Sharing Uncle Bill’s letters from war

New Vienna resident shares soldier’s stories

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New Vienna resident Elaine N. Balsley has published a book, “Letters from the War – Between the Lines … A Journal of Remembrance of SSgt William James McQuoid, Jr.”

Elaine’s late uncle, Bill, served his country in World War II as a U. S. Army Air Corps tail gunner on a B-17. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh and was on his 21st mission May 12, 1944, when his plane was shot down six miles from the Swiss border on a mission to an Aircraft Repair Depot in Zwickau, Germany.

Elaine’s mother, Elizabeth McQuoid Brethauer, kept all her brother’s letters, photographs, letters from the War Department, U. S. Army Air Corps, a certificate from President John F. Kennedy, and letters from others.

Also included in the book are Elaine’s original drawings and poetry.

For B-17 buffs, this book is a good source of information contained in the letters and several of the appendices included at the back of the book.

Bill’s combat records, photos of his B-17, the missions he and his fellow crew flew, and photographs of the now deserted Rattlesden Air Base in England were provided by Chris French, 447th Bomb Group Association U.K. Joint Secretary/Historian.

Bill’s letters tell the heart of the story. In-between most of his letters that were written when he was overseas are the morning briefings that were given by the squadron commander at Rattlesden Air Base. The briefings contain the squadron’s assigned formation, names of the pilot, his crew, and takeoff and landing times.

Bill’s light-hearted letters are written both before and after the mission. However, they did not reveal how terrifying the combat missions were and that the crews witnessed horrifying mid-air explosions and loss of their teammates.

Each squadron’s crew member wondered if he would return. The tail gunner position was probably the most vulnerable on a B-17 — the average lifespan of a tail gunner was two weeks.

This hardbound book, printed in color, is dedicated to the men and women who serve and have served in the military, and those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom Americans enjoy today. It is available for purchase at — search ““Letters from the War – Between the Lines.”

For more on Elaine Balsley – Original Art & Crafts, visit or her Facebook page at . photos photos photos
New Vienna resident shares soldier’s stories

Submitted article