379th Memorials




WWII Photos

WWII Crew Photos

War Stories

Mission Reports




I enlisted at the age of 16, graduated from Airplane Mechanics School, B-24 Specialist School, Gunnery School, and was assigned to a B-17 crew before I was old enough to enlist. In 1941 when I enlisted the minimum age was 18. To top it all off I was a 17 year old Technical Sergeant assigned to Sam Satariano’s crew in the 379th Bomb Group at Boise, Idaho.

Time passed and the crews flew the ocean, and were transferred to Kimbolton before our ground support units had arrived.

Having no MP’s to guard our aircraft, it became necessary for the crew members to take turns guarding the aircraft at night. It was Sgt Ellsworth Tibbetts turn to guard the airplane and he wanted to take my Thompson sub-machine to perform that duty, and I agreed.

The gun was in a leather scabbard that was hard as wood and it was jammed in, to the point that it took a really good tug to get it out, and it had a loaded clip in it. I yanked hard and the gun came out, firing one round into the floor of the hut. Apparently a hard leather tit on the inside of the scabbard had pushed the bolt back when the gun was pushed in.

When TSgt. Don Perry quit dancing around we found that the bullet had just grazed his shoe and it was quite hot. While we were concerned about him, Tibbetts wiped a tiny trickle of blood off his cheek. A tiny particle of the projectile had hit him. Everyone else was laughing at Perry dancing but I didn’t consider it so funny.

Knowing that someone outside was bound to have heard the shot I decided to tell the Squadron Commander, two huts away, what had happened. He was in bed when I reported and continued to lie there while I told my story. He asked if anyone had been hurt and I related Perry’s dance and Tibbets bloodletting.

Captain Jon Hall worried and agonized for several minutes before he said “Kline, if I don’t take some drastic action in this regard it would be a bad precedent for the entire Squadron, and I am going to have to bust you”. I asked “how far” and he said “all the way”. I felt very sick at the stomach and almost broke into tears. My folks at home were so proud of their teen age TSgt, and how would I break the news to them? I went away heartsick.

Several days passed and we were ready to go into combat on May 29th to St Nazaire. My crew stood down, but they woke me to substitute on Lt. Holmes crew as Engineer/Gunner. I told the Operations Officer that I could not fly because I was not a Sergeant. (That being the custom in that day to protect a crew member when being assigned to a Prison Camp) The Ops Officer said “are you still a Private” and of course I answered yes, whereupon he said “get down to the chow hall and then to briefing, and it will all be straightened out when you get back.” We aborted the mission and I didn’t pursue the point with Operations until they woke me for a mission with my crew when we repeated the same old story and Ops gave me the same answer. I needed to be at least a Buck Sergeant. In the meantime the one letter I sent home had my old rank in the return address. My Pilot, Sam, had taken advantage of the situation to promote my Assistant Engineer, 30 year old Beaufort Buchanan to TSgt.

Two missions later after asking to talk to our new Squadron Commander I came home from the mission and I was a TSgt again. The Squadron Commander that reduced me was shot down (in my aircraft) on the first mission and because I never saw any orders reducing me or promoting me, I feel like he never did it. Someone else told me that he saw a set of orders demoting me and promoting me on the same sheet. When I pulled that dumb trick we had no Orderly Room Staff and it might never have come to be….Or I had been reduced and promoted back to the same grade in a matter of two weeks.

Lou Kline
Past President 379th BG WWII Assoc.

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