FAST PROMOTIONS by Lou Kline
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.
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.
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
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.
CMS USAF Ret.
Past President 379th BG