Monday, April 7, 2014

Gil Cook: "Tell the True Story"

This is the seventh post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.




 Was there a cover up after the downing of Gil's plane on October 28, 1943?  The families of the crewmen lost on that plane might have suspected as such.  However, the documents sourced from the National Archives suggest otherwise.

It must have been heart-wrenching for Gil's mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, to receive brief and inconclusive responses when she asked for more information about her son's accident.  For instance, she sent a letter on December 17, 1943 pleading for answers about whether her son might be alive, and received only this, from the Army Chaplain, nearly a month after she posted her letter.

January 10, 1944

Dear Mrs. Rutherfurd,

I have in hand your letter of December 17th concerning your son Lawrence Cook or Gilbert as you call him.  You asked me some questions which shall endeavor to answer as well as possible.  Gilbert was with Lt. Reeses' crew. The plane did not return from a combat mission.  there is little else we can say.  As I always say I do not try to explain away the implications of "missing in action" especially in reference to the Jap occupied areas even though such personnel sometimes return.

God bless you and may He keep you strong in these days.

I remain sincerely yours,
s/ Aubrey A. J. Zellner
Captain, Chaplain U.S.A.

As I wrote in my previous post about Gil, it took the families nearly six months to learn that the plane had been downed by friendly fire, and much longer until they knew the boys were not coming home.  The short and unsubstantial letters sent to them through official channels gave the families virtually no information.  However, internal communication at the War Department reveals that they were working to verify what had happened to Gil's plane and decide how to relate the news.  Once the horrible truth was known, at least some officials advocated for total transparency, as in this internal document dated April 25, 1944.

Colonel Fitzpatrick

You have hold of a tough one here, and one which apparently is representative of many.  We should operate, however, on the principle of telling the truth whenever it is available to us.

How this thing happened, we can't say, and you have said as much.  That it DID happen, we have from the reports of two aircrewmen in another plane.

I think your memorandum handles the situation very well.  The only suggestion I might have would be to point out that in fast aerial action it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly what HAS happened.  Thus, it may be that the two men who reported on the accident might have been mistaken-- that the plane crashed because of an anti-aircraft shell from enemy guns.

This is an unusual accident, I would think, and one that is not likely to occur frequently.  Planes go so fast and air discipline is generally good, so that it would appear that the liklihhod [sic] of just such an accident occurring often would be remote.

I don't know where the family of the boy learned of the accident-- but they did learn, and that illustrates why it is necessary to tell the true story.

George H. Haddock
Lt. Col. Air Corps

Gil and his crew were lost in unusual circumstances, in the middle of an active combat zone in one of the most critical parts of the war, in a time before the transparency that the modern information age provides.  Perhaps we should not be surprised that the truth was slow to emerge. 

To be continued....

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gil Cook: "A Sincere and Well-Meant Search for the Truth"

This is the sixth post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.

A B-24 Liberator, the type of plane Gil Cook flew.  Source

After Gil's plane went down over Burma on October 28, 1943, his mother received a telegram declaring him missing.  In the year that followed, Madgalene Barrett Rutherfurd tried to find out the truth of what happened to her son.  She was not the only one doing so.  The pilot of Gil's plane, 1st Lieutenant James M. Reese of Virginia, left behind a fiancee, Jane Luce of Kansas City, Missouri, who clung to hope that he might have survived the downing of his plane.  When the War Department could not provide news, she appealed to her congressman, Roger C. Slaughter of Missouri, for clarity.  She also found an address for Gil's mother and wrote her a letter.  Here is the text of her letter, sent via the Red Cross. It was likely written in May of 1944.

Dear Mrs. Rutherfurd-

Perhaps it would be best if I introduced myself.  I am Jim Reese's fiancee.  Ever since the boys have been missing, I have wanted to write you, but it took me some time to find your address, and also we did not hear about Jim until about six weeks after he was down.  I was visiting the Reeses at the time.

There have been so many rumors and all as to what happened to the plane, that I decided to check the last one I heard before I said anything to anyone.  I met this boy who had returned from the Tenth Air Force.  He did not know Jim and his crew, but knew what had happened to his plane.  Said that one of his own planes had dropped a five hundred pound bomb on him.  I wrote to our congressman, who is a personal friend, and asked him to check.  The enclosed letter is a copy of the reply sent to him.  Believe that it is the most accurate and straightest report that we have had.

I have checked with the Heads here and they say to discredit any other rumors we might have heard and to base our hopes on this.  I certainly do think it is encouraging, though I can't see how the boys can be anything but prisoners.  Though it is possible that they may have been picked up by the natives.  Either way, it will be many long months before we hear, and will just have to have enough confidence in the boys to know that they got out.

Of all Jim's crew, I was the most devoted to Cookie, he was so much like Jim in his quiet way that I have a special spot in my heart for him.  They were both grand pilots, and if anybody could have gotten out, they could.  Also, they had an especially good and well-trained crew, so my bet is on the boys.  When they were stationed at Topeka, the boys were all at the house quite a bit, and I wouldn't take anything for the two weeks I had with them.  I drove them all to the base the day they reported back from their last leave.  They all stood on the front porch and said, "We don't want to go fight this war," and they looked very young and very wistful, but that mood lasted for only a minute - and off they went.

Would certainly appreciate it if you would let me know if you hear anything further, and you can rest assured that I will keep you posted.  Please excuse this typed letter, but you wouldn't be able to decipher my handwriting.

Sincerely,

S/ Jane Luce


Jane's congressman, Roger C. Slaughter*, made a request to the War Department on April 7, 1944 for more information about the downing of Jim and Gil's plane.  This request was made to Col. W. H. S. Wright in the Secretary of War's office. After receiving no response, Congressman Slaughter again petitioned the War Department for information.  The following letter was sent to Congressman Slaughter on April 27, 1944:

My Dear Roger,

I have your letter of April 26th in which you refer to your earlier letter of April 7th in the interest of Lieutenant James M. Reese.

I regret the delay incident to formulating an accurate reply to your inquiry.  As you realize, complete information on all casualties is not sent in to Washington from the various theaters.  Due to the overburdening of our communication facilities with operational message of a high order of priority, it is possible to send back to this country from the theaters only the bare essentials relative to casualties.  These essentials are given to the relatives at the time of notification.  In order to get further details it is necessary to contact the combat theater concerned through radio channels which, as I stated above, carry an immense quantity of operational messages daily. Hence, the delay in getting information as to the particulars concerning Lieutenant Reese.

Fairly complete information has now been obtained through the above channels, and the particulars are as follows:

The missing air crew report received in this headquarters indicated that Lieutenant Reese was the pilot of a B-24 (Liberator), bomber which participated in a bombardment mission to Southern Burma on October 28, 1943.  The report further indicates that while over the bomb run, and a few seconds following the release of bombs by Lieutenant Reese's element, three of our ships were seem to cross above this element, and two bombs were seen to fall, one of which struck the plane piloted by Lieutenant Reese, at the base of the No. 2 engine.  The bomb fell right through but did not explode.  The airplane maintained level flight for a short period, then fell off towards the earth.  There is no indication in the report as to the caliber of the bombs dropped nor to the contributing circumstances attending this regrettable accident.  There may be a dozen or more reasons indicated, ranging all the way from unexpected enemy action during the hazards of a complicated air operation to the tenseness with which some men are afflicted while under enemy fire, which causes them to do the unpredictable.

Although this accident is regrettable, we cannot lose sight of the hazards to war and the complexities of battle situations.  When unusual incidents occur, immediate steps are taken in an effort to prevent recurrences, but never before have we been compelled to deal with the complications we are faced with today in modern warfare.

I sincerely regret that you are under the impression that the War Department seeks to conceal information from the press and public on these accidents of modern warfare.  Such things have been inherent in the art of warfare since the dawn of time.  You, yourself, probably know that it often occurs that friendly troops sometimes become casualties when a short from our own barrage falls among them, or that our own troops are sometimes caught by our own over-head machine gun fire.  This is one of the necessary hazards of war, and is inherent in all mobile and uncertain situations.  Those who criticize us most severely are frequently those un-familiar with the conditions of war.

I hope that the above answers your questions.  I should be most happy to get together with you sometime and talk this whole thing over, because I think that the situation relative to the reporting of losses needs clarification, and that much criticism is due primarily to misunderstandings arising in a sincere and well-meant search for the truth.

Very sincerely yours,
S/ W.H.S. Wright
Colonel, Cavalry
Aide to the Secretary of War



Six months after the accident Gil's mother finally knew the truth; Her son's plane was downed by friendly fire.  However, neither she nor Jane Luce knew that the men were dead.  That would take another six months.


* Congressman Roger C. Slaughter was a Princeton-educated lawyer who was elected congressman in 1942 and 1944, but got on the wrong side of President Harry Truman after he failed to support some of his bills.  Truman worked to oust Slaughter from office, and Slaughter lost his 1946 campaign to Truman-supported Enos Axtell.  More information can be found here.

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gil Cook: What Happened on October 28, 1943

This is the fifth post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.




On October 28, 1943, Gil's plane went down over Burma.  His mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, received a telegram reporting him missing on November 3, 1943.

On November 7, 1943, witnesses to the plane's accident were deposed by the Army.  Their statements are the clearest indication we have of exactly what happened to Gil and his crew.  Unfortunately, it would take months for these details to be revealed to the airmen's families, during which time they hoped desperately that the "missing in action" designation meant their loved ones would eventually be found alive.   It was not to be.

From the statement given by Warren J. Chadwick, S/Sgt, Air Corps, 436th Bombardment Sq. (H):

On or about October 28, 1943 at approximately 1217 hours, I, S/Sgt Warren J. Chadwick, 19020370, while flying as right waist gunner in #2 position of the first element, observed the following: We were on our 2nd run when a three ship formation echeloned over our 2nd element.  I saw two bombs drop from the ships above, one dropping between #2 engine and the fuselage of the ship hit.  The bomb did not explode upon contact with the plane.  It immediately burst into flames.  The pilot maintained level flight for about 15 seconds; then the ship dropped off on the left wing for about 1000 feet, then exploded.  When the explosion occurred, one man was blown out of the ship; his chute was burning and never opened.  The tail turret was blown off and later exploded.  I tried to follow the bigger pieces to the ground, most of which were still burning and exploding in the air.  I did not see any large pieces hit the ground.

From the statement given by Arthur J. Darling, T/Sgt, Air Corps, 436th Bombardment Sq. (H):

On or about October 28, 1943 at approximately 1217 hours, I, Arthur J. Darling, 17037524, T/Sgt, 436th Bombardment Squadron (H) AAF, while flying as Aerial Engineer in Airplane #69 did observe the following: We were turning off our bomb run and the 2nd element was still on the run.  A few seconds after the 2nd element's bombs were away I noticed three ships above them crossing over our 2nd element.  I only saw two bombs drop, one of which fell directly on #5 ship, at the base of #2 engine.  The bomb fell right through and the wing burst into flames.  The ship maintained level flight for 15 to 20 seconds and fell off on the left wing burning more as it fell.  I did not see it hit the ground.

After these depositions, a statement was sent to Gil's mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, on December 9, 1943 from John B. Cooley, Colonel, A.G.D, Air Adjutant General.  It reads, in part:

The Adjutant General notified you on November 3rd that your son, Second Lieutenant Lawrence G. Cook, was reported missing in action since October 28th over Burma.

Further information has been received that Lieutenant Cook was a crew member of a B-24 Liberator bomber which participated in a combat mission to Southern Burma on October 28th.  The report states that during the mission his plane was seem to sustain damage from an accidental bomb explosion and to fall to the earth.  This occurred at about 1:20 p.m. over Southern Burma.

Because of reasons of military security, it is regretted that the names of those who were on the plane and addresses of their next of kin cannot be furnished at the present time.

This letter did not clarify that Gil's plane had been struck by a bomb dropped by an American plane.  It also did not give Magdalene the news that her son was surely dead.

Later, a letter followed from an Army Chaplain, Aubrey A. J. Zellner:

You have received the War Department message in reference to your son.  It may have sounded rather unfeeling.  I hasten to write you that we are not impersonal about it.  I do not try to explain away the implication of the possibilities of the message, even though "missing in action" personnel sometimes return.

Lawrence was well liked by his fellow officers and men.  We are not just a part of a war machine.  That may be all right for the Axis soldiers but we are very human.  We deeply grieve together with you.  May God bless you and keep you strong.








To be continued...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gil Cook: Missing In Action

This is the fourth post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.



On October 28, 1943, Gil's plane went down over Burma.  His mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, received a telegram reporting him missing on November 3, 1943.

In a world before the internet, 24-hour cable news, embedded reporters and even reliable international phone service, it took a full week after the incident for Magdalene to be informed that her son was missing.  In fact, he was not missing.  He and all the men on his plane were dead, which everyone in his unit knew, some of them having witnessed the plane's accident.  However, it would take many months and a lot of anguished questions from the airmen's families before the truth would come to light.

We don't know who first learned that Gil's plane had been brought down by another plane in his unit.  The fiancee of the plane's pilot petitioned her congressman for answers.  The other families wrote letters to the war department.  I've always heard that it was a friend of my grandfather Glenn Smith who told the family the truth, since that friend was also stationed in India and rumor had spread on the base.  In November 1943, however, there were only the following words.


The Secretary of War desires me to express his regret that your son Second Lieutenant Lawrence G. Cook has been reported missing in action over Burma since twenty eight October.  If further details or other information of his status are received you will be promptly notified.


In the meantime, a mother waited, not knowing what had happened to her only son.

To be continued....


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gil Cook: Ascension Island to India


This is the third post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.



Gil Cook and his unit, part of the Army Air Corps 436th Bomber Squadron, arrived on Ascension Island, en route to World War II’s Pacific Theater, on May 5, 1943.  The island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about midway between South America and Africa.
During World War II, to supply and augment extensive amphibious aircraft antisubmarine patrol operations ongoing from the early days of the war, the United States built an airbase on Ascension Island, known as "Wideawake", after a nearby colony of Sooty Terns (locally called 'Wideawake' birds because of their loud, distinctive call, which would wake people early in the morning). (source

On the same day that Gil arrived on Ascension Island, a B26 went down en route to the island. Gil and his crew were asked to go out on a search. In his journal, Gil describes searches that took place over the next several days, apparently all in vain.
May 6
A B26 went down yesterday on its way here so they have asked us to go out on a search. A pilot and navigator from another B26 are going along.

No luck today, it was pretty hazy so we couldn’t see over 2 or 3 miles. His portable radio would have been the only chance.

May 7
We’re going out on the search again. It’s getting hazier and hazier. Still have quite a way to go though. Hope they are cranking that radio today.

May 8
No luck again yesterday. Not going out today because of some hydraulic trouble. We went fishing and swimming down on the rocks today (this morning). The fish are really eager here. Some pretty colored ones too. This afternoon we helped on a 25 hour inspection. The fellow that searched with us the first day went down today. He was rescued but the other three fellows in his crew were killed. We had slept with them the night before in tent number 13.

On May 9th, Gil and his unit left Ascension Island, apparently without locating the missing B26. They landed in Accra, Ghana later that day.  Gil reacted to Africa in his journal.
Africa is not what I had pictured. The beaches along the shore look like perfect swimming places. Good surf. The ground is covered with green grass and a few scrub trees. There are a lot of red mud mounds all around. Guess they were ant hills. Some of them are about 10 feet high. All the dirt is red. I see now why some planes are painted pink.

The next day, Gil and his unit left Accra and continued east to Kano, Nigeria.
The natives live in small villages, about 10 huts in each. They just clear a hole in the jungle and fence in their village in the plains. All the villages are filled with goats and they all dash for the houses when the plane flys over. The natives all dash out, guess there’s quite a battle right at the doorway.

The portion of Gil’s journal that I have ends on May 11th, while he and his unit were still in Nigeria. He described his distaste for Kano and a level of filth he was unaccustomed to. He seems to have been overwhelmed by the impoverished conditions and sick, hungry locals.  I think that despite the conditions and the somewhat alien nature of the new countries he was visiting, it had to have been an incredible journey for Gil, a young man who hadn't seen anything of the world prior to literally flying across it.  I wonder how it would have changed him, had he made it home from the war and been able to reflect upon the things he saw and experienced.

The next definite record I have of Gil’s location is September 18, 1943. He had by then arrived in India, where the 436th was stationed. On September 18th, he wrote a letter to his uncle George Rutherfurd, the husband of his aunt Julia Barrett Rutherfurd (my great-grandmother).

India, Sept. 18th

Dear Uncle George,

I received your letter some time ago but have just been too lazy to write.  It's a funny thing, the less I do the less I want to do.  As you know, everything just about stops during these monsoons and I'm no exception.  I average about fifteen hours sleep a day and still feel tired most of the time.

We did have a little fun a while back though.  The weather cleared and it looked as though the monsoon season was at an end.  During that time, I went on five missions in seven days.  All together now I have eleven completed missions to my credit so you can see how much flying we've done the rest of the time.  The weather is bad again now, in fact it has been worse than ever.

Joe Zofco, the bombardier on our crew, and I had a little excitement the other day.  We flew over to another field about fifty miles from here in a little P.T. 22, (a Ryan trainer we have here to use on small errands) to buy some new shoes, stamps and a few other things.  Anyway when we got back to this area a good size rain storm was here and we couldn't see the field.  We flew around a bit, waiting for it to leave, but our gas was running low so we headed back to the other field.  About two miles from the runway the gas petered out so there wasn't much else to do except start down.  I picked what looked like a fairly level field and landed.  We hit the field O.K. but when we finished rolling the front end of the plane was in a rice paddy.  Neither of us were even scratched and we just put one hole in the left wing and blew the tail wheel.  The next day we went out in a truck, got the plane, fixed it up and flew home.  When we got home, all the colonel said was, "Glad to see you back."  Sure got razzed from the rest of the fellows though.

Except for being a little quiet, this is as good a theater to be in as any and from all the newspapers and rumors I guess it won't be quiet very much longer.  Our living quarters aren't bad, the food is really pretty good and there's a swell bunch of fellows here.  Our entertainment consists of a movie about twice a week, several gramophones around the place and a radio that can pick up a station in Calcutta.  The news is all that's worth listening to, though.  We get a three day pass about every three months but that doesn't mean much.  Right here on our field is about the only place in India to get a clean bed and decent food.  We went to [this section cut out of letter - apparently censored] ...spend three days there for less than 300 rupees (about $100). That probably is contrary to everything you've heard about India but it's the truth.  Our money is worth a lot to an Indian but it doesn't go very far for us.

Well guess that's about all so I'd better quit.  Be sure to say "hello" for me and I'd sure like to hear from you again when you get a chance to write.


Bye for now,
Gil





Gil was 25 years old. He had just over a month to live.

To be continued...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gil Cook: From Kansas to Brazil




After Gil Cook enlisted in the United States Army on February 27, 1941, he was attached to the Army Air Corps 436th Bomber Squadron and went through a training program at a base in Topeka, Kansas.  After training, the squadron moved to India to engage in combat in World War II's Pacific Theater.

On April 23, 1943, Gil’s unit left Topeka and flew to Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida. Today, this field is known as Palm Beach Air Force Base. During World War II, Morrison Field was the “…Headquarters for the Caribbean Wing of ATC [Army Air Forces Ferrying Command, also called Air Transport Control]. Under ATC, Morrison Field became the point of departure for many planes ferrying supplies to Europe and to Allied forces in the Asian theater.” (source)

At midnight on Easter Sunday, April 25th, the 436th left Morrison Field and flew to Trinidad, arriving April 26, 1943.

In his journal, Gil wrote the following about Trinidad.
Arrived Trinidad in afternoon about four. Started raining as soon as we landed. No one minds it though. Everyone walks around in it with just a shirt on. Was initiated to left hand driving and British money. They have tangarines [sic] larger than oranges here. Real good too. Jungle alive with noises, guess mostly birds, not sure though. Some noises sound like those you hear on Hollywood Blvd.

The next full day was spent on Trinidad, and Gil and his friend Joe Zofco were able to take a trip into town and explore the jungle. In his journal he described swimming and picking pineapples and coconuts. He mentioned that the Trinidadian children would call out “Hi Joe” or “Hi John” to the airmen.

The 436th left Trinidad from Waller Field on April 28, 1943 and arrived in Belem, Brazil the same day. Gil wrote the following in his journal:
Left Waller Field, Trinidad at about one this morning. Easy trip, pretty good grd. Speed, about 200. Lots of clouds and some rain. Passed the equator at 1100 G.C.T. Also crossed the Amazon River. It’s a funny thing. There’s more land to it than water, muddy water too. Landed at Belem, Brazil about 8 in the morning. When we saw the place, we almost took off again for our next stop.

Had been raining and every thing was pretty sticky. Everything stays very damp and smells pretty badly. All the native kids have monkeys to sell and pester hell out of you for an American cigarette. Even the merchants in town want to bum an American cigarette.

The progress of Gil Cook's unit from Topeka to Natal, Brazil

The following day, April 29th, they left Belem and flew to Natal, Brazil. Natal is on the easternmost tip of Brazil, north of Recife.

The unit spent several days in Natal, sleeping in tents, taking taxis into town to haggle for souvenirs, swimming and seeing the film “The Devil and Mrs. Jones.” Gil wrote a number of journal entries during this time.  Excerpts:
May 1st
Went into town again today.  Everything closed, though.  Sort of a Brazilian Labor Day.  There were several speeches being made that were being broadcast on every street corner.  Had some Champagne tonight and also lost $54 in a crap game.

May 4th
Guess will leave tomorrow morning.  We all went swimming this afternoon.  Davis and Zofco got hell from a M.P. for swimming out too far.  Guess if you die in the Army you have to do it according to some Article of War.

After being delayed in Natal by weather and mechanical issues, Gil and his unit continued onward to Ascension Island on May 5, 1943.   Ascension Island is a volcanic island located about halfway between South America and Africa.

To be continued...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gil Cook (Part I)


Gil Cook

When I was 13, I found a photo album in my Grandma’s home office. Inside it, there were several photos of a handsome young man in uniform. I didn’t recognize him, so I asked my Grandma who he was. She told me that he was her cousin, Gil Cook. He had been killed in World War II. I instantly wanted to know more about Gil, and this was my first nudge into the world of genealogy. Of all the stories in our family’s history, Gil’s is one that I come back to time and time again. He was only 25 at the time of his death, so his was a life cut short, and the lost possibility of his life is incredibly powerful to me.

Lawrence Gilbert Cook, known as “Gil,” was born in Los Angeles on July 24, 1918. He was the son of Magdalene Barrett and Lawrence Cook, who would divorce when Gil was a small child.

Gil was just a few weeks older than my Grandma, LaVerne Rutherfurd, who was born in Los Angeles on August 10, 1918. LaVerne said this about Gil in the brief autobiography she wrote:

My two boy cousins, Gil (Lawrence Gilbert Cook) and Buddy (Stephen Patrick Barrett) visited often and we had great fun. Many times when Gil came, I managed to cut a chunk out of his “bangs.” I don’t know why I wanted to do that because it got me in trouble every time.

My cousin Gil, who was just my age, lived not far away and we spent a great deal of time together. On weekends my uncles [Stephen, Charles and Bernard Barrett] would be home and Gil and I used to like to see them because they played and joked with us. We always played catch because they had baseballs and mitts on hand.

After his parents’ divorce, Gil lived with his mother at his grandmother, Nellie Barrett’s house. Later, Magdalene Barrett remarried Bob Rutherfurd and in 1928 Gil’s sister Patricia Mary “Patty” Rutherfurd was born. The family lived together in Los Angeles, then moved south to San Pedro, Wilmington and Long Beach.


On February 27, 1941, Gil enlisted in the United States Army. While America had not yet entered World War II, war was certainly on the horizon. On his enlistment paperwork, Gil, a high school graduate, listed his occupation as “Frameman, Telephone and Telegraph.” Much of the family worked in the telephone business. His mother had been a telephone operator, as had his aunt Julia Barrett Rutherfurd. Julia and her husband George Rutherfurd (half brother of Gil’s stepfather Bob) had met while working at Pacific Telephone and Telegraph in Los Angeles.

Gil was 22 years old at the time of his enlistment. He was just shy of 5 feet 6 inches and weighed 131 pounds. He enlisted as a private and later became a second lieutenant. Gil was assigned to the Army Air Corps, serving in the 436th Bomber Squadron in the war's Pacific Theater.  From his letters, diary entries and the telegrams sent after his death, I've been able to piece together some of the details of Gil's service and the events that led to the downing of his plane.

To be continued...