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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.

An Aviator's Dream: The Men From Painted Woods
Air Corps Biography of Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson
Lost Battalion's Pvt. Frank G. S. Erickson
361st Infantry's Pfc. Ernest Julius Erickson
by Mark Jon Erickson

Family Archive Project website: http://markerickson.com/home.html
Contact email: markericksonstudio@gmail.com

Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson

Thirty Five Missions flown March 27 thru August 26, 1944
334th Squadron - 95th Bomb Group - 8th Army Air Corps
13th Combat Bombardment Wing - 3rd Bomb Division
Horham Airfield – Station 119 – Suffolk County – England

Piloted Twelve B-17s

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)

Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson - Photographs and Articles

Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson - 35 Missions: Journal

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10,000 Feet Above Normandy

Sometime in the evening of June 9th, 1944, my father, Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson wrote a letter home to his family in North Dakota from Horham Airfield in England. He was a pilot with the 95th Bomb Group and flying heavy bombers for the 8th Air Force.

Operation Neptune was underway in France, and the Invasion was moving forward at full throttle. Ernest's letter included these passages below, as his thoughts pondered the beach landings of the Invasion. While writing he was re flecting on the experience of flying over Normandy and viewing the mass of ships & men heading onto shore as his squadron was returning to England from a mission in the early morning hours of June 6th, 1944.

For the Kings of Hearts & Coronets and jolly old England, the boys of June 6th, 1944 live on in perpetual memory. In the early morning hours, on the far west side of the eastern shore of mainland Europe, the gallant men of that early daylight assault have already caught their hell. They wade onto the beaches of dense fields of ferocious German fire, hiding in the sand, behind beams of steel, sculptures of memory, men running, slipping and dropping like flies in the French waves on the shores of Normandy. Clusters of animated figures pushing inland, a slaughter of their times, but so many still standing, striving, hauling their gear, desperate for cover and pointing towards the eventual way to Germany.

By now things have calmed, trapped along the sea wall, making it up to the concrete bunkers, burning them out one at a time....twenty at a time, a brutal game being played for real. Home seems so far away at this very instant. Amazing feats of heroics and sad endings of small mistakes, tripping over reality, being at the wrong place in the instant of a blinking eye. For the ones that never left the beach, the sea wall and the rocky cliffs in the Majesty of their gifts and regrets, we remember their courage. To their awaiting families at home and to the men ever vigilant struggling forward, far below the missions passing over heavens gate we marvel. Gaze into the Heavenly Skies, kiss them goodbye and pass the Ammunition.

From the Beginning

Time holds still in our memory, and if we pay attention, the days we spend with our families will provide stories we can hold onto from childhood through adulthood. The life we lead reflects the lessons held in these memories. They push us forward-- legends in our minds which over time become truths upon which we rely, and upon which we base our life’s most important decisions. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” suggested the newspaper reporter in the film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” one of my father's favorite westerns. We reflect on past adventures, even as they become part of our future.

For my father, like most others of his generation, memories of his experiences in World War II formed the truths upon which he based the important decisions of his life. He shared many of these memories with me during his lifetime, and these shared memories have helped define my life, as they had my father’s. As his Father Frank and Uncle Ernest Julius before him had served when the country faced head-on the conflict in Europe in 1917, my father jumped at the chance to join the Army Air Corps in 1941.

Since his death in 2013, I have learned a considerable amount about his wartime experiences piloting a 'Flying Fortress' B-17 bomber by looking through his memorabilia, recalling countless conversations we had, and reading about the experiences of his contemporaries. The more I have ascertained, the more I have come to appreciate the extraordinary challenges he and his wartime companions faced, and the extraordinary courage they demonstrated.

The Tale of Painted Woods

My father grew up in North Dakota in an area called Painted Woods. It was originally named by the local Indians. A group of large cottonwoods stood where Painted Woods Lake empties into he Missouri, and one of these trees in particular--a large dead one, whose bark was peeled--was used by the warriors as a bulletin board.

They painted their picture writings on the bleached wood, threatening, warning, declaring or boasting as the case might be, hence its name—Painted Woods. A fire swept thru in 1851 and burned these particular cottonwoods. The country around them was long the scene of conflicts between the arious indigenous tribes of the Great Northern Plains, the Dakota tribes being the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Sioux (both Yanktonai and Lakota). As nature will have it, the trees grew again and the locals again congregated around these sacred remembrances.

The Legend of Painted Woods was told by Frank (Frans) Severin Gustaf Erickson to me, his grandson, when I was a teenager on a visit to the family in Bismarck. Frank was born in Sundsvall, Sweden and immigrated to North Dakota with his family in 1903. After his time in the Army and surviving the 'Lost Battalion' fiasco during the First World War, Frank returned to home and eventually got married. My father, Ernest Anders Erickson was born on the family farm in Painted Woods, along the Missouri River, on August 4th 1922. Frank recalled this story from childhood:

Over a hundred and fifty years ago at the southern end of McClean County, south of Burleigh County, north of the state capital, Bismarck, North Dakota, on the east bank of the Missouri lies Painted Woods Lake. The lake was originally part of the Broken Axe Lakes of the Sioux Tribe, and known to early day trappers and fur traders as Medicine Lodge Lake. Some say the name Painted Woods also derives itself from the natural colors that follow the first frost along the former lake.

This elbow of the Missouri became known to the river men that eventually traversed the waterways of the Plains, not long after Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery Expedition concluded in 1806. The story of most significance comes from the farm-land way before my father’s birth, in the township of Painted Woods. The tale my grandfather recalled about the Dakota Territory is intriguing in more than a historic fashion, it is far closer to a cinematic scope.

When history meets fiction and lore becomes a fact is the core to many tales of the past. There are many mysteries about the north country lands. One can only hold onto the stories told by people that ived there, and who knew the ancestors of the folk that adventured these lands many years before them.

Venture back to the early 1800s on the Great Northern Plains, not far from Wilton by Painted Woods Lake, an area where the waters funnel into the Missouri, and witness this intriguing account. The story begins in what would be decades later referred to as Burleigh County, which was neutral ground between two tribes of the Sioux. A young girl from the Mandan tribe fell in love with a Yanktonai Sioux warrior, meeting daily on the banks of the river.

The two lovers had kept their relationship secret until the day the girl planned to leave with her lover to start a new life. The elders of the Mandans, once realizing she was gone were extremely displeased, and sent out warriors to find the girl and bring her back to the village. Upon finding the couple, the young man attempting to protect himself was slain by the warriors. As the girl knelt down to the young man, avenging Yankotonai arrows streamed in and killed the young woman.

The bodies of the lovers were placed in the branches of a cottonwood tree in the woods along the river. Soon the tree withered and became white and bleached, just like the bones in the branches.

As time passed the two tribes began a bitter and bloody war. Yanktonai warriors preparing for battle came to the woods to paint their faces, preparing for the confrontations to come. They would leave messages, mostly threats to their enemies on the cottonwoods, often peeling the bark off and painting on the shards leaving them behind for others to read. The Yanktonai warriors boastfully portrayed their victories on the trees, and in retaliation the Mandans painted the surrounding trees with war paint to mock their enemy.

As decades passed and the couple became legend, celebrations were held on the shores of the Missouri River in their honor. Indians painting the trunks of the trees and tying colorful clothes to the cottonwoods, fires burning bright into the night, the whole area lit up bright in a full moon.

On a crisp late fall morning when walking out by the riverside, the great Missouri spreading out wide before you, one can stop at a point called Painted Woods and visualize the colors on the trees and see the shadows of the times gone by. During these quietest moments, with fresh snow on the ground, you can imagine the whispers of the two young lovers sitting along the river, staring out into the clear blue day of another stark North Dakotian landscape.

The Men From Painted Woods
Frank Gustaf Severin Erickson
Ernest Julius Alfred Erickson
Ernest Anders Erickson

No matter what we had to do, it was always the same with him. He was one of the gamest men in the regiment, and one of the most willing.

   - Commanding officer speaking of Pfc. Ernest Julius Erickson

My father, Ernest Anders Erickson was raised on the Erickson-Nelson family farm near the banks of the Missouri River. He was named after his Uncle Ernest Julius and that set for a life of proving his worth, which he certainly did in 1944 in England. Ernest's father, Frank Gustaf Severin Erickson named him after his older Brother Ernest Julius. Frank was born on December 12th, 1892 in Sundsvall, Sweden, and not long after his return from the war, he knew what his first son's name would be.

Ernest Julius Erickson was born in Torpshammer, Sweden on January 9th, 1889. When he was 28 years old, after living most of his life in North Dakota and Oregon, he joined the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in the Summer of 1917. It was after an adventurous year in Oregon, that the two brothers signed up together for the army out of Baker, Oregon.

The Erickson family emigrated from Sweden to North Dakota in 1903, when Ernest Julius was 14 years old and Frank was 11. For the next 12 years Ernest Julius lived on a farm with his family on the Great Plains along the Missouri River.

He went out west, to join Frank who had left for the Pacific in 1910. The two bonded well, working at various jobs, in lumber mills and on the railroad. When they finally ended up as Railroad Deputies out of La Grande, Oregon, it coincided with America just about to enter into the European conflict. The decisions they made at this point would be etched in stone and metal for the rest of their lives.

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The Men From Painted Woods Biography

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