Back to Back Bomb Runs
The skies are full as the 8th Air
shows up in force again.
Roger Covington earns third place
with the Evinger squadron.
The Pattisons are flanked by a pair
of returning veterans—Don Del Grande
and Paul Weintraub.
The Mafia squadron is still in formation—
albeit with some much younger recruits.
This year featured three historical missions to Germany and France in December 1943. We had another great turnout of 65 USAAF aviators. Our tournament record is a whopping 77 players who in 2011 turned out for three missions which included the Black Thursday Schweinfurt mission of October 1943. In 2015, we had another strong showing of rookies, numbering about a dozen, which helped keep our high attendance levels alive and well. In fact, after the peak of 77 in 2011, we have had a trend of 60, 61, 62 and now 65 B-17 players over the ensuing four years. In a preliminary headcount at this year’s After Action Meeting, only two people said they won’t make it next year for logistical reasons, and we hope they make it back in 2017 or beyond. Overall, we are expecting a continued great following with little to no drop off in attendance as we move to a new airfield in Seven Springs, PA in 2016.
But back to what we did in 2015. Again, all missions are historical, with research done into the flight tracks and enemy aircraft encountered. The first mission was a repeat visit to Solingen, Germany, on 1 December 1943. While the 3rd Bomb Division aborted due to weather, the First Bomb Division (B-17s) and Second Bomb Division (B-24s) were led by Pathfinders to the target. The second B-17 mission this year was a trip to La Rochelle, France on 5 December 1943. The La Rochelle mission featured the first use of P-51 Mustang fighters which escorted the B-17s throughout the mission. The mission also was the start of OPERATION CROSSBOW, which was the campaign against German V-1 launch sites. This particular raid struck several V-1 targets, and included the longer range attack on airfields around La Rochelle. This might be the last bombing mission against targets in France for a long time. Future missions will be focusing on German targets, the destruction of the Luftwaffe, and the lead up to Big Week in February 1944. Finally, the third mission for 2015 ventured to the industrial area of Emden, Germany on 11 December 1943, which continued the pressure on the Luftwaffe aircraft industry.
All participants once again completed all three missions, with Squadrons 2 and 5 straggling in and landing at 6 PM. Results were tallied by the GM and Assistant GM Mark Yoshikawa, and another boisterous After Action Meeting was held the next night, although the quality of the GM’s jokes has purportedly been going steadily downhill. I can’t seem to get a rise out of the participants like I used to, perhaps due to the absence of Jim Miller who in combination with Dave Long used to detect every double entendre even when they were unintended.
Our annual prize table was conducted from worst to first (or most unfortunate to most blessed) with players making selections among the donated prizes. Many thanks to all who volunteered and made donations to the prize table. Also, we called special attention to John Jacoby at the After Action Meeting. John, the Circus Maximus GM, again donated several items that he found at various yard sales and estate auctions over the past year. Although John doesn’t play B-17 with us, his contributions to the prize table and After Action Meeting have been greatly appreciated over many years.
The best and worst (FUBAR) squadron trophies, handcrafted by Michael Coomes, were also awarded for the third year running. This year’s best squadron was the Just Us League with a combined squadron score of 935 over three missions. Squadron members were Jennifer Brown, Josh Detamore, Rose Hitchings, Brendan and Michael Coomes and Eric Buetikofer. If my memory serves me correctly, this was a worst (FUBAR, 2014) to first achievement for this squadron. And, the 2015 FUBAR squadron was the Mafia folks with a score of 656.5. Mafia squadron members this year were Tim Rogers, Marc Houde, Bill Beckman, Gus Collars, Michael Sena and RJ Gleaton. Also of note, Gus, Michael and RJ are some of the youngest B-17 players we have had recently and they had a great time—although all three of them took a pounding with Gus getting the worst of it.
Continuing the discussion of bad luck, Linda Pattison came in last, and she may be one of the cheeriest participants to achieve a combined score of 15 for three missions. Gus Collars came in next to last with a score of 46. From there, scores ranged from 48 up to the top score of 178.5.
B-17 is one of the few events that award the coveted sixth place WBC Sand Plaque. This year, there was a tie for fifth place between Brendan Coomes and Philip Livingston at 170. The B-17 tiebreakers came into play, and Brendan came in fifth based on the second tiebreaker of better bombing accuracy over the three missions. Thus, Philip “lost” out on fifth place and earned the Sand Plaque instead to become the newest member to the Fez community. I have lost count as to how many Fez members have come from the ranks of B-17 players but it is considerable given our long standing as a prize level 6 event. Also just missing Sand was Rose Hitchings with a score of 169 for seventh place.
Scores were tight throughout the standings, with many tiebreakers employed to resolve the pecking order for the prize table. Returning veteran and former champion Paul Risner came in fourth with a score of 172, I need Risner to tell me which B-17 plaques he has, because he must be coming close to a full house.
There was a tie for second at 173, which was broken by the second tiebreaker in favor of Pete Pollard over Roger Covington. Finally, this year’s champion was our second repeating champion in consecutive years. Karl Henning claimed top wood at 178.5, which followed a score of 176 last year. The first to win B-17 in back to back years was Kevin Coombs back in the second and third years of the tournament—1993 and 1994.
I would be remiss to not mention the many medals that were awarded this year. Mark Yoshikawa handled the medals, which is a tradition that was started by Mike Lam, who we were very happy to welcome back this year after a four-year absence. Purple Hearts were given out to many folks who lost their planes. Bombardier Wings were awarded to the best bomb run of the day—97% by Nathan Peterson. Keith MacFarland was one of a few people who earned the Distinguished Service Cross for having his Engineer attempt (unsuccessfully) to land his B-17 after losing his pilot and co-pilot. There was a lot of carnage in all forms: ditchings at sea, crews swimming, bailouts over France, POWs, evaders and then of course the dreaded bomb detonations, fuel tank fires and flak bursts in planes. This is what our participants consider fun—by either avoiding things like that happening to them, watching others suffer from it, rolling the dice that causes such things, or, in the case of victims, having fun while recreating the history of how dangerous these missions were.
I don’t usually make note of plane names because they are often obscene, but I particularly enjoyed the name that Pete Pollard assigned to his B-17, which was “Joan of Arc’s Smoking Hot Body”. As Keith Hunsinger, Group Chaplain, stated—“that’s just wrong”. Which is why I liked it.
Many thanks to those who go beyond the call of duty and assist with the tournament:
- Michael Coomes for the two perpetual squadron trophies (best overall and FUBAR);
- Tom Holliday who is building a database of player participation and a seniority ranking system;
- Mike Lam, Assistant GM, who keeps track of player participation and initiated the medals;
- Kaarin Engelmann, Assistant GM in abstentia, aided with medals. Rumored to be returning to the USA soon;
- Paul Weintraub, Supply Officer, creator of the aircraft control dice towers—he was a surprise participant this year after moving to Florida.
- Paul Risner, O-Club OIC and Morale Officer;
- Keith Hunsinger, Assistant GM, Group Chaplain, mission scenario design;
- Mark Yoshikawa, Primary Assistant GM, S-2, mission scenario design, official computer scoring, medals, cattle prodding; and
- Honoree John Jacoby, B-17 prize table donation specialist extraordinaire
I am probably leaving someone out of the above list, but the truth is that EVERYONE contributes to making this tournament fun. Fun for themselves, fun for each other. Fun for me too. That’s why I continue to run it. I might be getting old, and a bit grumpy like Don, but it’s the players and history behind what we are doing that keep me coming back.
The 2015 WBC B-17 event marked the 24th year of tournament competition, spanning 71 missions covering August 1942 through December 1943. The B-17 tournament missions are designed after historical missions using many reference materials, and our list of references is continuing to grow. Already since our tournament in August, we’ve started working on the scenarios for 2016.
I’ve also recently learned that the WW2 USAAF bomb group records are stored at the National Archives II at College Park, MD. I had thought most of them were at the USAF Air University at Maxwell, AFB, Montgomery, Alabama, but I am very happy to learn that they are actually 20 miles away from the B-17 GM’s HQ in Maryland. I’ve got to get a researcher card and start poking at the record groups, but this gold mine of information will hopefully provide even more maps and realism for future WBC B-17 missions.
Sadly, this past year we lost former champion Rich Moyer, who joins Ed Okimoto among the ranks of B-17 players who have passed on to Valhalla. RIP Rich and our condolences to your Minnesota colleagues and family.
The B-17 tournament has been held in Camp Hill, PA, made it south to Hunt Valley, MD and north to Lancaster, PA. Now we will head west. The B-17 tournament will definitely be in Seven Springs, PA in 2016. See you there. We hope that you all have enjoyed the tournament in the past and continue to do so! And we welcome newcomers, rookies and fresh meat.
B-17 GM, 1992-2015+
Next year will be our 25th. Be there!
As a side note, I have been digging up information online, and found something that Don Greenwood added to the 2012 AAR on the web. What follows is from Don, and it is one of my fond memories of the Lancaster Host. I also thought I might die during the episode that he recounts below:
Humorous sidenote: "As the convention drew to an end, I (Don G.) sent Harry Flawd off in search of four 'young studs' to carry our display case to its storage area. Being a recent and reluctant initiate into the Senior Citizens club, I emphasized 'young' having already had my share of struggles with said display case. Anyway, Harry comes back a few minutes later with a few volunteers who included none other than B17 GM Dave Terry. Now Dave and I go waaay back, having thrown dice at each other before a lot of these young whippersnappers were born. I look at Dave and then I tell Harry: 'I thought I told you to bring back YOUNG studs.' Harry blurts back apologetically: 'he was all I could catch'. Dave took umbrage at this and with great bravado hoisted the case and off we went. He was moving a lot slower when we came back, though."
I actually required physical therapy after that. I told no one until now. I hope no one puts me through anything like that at Seven Springs. The only thing I want to hoist is an occasional beer or three.
And a shotgun if I make it out to the Sporting Clays. We might organize an unofficial gunnery practice and bowling tournament.
Until next year, have a happy holiday season, and see you in July.
Bill Thomson and Reverend Keith fogot
Mark Yoshikawa fondles the hardware.
Even the after-tournament awards meeting
packs them in. |