Saturday, March 19, 2016

If you've been pursuing your family history very long, you know at some point the "Happy Dance" moments don't come as frequently as they use to.  You've gathered all of the low-hanging fruit, and it takes a little more perseverance to learn something new.   But, oh, when you do...!!

Today a package came in the mail, addressed to me.  When I saw the return address, I knew what it was, and it was all I could do to get into the house with the armload of things I already had without dropping something.  As soon as I was able, I ripped into it, almost in a frenzy by then.   It was a copy of a flight log book from World War II, kept by 1st Lieutenant Joseph Leonard, the pilot that my great-uncle, radar observer Raymond Christensen, had teamed with.  At best, I was hoping for some mention of Raymond, but I really had no idea what sort of information was recorded by the pilot.  My expectations were far exceeded.

I learned that 1st Lt Leonard and my great-uncle spent quite a bit of time training together in England, which I had not realized.  The book logged nearly every flight Raymond made while in the 417th Night Fighter Squadron, with dates and times, at least those made with Leonard, which were likely most of them.  In addition, other personnel in the plane were noted, the type and number of the aircraft flown, and the reason for the flight (i.e. convoy patrol) and destination, if applicable, and how long they were in the air.  This information, particularly the reason for the flight, when correlated with Raymond's descriptive letters home, will give a particularly well-detailed look at Raymond's time with the 417th.

Unfortunately, the entries in the log book stopped abruptly in February, 1944, 3 months before their ill-fated flight of May 13, when the plane and crew went missing.   As a rule, they would have flown between 2-4 times per week , so there are a significant number of flight logs missing.  My guess is that this book was replaced by a new one which has been lost to history (so far), as I believe the pilots were required to keep these records.  Perhaps finding this log this will be our next big breakthrough - and cause the next "Happy Dance."

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