Echoes From an Eagle: a book, a journey

This US flag flew over my father's grave on Memorial Day 2007.

When I was four, my parents divorced; and I had limited contact with my father, Vernon O. Elder, a decorated WWII veteran from La Junta, CO. After his death in 1973, I found a shoebox full of letters written in 1942 to Grandmother Elder. There was also an old scrapbook of pictures and newspaper articles chronicling the exploits of the 19th Bomb Group, 30th Squadron, in the SW Pacific.

Through his letters, pictures, and articles, I began to piece together Vernon’s harrowing wartime experiences as a tail gunner on a B-17 and to understand how this traumatic year shaped the remainder of his life. He survived a crash off the coast of Australia, but lost his best friend, Houston Rice, a native of Ordway, CO. A month later, his other Colorado buddy, Lt. Paul Lindsey (a student at CSU before joining the Army Air Corps), also died in a tragic crash. The three had been drawn together by their ‘Colorado connection’ and flew many missions together, always watching each other’s back. Vernon was the only one of the three to come home, and he never recovered from their loss or the horrors of war.

After 10 years of painstaking research, Ken Elder Bledsoe Author, Echoes From an Eagle, Windsor Colorado book signing at the American Legion, I finally located where Vernon’s plane crashed and where his life changed forever. So I traveled 10,000 miles and dove down to discover the remains of his bomber lying off the coast of Australia. This adventure allowed me to honor the father I never really knew and to ‘walk in his steps.’

This blog will describe my journey of discovery and will include pictures and information about the 19th Bomb Group not included in the book, Echoes From an Eagle. I will also provide resources that may be helpful to those families still researching their WWII veteran’s stories. Most of the men are gone now; but if the families continue to document their stories, the contributions and sacrifices made by the brave men of the 19th BG will never be lost. Lest we forget!

 

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5 Responses to “Echoes From an Eagle: a book, a journey”

  1. Did your father participate in the first flight of B-17Ds from San Francisco to Hawaii on May 13/14, 1941 under Eugene Eubank? The officers of the 21 planes visited Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for a preview of their flight before departing March Air Field for San Francisco. I am working on an article about navigation training at Griffith Observatory.

    • Ken & Phyl Bledsoe says:

      Mr. Cook:

      My father, Sgt. Vernon O. Elder, did not participate in flying the B-17's from San Francisco to Hawaii; however, he was on the SS President Johnson headed to Hawaii on Dec. 5, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Upon hearing the report of the attack, his ship did a 180 degrees turn and headed back to San Francisco. By Dec. 22nd he was flying on a B-17E on the Africa route. By the latter part of Jan. 1942, he was flying combat missions out of Java against Japanese targets in Java and the Philippines. In Feb. 1942 the 19th BG was relocated to Australia, and he flew missions out of Cloncurry, Mareeba, and Port Moresby against Japanese targets in New Britain and New Guinea for the remainder of 1942. He arrived in San Francisco aboard the SS Torrens in Dec., 1942. He spent the remainder of the war at Pyote AFB in Pyote, Texas, as a Norden bomb sight instructor. I was born down the road from there in Monahans, TX.

      Ken

      I do have a copy of Special Order #1 issued by HQ 19th BG (H) AFCC Airbase, Albuquerque, NM dated Oct. 17, 1941. Send me your snail mail address and I will send it early this week.

  2. Anthony Cook says:

    Ken and Phyl,

    This would be greatly appreciated!

    My address is Anthony Cook/Astronomical Observer
    Griffith Observatory
    2800 E. Observatory Road
    Los Angeles, CA 90027

    Thank you for your reply!

    Sincerely,

    Anthony Cook
    Astronomical Observer
    Griffith Observatory

  3. Really good info. Lucky me Recently i found your blog site accidentally (stumbleupon).I’ve bookmarked it for later!

    • Ken & Phyl Bledsoe says:

      Katheryn,

      I appreciate your comments. Hope you find the info helpful. Let me know if I can provide more information/ assistance.

      Ken Bledsoe

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