Ted Conlin Tells The Stories

Go in close, and when you think you are too close, go in closer

 Some Of The Stories Captured From Ted

Ted often relives the stories and shares with the folks at the Old Ranch Country Club.  Here are a few of them! Please join the fun as he remembers...

Ted Conlin
1Littlefriends.co.uk Lt. Raymond "Ted" Conlin. 362nd Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13316 G4-C "Olivia De H". Lt. Conlin seen here with crew chief S/Sgt. John Warner sitting on wing. Other crew member is armored Sgt. Jewell Williams. Ted named his a/c for Olivia De Havilland.

Crew
60 years later they look pretty good!  Ted Conlin and John Warner

Goxhill Has Special Meaning To Me

I met Audrey while stationed in Goxhill.  She lived in Cleethorpe. Before joining into one town, Cleethorpe was made up of three small villages, or "thorpes": Itterby, Oole and Thrunscoe, which were part of a wider parish called Clee (not to be confused with Old Clee). The name "Cleethorpe" is thought to come from joining the words "clee", an old word for clay, and "thorpes", an Old English/Old Norse word for villages, and is of comparatively modern origin.  She lived on the beach.

Cleethorpe Beach
Cleethorpe Beach

I was 24 and she turned out to be 16 but I knew it was impossible but it was love at first sight. She was so very pretty. She lived about 40 miles from Goxhill airbase. One day I was training in my P51 and I decided to run over to her house and "wiggle my wings" a few hundred feet above her house. I kept the minimum altitude according to the rules although I might have been a little lower than that!

As I flew down the river by her home another P51B flew by me like I was standing still. He wanted to play "Catch me if you can!". I took off after him and circled the village for several minutes. Finally, common sense prevailed and I headed for home base.

When I got back, I was signaled to come to the CO's quarters and was asked if I was in the vicinity of Cleethorpe. I asked "Why?" I was told that two aircraft set off the Cleethorpes air control radars and it caused near panic as they thought it might be German's. I said "No, I was on a training flight" I never told them and I never found out who the other guys was!

After mustering out of the service, I wrote her a letter to see if there was still an interest and there apparently was as we were married in 1948 and remain happily married to this very day.  It must have had something to do with the wiggling wings!

Goxhill To Cleethorpe
18 miles from Goxhill to Cleethorpe

The Lancaster Pilots Were A Jolly Group!

There was a Lancaster Bomber squadron just five miles from Goxhill so we got to know some of the pilots of these fine airplanes.

Lancaster Bomber
The Lancaster Bomber

I was asked if I was interested in going to a British Lancaster Squadron party one evening over to the base in Skellingthorpe .  he former Royal Air Force Station Skellingthorpe, more commonly known as RAF Skellingthorpe was a station of the Royal Air Force during World War II. It is located in the city of Lincoln, England. It was known as Skelly by the RAF personnel serving there. During the war, the tally of bombers lost or failed to return from Skellingthorpe reached 208: 15 Hampdens, six Manchesters and 187 Lancasters.

I said  "Sure!".  My fellow fighters said "Are you kidding... A British party... ugh!"  I decided I was going to go anyway!  I found a bicycle and peddled my way in the dark to the base.  The guards got my ID and offered to stash the bike behind the guard house.  I swaggered to the meeting hall and to my surprise, there was a table full of shrimp and lobster... These guys knew how to eat!  I remember having a few beers and was minding my own business when I felt a tug on my jacket.  Of course I expected the worst but it was a very very short man in a uniform loaded with braids. The guys was very friendly and was a "three-star" senior appointment.

He asked if I was having fun and of course I said yes... When I staid I was going to be leaving soon as I had a long ride home, we called to several junior offers to followed him around and said "Bring my car and put his bicycle on the top and drive him home".  I showed up at our base in a generals staff car, bike on top... It got a lot of attention.  From then on we always took the gracious invites from the Brits for their parties!

D-Day A Year Before The Big Bang

There was electricity in the air as we went about the business of running the war on June 5th, 1944. Our base at Leiston, England, had been shut down earlier in the morning, that day. No one was permitted to enter or leave the field from 0800 hrs. on. The rumor was that the invasion was imminent and all England was alive with activity.

At 2000 hours, everyone was assembled in the hall to hear an address from General Eisenhower, who informed us that, indeed the was only hours away, that 0600 the next morning was designated as "H" hour, the actual time that the troops were to hit the beaches. The General told us that this would be the most important mission that anyone of us would ever take part in, and that our job was to protect those brave guys that were to execute the landings. Our primary aim was not to permit any air action by the enemy that would endanger those men of ours making the operation.

Following the general, we were briefed by Col. Don Graham, our base commander as to the specific areas each of the squadrons were to be assigned to patrol and we were given the takeoff times for each squadron. I was in the 362nd and our takeoff was given as 0500 hrs and our patrol area was at 27,000 ft. over the Jersey & Guernsey Islands, which were just off the west end of the Normandy coast.

Following this, our squadron leader, Capt. Joe Broadhead, assigned the flight leaders, element leaders and all the various wingmen. I was assigned to fly Capt. Broadhead’s wing.

I don’t think anyone of us got a decent sleep the rest of that night until we were awakened by the C.Q. and reported to the flight line operations room for a tasteless breakfast and flight prep prior to takeoff.

Promptly at 0500 hrs., the Captain and I roared down the runway and ran smack into a low heavy overcast, which was almost down to the deck. We went on the gages at once. This was weather with a Capitol W. After about 40 minutes, we broke into the clear and arrived on station and on time. It was now very close to "H" hour.

When we were getting ready to go, I had to go but decided I would wait until we arrived at the designated area. At that time I would avail myself of the relief tube that North American had so thoughtfully provided for such an emergency. As we settled into a patrol formation, I started to undo all the straps, belts and zipper to accomplish my objective. It was at that exact moment that the Captain called to inform me that he and I were going to go down to take a look at the invasion. Egad! That meant 5 miles down on the gauges and then 5 miles back up. Well, orders is orders so down we went. Just as we broke out of the overcast at 2000 ft. near the west end of Omaha Beach, we heard on the RT that two enemy 109s had made one pass strafing from west to east. We just missed engaging them by a few seconds. After several minutes of stooging around, we headed back up to join the rest of the boys.

Of course, with all the excitement and the trip down to the invasion beaches, I forgot all about my personal problem which wasn’t resolved until return to base some 3 hours later.

 

Lt. Raymond "Ted" Conlin. 362nd Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13316 G4-C "Olivia De H"
Lt. Raymond "Ted" Conlin. 362nd Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13316 G4-C "Olivia De H"

Wreckage Everywhere

"I saw nothing except nine burning wrecks over an area of several square miles." It was late in the afternoon of a very weird day, weather wise. The 357th Fighter Group was on the prowl and my squadron, the 362nd was split into two halves with Captain Lowell Williams leading one flight. I was his element lead and had Jim Blanchard as my wing man. Williams took us north toward the Zuider Zee, the huge inland waterway in northern Holland. The weather to the east was clear and bright. To the west, a large front had rolled in off the North Sea. It had many angry multi-colored storm clouds and cast a gray pallor on the afternoon.

As we neared the Zee, we began to pick up considerable radio traffic, indicating a fight was beginning somewhere to the south of us. Williams ordered a course change to due south.

When we altered our direction, the radio activity picked up almost at once. It was apparent to us that elements of our Group had gotten into action. We could hear guys cussing and shouting as they engaged the enemy. Most pilots, in the excitement of battle, would inadvertently hold down the mike buttons., This gave us a good picture of what was happening.

Williams gave the order to "drop tanks." Just as he did, the fit hit the shan. It was standard operating procedure in a fight, to break down to the smallest unit. Williams and his wingman banked over and onto a Me 109. At that moment, three aircraft crossed my nose, a Me 109, a P-51 and another 109 all headed straight down. I rolled over and down to the attack, chasing the "tail end charley" 109. My closure was rapid and my new high tech gun sight was on. Just as I drew into firing range, I saw a cluster of 20mm shells arcing over my left wing. I broke off at once to handle my problem, climbing straight up to 10,000 feet. I knew I was able to gain altitude on my adversary. At this height, I went into a tight turn but saw nothing. I called for my wingman, Blanchard and for the leader, Williams but received no reply. Now I was mad and scared and wanted to shoot something. So, I nosed over and dove down to the battle area. At 2,000 feet, I leveled off and circled. I saw nothing, zero, zilch. Nothing, except nine burning wrecks over an area of several square miles. 

It amazes me that the sky can be filled with airplanes one minute and be totally empty in the next. After milling around for several more minutes I turned west, climbed up to altitude, and headed on a course for home base.

While attending a reunion of the 357th Fighter Group, at Dayton, Ohio, in 1987, I was discussing this battle with Col. Robie Roberson, pilot and M/Sgt Merle Olmstead, crew chief and active historian of our group. At that time, I told them I was almost dead certain that the P-51 in the middle of the chase was the Group leader that day, Maj. Ed Hiro. He was on his last mission. Both Hiro, and my wingman, Blanchard, failed to return and both were later classified as KIA.

Olmstead & Conlin
Merle Olmstead and Ted Conlin - Merle Olmsted was a crew chief with the 357th FG and collected a vast amount of valuable information on the crews and aircraft. He became the official historian of the 357th FG and was the author of several fine books, the latest being “To War with the Yoxford Boys”. Merle’s intricate knowledge of the aircraft and events was key to development of several 357th FG art projects. Sadly Merle passed away on January 9, 2008.

A combat report filed by a Lt. Wroblewski of the Luftwaffe for that day claiming the destruction of the P-51 of Lt Blanchard. This report was filed after the war with the newly created German Air Force. The German officer stated that he was, at once shot down himself, and became a prisoner of the Canadians of the next two years, being released in 1946. 

Among the ironies of war, Wroblewski later became Air Attaché in Washington and, it is believed that the became Chief of Staff, GAF and retired as a General Officer.

The aircraft of Lt. Blanchard was recovered in 1946, imbedded in a canal. Jim was found, strapped in to his plane and positive ID was made.

Operation Market Garden was not a 100% success for the Allies. My personal opinion is that too many people knew when it was to happen, where to happen and who the players were to be. The enemy were well prepared and waiting for us. They hit the British hard at Arnhem and our 82nd and 101st Airborne found them waiting at Nimijen Bridgehead.

Our 357th Fighter Group played an important role in the battles which took place over four days, for us. And we paid the price losing key men and aircraft. Thus is extracted the price of war.

Chasing ME109's Over Paris

Late in July, 1944, a group of Mustangs began a sweep in the vicinity of Paris and encountered a group of 25 Me 109 and FW190 German fighters attacking a group of P-38 Lightnings.

Kit Carson describes his encounter:

“I Chased a 190 clear across the city of Paris and finally nailed him after a weird rat race past the Eiffel Tower. You could identify the major boulevards in my combat film. It wasn’t until the shooting was over that I fully realized where I was and then clearly recall asking myself, ‘How the hell am I going to get out of this place?’ I shoved everything forward – throttle, mixture, RPM and stick. It was one of the few times that I asked Rolls Royce to deliver everything advertised. The Merlin was laying down black smoke out of both rows of exhaust stacks. I almost never ran an engine at full power in combat. I was at house top level, flat out at 72 inches of HG and 3,000 RPM. Half the flak in Paris was coming up.”

Ted Conlin clearly remembers his experience:

“The game was on and I was on a wild ride earthbound trying to stay in position on Carson. At the time it seemed we were diving almost vertical and the 190 pilot was doing big barrel rolls, and we were right with him.

As Carson closed range, he started getting strikes on the 190. This and the ground coming up caused the German to flare and level off. We were now at about 300 feet and every soldier with a weapon was firing at me. I even saw one officer whip out a pistol and shoot at us! The Germans had AA weapons on the roofs and in parks – they were all concentrating on me! I saw the Seine River off to my right and swung over and down onto it, hugging the north bank which got to be about 50’ high. The guns could not repress enough to reach me that way.

We were now at 300 Ft. and Kit was getting hits all over the Focke Wulf when its engine failed. We were headed east just above the Grand Armee - Champs Elysees Boulevard. It looked like the the 190 was going to crash into the Arc de Triomphe and the pilot must have been dead because he did not try to jump. "Carson broke away and I was fascinated watching the prop wind-milling as the 190 headed for its demise. All of a sudden I realized Carson was gone and I was at 300 ft. and every soldier with a weapon was firing at me. (I even saw one officer whip out a pistol and shoot at us.) The Germans had AA weapons on the roofs and in the parks and they were all concentrating on me. I saw the Sein River off to my right and swung down into it. Hugging the north bank which is about 50 ft. high. The guns could not depress enough to reach me that way."

Carson had taken the same route and I confirmed his victory. I had a new appreciation for the daring and flying skills of the man who would ultimately become the leading ace of the 357th, Leonard K. Carson.”

Paris

My First Assignment Was Darned Near My Last!

Story to come

Ted Conlin Today

Ted Today
"Reporting for duty, Sir!"