When Brooks Burford was going through some of his father Vern’s things recently, he found an old envelope tucked away in a box of forgettables.
“Good thing I did,” Burford quipped.
The envelope contained 26 rare photos of ground-crew operations of the 100th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, Thorpe Abbotts, England, taken in 1944 and 1945.
“My dad spent World War II teaching flight instructors about systems aboard B-17s and B-29s at the Flying Fortress School at Boeing Field. All my years growing up in Magnolia, attending Briarcliff, Blaine and Queen Anne [schools], these pictures were in the house. I think he had completely forgotten about them,” Burford said.
The photos haven’t been seen since World War II. They show men at Thorpe Abbotts at work on their aircraft and on leave in war-torn London.
Burford surmised they were sent to his dad from England by one of the men he helped train.
“They’re amazing. These are grounds crew. They kept the planes flying so the ‘Bloody 100th’ could pound Nazi targets during hazardous daylight bombing campaigns,” he said.
The cost of the daylight raids was high, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the B-17s in a squadron shot down on each mission.
These pictures have never been published or seen until now. Burford said he used B-17 tail numbers to identify the planes. He then contacted an 8th Air Force veterans group, which directed him to the 100th Bomb Group Foundation (www.100thbg.com).
Burford forwarded the photos to the 100th Bomb Group Foundation, which has posted them on its website so families can identify the men in the pictures.
Vern Burford passed away in 2008.
Brooks Burford lived on 39th Avenue West in Magnolia, across from the water tower, and used to deliver the Magnolia News. He now lives in Portland, Ore.