On February 1st of this year, the 506th Fighter Group Association helped celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones, who was a ground crew member (mechanic and armorer) with the 457th Fighter Squadron. Staff Sergeant Jones was assigned to 541 “Kwitcherbitchin”, flown by Captains William B. Lawrence and Alan J. Kinvig.
Burton’s family was hoping that he would receive at least 100 birthday cards from family, friends and well wishers. Burton actually received over 300 birthday cards!
On October 25, 2021, we were informed by Priscilla Hepburn-Jones that Burton had passed away. Like other members of his generation, Burton returned from the war and became active in his community serving in many civic organizations.
On October 24, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Burton’s obituary can be found here: https://www.uticaod.com/obituaries/k0030474. Our prayers are with Burton’s family during this time of loss.
Robert A. Gourley was born on December 14, 1924, in Greer, South Carolina. Bob graduated from Marion High School in 1940, and entered into Davidson College in 1941 as part of the ROTC program. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.
Not wanting to be placed into the infantry, Bob enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He earned wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona in 1944. In October of that year, 2nd Lieutenant Gourley was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group shortly after the group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG was trained specifically to fly very long range missions.
When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Gourley, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.
Lieutenant Gourley would fly a total of 11 VLR missions to Japan, and would be promoted to the rank of Capitan before being honorably discharged. Upon returning home, Bob re-enrolled in Davidson College and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music.
Bob was a recognized community member faithfully contributing to his community in many ways. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church and served as choir director for over three decades. He was also active in the local Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge. Bob played in a community band well into into eighties, and enjoyed playing golf.
On September 4, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Bob was 96, and was the last living fighter pilot of the 462nd Fighter Squadron.
In 2014, Bob gave a video interview as part of the McDowell Legacy Program, “Reflections of the Past”. In his interview, Bob speaks of his entry into the United States Army Air Force, and missions flown from Iwo Jima to Japan. The YouTube video of Bob’s interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/P-HsME_vCKI.
Albert Arthur Sharke was born on March 13, 1921, in New York City. He entered into Columbia University as a first generation college student. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.
The 457th Squadron Unit History indicates that 2nd Lt. Albert A. Sharke was assigned to the squadron on December 18, 1944, as Armament Officer, replacing 2nd Lt. McCallick who was transferred out of the squadron. 2nd Lieutenant Sharke, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron, took a troop train from Lakeland Army Air Field to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.
It appears that Lt. Sharke may have been the armorer for the P-51D Mustang flown by 1st Lieutenant Larry Grennan, although that cannot be confirmed. Squadron histories just do not go into that amount of detail, and we do not have any good photos of Lt. Grennan’s P-51D to see if Lt. Sharke’s name appears on the plane. Without either the pilot(s) or ground crew providing that information, that piece of information is lost forever.
Albert Sharke was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. After being honorably discharged after the war, Albert graduated in 1947 from Columbia University with a degree in metallurgical engineering. After working briefly at Air Reduction Laboratories, he spent the duration of his career in chemical and refinery operations at Standard Oil of New Jersey.
The 506th Fighter Group lost another pilot when 1st Lt. Bill Peterson passed away on July 3, 2021. Wilhelm (Bill) Herbert Peterson was born on June 27, 1923, in Gary, Indiana. Bill’s family moved to Sebring, Florida early in his childhood, and Bill left high school after the 11th grade and enrolled in the University of Florida. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Force Reserve and was in his last year of college when he was called up.
He started his basic flight training at Americus, Georgia, flying Boeing’s primary trainer, the PT-17 Stearman biplane, and then went to Greenwood, Mississippi, flying the Vultee BT-13 basic trainer. Bill continued his training at Dothan, Alabama, flying the North American AT-6 advanced trainer, and completed his flight training at Montgomery, Alabama, flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk where he received his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.
2nd Lt. Peterson was assigned to the 458th Fighter Squadron shortly after the 506th Fighter Group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Force base in October, 1944. The 506th was trained solely for very long range missions.
Below are two pictures of 2nd Lt. Peterson during tour of duty on Iwo Jima. The first is of 2nd Lt. F.H. Wheeler (front), 2nd Lt. Robert “Andy” Anderstrom (back left), and 2nd Lt. Wilhelm Peterson (back right).
The second is of C Flight of the 458th Fighter Squadron. 2nd Lt. Peterson is in the back row, fifth from the left.
1st Lieutenant Myndret S. Starin and 2nd Lieutenant Wilhelm W. Peterson were assigned to fly 580 “Shirley III/Augusta Wind” a P-51D-25-NA (Serial No. 44-72890). 1st Lt. Starin named the plane Shirley III, which appeared on the port side of the nose, and 2nd Lt. Peterson named the plane Augusta Wind after his wife, Augusta, which appeared on the starboard side of the nose.
Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of 580 showing the name Augusta Wind on nose. Below is the only photo of starboard side of 580. Because the cowl panels have been removed for maintenance, we are unable to see the name Augusta Wind.
Bill flew many VLR missions to Japan and back during his tour of duty, and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. Bill returned to the United States in early January of 1946, just in time to enroll for his final semester at the University of Florida.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Bill worked in the life insurance industry for 19 years, and then had a very successful practice as a certified public accountant. On July 3, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.
On July 10, 2013, Bill gave an interview as part of the University of Central Florida Veterans’ History Project recounting his life and service to his country as part of the 506th Fighter Group. Bill’s interview can be found here: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/veteransoralhistories/172/
The 506th Fighter Group lost another fighter pilot when Jack H. Folsom went west on January 16, 2021. Jack Folsom was born on December 7, 1922 in Des Moines, Iowa. He showed an affinity for airplanes and flying at an early age winning several awards at the Iowa State Fair for model building and distance flying as a teenager.
He graduated from Des Moines Lincoln High School in January of 1941, and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jack was awarded his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona as part of Class 43-D.
Like many 506th FG fighter pilots, Jack was a pilot instructor at Page Field in Fort Meyers, Florida, when he was assigned to the 457th FS shortly after the 506th FG was organized in October of 1944 at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG pilots were trained specifically to fly very long range missions, and Jack flew over 10 VLR missions to Japan and back from Iwo Jima. During his tour on Iwo Jima, Jack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of Jack while he was on Iwo Jima flying VLR missions. During his return to the United States after the cessation of hostilities, the contents of Jack’s foot locker were stolen depriving us all of a glimpse of that part of his life.
Upon his discharge after the end of World War II, Jack enrolled in Iowa State’s Aeronautical Engineering program and graduated in three and one half years. Jack worked for Boeing for 36 years, and retired in 1985 as the Chief Engineer at Boeing’s Renton plant.
After his retirement, Jack, and his wife Dorothy, built homes in Port Townsend, Green Valley, Arizona, and in Buhl, Idaho, where their home overlooked the Snake River and Kanaka Rapids. Jack was a very accomplished wood worker in his retirement; a craft which he shared with others.
Jack’s obituary stated that “[h]is life of integrity, honesty, a strong handshake, his commitment to Jesus Christ, and love for his family were his hallmarks.” On January 16, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.