1943 — Italy
Robert T Pell;
NARA –enlisted as aviation cadet - 19010546 PELL#ROBERT#T# UT WEBER SALT LAKE CITY UT 40)
First reference: due to his position on the crew list, I figured he was a photographer assigned to the 428th, but couldn’t find him in the 428th roster or awards lists. Since the 57th roster says 310th, it seemed logical to be a shutter bug assigned to Group HQ – also note that he was not listed on the Group missions reports as an “official” observer, or anywhere (so far) in the HQ war diary.
7 Apr 43 - 428th BS Mission Summary: (Ops Order---/mission ---) Group Mission # 65: On the 6th, Captain “Gish” Gshwandtner led the group on an eighteen plane raid, a sea search mission. It was high altitude this time. The crews reported three hits and many near misses on a convoy of three merchant vessels and a convoy of four escorting vessels. Two were reported smoking and a third on fire.
Gshwandtner, Frank J. "Gish", Capt, pilot
The light flak was short and the moderate heavy flak was generally inaccurate. Five or six ME-109’s--the convoy’s top cover, were effectively screened from our bombers by our escort.
A/C No. 1 aircraft unidentified (flight leader) P Gshwandtner, Frank J. "Gish", 1Lt CP Williams, Edwin W., 1Lt N Doolittle, Leonard N., 1Lt B Herold, Armin F., Jr., 1Lt E None R Temple, Robert W., Sgt G Stage, Albert A., S/Sgt F Pell, Robert T., Maj, HQ 310th BG (observer)
He also flew with the 428th on 14 May and 18 May – since a commission as bombardier or navigator wasn’t guaranteed for aviation cadet wash outs, he could have become an enlisted aerial photographer– that seemed logical based on the 3 missions, not being referenced anywhere else, and not listed as an “official” observer in the Group mission reports.
- Yesterday(after sending Patti the May 43 history to proof), I came across this, which I just added to the Mar 43 history: see hi-lite
381stBS War Diary: Additional Information for March 1943:
THE SOUTHERN ROUTE TO AFRICA
By Captain James Hickman, navigator
Finally that great day arrived, and amid last minute packing, frantic hunting of dogs, the first replacements for the 310th Bomb Group were loaded into trucks for the first phase of their trip to combat.
Beautiful women aren’t beautiful when they cry. Amid pathetic last farewells, two coaches hooked to the slowest train in the South, and we really were on our way.
Early in the morning of 29 January 43, we were told that we could enjoy the smoke filled atmosphere of Cincinnati. One would have thought Germans were expected to attack at any moment from the look of the artillery packed by the men. Maybe the good people of Cincinnati were reminded with quite a jar that a war was going on when they viewed our dirty unshaved, well armed beings.
Have you ever seen the “Purple Cow”? Have you ever relaxed in an over stuffed chair, read the smutty little quips on the wall; listened to the latest on the Juke-Box, and ordered waffles?
Runt and Deacon and Skippy, the three pint size pups of the expedition were paraded, petted, admired, and fed. Then, with minutes to spare, we boarded the train.
Somewhere on the last leg of our journey, a car was added to the train and filled with pastry faced admiring draftees. We, the nearly finished trained fighting men, and they the men looking forward to being trained. Worlds apart, and lots in common. We wondered how much they would have given to have been in our shoes, and we in turn would not have traded places with them for anything in the world.
Snow and more snow, wet feet, and cold bitten ears and faces. The remark that“If I ever get South of the Florida - Georgia line, so help me, I will never venture North again. Tales of miss-haps in crossings, and secret talks by well informed officers, theses were the wonders of Kellogg Field.
Assignment of planes, frantic loading in wind and snow, finally the right moment, and each plane took off to fly its own way to Morrison Field. The Greenville Army Air Base seemed to be on the direct course between Kellogg and Morrison. Wonder how many of our planes did a final buzz-job?
Good eats, expensive hotels and many phone calls from our loved ones greeted us in West Palm Beach.
Confusion, last minute final preparations, gathering of maps and briefing greeted our happy little group at Morrison.
Lieutenant Katz, a man of excellent leadership ability, organized us and finally on 13 February 43, our six ships were on their way across the brilliant blue water of the Gulf Stream to Borinquen Field. Long will the excellent Planter’s Punches, the good food and poor milk shakes remain in our memory. Borinquen would be an excellent place to be stationed after the war is over, that is if one would have to be stationed outside of the United States.
Katz, William P., 2Lt, Personnel Officer
Clear skies and miles of tropical water. The best ships in the world---“Lottie’s Goose” and her mates winged southward to cross over the eastern edge of Trinidad, and burst right into the wall like appearing mass of cumulo-nimbus clouds that formed the much dreaded “Stagnant tropical front”. Detours here and there, and again we admired our leader for carefully planning our formation, with instructions for just such weather, and for his pleasant little quips over the radio, as he checked for our safety.
Further South each day, and a fleeting glimpse of Devil’s Island at 10,000 feet, wonderment at the vastness of the mouth of the largest river in the world. A large island, sparsely studded with trees and thickly scattered herds of cattle. We had crossed the equator and were on our approach to Belem. Belem will remain in our memories because of the pungent smell of its newly constructed barracks, and its wide selection of tropical fruits. South American grape and tomato juice is good, and the Officers’ Club was able to furnish enough, even to satisfy our terrific thirst.
Arrived at Natal amid the usual shower, and for the first time our formation was broken up when an A-20 Group made a rat race of the landing pattern.
21 February brought Roberts Field in view and at last we landed in Africa.
Negroes, who worked for twenty cents a day shocked us by demanding a dollar for carrying our bags; we were being prepared for the crafty Arab.
Roberts Field sent our small formation on its way with a good breakfast, and the idea that we would be the first to land at Dakar.
22 February brought Dakar. Foul smells, nasty people and brother--you really are in Africa.
“Lottie’s Goose” took her separate way, leading five A-20’s across the desert. A bad scare with carburetor icing, a thrilling trip through mountain passes, a night spent in Marrakech and on the 23rd of February we arrived in Casablanca.
At La Senia they impressed us with unconcern as to our well being, our importance in this war. They stole our equipment, they froze our men, they gave us useless lectures, filled our ears full of thrilling bosh and in general made us so glad to leave on the 9th of March that Major Pell looked like an angel.
Pell, Robert T., Maj, HQ 310th BG
No accidents, a nice trip, an old experienced battle-wise outfit to join, and we were the first replacements to the 381st Squadron of the 310thBombardment Group.
That clinched it – he was a Maj assigned to HQ 310th – Lt Col later, as indicated by the WWII Memorial, which fit with the NARA enlistment docs.
He was probably a pilot, however, aviation cadets only morph into pilots if they graduate from the program – most who bombed out became bombardiers (credit 1 pun) or navigators. He was assigned to HQ 310th BG – probably in a position requiring a pilot (i.e. Operations Officer), and his duties may have included flying for Group HQ (i.e. pilot for the Group Commander, dignitaries, scrounging missions, etc.). Also very possible that he had some kind of injury that would preclude him from being a combat pilot, but able to perform other duties (i.e. Ops Officer). Also could have been a bombardier or navigator assigned as Group Bomb or Nav.
Which is why I asked, Does the name Maj Robert T Pell ring a bell Hoping Barb had something from her 310thor Doolittle Raider folks.
So, we definitely know who he is – but still looking for what function he performed, other than accumulating combat mission credits flying as an observer – or, possibly a photographer –he could have been a Group intelligence officer flying as picture take, observer, or both.