#4 in a series
Lt. Leroy R. Borden, Tulsa OK
By Paul A. Roales
On June 27, 2009 I bought a HUGE collection of WW2 material belonging to Leroy Borden at the flea market in Tulsa, OK. Some of what I obtained included: Original pencil completed Navigator's Logs (Form 21A) for 30 of the 35 sorties he flew (I had never seen these before); 6 Large folded maps of Europe 3 are labeled as Flak maps and show areas where flak is concentrated; 30 8 1/2 x 8 1/2" B&W aerial photos showing target pre and post bomb runs; his pilots Log Book; various Orders; requests for medals; promotion certificate; xerox copies of over 30 photos; a 123 page typed document detailing his military experience written in 1990; and more.
This article will look in detail at Leroy's last sortie as a way to display some of the items I purchased. But first a brief summary of his career.
Leroy Borden was born March 12, 1919. He and his older brother Richard opened their first restaurant at 707 S. Cincinnati in Tulsa in 1935 when Leroy was only 16 and still in High School. By WW2 they had 3 restaurants. Leroy enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet program and was called up on Feb. 26, 1943. He took basic training at Sheppard Field near Wichita Falls, Texas then went to the University of Denver to begin his Cadet training. He then reported to Santa Ana Army Air Base in California for testing to decide if he would be trained as a pilot, navigator, or bombardier. He was assigned to Navigator training on August 30, 1943. He took Pre flight training at Santa Ana Army Air Base and then was sent to Las Vegas Gunnery School. He was sent to Hondo, Texas for Navigators training. He graduated in Class 44-8 on June 10, 1944, and was appointed a Second Lieutenant. From there he was sent to Gowen Field, Idaho (near Boise) for 1 month of training with the crew he was assigned to.
The crew was a “replacement crew” so they did not fly an aircraft to their overseas duty station, they went by Liberty ship. Their ship sailed from Newport News, VA and joined a convoy accompanied by Navy escort destroyers, sub chasers and other armed vessels since German submarines were still active in the Atlantic Ocean. The convoy traveled at a top speed of ten knots, zig-zagging often. They spent about 26 days at sea before they reached port at Naples, Italy in early October, 1944. They were assigned to the 15th Air Force, 47th Wing, 449th. Bomb Group, 717th. Bomb Squadron flying B-24’s out of Grottaglie Air Field in Southern Italy. They arrived in mid- October, 1944. Leroy flew his first mission in November, 1944 and was promoted to First Lieutenant in late March, 1945.
He completed his aviation career with 525 hours and 50 minutes of total flight time. Of that 408 hours 35 minutes were in a B-24, and 282 hours 5 minutes of that were in combat. He flew on a total of 35 sorties but was credited with 47 missions because some flights received double credit if they were long or over a dangerous target. However, if the mission is aborted before bombs are dropped it did not count as an mission at all. And he also flew a number of those.
After he flew his 35th sortie on April 19, 1945 he was sent to the Port of Embarkation at Naples, Italy on May 4, 1945. About a week later he boarded the converted luxury line USS United States for the trip back to the US. Since Germany had surrendered on May 8 there was no need for the USS United States to await a convoy, or zig-zag on the trip back. Consequently it took only 8 days for the return trip. Because of his restaurant background, he was assigned as a food service officer at the San Antonio Texas District Army Air Force personnel distribution center. He was mustered out of the service at Fort Sam Houston, Texas on October 15, 1945. He was awarded the Second World War Medal, European Theater Medal, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and 4 Bronze Battle Stars for his service.
His 35th (and last) sortie was to bomb the Avisio Railroad Bridge in Northern Italy on April 19, 1945. All the illustrations below are from material I purchased at the flea market. The first image below shows 2 of the aerial photographs from the Lot which show the Avisio Railroad Bridge. I have enlarged the image on the right from a later dated photo at a different scale to match the scale of the image on the left. Note that the Germans had built a "detour" around the original destroyed Railroad Bridge, so another bombing run was necessary.
The image below on the left shows the topographic map issued to the navigators upon which they plotted their course (seen in pencil) to and from the target. The red crayon circles are flak emplacements. Notice how they overlap near critical areas. On the right is the mission map which was posted in the ready room before the flight to illustrate the route to and from the target. On this map flak locations are marked with gray circles.
Below is the actual Navigator's Log (Form 21A) which Borden completed before and during this mission. The first image is the cover page. This measures 10x13". It lists the plane information, mission orders, weather forecast, flight plan, crew, and expected winds. This was probably completed before take off. In this case the crew was: 1st Lt. Blair Pilot; 2nd. Lt. Traynor co-pilot; and 1st. Lt. Borden navigator. The enlisted men on the crew were: Case, Ronneberg, McMahon, Kopinsky, Young, and Voelker.
Below that are the 2 pages completed during the actual flight. They each measure 10x26". It lists position, time, course (true and magnetic with drift), temperature, altitude, air speed (indicated and true), winds, ground speed, time and distance on run, time and distance to destination, weather, and remarks. I know the form is too small to read easily, so here are the remarks: "0812 1/2 Rendz 2 1/2 Min Late; 0900 Oxygen Check; 0930 Check Bomb Doors; 1058 12 P-38's 44-50 10-10; 1132 46-20 10-20 Hospital; 1136 #46 Dropped Bombs Thru Doors; 1140 #46 Drops Out Formation Just Short Of Silandro Few Miles; 1153 Bombs Away Bombs Of Boxes Ahead Hit In 1000' Circle Target Covered With Smoke Of Bomb - Unable To Determine Whether B-2 Bombs Hit M.P.I.; 1153 Flak Mod - Inacc - Heavy Breaking Below Even And Above Our Altitude; 1155 All Crew Check O.K.; 1225 12 P-38's At 44-30 10-40; 1250 #51 Left Box; No More Combat No More Flak No More B-24's To Sweat Out -Finis-".
After WW2 the brothers opened their first cafeteria at Ranch Acres, more were to follow. At one point they had 7 restaurants and cafeterias open at the same time. The last one was at 1st & Lewis, it closed in 1989. During their career the brothers had obtained quite a bit of real estate in Tulsa. This was divided between them when the last restaurant closed. Leroy died October 29, 2007 and his son Phil now manages his Fathers portion of the real estate business.
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