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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!

Jackie

 

 

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.

Cheers,

Jackie

 

 

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.

Interview with Norman L. Keepers

As promised, here is the brilliant interview with Norman L. Keepers about his time in the war.   His time with the 417th starts at around 25 minute mark, but you will want to hear his whole story which is very fascinating.  I have also posted a link to the interview on the Letters, Diaries and Tributes page of the Night Fighter History Menu.  Enjoy!

https://vimeo.com/642143951

The story of Norman L. Keepers

In mid October I was contacted by the nephew of Norman L. Keepers.  Norman’s journey to the 417th started at age 16 when he enlisted by lying about his age.  He was an Armorer and Arial gunner on B-25s in the Pacific Theatre, B-29s stateside before being sent home and honourably discharged because they found out he was underage.  He was out for about 60 days, then re-enlisted on his 18th birthday.  He went to Germany with the Occupation Army and ended up at Fitzlar Army Air Base as a P-61 Gunner.    On a training mission on a gunnery range, there was an apparent timing mix-up and a P-47 from the 366th Fighter Group (also flying out of Fritzlar) accidentally shot the wing off Norman’s P-61 which was right down on the deck.  He and the radar operator bailed out so low that they they got one swing in their parachutes before hitting the ground.   The pilot went in with the ship. Norman smashed into a tree and shattered his pelvis.  He spend months in the hospital before returning to Chicago.  Norman’s talents didn’t end with the war as he eventually became a world-renowned Harley-Davidson mechanic.  How cool is that?

Norman’s nephew completed an on-camera interview of him at age 95 and I hope to soon have a link to that interview to post on this website.  Until then, here is a photo of Norman with his P-61,

 

Charles Farhbach – Photographer for the 417th

In April of this year, I was contacted by the the grandson of Charles Farhbach.  His grandfather was a photographer for the 417th NFS and he had a number of photos that he wanted to share on the site.   I did not have a lot to go on with respect to Charles’ full story, but using the photos, a reference in the Illustrated history of the 417th and a bit of searching, I was able to piece together the following:

He joined the squadron on 18 of March 1943 in Kissimmee, FLA.  He likely traveled as part of the 417th group when it left Camp Kilmer in late April of 1943 and sailed for England on the Queen Elizabeth.  He spent time in North Africa (the photo below is Charles in taxi in Oran)

And Southern France:

He photographed a Bob Hope Show, in Germany in 1945:

There were 3 other “group” photos in the collection I received.  None have the names of the individuals in them, or the location they were taken.  If you spot someone you know, or are familiar with the location, please comment on this post.

 

 

Somebody has to go up there……..

As I have said before, one of the things that I love about working on this site is helping people to make connections.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by the daughter of an instructor who taught at a Radar School in Boca Raton.  Her father – Tom,  mother –  Elizabeth and aunt – Eileen struck up a friendship with Raymond Christensen of the 417th during his time training in Boca Ratan.    In her possession was a telegram, photo and letter sent by Ray to Elizabeth and Eileen and she wished to pass these items along to someone in Ray’s family.  That connection has now been made and I have copies of these items to share with you.

The telegram was sent by Ray shortly after he left Boca Ratan for Kissimmee.  At the time, he was on orders not to reveal what he was doing and eventually secretly sailed to England.

A letter from Ray to “the girls”  Elizabeth and Eileen.

This is a transcript of what I believe the letter says:

Dear Elizabeth and Eileen,

It’s been months since I’ve heard from you children.  Am I on your casualty list?  Frankly I feel very much alive.  From time to time we work a bit hard or at lease put in a devil of a lot of time trying to make somebody think so.  We have high hopes of a let up soon and a bit of vacation.

By now I have become quite accustomed to the ways of the English and find it quite pleasant to live here.  Socially, I should say – the food is not so hot.  I’ll even forgive some of the stuff we used to get back at Boca Raton.  The food really isn’t so bad but so much of the same.  At present I’m not on good terms with the potatoes.  It seems I’ve seen entirely too much of ‘em.

Aside from that everything is even better than I had expected.  I can almost dance like a good Englishman.  Can’t waltz as gracefully and there’s a number of folk dances I look silly at but I have oceans of for trying.  There are some pretty decent ballrooms I’ve located and some good music.  Loads of girls even in camp we have enough WASPs to hold quite a good sized party.  Not like our stay in Florida and ???.  Not a single Net(?) Cadet.  How wonderful.  Even so, I wish I was dancing with Pompanos Belles in yea old service center cadets or no cadets. Regards to your parents.  Ray.

And finally a photo with a message on the back that is quite poignant , “Somebody has to go up there”

Raymond Christensen and his pilot Joe Leonard failed to return from their mission on May 13th, 1944.  You can read more about Raymond Christensen in the Letters, Diaries and Tributes page of this website.