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Joseph Warren Roundhill

Military

JW was born in Seattle, August 1, 1923, of English parents. In 1933, during the world wide depression, his Mother decided to take JW and his two siblings to England and the comfort of her family until normalcy returned.

In September 1939, while still living in Caversham Berks, WW II came to Europe. Soon thereafter J.W joined the local R.A.F ATC program. In 1941, when of age, he enlisted in the R.A.F and became an Under Training Pilot.

In 1943 JW joined the USAAF in London where after orientation at Chorley, Lancs, he was assigned to 8th AAF Hqs., at Bushy Park G-2 Intelligence. JW gathered data originating from the Continent freedom fighters and displayed the information in General Eaker’s data room.

Wanting to fly combat and not return to the States for further Pilot training JW was posted to the 379th Bomb Group. It was at Kimbolton Hunts, that he was nicknamed ‘Limey” due to his ten years of accrued accent.

Limey became a B-17 waist gunner where on his second mission to the most fearsome of targets, “Schweinfurt”, his fellow waist gunner, Doc Noonan was hit by shrapnel from exploding enemy ordnance. The red hot fragment came through an under arm opening of Doc’s flak jacket and entered his heart. They had been standing back to back trying to protect each other. Loosing “Doc”, such a swell person, is an event JW has never forgotten.

For his last ten missions JW became a Togglier flying in the Bombardier’s nose position. Limey flew thirty-two missions for which he received, The Distinguished Flying (DFC) Cross and 4 Air Medals.

Recently The French Republic awarded JW their highest honor ‘The Medal of Honor’.

After the war, JW settled in Seattle and worked 32 years with Boeing, before founding his own International company ‘Patterns Unlimited’ providing spares for worldwide discontinued patterns of table top items of china, crystal and sterling.

JW was married for sixty-one years before losing Betty to cancer. They have three boys; from which JW now has 5 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and a great, great grandchild. His story is one of those told in the B-17 case in the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford.

Joseph Warren's -known as JW- background was somewhat unusual for a GI. Both his parents were English by birth but his father had emigrated to Canada at the age of sixteen. He met his future wife when serving with the Canadian army in England during the First World War and eventually persuaded her to marry him in Vancouver in 1922. JW was born in 1923 apparently in Seattle - hence an American citizen - where his father had opened a store. Some years later during the Depression of the 30's his mother left his father - by then an alcoholic -and took their three chidren back to England.

In England the family were shunted around between relatives until his mother opened a boarding house near Reading. JW left school at fourteen to become a toolmaker's apprentice at Philipson Powis, manufacturers of the Miles Magister the RAF's primary trainer. He also studied engineering at evening classes and at the tender age of sixteen was made 'assistant efficiency manager' drawing £5 a week, a very large sum in those days. When he wasn't at evening classes he was taking part in the RAF Cadet programme and when old enough volunteered to serve in the RAF. He was sent to Oxford where he passed all the initial physical and intelligence tests and a few months later was taken in as an RAF cadet; a US flash on his shoulder. His ambition was to eventually link up with the American Eagle Squadron, encouraged by an attaché at the American Embassy who seems to have been his mentor.

He was sent to Scarborough for basic training where he managed to alienate his instructors 'I was outspoken and proud to be an American' and was not accepted for pilot training. He took his discharge from the RAF in July 1942 and after some wrangling over his exact allegiances and again with the help of his 'mentor' was at last able to join the American Air Force n May 1943. His younger brother was going through the same procedures and joined him at one point in the same US assembly area where JW was on duty as a temporary MP.

His next assignment was to Bushey Park Headquarters of USAAF; his task to collect the films taken by the French Underground of the bomb damage inflicted by the daylight raid and which had been picked up by RAF Lysanders. He would the take the films under armed escort to the photographic interpreters' section. However JW still wanted above all to fly and he managed to wangle a transfer to the 379th BG at Kimbolton, his role initially that of aircraft identification instructor. Persisting in his desire to get airborne he persuaded his then boss to arrange gunnery instruction for him. He thus officially qualified as an air gunner and was accordingly posted to 526 Sqdn as a replacement gunner; most bomber crews having already formed up in the USA. He was immediately dubbed 'Limey' a name which stuck throughout his service.

His first mission was to be on 20th February 1944 as right waist gunner, where he was coached in all the unauthorised but useful methodology of a gunner by the experienced left waist gunner; pointers which probably were to later save his life. The second mission was to Schweinfurt - that ill-fated target of October 1943 - and flak suits were in order. By a fluke the suit failed to save the aforementioned left waist gunner who was killed by shrapnel and JW saw his first dead man. After his fourth mission with that particular crew the first pilot had a breakdown and had to be replaced. JW himself was still very much a replacement gunner and flew with several different crews and in multiple roles including that of nose gunner who had the dubious advantage of being able to see everything coming at them...A frightening experience, not helped by shrapnel coming at him on one occasion and destroying his so-called 'lucky' stuffed monkey..

When his first tour ended JW asked to stay in England alongside his mother, sister and newly acquired fiancée in the ATS rather than be sent back to the USA as was the custom. He got his way and was sent to a special unit at Chipping Ongar to learn German. Unfortunately the damp air endangered by the nearby river Thames triggered his asthma - which he had thus far managed to conceal - and this time the system won; he was put on a hospital ship and shipped to the States for treatment and rehab. Whilst undergoing the latter at Santa Monica he was paired up with Kay Williams, the starlet girl-friend of Clark Gable, who took him on the night-club circuit.

Eventually JW was posted to Biloxi as aircraft identification instructor where he anticipated VE Day before it was declared, dismissed his class and headed for New Orleans; all without a pass. He got away with it as he had managed to do on many occasions 'I was able to get away with murder'. Post war JW gave talks to high school children about his experiences and made several trips to Europe consulting wartime archives. In retrospect he wished his mother had stayed in the USA, his parents never reconciled and he regretted the lack of childhood friends enjoyed by other people. He did however have great admiration for the courage of the British people, especially in the post Dunkirk period and considers himself to be a very lucky man to have survived at all.

Service

Units served with

  • 379th Bomb Group

    379th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 379th Bomb Group (H) (heavy), based at Kimbolton, flew more sorties than any other Bomb Group in the Eighth Air Force and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other Group. The B-17 Flying Fortress Group was awarded two Distinguished Unit...

  • 526th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-37791 Blues in the Night

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 30/8/43; Scott 27/9/43; Assigned 303BG Molesworth 19/10/43; 1 BAD 23/10/43; transferred 546BS/384BG [BK- ] Grafton Underwood 2/11/43; then 526BS/379BG [LF-S] Kimbolton 7/11/43; Missing in Action Berlin 7/5/44 with Tom Smith, Co-pilot:...

  • 42-97128 Screwball Express

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 29/1/44; Alexandra 15/2/44; Presque Is 4/3/44; Assigned 457BG Glatton 6/3/44; transferred 384BG Grafton Underwood 12/3/44; 527BS/379BG [FO-M] Kimbolton 28/12/44. ...

Associated Place

  • Camp Griffiss

    Military site : non-airfield
    Named Camp Griffiss after Colonel Townsend Griffiss, the first US casualty of the war, killed when his aircraft was downed by friendly fire. ...

  • Kimbolton

    Military site : airfield
    Planned for RAF use, Kimbolton airfield was built by W and C French Ltd. in 1941. The airfield was increased in size to accommodate a full US heavy Bomb Group, and the first such unit to us it was the 91st Bomb Group, who arrived in September 1942....

  • American Air Museum

    Other location

Events

Event Location Date
Born Seattle, WA, USA 1 August 1923

Roundhill's parents were English.

Lived in Caversham, Reading RG4, UK 1933 – 1941
Lives in Seattle, WA, USA 2017

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
02 November 2018 11:28:23 Emily Changes to biography
Sources

Biography completed by historian Helen Millgate. Information sourced from correspondence files and articles held in an IWM research collection related to the acquisition of various items and ephemera belonging to JW Roundhill.

Date Contributor Update
09 January 2017 16:41:00 Lucy May Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations, aircraft associations and media associations
Sources

Correspondence with JW Roundhill.

NARA enlistment record: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&tf=F&q=jose...

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