B-17F/G TOP TURRET GUNNER

USAAF

570th Bomber Squadron / 390th Bombardment Group

 
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Upper Turret Gunner Andrew 'Andy' Anzanos, during happy moments, probably during his service in Europe, between his missions. Smiling was not an easy thing, during those days. In his diary, he often speaks about his lost friends and colleagues in the 390th BG. The true feelings can be summarized in the following phrase: No word has been received about Dover’s crew as of now. Tonight 12 of the 18 banks are empty. No new crews have been moved in as yet. Our crew is the only one remaining in our hat. He is also describing the hard fight between the Fortresses and the Luftwaffe: I remember seeing one “Fort” trying to out dive two Me109s. I don’t see how that “Fort” could hope to pull out of that dive. Another “Fort” had fallen out of formation and shot down about five fighters as I was watching before it went down. This was very unusual for I’d bet on the fighter any time. If anyone wants to feel how was the life of all these young men flying missions over Germany, in a most thrilling way, then he or she should read his book. (https://390th.org/)
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The crew of B-17G-15-DL, 42-37880, 'Liberty Belle-e', photographed after completing their mission to Brunswick on Feb.10, 1944. Together they flew 12 missions aboard the 'Liberty Belle-E' before it was shot down with another crew on Feb.25, 1944. The men in this photo are, Albert M. Bell (pilot) James B. Dahl (copilot) Richard L. Watson (navigator) Robert R. Smith (bombardier) Andrew Anzanos (engineer) Thomas H. Burns (radio) Harry L. Altham (waist gunner) Robert E. Baker (waist gunner) Carl F. Clute (ball turret gunner) Herbert J. Pease (tail gunner). Anzanos is kneeling, second from the left side of the front row. During that mission, the Greek-American gunner was credited with a damaged Me109. (National Archives A-71202 A.C.)

Andrew Anzanos story is a great one. A fearless gunner, serving in the 8th AF Bomber Command, flying over Europe in his B-17 and defending it from the enemy attacks from his upper turret twin 0,50''s. After the war, he became an aeronautical engineer, he obtained his pilot license and later worked for McDonnell Douglas in various aircraft and space programs. Our team was lucky to be in touch with him many years ago. Unfortunately that time we were just researching as we didn't have the resources to have either a website or writing books. Now its time to honor him. We are very proud that we had a chance to exchange emails and learn more about him. Andrew was able to publish a book with his memoirs, entitled as 'My Combat Diary with 'Liberty Bell-E' - Eight Air Force B-17, 390th Bomb Group'. His biography was copied by his book (which were happy to get a signed copy by himself), while we added some further info, especially for his Greek heritage as he wrote it in a letter to George Chalkiadopoulos. Andrew Anzanos was born of Greek immigrant parents on Feb.22, 1924 in Gary, Indiana.

"Both of my parents were born in a Greek village in Asia Minor. That village then called Kato Panagia no longer exists since the Turks took over. My Dad (Lambros) migrated to America before WWI to avoid the growing Turkish problem. He served in WWI to get his American citizenship. After the war, he went back and got my mother (she was a Minotis). They were married in 1920 and I was born in Gary, Indiana in 1924 following an older sister and preceding two more sisters. My mother died when I was 11 years old and continued to raise us without a mother. Back in Asia Minor, Dad's youngest brother, Parasco, and Dad's sister's husband, Katina's husband, both were killed by the Turks when they were in their Greek military uniforms and went to visit my Grandparents who were still there. My Greek last name was Hadjiandonakis (English spelling for the sound). How it was converted to Anzanos, I don't know. I remember the Italian invasion of Greece, that we were all concerned and then very proud of the way the Greeks were defeating them until Hitler sent his troops in. At that point it looked like almost all of Europe was to be Hilter's. That was also strengthening our wanting to get into the war. Unfortunately, I have never been to Greece and now it's getting a little late in my life and I am sorry about losing out on all the warmth the Greek people show."

Andy attended Lew Wallace High School and although being small in size, he lettered three times on the football team that became State Champs. There were three subsequent notables on the team: Hank Stram (Kansas City Chiefs), Julius Rykovich (Chicago Bears) and Lester Alonso Bm'gaman (Detroit Lions). Bingaman was the heaviest player even in the pros up to that time. Andy was the lightest and the smallest. He also lettered in track. He was a scheduled February 1943 graduate. On Dec. 7, 1942, it was announced that anyone who enlisted or was drafted, from his class, would receive their diplomas. The next day he, with 10 or 12 others, enlisted in the Army Air Corps. This was on the last day of enlistments! His basic training took place in Miami Beach, and then he went to Aerial Gunnery School at Fort Meyers, Fla. and then to Seymour Johnson Field for the Aircraft Mechanics School. Andy was mechanically inclined, having overhauled several auto engines, in his earlier days. As an amateur hunter, he had knowledge about guns and that made his aerial gunnery training a pleasure. His combat crew formation and overseas training occurred at Ephrata and Walla Walla, Washington. He began writing his combat diary while aboard Queen Elisabeth on the way to England in early November 1943. In addition to the diary, Andy wrote also about his most memorable experiences while his training for combat and the assignments on return from overseas. During his combat service, he was credited with a damaged Me109 as well as confirmed destroyed Me110. He was awarded the DFC with one oak leaf cluster. According to the citation:

"..you are officially credited with the destruction of one enemy aircraft for which you received one credit to the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross."

He was also awarded the Air Medal and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters as well as the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with 3 Bronze Stars. After his USAAF service, his interesting experiences continued. Andy went to Parks College of St. Louis University under very intense and condensed year-around courses with only four weeks off in an entire year. There was classroom work five days a week, 8 hours per day and with plenty of homework. The GI Bill was a major determinate in' going to college for him. He saw more than half of the engineering students, under the Bill, dropped out. At Parks, Andy took the degree course of Aeronautical Engineering, obtained a pilot's license, and obtained four FAA certificates. He was the only one, at least in" his class, to pass the four written exams at one sitting: Aircraft and Aircraft Engine and instructors rating for both the Aircraft and Engine certificates. After graduation, the McDonnell Aircraft Company employed Andy in St. Louis. McDonnell was looking for engineers to hire in their Fiscal operations. Andy accepted a probationary offer in the contract-estimating department. He advanced rapidly through spare parts estimating for the FH-1 Phantom I airplane, contract changes for the F2H Banshee models, total contract values and the negotiations thereof for the later fiscal year buy of the F2H. Contract changes for the F3H Demon production contracts then followed.

During this early period at McDonnell, Andy loving his engineering and construction, designed and completely built his own home doing all the work essentially by himself including all services. This home had two fireplaces, 3 bedrooms, and lower level recreation with window wall. The home was located overlooking the Missouri River. Also during this early McDonnell period, because of his math skills and the need for estimating tools, Andy got involved with production learning curves and developed the "McDonnell Curve” that became popular throughout the aircraft industry. This tool, because of true mathematical derivation, became the basis for subsequent computer models and pricing programs. Andy was also involved with private aircraft. First, as part owner of a Stinson Voyager, he overhauled the engine; then came a Piper Tripacer and another engine overhaul and a complete fabric recover, which was accomplished in his basement; then came a “totaled” Cessna 180 where he and a partner bought from an insurance company for $1100. This airplane had a broken back, both wings and all control surfaces severely damaged and the engine needed an overhaul. After two years, fabricating most sheet metal parts from raw stock, overhauling the engine and etc, Andy got the airplane, Cessna 180 No. 4931A, recertified in 1961 at a cost of another $1100. Meanwhile, at McDonnell, Andy continued making advancements. He was pricing F4H Phantom II changes when in 1957 he saw where there was a probable future for the country in Space. He requested from his manager the consideration of assignment to any space requirement that might come along. It wasn't long before the Air Force issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a one-man “winged” space vehicle called the Dynasoar. Andy was assigned to make McDonnell’s cost proposal for that competition. Boeing was the subsequently winner among eight bidders. Following the Dynasoar contract award; and with the competition from the Russians in getting into space, McDonnell Aircraft Coinvesteded their own money, 70,000 engineering man-hours, in a study called "Man m' Space Soonest". The “winged” Boeing Dynasoar was faltering. McDonnell working, without a contract, with NACA scientific types, generated the seed and program for establishing NASA. McDonnell’s “Man in Space Soonest” became the basis for NASA’s first RFP called “Mercury”. Andy was doing all of McDonnell’s cost studies and the contract proposal. McDonnell won the competition in December 1959, which generated the first successful manned space program; as a result, Andy became this country’s first successful manned space program estimator. Andy was called to meet with the Assistant Air Force Secretary, Harold Brown regarding the status and the cost of the NASA Mercury program a few weeks before the first launch. Unknown to Andy, the Air Force was in the process of terminating the Dynasoar program. As a result, NASA became the space leader over the Air Force attempt. Andy also assisted the fledging NASA in establishing their initial budgets. Boeing had spent over $600M on Dynasoar and got nowhere whereas McDonnell was ready to fly after spending only $43M. Andy continued as the prime contract estimator for the two-manned vehicle, Gemini, and all subsequent studies. When the company split their contract pricing department to aircraft and spacecraft, Andy became the department head for McDonnell’s Astronautics Contract Estimating. Major proposals such as Apollo, Gemini B, Skylab, Harpoon Missile, Cruise Missile and the Space Shuttle vehicle were all "hands-on” efforts by Andy and his department. With the company merging with Douglas, the continual increase in government requirements, government audits, and the ever-increasing layers of management, Andy lost a lot of job satisfaction. It became that it now took 50 men to do what one did.

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Andrew book was the second book of a Greek American gunner we read and we confirm that is an absolutely thrilling diary from the first page till the last. In its pages, Andy writes his experiences ranging from his training, operational missions and weather missions he flew after getting his lackey bastard club diploma. It’s a book which should be read by every aviation history enthusiast especially the Greek and Greek - American ones. We urge you to buy it and live the experiences Andy had, as you were being there with him.

In May 1980 Andy took early retirement and moved to Tucson, Arizona with his bride Christi, at the age of 56. In Tucson, his ambition was to design and build another home. Chris and Andy bought property in the Tortalita foothills. Andy designed a two-story Santa Fe style home appropriate for the desert environment. With the aid of Chris’s son, the two of them completely built the home, only subcontracting the concrete slab and the septic tank. The home had two upper terraces, two fireplaces, a massive upper master bedroom with a panoramic view of Tucson 15 miles away and a two car built— in a garage. The home also had solar designed shading, extensive Mexican floor tile and exterior stucco with three coats all hand mixed and applied. The home was almost complete in July 1982 when Chris and Andy took a vacation break to visit friends in St. Louis and a family reunion in Indiana. While in St. Louis, Andy suffered a series of transitional strokes that affected his left side. After a ten-day hospitalization and a few more days of recuperation at friends, he was released to return to Tucson. Fortunately, he suffered no residual damage. Andy went back to finish the Tortalita home on a partial day schedule. The home was eventually finished and sold. The stroke was a factor in the decision to sell the home as it was located too far out from the city. Andy still needing to keep busy took on a position of a substitute instructor at the Tucson Job Corp where he taught Auto Mechanics, Auto Body Shop, Welding, and Accounting. It was during this time that he discovered his old bomb group had a museum in Tucson. His attention was then diverted to the 390th Memorial Museum located on the grounds of Pima Air Museum. The hangar cement slab had just been laid when Andy discovered the museum. He, therefore, got in early enough to have a vital hand in erecting walls, building display cases, most of the electrical work, tiling bath floor and walls, suspended ceilings, bathroom stalls and most of the displays. Andy became the first manager of the museum in 1987 and much of the early construction work was accomplished during his managerial period. All displays in the museum were so designed to tell the 390th and 8‘h Air Force story. His major contributions were the Mission Map, the State Board, the Berlin Mission Diorama and the 63 Nose Art displays that line the hangar wall tops. The 390th Memorial Museum is a museum within a museum located on the grounds of Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Andrew Anzanos pass away on May 16, 2016, after a lengthy illness.

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B-17F, 42-30434, BETTY BOOP - THE PISTOL PACKIN' MAMA, was delivered Cheyenne 31/5/43; Smoky Hill 12/6/43; Rapid City 19/6/43; Geiger 22/6/43; Smoky Hill 23/6/43; Dow Fd 13/7/43; Assigned 570BS/390BG [DI-A] Framlingham 18/7/43; on Regensburg mission 17/8/43 Len Baumgartner was KIA; Missing in Action Regensburg 25/2/44 with Bob Bowman,Tail gunner: Carl Phillips (2 Killed in Action); Co-pilot: Pat Reams, Navigator: Frank Belva, Bombardier: Carl Larsen, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Clarry Daniel, Radio Operator: Marshall Peck, Ball turret gunner: Delbert Lambson, Waist gunner: Joe Embrey, Waist gunner: Harry Roberts (8 Prisoner of War); flak, crashed Le Fond de la Borne, near St Erme, nine miles SE of Laon, Fr. Missing Air Crew Report 2659. Andrew Anzanos flew with it in only one mission (Group Mission 052), on January 30, 1944, targeting Brunswick, Germany. (http://www.americanairmuseum.com)
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The official confirmation of a damaged Me109 credit for the Greek-American gunner for the mission in Brunswick on Feb.10, 1944. Except de damaged credit, Andy had also one confirmed kill for which he was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster on his DFC. He wrote in his diary: "Nearing the target, a formation of what first seemed like B-17s going back toward England came toward us from about 2 o’clock, passed us on our right, going to about 5 o’clock position and then banked indirectly toward us. They were now close enough to see that they were ME 110's with rockets slung under each wing that made them look like four-engine bombers. I was firing on one that blew up just our tail a little high. I got a lot of short bursts at others until my top turret began going bad. It would only creep in trying to track towards the right. Even with this problem, the turret would follow some depending on their speed and direction but I felt that I could have blasted several more with a good turret." (Andy Anzanos)
According to Dave Osborns, B-17 Fortress Master Log: B-17 #42-37880 / LIBERTY BELL-E, delivered Denver 29/9/43; Gr Island 22/10/43; Assigned 570BS/390BG [DI-T] Framlingham 11/11/43; Missing in Action Regensburg 25/2/44 with George Rains, Navigator: Harry Armstrong, Radio Operator: Bob Stump, Ball turret gunner: Edmund Gabel, Waist gunner: Pat Cestaro,Tail gunner: Burleigh Clayton (6 Killed in Action); Co-pilot: Bob Allphin, Bombardier: Lou Marion, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Jim Mize, Waist gunner: Tony Dente (4 Prisoner of War); enemy aircraft, engine on fire, crashed La Racrute, Pierrepont, six miles SW of Sedan, Fr. Missing Air Crew Report 2658. Andrew Anzanos wrote in his diary for his plane: The crew got together again this afternoon and decided to change the name of our plane. We have more satisfaction with the name of 'Liberty Bell-e'. The 'Bell' part being in honor of our 'father' Bell/ Pease is the only one not satisfied, but who gives a damn!.....Our plane, 'Liberty Bell-e', was last seen over Germany going down in flames after a Me109 hit them. I personally feel no loss in losing 'Liberty Bell-e' — too bad there had to be a crew in it."(Copyright Gaetan Marie)
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B-17F-95-BO, 42-30325, 'Miss Carry' was the bomber Bell's crew flew for Group Mission 036. This Fortress involved In a mid-air collision with B-17F, 42-30334, 'Virgin Sturgeon' near Hameln, Germany, on January 29, 1944. The crew of the latter bomber, led by Lt William J Harding, was captured but ‘Miss Carry’ returned safely to Framlingham. Usually, pilots trained some of the crew-members in order to be able to handle the bomber in case of emergency. Andy remembered: "My pilot, Lt. Albert M. Bell, on cross-country flights would allow me to sit in his seat and fly the B-17. I got pretty good at holding a given altitude and heading. I also felt confident that I could land one in an emergency but Bell never let me practice it. In fact, Bell didn’t let the copilot do many landings and take-offs."  (http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org)
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The B-17G, 42-31974, "Bomboogie" was the bomber regularly used by Robert S. Carter crew (34 missions between 14 Aug 1944 and Dec.29, 1944) It was delivered in Cheyenne on January 11, 1944. Assigned to 570BS/390BG [DI-G] Framlingham 5 February 1944. Returned to the USA 121 BU Bradley July 3, 1945; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas July 6, 1945; Reconstruction Finance Corporation (sold for scrap metal in the USA) Kingman November 30, 1945. Anzanos flew with it once, during his last mission (Group Mission 074), on March 19, 1944. (http://www.americanairmuseum.com)

ANDREW 'ANDY' ANZANOS COMBAT MISSIONS

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MISSION
NUMBER
MISSION
DATE
GROUP MISSION
NUMBER
BOMBER
SERIAL & NOSEART
TARGET
126 - 11 -1943032B-17G, #42-30783, BI-M
'The Stork Club'
Paris-Hisp-Suiza France
211 -12 - 1943036B-17F, #42-30325, BI-D
'Miss Carry'
Emden Germany
316 -12 - 1943038B-17G, #42-39911, BI-N
'Mary Lou'
Bremen Germany
420 -12 - 1943039B-17G, #39821, BI-J
'Hey Moitle'
Bremen Germany
524 -12 - 1943041B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Quoeux France
604 -01 -1944044B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Kiel Germany
707 -01 -1944046B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Ludwigshafen Germany
811 -01 -1944047B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Brunswick Germany
914 -01 -1944048B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Quoeux France
1021 -01 -1944049B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Heuringhem France
1124 - 01 - 1944050B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Brunswick Germany
1229 - 01 - 1944051B-17G, #42-37932, BI-P,
'Ole Basser'
Frankfurt Germany
1330 - 01 - 1944052B-17G, #42-30434, BI-A,
'Betty Boop-Pistol Packin- Mama'
Brunswick Germany
1406 - 02- 1944056B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Romilly sur Seine France
1510 - 02 - 1944057

B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Brunswick Germany
1613 - 02 - 1944058B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Crequy France
1720 - 02 - 1944059B-17G, #42-37880, BI-T
'Liberty Bell-E'
Rostock Germany
1628 - 02 -1944063B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Grand Park France
1729 - 02 - 1944064B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Brunswick Germany
1803 - 03 - 1944066B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Berlin Germany (Recalled)
1904 - 03 - 1944067B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Berlin Germany (Abandon)
2115 - 03 - 1944071B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Brunswick Germany
2216 - 03 - 1944072B-17F, #42-39927, BI-R
'The Skillet'
Ulm & Augsburg Germany
2318 - 03 - 1944073B-17F, #42-31275, BI-A
'GI Wonder'
Augsburg Germany
2419 - 03 - 1944074B-17G, #42-31974, BI-G
'Bomboogie'
Mimoyecques France

Sources:

 

'My Combat Diary with Eight Air Force B-17's - 390th Bomb Group' by Andrew Anzanos, 570th Squadron.

'B-17 Groups of the 8th AF in Focus' by Martin Bowman

390th Bomber Group Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)

570th Bomber Squadron Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)

https://390th.org

http://www.390thspace.com

Special Thanks to AFHRA officer, Tammy Horton Civ. USAF AFHRA/RS R, Donald Mounts (Global Military Research, LLC) and Bill Powers (https://390th.org)