Tag Archives: Col. Norman Rice

Steve Watson Tells of Father’s Role as Liberator Pilot in WWII

L to R: Col. Norman Rice, Col. Alan Fisher and Mrs. Ulla Rice chat before lunch.

The most photographed and publicly acclaimed bomber used during WWII is without question, the B-17 Flying Fortress, but there was another less known, yet equally vital heavy bomber used during that global conflict, one which is too often disregarded, but which also played a critical part in the Allied Victory: the mighty LIBERATOR, the B-24, in its many variants.

 

At yesterday’s luncheon of the Daedalians at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, thanks to arrangements by Col. Alan Fisher, the flight’s members (all are FASF members!) learned of that LIberator’s exploits, and of Steve Watson’s (below right) father, Frank S. Watson, who was one of those select Army Air Force pilots chosen to fly that Liberator in the European Theater.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s role.

Steve’s dad was one of the lucky aviators who came home safe and sound at the war’s end.  Frank flew the B-24 for the 467th Bombardment Group.  A short 7:00 video of film made about the 467th was shown to the Daedalians along with many personal photos of Steve’s father’s career from his earliest years through the war and then, back at home, when the hostilities ceased. Below you can watch a short 9:00 minute long film made of the 467th’s own “Witchcraft” Liberator


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L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill and Jerry Dixon.

Prior to WWII, the main Ford corporation manufacturing factory at Willow Run, was a Ford owned farming operation, where young men learned to use Ford tractors to produce various crops on the 80 some acre area outside Detroit, Michigan.

Just prior to entering the war, the Army contracted with Ford to mass produce the B-24 heavy bombers on an unbelievable scale, finishing one every hour. This unbelievable production lasted throughout the conflict’s duration.  The mass production genius of the Ford Motor Car Company was surely one of the country’s major assets, one that clearly helped the Allies achieve their final victory.

When it was built, it became the largest such airplane manufacturing facility in the world.  Two basic operations took place inside its walls: 1) Manufacturing the airplane’s parts, and; 2) assembling the final product.  In addition to making the airplane, which was designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, CA., Ford also manufactured the large radial air-cooled engines that powered the ship.

Unlike its famous automobiles and trucks, which contained some 15,000 to 16,000 parts, each Liberator contained more than 1,225,000 parts!  As each craft was completed, it was then ground and flight tested right at Willow Run’s huge airfield, an airport facility with enough concrete in its runways and taxiways to make a highway over 125 miles long.  Each of the 4 Ford produced air-cooled and super-charged engines produced 1200 HP.  The normal crew consisted of ten men.  The ship carried 4 tons of bombs, and over five thousand rounds of machine gun ammunition to arm its defenses. At high altitude, the Liberator could cruise over 300 MPH and had a range of over 3,000 miles.

Below is a 7 min. wartime film made of the extraordinary mass-production the made the Liberators.

Unlike its sister heavy bomber, the Flying Fortress, the Liberator had a modern tricycle landing gear, which made it substantially easier to land and handle on the ground.  Another interesting fact about the Willow Run plant was that there were always over 100 bombers being assembled under the huge roof.  Under that vast roof, there were also some 42,000 assembly workers busily putting these then modern aircraft together.

Adjacent to the Willow Run plant, a large school was set up, and before the war’s end, over 50,000 students had been graduated with all the highly technical skills needed in the Willow Run Plant.  There was a teaching staff of more than 100 instructors to get that task successfully completed.

Additionally, a large warehouse was also built nearby, to store the vast array of components that went into each bomber, from sheet metal, bolts, rivets and stringers, to complex aircraft instruments and radio gear. Each airplane had more than 4,000 rivets holding on its lightweight aluminum outer skin.  By the war’s end, Willow Run had produced over 8,685 Liberators! 

Additionally, another 9,815 more B-24s were built elsewhere, for a grand total of 18,500 Liberators produced across the country for use during the war.

L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Cols. Bob Pitt and Flight Captain, Mario Campos, and Virg Hemphill.

L to R above: Cols Mario Campos and Alan Fisher, watch as Presenter, Steve Watson, spreads out his wide assortment of WWII souvenirs touting the 467th Emblem and other related logos.

L to R. Col. Norman Rice and his wife, Ulla, and guest, Dick Heath.

Colonel Mario Campos, Flight Captain, calls the meeting to order.

Colonel Campos introduces the Speaker, Steve Watson, for the day.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s story as a B-24 Pilot in WWII.

Watch as Tom Taylor, a surviving B-24 pilot from WWII, gets back into the only still flying Liberator, to once again take control of the famous bomber off the South Carolina coast.

 

 

McGee Briefs Daedalians on New UTEP Aero Space Program

              Michael McGee, PhD

Dr. McGee (Left)  is a Senior Research Associate at the NASA Center for Aerospace Exploration and Technology Research at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Retired from the U.S. Air Force, Dr. McGee served as an F-16 pilot, including multiple tours and Mission Commander experience. He was a Command Pilot, a Standards and Evaluation Pilot, and spent four years as an instructor pilot in the F-16 division of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School.  He is also a Daedalian.

At a recent Daedalian Society meeting at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, Dr. McGee, most recently with California’s famous RAND Corporation, helped bring the Daedalians up to speed on UTEP’s latest Aero-Space developments and future plans.

All the local Daedalians are former or current military aviators as well as FASF members.  Dr. McGee educated the Daedalian Flight about the new UTEP Program.

He observed that the recently retired former U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, PhD, is the new UTEP President, and is, as well, an instrument rated general aviation pilot in her own right.  Her father was a commercial pilot.  Ms. Wilson graduated with honors from the USAF Academy and served as a U.S. Congresswoman from New Mexico.  Her unique background with its focus on aviation might help explain why Dr. Wilson has such a deep personal interest in helping this innovative new space-oriented program become airborne.

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Before the meeting began, members and guests socialized. Here, L to R are: Mario Campos, Mike McGee, Jerry Dixon, Mark Pfluger, Charlie Overstreet, and, seated, Schelmo Rocha,  assistant to Colonel Norman Rice

L to R Standing: Roger Springstead, Dr. McGee, Mario Campos, Jerry Dixon, Mark Pfluger, Charlie Overstreet, Josianna and Gerry Wingett – Seated: Mr. Rocha, Norman Rice and his daughter, Timbiya Rice

L to R: Charlie Overstreet and Col. Mario Campos

L to R: Dr. Mike McGee and Jerry Dixon.

L to R: Mark Pfluger, and Jerry Wingett

L to R: Col. Campos and Flight Chaplain, Roger Springstead get ready to start the meeting.

                                                    Colonel Campos opens the meeting.

                                                   Dr. McGee begins his presentation.

     Dr. McGee, explains the new air space challenges presented by the explosion in the numbers of drones in the U.S.

Dr. McGee points out the serious air safety challenges posed by the fact that Airline Departures at Airports are well published in advance, presenting serious security threats from ill-intentioned drone operators.

Dr. McGee describes the additional aviation security threat posed by the ability of large numbers of airborne drones to be “swarmed” – creating virtual “clouds” of them in the air space.

Presentation ended, Flight Capt. Col. Campos presents Dr. McGee with a gift in thanks for his educational program

L to R: Dr. McGee posed by the Daedalian Seal with Vice Flight Capt. Ric Lambart and Flt. Captain Colonel Campos.

Below is Dr. McGee’s entire presentation, provided here because of its widespread implications for public safety in the new drone age.  The video is 41:47 in length.