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.
Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson receiving the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) awarded to him by Major General Karl Truesdell Jr. at Horham Airfield in England, June 1944.
In February of 1944 my dad and the crew took off from their base at Langley, Virginia and headed to Roosevelt Airfield on Long Island, New York. Their plan was to follow Charles Lindbergh's route of 1927 to Europe, which excited my father having followed Lindbergh's aviator career since he was a child. 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).
They were assigned to the 334th Squadron of the 95th Bomb Group. My father’s dream of flying-- the adventure he had begun long ago in his mind as a child on the farm, was now becoming a reality. The ocean vistas spanning the horizon in every direction as they flew low over the North Sea enroute to England were breathtaking. My father was transfixed as he thought about the challenges that lay ahead. Over the course of 1944 while stationed in England, my dad mailed dozens of letters home to his family and included photographs he shot overseas. Some stunning in-flight photographs and others you can find on the website. The hundred or so letters he wrote read like fiction, often filled with epic tales of unimaginable perils and missions undertaken in the face of insurmountable odds, yet somehow survivable in the end.
They reached their final destination at Horham Airfield in England in late February, where they would be based throughout their combat duties. In March they completed their first mission and by the time he received the DFC in late June 1944, they had completed their 25th, a No-Ball (an attack on V-1 & V-2 rocket installations hidden in the forest along the French coast) mission over France. Every year around this time (February) I think of my dad as he headed for combat in Europe. Then I think of my grandmother Clara, as she told me of her often constant worries about her son while he was in England. His dozens of letters home tried to comfort her obvious concerns, however in some, they most likely stoked her fears when he described some of the more distressful missions he had completed.
In the end after 35 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 1945 all in one piece. That reunion I am sure was quite emotional. So to my grandmother Clara Amelia (Nelson) Erickson I post one of her favorite photographs of her son receiving the DFC at Horham by Major General Karl Truesdell Jr.
In the realm of time and memory, this image has commanded significance and I often stare at it on the wall of my painting studio. I contemplate what he may have been thinking. To me that is the key to this photograph. His eyes say it all.
Distinguished Flying Cross
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