"Roger the Dodger"

By Jan Bos

The name ‘Roger the Dodger’ was painted on the nose of a C-47 of the 98th Squadron, 440th Troop Carrier Group. Charles Everett Bullard was the crewchief of this plane.

Everett grew up on the river banks of the Mississippi in Arkansas. An small airport was located In the neighborhood of his home. Everett wanted te become a pilot. It was 7 december 1941, the cowardish attack on Pearl Harbor. Just like many others, Everett volunteered. His mother – due to his age – had to give permission. Everett became a crew chief in the United States AirForce. His technical education was in Long Beach, California. One of the factories of the Douglas Aircraft Company was located there, where he learned all the ins and outs of the plane. During day and night the Pratt & Whitney engines were taken apart and put together again. This continued till all the crewchiefs managed to do so. Control and maintenance of the hydrolic, the electric and gasoline systems were taught to the men. If one of these systems failed, it could endanger the airplane and its crew. The hydrolic system was needed to lower or raise the landing gear. In the cockpit was a special lever in case the hydrolic system did not function. This lever was called the ELGE (Emergency Landing Gear Extension). Attention was paid to the propeller, which could be feathered, when an engine stopped.

Everett was a soldier and many times he took part in training and shooting on the firing range. After his training, Everett was promoted and became Corporal and was assigned to the 98th Squadron. The 440th Troop Carrier Group was activated on 1 July 1943 at Baer Field, Ft Wayne in Indiana. The Group had four Squadrons: 95th, 96th, 97th and 98th. The Group had 124 officers, non-coms and enlisted men. Every squadron had only one C-47, although soon thereafter they received more planes and crews. Before the planes took off, the crewchiefs checked the planes. Then the planes were fuelled. Shortly before the engines were started the crewchiefs checked the fueltanks and checked them if there was any water on the fuel. The engines were started and the planes rolled to the runway in order to take off. The crews trained in formation flying, solo flights and instrument flying. First missions were flown in the neighborhood of the base, to be followed by longer flights. Flying took place both during day and night.

Again Everett was promoted and had control over all the crewchiefs in his Group. Everett received a new C-47 with more powerful engines. The plane had broader propellers and the floor was reinforced. The plane was equipped with a radar-dome, meaning that the plane would fly as first plane in a serial.

The Group was sent to Pope AFB, North Carolina on 17 December 1943. The base was near Fort Bragg. Everett and his Squadron flew to Pope with one stop (RON). Half of the Group – including the 98th Squadron - towed the CG-4A Waco glider. This took more flying time than the planes without the gliders. Based at Pope was the 437th Troop Carrier Group, which soon moved on to another base. At Fort Bragg paratroopers of the famous 82nd and 17th Airborne Divisions were trained. At that time elements of the 82nd Airborne Division were in Italy (504th Regimental Combat Team) or in England (505th, 507th, 508th and 325th Combat Teams. Training was assumed in dropping paratroopers and towing gliders.

To get used to anti-aircraft fire, the crews had to fly to the American eastcoast. On a destinated position were American warships, who were firing into the sky. Everett thought this was very frightened.

Finally the Group, under command of Colonel Frank X. Krebs – see also DDA Magazine number 3, juni 2001), received orders to fly to England and to prepare for the invasion of Normandy. prior to their departure to England, the 440th Troop Carrier Group received new C-47s. Everett received the 42-100935 (construction number 19398). This plane was delivered to the USAAF on 9 January 1944. Extra gastanks were installed in the cabins. Checking the plane’s logbook, Everett (in the meantime 21 years old and promoted to Technical Sergeant) found out that the plane had flown only 10 hours – from the factory to Pope AFB. Everett checked everything and the plane was in a perfect condition.

On 23 February 1944 a total of 52 C-47’s of the 440th Troop Carrier Group prepared themselves for a long transatlantic flight. The Group flew to South America, on to Africa, via Gibraltar to England. On board of # 935 was a five man crew; a navigator was added to this flight. On 8 March 1944 the Group arrived in England. The flight was long and the men were tired. It was a long flight of 19 days. The planes arrived at Bottesford. The ground crews were on their way on board of the Louis Pasteur and joined the Group on 24 March 1944. The men had several days of rest, but then training started soon. The 440th was transferred to another base. On 26 April 1944 the Group went to US Station # 463, an airfield near Exeter. This base had three asfalt runways, respectively 2,040; 1,450 and 940 meter. On the base a British RAF unit with Spitfires were based.

In England the 935 received the nickname "Roger the Dodger", and – just like any other plane in the 98th Squadron of the IXth AirForce, all planes received the black&white; zebra stripes. Behind the cockpit on both sides of the fuselage 8Y was painted. The 8Y was the Squadron callsign. The crew was Captain Leonard Thompson (pilot), the name of the copilot is not known to me, Earl C. O’Shields (radio operator) and Everett Bullard (crew chief).

The 440th stayed 18 months in Europe and took part in all important operations, many supply and evacuation missions. During the missions "Roger the Dodger" was fired upon, but stayed in the air and she took her crew safely back to the base. During the war, the Group flew with C-46s, C-47s, C-53s, CG-4A Waco gliders. The Group also had four Consolidated C-109s (B-24 Bombers rebuilt as tanker planes), as well as several L-4 Piper Cubs. At the end of the war # 935 was flown back to America, where it arrived on 6 September 1945.

You can read more about Charles Everett Bullard, "Roger the Dodger" and his Squadron. Recently his book "Little One and his Guardian Angel, a one man’s story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group during World ar Two" came out [ISBN 0-944514-75-8]