Stories of a B-17 Pilot during WWII

The Crew Members of The Squawkin' Chicken
After 21 June 1944 Mission to Berlin
Aircraft appears to be a B-17G-40-VE of the 545th BS, Serial Number 42-97941, named Marion, JD*J.
This aircraft was salvaged 18 November 1944.
  • Lt. Dewayne Bennett - Pilot
  • Lt. Col. Koehne - Air Commander
  • Lt. Eugene Burcham - Bombardier
  • Lt. Kane - Navigator
  • Lt. Cranston - Navigator
  • S/Sgt. James Trumbo - Tail Gunner
  • T/Sgt. James Holland - Engineer Top Turret Gunner
  • S/Sgt. Verlin Gale - Waist Gunner
  • T/Sgt. Mike Perrone - Radio Operator
  • S/Sgt. Bernard Zelazoski - Ball Turret Gunner

My name is Dewayne Bennett, and I flew as a pilot in WWII, 8th Air Force, 384th Bomb Group, 545th Squadron. I flew 31 missions, all in B-17s.

I went to pre-flight at Santa Ana, California, Primary at Thunderbird 11, Phoenix; Basic at Marana Army Air Force Base near Tucson, Az.; and Advanced at Douglas Army Air Force Base, Douglas, Az. We flew Stearman trainers at Primary, BT-13s (Vultee Vibrators) at Marana, and the UC-78 (Bamboo Bomber) at Douglas. After graduating and getting my wings (43-H) August of l943, at Douglas Army Air Force Base in Douglas, Arizona we were sent to Roswell Army Air Force Base, Roswell, N. M. for transition in the B-17.

The B-17 was such a huge change it took a little getting used to, however we survived, and after 9 weeks of training I was a qualified lst pilot on a B-17, the Flying Fortress. It was off to Salt Lake city to pick up a crew. Nine young men who were going to climb in a big bomber with me and trust me to get them home. The crew would be complete except for the Navigator who would join us later in training at Dalhart, Texas. Paul Spiers was the Co-pilot, a hansome young man from Sodus, N.Y. good natured, and most of the time with a big smile on his face. Eugene Burcham, from an eastern state was of small stature, and inclined to go by the book. He was the Bombardier, and serious by nature.

Jim Holland was the Engineer and Top Turret Gunner. Jim was from Oklahoma, even tempered, with a sense of humor. He had a little Oklahoma drawl, was very young, and I came to lean on him a great deal. Mike Perrone was the Radio Operator, and was from Brooklyn. He was easy going, and had a wild time when he had a pass. He was known to fight with cab drivers, but he was good with the radio. Bernard Zelazoski, was the Ball Turret Gunner, a handsome young man from Wisconsin, steady and dependable. He could spend long hours in the cramped quarters of the Ball Turret, with never a complaint. He was very dedicated to his job, and did it well. Verlin Gale was the left Waist Gunner. Verlin was from Iowa, and was the steady prop for the rest of the crew. He was not excitable, very good at his job, and never lost his cool. Kenny Wyatt was the right waist gunner, from Los Angeles, and very young. He was only 19 years old, and had gotten married just before we left the States. The war was not for him, and he suffered horribly on the combat missions where we ran into trouble. He left us after 7 missions, and was shot down with another crew. He became a POW.

James Trumbo was the Tail Gunner, and was from Oklahoma. Jim was quiet by nature, and never said much. He handled his job with dispatch, and was a good tail gunner.

Website Navigation Memorial Tributes
A Video Greeting - From The Squawkin' Chicken Skipper!
The Story of "Last Man Standing"
Flying on Instruments in WWII
Tribute to Bernard Zelazoski, Crew Member
Tribute to Verlin Gale, Crew Member
Tribute to Lester Aufmuth, Crew Member

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Links to other sites:
384th Bombardment Group (H) Website (Carol Schafer) - More about Dewayne Bennett
Official Website Of The 384th Bombardment Group (H), Inc. (Fred Preller)
The Soldiers' Angels

Visitor count since moving to new domain on 30 April 2005:


Note from the Webmaster: Dewayne "Ben" Bennett often flew the B-17G having serial number 42-97309.
This aircraft was named "Squawkin´ Chicken" by its pilot.