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2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm “It Began With A Hat”

Most times I begin research on an entry to this website when I am contacted by a Marauderman or his family. This overview is different and begins with a hat. An on-line friend, Titch Pine, posted an image of an Army Air Corps Hat similar to my father’s hat. It sports a 50 mission crush;

50 Mission Crush Hat. Photos by T. Pine.

50 Mission Crush Hat. Photos by T. Pine.

 

The name “50 Mission Crush” is an allusion to a type of hat. A “fifty mission crush” is an Army Air Corps, or Air Force, service cap that has the stiffening ring removed, and is worn crushed and battered. This cap is obviously out of uniform, however steeped in tradition. This tradition was started by the 9th Air force flying personnel as a mark that separates the fledgling from the battle hardened survivor of 25+ combat missions. This mangled cap was frowned upon, but tolerated for those who earned the right to wear it.
Normally, this cap had stiffeners – a support piece behind the cap device and a wire around the inside top perimeter to maintain the cap’s round shape. These kept the cap in its proper, regulation military shape and angle. However, since pilots wore headsets over their caps during flights, they would remove the wire stiffener to make headset wear more comfortable, causing the sides of the caps to become crushed. Eventually, the caps retained their floppy “crushed” look, giving the pilot who wore it the look of a seasoned veteran. The crush cap identified its wearer as an experienced pro, and was as much a part of his identity as his leather flight jacket. Army regulations authorized wear of the service cap in this manner in the Army Air Forces, although ground Army officers hated that manner of wearing the cap. Since most AAF general officers likewise wore the crushed caps, the ground Army could do nothing about it. The wear of the “50 Mission” cap is prohibited in the current USAF, since headsets are no longer worn over headgear.

 

Titch explained that he got the hat from a dealer in Seattle. What got my attention was that there is writing in the hat which identifies the owner as a member of the 344th Bomb Group.
Furthermore, the writing in the hat gives some intriguing information about the owner, including a list of his missions. (more about that later)

Westholm kept records in his hat. Inside the hat it reads Westholm March 26, 1944. He says he…”Left NY Mar. 12, 1944.” Westholm’s hat indicates his arrival in Ireland on 3/26/44. This might indicate he came via boat. Westholm recorded “D Day Cherbourg Amiens 6/6/44.”  The 344th bomb group including Frank Carrozza flew Two missions on D-Day. One to the beaches (Cherbourg) the other to marshalling yeards in Amiens. Later the had indicates Westholms that he “Left England, Sept. 26, ’44.”  Comparing this date to Frank Carrozza’s log indicates this was the date he left Stansted to be relocated at their new base in Courmeille En Vixon, France. The hat lists several locations; “St. Omer, Chartres, Orleans, Paris, Amiens.” These are all locations in France. Since the 344th BG never bombed Paris, I think these are places he visited after they were liberated.

With just his name and bomb group, here is what we have found out;

He was a Bombardier/Navigator with the 344th Bomb Group  494th Bomb Squadron. His usual plane was 42-95894 “Georgia’s On My Mind” K9-P
His Crew included:

Pilot Capt. James P Deford, Jr
Co-pilot 1st Lt. Alfred L Freiberger
Bombardier/Navigator 2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm
Radio/Gunner S/Sgt. Irving Sugarman 
Engineer/Turret T/Sgt. John H Samara
Tail Gun S/Sgt. Thomas C Bond

Some more information about the plane: Georgia’s On My Mind: Built at the Glenn L Martin factory at Baltimore, Maryland as a B-26B-50-MA. Accepted by the Army Air Force on 25/11/43. Then went to the 3rd AF staging area at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia (from 18/12/43). Assigned to the 344th BG at Hunter Field. Flown overseas to the UK via the Southern Ferry Route (Listed as Carribean Wing), departing the USA on 20/1/44. The aircraft record card then lists, SOXO A (Europe – 8th AF) on 20/1/44, and SOXO R (Europe – 8th AF) from 19/2/44. Original group aircraft. Survived the war having flown 151 combat missions. The final entries on the aircraft record card lists, GLUE 9AF CON SAL NBD on 16/12/44, and, GLUE CON SAL FEA on 28/12/45.

Westholm Plane

It seems other people have been trying to find out about Westholm. Here is what Google brought up.:

http://www.b26.com/guestbook/2002.htm
“Hi, just heard about your site, very interesting! I’m looking for information regarding an officer, who I believe flew or flew in B-26’s. His name is LT. ROBERT L. WESTHOLM. The only definitive information that I have is that he was awarded the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters. His award’s were G.O. No.141, 9th AF. GO’s 101, 110, 120, 142 and 153, IX Bomber Command. GO’s 8, 41, 9th Bomb. Div. I would like to find Mr. Westholm’s squadron, group, crew position, possibly a photo. ANY information regarding Mr. Westholm would be most appreciated”, Blue Skies, Mark Adamic

“Hi, great website. I’m looking for information about a 9th AF officer, LT. ROBERT L. WESTHOLM. I’m trying to establish his group and squadron. I know he was awarded 13 Air Medals. His G.O.’s for the Air Medal are from IX Bomber Command and 9th Bomb. Div. I believe he was overseas from April of 1944 til early 1945. Lt. Westholm was originally from Tacoma, Washington. Any information about Lt. Westholm would be most appreciated. Thanks and Blue Skies”, Mark Adamic

I tracked down Mr. Adamic but he had no other information..

Google also pointed me to http://www.b26.com/marauderman/tom_bond.htm

S/Sgt. Tom Bond was a crewmate of Robert L. Westholm. He apparently posted material about his crew on this page. Here are some photos from that page;

S/Sgt Tom Bond 344th BG

S/Sgt Tom Bond
344th BG

Westholms crew informal

Westholms crew informal

Westholms crew informal 2

Westholms crew informal 2

D-Day from Westholms plane

D-Day from Westholms plane

D-Day from Westholms plane1

D-Day from Westholms plane 2

From Westholm’s obituary page comes another picture but with a different and pictures in his later years.

2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm

2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm

Westholm in his later years.

Westholm in his later years.

2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm

One Response to “2nd Lt. Robert L Westholm “It Began With A Hat””

  1. Andrew Westholm says:

    Amazing read, I am a grandson of Robert L. Westholm but I am not sure this is the same one sir. My father (his son and also a retired COL. who is still alive hopefully can shed some life on this). My grandfather was an NCO before an an officer and as far as I know was not an officer until after World War II where he served in Korea. They may have the same surname and I am loving reading about our american veteran history but I believe the picture of my grandfather may be the wrong man sir. My name is Andrew Westholm and I can be reached at dymain@gmail.com. Regardless much love and thanks for the great read.

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