Friends of DeRidder Army Air Base
Beauregard Regional Airport (KDRI)
1220 1st Ave,  DeRidder, Louisiana 70634
337 463 8250                                                    
World War II Bronze Star recipient, Howard Blackburn

Blackburn was awarded the Bronze Star for aircraft under his maintenance flew 150 combat hours without being forced to return because of mechanical failure

 

It was a long road from Simpson High School to the blood-filed waters of Normandy, but Howard Blackburn of Leesville did indeed circle the globe in World War II.

 

Blackburn served his country with excellence during World War II earning the Bronze Star Award and six Battle Stars.

 

His story began in Glenmora until 1933 when he moved to Louisiana Logging Camp, now known as LaCamp. He graduated from Simpson High School in 1938 then courted and married his late wife Allene, in 1941.

 

On Sept. 15, 1942 Blackburn joined the Air Force where he would begin his military career.

 

"My first stop was at Camp Beauregard, but I didn't stay there very long before I left for Louisville Ky., for Basic Training," Blackburn said.

 

Blackburn would then travel to Lincoln, Neb. to attend air craft school before going on to study at Oxnard and Van Nuys Calif. at Lockheed.

 

On June 9, 1943 the 383rd Fighter Squadron was activated and trained.  Blackburn was one of the first soldiers to serve in this squadron.

 

On Feb. 2, 1944 they departed from Camp Shanks, N.Y. for a seven-day trip on the Queen Mary docking in Glasgow, Scotland.

 

They then traveled to Bury St. Edmund, England by train and were assigned to an old English Air Craft Base.

 

"The barracks were old and they were heated with steam, they were cold," Blackburn said. 

Blackburn became a Technical Sergeant and the Crew Chief, ensuring that the planes were in working order before and after each mission.
Then came June 6, 1944, in Bury, St. Edmund. 

 



"We had four missions that day, trying to cover troops who were landing. We did skip bombing and strafing," Blackburn said.  Strafing is when low flying aircraft fire machine guns built into their planes.

 

"A pilot came in after the third mission and he said, 'I will not go back.  That water is red with blood and there are troops floating all over the English Channel, I am not going back.' I said, 'yes you are going back.

This plane is going and you're gonna be in it.' to which he replied, 'no I'm not, I'm gonna get drunk."  "I told him you are going to be in this plane in the next mission which is going to be in the next 45 minutes. You get you something to eat and get your butt back here and then I am going to see that you take off and make that fourth mission."  "He showed up in 45 minutes and he took off on the 4th mission. When he came back he told me he was sick to his stomach," Blackburn explained.

 

The next day they flew three missions keeping the Germans from sending in reinforcements.  By June 8, they were escorting bombers into Berlin.

 

Blackburn received recognition when the P-38 he was in charge of made the longest flight in the European Theater at 8 hours and 32 minutes.


"A pilot named Starnick went on a mission. He was gone a long time and I thought he was gone. I gave him up, I was sitting on the ground with tears running down my face, and I really thought a lot of him.  "At dusk dark, I heard the P-38 and I said, 'Lord I hope that's him.' The plane didn't circle the airport he just came in and landed. When he landed both of the engines dies. He was out of gasoline. I went and got a tug and pulled him in."  

 

Starnick had fallen under attack and had to take evasive maneuvers. After finally being able to come back to the airport and land both engines in his plane had to be replaced.

 

"DePatti (Blackburn's assistant) and I worked for 32 hours straight changing out those engines. We called Starnick to come and test fly the plane and he said it was ready to go," Blackburn said.  Blackburn and Starnick received recognition for the longest P-38 Flight in the European Theater and he and DePatti received special recognition for changing both engines in 32 hours.

 

This is just one of the many experiences that Blackburn and thousands of Veterans like him had during their service in World War II.

 

Blackburn was awarded the Bronze Star for aircraft under his maintenance flew 150 combat hours without being forced to return because of mechanical failure. Blackburn returned home and was honorably discharged on Sept. 15, 1945, three years to date when he joined.

 

He worked for 38 1/2 years for the railroad before retiring in December of 1980 and continues his enthusiasm in collecting models of the P-38s and P-51s he worked with during WWII and the trains which are still a

great source of pleasure for him.