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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

The Real Fallen Heroes from Masters of the Air Episode 1

Updated: Feb 2



Everyone of the airmen who died while serving in the 100th Bombardment Group has a story. Thanks to the volunteers working with the nonprofit initiative Stories Behind the Stars (see video here), those stories will be readily accessible to anyone for generations to come.


The Apple TV+ miniseries, Masters of the Air, based on the book of the same name by Donald L. Miller, is a cinematic presentation focusing on some of the men who served in the 100th Bombardment Group beginning in 1943. The miniseries is great at presenting a visual simulation of what these airmen experienced in World War II. A script of less than 500 pages is not able to tell the full story of all those who were part of the Army Air Forces mission in Europe. CGI created air battles look amazingly real, but they don't allow viewers to learn about those lost in these battles.


Hundreds of volunteers from all 50 states and more than a dozen other countries are writing the stories of all 421,000 US World War II fallen. At this time, this includes more than 40,000 stories. Among these completed 40,000 stories are many of those who died while serving in the 100th Bombardment Group. This includes the pilots mentioned in Episode One and Two of Masters of the Air: 1LT Alonzo Adams III, CPT Oran Petrich, and 1LT Paul Schmalenbach.


1LT Alonzo Adams III. Lt. Adams, 28 years old, was from Albany, NY. His father was a bank president. Alonzo was a college graduate and a journalist before joining the Army Air Forces. He married a few months before leaving for England. He was the pilot of the plane known as "Angel's Tit". You can read his story here. His plane was shot down by a German ME-109. The navigator survived, but Adams and eight others were killed. All eight of these fallen also have stories.


Crew of 42-3260 "Angel's Tit"


CPT Oran Petrich. Cpt. Petrich, 23 years old, was from Sturgis, SD. He was president of his high school. Oran married after joining the Army Air Forces. He was the pilot of the plane known as "Bluebird K". You can read his story here. His plane was likely shot down after disappearing in the undercast, and crashed into the North Sea. No bodies were recovered. Everyone of the crew has a story.


Crew of B-17F 42-29986


1LT Paul Schmalenbach. Lt. Schmalenbach, age 23, was from Philadelphia, PA. He was the grandson of German immigrants. Paul completed two years of college and was working as a chemist when he joined the Army Air Forces. He was the pilot of the plane known as "Barfly". You can read his story here. His plane was likely shot down after disappearing in the undercast, and crashed into the North Sea. Lt. Schmalenbach and four others were killed and not recovered. Each of them has a story. The other five crewmen were picked up by a German patrol boat and became prisoners of war.


Crew of B-17F 42-30038 "Barfly"


These 100th Bombardment Group fallen stories are being written by volunteers working under the direction of NASA engineer Bob Fuerst. You can read more about this project here.


Hundreds of volunteers have written the 40,000 stories completed so far that include all of the Pearl Harbor fallen, all of the D-Day fallen, and all of the WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It only takes 2-3 hours to write a story of the fallen. We provide free training and access to Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, and Fold3.com.


Perhaps the greatest attraction to volunteers is that all of the stories can be read for free at any gravesite or memorial via smartphone app. Click here to find out more about volunteering.


For those unable to volunteer their time, the project to remember all of the US WWII fallen can be supported by tax deductible donations.









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