In 1943 when my husband and his best friend Shouppe Howell graduated from Holmes County High School, there was little to look forward except that as almost 18 year-olds, they knew that they would be drafted into the armed services.
As small-town country boys, they had spent many hours with their younger brothers tramping the fields and woods on the outskirts of Bonifay. Fishing in Camp Branch or shooting a squirrel or a few black birds or hopefully a few doves or quail provided a meal for their robust families.
Working for various farmers in the area were also common experiences for these two, but as expected that letter saying, “Greetings you have been selected to travel to Camp Blanding at Stark Florida to be examined for possible military service” soon arrived at their homes.
Once they were so chosen, their paths parted and the war took them in different directions. After tests and all they were put through, Jack was inducted into the Army Infantry and Shouppe into the Army Airforce.
It was only after training and combat duty, and honorable discharges when the war ended that these two were able to continue their friendship as roommates at The University of Florida in Gainesville.
Jack Tison served in hand to hand combat in the jungles of the Philippines as a combat Medic and Shouppe Howell served as a Tail Gunner or waist gunner stationed in England and flying 32 bombing missions over Germany.
This 19-year-old Shouppe had the presence of mind to keep a diary of the missions and the results of them. He was also able to buy a newspaper most days and include a clipping of the news report of their mission.
(The clippings are more faded than the handwritten pages, though it is in fragile condition.)
I am privileged to have access to this 80 year-old hand written piece of history. Thanks to son Bill Howell, I am sharing portions or all of this important work.
Berlin, October 1944: “This is number one and our work has just begun.”
The Big B was the talk of the squadron and I drew it first time. No fighters had been seen for months but as expected, my first mission I saw B17’s go down and several fighters.
It was horrible and unreal, but I guess it was their time to go. We hit the target and I saw smoke for 50 or 60 miles. I also shot at a Me109 and he broke away. Might have hit him.
Mainz, Oct 9, 1944: “This was no.2 down and almost enough for you. Two down and 33 to go.”
Mainz was expected to be defended by firefighters and we were expecting them, but lo and behold no fighters.
I saw II go down and from flak, two allied. Flak was light and incessant to a certain degree. We had P51’s and 38’s for escort.
Kassel, October 18, 1944: “This was number three and I wonder what my number will be”
Kossel was to be hard-fought but somehow even though it was bad it wasn’t as rough as I expected and I was glad of that. It was 30 degrees below zero and freeze I did. Three down and twenty-two to go.
While the other groups were battling Cologne we hit Kassel and while flak was moderate we got 2 or 3 holes in our ship.
No fighters came up but we expected them just the same. So we were on the ball.WE got down o.k. but we were a little shaken for a time. Flak mostly and landed rather hard.
Misburg, Oct 26, 1944: “This is number 4 and my hand was nearly on the escape door.”
Misburg was supposed to have been a rough target for an air force and it was. The flak was pretty heavy and rockets came up by the dozens and scared Hell out of me and the rest.
No fighters attacked our group but some groups did get docked for a loss.
Marsburg! “This is number 5 and after the recall I am lucky to be alive”
Marsburg is not mentioned here as a target for we didn’t hit it. However if things go as we started to Mossburg Mission to be If we reported them.
We got over headed for home base. I breathed a lot easier for we got in a mission. No flak, no fighters, and no holes in the ship.
Marsburg: “This is Number Six And we were in a Hell of a Fix.”
This was the Air Medal ride and boy what a ride. I saw one O bomber do down and fighters dropping down as if they had been shaken off paper as thick as flies around poison sugar.
WE got bunches of flak. Chuck got glass in his face and some flak. His flak suit stopped A piece of flak from hitting him.
A burst went through the ship and ammo fell out on the floor of the ammo boxes. Close!
Ludwigshafen, Nov. 2 1944: “This Was number 7 and I liked to have been on my way to Heaven”
Today we had the largest ———— and they really threw the flak at us.
I could see the orange flames when a shell burst and hear the explosion for they were very close.
Deuchburg: “This was number 8 and I wondered who’s at the gate.”
We expected a lot of flak today but surprisingly enough we didn’t get much at all. There weren’t many of us at Deuchburg but we strung bombs from here to Holland.
I wish they were all as easy as this one. I am just living for the day when I can quit this mess. Here’s to luck and may the Angel of fortune spin its wheel for us.
Wiesbaden: Nov 10, 1944 “This is number 9 and we’re still going fine”
Today’s target was a bridge on some railroad but our No. 3 engine went out and one and 2 were acting up so we had to drop our bombs and turn around and limp back home. Some of the crews landed in Belgium and France.
Shisson: Nov. 22 1944 “This was number ten and did we make a terrible din.”
Today we awoke and received word that we were going to Morisburg and Wow what a rough target that would have been. On the way over we got flak a time or two and then hit a streak of bad weather and had to bomb Gruen.
We hit the target and didn’t lose any ships or draw any flak over the target. We saw a big P.O.W. field rom the air.
Hazel Wells Tison is a columnist for Holmes County Advertiser.