Vaughn Steele

by Sandy Steele
(Pasco, WA, USA)

My father, Vaughn Steele, never talked much about his wartime experiences. He looked at those times as, “It was a job and I just did it to the best of my ability”. However, as time went by he did share a couple of incidents that he considered to be minor. One was a time when he landed at his base following a mission and discovered a shell in the bottom of his seat. He had no idea that the shell was there or where it came from. Another time he landed at his base with a flat tire. Again, he was not aware that the tire was flat.
Dad joined the Army Air Corp in April 1942 and was accepted as an Aviation Cadet in November of that same year. He began his training at Maxwell Field in Alabama. After completing his training he was assigned to the 512th Squadron of the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group as a pilot on a B-24 Liberator. Following training, he was sent to San Pancrazio, Italy where he completed 50 missions. Five of these missions were targeted over the Ploesti oil fields in Austria.
1st Lt. Vaughn S. Steele was discharged in April 1944 and returned home to Pasco, WA where he farmed grapes and worked on the railroad as an Engineer. Dad has since retired from both; however, he and my mother still reside on the farm.
Here is a story Dad recently told about an incident while he was in transition training.

"I don’t remember the date, but I think it was when we were in transition training while at Westover Field near Springfield, MA in late 1943.
We were supposed to fly a mission at high altitude formation but due to cloud coverage we would go up one at a time. We, I think, were the second plane to go up. At about 6,000 feet we went into the clouds flying 0 degrees and wind at altitude was 70 miles an hour out of the west so flying north with west winds, we will be drifting toward the Atlantic Ocean. We went into the clouds at about 6,000 feet and came out a considerable time later at 28,000 feet. I continued to 30,000 feet, spotted one plane and took chase. No radio contact was made and after a short chase I concluded there was not going to be any high altitude formation flying that day, so decided to head for home base. I flew south for about 15 or 20 minutes when I came very alert about the situation, now flying south with the west 70-mph wind. I don’t really recall, but I think it was around 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I then turned the radio to Westover Radio and headed west against that 70 mph wind. After a long flight and about 7 or 8 o’clock, we passed over Westover Radio at 30,000 feet, received permission to let down.
Letting down, getting into the clouds was still the same. All we had on the radio was static. We came out of the clouds at about 2,000 feet. The lights from the homes looked pretty close so I climbed back into the clouds. On the way to Westover the tower advised us to maintain position as they had a plane coming in. After a few minutes I passed over the station, circled the area until I had permission to approach for a landing. It seemed to be no problem but when, on the base leg of landing, I couldn’t see the runway. Passing over the field I spotted the runway and started my second attempt. The same thing happened on my second attempt only this time I continued my approach, spotted the runway and made my landing. That would have been my last attempt because by the time we landed and taxied the plane to the parking area, the weather was to the ground. Lou Ponder, a close friend of mine at that time, was in the other plane but it didn’t return to Westover Field. I feared the worst at that time – down in Lake Ontario. I don’t recall if he made it back – or not.
It was about 10:00 p.m. that night when we finally got back from our flight."

Comments for Vaughn Steele

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

May 05, 2013
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Great Story!
by: Anonymous

Another great story from America's greatest generation! Thanks!!!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Our veteran's stories.

376 ARCHIVES

The website 376bg.org is NOT our site nor is it our endowment fund.

At the 2017 reunion, the board approved the donation of our archives to the Briscoe Center for American History, located on the University of Texas - Austin campus.

Also, the board approved a $5,000 donation to add to Ed Clendenin's $20,000 donation in the memory of his father. Together, these funds begin an endowment for the preservation of the 376 archives.

Donate directly to the 376 Endowment

To read about other endowment donation options, click here.


My Trip to San Pancrazio

October 2019


Reunion

DATES: Sep 15-18, 2022

CITY:Wichita, KS

HOTEL: Wichita Marriott

9100 Corporate Hills Dr.

Wichita, KS

316-651-0333

Click here to read about the reunion details.

previous reunions


For Sale

The Other Doolittle Raid


The Broken Wings of Zlatibor


The Liberandos


Three Crawford Brothers


Liberando: Reflections of a Reluctant Warrior


376th Bomb Group Mission History


The Last Liberator


Full Circle


Shadows of Wings


Ten Men, A "Flying Boxcar," and A War


I Survived Ploesti


A Measure of Life


Shot Down In Yugoslavia


Stories of My Life


Attack


Born in Battle


Bombardier's Diary


Lost Airmen