ETCETERA - Mont. town sheds light on WW-based B-17's WWII night landing

Advertisement

Using what they had on hand, Polson, Mont., townspeople came to the aid of a pilot needing to land a Walla Walla-based B-17 Flying Fortress there at night and in a hurry during World War II.

A Feb. 18 article in the Daily Inter Lake by Brandon Hansen outlined the events when U.S. Air Force Col. Herbert F. Egender returned a quarter-century later to the site of the Feb. 3, 1943, landing at Polson Airport to greet the folks who helped line the runway with car headlights that night.

On that day 69 years ago, the B-17 left the U. S. Army Air Corps Base in Walla Walla for a two-hour practice bombing run with pilot Lt. Jim Breeden at the controls. But bad weather and lost radio communications because of static interfered with their flight.

"The plane flew all afternoon and into the evening before Breeden found favorable weather above the Mission and lower Flathead valleys and saw the lights of Polson and Ronan," Brandon reported.

Alerted to a missing B-17 earlier in the day, Polson's telephone operator Maude Brassfield heard the bomber flying low and circling the town. She and fellow operator Louise Malgren alerted Polson residents to the situation.

Montana Highway Patrolman Wallace Beaudry and Les Baldwin led residents in their vehicles to the Polson Airport where they illuminated the runway with their headlights. Breeden was scoping out a field south of Polson for a belly landing.

"The crew observed cars lining up around the snow-covered runway, and their hopes immediately soared," Brandon reported. First the B-17 dropped its payload of practice bombs into Flathead Lake, then approached the airfield.

"At approximately 11 p.m., the wheels made touchdown with a rooster tail spray of snow. The deep snow actually acted as a brake, and thanks to the efforts of Polson residents, the B-17 was safe and sound on the ground.

About five minutes of fuel remained in the plane after the 12-hour flight."

A bombardier at the time, Herbert kissed the snow-covered ground upon exiting the plane.

"The landing in Polson that dark night in 1943 is deeply engraved in my memory, and the wonderful hospitality of the good people of Polson then and in 1968 will never be forgotten," he wrote to the Lake County Leader's Paul Fugleberg.

"Is it any wonder I have had a warm spot in my heart for Polson for more than 40 years?"

"Right after the plane landed, Egender took the plane's Norden bomb sight and stored it in the vault of Security State Bank. Lake County deputies guarded the plane, and the crew was taken into town for a T-bone steak dinner at the Hut Cafe.

"They then stayed the night at the Salish Hotel. The crew of eight would stay for the next couple of days in Polson, where they were treated like heroes, dining and dancing the time away with Polson residents."

The crew renamed the B-17 "The Polson Express."

Hundreds of Polson residents checked out the B-17 at the airport. School children even wrote their names on the fuselage. It is still the largest plane to ever land or take off from there.

"The landing incident made newspapers in Spokane, Missoula and Boise, Idaho. For the plane to leave, Lake County road equipment was used to lengthen the runway to 2,500 feet, but an experienced crew sent to take the plane back to Walla Walla got it in the air in less than 2,100 feet."

Among the crew members, Breeden was shot down during his first mission in Europe and become a prisoner of war.

Egender avoided being hit until Aug. 17, 1943. En route to Schweinfurt, Germany, on his 15th mission, he was shot down and taken prisoner.

The crew survived when The Polson Express was shot down over France on its eighth mission of the war. Those who were prisoners of war were released April 29, 1945.

Egender made the trip back to Polson in 1968 as a colonel, and Breeden would end up ranching in Montana near Augusta before he died in 1975.

•••

Veterans of Foreign Wars Grant Farmer Post 992 and Ladies Auxiliary held their annual essay awards luncheon Feb. 26 with more than 80 VFW members, winners and family in attendance, said Linda McBride, youth activities chairman.

Winning writers Luke Druffle, Hannah M. Gordon and Alexis M. Nordman also won first place at the district level.

Linda was pleased with the number of students who entered the essay contests. "By entering every year, you are preparing yourselves for doing better and better with each essay that you enter," she said.

These contests offer scholarship awards of $10,000 for the Patriot Pen and $30,000 for the Voice of Democracy contests at the national level. "So keep working. I know you can do it," she said.

Patriot Pen essay contest winners in eighth grade: Alexis M. Nordman, first; Connor S. Ferguson, second; Micah C. Gordon, third.

Sixth grade: Hannah M. Gordon, first; Jennifer A. Rau, second; Clarissa Vivianna Espana, third.

Junior Essay contest winners in fifth grade: Haden Wegner, first; Brett Ferguson, second; Rhawnwen Jones, third.

Fourth grade: Devon Adams, first; Hannah Tiner, second; Sadie Wegner and Avery VanBlaricom, tied for third.

Third grade: Luke Druffle, first; Shawn Evans, second.

Themes for 2012/2013 will be posted later this summer at www.vfw.org and www.vfwladiesaux.org .

•••

Walla Walla High School seniors Kyle Jameson and Emily Schueller are National Merit Scholar finalists, according to Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review. NMSC will announce this month whether they are scholarship winners. The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of more than 1.5 million entrants each year, and by meeting published program entry/participation requirements.

•••

Two outstanding seniors were recognized as Youths of the Month by Exchange Club of Walla Walla: Emily Schueller and Kyle Jameson were recognized at a club luncheon in the fall; both were entered in competition for the Regional Exchange Club Scholarship.

And Lexi Storm was recognized as Charter Media Student of the Month for January.

•••

Japanese print making and the work of masters Henri Matisse, Mary Cassat and Rembrandt provided some of the color and inspiration for a Prospect Point Elementary Family Art Night.

Prospect's SuperStar students and their parents enjoyed the process of creating together in the gym, reported Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review.

Ice cream may have helped fuel the creative process and raffle drawings for art supplies were held throughout the evening.

Several students won the grand finale raffle for a pizza luncheon at Carnegie Art Center Pottery Studio with Principal Chris Gardea. That evening of the arts is made possible because of partnerships with the following supporters: Picture Lab, which provided all art materials and project direction at no cost, Prospect Point staff and PTA, parent volunteers and Carnegie's pottery studio.

•••

DeSales High School sophomores Adam Eskil and Andrew Hayunga won the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bridge Building Contest Feb. 23 in DeSales' gymnasium.

Using one sheet of balsa wood and fastening materials, competitors built the most structurally efficient bridge they could, said Nancy Metro, director of admissions and community relations for Walla Walla Catholic Schools, in a release.

Scores are determined by the highest load-to-weight ratio. Freshmen Isaiah Scheel and Connor Richard came in second and senior Bethany Konen placed third.

Overall 46 participants, either in teams of two or in individual efforts, followed strict guidelines determined by the Corps.

•••

Berney Elementary kindergarten teachers and students donated 185 cans of food to Blue Mountain Humane Society, reported Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review. Teachers Carrie Gonzales, Lori Thomas and Kim Kearbey pitched in for the effort.

In December, Berney Student Council sold Christmas cards to support the Humane Society and raised $97.75 for the local nonprofit agency. When students delivered the funds, they got to meet the cats, dogs and two rats then in residence.

The school hosted a movie night that drew a record crowd of more than 120 parents, students, family members and staff, said Principal Donna Painter. They packed the Berney gym and watched "Dolphin Tale."

•••

Two Walla Walla School District middle schools sent musicians to compete in the 2012 Columbia Basin Music Educators Association's annual solo and ensemble festival the second weekend in February, said Roger Garcia, Walla Walla Public Schools music coordinator.

"Although our scores are not in yet, they all did a marvelous job on their performances," Roger said.

Garrison Middle School Band had 21 entries, 17 choir and 13 orchestra entries.

From Pioneer Middle School, there were four each band and vocal entries and five orchestra entries.

They prepared and performed solos and or ensembles in duets, trios, quartets and so forth for adjudication. They receive ratings ranging from 1 for superior, 2 for excellent, 3 for good, 4 for fair and 5 for poor.

Garrison had the largest number of students participating in the Columbia Basin region, he added.

•••

Fifteen local students attending Gonzaga University in Spokane earned placement on its honor rolls.

Those with 3.7 to 4.0 GPAs included on the president's list are: Janella Bermudez, Jaclyn Daltoso, Claire Elmenhurst, Alexander Hedine, Shelby Osborn, William Thorne and Kayla Watson, all of Walla Walla; Cameron Davis, College Place; Miguel Preciado, Touchet.

Earning 3.5 to 3.69 GPAs for inclusion on the dean's list are: Heather Diaz, James Graves, Danielle Hall, Kyndra Teal, all of Walla Walla; Andrew Mascall, Dayton; Jake Zaragoza, Milton Freewater.

•••

Sources show that Tom Wilson, comic strip artist of "Ziggy," wrote "You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."

Master gardener and rose expert Jerry Hendrickson chooses to rejoice. This is what members of the Walla Walla-Columbia Counties School Retirees Association sensed when he spoke at their February luncheon.

The Asotin resident discussed rose planting, pruning and care. His rose calendar of care lists things to do each month of the year, from soil testing, spraying, fertilizing and new planting, reported local association member Gordon Taylor.

Also at the meeting mini grants of $100 each were awarded to six area school employees. Winners were chosen by drawing names from the pool of applicants: Barbara Brown, Walla Walla High School; Toni Lynn Steele, Blue Ridge Elementary; Lori Kissinger, Davis Elementary, College Place; Tina Hector, Prescott Elementary; Andy Maheras, Dayton Middle/High School; and Olivia Leid, Waitsburg High School.

•••

It appears Washington state, particularly Walla Walla, is hot enough to sizzle on the worldwide wine industry scene.

In a Feb. 23 article at askmissa.com, writer Megan Phillips said Wine Spectator magazine notes 47 percent of the wines produced in our state rate at 90 points and "above - a much higher percentage than most of the wine producing regions in the world. That's a pretty stunning statistic considering we're up against famed wine producers in France, Germany and even our neighbors to the south, Oregon and California."

Superstar wines from here will be poured during a Walla Walla Wine event at Sodo Park in Seattle. The site is popular for weddings and other private events of all kinds.

"Some of my favorite wineries making the trek (so you don't have to) include Abeja (who will also be doing a tasting at Bin 41 in West Seattle today), Dusted Valley Vintners, Helix, Sleight of Hand and Va Piano. Just remember that once you try these wines, there's no going back to the two-buck-chuck," Megan said.

If you're in the Puget Sound area on March 12, there will be a public tasting from 6-9 p.m. at Sodo Park by Herban Feast, 3200 First Ave. S., Suite 100. Call 206-932-4717 for more details. Admission is $40 plus a $2.99 fee and reservations may be made at wallawallawinewa.eventbrite.com/.

•••

The University of Washington autumn quarter dean's list includes several students who qualified by completing at least 12 graded credits and having a GPA of least 3.50.

College Place: Christopher David Ferris, senior; Holly Elizabeth Erwin, junior; Chinonso Chidi Opara, sophomore.

Walla Walla: Michael Ryan Hui, Eva Louise Reich, Ksenia Skorohodova, seniors; Reanna Lee Hicks, Janet Loren Hill, Casey Jaye Hutchinson, Margaret Simone Kammer, Andy Joerg Swinnerton, juniors; Peter Gerrit Vander Griend, Seth Franklin Hampson, sophomores.

•••

Two Walla Walla High School teams of students recently won highest honors in this year's WordMasters Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry, according to Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review. Participating with 548 school teams from all across the country, Wa-Hi ninth-graders tied for 14th place in the nation in the year's first meet in October, while its 11th-graders placed third in the nation. The teams were supervised by Lori Dohe, a Wa-Hi English teacher.

Winning high honors for individual achievement are freshman Amanda Skurski, sophomore Alex Akins-Helford and junior Kera Parsons, who each earned near-perfect scores, placed among the 65 highest-scoring ninth graders, the 108 highest-scoring 10th-graders, and the 32 highest-scoring 11th-graders nationwide. Juniors Julia Cosma, Mary Beth Jones, Jaslyn Lacome, Melissa Nelson, Michaela Nordheim, Sydney Randall, Peter Rucker and Andrew Zahl all placed among the 105 highest-ranked 11th-graders.

Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment