View Full Version : Radio Gunner WW2

12-28-2011, 10:10 PM
My late husband was an orphan. I have a few pictures and a medal of his father's from World War Two. All I really know is that his father was in the Air Force and was a radio gunner. He might have been on Sicily. He had a hard time talking about the war. His name was John Smith--no joke--so I can't seem to find much about his war record. Does anyone know what a radio gunner did? -s6

12-28-2011, 10:47 PM
While I check on your question with my brother-in-law, Ralph, who flew as a bomber crewman based in England during World War II, I do know there was no "Air Force" at that time. Ralph was in the U.S. Army air corps from 1943 to 1945.

Ralph responds. His last missions were as the crew chief of bombers. He recalls the radio/gunner position had a slash, as they were trained for at least two functions: wireless radio and intercom operator and machine-gunner at one of the many turrets. All crew members wore radio headsets and throat-microphones, he said, and radio communications were so important that several crewmen were trained to operate and repair them. I hope some of this helps.

12-29-2011, 01:22 AM
What medal do you have, Shakeysix? That might be the easiest way to find some information. Puma

12-29-2011, 03:42 AM
i don't know. it is a many pointed star with an eagle in the center. the eagle has lightning bolts in its claws. the ribbon is blue and gold. it doesn't have any engraving but at one time there was more to it--on paper maybe. we have moved so many times since my husband died that i don't know where everything is.

my father in law was a very small man, no more than 5 feet 5 inches. i remember he said that he wanted to be a paratrooper but was turned away because he was too small, but later they needed smaller men. he was from pittston, pennsylvania if that helps. --s6

12-29-2011, 04:52 AM
Take a look atAir Medal - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Medal). Is that it?

From the Department of Defense:

Obtaining Copies of Military Records

Published 05/13/2009 10:50 AM | Updated 01/21/2011 04:01 PM
How do I obtain a copy of a person's military records?

The National Personnel Records Center-Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) (http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/) is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, medical records of discharged and deceased veterans and other military records (http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/) from all services from World War I to the present. The NPRC is one of the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) (http://www.archives.gov/) largest operations. NPRC-MPR stores medical treatment records of retirees from all the services along with records for dependents and other people treated at naval medical facilities.
An individual's complete service record is available to the former service member or, if deceased, to his or her next of kin (parents, spouse, or children).

Limited information such as dates of service, awards, and training is available to anyone. Not available to the general public is information which would invade an individual's privacy; for example, medical records, Social Security number, or present address. If requesting the records of a relative, a requester should mention the relationship to the former member (brother, uncle, or other). There is no charge for this service to former service members or their next of kin. For others, a nominal fee is charged for research and reproduction costs.

You may view the list below to contact them by e-mail or by phone or by mail at:

E-mail: MPR.center@nara.gov
Phone: 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or 1-800-234-8861
Fax: 1-314-801-9195

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132
For additional information you may wish to view the following:

Request Copies of Military Personnel Records Online (http://www.archives.gov/research/order/order-vets-records.html)

The more information you can supply, including the medal, but such as date of birth, social security number, birth place, enlistment location, the better the results.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

12-29-2011, 05:17 AM
Jim's suggestion is good, however....There was a disastrous fire in July of 1973. Estimates are that 80% of records for persons discharged from the Army prior to 1960 were lost. Of those discharged from the AF between Sept 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 with names after Hubbard, an estimated 75% were lost. If your FIL was discharged right at the end of the war, he would be in the Army group. So chances are slim the records would have survived. But it is worth making the effort. And, as Jim said, the more info you can provide about him, the better your chances. Even something as minor as where he was living when he enlisted could make the difference.

A link about the fire: http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/fire-1973.html


12-29-2011, 06:43 AM
that's it! that's the medal. wow--thanks so much jclarke, puma, chase and mary. my husband said once that his dad tried to read catch 22 but it was too close to what he lived through.

the fire would explain why i can find more information on my g-g-grandfather in the civil war than my father in law in ww2. we have moved so many times and i now that i am in a house of my own i want his record to be remembered just as we remember my family's service--s6

12-29-2011, 07:21 AM
There are some sites on line that list medal awardees from WWII. I found one for the air medal but did not find John Smith in the list.

Another thing you might look at if you have any idea of his unit designation is to see if you can find anything by googling the unit. Again, there are some websites dedicated to preserving the stories and memories of various of the groups / units that served during WWII. By unit I mean something like the 112th Medics, 32nd Infantry, etc. At least it's worth a shot. If you by any chance have his dog tags, his unit information should be there. Puma

12-29-2011, 06:09 PM
Okay, you have several different search areas to work on.

First is the medal. Now that you know which one it is, you stand a good chance of finding a list of people who received it through the military. It was a relatively common medal, being awarded upon the flying of a certain number of missions. As a more common medal, he also would have received medals for serving in WWII and serving in the European theater of combat. But I'd start with the Air Medal. Separate and distinct from service records, the military maintains records of who was awarded what, with the best records being the more significant medals.

Second line of search would be checking with the town that he came from. Frequently towns, often through the veteran's associations, know who enlisted from a town and when they enlisted. This will also give you the enlistment center that he probably went through. And most people were discharged through their enlistment center, which may lead you to his DD-214 (discharge orders).

Third is that as a radio gunner, he most likely flew in one of the heavy bombers, of which the B-17 was the weapon of choice in Europe. He is less likely to have served in the 8th Air Force because it mainly served in England and more likely to have served in the 12th Air Force, which was organized for the North Africa landings and followed that theater. I don't know if it had any based in Sicily, but it definitely bombed the island.

There is no guarantee that any of these will lead to an answer, but there should be enough here to keep you going for a while.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

12-29-2011, 09:06 PM
one grainy black & white snapshot of nine men in uniform--ties, khaki jackets. i identified their caps as army corps/air force flight cap. my father in law is in front. only one insignia half visible and that is his. with my magnifying glass it seems to be a "hap arnold" wing patch. it is round, no numbers visible--s6

12-29-2011, 10:04 PM
"Hap" Henry Arnold was in over-all command of the USAAF. Something like the fourth highest ranking officer in the US Army during WWII.

You might want to look at United States Army Air Forces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Air_Forces). It shows the Hap Arnold patch, as well as the patch for the 15th Air Force, which looks a lot like the Hap Arnold Patch. My guess is everyone in the USAAF wore the Hap Arnold patch, although I don't know.

Nine people would have been the flight crew for either a B-17 pr a B-24.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe