Another Fallen Aviator Taken FAR Too Young: A Memorial Day Story

Greetings Me Droogs N Droogettes!
A rather somber day here at Casa El Grande Campesino, as it is Memorial Day. A day that is supposed to be a somber reflection on the memories of those who paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for their Country(ies).

The last time we talked about a MIA/KIA was my Uncle 2nd L.T. Cornelius Francis O’Leary. The story of my work and research is HERE. One of r/ourguys O2 (as in the symbol for Oxygen) hit me up via DM askin g if I could find out some stuff about his Uncle Bruce who also was a KIA in WW2. Seems he died before O2 was born, and he wanted to know what I could find.

So O2 gave me his Uncle’s full name and D.O.B. and I was off to the races. It was a good thing in that me bein g fresh off of one ‘hunt’ I had no issue ‘shifting fire’ in going and finding out a LOT of info on his Uncle Bruce

Now, please allow me to introduce the Guest of Honor for today’s write-up: Flight Sergeant Bruce E. Greenhalgh

A rather dapper young man.
In fact so young, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on June 30, 1943 as he was only 17 years, 10 months old. Apparently he was afraid he, like many others his age, was going miss out on the war.

He was born (according to the records) August 11, 1925. He lived with his father Edward in Niagara Falls N.Y. which explains the ease in which he was able to cross the border to enlist. Now an interesting factoid came up while perusing Bruce’s personnel jacket. His mother Elizabeth had a different address in the file. When O2 started going through the documents, he was highly surprised as it seems that after Uncle Bruce died, his father just faaaded away in the memory of the family.

His Grandmother and the rest of the family had said that her first husband Edward had ‘died’ whereas the record shows they were divorced. I figure that since Uncle Bruce didn’t make it home and had been living with Dad, it was easier and more ‘socially acceptable’ for Grandma to have been a ‘widower’ than a divorcee. Even O2 was really surprised by this revelation.

The other surprise was that the ‘Family Legend’ of Uncle Bruce was that he was so good at aerial gunnery that he had been asked to stay on as an instructor. The record on the other hand:

“…there is room for improvement.” and “…Not recommended for a commission.” and lastly “Not suitable at all” to be an instructor…

It is what it is…

After his training Young Bruce packed his gear and hit dirt in England April 2, 1944. He got settled in and on May 2, 1944, he was transferred to the 22 O.T.U. which was the No.22 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and was a Bomber Command unit that trained aircrew for World War II at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford in Warwickshire, England from 1941 to 1945. Bruce got trained up in being an aerial gunner on a Vickers Wellington bomber:

His training began on May 3rd, 1944, and ran until August 10th, 1944. He got a couple of days off, and then on August 23rd, 1944 after completing his transition to being a fully qualified Aerial Gunner, they transferred him again to 61 Base in Yorkshire England. He was at one of four training bases in Yorkshire that all fell under the Command of No. 6 Bomber Group, Royal Canadian Air Force.

This is where he trained up and learned the ins-and-outs of the Biggest and Baddest Bomber the Brits and Canoeheads had, The Avro Lancaster:

This was the heavy-heavy of WW2, designed to haul the MASSIVE 12,000 Pound “Tallboy” and the 22,000 Pound “Grand Slam” ‘Earthquake Bombs’. Mostly used in night bombing, it also was used for daylight precision bombing.

Bruce graduated and left the 61 Base on or around October 2, 1944. He was assigned to the No. 419 Bomber Squadron formed at RAF Mildenhall, England in 1941 as part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command.

Now from MY reading of his ‘jacket’ he didn’t have any other flights except for his training missions. His flying record shows (that I can find) no combat runs until what I -think- was his first and only combat flight on October 28th, 1944. This was part of “Bomber” Harris’s Cologne Raids in October of 1944. The 6th Bomber Group and all attached units took massive casualties during this time, where the odds were One in Forty that your plane was going to get shot down. Those odds sound pretty good, until you realize that they were sending up 120+ planes on these raids, and at least 3 of them weren’t coming back.

Bruce’s plane was one of those that didn’t make it.

It got shot down on October 28th 1944. His initial interment was in Germany near Cologne:

Which after the war ended, he was formally interred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery just outside of Koln (der Cherman spelling):

He was posthumously promoted from Technical Sgt. to Flight Sgt. on the same day.

Now, as with Uncle Connie (my Great Uncle) There was some confusion as to whether or not Bruce had actually been KIA’d. The file I found had the scanned actual letters from his father Edward, written to Casualty Command that -someone- in a POW camp in Germany had written him, and said that Bruce was alive but comatose. I won’t put the letters up, as they’re sort of heart-wrenching… a divorced father hoping against hope that his only son might still be alive.

I have to hand it to the Canucks man… they researched it.
Dug deep to find out.

ALL the letters back and forth between Casualty Command and Edward, trying to figure out if Bruce was actually dead or not? Back in WW2 they were a little too trusting as now? This positively reeks of scumbag-opportunism trying to give false hope. If Dad hadn’t reached out to Casualty Command, I just know the next letter would have been to the idea of “Bruce needs money” or some such evil shytte… But at least they final ‘closed the case’ so to speak, and after that, Edward s-l-o-w-l-y faded out into obscurity…

But Never Forget:

Fl/Sgt. Bruce Edward Greenhalgh
19 Years, 2 Months, and 17 Days Old…
Far too Young.
A Tragedy.
Lost Dreams.
Lost Futures.
Remember those who will never grow old.
Honor them, and their memory.
They deserve nothing less.

More Later
Big Country

22 thoughts on “Another Fallen Aviator Taken FAR Too Young: A Memorial Day Story”

  1. Truly a sad and difficult story. It is very similar to a incident in my Viet Nam unit. A fresh 2nd It was assigned to the battalion and arrived from Saigon in the afternoon, had an in briefing, had supper and a cot in bn ready tent. Next morning he and two others caught a Chinook to Black Virgin radio relay. Just as the Chinook was putting the tail ramp down and in a hover to unload, it was hit with a RPG round. The Lt was killed, a Staff Sgt was badly burned, and a Sp/4 was able to clear the ramp before the chopper crashed down the side of the mountain. Bad day all around.

  2. That’s some dam good sleuthing right there. You should start a business doing that stuff. I might be your first customer.

    1. Same here. There’s a WWII vet kia who was a distant relative or friend of the family. No one alive is sure about it. But I was given all the letters he wrote to my grandma while overseas. It’s an interesting journey. But I can’t find out anything online, probably because I suck at it. I’d pay for research on him, or even a list of resources you use if they’re available to regular folk like me.

  3. Thanks for doing the digging in the records, Big Country. Especially on a day like today, to remember those who did not come back.

    1. I took would be a customer. I have a lot of family into genealogy.

      It’s a point of family pride that we have a documented soldier in every war the US has fought from the Revolutionary War through Gulf War 1; including both sides of the Civil War.

  4. Wow-incredible research! That was one handsome, handsome boy who died way too young.
    It’s like WW1 kicked a drug off for the Elites in this country and other countries. They just couldn’t stop killing other people’s children. And it continues every 10 years; here is the enemy and YOU send YOUR children to vanquish “the enemy” will we watch safely from the sidelines. I want to weep every time I see pictures of the military dead-unfinished lives with so much promise.
    Outstanding writing.

  5. Great deep dive on this man’s story, and seeing as he fought for Canada, he’ll also be honored by us on Nov 11th. While for Americans it’s viewed as “Veterans Day”, since we didn’t really fight under our own banner in a big way till WW1 (we had our first rollout in the Boer War, but prior to that it was all wrapped in/as British forces), so for us, Nov 11th is sort of our Veterans Day and Memorial Day rolled into one day, Remembrance Day. We were in WW1 pretty much from the getgo and sent,fought and died way above our weight at the time check out the Vimy Ridge memorial. Saw a good story today on an exchange naval office in Halifax from the USN honoring US POW’s that died in the war of 1812 kept on a small island nearby back when we weren’t the close allies we are today (sorry bout burning the White House then^^).

  6. BCE,

    Thanks bro. That was beautiful.

    Don’t know if uncle Bruce even passed through Mildenhall aka Moldy Hole, but if so, he and I stood on common ground. Flew many sorties in and out, various places, various reasons.

    Best to you and yours!

  7. My Dad joined the Navy at 17 right after Pearl Harbor. He was training for the invasion of Japan when the nukes were dropped; he did not expect to live through it. The men of those days were all business at a young age. I followed in his footsteps and joined the Navy to fly and honor him. The concept of defending your country out of gratitude for your opportunities was the norm. Sometime between now and then everything changed.

    1. We now (and perhaps always have) a country that despises us and wants us replaced. I fought in two wars for the United States, for “freedom.”
      Are we more free or less free?
      Before I joined up, an uncle of mine who was in Vietnam said “don’t do it. It’s a racket and it’s all lies.” I replied “well it’s different this time-they attacked us!” He shook his head and said “no, it’s not. It’s always the same shit.”
      Only took me twenty years to understand what he meant…
      The US government is rotten to the core and without redemption. I actively discourage any White from serving it.

      1. I have a new friend/neighbor who happens to be a CBP agent retiring in August. I laughed and said ” just in time to fight your old employer” He was with the 325th PIR 82nd Airborne so we hit it off right away.. Strange how things change ain’t it?

  8. RE: “Widowed”

    I was visiting with my great aunt, when she was in her 90’s and she was telling me about some family member or another and called her a “walking widow”. When I asked what that meant, she leaned in close and whispered conspiratorially that it is what they called a divorced woman back in the day. So, it probably isn’t a mistake that folks were referring to someone at that time period as “widowed”, while the government said they were divorced.

    1. Masters of the Air, the book, is a good depiction of the bomber war. The TV show is pretty good but adds some diversity that the book barely touched(and never mentions the race riots the book does). It was a harrowing experience which many did not survive. It wasn’t til late in the war that they figured out maybe instead of bombing ball bearing plants, we should bomb oil refineries and synthetic fuel plants.

  9. Bombers and Submariners had the worst KIA rates as there is obviously no where to go.
    The Germans had the Luftwaffe helper girls work the radar for the BF-110 Nachtjagdgeschwader with antler radar array on the nose.
    Then the upward firing 20mm Shragemusik would do the number on the underside of RAF bombers after getting within the formation.
    Tail gunners were important to spot these planes that had flame dampeners on the exhaust.
    Focke Wulf 190s, Stukas, Messerschmitt ME-262, ME-163 Komet rocket were also used as nightfighters.
    Using BF for Bayerischeflugzeugwerke means it was made pre-1940 or the 109 and 110.
    WAR is the only way to vote your way out of socialism, by voting with the cartridge box.

    1. Im glad the Kreigsmarine never thought of replacing torpedoes with Nobel server rocket launchers. They could have attacked small East Coast surf side towns in retaliation for the bomber attacks on Germany.

      The USS Barb launched rockets at a Japanese coastal factory in 1945 the first such use of rockets by a sub.

  10. Then there’s Uncle Bob, an Air Force reconnaissance photographer shot down near the DMZ in Vietnam. Reported MIA, and the family notified.

    Two weeks later he came walking out of the jungle. First thing he did was say he was done flying.

    Could never get him to talk about his experiences during his E&E. If he ever told anyone, they kept it to themselves.

  11. Without sounding too maudlin… perhaps this could be a good side gig for you to get into

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