All posts by Richard Ziebart

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

Memorial Day Update


I hope everyone has had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.  There have been 2 small updates to the website today.  We added another 9 photos to the Faces of the 417th Gallery.  The photos were supplied by Bob Brennan’s son Mike Brennan.  They have been added to the 1st gallery.

We also received a lovely email from Kevin Reeder with a special photo of a painting he received for Father’s Day.  The painting is of Henry Lee Gurley’s plane.  To see the photo, click here.

Blessings to everyone,

Rich Ziebart

Welcome to “Protecting The Night” from the 417th NFS of WWII.

This website is now open and is ready for viewing and comments. Additional material and pictures will be added as time allows. We hope you enjoy reading and learning as you explore the material.

Please feel free to use this site to find answers and ask questions about the 417th NFS and or any of the Night fighter Squadrons of WWII. We want this website to help you locate information regarding loved ones who were lost during the war and hope someone may be able to help you find answers.

Richard H. Ziebart  (417th NFS Rep.)