Academic journal article Air Power History

Nathan Mazer and the 384th Bomb Group

Academic journal article Air Power History

Nathan Mazer and the 384th Bomb Group

Article excerpt

During World War II, only two aircraft in the entire Eight Air Force were named for Air Force personnel. One of them was an ordnance officer assigned to the 384th Bomb Group named Nathan Mazer. As a member of the ground echelon, Mazer, sometimes called "Mike" by his friends, was not expected to fly. Nevertheless, he volunteered to go on so many combat missions that a B--17 (serial number 42-9800) was named the "Fightin Hebe" in his honor as a tribute to Mazer's fighting spirit. (1) That aircraft (serial number 42-9800) completed fifty-two missions over Europe starting on August 7, 1944 until it was hit by flak on the fifty-third over Kyllburg, Germany, on January 8, 1945, and crashed near Rochefort, France.

Nathan Herschel (Mike) Mazer was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 11, 1911, one of four children to Harry and Fega (Fannie) Mazer. (2) He grew up in South Philadelphia, were his days outside of the classroom were spent participating in boxing, baseball and as a Junior Olympics Champion in Track and Field.

In 1941, Mazer was a twenty-nine-year old married man with a decent job working as a salesman for Sears, Robuck & Company when his number was pulled from a fish bowl used by the Selective Service Commission to determine the next round of inductees in the military. (3) The Selective Service and Training Act, passed a year earlier by the United States Congress, decreed that every male citizen between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-six years of age to register for the draft. (4) Like everyone else in that age group, "Nat" duly filled out the mandatory registration form and mailed it back to the local draft board which arbitrarily assigned the number that was later pulled from that infamous bowl.

When his number came up, Mazer, duly reported to the local draft board where he was told to report in ninety days. The term of service was supposed to be for one year. Mazer opted for early induction so he could complete his service obligations as soon as possible. The papers were processed, he reported to an Army armory for his physical, and was inducted into the United States Army on July 25,1941. (5)

Shortly thereafter he was put on a train heading to the massive processing center at Camp Lee, Virginia. As he later recalled "It didn't take long to recognize it was the Modern Siberia." (6) During the next five days he and his fellow inductees endured a battery of tests that measured their physical and mental skills. When they were finished, Mazer and the other inductees were assigned a number. When his number was called, Mazer joined a group of 200 similarly designated privates that were put on a train headed for the Army Air Base at Orlando, Florida. As they later found out, the group was part of an experiment to see whether or not they could take men with a reasonable degree of experience directly into the U.S. Army Air Forces. Previous enlistees had been given nine months of specialized training before they had been assigned to an Air Corps unit, but this didn't make much sense for draftees that were only supposed to serve for one year.

After a three-day train ride the troops arrived in Orlando, which they found to be hot and full of mosquitoes. At the station they were met by 2 1/2-ton trucks that took them to the air base. There, they were processed again, assigned to various units and taught to march. Before long Mazer was sent to the 13th Bomb Group as replacement where the squadron commander, "a big brute of an Irishman" named Edward R. Casey, interviewed him. Casey, who stood six feet four inches tall with a flattened nose, had been an Ail-American tackle at Boston College. As Mazer stood in front of the giant squadron commander, he knew that he was "in enemy territory." After a series of preliminary questions, Casey asked him what he knew about guns?

"Well," in my part of the country, I bought them and sold them," he answered. (7)

Once in a while, Mazer, who had sold vacuum cleaners for Sears and Robuck, had traded them for guns. …

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