Tag Archives: El Paso Club

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


Remember, to see any photograph full size, simply click on it.

And for better viewing, don’t hesitate to open the videos to full-size, too.

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.

 

 

Dockendorf Briefs Daedalians About War Eagles Air Museum

Honored guest speaker at this month’s Daedalian meeting in downtown El Paso, Texas, was Bob Dockendorf, long time member of the FASF and Executive Director of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) at nearby Doña Ana County International Jetport.

Any of the following photographs may be seen in full high resolution by simply clicking on them.

                                                  Bob Dockendorf describes the history of the WEAM

Bob described the museum’s history and how it was started by fellow El Pasoans,  John and Betty MacGuire, both of whom were avid aviators, 32 years ago.

L to R: Roger Springstead, Charlie Overstreet, and Col. Bob Pitt.

Earlier this year Bob was elected to the El Paso Aviation Hall of fame in recognition of his many years of outstanding service to the local aviation community since taking command of the WEAM.

L to R at right: Bob Dockendorf, Col. Mario Campos, Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill, Roger Nichols, and USAF ROTC Cadet and Daedalian Flight Training Scholarship Awardee, Ammber Valverde.

His historical operation had 17,000 visitors this past year, guests who came to enjoy and learn from the museum’s exhibit of some 36 WWII, Korean and Vietnam era “war birds,” many of which are still in flying condition.

L to R: Alan Fisher, Roger Springstead, Charlie Overstreet, Bob Pitt, Scott Drake, Bob Dockendorf, Mario Campos (Flight Captain), Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill, and Roger Nichols, past Flight Captain.

In addition to the display of these vintage aircraft, this native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, oversees a colorful collection of over 50 antique automobiles and motorcycles.  Bob has been an enthusiastic car collector for many years, and has also been both a student of aviation and history since he was a young man growing up in the Midwest.

                            Dave Ginn, who just returned from a quick tour to Iraq, describes his experience.

The WEAM also boasts an intriguing climate-controlled library consisting of thousands of books, periodicals, photographs and other documents, mostly related to aviation, automobiles and history.

Flight Captain, Colonel Mario Campos conducting flight business.  To his right, above (left to you) is his guest, former Army aviator and test pilot, Scott Drake.

The War Eagles keeps its admission prices low in order to expose the greatest number of people its educational exhibits and materials.  Students are admitted free of charge and veterans, seniors and military personnel are welcomed with a discounted admission price.

                                    Dave Ginn and Alan Fisher listen to Mr. Dockendorf

While the museum was initially the singular philanthropic enterprise of its founders, the MacGuires, Bob has recently begun to transition the institution from a privately funded non-profit educational enterprise, to one of a more self-supporting and public nature.  Although John MacGuire passed away in 2001, his wife Betty maintains almost daily contact with the Executive Director of her beloved museum.

                                   Colonel Norm Rice enjoys his desert while his wife, Ulla, looks on.

The assembled Daedalians, all members of the FASF, and who all also  know Bob well, expressed their enthusiastic appreciaton for his presentation. his fourth to this Daedalian Flight since becoming the museum’s CEO.

L to R: Dave Ginn and Alan Fisher

Mr. Dockendorf additionally explained his initiative for a new organization, The Rio Grande Aviation Council. The new group will be devoted to area aviation interests and development, and which will be composed of leaders from area aviation interests such as the CAP, EAA, Daedalians, The Quiet Birdmen, Amigo Airsho – – – and, yes, even the FASF.

                         L to R: Mario Campos and Jerry Dixon, and (sitting) Virg Hemphill and Roger Nichols

                                              L to R: Virg Hemphill, Roger Nichols, and Ammber Valverde

                                                    Roger Nichols and Ammber Valverde

                                            L to R: Scott Drake, Larry Spradlin, and Bob Dockendorf

                                                               Ammber Valverde and Virg Hemphill

                         L to R:  Ammber Valverde, Jerry Dixon, Virg Hemphill and Roger Nichols

                                                      Ammber Valverde and Alan Fisher

               L to R: Scott Drake, Roger Nichols, Virg Hemphill, Larry Spradlin, and Colonel Mario Campos

Colonel Jimmy Lee Speaks to Daedalian Flight 24 in El Paso

Lt. Colonel James K. “Jimmy” Lee, Jr., Professor of Military Science and Commander of the University of Texas (UTEP) Army ROTC’s “Fighting Miner Battalion” in El Paso, Texas, gave a special Power Point and Video presentation  to the Daedalian Flight 24 at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, yesterday.  Almost every member of Daedalian Flight 24 is also an active member of the FASF. 

Colonel Lee gave an animated description of the current University ROTC program which he directs at UTEP.  Jimmy, an Army Mustang and recipient of the coveted SILVER STAR medal for heroism in battle, has been one the FASF’s Trustees for the past three years.  His background is here on the FASF Trustee Page of this site.

Each semester at UTEP, Colonel Lee’s Battalian of Cadets conducts a “Staff Ride” over to visit and study the Army’s history, including that of the First Aero Squadron’s involvement in the “Punitive Expedition” back in 1916 and 1917, at Columbus, NM, the birthplace of American Air Power and rebirth place of American Civil Aviation.

              Remember to click on any of the following photos to see them in high definition.

                                                    Colonel Lee opening his Power Point Presentation.

L to R: All taking in Jimmy’s talk, are: Mario Campos, Charlie Overstreet, Lt. Commander Cindy Sweeney, Roger Springstead, Norm Rice and Virg Hemphill.

            Jimmy describes the many and diverse opportunies for scholarships provided by the ROTC programs.

The Colonel shows some of examples of both Air and watercraft used by the U.S. Army in today’s combat.

Slide Jimmy presented showing the surprising use of both aircraft and boats by today’s Army as related to those assets used by the other services.

         Jimmy fielding questions from the Daedalians about the previous Army Comparative Equipment Chart.

In answer to a question from Daedalian Colonel PittJimmy explained the battelfield circumstances that led to the award of his Silver Star medal in Iraq.

L to R: Listening to Jimmy’s presentation are: Larry Spradlin, Pete Brandon, and Alan Fisher.

                                                      Jimmy fielding more questions from the Daedalians.

Retired USAF Colonel Alan Fisher, who once commanded the AFROTC unit at New Mexico State University, comparing notes after the presentation with Colonel Lee. Daedalian Fight Captain, Roger Nichols a retired USAF Navigator and Pilot is behind the podium between the two experienced ROTC commanders.

L to R: Posing after the event are: Colonel Bob Pitt, Simon Hernandez (Assistant to Colonel Lee, and the UTEP ROTC Recruiting and Scholarship Chief), Jimmy Lee, Roger Nichols and Ric Lambart.  Group photo courtesy of Daedalian and 1st Aero member, Roger Springstead. All above but Mr. Hernandez are active FASF members.