Saturday, September 22, 2012

Report From The Aleutians (1942)

One of the first things I ordered when I started researching the war in Alaska was this 42 minute video called Report Form The Aleutians.  The video looks at the first part of the Aleutian Campaign and was made in 1942 by the U.S. government so as you can imagine, it tells a somewhat censored version of what really went on up north.  But even with the omission of important details, it is still very interesting for someone who wants to know more about some of the goings on of the campaign.  

I particularly enjoyed this because it has a lot of Air Force coverage, even though they fail to mention that the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) were there as well,  fighting as one with the 11th Pursuit.  You can go along with the airmen as a camera actually accompanies one of the bombers in a mission over Kiska, which in a way, was fascinating, but at the same time equally as sad to see the destruction war inflicts.  This video allowed me to envision my grandfather's life and duties while up there and some of the things he had to endure on a day to day basis. Another interesting clip was that of the construction of the runway on Adak, designed by General Talley,  made out of steel and built by the Infantry.  It was a million and a half square feet of steel runway constructed in only 10 days. 

This is what my grandfather had to say when asked by the Canadian Department of Defense Historian, M.V. Bezeau, about his missions to Kiska from Adak in 1942 with the 11th Pursuit, commanded by Major Jack Chennault.

"The operations from Adak on Kiska were basically an escort duty until the target was reached.  One squadron of heavy bombers, B-24's, escorted by three squadrons of fighters, mainly P-40's and P-39's (12 bombers and 36 fighters).  In addition, one B-17 was assigned to photograph the results of each raid.  Once the target was reached, fighter sections (2a/c) each of which had its own targets, such as anti aircraft gun positions on the ground or on ships in the harbour, went in at low levels to eliminate any fire for the minute or so which the bombers would take to release their loads on their particular targets, motor pools, ammunition dumps, ships, barracks, ect. The fighters were then on their own to do what ever damage they could to anything that moved."

"Tactically, we flew in sections of 2 in a wide V of 10 aircraft with a cover of one aircraft on a high sweep above and a low sweep below the main group.  The sections would break off for individual section action when the situation called for it."

F/O Robert W. Lynch
RCAF 111(f) Squadron
April 22nd, 1980

This video can be purchased on for roughly ten dollars.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

70 Years Later- It's Still A Small World

This story is exactly one reason why I am doing this blog.  I was so moved by the way this event unfolded.  I pray that this site can bring more exceptional experiences to families like the one I just shared with Grant Workman and Wally Peacock, brother of F/0 Billy Peacock.  

Billy Peacock flew with the RCAF 111 & 440 (f) Squadrons in WW2.  He was born in a town called Swastika, Ontario on April 1, 1920 and joined the 111(f) Sqn on November 25, 1941. After the war in Alaska was over, the 111 (f) squadron got recommissioned as the 440(f) and were stationed over seas where they got a chance to fly the more advanced fighters.  Sadly Billy was killed in action on May 4, 1944, when his typhoon struck a barrage balloon cable and crashed over Eastleigh, Hampshire. He was 24.  

 Bill Peacock in his P-40 Kittyhawk
RCAF 111(f) Squadron 1942
I recently got the great pleasure of communicating with his brother Wally, who was 8 when Billy died.  He shared with me that he carries around a small blue bible gifted to the Canadian figher pilot by the navy fellows: H.T. Armerding, Lt. Sherwood and Cmndr. Boggs from the USS Whicita.  In the his own inscription in the bible, the airman goes on to say that  "Bill Pigden, Ken Caldwell and self had supper and saw a show. Had wonderful time and I think the U.S. Navy is a great outfit."  dated August 2nd, 1943, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. 

RCAF F/O Billy Peacock 

So as I was preparing to write this blog about Wallys brother, the veterans name- Billy Peacock, kept repeating itself inside my head as if I had heard it before.  I got out my grandfathers flight log book and began to search for the name and that is when it hit me, there pasted into my grandfathers flight log book was a picture of a group of his fellow airmen, and Billy Peacock was one of them. 

RCAF Pilots L-R: F/O Bill Pigden,  F/O Frank Skelly,  F/O Ed Merkley,
F/S Gerry Johnson,  F/S Gordon Baird,  F/O  Bill Peacock
February, 1942 

Incredible.  I just love that this blog is beginning to connect people, which is another reason you need to share this blog with everyone and anyone you know.  I am working on word of mouth here and although you personally may not know of anyone who fought in World War 2 in Alaska, the person you pass this on to, very well may.  You never know someone's family history.  So c'mon please hit that share button and let's see if we can make some more tear jerking connections with the families of those who proudly served. 

Note: Of those six RCAF pilots who are listed above, only 1 survived WW2 and that was F/O Bill Pigden. Wow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

RCAF 111 (f) Squadron

This Flordia Beaches To The Bering Sea project all got started when my neighbor Terry asked me what kind of plane my grandfather flew in the war.  It had been over a decade since I last studied the entries in his flight log book which were now thousands of miles away at my parents house in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That recollection had become buried under the events of my own life in the last ten years, but I was determined to remember.  An unanswered phone call to my Mother brought me to the good ol' internet where I started to discover information on not only his plane, but also his squadrons role in the war in Alaska. 

One of the first websites that I discovered was  The creator of this site, Bill Eull, has put a lot of heartfelt hours and energy into researching the squadrons members both individually and as a group.   Interestingly, Bill has no family associated with the squadron, he was just one man who became fascinated with their story after finding a dusty old squadron photo in an Ontario antique shop.

111(f) Squadron, Patricia Bay, March 3rd, 1942, photo-Bill Eull

Like so many others, Bill had no idea that the WW2 Aleutian campaign even happened. That North America had been threatened from both the east and the west. And with just a small amount of initial research, he was hooked and determined to tell their story of sacrifices and victories.  It was his way of fulfilling his own deeper desire to pay honor those who served. 

For a family member, like myself, it is a wonderfully emotional experience to discover the site. There on my computer screen was picture of my grandfather sitting proudly in his air force uniform.   Under his photos, listed his name, rank and his accomplishments and whether or not he survived the war to which, at that point,  it read "As far as I can tell, he survived the war."  I immediately, as you can imagine, emailed Bill, letting him know who I was and that, luckily,  my grandfather did indeed survive the war, being sure to include a few other details as well.  He was happy to hear from me, as he is with all family members who contact him.  

Bills quest is to honor every serviceman in the 111(f) Squadron. To date, he has been able to come up with 385 names of people who were either in the squadron or associated with it in some way.  Ideally, he wants to find photos of each person and tell their service story. Remarkably he has been able to do that with 110 of the 385 (28%) men.  Outstanding dedication and effort Bill!  

Bill Eull in the cockpit of a P-40 Kittyhawk owned by George Maude
Photo by Jim Ricks, Victoria, B.C.

There are no words strong enough to express to Bill the amount of appreciation I have for his efforts in creating such a priceless gift.  Thank you for bringing the faces of these brave and dedicated men into the open, and for sharing the stories of men that were never able to express it openly themselves.  

Bills plight is not over, he still needs our help putting names and details to squadron photos. Please visit his sight and see if you can assist-

God Bless you Bill.