Ralph F. Wakerly 349th NFS Crew Chief Story

By Ralph F. Wakerly

Dear Richard I received your letter several days ago and I believe it is a good thing you are doing. I am an 86 year old WWII veteran and was in the 349th NFS at its inception in Orlando in 1942. I w as scheduled to go overseas in early 1943 with the 414th NFS, however I was in a crash on January 15, 1943 on a test flight out of Kissimmee, Florida where the 349th was then stationed. I was a crew chief and the only survivor of the three occupants. . As a result, I spent 130 days in Orlando Air Base Hospital. When I got out I went back to the 349th and we subsequently went to Hammer Field in Fresno, CA, leaving Florida on Jan 15, 1944. I continued my mechanic duties and went to P-61 school at Northrop in Hawthorne, CA for a six-week course and graduated as a hydraulic specialist. I watched Johnny Meyers perform acrobatics where he flew low over the crowd and did a slow roll on one engine. He was the test pilot and engineer for Northrop for many years and was waiting at age 88 year old to test fly the P-61 they are rebuilding at MAAM in Reading, Pa. After all my training in Fighter planes, I was shipped overseas into the ATC in November 1944. I was stationed in England, Marseilles and Paris (Orly Field). We serviced any planes that came through our base and I witnessed the end of the war in France, Germany, and Japan.

None of this helps you with your project since it doesn’t cover P-61 and Night Fighter activities overseas. I do have a great deal of data accumulated and if I can be of any help please let me know.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by Ralph F. Wakerly

Ray Christensen story published

Hello readers,

I hope you have had a good start to 2016!

I am pleased to announce that an additional document has been uploaded to the 417th website.  This document details the life of Raymond Christensen, a member of the original 417th NFS.  The document was written by Karen Seeman.  Ray was her great-uncle.  The document is a labor of love.  Karen’s journey into discovering more about Ray’s life began when her grandmother told her that she had a great-uncle who was killed in the war.  I’m am honored that Karen has permitted us to publish this wonderful story of Ray’s life.  The story not only provides us with addition details on Ray, but also provides additional insight into life as a squadron member.

I have added this document under the Letters and Tributes link that can be found under the Night Fighter History menu.  Or, just click here and you will be redirected to that page.  Raymond’s story is located in the new section called Tributes which is located at the bottom half of the page.

Do you have a tribute, memoir or letter from someone who served in the NFS that you would like to see published on our website?   Please get in touch via the Contact Us link.


Jackie (417th Web Site Admin)