19th Bombardment Group Stories - 1st Lt. William W. Berry

19th Bombardment Group Stories - 1st Lt. William W. Berry

This account of the experiences of 1st Lt. William W. Berry of Indiana originally accompanied a series of paintings by Pfc Ernest Berkowitz, who painted a series of pictures of the aircraft and men of the 19th Bombardment Group while they were all based at Dyersburg Air Force Base, Tennessee, after their exploits in the Far East. Although we don't have the paintings, the stories themselves are still of great interest. Berkowitz later went on to become succesful artist under the name Ernest Berke, mainly producing paintings of Native Americans and their horses.

Many thanks to Dennis Gagomiros for sending us these documents.

1st Lt. William W. Berry of Indiana is the navigator of a B-17 Flying Fortress. He was fresh from navigation school when he was assigned to the task of navigating a Fort to Java. This is a distance of 22,000 miles over land and water, much of it in enemy hands. His plane flew east from the States to Africa, then to India and finally on to Java.

Many planes started with Java as their final destination but there were many that failed to keep the promise of reinforcements to the beleaguered men of the 19th, the aid that had been so faithfully promised them. Pilots with very little time on B-17's were asked to make the arduous journey and it is said that one can follow the trail of the "17's" that didn't make it half way around the world.

Those that arrived safely got there with only a margin of half an hours gasoline (Lt. Berry's was one of these). No sooner did they land than the Japs struck and blew the plane to bits. From that time on there was little time for food or sleep. They were given a crewless plane and went out on a mission that very morning. That plane too was strafed on the following day. It was the old story of not enough planes, not enough men, and not enough of anything for these valiant men to fight with. The equipment only started to cone through when Java was already beginning to see the end of her resistance at hand. When Java finally fell after this bitter but futile fight, the 19th was evacuated back to the Australian mainland to take part in missions from that point.

Lt. Berry went through all of it and knows well the problems that confront navigators in combat. here in the States, he is helping to polish the last fine points of global navigation in the minds of the men who will soon be on their own, leading their planes, loaded with destruction for the enemy, to vital targets all over the world.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 February 2021), 19th Bombardment Group Stories - 1st Lt. William W. Berry , http://www.historyofwar.org/Pictures/pictures_19th_BG_story_06.html

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