Howard A Sessler

Howard A Sessler - Stories

Major Howard Albert Sessler ~Doolittle Raider; then with 310th BG; 380th BS

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    Howard Albert Sessler

    HOME OF RECORD: Arlington, Massachusetts

    Howard Sessler was one of the 80 airmen who, under the leadership of Jimmy Doolittle, disembarked from the U.S.S. Hornet in the first bombing raid over Tokyo in World War II. Following the raid he remained in the China-Burma-India Theater until July before deploying to the European Theater of Action where he served from September 1942 until September 1943. He then flew combat in the Mediterranean Theater from September 1944 until the end of the war.

    AWARDS BY DATE OF ACTION: 1 of 1

    Distinguished Flying Cross

    AWARDED FOR ACTIONS

    DURING World War II

    Service: Army Air Forces

    Rank: First Lieutenant

    Division: Doolittle Tokyo Raider Force

    GENERAL ORDERS:

    CITATION:

    The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Howard Albert Sessler (ASN: 0-43165), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary achievement as Navigator/Bombardier of a B-25 Bomber of the 1st Special Aviation Project (Doolittle Raider Force), while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on 18 April 1942. Lieutenant Sessler with 79 other officers and enlisted men volunteered for this mission knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote, and executed his part in it with great skill and daring. This achievement reflects high credit on himself and the military service.

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    Los Angeles Times

    Los Angeles, California

    22 July 1993

    Moorpark Man Recalls a Fateful Flight Over Japan During WWII : History: The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders gave American confidence a boost with their raid. Now, half a century later, they will be honored.

    Half a century ago, Moorpark resident Howard Sessler boarded a B-25 bomber headed for the unfriendly skies over Japan. He didn't know whether he would ever make it back.

    Organized by Gen. James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle, the 80 men who would later be called the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders gathered on the aircraft carrier Hornet in April, 1942, and received an ominous warning.

    "Doolittle called us all on the deck," Sessler recalled this week, "and said: 'If there's any of you who don't want to go, just tell me. Because the chances of you making it back are pretty slim.' And nobody batted an eye."

    The bombing raid on areas around Tokyo early in World War II was aimed at boosting America's ebbing military confidence, and at showing Japan that it was vulnerable to air attack.

    Historians say the effort did both.

    On Saturday, Sessler and the rest of Doolittle's Raiders will be awarded the Spirit of Flight Award at the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.

    "It's pretty good to have the recognition," said Sessler, 74. "It certainly doesn't hurt anything and it revives the memory of the raid because, my God, 50 years ago, who remembers the thing anymore?"

    Sessler, who owns a construction company, said he and his wife, Anna Bell, will be unable to attend the ceremony because of work obligations. He said he is looking forward to a planned reunion of the surviving Raiders next year in Fresno.

    "I really don't think about it too much," Sessler said of his role in history. "I really associate it with a bunch of real wonderful guys and the memory of those guys stays with me because we were real close and still are."

    Sessler, who joined the service in 1940, was stationed in South Carolina when Doolittle arrived, seeking volunteers for a dangerous mission.

    The men signed on without knowing exactly what they would be asked to do. They were trained in Florida and then shipped out from Oakland with the 16 B-25 bombers to be used in the raid. Forced to take off prematurely after their carrier was spotted by a Japanese boat 700 miles off the coast of Japan, it seemed unlikely the Raiders would have enough fuel to complete their mission and continue on to land in China.

    If not for an unexpected tail wind and a decision to break formation and fly individually, Sessler said it would have been impossible for the crews to ditch their aircraft close enough to the China shore to make their way to safety.

    Seventy-three of the 80 men who took part in the mission survived, including Doolittle, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership of the effort. He now lives in Northern California. Fewer than half of the Raiders are still alive.

    Mike Jackson, executive director of the hall established in 1962, said the group deserves the award, which has previously been bestowed on the Mercury Astronauts, the Air Force Thunderbirds and the crew of the Voyager.

    "When they did their thing off the carrier, morale in the United States was at an all-time low," Jackson said. "We had taken it on the chin in Pearl Harbor and in a string of battles after that."

    Jackson said the raid didn't deliver a tide-turning level of damage to the area around Tokyo. But it showed Japanese officials that they could be hit, and it showed Americans that the war didn't have to be a one-sided affair.

    "The country was in the dumper," Jackson said. "It was a needed ego boost."

    Sessler left the Air Force in 1946 and moved to Southern California, living in Huntington Park, Downey and Bellflower before settling in Moorpark around 1973.

    He speaks proudly of his role in the mission, which was commemorated by the 1944 film, "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," but says it's not something that comes to mind too often anymore.

    "It's been 50 years and I've done all the thinking I'm gonna do about it," he said.

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    Los Angeles Times

    Los Angeles, California

    10 March 2001

    Howard A. Sessler; Engineer, WWII Bomber Pilot

    Howard Albert Sessler of Moorpark, a retired general engineering contractor, has died at the age of 83.

    Sessler, who died Feb. 9 in Thousand Oaks, was born Aug. 11, 1917, in Boston, to Edward and Elizabeth Sessler.

    As a young man, he worked as a caddy at a local golf course and played baseball with a Boston Red Sox farm team.

    While attending Northeastern College in 1940, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After attending flight school, he was trained to fly a B-25 bomber and was commissioned just a day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He flew routine missions on submarine patrol off the coast of Oregon before being transferred to Tacoma, Wash., where he met Gen. James Doolittle and volunteered for a secret mission with the general.

    He trained at Elgin Air Force Base, practicing short takeoffs and landings, then went to Oakland, where he boarded the Hornet. It was there that he was told, along with 80 other volunteers, that they were going to bomb Tokyo.

    The planes were to land in China afterward, but poor visibility forced Sessler's plane to make a water landing. He swam about a mile to an island, where he met up with four others. They were taken on a Chinese merchant ship to another island, where they hid from the Japanese in the tunnel of a Buddhist temple. After finally arriving in mainland China, they walked for five nights to get to a hospital.

    Back in the U.S., he volunteered for duty in Africa and from there went to Italy with a B-25 group.

    When he returned to civilian life, he married Frances Shrader in 1944 and their daughter, Barbara Elizabeth, was born in 1945. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from USC and was employed by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.

    In 1964, he married Anna Bell and started his own company.

    He was a member of the Moorpark Townsite Committee, the Contractors Arbitration Board, the Underground Contractors Assn., the Engineer and Grading Contractors Assn. and the Associated Contractors of America. He was named Contractor of the Year by the Ventura County Contractors Assn. He was also a master Mason of Downey and a member of the American Legion Post 502.

    In addition to his wife, Anna, of Moorpark, and daughter, Barbara, of Long Beach, he is survived by stepson Duncan Fane of Escondido, three grandsons and two step-grandchildren.

    A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 17 at Faith Lutheran Church in Moorpark.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Doolittle Raiders Scholarship Fund, c/o Col. Henry A. Potter USAF (Ret.), 2605 Loyola Lane, Austin, Texas 78723; or to the American Diabetes Foundation.

    Arrangements are under the direction of Pierce Bros. Griffin Mortuary in Thousand Oaks.

    Maj. Howard Sessler, 310th BG, 380th BS, B/N MTO

    • North Africa

    Major Howard A Sessler; Doolittle Raider, Bombardier/Navigator on Don Smith's CREW 15 off the USS Hornet.

    **QUOTE; "**As the navigator and bombardier on Don Smiths aircraft we attacked targets in Kobe. When the raid was completed we flew on and eventually ditched our aircraft in the sea off the coast of China. We swam to an island where Chinese guerrillas took us through enemy lines into China. We got to Chungking from where we were sent home through India and across the South Atlantic. I later flew all through Africa after the invasion until the war was over, a total of 103 missions, all in B-25s."

    FROM the Book "Jr. Birdmen of Corsica" by Robt. Zulauf

    Page 90 One of the old Brigade Robert Zulauf
    2nd Column)
    Text written by Robert Zulauf
    There was one character who stands out in my memory. He was a navigator in the 310th BG, 381st Squadron. He moved in with four of us junior birdmen. He was a big guy and he had a lot more combat flying experience. We were
    (Page 91 1st Column (Kid goes…. Continue))
    We were a little in awe of this Captain (Howard Sessler) who had flown missions in North Africa, had returned to the States, and now was back to fly again. What we learned later about the Captain was even more surprising – we learned that he had been part of Jimmy Doolittle’s group on the raid of Tokyo! This unassuming navigator was a no-frills sort of guy who led a very simple life overseas. He moved into our room, set up his cot and placed one duffle bag containing all his belongings beneath the cot. His clean cloths were stored in one end of the bag and his dirty clothes in the other end. When the bag was filled with dirty clothes he would take the bag to the native women who did our laundry down at a nearby stream. They beat the clothes against the rocks to get them clean.
    I also recall that this same Captain once “procured” from our mess hall a large cut of fresh beef which he hung up in a corner of our room and carved steaks from the quarter carcass for late night feasts after his return from the Happy Hills Officer’s Club. He was also fond of basketball and he was the only player who could travel 20 feet with the ball and dribble only once or twice. Yes, the Captain made his own court rules, and he was big enough to enforce his rules.
    This same fun-loving Captain was later court-martialed for tearing down some crepe paper party decorations at the Red Cross Club; this court-martial cost him $200 per month for three months, as I recall.   Bob Zulauf wrote the "Jr Birdmen of Corsica"

    310th BG (A Raiders Maj. Howard Albert Sessler from Arlington, Mass.

    • North Africa

    DOOLITTLE RAIDERS, 310th Bomb Group; ""Doolittle had used the versatile B-25's to bomb Tokyo in April 1942 and while they had no squadron or group designation, eight of the Doolittle Raiders who returned from the Raid would later wind up with the 310th in North Africa, December 1942." Here is where we located them : Col Bill Bower: May 1945 assumed command of 310th; Capt. Travis Hoover Squadron Commander of 379th, June 1942; Captain Rodney Wilder Squadron Commander of 380th 21st of July 1942 (2nd Lt Howard E. Sessler was mentioned in the 380th BS with Capt. Wilder.) These were also named by Edward G. Betts, 379th, author of "History of the 310th BG" Then in February , 1943, Doolittle "checked up" on the 310th by riding with a 379th crew on a Combat Mission.

    Howard Albert Sessler, 0-43165, Major
    Bombardier-Navigator Crew 15

    Graduated from Arlington High School, Arlington, Mass. Entered military service December 31, 1940 at Boston, Mass. Graduated from bombardier training and commissioned as Second Lieutenant in August, 1941. Completed navigator training in December of 1941. Remained in China-Burma-India Theater after Tokyo Raid until July, 1942. Served in European Theater from September, 1942 until September, 1943 and Mediterranean Theater from September, 1944 until June, 1945. Relieved from active duty November, 1945. Graduated from University of Southern California in 1950 with Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) degree. President of heavy construction firm. Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two Silver Oak Leaf Clusters and the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

    Born August 11, 1917, Boston, Massachusetts
    Died February 09, 2001, Thousand Oaks, CA

    Howard A. Sessler; Engineer, WWII Bomber Pilot

    Obituaries March 10, 2001

    Howard Albert Sessler of Moorpark, a retired general engineering contractor, has died at the age of 83.

    Sessler, who died Feb. 9 in Thousand Oaks, was born Aug. 11, 1917, in Boston, to Edward and Elizabeth Sessler.

    As a young man, he worked as a caddy at a local golf course and played baseball with a Boston Red Sox farm team.

    Maj. Howard Sessler (310th Bomb Group) RAIDER

    • Tokyo, Japan

    Doolittle Raiders;

    Doolittle Raiders take their B-25 bombers down to very low level and head for China after delivering their surprise attack on the industrial and military targets in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942. The sixteen-ship mission, led by volunteer crews, successfully completed one of the most audacious air raids of World War II.

    Howard Albert Sessler

    • Date of death: February 9, 2001

    • Home of record: Arlington, Massachusetts

    • Howard Sessler was one of the 80 airmen who, under the leadership of Jimmy Doolittle, disembarked from the U.S.S. Hornet in the first bombing raid over Tokyo in World War II. Following the raid he remained in the China-Burma-India Theater until July before deploying to the European Theater of Action where he served from September 1942 until September 1943. He then flew combat in the Mediterranean Theater from September 1944 until the end of the war.

    • DFC; Distinguished Flying Cross

      Awarded for actions during the World War II

      The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Howard Albert Sessler (ASN: 0-43165), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary achievement as Navigator/Bombardier of a B-25 Bomber of the 1st Special Aviation Project (Doolittle Raider Force), while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on 18 April 1942. Lieutenant Sessler with 79 other officers and enlisted men volunteered for this mission knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote, and executed his part in it with great skill and daring. This achievement reflects high credit on himself and the military service.

      Action Date: April 18, 1942

      Service: Army Air Forces

      Rank: First Lieutenant

      Company: 1st Special Aviation Project

      Division: Doolittle Tokyo Raider Force

      Sessler belonged to the 380th – he was on loan to the 381st 380th BS Mission Summary: (Ops Order --) Group Mission # 57: Mission Report # 39 Date- March 7, 1943 Target-Sea Search. Squadron airplanes- none N- Lieut. H.A. Sessler, flight navigator flying with Lieut. Thorndike of the 381st Squadron. Sessler, Howard A., 1Lt, navigator Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot, 381st BS We were highly rewarded with a sea-going mission today, when we found an 11 ship convoy. Getting ready to come in at low-level we found what we had long expected, barrage balloons. They bothered us for a minute but we soon found that they trailed behind the ships so in we went again. Results: one large merchant vessel sunk, one small merchant vessel sunk, and two others on fire, although our fighter escort stated that three were seen burning. Fighters once again played a leading role shooting down one ME-109 and strafing the entire convoy. All of our airplanes returned safely. This is from the 381st BS mission crew list: A/C No. 41-13061 “LIL’ JOE” (A) (flight leader) P Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt CP Durgin, James L., 2Lt N Sessler, Howard A., 1Lt, 380th BS B Myers, John H., 1Lt E None R Boone, Edward W. W., S/Sgt G Molnar, William J., S/Sgt F White, Alpheus Wray, Jr. Capt, Commander (observer) Here’s a neat bit about Francis A. Bittner, from this 381st Special Account of the mission: (Marlow was co-pilot on another ship) 381st BS Special Account: THE 40th MISSION OF THE 381st By Lt. Jack F. Marlow In our ship I called the bombardier as we started on our run and told him to get set and then called the gunners and gave them their target position. I wanted them to take everything they could find at the right of us. Just when getting within what I thought was range, I hollered, “Let ‘er go, and damnit, melt those guns right off the turrets.” Boy, they did. The gunners both fired ahead of the plane but everything fell short at first and the bombardier let go with his gun and a lot of lead started to fly. I fired a few bursts out of the pilot’s gun just before we got to the target and broke the damned thing and he was really “browned off.” The gunners never let up, and the lower turret (which everyone had said was no good), manned in our ship by Sgt Frank A. Dittmar, put more lead on the decks of those two leading escort vessels than Carter has pills, knocking out two gun positions. Dittmar, Francis A., Sgt, radio-gunner.

      Maj. Howard Sessler, Doolittle Raider, then B-25 Combat, 310th BG, 380th BS, MTO

        **In the 1930 ensus, the Sessler Family lived on Fountain Road, Arlington, MASS.  In their home were Caroline Sessler (Mother in law, 88) with Walter E (44) and Elizabeth (42) and their family;  Robert (14) and Howard (12) Sessler.  **

        Howard would return from the Doolittle Raid and fly B-25 Combat in the 310th Bomb Group, 380th Bomb Squad in the MTO during WWII.

        Barbi Ennis Connolly, 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher   <a>[email protected]</a>  additions?  corrections?