Author: Chris Ohlrich

There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet” - Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey Jr.

Sgt Howard Noelting

Sgt James Ray

Sgt Macklynn Worsham

Sgt Raymond Boals

Believing it took a great man to lead, Lieutenant Commander Roy Webb stood in front of Fleet Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey and asked to be relieved of his command. Earlier that morning, Webb had lost half of his squadron during an air engagement over the island of Guadalcanal. It was 1942 and the Allied forces had started the long road back in re-gaining control of the Pacific from the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Webb stated that he will fly combat, but doesn’t want to command anymore. Admiral Halsey responded, “So you think it takes a great man to be a squadron commander? Let me tell you a secret Webb, there are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet”. This quote comes to mind when I think of my mother’s cousin, Harold Noelting, and the circumstances surrounding his death while serving in the United States Army Air Force during World War ll. As I researched his military service, I came across three other men he flew with, their names showing up every time his did; on crew muster sheets, after action reports, and unit history. Mission after mission, these men routinely put their lives on the line for their friends, their country, and their beliefs. What was most impressive is they did it willingly and without hesitation. Each man had a specific assignment, and the importance of performing that duty while flying together as a crew could determine the success or failure of the mission at hand. This is a story of how they came together. The hero label is seldom claimed by those most deserving of the honor. Such is the case of these four “ordinary” men that Admiral Halsey referred to.

It happened last Memorial day on a visit to my mother’s. After a nice lunch and catching up, our conversation turned to the good ol’ days as it always does. I never get tired of talking about The Great Depression, World War ll, or my mother’s childhood days growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois. On this visit, my mother asked me if I would like to see the layout of the family tree my uncle had prepared for her. Starting at the top, our fingers traced the lines downward and out, stopping along the way with an explanation of this relative and of that one. As she was pointing out my great grandmother, a name caught my eye on one of the branches. “Harold L. Noelting born 1916 died 1944”. Noticing how young he was, I asked who this was and how did he die? My mother explained to me that Harold Noelting was her cousin and Godfather, and that he had been killed serving in the Army Air Force during World War ll. I was stunned. Here I was, in my fifties, and I had never heard of this relative. With a fascination for anything pertaining to World War ll and aviation, I was determined to find out about him and his service to our country. All my mother could tell me is that he was killed in action overseas and her memory of the trip from Fort Wayne to Chicago for his memorial service. So, with his name written on a post-it note, I put it in my pocket and headed home.

The very next day, I did what everyone now does and Googled him. I instantly got a hit. I found out that he was buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, overlooking Omaha Beach. On his white marble cross, it had the unit he belonged to and the date of his death. It read: HAROLD L. NOELTING, S/SGT 584th BOMB SQ 394th BOMB GP {M}, ILLINOIS SEPT 21 1944. Next, I Googled 394th Bomb Group, which brought me to Mrs. Donna Cox’s web site, ww2buddies.com. This site is dedicated to the airmen of the 394th and 416th Bomb Groups of the 9th Air Force stationed in England and France during World War ll. Graciously, she provided me with what information she had in her database and in turn, forwarded my inquiry to Mr. James Diffe, a historian for the group, and whose uncle, Sgt. James T. Ray, flew with my mom’s cousin. After countless late nights on my IPad, hundreds of clicks with the mouse on my computer, and a copy of a diary written by Sgt. Ray, I compiled an impressive and sometimes very sobering account of my mother’s cousin and the men he flew with. Each man enlisted and trained in different parts of the country, but they would all end up flying together in the war torn skies over France and Germany. No film or book can ever really convey the emotion and experience of fighting in a war and the bond that occurs with those who have fought side by side in combat. What follows are four short biographies of a bomber crew and some of the great challenges they were forced by circumstances to meet.

Harold L. Noelting was born in Westmont, Illinois, on 15 January 1916, to Herman C. Noelting and Elizabeth Specht Noelting. The oldest of two children, Harold had a younger sister named Antoinette. It was in Westmont that they spent their childhood years during the Great Depression. After his younger sister was married in 1937, the Noelting’s moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Herman worked as a printer and Harold a construction laborer. According to the 1940 census, they shared a flat with another family at 613 South Hermitage Ave, not far from Lake Michigan. It was interesting to find out that after 72 years, this building is still there and hasn’t changed at all in its appearance. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War ll, Harold enlisted into the Army Air Corps. With high grades and a mechanical aptitude, he went on to Aircraft and Mechanic training in Lincoln, Nebraska, and trained as a Flight Engineer. Flight engineers were essentially flying ground crewmen. It is their job to monitor the mechanical operation of the aircraft. If fuel leaks happened, landing gear were stuck, turrets were jammed, or other problems resulting from battle damage or flak occurred, it was the responsibility of the engineer to recognize the problem and try to repair it. In a bomber, he was also responsible for defensive gunnery, manning the top turret. After graduating and becoming a Flight Engineer, he started Flexible Gunnery School right here in Southwest Florida. Buckingham Army Airfield is an inactive United States Air Force base, approximately 10 miles east of Fort Myers, and only twenty minutes from where I live now. It was one of seven Flexible Gunnery Schools used to train bomber crews during World War ll. Upon earning his Aerial Gunners Wings in November 1943, it was on to Barksdale, Louisiana, to the 335th Bomb Group. Here, the Army Air Corps trained crews in medium bombers; the B26 Martin Marauder as it turned out, for transition to an overseas combat assignment. It was in Barksdale Harold met the crewmen he would be permanently flying with. They were:
  • Pilot - 1st Lt. William Runge
  • CoPilot - 2nd Lt. Robert Day
  • Bombardier/Navigator - 2nd Lt. Herman Dykes
  • Engineer/Gunner - Sgt. Harold Noelting
  • Radio/Gunner - Sgt. Raymond Boals
  • Armorer/Gunner - Sgt. Macklynn Worsham

  • Finishing their training in May, 1944, they made the long overseas haul to England and transferred into the 394th Bomb Group, 584th Bomb Squadron of the 9th Air Force on 23 June 1944. Known as “The Bridge Busters,” the 394th consisted of four bombardment squadrons: 584th, 585th, 586th and the 587th. Only two days after transferring in, the crew flew their first mission together on 25 June 1944.
    Sgt. James Ray

    Flying in formation next to them, was the youngest of the men in the story, 19-year old Sgt. James Ray, who had only two weeks before transferred in from the 335th Bomb Group where he had already flown his first six missions, including two over the D-Day beaches. A diary left behind by James provides much insight into the missions; it contains, for example, a letter to his older sister written during his stint in gunnery school back in Fort Myers, Florida. The postscript of that letter possibly sums up the feelings of servicemen about to go overseas.
    P.S. I may be a kid as you say Sis and there may be men that could do the job, but this is my fight as well as anybody’s and I am going to do my part no matter what the cost may be. What is life without freedom? No Sis, freedom is something you can’t buy, you must fight and die for it. Love again, James”.

    Born in Dyersburg, Tennessee, 11 July 1924, Ray was the fifth of seven children born to Maude and James Rouden Ray. He grew up in his mom’s boarding house and attended school in Memphis during the Depression. His father was a Fireman and Locomotive Engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad. Soon after the war started, he got a job at the Memphis Fisher Aircraft Division as a riveter. This factory contributed to the war effort manufacturing aircraft parts and assembling North American B25 bombers. In March 1943, he followed in his older brother’s footsteps and enlisted into the Army. Having firsthand knowledge in the construction of aircraft, it was only natural he would qualify and be accepted into the Army Air Corps. After basic training Ray reported to the radio operator training center at Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois, through which all aviation radiomen matriculated during the war. Following completion of this course in November, he proceeded to Fort Myers for aerial gunnery school. After a hectic and grueling course in weapons training for defensive gunnery in bombers, he then joined the 335th Bomb Group in Barksdale, Louisiana to transition into the B26 Marauder. This training would last another 5 months and include flying in formation, simulated combat missions, and the rigors of high altitude bombing. Finally, in April 1944, still attached to the 335th Bomb Group, he headed to England, bombing railroad marshalling yards, bridges and troop trains prior to and during the D-Day landings. 10 June 1944 Ray transferred into the 394th Bomb Group, joining the 584th Bomb Squadron flying out of Boreham, England. Forthe next three months the 394thBomb Group would fly some of their toughest missions of the war, twice being decorated for their extraordinary heroism and determination in destroying enemy targets. Taken from the diary of 19 year-old Sgt. James Ray are some of the missions the men took part in those first hectic months.

    Today we had another rough one, we went after a fuel and ammo dump at Caen. We got the dump. Some of our ships went down to flak. It is true, you could not see through the flak clouds. Everyone that was on it said it was the worst they had ever seen. The ships were all shot full of holes. Ours had quite a few in it. Several pieces came through the ship near me. One of them hit me in the back but I had my flak suit on and that saved the day and me too I guess. It made an awful mess out of my flak suit. It is a really funny feeling sitting up there and that stuff bursting all around. There is not a thing you can do but sit and pray. Some say they don’t know how to pray, but it does not take long to learn how in this business.”

    JULY 18, 1944 MISSION {17} ROUEN, FRANCE
    Number two for today. We went to Rouen and got a bridge and rail yard - but it was another one of those bad missions. They shot the hell out of our ships. The War Horse, that’s the name of one of the ships, came back with 500 holes in her. Two dead, three wounded of her crew. Others were wounded in other ships. It’s hard to see your friends die. We got the bridge and rail yard”.

    We went after another rail bridge this morning, and more than once it looked like it may be my last mission. It was a long one, about 800 miles, 100 miles east of Paris. They hit us harder today than they ever did, 15 ships failed to return. I saw sights today that I hope I never see again, such as ships blowing up in mid-air, some crashing to the ground with full crews, men bailing out with their chutes on fire. They really shot the hell out of us. Some of the boys that went down were my best friends. It just can’t be put into words the feeling you have watching these ships go down in flames”.

    More than once the “last mission” premonition reared its ugly head in the year-long diary, and not without good reason. Twice he was hit by shrapnel from the German anti-aircraft fire flying through his aircraft, only to be saved by his flak suit. He earned the name “Hotfoot” when one of those pieces of hot metal shot through the skin of his B26 and embedded itself in his flying boot. James is the only crew member in the story to finish his tour flying the required 65 missions. As he confided to his nephew back home, “The only medal I was glad never to receive was the Purple Heart.” Reading his diary several times, it was hard to imagine the sights he witnessed and the emotional toll it took on him flying in combat and watching his friends die. On 3 April 1945, he flew his last mission and then headed home just one month before the war in Europe ended. Not long after his return, the Ray family was notified that James’s older brother Bill was killed in Germany helping dispose of un-used ordinance. The war in Europe had been over for two months. In 1946 he married his sweetheart Ruth and had two children. James stayed in the Air Force reserve until 1955 and made his living as a brick mason until he retired. According to his nephew, he didn’t speak much about the war he was so much a part of, and it wasn’t until he read his diary that he knew what his Uncle James had witnessed. James T. Ray passed away on 11 August 1993 at the age of 69.

    Sgt. Harold Noelting

    SEPTEMBER 21, 1944 PRONSFELD, GERMANY {Harold Noelting’s 31st mission}
    After being briefed on the mission, the crew headed out to the hardstand where their assigned B26 Marauder was waiting. As Flight Engineer, Harold would have accompanied the crew chief and pilot in a pre-departure walk around of the aircraft. Here, everything from tire wear, walking the props through, and inspecting all control surfaces would be checked. After a final briefing with the pilot, the crew would begin preparations for take-off. On this day, the crew were riding in B-26 tail number; 42-96267, squadron code K5U. Flying the mission were:
  • Pilot - 1st Lt. Howard Davis
  • CoPilot - 2nd Lt. Robert Day
  • Toggelier - SSgt. James Hopping
  • Engineer/Gunner - Sgt. Harold Noelting
  • Radio/Gunner - Sgt. Raymond Boals
  • Armorer/Gunner - Sgt. Macklynn Worsham
  • The date was 21 September 1944.

    What follows is an account taken from the book entitled “The Bridge Busters”, written by J Guy Ziegler.

    “The combat crews opened up the Rhinelands battle with two missions, on which no drops were made. On the 21st however, disaster struck as the group was taking off for a mission against a marshalling yard at Pronsfeld, Germany. The first box, headed by Captain Charles DeRitis of the 586th had taken off, and the second box, headed by Captain J.S. Russial of the 584th, got the first two planes off the ground. Next in line was 1st Lt. Howard Davis. Lt. Davis’ ship became airborne a little too soon and was knocked down by prop wash-the wing touching the ground, causing him to swerve off the runway. The ship crashed and started to burn as the crew scrambled out. Everyone got out except Sgt. Noelting, engineer-gunner, who was killed outright when a fragment of the ship pierced his skull. Attempts were made to remove the body of Sgt. Noelting and put out the blaze, but it was impossible. Soon after everyone had cleared back, the bomb load of eight 500-pound bombs exploded, making deep craters, and spraying fragments for a good distance. The remainder of the formation did not take off; however, the first box continued on to the target and bombed with good results”. Ziegler, J Guy. Bridge Busters. New York: Ganis and Harris, 1949.

    So on his 31st mission, almost halfway through his tour, Harold faced his great challenge, and perished on his way to bomb a railroad marshalling yard in Germany. I recently received a copy of a letter dated 12 December 1994 that was written by Howard Davis, the pilot of the ill- fated crash. It was addressed to the curator of the Marauder Historical Society and went into detail about his time spent flying in the 394th Bomb Group. I have read the official reports and the account by Guy Ziegler in the book, “Bridge Busters”, but I was not prepared to read Mr. Davis’s first-hand account of that day. It was his sixty-third mission with only two more to go until he finished his tour. On 21 September 1944, he stated; “I crashed on take-off when my right wing encountered prop-wash just after we cleared the runway. Unfortunately, my flight engineer, Sgt. Noelting was killed when a piece of the right prop came through the cabin and cut his head in two. We tried to extricate him, but the fire was too intense. The surviving crew members including myself had the next six days off, and on the 28th we continued to fly missions again. Business as usual. I finished my last two and headed home”. Fifty years later, that day was still fresh in his memory. Reading that letter deeply affected me. Three words kept going over in my mind, “Business as usual”. The tragedy of that crash demonstrated the violent and cruel nature of war. There is another sad note to his story. Just two months after getting that dreaded telegram, Harold’s mother, now a Gold Star mother, passed away at the age of 48. I will not go into the circumstances surrounding her death, but I say with conviction, that she died of a broken heart. His sacrifice was part of the price of freedom and liberty that is enjoyed today by free citizens all over the world. Though his life abruptly ended, his legacy never will. The crew would carry on, each with his own great challenge to face.

    Standing : Noelting and Worsham
    Kneeling : Boals and Hopping
    September 21, 1944
    (actual crash photo)

    Sgt. Macklynn Worsham

    Macklynn Worsham, born 28 January 1923 in Danville, Arkansas, enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly before America’s entry into the Second World War. He made Sergeant while stationed at Sheppard Field, Texas, just six days before the Pearl Harbor attack. Sheppard, incidentally, was one of several training bases for medium bomber crew chiefs and mechanics. Worsham then went on to McDill Field, Tampa, Florida, to receive training on the B-26 Marauder. As the point of orgin for nine of the twelve combat groups that flew the Marauder in Europe, McDill was also the home of the slogan “One a day in Tampa Bay,” given the high rate of training losses on the B-26 due to its speed, short wings and touchy maneuverability. It was while in Tampa, Worsham married his sweetheart Floy Elizabeth “Betty” James on 23 June 1943. He went on to Flexible Gunnery School and in November 1943, was assigned as the crews tail gunner after transferring into the 335th Bomb Group in Barksdale, Louisiana. In May, with the rest of the crew, he headed overseas and transferred into the 394th Bomb Group, 584th Bomb Squadron on June 23rd, flying his first 31 missions with Harold and Raymond Boals. Four months after Harold’s death and on his 54th mission, Sgt. Macklynn Worsham would face one of his great challenges.


    The 584th would go on to lose 24 more men killed in action by the time Worsham reached his 54th mission. One of these missions would see another friend of his killed. On 23 December 1944, Captain Don Lash and elements of the 585th Bomb Squadron were tasked with bombing the railroad marshalling yards at Prum, Germany. One bomber short after an aborted take-off, the position was filled in by a B-26 from the 584th. On that crew was another close friend, Cpl. Jerome Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn was a radio operator/gunner and filled in wherever needed as a replacement crewman. Having transferred into the group in October, he was on his 8th mission. Lining up on the bomb run, his aircraft was hit by flak and started to roll over, going into a flat spin. Fighting for control, the pilot was able to straighten out just in time for the bombardier to take aim. Immediately after dropping their bombs, the aircraft suddenly went into a spin and crashed. Three men were able to parachute out, but Mendelsohn and two others were killed. Officially listed as Missing in Action, his death wasn’t confirmed until after the war. As fate would have it, once again on January 14th, a B-26 from the 584th was called to fill in a position. This time, elements of the 586th Bomb Squadron led by Captain Clifford Piper were going after a bridge near Steinbruck, Germany. The replacement crew from the 584th was Worsham’s assigned ship, tail number 42-96169, squadron designation K5G. The crew consisted of:
  • Pilot - 1st Lt. William Runge
  • CoPilot - 2nd Lt. Robert Day
  • Bombardier - 1st Lt. Arnold Sundal
  • Engineer/Gunner - Sgt. James Hart
  • Radio/Gunner - Sgt. Raymond Boals
  • Armorer/Gunner - Sgt. Macklynn Worsham

  • Upon approaching the target, their formation began to level out. This is the crucial 20 to 30 seconds where the aircraft have to fly straight and level to line up for the bomb run. Ahead of them, puffs of black smoke began to fill the sky. It was the familiar deadly German anti-aircraft artillery, better known as “flak”. Within seconds, a heavy concentration of flak started bursting inside the formation. An 88-millimeter shell exploded extremely close by, puncturing holes throughout the ship and sending red hot pieces of metal and broken plexiglas in every direction. One of those pieces penetrated through Worsham’s position severely injuring his forearm and slicing through his A-2 flight gear, exposing the bone with a bloody gash. Another passed through Lt. Sundal’s hand just as he was sighting the target. Grabbing the first aid kit, Boals quickly left his station and headed back to the tail gun position. He stopped the bleeding in Worsham’s forearm by applying a tourniquet, and then made his way forward to the nose of the aircraft reaching Lt. Sundal. Lt. Runge continued to press home the attack. After successfully dropping the bombs on target, the badly damaged ship was ravaged with flak again, sending more red hot shards of steel throughout the aircraft. With bad weather closing in and trailing behind, Lt. Runge managed to limp his badly damaged plane back to base and executed a perfect landing. Of the twenty-one aircraft on this mission, eleven were damaged by flak, one man was killed and 16 wounded. Taken away by ambulance, Worsham would not fly again for over two months. Once recovered from his wounds, he returned to flying status on 3 April 1945. Of the original crew he transferred in with, he was the only one left. Sgt. Noelting was dead. Lt. Dykes was seriously wounded and sent stateside. Lt. Runge, Lt. Day, and Sgt. Boals were now missing in action, their aircraft having gone down while he was recovering from his wounds. On his first assignment back with the unit, he would join his old friend, Sgt. James Ray as tail gunner on the crew that would be Ray’s 65th and last mission, or what Ray would call in the diary the “Final Ride”. Worsham would go on and continue to fly until the war in Europe finally ended.

    After V-E Day, he remained with the 394th Bomb Group for a short time in Germany serving with the Army of Occupation. After rotating back to the United States and his discharge from the Army, Worsham returned to Ola, Arkansas. He had two daughters, Judy Ann who was born in 1946, and Vicky Lynn, born in 1950. From there, it was Tulsa, Oklahoma, before moving to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he worked at Stebbins and Roberts Paint Company for over thirty years. After living in Fort Worth, Texas, he moved to Bryan-College Station, Texas, where he owned a Benjamin Moore; paint, carpet and wallpaper store until he retired. After his retirement he moved to Denton, Texas to be closer to his family. Macklynn never forgot his friend Harold. It was comforting to me to learn that the Worsham’s kept in contact with Harold’s younger sister Antoinette after the war. The last entry in her address book was the Bryan, Texas address, dated 1992. His wife of over sixty years, Floy Elizabeth “Betty” Worsham, passed away on 24 May 2005. Shortly after on August 19th, just a little less than three months later, he passed away at the age of 82. After making contact with Amy Wilhoite, their grand-daughter, I received a precious photo from her with him and Harold standing together in France, dated July 1944. On the reverse, it says, “Here is Pop & me, {Harold was the oldest of the crew at 27}, two damn good men if I do say so”. A photo I will cherish forever.

    Sgt. Raymond M. Boals

    Raymond Boals was born in Alcorn County in the town of Walnut, Mississippi, 6 June 1923. He was the oldest of two brothers. After graduating High School, he enlisted in the Army in December of 1942. Accepted into the Army Air Corps, he was trained as a radio operator at Scott Field in Belleville, Illinois. After successfully completing radio operators training, it was on to Flexible Gunnery School in Fort Myers, Florida, to receive his Aerial Gunnery wings. In November 1943, Boals received orders to report to the 335th Bomb Group in Barksdale, Louisiana. Assigned to medium bombers, he met and trained alongside Harold in B-26’s. With the addition of Worsham, tail gunner, the three would fly their first 31 combat missions together after transitioning to the 394th Bomb Group in England. The pilots, co-pilots and bombardiers would change often during their first 31 missions, but not them. After Harold’s death on 21 September 1944, he and Worsham would continue to fly together until Worsham was wounded in January, 1945. Mission after mission, they tried to get to that magical goal of 65. On 14 February 1945, flying his 60th mission, Boals met his great challenge.

    This day was a first for the 394th Bomb Group. It was the first time the group ever flew three combat sorties in one day. Boals and his crew attended the briefing for mission number three of the day and headed out to their assigned aircraft, tail number 42-96226, squadron designation H9S, nickname: “Pretty Polly”. On this sortie to Grevenbroich, he would be flying with his original pilot and co-pilot from Barksdale.
    The assigned crew were:
  • Pilot - 1st Lt. William Runge
  • CoPilot - 2nd Lt. Robert Day
  • Toggelier - Sgt. Carl Coon
  • Engineer/Gunner - SSgt. Noble Reynolds
  • Radio/Gunner - Sgt. Raymond Boals
  • Armorer/Gunner - Sgt. Edsel Huffman
  • After successfully dropping their bombs on the communications center, “Pretty Polly” turned away with the group only to run into a heavy flak concentration. Scoring hit after hit, the deadly German anti-aircraft fire knocked out one engine and sprayed deadly shrapnel throughout the ship, killing Coon, Reynolds and Huffman. As they desperately tried to exit the target area the ship caught fire and started downward. With three crewmen dead, the fire spreading rapidly and losing altitude, Lt. Runge knew he wasn’t going to make it back across friendly lines. He ordered Day and a severely wounded Boals to bail out. Once on solid ground, the three men were quickly taken prisoner. Luckily for Boals, his captors were sympathetic to his wounds and he was sent to a German hospital which unfortunately for some airmen wasn’t always the case. Without any witnesses to the actual crash, no one knew if anybody had made it out of the aircraft, and the fate of the crew remained unknown. Three days later, the 394th Bomb Group officially listed the crew of “Pretty Polly” as Missing in Action. The disposition of the crew remained this way until the cessation of hostilities on 8 May 1945. The swift Allied advance into Germany liberated Boals, Lt. Runge, and Lt. Day from captivity in their POW camp, thus ending the mystery of their respective fates. Boals was evacuated to England and eventually back to the United States where he continued to recover from his wounds.

    Raymond Boals was discharged from the Army with the rank of T/Sgt. on 25 March 1946. Due to his wounds, he was given a partial disability from the government. In May of that year, he married Mavis Mathis and settled on a homestead in Alcorn County in the town of Walnut, Mississippi. This is where they would live for the rest of their lives. Boals worked as a small farmer and at a garment factory in Corinth. He also spent some time as a laborer for Alcorn County and was then employed by the State of Mississippi. In 1951, he and Mavis had a son, and they named him Clinton, after his younger brother, a Marine, who was killed in action during the battle for Okinawa. It occurred to me after receiving this information from his son, that in April of 1945, Boals’s parents had not only gotten a telegram reporting he was Missing in Action, but they also received information of the death of their youngest son. I can’t imagine the sadness and grief at the loss of their youngest son, compounded by the anxiety and fear of their second son’s status as missing. According to his son Clinton, his father suffered from his wounds his entire life, but never wavered from his strong Christian faith. After serving his God, his family, and his country, Raymond Boals passed away on 14 November 1984 at the age of 61 at the VA Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Sadly, just this past April, his wife Mavis, 91, passed away.

    Clinton and Raymond, 1943

    Ship 42-96226, “Pretty Polly”

    General George Patton once stated that, “The nations of free countries are bordered by the graves of its warriors”. I find this statement to be quite profound and true. Over sixteen million Americans answered their country’s call during World War ll. Out of them, four hundred and seven thousand paid the ultimate sacrifice. My mom’s cousin, Harold L. Noelting, is one of thousands of Americans who are buried overseas bordering the free country’s that they helped to liberate. Heroism and noble self-sacrifice give us reason to believe in the greatness of a generation who went to Europe to be part of its liberation. I tried through my research to bring him and the men he served with into the light and out from the shadows of time. What I found is that their stories were not unique, rather they were representative of the legions of young American men from The Greatest Generation who would face the great challenges Admiral Halsey spoke of. Each one responding with bravery, endurance, and faith in the fear of the unknown. I did what I set out to do. I cherish every moment I spent looking into the pasts of these men and the great people I have met who helped me along the way. Harold is no longer just a name printed on a piece of paper, folded and placed in a drawer labeled, “family tree”. My research is over but my journey will not end until I visit his grave in France and thank him in person. I salute you cousin Harold, you are my hero. I’m proud you are part of my family tree.

    “There are no great men, there are only great challenges ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet”.

    Harold L. Noelting - KIA - 21 SEPT 1944