Section 9, lot 9
Enlisted in U.S. Army November 24, 1943. Assigned to 15th Air Force, 843rd Bomb Group, 816th Squadron. Sailed to Europe in October , 1944; stationed in Fogia, Italy. Flew 33 combat missions over Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia as ball turret gunner on B17G. Awarded European African Middle East Campaign Medal, with silver star (battles: Northern Apennines, Po Valley, Rhineland, Central Europe, Air Combat Balkans]; Good Conduct Medal; Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters [air medal for fifteen missions, oak leaf cluster for each additional five missions]; World War II Victory Medal. Honorably discharged October 10, 1945. See WWII Honorable Discharge Book, page 230 in Clark County (KY) Clerk's office.
Graduated Winchester, Kentucky, High School in 1946; attended University of Kentucky.
Jacob L. Grimm, "Heroes of the 483rd" (1997)(c), p. 24: "Theodore A. Burgwald Crew, 816th squadron: Theodore A. Burgwald, pilot, Chicago, Illinois; Arthur L. Hough, co-pilot, Austin, Texas; John C. O'Herron, navigator, Ithaca, New York; Vincent A. Tria, bombadier, Brooklyn, New York; William M. "Tex" Davidson, Jr., engineer; Cooper, Texas; Arthur N. Maitland, radioman, Windsor, Canada; Eugene Savage, A[?], Baltimore, Maryland; George M. VanMeter, ball turret gunner, Winchester, Kentucky; Robert W. Bergtzen, waist gunner, salt Lake City, Utah; Jonas D. Strickland [KIA], tail gunner, Sawyer, Kansas.
"The crew came together at Lincoln, Nebraska, and shipped to Dyersburg, tennessee, for 'RTU" 29 June 1944. After ten (10) weeks of intensive training they were given eight days leave, then shipped from Lincoln to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. They boarded the French liner 'Athos' at Newport News, Virginia, along with fifteen other crews that would be assigned to the 483rd. Upon arrival at Naples, Italy, they boarded boxcars for the trip to Foggia. They arrived at Sterparone early in November and began flying combat missions on 18 November 1944.
"Heavily defended targets included Blechhammer, Odertal, Brux, Linz, and Bruck. They made six sorties to Vienna including 21 January 1945 when three B-17s were lost. They were also on the Ruhland mission of 22 march 1945 when the group was attacked in force by ME-262s [jet fighters] and six of 28 bombers went down.
"Strickland was KIA flying with another crew when two B-17s collided over Linz, Austria on 25 April 1945 [thirteen days before V-E day ()]. Both planes remained under control but the tail section of Strickland's plane was cut off and he fell to earth without his parachute.
"The entire crew spent a week at Capri early in March. the surviving members of the crew had complete most of their missions by V-E Day and returned to the States."
The story is that prior to the mission on which Strickland was killed, he had been trying to get GMV to trade spots in the plane for several missions. On the ride to the flight line that day, GMV asked Len Ragland, who was from Lexington, whether he should switch or not. Len Ragland told GMV that his luck had been good, the War was almost over, and that he shouldn't switch. [ Both GMV and Uncle Bob Houlihan told this story].
In 1953, moved to Texas to work in the oil fields. Winchester Sun ( __ Jan 2003): "50 years Ago: A dinner was given by the Winchester Optimist Club, honoring George VanMeter, who is leaving Winchester to make his home in Texas, was held Thursday night at the Sombrero Tavern on the Lexington Road." The oil well turned up a dry hole, he got engaged, and decided the farm wasn't so bad after all."
Occupation was farmer. Names and dates of birth of children from personal knowledge. LBV.