Looking for any information of USAAF based in Yorkshire, England

Discussion in 'All Hands Club & Canteen Discussion Area' started by garbfink, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. pathfinder504

    pathfinder504 Active Member




    Attached Files:

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  2. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Hey Lucky... I think you are right we seem to be stretching things into what could have been or what might be and perhaps because of that we are losing sight of the fact that we know. To be fair that is very little. I've got confirmation that my DNA sample was received today so when that has been processed it may (or may not) open some other avenues to explore. As to the higher res image the original image that I posted was the original scan that my mother did. the pictures I posted of the insignia, wings and medal ribbons was of the higher resolution image that my Mother sent me. The original is still in her possesion and I will try and get hold of it when I see her next which will be in a couple of weeks or so.

    And thank you Lucky I was able to download the attachment which is a fscinating document. Thank you for sharing.

    Ahhh pf504 you're killing me here (I mean that in a very light hearted and fun way btw) The wings are very hard to identify. I originally thought that central 'device' related to navigator wings. This was because I thought I could make out a horizontal bar across the middle. The only 'device' that carries a horizontal bar would be the navigator. I was then informed that it would be very unlikely as the pilots, bombardier, and navigator positions were almost exclusively reserved for the officer ranks. After further examination I now believe that the wings relate to an aerial gunners wings, I can see a central 'bomb' in the middle with two smaller 'bullets' (for want of a better description) on either side. That position would certainly fit better with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

    You are 100% correct saying that there is some 'junk' sitting above the central device and I think that I had written that down to shadow. But I am willing to be corrected. If I was sure of my findings then I wouldn't be asking these questions here so your input is absolutely invaluable to me.

    The American Defence Medal I can see, The Purple Heart I can see, I still think that on the EAME we'd see two distinctive white lines on the right hand side of the ribbon where there is only the one. I know the picture is not of the best quality but the contrast on the right hand side of the ribbons should be enough to pick out the two white stripes on the right compared to the one white stripe on the left.

    Do you see what I am saying?

    As for the 'navy wings. You have done a mighty fine job there. I certainly regret you posting it ;) The one thing I am adamant on is that he is wearing the insignia of the 20th on his shoulder. Look closely at the picture I posted and you can even make out the 20 once you know where to look. Would a member of the 20th be able to wear those wings? I don't know enough to be able to answer that question........
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  3. peterDuck

    peterDuck Member

    I've been enjoying watching this thread develop. Y'all have done a fine job of exploring potential "clues". I'd like to add a couple of comments and observations.

    I've been "stymied" by a service man who served in the UK with the 8th AF and ended up serving in the Pacific with the 20th AF. Originally, I was trying to find a connection with the units that were selected to redeploy to the Pacific after the war in Europe was over. I know of a few Bomb Groups that were selected, after being trained and redesigned as Very Heavy (VH), for this purpose (the 467th BG - my area of "expertise" - being one of them). If I'm not mistaken, the 489th BG actually was deployed to the UK and after a short period returned to the US for training and redefinition. The war ended before they actually were redeployed. I've attached a couple of documents regarding this planned redeployment (by not only Bomb Groups but all types of air units and support units).

    The biggest problem with that "theory" is timing. The man in question theoretically served in the UK in 1942-1943. Then actually was reassigned to a unit with the 20th AF. To my knowledge, none of the units that were planned for redeployment actually were redeployed. Another thought then crossed my mind. In 1943, the Army Air Force was short of air crews. They offered existing ground crews the opportunity to retrain for participating in an air crew. Unfortunately I haven't found the orders regarding this so I can't provide the actual documentation. My father was a member of a ground crew serving with a Bomb Group (I haven't been able to determine which one yet) in North Africa. He took advantage of the "offer" and returned to the US to retrain and eventually ended up as a Gunner/Radio Operator with the 467th BG. I'd venture a guess that ground crews serving in the UK were given this same opportunity. A very likely scenario for the man in question.

    Now.......here's the hole in this last theory. The ribbons he's displaying. If I were to venture a guess as to what they are, I'd say they are (from left to right) American Defense Service Medal (ADS), European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (EAME), and either the Purple Heart or Air Medal (see attached images). Garbfink, I know you questioned the symmetry of the the middle ribbon. The EAME medal is somewhat "symmetrical" and it can be argued that there is some "discoloration" in the photo you provided. If it is a EAME and Air Medal, those medals would imply that he was a part of an aircrew in the UK. I can't think of a scenario where one would have served in the UK (8th AF) with an air crew and then transferred to the Pacific (20AF). The colorization is wrong for an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.

    Lastly, I'm of the mind that the "wings" are Army Air Corps Gunner Wings. See attached. Those, and the fact that his rank is Staff Sergeant, leads me to believe that he is now a part of an air crew. Most likely with a Bomb Group.

    I'm looking forward to further commentary. Hopefully, some resolution can be found.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
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  4. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    I have dreaded engaging in this thread. With Peter's addition above it seems there may be many of us lurking from the sidelines. I had posted early on in one of the original (now deleted threads) this topic, then because of the apparent (at the time) devious nature finding this search in other forums; and deleted my posts. So here we are again.

    First, as to the ribbons I think Dave, (Pathfinder) has nailed it. The ribbon on the right as viewed by us is a Purple Heart "white all the way on both ends", even in black and white this seems obviously not an Air Medal. Alright, moving along to the SSI that is supposedly the XX Air Force there appears to be a whole lot of imagination here at work in post #21 which I just do not see. Rolland (RSwank) at one point (also it seems now deleted) offered what I thought was a good alternative "appearance wise" with the IX Engineering Command. Rolland's links http://www.angelfire.com/md2/patches/airforce1a.html & http://www.angelfire.com/md2/patches/airforce2.html further Command history here http://www.ixengineercommand.com/ (maybe a show stopper, maybe not) IX Eng. Com activated 30 March 1944 as part of IX Air Force.

    But "we" don't know where or when this seated S/Sgt Kay served previously, maybe a bomb group. To me his shoulder patch appears to be a shield, not round.

    Maybe a match, maybe not.
    [1] Kay SSI.jpg [2] Kay, IX Engineering Command.jpg

    Not a match with my sight
    [2] Kay SSI [highligter].jpg [4] XX AF.jpg

    Another look, sorry that is just not round.
    [1] Kay SSI.jpg [4] XX AF.jpg

    Someone else (Tony?) maybe had suggested 6th Air Force. As good a (visual comparison) guess as anyone else, how this Caribbean Air Force fits with service in the UK is problematic (back to the service ribbons)
    [1] Kay SSI.jpg [5] 6 AF Caribbean.jpg

    That is the major issue here (in my opinion), namely the insistence here with the assumption that this patch is that of the Twentieth Air Force when to me it is clearly not. The BOLD fact here is that if this seated Sgt was wearing a 20th Air Force Should patch he would also be wearing a Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (which he is NOT) or he would be out of uniform. It can't be both ways with ETO and PTO service in this picture without "all" the proper ribbons.

    Another scenario is this Sgt Kay served perhaps with a bomb group earlier (8th Air Force?) (the wings are problematic) in the UK and was wounded before his fifth mission (no Air Medal), but all the other ribbons now fit. Then he is transferred into the IX Eng. Com. (Or pick some other Force with a proper shoulder patch!) and is killed on the continent building airfields. Or, lives returns to the States and never looks back. War is hell on many fronts. "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit", 1956 Gregory Peck; with an alternate ending.

    So that's it on that subject (in my opinion) this airman never served in the Pacific.

    Next topic, which I am sure to regret engaging (only because the OP will try to wrangle it back into this airman serving in both the ETO and PTO, specifically the 20th AF) which again I do not believe is correct. Okay, lets take a minute and beat a dead horse...
    Alright, everybody feel better; I sure do!

    When early 8th AF and 12th AF members completed their ETO/MTO combat tours most rotated home, some stayed (Now their Bomb Groups stayed and kept hammering the Nazis). However those who returned to the States there service did not terminate nor were they relieved of duty or separated from the service (there was a war on). Many of these European combat veterans went on to become part of XX Bomber Command, 58BW; 40BG, 444BG, 462BG, and 468BG killing Japs from China and India, and for some on to the Marianas and XXI Bomber Command were the party for the "Emperor" really got started.

    One (poor) example would be Paul Tibbets Jr veteran of the 8th and 12th Air Forces who would eventually command the 509CG went to the Pacific. Many of his men who served with him in the 8th also went with him.

    Here is perhaps a better example (and typical I think of much ETO to PTO AAF service shift, but hopefully more survived). T/Sgt. Kurt Hermann II, veteran 303BG, 8th AF, 12th AF and finally tail gunner operating from Isley Field, Saipan with the Merrill Crew of the 870 Squadron, 497BG, 73BW, XXI BC, 20th AF were he gave his last full measure a month before the Japs surrendered. More on his crew and final mission here http://www.exciteableitalian.com/497/the_merrill_crew.htm

    TSgt. Kurt Hermann II.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
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  5. pathfinder504

    pathfinder504 Active Member

    To me his shoulder patch appears to be a shield, not round.

    Sorry to disagree after so many compliments but the "patch" has a definite round border that can be seen below the star and radiating upward through the 9 o'clock position.
    The "design" I agree has a shield shape.

    What happened to the portrait? Can someone plug it back in here someplace?
  6. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    No worries, it's all an illusion anyway. The original photo appear to be back on post #15, all 89 KB of it.
  7. pathfinder504

    pathfinder504 Active Member

  8. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    "Early" American Theater insignia, stitched by "Betsy Ross" ? Sure that's a candidate here; look at the nice round bottom boarder, just like you noted earlier.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  9. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Hi Peter.

    Thanks for getting involved, your's is a fascinating post and I can certainly see how the circumstances that you have laid out could be applied to S.Sgt Kay. I especially think that the ground crew being offered a chance to 'retrain' bears some thinking about. I'm planning on going through LucyP's file that he uploaded and sketch out a map of the different USAAF units and theiewhereaboutss during the winter of 42/43 that could potentially give me a short list of units and locations.

    With regards to the ribbons, I've been doing a little bit of digging and think I've just stumbled onto something. My finding are likely to be a bit 'controversial' :) but I'll post it once I can come to an agreement with myself (that may be never)

    I think you're spot on with the Gunner Wings, that role fits his rank and the more I look at it the greater the similarities are. Looks like I've got quite a bit of digging to do.

    Thank you for the time and effort you've put towards this.

    All the best

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  10. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Hey Kingman,

    First off. I know I may have gotten off on the wrong foot on this forum but please let me thank you for all of your invaluable input. I'm very grateful for the interest in this thread and am amazed by everyone's suggestions and support.

    You've covered a lot of ground in your post so let me try and tackle it section by section.

    First off, the ribbons!

    I think that the purple heart is definitely the way forward for the one on the right. The left and the middle one, I've got an idea about those which I need to research a little more before I post it, partly for my own sanity's sake and partly to prove to myself that I'm not being an idiot (it has been known). I'll hopefully post my thinking tonight when I get in from work.

    Now let's (try and) deal with SSI. A bit of personal information about me; I work in the financial markets and am a keen subscriber to behavioural finance theory. One of the theories which apply to many things in life is heuristics and anchoring. This anchoring is the process by which an individual 'latches' on to what they believe is a correct fact and then bases their actions or thinking on the knowledge that they are right because of their assumed knowledge. So my question to myself is, "have I anchored myself to the fact that S.Sgt Kay was part of the XX Air Force?" The answer to that question would be a firm. "Yes, I have" Now that I have been honest with myself it's time to look objectively at the SSI again.

    Firstly I'll make the following observations:
    • Sgt Kay is sitting so his arm is at an angle to the lens, therefore we can only see about 1/2 to 2/3 of the patch
    • You can see the patch edge at 6 o'clock moving up to the 9 o'clock position to where there is a fold in his shirt.
    • The top of the patch appears to be of a shield design.
    • The star that is common on AF patches appears to be enclosed by a circle
    • The 'wings' or 'wreaths' that protrude from the side of the star appear to spread out from just above the left hand point of the star and alse from the below the left-hand point of the star
    • From the top point of the star, there is a white line which heads vertically upwards for an inch or two.
    • Moving across the vertical line (from the point above) are two con-caved horizontal lines.
    • Just above where the second horizontal line crosses the first horizontal line there the white areas becomes a little messy.
    So what do we have here? After careful consideration, I still believe it is the XX Airforce. Look just above where the second horizontal line crosses the vertical line, I can see the numbers 2 and 0 on either side of where the vertical line would continue to the top of the patch. can anyone else see it? please confirm that I am not going crazy if you can!

    Now, all of the observations that I make above fit with the XX Air Force Insignia, all except the shield shape at the top of the patch. So, what is going on here? simple answer is, I do not know. The way he is sitting is causing some folds in his shirt going up to his shoulder toward the area where the 'shield' shape starts. Perhaps this is causing a fold or indentation in the patch making it look like a shield? Another possibility could be that it appears that the patch has come away from his shirt at the bottom of the patch, could something similar be happening at the top? What do you all think? am I seeing things? Can anyone else see the number 20 on the patch?

    I'm conscious Kingman that I am indeed trying to wrangle you and anybody else that will listen back on to the fact that he is a member of the XXth. I've met my fair share of people who will always insist that they are right no matter what, we all know one of those people right? My point here is that I am not one of those people. I am here to try and learn the facts and the truth and I will be more than happy to be told that I am wrong and I will always accept the fact that I am mistaken when I am, just in this specific case I don't see it as being anything other that the XX Air force patch. I hope I'm not sounding like an ass. I truly don't want to be.

    So while writing all of this out I did a bit more research on the ribbons and this is what I have come up with.



    (LEFT) China Service Medal. (Thank you Shaef1944)
    Eligibility Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel
    Awarded for Services performed during operations in China or in Chinese territorial waters or contiguous ocean areas from 7 July 1937 to 7 September 1939 and 2 September 1945 and 1 April 1957

    (MIDDLE) Coast Guard Commendation
    Eligibility Military personnel only
    Awarded for heroism, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service
    Status currently awarded
    Navy & Marine Corps: 1943
    Coast Guard: 1943
    Army: 1945
    Air Force: 1958
    Joint Service: 1963

    (Right) Purple Heart
    Awarded for "Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces"
    First awarded February 22, 1932

    A common theory so far has been that it was American Defence, EAME, and purple heart (or Air Medal) this would look like.


    Although I appreciate that the picture quality is not the best I think this is a little too messy, I especially think that we would see the black line cutting through the white on the right hand side of the EAME ribbon.

    So... am I shooting myself in the foot here? If this man in question was in the UK for part of the war then surely he should have the EAME ribbon? As far as I understand the EAME was awarded for any military personnel who aided in the war effort. I assuming that this would mean that ground crew were awarded if they had solely been based in the UK? was there a length of service required within the theatre to be able to be awarded the EAME? When were the ribbons first issued?

    Could this point to the fact that in actual fact the man pictured here is not the man John Henry Kay

    Any views would be most welcome?


  11. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Was it something I said? ;)
  12. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member

    See this link for dates and requirements for the EAME.

  13. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Thanks Lucky, I'd stumbled across this website over the weekend. but it's a really useful post.

    Do you know at what point an individual would actually receive the ribbon? Is it as soon as they qualify? or close to it? at the end of the war? I can't find any reference as to when an individual actually gets it pinned to them.

    Thanks in advance.

  14. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member


    My best guess is that distribution of award medals would vary by unit and the level of the award. Air Medals, which would literally be distributed by the dozens, might be distributed in a group ceremony once a month. Higher level awards like the DSC or DFC might be distributed individually closer to the date when actually earned. Attached photo of an awards ceremony at the 379th BG.


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  15. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

  16. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member

    Note the awards were basically automatic.


    Just to clarify what Rolland said above, Qualifying for certain awards was automatic upon reaching the stated requirements. The Air Medal, the EAME, the American Defense Medal, etc., fell into this category. Other medals like the DFC and the DSC were awarded for achievements that were, so to say, "above and beyond'.
  17. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Great posts, thank you.

    There have been a couple of developments over Easter that I thought I would share. It's nothing groundbreaking.

    I went to visit my Great Aunt who is the sister of my Grand Mother over the weekend I'd not seen her for about 10 years and I've only met her a handful of times during my life. But, she is the sister of my Grandmother. I had thought that she had told any information that she had to my Father previously but I thought I'd go and see her myself.

    Despite her deafness (I had to write everything down for her) and her failing memory (she's 95) she did say that my Grandmother was a corporal in WW2 after being called up for service. she also said that she had met my Grand Father once although she couldn't remember what he looked like or his name. She also thinks that they met in Liverpool (or nearby) My cousin (her daughter) also confirmed that she had been told that he was an American member of the air force, although she didn't know if that was air or ground crew.

    As I understand it women were conscripted in from December 1941 onwards and the only two lines of service that would have a corporal rank would either be the Women's Auxillary Airforce (WAAF) or the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

    Although it's pure speculation on my part a scenario could be that she was posted in the Liverpool area (Burtonwood could be a good candidate here, considering it saw a lot of USAAF personnel) and they met on or around the site.

    On a slight tangent, I found this poster for the ATS, My Grandmother later went on to run the White Hart Public House in Bradford and was the first pub in the area to serve food. Perhaps she learnt some of her catering skills in while serving in the ATS

    ATS recruitment poster.jpg

    Anyway, I'm hoping that I will be able to get her service record from the MoD which may then point to her location at the end of 42 beginning of 43 which may, or may not help in narrowing the search a little more. I'll keep you posted.

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