mission on April 22, 1944 to the marshalling yards at Hamm, Germany. It was on this date that the Eighth Air Force took to the air in the late afternoon, meaning that the bombers would be returning to their bases well after sunset. The Luftwaffe took advantage of the darkness and several ME-410 night fighters slipped in amongst the 2nd Bombardment Division’s Liberator formations as the groups were approaching the coast of England. For nearly an hour, the German’s attacked several B-24’s, shooting down 17 Liberators over Norfolk. Two of these were from the 458th’s 754th Squadron.
After this harrowing baptism of fire, the crew flew a total of four missions in April, including one to Berlin. The buildup for the invasion of the Continent was underway, and May 1944 was a busy time in England, especially for the Eighth Air Force. McNamara and crew flew 13 missions this month. On June 4th the crew was assigned a new ship, B-24J-140-CO 42-110184. This Liberator, with the name GWEN neatly stenciled underneath the pilot’s window, had originally been with the 492nd Bomb Group / 857th Bomb Squadron, but had not flown any combat missions prior to its transfer to the 458th. McNamara’s crew would fly this aircraft all during June and July, completing their tour of missions on August 1st.
Group and squadron records are extremely thin
regarding this crew. The officers are noted as having received the
Distinguished Flying Cross in August and then proceeding to AAF 594 for
processing to other units, but the only thing mentioned about the
enlisted men is that they had arrived at the group on April 12th. Newly acquired 2nd Bomb Division files record all but Sgt Allen B. Eastman receiving the DFC in early August 1944.
After the war McNamara would go on to coach Division I tennis, after an injury forced him to retire from the game.
Leo Penn, while on leave in the States, began a long standing career in Hollywood film making as an actor, writer and director. He passed away in 1998.
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|25-Apr-44||MANNHEIM A/F||27||2||41-29288||L||J3||7||BIG-TIME OPERATOR|
|26-Apr-44||PADERBORN A/F||28||3||41-29288||L||J3||8||BIG-TIME OPERATOR|
|01-May-44||LIEGE M/Y||33||5||42-50320||J||J4||4||UNKNOWN 018|
|05-May-44||SOTTEVAST||35||7||42-100433||B||J3||17||BIG DICK HARD TO HIT|
|08-May-44||BRUNSWICK||37||8||42-52441||I||J3||27||LAST CARD LOUIE|
|09-May-44||ST. TROND||38||9||41-29359||J||J3||26||TAIL WIND|
|10-May-44||DIEPHOLZ||REC||--||41-29359||J||J3||--||TAIL WIND||RECALL BEFORE EC|
|21-May-44||SIRACOURT||44||12||42-95120||M||J3||5||HOOKEM COW / BETTY|
|24-May-44||VILLEROCHE||46||14||42-95120||M||J3||7||HOOKEM COW / BETTY|
|25-May-44||MULHOUSE M/Y||47||15||42-95183||U||J3||6||BRINEY MARLIN|
|27-May-44||NEUNKIRCHEN||48||16||41-28705||H||J4||30||YE OLDE HELLGATE|
|29-May-44||TUTOW A/F||50||17||42-100433||B||J3||25||BIG DICK HARD TO HIT|
|06-Jun-44||COASTAL AREAS||56||19||42-110184||F||J3||2||GWEN||MSN #1|
|24-Jun-44||CONCHES A/F||77||23||42-110184||F||J3||8||GWEN||MSN #1|
|08-Jul-44||ANIZY, FRANCE||87||25||42-110184||F||J3||10||GWEN||DEP LD - HINCKLEY|
|17-Jul-44||3 NO BALLS||92||28||42-110184||F||J3||13||GWEN||LEAD 2nd SEC - OLLUM|
|21-Jul-44||MUNICH||96||29||42-110184||F||J3||15||GWEN||LEAD 2nd SEC - GRIFFITH|
|28-Jul-44||LEIPHEIM & CREEL||SCR||--||42-110184||F||J3||--||GWEN||BRIEFED AND SCRUBBED|
|01-Aug-44||T.O.s FRANCE||100||31||42-110184||F||J3||18||GWEN||DEP LD - SCHWARTZ|
July 17, 1944 Lead - Capt Ollum Command Pilot
(Photo: FOLD3 / ID's Allen Gross)
B-24J-140-CO 42-110184 J3 F Gwen
Gwen is closest to camera. McNamara's crew flew this aircraft on 14 consecutive missions
(Photo: Mike Bailey)
Was there a B-24 named McNamara's Band?
It is not certain that there was ever a B-24 in the 458th Bomb Group named McNamara’s Band. Certainly no photograph has been found to date. Some historians have attributed one Liberator in the group, B-24H-15-FO 42-52353 Z5 J from the 754th Squadron to have carried this name. This aircraft was shot down over Norwich by German intruders on the evening of April 22, 1944, the occasion of the McNamara crew’s first mission. It is highly unlikely (although not entirely impossible) for a crew that had arrived only ten days prior, to have named an aircraft from a different squadron and called it their own. This Liberator was an original 458th ship, flown mainly by Lt Teague Harris' (Crew 54) in the 754th Squadron. They were flying it on the April 22nd mission to Hamm.
Until photographic evidence is found, I for one will remain skeptical that there was 458th Liberator with the nose art of McNamara’s Band.
January 2011 update - A phone conversation with navigator Allen Gross confirmed that there was no aircraft named McNamara's Band in the 458th. This crew had the habit of painting the names of their wives or, "girlfriends at the time..." near their position. "Gwen" was McNamara's wife.
Painting & emblem courtesy Stefan Diepenbrock, via Leo Penn
WE WERE TREATED THIS MONTH BY THE APPEARANCE IN PERSON OF SOME OF THE BIG NAMES IN ATHLETICS WHOM WE USED TO FOLLOW SO AVIDLY BACK IN CIVILIAN LIFE. CAPT. FRANCIS X. SHIELDS OF THE US ARMY, AND SGT CHARLES HARE OF THE BRITISH FORCES PAID US A VISIT AND TREATED US TO THE TENNIS SO SYNONYMOUS WITH FORREST HILL, L.I.
THEIR APPEARANCE WAS IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE VIII AF “VICTORY SQUADRON” WAR BOND DRIVE. THERE WAS A GALA TURNOUT TO SEE THE TENNIS MASTERS DISPLAY THEIR STUFF, AND THEIR PERFORMANCE LEFT NOTHING TO BE DESIRED.
CAPT. SHIELDS WAS THE RANKING AMERICAN DAVIS TEAM MEMBER FOR 1931-32 AND WAS NO. 1 RANKING U.S. TENNIS PLAYER IN 1933. SGT. HARE WAS CAPTAIN OF THE BRITISH DAVIS CUP TEAM 1937-38, AND NO. 1 RANKING WORLD PLAYER FRO 1944.
THE STATION OFFERED THEM SOME STIFF COMPETITION WITH OUR DOUBLES ENTRY OF 1ST LT HILLARY J. BOONE, JR., AND 1ST LT MYRON C. McNAMARA. ALL IN ALL THERE WAS SOME LIVELY TENNIS PUT FORTH FOR THE VERY APPRECIATIVE AND LARGE AUDIENCE…
458th Public Relations Article
(McNamara was a tennis standout at North Hollywood High School, played Junior Davis Cup with Jack Kramer and played at USC circa 1940 with such outstanding teammates as Ted Schroeder and George Toley.... An injury cut short his playing career after the war, but he joined Kramer in promoting pro-tennis tours and turned to coaching. He was head men's coach at UC Irvine and Arizona State.... ) -- Daily News, Los Angeles, CA April 22, 1998