m a r k e r i c k s o n p a i n t i n g s Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson Air Corps 1942 - 1945
Click to view Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson's complete thirty five mission list and twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses flown between March 27th thru August 26th, 1944 out of Horham Airfield, England.
A beauty of a portrait painting of my father, Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson done in London in 1944. Painted in August, toward the end of his completion of combat missions with the 95th Bomb Group and 334th Squadron that he flew between March 27th thru August 26th, 1944 out of Horham Airfield.
Lt. Erickson piloted twelve B-17s during this period: Lili of the Lamplight (44-6085) * Taint A Bird II (42-30342) * Fireball Red (42-31876) * Able Mable (42-31920) * Mirandy (42-31992) * Gen'ril Oop & Lili Brat (42-31993) * Ten Aces (42-38178) * Smilin' Sandy Sanchez (42-97290) * Paisano (42-102450) * Stand By / Goin' My Way (42-107204) * The Doodle Bug / What’s Cookin? (42-107047) * To Hell Or Glory (42-38123).
In late January of 1944, the Bombardier and three enlisted men assigned to my father’s crew set off by ocean liner, departing from the Brooklyn Harbor and heading for England. Ernest and the rest of the crew took off a week later in their B-17 from Langley. They flew up the east coast to New York City and landed at Roosevelt Airfield on Long Island. They billeted nearby for the evening at Mitchel Field. A day laterthey embarked from Roosevelt, taking the Northern Atlantic route, and the eventual intention of making it to Scotland.
In my father's thinking they were following the same path Charles Lindbergh took to Europe on his transatlantic flight of May 20, 1927, which excited my father having followed Lindbergh's aviator career since he was a child. My father noted that fact often when he talked of that first attempted journey to England.
The Northern Atlantic route was a treacherous situation for many of the crews attempting the same passage. A considerable amount of crews came across difficult navigation issues and horrendous weather. Many ships just did not complete the journey, either lost at sea or forced landings wherever they could possibly ditch the plane. Some crews, if they were lucky to find land, ditched in Greenland or Iceland.
For the unfortunate crews that ended up in sudden sea landings in the dark cold Atlantic, survival was dismal. My father's final stop in the United States was to be at the Presque Isle Army Air Force Air Field in Aroostock County in Northern Maine. Presgue was set up for ships heading to England via the Northern route. Aroostook was named for an Indian word meaning 'beautiful river.' Presque was activated in September of 1941, where the Air Transport Command was set up assisting the ferrying of bombers across the Atlantic to England and Italy.
The crew's flight was textbook flying, filled with hours of exciting sights and memories, but as they landed in a dense fog, while taxing on the tarmac, another B-17 maneuvered into their path, causing a collision. No one was hurt, but both ships were badly damaged and would need extensive repairs. On February 3rd, 1944 my father wrote a letter to his family. He was so close to the war, yet obstacles were getting in the way of him actually getting overseas.
Finally in early February of 1944, their second chance at an North Atlantic crossing began when my dad and crew took off from their base at Langley, Virginia in a brand new B-17 'Flyng Fortress.' They headed to Roosevelt Airfield on Long Island, New York. Again their plan was to follow Charles Lindbergh's route of 1927 to Europe.
Their B-17 was equipped with one of the first H2-X radar devices, incorporating the 'Bomb Through Overcast' system, a ground mapping radar approach for use in aerial bombing, which at the time represented a revolutionary advance in target identification technology.
Soon they were off again to England, via Newfoundland. After a two-week layover, their orders came in and they flew to Greenland, and then to Iceland. They awaited final instructions before leaving on the final leg to England, where they would be stationed throughout the war. While in Reykjavik the crew were fortunate enough to see Marlene Dietrich perform, which my dad spoke of often. It was a thrill of his life up to that point.
Marlene Dietrich was on his mind when he and the crew named the B-17, which was to become the plane on which they flew the most missions, the 'Lili of the Lamplight' (44-6085).
Over the course of 1944, Ernest would send 100s of letters and cards to his family and friends back home. He would include often the many photographs he took. Some of the letters he wrote during his combat flying read like fiction, others just simple requests to his mother to send chocolate, comic books, candy, pretzels and film for his camera. In these moments, I see my father as the adolescent, still clinging to what he was familiar with, yet in regards of his accomplishments of that time, a true anachronism. At this point he was twenty one years old and would soon be receiving a serious dose of the Luftwaffe and the dreaded black flowers (flak) that seemingly float in the air.
On February 11th, Ernest and crew touched down in Prestwick, Scotland. They had made it with no difficulties and were excited to be on a Royal Air Force airfield. They awaited orders where they would be serving their combat flying tour of duty. On February 15th, the crew took off from Prestwick and later in the afternoon, landed at South Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland. For a slide into early Pop music trivia, South Ayrshire is the same airfield that in 1960 Elvis Presley for the first time in the United Kingdom, arrived when his Army transport stopped en route from Germany.
On February 19th, Ernest was off to the Royal Air Force Station at Stoney Cross. They would billet at Stoney Cross till mid-late February and then be off to Royal Air Force at Alconbury. Leaving Alconbury the crew would fly off to their permanent assignment in East Anglia at Horham Airfield. East Anglia comprises the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Ironically, East Anglia is derived from the Anglo Saxon kingdom of the East Angles, a tribe whose name originated in Anglia in Northern Germany.
Having been assigned to the 334th Squadron of the 95th Bomb Group, Ernest and crew arrived on February 28th, 1944 at the airfield in Horham, England. The airfield was originally used by the Royal Air Force, but by 1943 Horham was transferred to the 8th Air Corps. Ernest and crew were pleased they would be assigned to a permanent base.
They would soon feel comfortable with their new surroundings. The field was located next to the village of Horham and four miles southeast of the village of Eye in Suffolk. The large airfield straddled the parishes of Denham, Redlingfield and Hoxnethey. Two hangars had been erected on the south side of the airfield and painted in black and dark earth camouflage. The airfield’s headquarters, miscellaneous buildings and housing huts spread to the west of the airfield into Denham. Horham was given the designation of Station 119 by the 8th Army Air Corps.
My father and the crew were billeted on base, though separated into officers and non-com barracks, and each found their comfort in one way or another. The frigid gray-skied English weather was familiar to my father. He commented on the sky being rarely blue, but when it was he was one of the first outside to find a spot to lay in the sun.
Days rolled by and the crew flew local practice runs, looking forward to when they would be on a mission over mainland Europe. Orders were issued that seriously disappointed the crew, but a common occurrence for rookie crews showing up in England. Before they could fly their first mission in their ship, the soon to be Bomber Boys were notified their airplane was to be transferred to another bomb group. My father and crew, resembling gypsies during their first months at Horham, were once again without a ship. Before their tour of duty came to an end, they would fly in a dozen different ships, completing the maximum of missions over Europe.
In the end, after thirty five missions he was done with combat. Even though he put in a transfer to fly the B-29 Superfortress, something he never told his mother, he eventually did return home in July of 1945 all in one piece. That reunion I am sure was quite emotional.
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