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July 4, 2008

From the scrapbook of Lillian Uren
Oroville Mercury Register September 1944

McLain Now Sgt. And Wins Combat Medal 15th AAF In Italy- Recently promoted to sergeant, Allen R. McLain, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. McLain, Bridge ST., Oroville has been awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial operations against the enemy. A radio operator-gunner aboard a 15th Air Force Liberator, McLain has nearly a dozen combat missions to his credit since his arrival overseas in August. “We’ve bombed only a few of the really big targets,” said McLain. “Munich, Budapest and Vienna. Now I know why they call Vienna, ‘Flak Ally’. We were in the stuff for nearly ten minutes and they tell us we came in on a relatively easy bombing run. Those German gunners don’t fool around getting the range. Boom…Boom and those bursts are right off your wing tips. If they stay that far away I’ll be very thankful.” McLain’s group has been knocking out refineries, machine shops, ordinance works and rail yards in the Nazi cities. It also has demolished roads and bridges in northern Italy., Yugoslavia, the rest of the Balkans as well as the submarine pens in Greece. A graduate of Oroville Union High School Class of ’41 where he was a basketball player, he won a scholarship to the University of California prior to his enlistment November 1942. In a letter recently received by his parents, McLain wrote he was hospitalized in Italy. He assured them that although now writing with his left hand he would be all right in a couple of weeks.

Stu’s Notes: They were young, brave and full of energy, willing to go to the ends of the earth to fight Hitler’s Army, as my friend Nick often said “We saved the World” I recently talked to Allen McLain, one of these men. In 2005 he had sent me a list of Oroville High School men who went to war, but had no stories attached, not even of him. Thanks to Lillian Uren, I now have this story about Sgt. Al McLain. And thanks to Faye Anglin, his phone number, two calls later, I now have some of the “Rest of the Story” I consider myself a very lucky guy to get to talk to these soldiers of long ago. Al did get to college for one year, 1941-1942 then he joined the Army Air force and went off to war as so many young men did back then. Al tells me by the time he got in the fight the German Air force was virtually eliminated in their area. (a lot of Hitler’s Air Force was being saved to protect the German homeland, Hitler’s big push that became known as the battle of the Bulge Dec. 25, 1944. In Al’s case their biggest enemy was the very accurate Flak, exploding 88 millimeter shells that they had to fly through. These shells fired from the ground and could reach up 30,000 feet or more. Well, Al said, on October 4, 1944 one of these shells caught up with his B-24 Bomber just as he had stuck his hand into a box of Chafe, small aluminum strips they would throw out of the airplane to confuse the German radar operators, as the big shell tore threw the box parts of it tore threw his hand.. Luckily he had put on his Flak suit which protected his face and chest from the splintering box, although to wear the suit you had to take off your parachute, which would probably be hard to put on if your plane was falling. So many of our men were lost in our bombers, it’s no wonder why, they all knew this but they kept on anyway. Then the shell exited the plane without exploding, if it had I wouldn’t be writing this story and Al and his crew would have been on the list of over 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in WWII That wound ended Al’s flying career and he was assigned to other tasks. Al came home, went back to school on the GI bill. He graduated as an Electrical Engineer and went to work on the Folsom Dam for the Bureau of Reclamation and then for many years at Aero Jet in Sacramento. Al said another O.H.S. boy was in his group, Franklin “Bud” Lane but doesn’t know what became of him. Al will send me copies of his scrapbook.

About last weeks story on Don Casagrande, Sus Gomez called me, he knew the brothers and said Howard, the older of the three was on ships that transported materials, maybe the Merchant Marines and that Don’s wife taught school at OUHS.

Staff Sgt. Deborah Jean Shaner is not training at Camp Roberts, 7 days a week, with the California National Guard, they are now training 10-12 hours a day wearing full field gear, armored vest and all. She told me this after I had asked her if Camp Robert was as fun as Gold Lake “Y” camp, years ago.

The Liberator was one of our two main bombers in the European Theatre in WWII with a crew of 9 or 10 men. Over 12 thousand were made. It was a four engine heavy bomber. There are still a few flying and have come to Chico and Oroville in the past.

I just realized that I have mixed up Lillian Uren with her sister-in-law Dorothy Uren Hazelton. Lillian brought me her scrapbook to copy stories out of and Dorothy sent me an article on her husband. I am sorry for the mix up.

I hope you have a great 4
th of July today, we have been celebrating this day for more that 200 years. One of our earlier Presidents said we need to celebrate this day with a big bang.