There Are Quiet Heroes

Sgt. Glenn E. Winter, Gunner and Radio Operator, B-17, 569th Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group

I don’t remember the first time I met Glenn Winter, but it’s fairly safe to say it was most likely shortly after I was born. Dad and Mom had rented his farm west of Macomb on Route 136 before I was born. I do remember him being a very jovial, kind person with big dark eyes and a smile that would melt steel.

He was like extended family and over the years many letters were exchanged with holiday greetings and news of the farm. After we moved to my grandparents’ farm in 1968, Mom and Dad still kept in touch with him and visited him and his wife near Peoria.

Somewhere along the line, I learned he served in WW II in the Army Air Corps. Glenn has since passed away, but Mom and Dad have copies of his papers and memoirs. I’m a historian, genealogist, and archivist, and my curiosity was piqued. What had he seen? Where were his missions to? Where was his base in England?

Glenn was a member of the 569th Bomb Squadron H, 390th Bomb Group. He was a crew member on a B-17 bomber in the European Theatre.

Glenn Winter’s crew Front Row, left to right: S/Sgt. John M. O’Brien – radio operator; Lt. John L. Chadwick – Pilot, Lt. James M. Caldwell – Bombardier, Lt. Thomas W. Clark – Navigator, Lt. Thomas S. Weems – Co-Pilot, S/Sgt. Louis Zurlowski – Engineer Back Row, left to right: S/Sgt. Joe Cooney – Gunner, Sgt. Leslie Scott – Gunner, Sgt. John G. Stanley – Gunner, Sgt. Glenn Winger – Gunner. This photo was taken at Langley Field, VA. January 1944

In Glenn’s notes, he states they flew to England in late 1943, so I’m unsure why this photo was identified as being taken in Virginia in January 1944. There are no indications if they flew back to the USA, but I’m guessing it is simply an error of years. I think they were at Langley in January of 1943.

Glenn’s crew was never shot down, and survived all their 33 missions as a complete crew! He gave credit to their excellent pilot, 21-year-old John Chadwick from Texas. [Chadwick is pictured 2nd from the left on the front row in the picture]. I wish I knew more about his crewmates. Here is the list of missions Glenn’s crew completed:

  • Liege, Belgium
  • Brux, Czech.
  • Osnabruck, Germany
  • Berlin, German
  • Melun, France
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Liege, Belgium
  • Magdeburg, Germany
  • Troyes, France
  • Boulogne, France
  • Boulogne, France
  • Caen, France (D-Day, 6 June 1944)
  • Falais, France (D-Day, 6 June 1944)
  • Tours, France
  • Brunsbuttelkoog, Germany
  • Fallersleben, Germany
  • Ruhland, Germany – on to Russia – our 1st trip to Russia – Italy – and back to England
  • Drohobycz, Poland – on to Italy
  • Arad, Rumania – From and Back to Italy
  • Beziers, France – back to England
  • Munchen, Germany
  • Schweinfurt, Germany
  • Mersburg, Germany
  • Munchen, Germany – Drop supplies to Free French on the border of France & Switzerland)
  • Area “13”
  • St. Quentin, France
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Rahmel, Poland – our 2nd trip to Russia – Italy – Switzerland
  • Trzebinia, Oland
  • Ziliestea, Rumania
  • Toulouse, France
  • Ruhland, Germany
  • Brest, France
Schweinfurt, Germany

Glenn was only 19 and a sophomore at Iowa State University when he quit college and joined the Army Air Force. His memoirs were written some sixty years later and reflect the years that had passed.

“One flight to Russia was memorable. We left England, bombed Ruhland, Germany then flew on to an air base in Russia. On the day that we landed, the Russian women served us a meal. I can remember seeing a metal gallon can that was labeled Illinois Creamer Butter. There were 100 B17’s and also P51 escort planes assembled there. Before dark, the Germans flew over making photos of our planes. Know that Russian Angl Aircraft could only to to 12,000 feet, the Germans were flying just over that, and our P51’s could easily have shot them down, but the Russians had not had order to destroy those planes and they would not let us shoot them down. That’s the difference in mentality: Russians would not take a glaring opportunity if they’d not had orders; Americans would have done the logical thing orders or no, and have met the consequences later. That night the Germans came back and bombed what they had seen the day before with the exception of the field where I ws a guard at our planes. I was spared the German attack on our field. We’d been told to not move becuase the Russian guards would shoot anything that moved. It was a real 4th of July …our planes were full of gas and bombs. We lost fifty B17’s and more than 100 guys.”

Sgt. Glenn Winter Memoirs, written July 2002

I’ve been reading about the 8th Air Army Air Force during WWII in preparation for Apple TV’s release of “Masters of the Air”. There were no easy days for these men. There were no easy days for any WWII service person. Glenn was incredibly lucky that his crew survived intact, and completed 33 missions. Missions such as Schweinfurt, Magdeburg, Munich, and Berlin were unimaginable. Glenn was one of the ‘quiet heroes’ who surrounded me in my life. Many of them I didn’t know had WWII service until after I was an adult. How I wish I could go back and ask them about their service. Many, I think, would have said, “There were things a little girl shouldn’t have to worry about.”

Thank you, Glenn.

POSTSCRIPT: A very kind gentleman contacted me and gave me a very thorough document on Glenn’s missions overseas with dates, crew members, targets, and aircraft numbers. Through his work, I was able to track down the plane Glenn’s majority of missions were flown in. “The Diplomat”, B-17G, serial # 2102967 was flown by Crew #21 – Glenn’s crew – on 24 of 34 completed missions. It was first flown by Crew #21 on 2 June, 1944 to Boulogne France, and successively on 5 June, 1944 to Boulogne and then twice on D-Day, once to the Caen coast and the other to Falaise France.

“The Diplomat” was accepted into service on 24 April 1944 by the USAAF, and began service on 22 May 1944 in the 8th Air Army Air Force. Glenn’s missions ended on 26 August 1944 with a trip to Brest, France. The plane continued flying until it received “severe battle damage” on 6 February 1945 and subsequently crashed at Les Combes, France in a wheat field killing the crew. The plane was salvaged 3 November 1945.

Another crew with “The Diplomat” the B-17G Glenn E. Winter and Crew #21 flew for 24 missions without a loss.

Thank you to Frank Drain for the additional information!