Reflections of WWII Area Veterans
Blooming Grove, Navarro County, Texas


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These remembrances were published in The Blooming News on August 5, 1998.  They were written by Major Bruce Gillen, USAF Aircraft Commander

Capt J. R. Griffin - Killed in Action {James Richard Griffin}

J. R. graduated from Blooming Grove High School in 1935 and obtained his degree at A&M University. He then entered the U.S. Air Corps in peace time After pilot training, he graduated a fighter pilot and was sent to the Pacific. As I understand it, J. R. was there when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He lost his life while on a mission transporting personnel down into the South Pacific in 1943. He is buried at Rose Hill

Col Jack Griffin - Killed in Military

Jack, Jr.'s younger brother, graduated from Blooming Grove School about 1938, and also received a degree from A&M University. After his Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet pilot training, he completed bomber training and became a bomber pilot.
Jack had some influence on my decision to become a pilot. I was home on vacation from the Army and spent the night with my grandmother in BG. A loud plane engine awakened me about daylight and I jumped out of bed - began dressing.  I missed seeing the aircraft as it went by the first time. It went south, made a turn, then buzzed back over the town. By this time, I was in the yard and I really got excited about that plane. It was Jack training in a B-17 bomber, and it seemed something said t me to go on and get through pilot training and get up there and fly that plane !
Jack was a member of the 8th Air Corps, the main one that was bombing German and he flew his 50 missions over there. After his tour of duty, he was reassigned to the states and received his decorations for active service.
I think JHack was stationed in Colorado a couple of years after the war. He was only a passenger on a C-47 and somewhere over Arizona; the airplane ran into bad weather and hit a mountainside. Jack lost his life there. He was a very smart man and got along with all people I think if Jck could have continued his career, he would have made the Air Corps one fine officer wold have retired with the rank of General. He is also buried at Rose Hill. Cemetery.

Sgt Jerry Daniel

Jerry grew up in the Dresden Area and graduated from Blooming Grove School in 1945. After a year at A&M, he decided he wanted to be a pilot but failed a physical due to being color-blind, so he went through Flight Engineer School ad, like Luther North, became an engineer. He was also assigned tot he Berlin Airlift.
One Sunday morning Jerry was stationed in the British Sector at Fassbert Air Base and was engineer on an empty C-54 that was returning from Berlin back to Fassberg when dense fog engulfed the airplane in it's final approach to land.  Apparently, the pilot became disoriented when he penetrated the fog and the plane crashed a mile short of the runway.
Jerry was flown clear from the plane and rendered unconscious fro a couple of minutes. He came to and saw that the two pilots were still inside the flaming aircraft. Jerry did exactly what I would have predicted he would do. He sadhed through the fire and brought both pilots out to safety just minutes before the plane exploded. The pilots, severely inured, lived, and Jerry was awarded the Soldier's Medal for Heroism.
Jerry returned to the states and was honorably discharged in 1949. He married Billy Ruth Fly and they had two daughters. Jerry died after a heart attack about ten years ago. He had distinguished himself well on his Air Corps tour.

Luther "Doll" North

"Doll" lived about 1/2 mile down the road from me and went his first 4 or 5 years of school at Hog Eye.
The saying "It's A Small World" proved true in the Berlin Airlift. Doll had become an engineer in the Air Force but I hadn't seen him in a long time. On the Berlin Airlift cargo planes, we had a pilot, a co-pilot, and an engineer. The engineer's responsibilities included securing the load to prevent tossing of loose stock in bad weather. He balanced the weight so the plane would not be tail-heavy or nose-heavy, giving the airplane maximum speed. He inspected the plane before take-off and had numerous important duties during these flights.
About 3 a.m. one morning my co-pilot and I crawled into the plane and was preparing for a take-off in the cockpit. Being very dark, we couldn't see outside. The crew chief, the man on the ground who checked the engines, entered the cockpit and said, "Lt. Gillen, the airplane is ready to go and you're clear to take the plane to Berlin." Then a slow talking man came up t me in the dark and asked, "Did he call you Lt. Gillen?" I answered yes, then the man inquired, "Are you from Blooming Grove?" When I replied again yes, he asked if I knew him. I looked around and there was Doll North ready to fly that mission with me. We had a lot to talk about on that flight. The next day I made arrangements for him to fly his 11 remaining tour missions with me, and then he rotated back to the states.
I heard Luther died about 10 or 15 years after the war. His niece, Mary Gowan, resides in Blooming Grove. Luther was a very good engineer and it was my pleasure to fly those 11 missions with him during the Berlin Airlift.

T/Sgt. Murry Wayne Holditch

"Mur-Wayne" and I were very close friends. After he gradated from BGHS in 1941, he went to gunnery training and after getting his gunnery wings, he was assigned to the 8th Air Corps in England. He flew his 50 missions over Germany just as Jack Griffin did, and Mur-Wayne was awarded several high honors. Then he rotated back to the states.
One time MurWayne and I were on leave at the same time and were both in Blooming Grove. Jerry Daniel was a senor in school. Well, MurWayne and I thought it would be fun to dress Jerry up in one of my 2nd Lt. uniforms and take this B.F. senior "out-on-the-town" in Dallas. We did, and had a good time. but it wouldn't have been fnny if the military police caught us. May have been a little foolish, but everyone was doing some foolish things back then.
But Mur-Wayne was very intelligent. He had gone through gunnery school, joined the 8th Air FOrce and finished his fifty missions and attained the rank of T/Sgt. one year after graduating from BGHS. He was awarded several honors.
When he left the Air Force, Mur-Wayne got a degree at A&M in physical education. He played football at A&M and then he entered the coaching field.
I attended Mur-Wayne's funeral about ten years ago after he died of Cancer. He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Lt. Richard Massengale - Killed in Military

Richard lived about 1/2 mile out of Blooming Grove on Sandy Land Road and I lived two miles further doen the road. We used to walk home together from school before we had school buses. He was the first one, to my knowledge, that got a balloon tired bicycle in Blooming Grove. Wed give him a penny to ride it.
Richard and I talked about how we both wanted to be a pilot as he walked to and from school ad our dreams came true. He graduated a fighter pilot in 1942 after graduating from BGHS in 1941, and was assigned to fly the P-38 Lighting in North Africa. This plane demanded good pilot concentration. A lot of pilots were killed in it. It was very fast and I personally think more research and development should have gone into it before it was turned over to young pilots to use in combat with the Nazis and Japs.
But Richard, as I understand it, was stationed in N. Africa and was flying a transport plane transporting some people to land in Italy when he crashed and lost his life. He's buried at Rose Hill.

Capt. Edgar J. (E. J.) Glenn

E. J. grew up in Blooming Grove and graduated in 1939. He went into pilot training in 1942 and graduated a bomber pilot. He completed his assignment with the Heavy Bombardment Group of the 13th Air Corps in the S. W. Pacific Theater, then got out of the Air Corps in 1947.
E. J. came by to see me one summer when I was working at Uncle Drew's Chevrolet Agency. He had received a form from the Air Corps that he could fill out and get back in if he wanted to.  He wasn't going back in and asked me if I anted it. I filled it out in pencil and mailed it in a Chevrolet envelope. Two weeks later, I received a telegram from the Air Corps informing me to pass a physical and I'd be assigned to Carswell Air Base as a B-29 pilot. That's why I credit E. J. as an influence with me staying in the Air Corps 18 more years.
E. J. went to the Valley and got into the citrus business. He's still there, and a recent report revealed he is in fairly good health.

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