Elmer Lee Whitmire
88th Troop Carrier Squadron / 438th Troop Carrier Group
78th Troop Carrier Squadron / 435th Troop Carrier Group
Flight Officer Elmer L. Whitmire was a dual rated power/glider pilot in the USAAF. This means he was trained and qualified to fly both powered aircraft as well as gliders. He joined glider pilot school of Laurinburg-Maxton Air Base and qualified as a glider pilot in October 1944.
He arrived at Greenham Common Air Base in November 17, 1944 and was assigned to the 88th TCS, 438th TCG, under the command of Major Robert W. Gates. He flew part of the air supply mission over Bastogne in December 1944. In February 1945 he was involved in Mission Red Ball, the supply drop at Prüm.
He was transferred to the 78th TCS, 435th TCG on March 21, 1945 at the Airbase of Bretigny, France (advanced airport A48) in preparation for operation Varsity.
On March 24, 1945, Lee finally took off as co-pilot of Waco CG4 glider number 134 piloted by FO Otis Cook. There was also on board Lt Colonel Joseph Keating, CO of the 681st GFAB, Major Rex Light, S3 and Pfc Harold Snyder with his jeep. On take-off, the tow rope snapped and the glider landed back at the airfield. The load was transferred to another glider, and another tow plane took off with the single glider. They were behind their own outfit and joined a serial of the 314th Troop Carrier Group.
The glider arrived over the landing zone at 12h15. It landed on rapidly to avoid the German flak, approximately one mile from the right place and very closed to the house located Schmitthauskamp n°1. The crew discharged rapidly under MG and small arms fire.
GI's tribute - 194th GIR The two pilots stayed with Lt-col. Keating and survey section to join the 194th GIR CP. The group encountered intense enemy activity and arrived at the CP around 20h00. Almost all men arrived in the CP with the exception of Lt Murphy, leader of the survey section and Captain Katsumi Nakadate, battalion surgeon who were wounded early after the landing. They were left near the gliders.
Once arrived at the CP, the pilots were assembled in an infantry company attached to the 194th GIR. Lee was member of the 5th squad, 4th platoon of the 435th Glider Combat Team commanded by 1st Lt Earl Davis. During the night, German troops launched an attack on the Combat Team lines with approximately 200 soldiers supported by one tank, one self-propelled gun and two 20mm guns. The Air Force soldiers repulsed the assailants and took many prisoners in a battle that became famous under the name of “Burp Gun Corner Battle”.
After the Rhine mission, Lee stayed for some weeks with the78th TCS, flying supplies to the frontlines in Germany.
Lee returned in his unit, the 88th TCS on April 20. The group was located at the airport A79 in Prosnes, France. It moved to Amiens, France on May 03 and later to Hannau, Germany (in September) as occupation force. He married a French girl.
Lee was decorated with the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Bronze Star Medal, he received a citation for Ardennes, Alsace and Rhineland campaign. He was credited with four combat missions and three campaigns (Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe).
He passed away in 1973.