Who was "Hickman"?

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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby dogsbody » Sat Jul 11, 2015 1:41 am

More great detective work, Rajay.
"What young man could possibly be bored
with a uniform to wear,
a fast aeroplane to fly,
and something to shoot at?"
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby MrWidgeon » Sat Jul 11, 2015 5:13 pm

Let me guess, there's still more to come.
Outstanding work Rajay.

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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby Rajay » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:42 am

Good guess. Latest angle focused on Ernie Helms...

The Reading (PA) Eagle
March 20, 1942

Aeronautically Speaking
By Nick Moser

To Ellen Gery, of 140 Windsor St., goes the distinction of being one of Reading’s most air-minded young women. After learning that a class of women pilots was being organized at Madeira Field, Ellen came here from New York, where she was working to learn to fly – in a hurry.

Miss Gery, Ernie Helms, and Fritz Bachman have been doing some missionary work to get other girls to enroll. Four others have been registered and they begin flight training over the weekend. These skyways Sallies organized a club and elected Geraldine Palmer, of 500 North 11th St., as president.

Other officers are: Mickey Wertz, of North Third Street, vice president; Fern Kindt, 250 West Douglass St., secretary, and Miss Gery, treasurer. Martha Kellinger, of 304 Oley St., is the fifth member. Misses Kindt, Wertz, and Palmer are secretaries, and Miss Kellinger is a knitter helper at the Berkshire Knitting Mill.

These girls mean business and they proved it when they purchased their own airplane, a Taylorcraft. The ship is now being re-conditioned from nose to tail and Miss Gery is helping to do the job. She is frequently seen in slacks at Madeira Field as the overhaul job continues. The plane is ready to fly.

Miss Gery said five more girls are required to fill the quota of the club and she pointed out that ownership of the plane has cut the flying costs considerably. While the girls are still pondering over a name for their organization, might I suggest an appropriate insignia – a rather buxom winged female with a rolling pin? (I think that Mr. Moser must have been quite a “tool” even for 1942!) Such women’s units are springing up at many places over the country. In Rochester, N. Y., 20 women are earning their wings in anticipation of emergency service for the government, just as the local girls plan to do. After the local women receive their licenses, their unit will become a separate squadron in the local Civil Air Patrol.

Miss Gery wants to continue with her training beyond the private pilot stage, her ambition being a commercial rating. Only one Berks County girl has ever advanced that far and she is now residing in Florida. She is Betsy Ross.

Thissa and Thatta Department

For nearly two hours the other afternoon your correspondent was in a huddle with McCormick Moore, president of the Reading Aviation Association, Ernie Helms, commander of the CAP, and Private William S. Hall, Jr. a member of the Pennsylvania Motor Police and the CAP. There was a lot of “off the record” conversation, but I can report that the meeting of the RAA Thursday evening, March 26, at the Berkshire Hotel, is going to be worthwhile.

Mack Moore plans to introduce a new type of program with discussions principally of a local nature. Included will be a local news resume, “just like the newsreel in the movies,” Moore commented.

Members of the CAP have been receiving mission assignments recently. Insignia of the CAP will be affixed to each member’s plane, Helms reported.

Louise O’Brien, who was a hostess on the first arrival of TWA’s flight 52, the new daily eastbound flight on Monday, served as hostess on the first plane to land here when airline service started on August 1. She was a bit hesitant about having her picture taken this week because she had spilled some soup on her uniform while serving meals aloft between Pittsburgh and Reading.

If you ever get into a conversation with Councilman John A. Gingrich and you are not aeronautically inclined, don’t mention it to him. The councilman is going “all out” for aviation and he has some big plans in store for after the war. He really is keeping his ear to the ground on aviation subjects and believes this industry will take up the slack in employment, when peace comes again.

Red’s wife was giving us the low-down at Madeira Field the other afternoon on how she learned to fly at Berks Airport.

The Flyers Club of Madeira Field is planning a dinner-dance for the near future.

Special Delivery

The first example of coordination between the Civil Air Patrol and civilian defense forces was given in West Leesport on Wednesday afternoon. With Ernie Helms, commander of the local squadron, at the controls of a Taylorcraft, a message for the defense chairman was dropped in a special container. Among the duties of the CAP are dropping messages to ground forces; carrying food and medical supplies to military units and isolated civilians, etc. The commander may jot down in his little notebook “mission successfully completed” on this job.
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby Rajay » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:48 am

2 months later...

The Reading (PA) Eagle
May 3, 1942

Page 20

Civil Air Patrol to Engage In Maneuvers With Local Reserve Defense Corps
By Nick Moser
Eagle Staff Writer

The theoretical tactics of war will be placed into practice by members of the Reading squadron of the Civil Air Patrol when they go out to meet the “enemy” two weeks from today.

The “foe” on this occasion will not be hard to overcome, according to the advance plotting on this experimental maneuver, Commander Ernest G. Helms announced.

But on Tuesday afternoon and evening, June 2, there’ll be machine gun and rifle fire, “invading” para-troops, “enemy” planes, smoke screens, gas barrages and everything that goes with a real attack, Helms disclosed.

Preparations for this mock warfare have been made by Capt. Walter J. Gipprich, commander of the local detachment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Defense Corps, and Helms and his staff of officers of the CAP.

The maneuvers on Sunday, May 17, will include only the spotting of home guard troop movements from the air. Fliers will be sent aloft to seek out the would-be enemy and report back to headquarters, which will be at Madeira Field, Helms said.

Up to Observers

It will be up to the pilot and his observer to determine whether the ground forces are moving in a squad, platoon, or company; the direction of travel and the location when spotted. Groups of pilots will be assigned to various sections of the county and the movements of Gipprich’s men will be a secret. The men on the ground must be “discovered” by the Civil Air Patrol.

The plans for June are far more extensive, according to a joint announcement by Helms and Gipprich.

At that time parachute troops will attempt to “invade” the Municipal Airport, while another “enemy” contingent will attempt to “seize” a local industrial plant. On the ground the defense corps members will take the role of the enemy and defender, as will the Civil Air Patrol in the air.

Both the land and air forces will be at full strength at that time, the respective commanders announced. It has been indicated that some army planes may be based at the Municipal Airport by June and may take part in the maneuvers.

To Summon Defenders

For the June war games, the members of the land and air forces who will portray the role of the enemy will be sent on their missions. The remaining members will stay at their homes until word is received that the “foe” is active. Telephone lines will hum with activity, summoning the defenders into action.

Headquarters will hurriedly be established “somewhere in Berks County” because the defenders will be under the belief that any of three airports around Reading will be subject to attack. When the defenders encounter the “enemy,” there will be plenty of gunfire, Captain Gipprich predicts. Smoke pots will be lighted to provide a camouflage for troops and equipment.

It will be the first time that all of the CAP members will be granted an opportunity to act in unison. Every member will receive a definite assignment, which will be carried out strictly on a military basis. There no doubt will be umpires to determine the successes of both the “enemy” and defenders.

Pioneering by Helms

Establishment of the local Civil Air Patrol has been the outgrowth of pioneering on the part of Helms. It was during the summer of 1941 that pilots organized a unit known as the Civil Air Defense Service. It was the second group of its kind in Pennsylvania, the other being at Lancaster.

It wasn’t until early this year that the federal government realized the importance of the private pilot and the part he could play in national defense. Once the movement gained national impetus, stat commanders were appointed and organization started.

Duties of the pilot-members have been far-flung and varied. Only a few assignments have been given the local members, Helms said. All of them, however, are subject to call at any time at any place in the nation.

William L. Anderson, of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania wing commander, reported that the state’s CAP flew a month-long test mission for the U. S. Army, transporting vital war necessities to bases from Maine to Florida without any difficulties.

Test Is Successful

Flying numerous types of civilian craft, the civilian pilots piled up 2,500,000 pound-miles at an average cost of ten cents a mile. Ships employed ranged from tiny Cubs to five-pace Stinsons and Fairchilds, Anderson, said.

The test was described as “successful” by the youthful Anderson, whose organization has almost 2,000 members, of whom 75 per cent are pilots, and upwards of 1,000 civilian planes at its disposal.

Anderson predicted that as many as 400 civilian pilots will fly into Black Moshannon Airport, buried deep in the Centre County hills, on Decoration Day when the unit will undergo a “training mission” to show what it learned from months of winter ground study.

Pilots will be checked on success of their flight plan for reaching the airport, formation flying, bombing, acrobatics, and lost-plane hunting, Anderson said.

The state commander predicted that gasoline rationing will not affect civilian flying, basing his assertions on the fact that the army is anxious to have civilian pilots get as much training as possible.

Washington Gives Approval

When the local squadron was first formed it was fashioned after the set-up in Lancaster. Applicants were fingerprinted by the state police. When the air corps took over control, members and applicants had to be fingerprinted again and they were also photographed. These prints and pictures were forwarded to Washington where applications were approved.

Fliers and non-fliers are included in the personnel. The non-fliers will be used as observers or ground personnel, Helms said. For the past nine weeks the entire group has been going through drills in the Armory, where they have learned how to march correctly, military courtesy, first aid, defense against gas, organization of the army, navy, marines, and air corps, and how to perform as a soldier without arms.

The army tactics are being taught by Maj. Joseph D, Eisenbrown, retired Pennsylvania National Guard officer, and Captain Gipprich. Six women already are active in the unit and the eight members of the recently organized Reading Girl’s Flying Squadron at Madeira Field hope to join as soon as they have their licenses.

Women in Organization

The women already enrolled are Mrs. Fances Nolde, who is one of the public relations and intelligence officers, Grace Reppert, Mrs. John Guenther, Jean Esterly, Ann Houser, and Arline E. Horn. They, too, report for drill practice each Tuesday night at the Armory.

To go into more detail about the CAP would be divulging military secrets, Helms points out. So, we’ll pause here and state that come what may, the local squadron of the Civil Air Patrol is ready.

Members of the CAP, with the pilots being designated by the number of hours they have flown, are:
Edward W. Angstadt, 336 Windsor St., 255 hours
Francis Bachman, 540 Robeson St. 2,000 hours
Paul H. Beiswanger, 738 Pear St., 105 hours
Alfred M. Bertolet, 1428 North 14th St., 2,500 hours
Marvin J. Binkley, Jacksonwald, 140 hours
Grant A. Blimline, Boyertown, 80 hours
Ben Bohrer, Mt. Penn, 610 hours.

George F. Boyer, Womeldorf, 610 hours;
Harding Breithaupt, Mt. Penn, 700 hours;
William C. Cullen, Newmanstown, 150 hours;
Jesse Dresher, 1042 North Tenth St., 25 hours;
Raymond P. Dunkelberger, 719 Ritter St.;
Leroy F. Eisenhauer, 1611 North 11th St. 75 hours;
Jane F. Esterly, 224 West Oley St., student pilot;
Bradley B. Evans, South Temple, 14 hours;
Harold G. Evans, West Lawn, 370 hours

Womeldorf Man a Member

Seth D. Folk, 556 North Fifth St., 97 hours
Paul P. Gangemi, 209 Franklin St. 46 hours
Theodore Gensemer, Reading R. D. 1, 480 hours
Noel S. Geyer, 39 Crestmont St., 20 hours
Walter H. Grimes, Womelsdorf, 265 hours
Eleanor C. Guenther, 1025 Penn St., 210 hours
William S. Grubb, Boyertown, 135 hours
James M. Haag, 612 Bruckman Ave., 40 hours
Marshall Hall, Pine Grove, 400 hours

William S. Hall, West Reading, 150 hours
George B. Hiester, Stony Creek Mills, pilot, no record of flight hours
Dr. Carl M. High, 1600 North 12th St., 103 hours
Richard I. Himmelberger, West Lawn, 54 hours
Ann Houser, 259 North Front St.
Arline E. Horn, Orwigsburg, 70 hours
James Johnson, 1294 Perkiomen Ave., 20 hours
Dr, Harry A. Kaniss, 141 North Fifth St., 243 hours
John S. Keesey, Pine Grove R. D. 1, 20 hours

Bart F. Kilraine, Pottsville R. D. 1, 50 hours
Robert A. Krug, 235 McKnight St., 32 hours
Robert E. Lesher, 375 hours
Walter A. Leibelsperger, Free-something? R. D. 1, 200 hours
Clarence C. Lewis, 1008 Penn St.
Walter M. Loose, 1248 Luzerne St., 260 hours
Herbert A. Ludwig, 112 Robeson St., 500 hours
Marquis C. J. Markle, Reifton, 2,400 hours
Thomas Masono, 347 Miller St., 90 hours
John T. Moore, South Temple, 2,000 hours

McCormick G. Moore, Jr. this city, 100 hours
John A. Morris, Pottsville, 300 hours
Leon Mull, 1732 Perkiomen Ave., 226 hours
Frances W. Nolde, this city, 30 hours
Chester Pankowski, Birdsboro R. D. 2, student
George Phillippy, Lincoln Park, 100 hours
John A. Price, 3342 Marion St., Laureldale, 115 hours
Carl A. Reber, Lincoln Park, 465 hours

Hamburg Women Volunteers

John B. Renninger, 516 Heine St., 128 hours
Grace Reppert, Hamburg, student
William M. Rubin, Shoemakersville, 150 hours
Nevin H. Rupp, 118 Church St. 150 hours
Anthony E. Schmittinger, Jr., Monoc??, ??
Herbert W. Sneed, Sinking Spring R. D. 1, 78 hours
Edward C. Sickel, West Reading, 100 hours
Adam J. Spatz, Sinking Spring, 1,800 hours
Clarence J. P. Stein, Kutztown, pilot, no record of flight hours
George J. Super, Lincoln Park, student
John O. Sweitzer, Bernharts, 1,000 hours
Leo T. Troutman, Temple, 160 hours
Dr. Leland F. Way, Berkshire Hotel, 527 hours
John A. Yingst, Lebanon, 400 hours

Helms pointed out that the flying hours listed were the ones given when various members enrolled and in some cases are very much higher at present. The commander was proud of the fact that most all enrollees are fliers, but did not discourage the non-fliers because he said “their services will be valuable on the ground.” He said the local organization has been praised for its primary efforts and added that “I hope we continue to make a good showing.”

Besides Helms, other members of the staff are:
Sergt. Edward C. Sickel, of the West Reading barracks of the Penn. Motor Police, executive officer
John O. Sweitzer, junior executive officer
Jesse Dresher; adjutant
Doctor Kaniss and Doctor High, medical officers
Major Eisenbrown and Captain Gipprich, ground training and operations officers
Alfred M. Bertolet and Adam J. Spatz, air training and operations officers
Mrs. Nolde and Nick Moser, public relations and intelligence officers
And flight leaders,
“A” Francis Bachman,
“B” Harding Breithaupt,
“C” Theodore Gensemer

Helms said fine cooperation had been experienced from the four Berks airports – Berks, Madeira, Womelsdorf, and Municipal. Each of these fields is represented by a good number of pilots he added.
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby Rajay » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:58 am

Finally I found somewhere online (I'll have to go back and look for the link again but you could probably find it yourself in the meantime via a Google search...) a copy of an unofficial history of the CAP's Coastal Patrol Base No. 6 that was built from scratch on the grounds of the McKinnon (ironic, huh?) Airport on St. Simons Island, GA. Guess where Ernie was sent...

Ernie Helms didn’t have a chance to participate in the second set of local wargames that according to the May 3rd newspaper story were planned for early June 1942 in Reading, PA and Berks County. He was ordered to report to the new CAP Coastal Patrol Base No. 6 on St. Simons Island, GA at the end of May 1942 for “active duty” under the aegis of the Army Air Corps for which he was formally commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.

At some point he was followed to St. Simons Island and CAP Coastal Patrol Base No. 6 by at least a couple of his CAP Reading squadron officers, Jesse Dresher and John O. Sweitzer.

The unofficial history of the CAP unit at St. Simons Island written by one of Ernie’s squadron mates, John H. Batten (CAP 62149) who later rose to the rank of Colonel in the CAP, indicates that Ernie Helms was there for the duration of the base’s active operations from the end of May 1942 until January 1944, after which CAP operations there were shut-down in February 1944.

The CO of CAP Patrol Base No. 6 for that whole time was Maj. Thomas H. Daniel, Jr. (CAP serial 4-2-36) of Atlanta, GA. He first reported for duty there on May 12, 1942.

For the record, this history of the unit lists Ernie Helms’ CAP serial number as 3-1-200 and that he reported for active duty on May 27, 1942, just 10 days after conducting the first planned combined services wargames with his former local unit in Berks Co. PA – and the week before the second set of wargames that he had planned for the first week of June 1942.

The records in this unofficial history written by Col. Batten also show that after CAP Patrol Base No. 6 at St. Simons Island, GA was shut down, its commander, Maj. Daniel was called to Washington for an interview during which he was offered the job of succeeding Maj. Jack R. Moore as commander of the “Mexican Border Patrol” – i.e. Southern Liaison Patrol No. 2 based at Anderson AAF in El Paso, TX.

Apparently Maj. Daniel was a bit concerned about following behind the well-known and seemingly almost legendary Maj. Moore and so he asked to be allowed to take some of his staff from Georgia with him. By the time the CAP operations at St. Simons Island, GA were completely shut down in February 1944, Maj. Daniel was already in El Paso, TX and Jack R. Moore stepped down as CO of Southern Liaison Patrol No. 2 on 15 March 1944.

That apparently is how Ernie Helms ended up in west Texas and probably met Vern Hickman and Jack R. Moore for the first time. Alternately, I suppose that since Ernie was based in St. Simons Island near Brunswick, GA while Jack R. Moore and Vern Hickman were based in James Island near Charleston, SC and it is a fact that CAP encouraged communication and sharing of ideas between bases and that Patrol Base No. 6 was considered a particularly successful operation, it is also possible that they crossed paths previously, but I have yet to see any specific evidence of that.
Last edited by Rajay on Sun Jul 12, 2015 5:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby Rajay » Sun Jul 12, 2015 5:47 am

Coastal Patrol Base 6 unit history file (in Adobe .pdf) is here:


Just copy and paste the "link" above into your browser and it'll automatically download the original ~3.5 MB file.

The cover page is upside-down. I had to use a full version of Acrobat to edit and correct my copy.
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby MrWidgeon » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:01 am

From Rajay:
Ernie Helms and the local Reading, PA. CAP squadron just before he was ordered to report for active duty at the base in GA..

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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby Rajay » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:05 pm

Thanks very much, Bill!
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Re: Who was "Hickman"?

Postby MrWidgeon » Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:45 pm

Sorry it took so long, I've been playing with (a very slow) Photobucket.

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