1944 — Romania
Written by Tim Chew for the Chew/Hansen Families. 2011
Leslie John Hansen, b. April 27, 1921 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was the son of John Hansen and Sofie Jakobina Nelson. (Nelson was spelled Neilsen in the "Old Country" of Denmark) He married Bette Jayne Stevens on April 14, 1945 in Council Bluffs. They have two children, Nancy Lea and Leslie Paul. Les died Sept. 29, 2001 at the age of 80 in Council Bluffs and is buried in Lewis Township Cemetery, Pottawattamie Co., Iowa.
Les entered active on July 23, 1942. His first assignment - basic training - was at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. He was issued his clothing, supplies and gear on Oct. 10, 1942. Les trained in the "71st Battalion, Company C". His ser. no was 37-449-357.
During World War II, Camp Robinson was expanded to 48188 acres and used for basic training ... 32884 acres were conveyed to the Military Department from the State of Arkansas. ... as six regiments, each with three battalions of four companies. ... the 66th, 67th and 68th in the 14th, and the 71st, 72nd and 73rd in the 15th were stationed there. Les trained with the 71st Academic Squadron.
Next was AAC Training Bases, some for Radio and some for Aerial Gunnery.
Leslie Hansen was assigned to the 2nd Bomb Group, B-17 Heavy, the 96th Bomb Squadron of the "Flying Fortress Unit", 15th Army Air Force Unit . As Radio Technician, his Aerial Gunnery spot would be at the "Waist" window where he could perform both duties with expertise. This is in the 15th Air Force and a part of the 5th Bomber Wing based in Amendola, Italy. This is the Foggia Region on the Adriatic Sea side and the Headquarters were close by at Bari, Italy.
Oct. 26, 1942 A/C Leslie J. Hansen Cadet Squadron 107 Army Air Force Classification Center San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center San Antonia, Texas
Feb 14. 1943 to March 6, 1943 A/C Leslie J. Hansen (43G Box 1946 Cimarron Field Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Cimarron Field, Okla. ( a civilian operated flight school under contract to the U.S. Army, for Primary Flight Training) May 11 to July 3, 1943 PFC 1001 TSS Unit #1 - Room 757A AAFTTC 720 So. Michigan Blvd Chicago, Ill. a Signal School July 12, 1943 to Nov. 16, 1943 PFC Sqdn 368 TSS Brks 232 Scott Field, Illinois Scott Field Radio AAC Academy PASS ............ 19 to 21 Nov. 1943 PFC Les Hansen Dec. 20, 1943 PFC AAF Flexible Gunnery School Gunnery Squadron #5 Class 44-4 Yuma Army Air Field Yuma, Arizona Aerial Gunnery School, AZ Mar 15, 1944 to June 21, 1944
Cpl. to Sgt. Commandant of Crews Military Training Unit, Section "F" Army Air Force Dyersburg, Tenn. B-17 Transition Training
July 19.1944 to Oct 10. 1944 SGT to STAFF SERGEANT APO 520 96 Bomb Sqdn 2nd Bom Group "H" c/o Postmaster New York, New York S/Sgt to Tech Sergeant Leslie J Hansen, Mission, Polesti, Romania, injured 31 July, 1944 Returned to Duty, 10 Sept. 1944 .... 10 October, 1944 (Released from duty in the MTO for trans shipment to the ZI(USA) ... (HOME) 25th Nov. to 9th Dec. 1944, "1040 AAF Base Unit" Redistribution Station, Santa Ana, CA ... From Santa Ana ... PASS 26 to 29 Dec. 1944 to Jan. 1945. May 22, 1945 to Oct. 23, 1945 T/Sgt. AAF BU 3508 Squadron "P" or "L" Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin.
TRAUX Field, Wisconsin Army Air Force Eastern Technical Training Center, a major school operating at Truax AAF for training radio operators and mechanics, and later expanded to training in radar operations, control tower operations and other communications fields for the Army Airways Communication Service. The host unit on the airfield was the 334th (later 3508th) Army Air Force Base Unit. On September 17, 1945, the airfield's mission was changed to that of a separation center, and it was closed as an active AAF airfield on November 30, 1945. Les was discharged on November 14, 1945.
B-17, Ploesti Mission – Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (MTO)
The follow is a rundown of the two missions Les flew, the crews that he flew with and the planes they flew on:
FRIDAY, 28 JULY 194
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Fifteenth Air Force):
345 B-17s and B-24s attack 2 oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania and a marshalling yard at Florina, Greece; P-51s and P-38s provide support for the Ploesti raid.
Les flew his last mission on July 28 aboard plane #46289. The following were the crew:
Carl L. Shade, Pilot – flew on 36 missions, this was his 23rd.
Lawrence J. Fitzsimmons, Co-Pilot – flew on 32 missions, this was his 4th.
Robert S. Ellis, Navigator – flew on 36 missions, this was his 5th.
Thomas M. Wilson, Bomb/Togglier - flew on 23 missions, this was his 16th. Was shot down on a raid to Oswiecim, Poland, mission #255 aboard plane #2102908 on Aug. 20, 1944 and was taken as a POW.
Lloyd H. Allen, Eng/Top Turret – flew on 30 missions, this was his 19th.
Leslie J. Hansen, Radio Operator – flew on 2 missions, this was his first.
William E. Foley, Ball Turret – flew on 38 missions, this was his 10th.
Joseph E. Karel, Waist Gunner – flew on 35 missions, this was his 10th.
Louis J. Ciarallo, Waist Gunner – flew on 38 missions, this was his 13th.
John A. Lamb, Tail Gunner – flew on 35 missions, this was his 12th.
Plane # 46289 crash landed on the Croatian island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea. This occurred on Sept. 3, 1944 on mission #266, its 26th mission, to a railroad bridge at Sava, Yugoslavia . Vis is just off the coast of what is now Bosnia, Hercegovinia. Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia before it was slit-up. The pilot was Arnold T Kwiatkowski. He and his crew survived, avoided capture, and returned to their unit rather quickly. The plane was salvaged. Kwiatkowski was later killed on mission #293 on Oct. 17, 1944 to Blechhammer, Germany. Seven others of his crew were killed and two were taken POW”s.
MONDAY, 31 JULY 1944
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Fifteenth Air Force):
360+ bombers attack targets in Rumania; B-17s hit an oil refinery at Ploesti; B-24s bomb 2 oil refineries at Bucharest, 1 at and Doicesti, and oil storage at Targoviste. Fighters escort the bombers.
Les’ Crew on “Catherine the Great”, the mission he was wounded on and what happened to them:
Arthur C. Devine, Pilot – flew on 18 missions, this was his 11th.
Kay R. Cutler, Co-Pilot – flew on 11 missions, this was his first.
Frederic M. Rosemore, Navigator – flew on 15 missions, this was his 5th. Activity during WWII: served as a navigator, 15th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Group, 96th Squadron, Flew 22 combat missions against Germany before being shot down. POW at Stalag Luft III Center Compound. Navigator B-17 aircraft. Prisoner of War Medal, Air Medal Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation, 2 Purple Hearts, 5 Battle Stars.
David J. Eiseman, Bomb/Togglier – flew on 31 missions, this was his 5th. Activity during WWII: served as Bombardier, flew B-17 out of Italy. Killed during raid to Blechhammer, Germany, mission #293 aboard plane #46379 on Oct. 17, 1944.
William B. Richmond, Eng/Top Turret – flew on 7 missions, this was his first
Leslie J. Hansen, Radio Operator – flew on 2 missions, this was his second - injured on this one.
John Desoto, Ball Turret – flew on 7 missions, this was his first.
Howard C. Hannah, Waist Gunner – flew on 7 missions, this was his first.
Gerald L. Kinchloe, Waist Gunner – flew on 7 missions, this was his second.
Raymond J. Morton, Tail Gunner – flew on 7 missions, this was his first.
Cutler, Rosemore, Richmond, Desoto, Hannah, Kinchloe and Morton were all shot down on a mission to Odertal, Germany, mission # 256 aboard plane #48103 on Aug. 22, 1944 and were taken as POW’s. Cutler was pilot on that flight.
“Catherine the Great” was assigned to the 96th Squadron on Dec. 25, 1943 and was returned to Texas on Feb. 4, 1945. It flew a total of 91 missions. The first was on Dec. 29, 1943 and last was on Sept. 23, 1944. Les’ flight, mission #243 was its 72nd.
“Catherine the Great” was named after Lt. Richard L. Gower’s wife, on, or about, Jan 8/9, 1944. The name was picked out of a hat by Waist Gunner John G. Stoken. The plane was also known as “Ole Kate.” She was so named because her number two engine would not start on initial flight.
(Researched and written by Les' son- in- law, Tim Chew with great help from Barbara Connolly, Feb. 2011)
Les received the Purple Heart for severe injuries to his arm.
The "Purple Heart" For Killed in Action or Injuries Sustained in Battle/Armed Conflict "Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces"
Tim Chew, Nancy’s husband, has the following notes on Les in their genealogy files:
“Les was a navigator aboard a B-17 in WWII with the rank of Tech. Sgt. He was wounded by anti-aircraft flak while flying a mission from the base near Foggia in the Puglia Region of Italy to their target of the oil refinery in Ploesti, Rumania. At first it was thought he would lose his arm, but it was saved, though severely scared. He recovered at the hospital in Bari, Puglia, Italy. One of his "nurses" was the Hollywood actress, Madeline Carroll. (Madeline Carroll .... After her only sister Marguerite was killed in "the Blitz", she radically shifted her priorities from acting to working in field hospitals as a Red Cross nurse. She served in the 61st Station Hospital, Foggia, Italy in 1944, where many wounded American airmen flying out of air bases aroung Foggia were hospitalized.)
We still have the flight suit that was cut off him when he was wounded. He had been injured on the outgoing leg of his flight and didn't let anyone aboard know until the return leg. He nearly bled to death before getting back to base.” (The family has the original telegraph to his mother notifying her of his injury.)
Written by Tim Chew for his wife Nancy and the Family. 2011