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The Air Crew

The members of crew #4003 were:

Cpt John A. Bierkan (A/C)
1/Lt John F. Carland (Pilot)
1/Lt Kenneth F. Grogan (Navigator)
1/Lt John M. Mickelson (Bombardier)
S/Sgt Paul K. Templeton (Engineer)
S/Sgt Edward L. “Nippy” Shock (Radio)
S/Sgt Robert A. Wannio (Radarman)
S/Sgt George M. Lewis (CFC)
S/Sgt John C. Holden (R Gunner)
Cpl Paul G. Vleck (L Gunner)
Cpl Byron E. Wickham (T Gunner)

Cpl Paul G. Vleck transferred the the 504BG in June 1945 [see “In Memoriam” below].

The Crew in front of their second airplane.

DFC Award – Mission 44. Tokyo Urban Area (May 25-26)

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight 25 May 1945 from a base in the Marianas Islands. These individuals were crew members of a B-29 acting as a pathfinder plane of a low level night incendiary attack against important and heavily-guarded industrial targets in Tokyo, Japan. Flying skillfully through adverse weather conditions which necessitated navigation by instrument, they made landfall precisely at the briefed time and place. Then, although their plane was outlined by more than three hundred searchlights, damaged by heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and attacked by enemy fighters, they proceeded to the target. Employing radar instruments, they bombed with such accuracy that the target area was clearly defined for the main force. Above the target and for miles on the homeward journey, interceptors attacked constantly, but the gunners shot down three enemy ships and damaged another, while the plane was maneuvered so expertly that it remained unhit. During this time, the bombardier and flight engineer were in the open bomb bay attempting, at great risk to themselves to close the bomb bay doors, which had malfunctioned. The navigator manned the bombardier’s gun position. Heavy icing conditions were encountered on the return trip, but this crew brought the B-29 safely back to it’s base. The professional skill, teamwork and determination displayed by these veterans of repeated assaults against the Japanese homeland reflect great credit on themselves and the Army Air Forces.

Major JOHN A. BIERKAN (then Captain) as Airplane Commander
First Lieutenant KENNETH F. GROGAN as Navigator
First Lieutenant JOHN M. MICKELSON as Bombardier
Master Sergeant PAUL K. TEMPLETON as Flight Engineer
Staff Sergeant JOHN C. HOLDEN as Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant GEORGE M. LEWIS as Central Fire Control Gunner
Staff Sergeant EDWARD L. SHOCK as Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant ROBERT A. WAINIO as Radar Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, “Anonymous IV”)]

In Memoriam

Vleck, Paul George, passed away on April 8, 2003. Paul was a left gunner on a crew with Capt. John A. Bierkan of the 40th Squadron. He was later transferred to the 504th BG 421st Squadron in June 1945 under Capt. John E. Carland in the B-29 “Good Deal”, flying a total of 35 missions. Sgt. Vleck was credited with downing two enemy aircraft, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. After the war, he worked in construction as a plasterer and carpenter by trade, and enjoyed gunsmithing in his retirement. [6BG Newsletter, October 2003, p. 2]

The Airplanes

This crew was assigned “Connecticut Yankee” which was destroyed.  Afterwards, the crew was assigned “Connecticut Yankee II” which they flew on the May 25 mission.