From Cavalryman to Aviator

Air War Over Europe

Last Mission


[Annotator’s Note: A woman interjects throughout this clip.] Frank A. Wiswall was born in September 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Mountain Lakes [Annotator’s Note: Mountain Lakes, New Jersey] where his father worked as a salesman in knitted goods. His father was fired from his job and then found a job selling picture frames. During the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: The Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States], his father worked for an oil company. The Great Depression was rough days. He made money by cutting lawns. [Annotator’s Note: There is a break in the video break at 0:04:04.000.] Wiswall graduated from high school in 1937 and enlisted in the 102nd Cavalry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard in 1940. The Regiment was called into Federal Service in January 1941. Wiswall thinks that every young person should join a branch of service for one year because it would help them learn some discipline. Wiswall was a horse cavalryman. When the horses were to be retired and the squadrons fully mechanized, Wiswall volunteered for the US Army Air Corps. He passed the written and physical exam and was sworn into the aviation cadets. Wiswall had no experience of flying, but did not want to be an infantryman anymore. While he waited for the Army Air Forces to call him to report for duty, he stayed with the 102nd Cavalry Regiment doing different details like KP [Annotator’s Note: Kitchen Patrol or Kitchen Police]. Wiswall was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina when Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] occurred. Security became intense around the base. The Army Air Corps sent him orders to report to Kelly Field, Texas for aviation training. Wiswall played the bugle while he was in the cavalry and continued to play when he was in the Army Air Corps. He was tested on his strengths and weaknesses to qualify as a bombardier. He went through advanced training in Big Springs, Texas and graduated from the aviation program in January 1943, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.


Frank A. Wiswall graduated from aviation school and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1943. He received a furlough [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] home and was then sent to Harlingen, Texas before shipping out to Europe. He missed his air transport, so he was sent to Camp Kilmer [Annotator’s Note: Camp Kilmer, New Jersey] and boarded the Queen Elizabeth [Annotator's Note: RMS Queen Elizabeth] cruise liner in February 1943. He stayed in a cabin with other officers and had to sleep on the bottom bunk which laid on the floor. Wiswall disembarked in Scotland and went by train to Stone, England where he stayed for a few weeks, and was then flown to Bovington, England where he trained on a B-17 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber]. He was then shipped out again to East Anglia, England where he stayed for the duration of his time overseas. His first mission was in July 1943 over Germany. Wiswall, as a bombardier, faced fighter opposition and the plane lost its first engine. He thought he saw lots of collisions, but there was only one. This first mission solidified his crew. [Annotator’s Note: There is a break in the video at 0:31:35.000.] [Annotator’s Note: The interviewer searches in a diary and there is a break in the video at 0:34:15.000.] Wiswall described flak as strange and awesome. He flew through such intense cloud cover he could not see the planes next to him. The whole experience was new to him. Wiswall was hit by flak [Annotator's Note: antiaircraft artillery fire] only once on the sleeve of his shirt. For his first missions, they were in the back of the formation and did what the head plane did. Dropping bombs on the target was a lot of guess work. He used the Norden Bombsight [Annotator’s Note: Norden Mk. XV, or Norden M series, bombsight] to help hit his target. On one mission, his crew made three passes near Normandy [Annotator’s Note: Normandy, France], but had to drop their bombs in the water because they could not locate their target.


Frank A. Wiswall was a bombardier in the 8th Air Force. His worst missions were to Bremen, Germany, dropping bombs on the submarine pens. His two engines were hit and they had to crash land the plane in Africa. Wiswall and his crew were given a three-day furlough [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] while their plane was being repaired. His 25th mission was in March 1944. It was a disappointment. He went to Berlin [Annotator’s Note: Berlin, Germany] to drop bombs, but the cloud coverage was so bad that they had to call off the mission. He flew with the same crew for the duration of his time overseas. He became very close with all his crew members and enjoyed seeing them at reunions. The bombardment groups would form in the air in England. The sound of hundreds of planes was very loud. Wiswall was discharged in 1977 after participating in World War 2 and the Korean War [Annotator's Note: Korean War, 25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953].

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