|Recent Address:||57-16 263rd St., Little Neck, NY 11362-2229|
|Family Info:||Parents: Max and Mary; Wife: Joan (Deceased); Children: Michael, Marlene, Barbara|
|Date Entered Service:||December 1, 1942|
|Location of Unit:||Smoky Hill Army Air Base, Salina, KS; September 1, 1943|
|Awards:||American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Victory Medal|
|Service Schools:||Administration School, Fargo, ND May-Aug 1943; Advanced Administration, Brookings, SD Aug-Sept. 1943|
|MOS:||MOS 275-Classification Specialist|
|Rank Upon Discharge:||S/Sgt|
|Crew Type:||Flight crew|
|Airplane Serial No.& Name:|
|Where You a POW?:|
|Where You a Interned?:|
|Date Transferred from the 58th:||November, 1945|
|Date Discharged:||December 4, 1945|
|Post WWII Service:|
|Post WWII Civilian Occupation(s):||Certified Public Accountant; Attorney|
|Thoughts About the 58th:||
I was a member of the original cadre of the 468th Bomb Group when it was organized at Smoky Hill Air Base in Salina, Kansas during September 1943 and was assigned to the 793rd Bomb Sq. At Smoky Hill we saw our first b-29 and was impressed with its size. The 468th left Salina by troop train during January 1944 and went to Camp Anza, CA for debarkation. After two weeks, we boarded the USS Mount Vernon (formerly SS George Washington of the US Lines). We traveled, without escort, for 40 days under Australia, through the Tasman Straits, where we encountered a storm. When we crossed the equator, we were initiated by the sailors into the “Order of the Deep.” The ship stopped at Melbourne, but we were not permitted to leave the ship. Because of the heat, most of us stayed on deck all day and night, where we were entertained by Tokyo Rose. At the end of the trip we arrived in Bombay, India. The first sight I saw on land was a sign on the dock, reading “National City Bank of New York” (now Citibank).
Once in India, we boarded a train that would take us across the sub-continent through the Indian jungle. At night, we took turns standing guard on the train. When the train stopped, as it often did, we could hear jungle noises and could see eyes staring at us. The eyes were monkeys. At times, when the train stopped the engineer, who was British, would bring us hot water from the engine for tea. About half way across, we stopped at Diololi (I am not sure of the spelling). It was a British camp that also housed Italian POW's, captured in North Africa. This was probably the only POW camp in the world without walls, guards, or barbed wire. The POW's were glad to be there. When they learned that we were Americans, they came to the barracks and wanted to give us haircuts and shaves. Every one claimed to have a cousin in Chicago. It was always Chicago. The sanitary conditions were not up to American standards so we refused to eat in the mess hall. We ate our meals outdoors using mess kits. The only problem was that the area was full of vultures that would scoop down and grab the food before we could eat.
When we arrived at our base in Kharagapur, some of the flight crew and one or two B-29s preceded us. I was the classification specialist. It was my job to be acquainted with every job in the squadron. Everyone from the pilots to the laborers was happy to indoctrinate me and tell me about their duties and complaints. As a result I knew everyone in the squadron and everyone knew me. I spent some time with the crews, in the air and on the ground, on the flight line with the mechanics, and even with the cooks and bakers. Probably some considered me to be a pain. The 793rd had an NCO club in a basha where I was the Treasurer. The club had a bar and a “game” room in the back. I became Treasurer when they learned that I was an accounting student and could keep a set of books. Unfortunately, the club burned down after a few months. The profits were distributed among the members, who received $25 for every $5 membership fee.
One of my jobs made me particularly popular. When someone was recommended for promotion, I had to find a slot in the Table of Organization. The squadron was permitted just so many pilots who were majors and so many airplane mechanics who were staff sergeants, etc. By some manipulations (which I will admit today, were not exactly legal.) I was able to get the promotions approved. The executive officer was aware what I was doing, but he acted as though he saw and heard nothing. In short, if something happened, I would be the fall-guy. As a result the 793rd was probably the most heavily ranked outfit in the AAF.
When the 468th Bomb Group moved to Tinian, the ground personnel left from Calcutta aboard a troop ship. We stopped at Perth, Western Australia. This time we were allowed to go ashore for a day. Again we traveled through the Tasman Straits (no storm this time) and on to Tinian. My job continued in Tinian.
Being with the 793rd was the most memorable part of my life. I felt that in my own small way I contributed to the ultimate victory. Everyone from Col Jim Edmundson (who was respected and admired by everyone in the 468th) to the laborer who collected the trash felt that he had an important job to do and was doing his share for final victory. It was a dedication and resolve that I never saw before and will never see again. Everyone felt that he was in the best squadron, in the best group, in the best wing, in the best air force, in the greatest country in the world. To this day, I feel that it was an honor to have been a member of the 793rd Bomb Squadron of the 468th Bomb Group (The Billy Mitchell Group).
Mr, Trager passed away November 9, 2014.
|58th Bomb Wing Veterans Index|