Richard Ziebart’s story

For more than a decade now, I have wanted to write about my father’s journey to the 417th Night Fighter Squadron.  Over the years, I had attended reunions with my father,  met some of his mates and work side by side with him to get this website up and running.  But,  I never knew the full story or timeline of his journey to the squadron – at least not first hand.   After his passing in 2018, I found and saved numerous bits and pieces that he had kept from this period of his life and after several false starts, I believe I have finally pieced together his journey.

In 1943, Richard Ziebart was 17 and a Senior High School. WWII was in full swing.  In October of that year, a recruiter arrived at school with a message to boys in his class.  They had 2 options: Be called to active duty when they reached 18 (potentially missing graduation) OR enlist now and remain home for 6 months after their 18th birthday.  My father and his cousin “Bud” enlisted that day.

In looking back on this decision, he recalled that 17 of his classmates  entered service in January 1944 and that he felt relief that he signed up and would be able to finish school.  

He turned 18 in May of 1944 and in November of that year, he travelled to Fort Sheridan in Illinois for Basics training.   While there, he sent this postcard to his mother with a photo of his group at Basic Training.  He wrote his name and drew an arrow, so his mother would know which of the sharp looking young men was her son.

Postcard that Richard Ziebart sent home to his mother. Hand written on it is an arrow identifying which of the fine young men was her son.

Exactly how long he was at Fort Sheridan is unclear and the trail gets a bit murky.   Tucked amongst the items he saved is a photo of himself as a Cadet at Keesler Technical Training Center, located in Biloxi, Mississippi.  He also saved a 4 page document with a map of  the Training Center.   My best estimate is that  he went to Biloxi  around December of 1944.

Sometime after  the New Year in 1945, he was moved again  to the Technical School at Sioux Falls Army Air Field.  He was assigned to Squadron Q, barracks 442.  At Sioux Falls, he was reunited with his cousin Bud, who bunked in Barracks 440 with Squadron O. 

There were several items that my dad saved that tell me a bit about life here: A booklet and map of Sioux Falls Army Air Field, a purchase certificate for his army issued shoes, a code test demonstrating that he could decode 19 words per minute,  a schematic of the radio receiver he designed as part of his training and an Honor Roll certificate of accomplishment from the school. 

One of the more interesting items that my father kept from this time period was a letter from the minister at the local Church where he attended Sunday service.    He had been given “extra duty” for several weeks after he and his cousin Bud were caught being “out of uniform”.  When the minister of the church found out, he wrote a letter explaining why my father was out of uniform and pleaded his case.   Hand written on the back of the letter is my father’s explanation of events.

The last nugget I have from his time in Sioux Fall is this postcard.  On the back he wrote “Bud Kasischke and Richard Ziebart, Sioux Falls, SD, April 1st, 1945)

Richard Ziebart on the left and Bud Kasischke on the right.

After 22 weeks in Sioux Fall,  he was transferred to Scott Field in Illinois.  It appears that his stay there lasted 18 weeks.  I have very little from this period, short of a story he told me about getting a weekend pass so that he could hitchhike home to be present for his newest sister Sharon’s baptism.  While home, he took a series of photos with his family.

On the 1st of January, 1946, Richard  boarded the SS Rollins Victory along with 800 other men and headed for Europe.  It was a stormy trip with many seasick soldiers.  He volunteered to work in the medical group.  His duties were to pick up the seasick soldiers and take care of them in sick bay for 2 days, then return them back to their bunks.  He commented that on the morning following the return of those soldiers to their bunks, the same group would be back in sick bay again.  For his work, he was given a pass which entitled him to eat in the mess at any time during regular hours.  On the back the photo, he wrote “Volunteered to work in sick bay on the entire trip – received best accomodations and eating privileges.  Weather was calm this day.”

Richard disembarked the SS Rollins in Le Havre, France and headed to Camp Lucky Strike.  From there, he would be transported by train to Fuerstenfeldbruk, Germany via Paris.  In Fuerstenfeldbruk, he was assigned to the 417th Night Fighter Squadron as a radar mechanic operator.   Things get a bit murky again, but from the photos he kept I believe my father headed Rothwestern airfield around February of 1946.  He describes himself as a “new recruit” along with a group of other men.


I believe my father stayed at Rothwestern until April of 1946 at which point the 417th NFS was transferred to Fritzlar Air Base in Kassel, Germany.  At Fritzlar he was assigned a roommate, George Marks, from Temple, Texas.  George was also a radar mechanic operator.    When he wasn’t working on P-61 radar, baseball seemed to have filled his time.


Aside from photos, my father kept a number of momentos from this time:  A class B Pass,  his motor vehicle operations permit and his European Theatre Ration card.

In August of 1946, he boarded the SS George Washington in Bremerhaven, Germany and headed home.  While on board ship, he took several snapshots with the friends he made onboard.

While my father’s time in the service and with the 417th NFS was brief, it clearly impacted and influenced his life.  When he returned to the US he leveraged his training into a 36 year career with Michigan Bell Telephone.  As he neared retirement, he became increasingly interested in keeping in touch with fellow squadron members and worked to keep the 417th story alive.  He, along with my mother, Lorraine, spent countless hours working others to organise NFS reunions, collecting and cataloging photos and stories.  This website is a dedication to their commitment to keep the story of the 417th NFS alive.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.  Love you.







Remembering Lt. Theodore Edward Hearne

First some background on this story.

Early this year I was contacted by Lowell Silverman, a researcher from the website Delaware’s World War II Fallen. Lowell was writing a profile on Lt. Theodore Edward Hearne for the website and had a few questions related to Lt. Hearne’s time with the 417th NFS. I had very little information, mostly references to Hearne in the 417th Illustrated History and Brick Eisel’s book: Beaufighters in the Night, and no photos. I could confirm little more than the fact that Hearne was part of the 417th and that he had died, along with his pilot 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis on the night of 20 July in 1944.

Over the course of several emails, I was placed in contact with Lt. Hearn’s nephew. He provided me with a broader view of his uncle’s life in the service. He also provided me with several photos. I kept in touch with Lowell as well. His research uncovered a goldmine of data on Lt. Hearne’s family life as well as his time in the service. I was truely humbled by the level of information Lowell was able to find. He also taught me a trick or two.

With that in mind, I realized that I could not improve on the story that Lowell had written. So that end, I will use this post as a synopsis of Lt. Hearne’s path to the 417th and his short time with it. At the end of this post I provide the reader to the fuller account written Lowell.

Ted Hearne was born in Pennsylvania in 1920 and was the eldest of 11 children. He hails from a family that served their country. His father, 4 of his brothers and a sister all served .

Ted’s service started when he joined Delaware National Guard in 1937. as part of the 198th Coast Artillery Regiment. In March of 1941 his unit moved to Camp Edwards in Massachusetts.

From here, the story gets more complex, but eventually in early 1942, Corporal Hearne and his Regiment, shipped out of Charleston, NC bound for the Pacific Theatre. His regiment was part of an occupied force building a base in Bora Bora as part of an effort to secure sea lines between the U.S and Australia.

After his time in Bora Bora, Hearne transferred along with several other enlisted men to Officer Training in the U.S. In early 1943, he became one of seven cadets to participate in the pre-flight phase of Pilot training at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

While Hearne’s desire was to become a pilot he was unsuccessful. Hearne’s training then shifted to Radar Observer (R/O) and he was attached to the 348th Night Fighter Squadron as a Student. After completing his courses, he was assigned to the 349th and ordered to move to Hammer Field in Fresno, California. According to Wikipedia, the 348th was ordered to Hammer Field to be closer to the Northrup, the manufacturer of the P-61. Hearne’s nephew recounted that Lt. Hearne flew in the P-61 prior to it being placed into the war effort. What an experience that must have been.

After a series of squadron transfers and reorganisation, Hearne headed overseas to Algeria to join the 417th Night Fighter Squadron of the 63rd Fighter Wing at Borgo Aerodrome on the French Island of Corsica. The exact date of this transition is not clear, however Individual Flight Records show Hearne partnered as a Radar Observer with Lt. Hill, Capt. McCray, Lt. Kirwan, Capt. Stirnus and Capt. Lee starting on 17 June 1944 and ending on 30 June 1944. Hearne began his training flights with the 417th in Beaufighters.

On July 5th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis joined the 417th. It is worth noting that it is possible that Hearne and Inglis knew each other prior to their joining the 417th as their previous time with 348th and 349th overlapped. What is clear, is that, according to Individual Flight Records, on July 7th, 1944, two days after Inglis arrived, Hearne (R/O) and Inglis (Pilot) were partnered on a series of training flights that ran thru to 18 July, 1944.

On 20 July, 1944, at 2140 hrs, Inglis and Hearne took off in their Beau “Wastenot 77” ( VIF, AAF Serial Number ND262). They were vectored towards a “bogey” at 2310 hrs. There is some evidence that the bogey in the transcript was a “Bedcheck Charlie” – a common term for any recurring nighttime harassment flights aimed at keep the troops from resting.

A transcript of the encounter and resulting incident written by George Parrott, a Flying Office and Controller indicates that they located the enemy at 2324 hrs and hit their target. At 2325 hrs they reported the hit and informed Setsquare that the enemy had hit the water. At 2326 hrs they were told to vector 280 degrees. Parrot did not receive a reply but noted that Sector Ops received a call from Wastenot 77 indicating that Inglis and Hearne were going in to look at the wreckage. This was the last message from the crew. A search of the area at dawn confirmed debris from the enemy and Wastenot 77 had , but no remains of Inglis or Hearne were recovered.

The following document show the communications on that fateful night.

The following is a tracing of the area where the Inglis and Hearne’s Beau went down. It was drawn by George Parrot who was stationed at Scorton Air Field in the UK.

According to Company Morning Reports, Hearne and Inglis were initially listed as MIA, on July 20th at 2330 hrs. This status changed to KIA on September 12, 1944.

Both 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis and Lt. Theodore Hearne were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross along with the Purple Heart.

For a more in-depth look at Lt. Theodore Hearne’s life and career, I encourage you to view the profile published by Lowell Silverman on the Delaware WWII Fallen website:

Lastly, my heartfelt thanks to Gary Hearne and Lowell Silverman for their contributions, without which I would not have been able to write this story.

Update on progress to restore a P-61B at Mid-Atlantic Air Museum

A friend forwarded a link to this article that has an update on the restoration of a P-61B  at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Pennsylvania.

Some readers may recall that the Night Fighters held a reunion at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in 2007 and got a first hand look at the work in progress on the P-61B.  You can see some photos of the state of the aircraft in 2007 here.

There has been good progress since 2007, but challenges still exist.  The link below will take you to the full article.

Northrop P-61 Black Widow – July 2023 Restoration Update

My father’s dream was to fly in this one day, but sadly he passed away before the dream could be fulfilled.  Hopefully, the next generation of the NFS family will get that chance.  Enjoy!

History of Scorton Airfield

Hello readers,

Earlier this month I was contacted by Peter from the UK.  Peter has authored a history of Scorton airfield in England.  Three of the USAAF Squadrons were stationed at Scorton during WW2 (417th, 422nd and 425th).  A brief history of each  squadrons time at Scorton is included in the document Peter has written.

If  you are interested in reading more about Scorton airfield’s history and the time the USAAF and RAF spent here, please visit his wonderful website.

Click on the link for “History of Scorton Airfield” and it should take you to a PDF document which you can read on the site or download.

In our email exchanges, Peter also included this photo of a bench located in the area.

How great is that?

Lastly, Peter is looking for anyone who might have memories or photos of the time squadron members were stationed at Scorton.  If you have something to share, please contact me via the Contact Us form for this website and I put you in touch with Peter.




2 Updates: Photos of 2nd Lt. Samuel Russell and Diary of Sgt. Lyle J. Montbriand

Two updates to share with everyone.

2nd Lt Samuel Russell

In May of this year, I was contacted by a young Frenchman who had found the Military Certificate for Lt. Samuel Russell, a member of the 414th who was transferred to the 417th in 1944.   Unfortunately, the information on the card was in such terrible condition that as soon as it dried out it was impossible to read anymore.

Despite this setback, the young man hoped I would have more information on Sam’s time in the war and perhaps a photo.

The 417th Illustrated History only had a few mentions of Sam but no photos.  But, as luck and perseverance would have it, I located an email and physical address for Sam in one of the lists my father kept.  I wrote and emailed these addresses in the hopes that someone would respond.

Earlier this month, I heard back from Sam’s son and wife.  They were kind enough to supply two photos of Sam during his time in the war.  I hope to hear more about Sam’s time and share it with you.

Samuel Russell. Member of the 414th NFS. Transferred to the 417th in 1944.

Sam Russell (on right) with Bob Perkins (2nd on right). Others unknown.

These photos have been added to the Faces of the 417th page.  Scroll down to the end of the first gallery of photos.

Sam passed away in November of 2021 and was likely the last surviving member of the 417th.  I thank him for his service and his family for sharing these photos with us.

Lyle J Montbriand – A Soldier’s Diary

I wrote a teaser about this quite awhile ago.  It took me 8 months, but I got there.  I am happy to report that I have published  the War Diary of Sgt. Lyle James Montbriand.  The diary was supplied by his son, Randall.

Lyle was a member of the original 417th when it was formed in Kissimmee and traveled extensively with the squadron.  When he joined up, he was issued a diary where he kept photos from his early training days and on thru to the end of his tour in Germany.

To learn more about Lyle’s journey and see the images he captured during his time with the 417th, head to the Letters, Diaries and Tributes page and scroll down to the Diaries section.  Lyle’s story is below the diary for David Diehl.




Seeking information on 2nd Lt. Samuel E. Russell of the 414th & 417th NFS

Gosh, it’s a small world.

I have recently  been contacted by a 19 year old WWII enthusiast  in France.  He recently found the military certificate of Lt. Samuel E “Sam” Russell buried in the grounds of a former US Staging area near Marseille.   He is after a photo and more information on Sam.

Based on my research and the documentation I have on hand,  Lt. Samuel E Russell was originally with the 414th as a  navigator and was transferred to the 417th in October of 1944 in Le Vallon, France.

Lt. Russell lived to be 100 and passed away quite recently (18 Nov 21).  I think this would make Sam one of the longest living 417th members.  I would love to tell his story and share a photo.

If you have any information, please get in touch via the contact us page.


Request for Information on 425 NFS – Vannes, France

I have recently been contacted by an amateur historian in France who is doing research leading up to a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the Vannes, France.  The 425th NFS was stationed in Vannes and the town plans to pay tribute to the members of the 425th NFS and honour 3 members who died during missions flown out of Vannes airfield (1st Lt. Nelson D. WILLIS (pilot) – August 26, 1944 / 2nd Lt. Joseph C. WEBB (pilot) and 2nd Lt. Robert E. English (radar-operator) – August 28, 1944)

The historian found this website thru a You Tube video that was produced by George Hoover  (you can find the link here).  There are several shots from Vannes along with a few of the P-61 that may have flown out of that airfield.

The celebration in Vannes is scheduled for 2024.

I am after any of the following information:

o Contact information (email or home addresses) for family members of anyone who served in the 425th NFS.

o photos from Vannes that may have been taken by members of the 425th during their time there.

o A list or photos of P-61s flown out of Vannes.  I currently believe the “Plenty of Pissed Off Patootie III” and “Wabash Cannonball IV” were flown out of Vannes. Others???

o Contact information for Jerry Moore, Charlene Smith or Thomas/Rita Rose  who attended the 2007 NFS Reunion

If you have a anything to share, please contact me via the Contact Us  link on this website, or place a comment on this post with details on how I can get in touch with you.

Many Thanks!




Coming soon……

There are two new stories I hope to have posted in the New Year.  The first involves an original member of 417th NFS.  His name is Lyle James Montbriand.  His son has located Lyle’s army issued personal diary which tells the story of his time from the creation of the 417th in Kissimmee then on to New York, Scotland, England, North Africa, Corsica, Belgium and back to the US.  Here is a photo of Lyle along with a handwritten note listing his “war buddies”.  More photos and info to come in the new year.


The 2nd story I am working on is that of my father, Richard Ziebart.  After he passed away in 2018 I found a collection of momentos he kept from his time with the 417th.   These items have helped me piece together his journey and the timeline associated with it.    I hope to complete my research in the fist quarter of 2022, so stay tuned.  For now, I will leave you with this photo of my dad taken in Biloxi where he underwent Cadet training:

Until then, I am sending my Christmas and New Years wishes to you all and we will talk again in 2022.





More photos from 417th Photographer Charles Fahrbach

After a bit of a delay, I have finally gotten around to adding the 80+ photos from the collection of the 417th Photographer, Charles Fahrbach.  Some of the photos may be duplicates that already appear on the site, but most are new.  I have gathered them into a permanent gallery located  on the Faces of the 417th page.  Click on this link  and it will take you directly to the page.  You will need to scroll down to the bottom.  The gallery is located just before the comments section.

I don’t have a lot of details on location or the people in the photos, but if you spot a location or person you know, please drop me a note and I will add those details to specific photographs.

In addition to the photos, I received a number of documents related to Charle’s time in the service, so I have included them here for reference.  My favourite is the Western Union Telegram to his wife.

Protecting the night in WWII