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Ric Gillespie

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Honor Flight
« on: October 23, 2013, 07:02:00 PM »

My Dad, Richard T. Gillespie (I'm Richard E.) recently participated in an Honor Flight to Washington, DC.  As some of you know, Dad is a decorated WWII  B-17 pilot.  I want to share the letter he wrote in response to the many children who wrote to him.  I've included a couple photos.

"Dear Young People,

First I want to thank you all for your sincere letters thanking our group for our service in WWII. We as young men and women did what we thought had to be done at the time to save our country and the rest of free world. But I do want to make it very clear that taking a country to war should always be the last resort because it is so damaging to everything it touches. There is nothing good about it and it very often destroys the lives and families of those who fought and survived.

Secondly we all must thank the many hundreds of Honor Flight volunteers  around the country who have worked tirelessly and at their own expense to put these now 32 veteran  tributes together. We should give them every bit of support we can think of.  They are doing a great and worthy job.
 
As for me, I do appreciate every one of the many letters I received personally and as you might imagine it would take me probably the rest of the year to answer each one singly regarding the many questions you have asked individually. So I will try to answer your questions in one letter with some pictures which I will send to each of you.

I loved airplanes from the time I first noticed them. Of course they were much smaller and slower back in the 1920's and it took one a much longer time to be gone from sight. I built model planes as a kid and liked to go out to the airport whenever I thought there were any planes there.

One day when I was in high school I saw a B-17 fly over and I thought it was the most beautiful plane I had ever seen.  In 1941, as a sophomore at Syracuse Univ., I had the chance to get my pilot's license by joining the CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) Program  with the understanding that I would join the U.S. Army Air Corps if they needed me. A year or so after Pearl Harbor I knew I would be called and I joined in 1943. Flight training took about a year and I got my Wings and Commission in April '44. Out of a class of at least 50 only 7 were  chosen to fly B-17s  and I was one of them.

There was no such thing as sound proofing on planes of 1935 design so all old bomber pilots now wear hearing aids but the engine sound was beautiful to me at the time. 
I flew 20 missions over Germany and on the last 10 I was chosen to lead my formation. in a special radar equipted ship called a Mickey Ship.   
For our bombing results I received the Air Medal with 3 Custers and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
I of course am very proud of the fact that I brought all of my crew  back home safely after each mission although we often got holes in our ship from enemy antiaircraft shells called flak.

I will close by saying that if you have a PC you can see pictures of  our crew and list of our missions by Googling  Richard Gillespie 447th Bomb Group and then left click on Gillespie Crew 447th Bomb Group.

Many Thanks To All of You for your much appreciated interest.

Dick Gillespie
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JNev

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2013, 07:31:32 PM »

Thanks for sharing that, Ric.  I am very glad your dad was able to attend the memorial via honor flight and grateful to him for his service.  That was a fine letter he sent to the young folks - so much to be shared by a generation that gave so much and that is leaving us all too fast now.

My own dad is 90 and made the honor flight from here a year or so ago.  I am grateful for what they do for these vets who protected our freedom.  I am also grateful for a more caring public today - all our vets deserve thanks.  Dad wore his "CBI Theatre" cap (China-India-Burma) all weekend on a family trip and was approached and spoken to and thanked for his service so nicely by so many. 

I realized too that there is a passing of the torch of sorts going on now - a quiet, admiring brother was with us - one of two who were navy servicemen in the Vietnam era.  He did photographic work and intelligence analysis at various stations and served on P-3 Orions with the 'Fighting Eagles' - VP-16.  He spent a good bit of time flying over the Atlantic out of Bermuda during his time stationed at NAS Jax not so far from here.  Watching him watch my dad and claiming nothing for himself I realized the time had come to get him a cap, at least - and a friend has helped me find some 'heraldry' for his outfit.  I hope he'll soon be wearing that proudly and I know my dad is proud of his two sons who served as well.

We owe so much to these fellows - my hat is off to your dad - and to those smiling young folks 'guarding' the vets at the airport in the picture.  The warriors are passing their swords on to later generations now, and your dad's words not only share the warrior's experience, but are encouraging and caring for humanity.  God bless him.
- Jeff Neville

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2013, 08:27:45 PM »

... you can see pictures of  our crew and list of our missions by Googling  Richard Gillespie 447th Bomb Group and then left click on Gillespie Crew 447th Bomb Group.

Here is a direct link to the "Gillespie Crew" page of the 447th Bomb Group Association.
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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Jeff Victor Hayden

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2013, 08:53:20 PM »

"in a special radar equipted ship called a Mickey Ship"

I'm not familiar with this type, can anyone fill me in on its purpose/function. I am familiar with the formation ships or 'Judas goats' as they were nick named but I haven't heard of these special radar ships before. Did they look different?
This must be the place
 
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2013, 09:05:11 PM »

"in a special radar equipted ship called a Mickey Ship"

I'm not familiar with this type, can anyone fill me in on its purpose/function. I am familiar with the formation ships or 'Judas goats' as they were nick named but I haven't heard of these special radar ships before. Did they look different?
The narrative in this link may serve to explain about the radar ships. And this link does the same while throwing a light on the origin of the name "Mickey".
LTM,

Bruce
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Jeff Victor Hayden

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2013, 10:01:18 PM »

Thanks for that Bruce, very interesting indeed. The RAF used these H2S and later H2SX sets on Halifaxes, Stirlings and pathfinder DH Mosquitos and, on reading up on the subject a very improbable but plausible reason for the H2S name as follows...

"The targeting radar was originally designated "BN (Blind Navigation)", but it quickly became "H2S". The genesis of this designation remains somewhat mysterious, with different sources claiming it meant "Height to Slope"; or "Home Sweet Home". The "S" might have also had some connection to "S-band", but it is plausible the abbreviation was deliberately obscure as a security measure. There is also a rumour that it was named after hydrogen sulphide (chemical formula H2S, in connection with its rotten smell), because the inventor realised that had he simply pointed the radar downward instead of towards the sky, he would have a new use for radar, ground tracking instead of for identifying air targets and that it was simply 'rotten' that he hadn't thought of it sooner! The "rotten" connection, with a twist, is propounded by R V Jones who relates the tale that, due to a misunderstanding between the original developers and Lord Cherwell, development of the technology was delayed, the engineers thinking that Lord Cherwell wasn't keen on the idea. Later, when Cherwell asked how the project was progressing, he was most upset to hear that it had been put on hold, and repeatedly declared about the delay that "it stinks". The engineers therefore christened the restarted project "H2S" and later, when Cherwell inquired as to what H2S stood for, no one dared tell Cherwell that it was named after his phrase—instead they pretended, on the spot, that it meant "Home Sweet Home"—which was the meaning that Cherwell related to others (including R V Jones)."
This must be the place
 
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pilotart

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2013, 11:04:46 PM »

My Dad, Richard T. Gillespie (I'm Richard E.) recently participated in an Honor Flight to Washington, DC.  As some of you know, Dad is a decorated WWII  B-17 pilot.  I want to share the letter he wrote in response to the many children who wrote to him.  I've included a couple photos.

"Dear Young People,

First I want to thank you all for your sincere letters thanking our group for our service in WWII. We as young men and women did what we thought had to be done at the time to save our country and the rest of free world. But I do want to make it very clear that taking a country to war should always be the last resort because it is so damaging to everything it touches. There is nothing good about it and it very often destroys the lives and families of those who fought and survived.

Secondly we all must thank the many hundreds of Honor Flight volunteers  around the country who have worked tirelessly and at their own expense to put these now 32 veteran  tributes together. We should give them every bit of support we can think of.  They are doing a great and worthy job.
 
As for me, I do appreciate every one of the many letters I received personally and as you might imagine it would take me probably the rest of the year to answer each one singly regarding the many questions you have asked individually. So I will try to answer your questions in one letter with some pictures which I will send to each of you.

I loved airplanes from the time I first noticed them. Of course they were much smaller and slower back in the 1920's and it took one a much longer time to be gone from sight. I built model planes as a kid and liked to go out to the airport whenever I thought there were any planes there.

One day when I was in high school I saw a B-17 fly over and I thought it was the most beautiful plane I had ever seen.  In 1941, as a sophomore at Syracuse Univ., I had the chance to get my pilot's license by joining the CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) Program  with the understanding that I would join the U.S. Army Air Corps if they needed me. A year or so after Pearl Harbor I knew I would be called and I joined in 1943. Flight training took about a year and I got my Wings and Commission in April '44. Out of a class of at least 50 only 7 were  chosen to fly B-17s  and I was one of them.

There was no such thing as sound proofing on planes of 1935 design so all old bomber pilots now wear hearing aids but the engine sound was beautiful to me at the time. 
I flew 20 missions over Germany and on the last 10 I was chosen to lead my formation. in a special radar equipted ship called a Mickey Ship.   
For our bombing results I received the Air Medal with 3 Custers and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
I of course am very proud of the fact that I brought all of my crew  back home safely after each mission although we often got holes in our ship from enemy antiaircraft shells called flak.

I will close by saying that if you have a PC you can see pictures of  our crew and list of our missions by Googling  Richard Gillespie 447th Bomb Group and then left click on Gillespie Crew 447th Bomb Group.

Many Thanks To All of You for your much appreciated interest.

Dick Gillespie
Although it was the book "Flying Fortresses" that first sparked my lifelong interest in aviation, knowing what I know now, I would have wanted no part of that activity.  I would like to add my Heartfelt thanks to your Father for the great risks he took.

My dad was drafted Aug '43 (with a four month old baby {me} at 36 years old and a job at the Springfield Armory to try and protect his 'one man' 13 year old Greenhouse Business) and hit the shores of Omaha Beach as a PFC.  A couple days later, he had dug a Deluxe Foxhole into the side of a Hedgerow (an L shaped cave) when a German Railroad Gun hit a tree in front of his hole.  This put shrapnel into his knee along with severe head concussion wounds, but within a few months he was back in France training 'greenhorn' troops.  If Creighton Abrams (our local Feeding Hills Home-Town Hero) hadn't broken the 'Battle of the Bulge' his orders would have placed him into that fray the next day...

He suffered pains and increasingly severe headaches for the rest of his life.  I was so glad he came home but sad that his Wholesale Florist Business (Provin Gardens) had to suffer so much while he was gone.

For my experience; I was drafted in 1965 but was so lucky to be selected into Medical/Dental Corps (with a part-time job of running a BeachFront 'Officer's Club")  working for an also drafted Captain Dentist who hated the Army far more than I did.  Unlike Dad, no Purple Heart I'm glad to say.

It is hard to imagine the Courage Needed to taxi out and launch yourselves into that carnage when you had to know that your chance of returning was less then 90% each flight

What a True Hero!!!  Thank your Dad for me!  He did what was needed when the future of the World depended upon it !!! 

I know at past 70, I am "Young" to your Dad but I do remember the fears that he delivered us from.  Without doubt the Greatest Generation for sure!  And he writes so well.

Quote
"...I loved airplanes from the time I first noticed them. Of course they were much smaller...
" I remember how small they were to me at two years age, kept looking all over for them until Dad took me (in '46) to Westover Airbase for a flyover ("TAKE ME HOME") was my reaction to a P80 flyby...

Rick, check out the stamp on the envelope from me arriving today... I was thinking of your dad.

Art Johnson
 
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Gus Rubio

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2013, 07:41:21 AM »

Thanks for sharing, Rick.  I personally did not know of your father's WW2 service, but am grateful nonetheless.  Those are fantastic pictures- isn't great, in this age of electronic storage, that the risk of damaging or losing such treasured memories is virtually nil?

My family came to this county in 1970, so my father never served.  I have plenty for which to be proud of my father, but being a WW2 veteran (I don't like the term "vet", I feel it diminishes the value of military service) is a tremendously special thing.

And yes, the B-17 is definitely one of the most beautiful aircraft ever.
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Monty Fowler

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2013, 09:23:11 AM »

"All gave some, some gave all."

My Dad was one of the fortunate ones who didn't have to give all - and his service in the Merchant Marine remains largely unrecognized by the U.S. government. Merchant mariners were not awarded veteran's status until 1988, 43 years after WWII ended. This despite having the highest ratio of casualties per participant compared to any of the "combat" services, including the Marines - 1 in 26 were killed.

An excellent resource of anyone wanting to learn more about the subject is here: http://www.usmm.org/

LTM, who vows to Keep 'em Supplied,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 CER
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Chris Austin

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2013, 07:22:24 AM »

Small world. In 1996 we bought 2 Italian Spinone dogs from a couple who lived a mile or so from your Dad's base at Rattlesden. The family of one of them (can't remember which) still had connections with the post-war use of the land.
Good post!
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2013, 07:50:19 AM »

Small world. In 1996 we bought 2 Italian Spinone dogs from a couple who lived a mile or so from your Dad's base at Rattlesden.

Some time in the 1980s my Dad and Mom visited Rattlesden during a vacation trip to Britain.  Dad fell into conversation with members of the soaring club who were using the field.  They said, "You need to see the place from the perspective you're accustomed to seeing it from."  They strapped him into a sailplane and took him up.  For years he had a Rattlesden Soaring Society sticker on his car.
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JNev

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Re: Honor Flight
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2013, 08:40:50 AM »

Small world. In 1996 we bought 2 Italian Spinone dogs from a couple who lived a mile or so from your Dad's base at Rattlesden.

Some time in the 1980s my Dad and Mom visited Rattlesden during a vacation trip to Britain.  Dad fell into conversation with members of the soaring club who were using the field.  They said, "You need to see the place from the perspective you're accustomed to seeing it from."  They strapped him into a sailplane and took him up.  For years he had a Rattlesden Soaring Society sticker on his car.

Now THAT was truly an honor flight - I am glad he had that experience, well deserved.
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R
 
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