"Preserving the memory of their sacrifices!"
Francis E. 'Ed' Strotman
23 Feb 1918 - 9 Feb 1994
491st Bombardment Squadron
Flight Engineer-Gunner, 6 Jun 1944 - 16 Jun 1945
Francis Edward Strotman was the second child of five, first son born to Edward and Letha. He was born on a farm near St. Edward, Nebraska. His family moved to a farm near Aurora, the Seat of Hamilton County. Typical of the times, Francis had chores before and after school, and travelled a couple miles to the one-room schoolhouse. He was a good student and especially enjoyed arithmetic. Francis made it to the eighth grade before he had to drop out and assist with responsibilities of the farm and the family.
He was 24 years old, in a marriage which didn't last the war, when he joined the Army Air Corps in Jan 43. He was billeted in a Jacksonville, FL, hotel with the sandy beaches as training grounds during basic, where he picked up the nick name "Ed". He received mechanic training from March through September 1943 at Amarillo Field, Texas. Then moved on to gunnery training at Las Vegas, Nevada, from September 1943 through February 1944. He traveled back to the East Coast to begin aircrew training.
Because he was hospitalized with pneumonia, Francis was left behind when the B-17 squadron he had been training with deployed to Europe. He was then assigned to a B-25 replacement unit. In May of 1944, his aircraft was part of a group of B-25Js which flew the 'southern' route from Florida to New Delhi or Karachi, India. They then flew over 'the Hump' to join with the 491st Bombardment Squadron at Yangkai, China.
Between June 1944 and June 1945 "Ed" flew combat missions in the India, Burma, China and New Guinea operational theaters, earning an Air Medal and four Bronze Stars (one with Valor). He also was awarded a Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Medal, with 2 overseas bars. He returned to the states in July '45, ending up at Pampa AAF, Texas, which he helped to close, and received his discharge at Lincoln AAF, Nebraska, shortly before the 491st's inactivation in Nov '45.
He married Eleanor Van Housen on August 22, 1946, and fathered, and helped raise their two sons, Tony (1947) and Tom (1951). Francis enjoyed farming, flying and flying machines, dirt track racing, catching big fish, and conversing with friends over a libation or two, but his passion was for DANCING - swing, jitter bug, polka or waltzes. Over the years he farmed, hauled livestock and did a few other things to make his livelihood.
Francis seldom spoke to his young sons of his wartime experiences. His feelings about the USAAF are unknown. However, we may gain a hint in the fact that both of his sons had distinguished U.S. Air Force careers. Tony enlisted in 1966 and retired as a Master Sergeant in 1987. Throughout most of his career Tony was involved with instructing on and maintaining Intrument Flight Trainers and Aircrew Mission Simulators. Meanwhile brother Tom joined in 1970 and retired in 1992 as a Senior Master Sergeant. Tom's entire carrer was with the Civil Engineers, Heavy Equipment.
In 1983, Francis began a model of a 491st Bomb Squadron B-25H to commemorate the veterans of the 491st and the 341st Bomb Group. He planned to donate it and his remaining memorabilia, coins, medals and a photo album, to a museum or archive. However, due to a paralyzing stroke Francis suffered on Father's Day 1986, he was unable to continue the project.
On February 19th, 1994 Francis Edward Strotman left this world to join formation with his departed comrades from the 491st Bomb Squadron on their final mission. May they all enjoy a "milk run", with two good engines, clear blue skies, lots of altitude under their wings, unlimited visibility, plenty of fuel in their tanks and miles of runway ahead of them!