"At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time."..."It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices."..."It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor..." - Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation

This website is dedicated to my Grandfather and the efforts of his Greatest Generation to secure the Freedoms under which so many of us live today.

In August, 1999 the focus of the site was originally intended to be on those that saw combat aboard B-24s in the China-Burma-India Theatre of War. However, as I began to research deeper into the records that were left to me by my Grandfather, I wished to include information about the men that trained as Aviation Cadets along with my Grandfather prior to heading overseas. Most went on the see combat. Sadly, many of them perished as young men. Some were chosen to stay Stateside in order to help prepare others for the rigors of battle. I am the grateful recipient of information, photographs and documents from many Veterans - and families of Veterans - who have graciously shared their collections. All of these veterans were involved in the War effort, but may have participated in a Theatre other than the CBI. I wish to commemorate their efforts, whether they were a member of an overseas Combat Crew, or served in some other capacity.

Accordingly, the scope of the site has been expanded to include as much information about these men as my resources allow. I would like to thank C-B-I veterans Lt. Walter O. Kaestner, Lt. Thomas C. Glover, Lt. Bernard Piersa, Sgt. George Mokski, Sgt. Robert J. Beran and Sgt. Vernon Martin, lT. Walter L. Wegner, Sgt. Robert E. Davy along with the families of Lt. John G. Zehren, Lt. John J. Folander, Lt. Ellis C. Zerba, Lt. Lyle M. Nelson, Lt. James F. Pitterle, Sgt. Douglas F. Sheriff, Lt. James J. Lichtenfels, Mr. Jack Gross, Mr. Alan Starcher, Mr. Tony Strotman, Mr. Walt Webb, Mr. Don Olds, Miss Jana Churchwell & Mr. Jim Augustus for generously sharing their knowledge and/or personal possessions with me.

I welcome you to this tribute to the Greatest Generation.

Enlisted April 23, 1941 - Los Angeles, CA

April 1941 - December 1942 - Presidio of San Francisco

January 5, 1943 - February 16, 1943 - Army Air Forces Classification Center, San Antonio, TX

February 17, 1943 - May 12, 1943 - United States Army Air Corps' Bombardier School - Ellington Field, Houston, TX

May 13, 1943 - August, 4, 1943 - San Angelo Army Air Field, San Angelo, TX

August 1943 - February 1944 - Casper Army Air Base, Casper, WY & Topeka Army Air Field, Topeka, KS

February 1944 - February 1945 - Combat

February 1945 - October 1945 - San Antonio, TX & Lancaster, CA

[August, 1999] My name is Michael Hernandez. I submit this website in honor of my late grandfather, Frederic N. "Bambino" Hernandez. He served his country in the China - Burma - India theatre of war from February 1944 until February 1945. As a Flight Officer and 2nd Lieutenant, AAF, he flew with the 10th Air Force /7th Bomb Group/492nd Bomb Squadron and with the 14th Air Force/308th Bomb Group/375th Bomb Squadron and flew 48 combat missions. He and thousands like him served heroically, selflessly, and humbly to secure the freedom that we are able to live under today. They did not ask "why?" as they fulfilled their duties in service to our great country, but forged ahead in the face of tremendous adversity and sacrificed their lives for those left at home. A mission that goes almost unnoticed by the generations that have followed.

My grandfather, and others like him, never considered himself a hero, and thus, hesitated to speak about his wartime exploits. I was able to glean a few stories from him before he passed away, and they instilled, in me, a great pride. After he passed, I was left a scrapbook from his days in the service. I am now attempting to piece together a history of his service from this data. It is difficult, and I now wish that I had more interest when I was younger and my grandfather more able to recollect his past. Many veterans that served our country in World War II are still with us, and I have contacted a few that flew or trained with my grandfather. Since I began working on this website, I have contacted Mr. John (Jack) Conrad, Mr. Hugh Courtney and Mr. Norman Long. They have furnished me with priceless insight into their pasts. Their recollection of missions, battles and "down time" have been both educational and amusing. Fifty years have passed and these memories still bring on emotions that survive to this day. I hear them laugh and hear them cry and I am grateful and honored to be able to get to know these humble, yet very proud men. They are full of fascinating information, and I have found that they seem to enjoy the chance to speak with someone that is interested in the history.

I recommend to anyone that has a relative or friend that served in WWII, to take the time to sit and listen to the stories. Write them down, or videotape an interview with them. Like my friend, Lt. Walter Kaestner tells me: "I'm 81, and we (WWII Veterans) are not getting any younger". Time is no longer an ally, and it would be a pity if the pictures and stories that these men can tell fade into the past without a chance to be heard by future generations. [Mssers. Conrad, Courtney and Long have since passed. However, in March, 2012 I made contact with Mike McNamee (Grandson of crew member Hugh Courtney), Roger Schroeder (Son of crew member Roy Schroeder) and Joe Zehren (Brother of crew member John Zehren). We have all shared photos, flight logs, documents and recollections from our heroes. I hope to be able to expand my website to include their items, and a link to Roger's planned website. In April, 2012 I located and contacted Bernard Piersa. Mr. Piersa - now 90 years young - was a navigator who roomed in the same basha with my grandfather in India. They remained friends after the War. He has graciously agreed to help me identify some of the men in the photos that I have posted hereon. We plan to meet in June at his home in Stockton, CA. Thanks to Mr. Piersa, I was able to locate and contact Tom Glover. Mr. Glover was also a bombardier who was in the CBI at the same time as my grandfather. He remembers "Bam" well, and has graciously agreed to give me actual photos that he took from the bomb bay of a B-24 while on one of many missions in which he participated. He is now just shy of 89 years young, and living in eastern Washington. I thank them all for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing their treasured memorabilia. I also must thank Walter Kaestner - now 93 years young. He never fails to make time for me when I call and pester him with questions about his experience so many years ago. These men, and the others mentioned on this website are a true inspiration to me.]

My Grandfather's Story

Frederic N. "Bambino" Hernandez was born on Oct. 29, 1918 in Whittier, CA. My grandfather lived in what was the "country" back then. He had four sisters and was one of five boys. He - and his older brother Frank (US Army Infantry - Europe), younger brother Henry (aboard a B-17 with the 8th Air Force over Europe), and younger brother Pete (US Army)- served our country during World War 2. He often spoke with fondness of the times spent hunting, exploring and hiking in the hills that surrounded his home. He attended Old Mill School which was nearby, but would like to relate how he had to later hike several miles a day "over the hills" to get to Whittier High School! He grew to become quite an athlete. He lettered in football, track and wrestling. He attended Fullerton College and was the Far Western & Pacific Coast AAU wrestling champion in 1939-40.

He enlisted in Los Angeles, CA on April 23, 1941. He received pre-flight training in San Antonio, TX and advanced bombardier training at Ellington Field and San Angelo Army Air Field. His Aviation Cadet Class 43-11 graduated on 5 August 1943 and he was appointed a Flight Officer in the Army of the United States, per the Flight Officers Act of 1942. He was classified as an "Aircraft Observer" (Bombardier). He was then assigned to the 29th Bomb Group at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. He completed the course of training for combat crews at the 331st Combat Crew Training School, Army Air Base, Casper Wyoming on 6 February 1944. As part of a group of 37 10-man Heavy Bomber crews (he was part of "Crew 67" per Special Orders No. 36), he was transferred to the Command of the 2nd Heavy Bomb Headquarters in Topeka, KS and completed "phase training" and proceeded to Headquarters Station #10 of the Caribbean Wing of the Airborne Transport Command, in Miami. Per Special Orders No. 51, 20 February 1944, his crew received their orders to report for combat duty and they left for India on the 22nd aboard a C-54 cargo plane of the Air Transport Command. Stops included: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Brazil, and Khartoum, Sudan before arriving in Pandaveswar, India on 7 March 1944 for assignment and duty with the 10th Air Force/7th Bombardment Group (H)/492nd Bombardment Squadron. He was part of a crew that consisted of: 2nd Lt. Donald H. Tennent - Pilot; F/O John M. Conrad - Co-pilot; 2nd Lt. Harold A. West - Navigator; Staff Sgt. Tony R. Johns - Flight Engineer; Staff Sgt. Roy C. Schroeder - Radioman; Sgt. Norman P. Long - Gunner; Sgt. Charles F. Motley, Jr. - Gunner; Sgt. Edward L. Moss - Gunner; Sgt. Hugh Courtney - Gunner.

My father, Frederic J. Hernandez was born on July 4, 1944, while my grandfather was "flying the Hump" into China. My grandfather had the opportunity to fire the waist gun on this mission (as noted in his diary). That must have been one exciting day in his life! On June 30, 1944 he was ordered to report for temporary duty (not to exceed 30 days) to the 14th Air Force/308th Bombardment Group/375th Bombardment Squadron (H).He flew with Walter O. Kaestner on the Tough Titti. On, August 31, 1944, this plane crashed while trying to limp home after it was damaged by a Japanese Zero during a mission. It was found on October 2, 1996 and became the subject of a "ABC 20/20" news program. He went on to survive 48 combat missions.

His return to the Unites States took him from Assam, India to Barrackpore-Agra-Karachi-Masira Island (Oman)-Aden (Yemen)-Khartoum (Sudan)-El Faser (Sudan)-Maidaguri (Nigeria)-Accra (Ghana)-Ascension Island-Natal (Brazil)-Belem (Brazil)-Georgetown (British Guiana)-Trinidad-Borinquen (Puerto Rico) and finally Miami Beach. (Click HERE to see on map.) After his return, my grandfather aspired to achieve pilot training and volunteered for assignment to bases in San Antonio, TX and Lancaster. He served in the Air Force Reserves until his Honorable Discharge in 1955.

Along with my grandmother, he settled back into civilian life in Whittier and raised a family of two sons and a daughter. He was self-employed, and worked tirelessly during the housing boom in Southern California. 'Da', as my sister, brothers and I called him, remained very active, coaching baseball in Whittier and officiating College, High School and Youth baseball, football, basketball and wrestling all over Southern California. He lived modestly and was a man of simple tastes. A cold bottle of beer. Some homemade Mexican food. The company of his family. He didn' ask for much, but sure was willing to lend a hand. He loved to fish in the waters off of the East Cape and Cabo San Lucas areas of Mexico. He made many friends throughout his life and had a great mind for remembering names and details - especially when it came to sports. Once, on a fishing trip to a very remote part of Baja California, he ran into an acquaintance he'd made many years prior. The two old friends never missed a beat as they caught up on each others' lives. 'Da' was a very loving man, always making time to spoil his grandchildren and to be a positive role model. He taught me about the importance of honesty, integrity, and hard work. He wasn't one to sit idle and so was still on the job when he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed at the age of 73. The debilitating effects stole the life from this proud man, as he was unable to carry on in the manner with which he had been accustomed. Sadly, my hero passed away in less than a year.

I am Blessed to be among five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren left to carry on his memory. This website is my very modest attempt to honor him. I hope that this will inspire others to do the same for someone who made an impact on their life.

I am proud of my grandfather. He was an honorable, generous and decent man. I miss him very much and still think of him every day, hearing his voice so clearly.

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Know These Men? - Document Library - The Making of an AAF Bombardier

WW II Poster Collection - Great-uncle Henry's Page - In Memoriam

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