|Birth: ||Sep. 11, 1907|
|Death: ||Jan. 6, 1994|
COL US AIR FORCE WORLD WAR II, KOREA
Frank P. Bostrom was not standing at GeneralDouglas MacArthur's side when the general made the famous declaration: "I shall return."
Without Bostrom, however, MacArthur might never have lived to make the promise. Bostrom, a native of Veazie, flew MacArthur away from the Philippines 50 years ago as Japanese forces neared the end of their relentless drive to capture those islands.
Bostrom died on January 6, at York Hospital. With his death the UMaine alumni body lost one of its most decorated war heroes. The General Alumni Association recognized Col. Bostrom in 1992 as one of the 125 alumni who have made a major difference in the world.
The battle for the Philippines began December 8, 1941, about 10 hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite the widespread destruction in Hawaii, Japanese pilots again found the Americans unprepared in the Philippines. They demolished a third of MacArthur's 300 aircraft while losing only seven of their own.
By May 6, 1942, the Japanese had pushed the American and Filipino forces to surrender at the Bataan Peninsula.
Before that occurred, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ordered MacArthur to leave his island fortress on Corregidor. The general, his family, and staff boarded a flotilla of torpedo boats the night of March 11 and traveled to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
"I was never based in the Philippines, but I had to fly up there a couple of times," recalled Bostrom a few years ago. "On March 17, 1942, I landed at a small airfield on a plantation owned by the Del Monte Company."
Bostrom was surprised to discover that his mission was to fly MacArthur and his party to Australia through "Japanese infested skies."
He remembers that despite the crushing weight of defeat, MacArthur retained the self-confident air that was his trademark.
"He was the general," said Bostrom, "and he was the boss."
The pilot was not there when MacArthur made his famous "I shall return" declaration to reporters in Australia, and he never saw the general again. But that was not the end of Bostrom's exploits during World War II.
Those exploits actually began on the first day of the war. On December 6, 1941, Bostrom's squadron left the United States with the first B-17E bombers to enter service. They were flying to Hawaii.
"Most of us knew we were going to war, but we didn't expect it to start so soon," he once said. We came into Pearl Harbor during the attack. I was attacked three times by three different Japanese fighters, but we weren't carrying any ammo."
After the initial shock of the attack wore off, Bostrom's squadron was attached to the U.S. Navy and sent to Australia. He fought in the South Pacific during 1942 and 1943, then spent 15 months state-side training new pilots.
While he was in the Pacific his B-17 was shot down during the last bombing of the Philippines before the American surrender.
In March 1944 he was given command of the 490th Bomber Group in England. The unit bombed targets in Germany until the end of the war on May 7, 1945. During the Berlin Airlift, Bostrom served as commander of the 313th Troop Carrier Group.
After returning home Bostrom commanded several Air Force bases in the United States and abroad. He also served as professor of air sciences and tactics at Harvard Unjversity.
His many wartime decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak-leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, and numerous theatre decorations.
Bostrom was born in Bangor and graduated from Bangor High School before entering the University of Maine. He joined the Army Air Corp in 1929. Bostrom retired to York at the end of his illustrious military career. He lived there until his death.
All of Frank Bostrom's children are graduates of the university. They are: Shirley Bostrom Hargreaves '55, Frank Bostrom, Jr. '58, and Anne Bostrom Sullivan '66.
Condensed from a Bangor Daily News article by Andrew Kekacs.
York, Maine - Frank P. Bostrom, 86, a retired Air Force colonel and much-decorated World War II bomber pilot died Thursday at York Hospital.
Early in the war, Col. Bostrom gained fame as a flier with the highly decorated 19th Bomb Group. He was involved in numerous dangerous missions and in March 1942 flew Gen. Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines just before the surrender of the American forces there.
Col. Bostrom piloted MacArthur, his family and staff safely off Mindanao Island to Australia. "Through Jap infested skies to Australia where the famed general took over supreme command of the Allied forces," said a 1942 Press Herald account.
"Shortly after he (MacArthur) got to Australia, that's when he gave his famous speech that included ‘I shall return ,' " said Frank P. Bostrom Jr.
In April 1942, Col Bostrom was the lead pilot for the (Gen. Ralph) Royce Mission, the last bombing of the Philippines before the American forces surrendered.
His B-17 bomber was shot at and disabled but he managed to land, direct some emergency repairs, and take off and return to base.
Five months earlier, Col Bostrom was flying to Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese. He was met by three Japanese fighter planes so he changed course and landed his B-17 on the par-5 hole of a nearby golf course.
"He was a pilot's pilot" said Herb Wheatley, Bostrom's tailgunner. "I flew 56 combat missions with Frank in 1942. He was very, very good.
"We were one of 12 planes caught in the air during the raid on Pearl Harbor. We left Hamilton Field in California the evening before. Frank put us down on the golf course on the other side of the island."
Later in the war Col. Bostrom was based in England as commander of the 490th Heavy Bombardment Group, and was involved in air battles against Germany. He served as commander of the 313th Troop Carrier Group during the Berlin airlift in occupied Germany during 1948-49.
His many war-time decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart British Distinguished Flying Cross, French Croix de Guerre and numerous theatre decorations.
"Unless you asked him about his World War II experiences, he would never tell you," said Hervey Carpenter, a friend.
During the 1950s he was a professor of air sciences and tactics at Harvard University.
Born in Bangor, Maine, a son of Peter P. and Appolinia Bostrom, he graduated from Bangor High School and the University of Maine. He entered the Army Air Corps in July 1929.
He retired to York, Maine, 34 years ago, and built a house at 215 Beech Ridge Road. His wife, Ruth Geyer Bostrom, died in 1985.
Surviving are his son, Frank Peter Bostrom Jr. of St Louis and Friday Harbor, Wash.; two daughters, Shirley Hargreaves of Amelia Island, Fla, and Anne Sullivan of McLean, Va.; a sister Veda Fleming of Doraville, Ga; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 1 p.m Tuesday at Locos & Eaton Funeral Home, 91 Long Sands Road. Burial will be in the Maine Veteran's Memorial Cemetery at Augusta.
In December 1941, Frank Bostrom was assigned to the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron. The unit was in the process of moving again. In mid-November, they had packed up their gear, ground echelon personnel, spare parts, tools, etc.. and taken them to California where most boarded the USS Republic to be deployed to codename "Plum" in the Philippines.
Some air crews of the 88th Recon Squadron then went to the Sacramento Air Depot in CA around 2 Dec 1941 to pick up their new B-17's. Some were going to get B-17E's, others might get older -C or -D models.
The plan was to pick up their new planes & fly them first to Hawaii, and then on to the Philippines, as part of the pre-war build up. Frank eventually did pick up his B-17 and arrived over Hickam Field in the Territory of Hawaii in the middle of the Japanese air raid.
He landed safely in Hawaii and his unit continued to the Pacific in Feb or March 1941. The 88th Recon Squadron merged with the 19th Bomb Group (?) from the Philippines, and eventually wound up at Garbutt Field working alongside the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) out of Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
From there, the "storied 19th" ran bombing and recon missions. They underwent several re-designations. Frank was probably in what came to be known as the 435th _____, aka "the Kangaroo Squadron".
This unit sent three planes to extract General Douglas MacArthur, along with his family & staff, from Mindanao in the Philippines. A week later, 3 more B-17's were sent to extract Manuel L. Quezon and family & staff from Del Monte Field on Mindanao. All the crews were awarded the DFC / DSC on General Order 37 (?) dated ______ and signed by ___MacArthur ?____
This is a work in progress. There is much on the Internet about Frank, and the 435th history is online. The daily reports begin in March, but there are also personal narratives to fill in the gaps. Frank survived the war and retold his stories many times.
There are a few examples where they included various errors that aren't unexpected when the story is told from memory, and often decades after the event occurred. Another factor to consider is that people recall things from their own perspective & based on their understanding of the situation at the time, (or... at the time they recall the memory).
One example of this is evident in a quote from the book "Four Decades of Courage" by Irene W. McPherson. She passed away in 2010 in Virginia, but her book is still widely read.
In her book, Frank Bostrom recalls a squadron mate as, "Harry Faulkner", when it was really 1Lt Ted S. Faulkner. Both were at the Sacramento Air Depot. The outburst of Ted Faulkner described in the book made little sense to Bostrom at the time, owing to the "super-secret" nature of the mission that 1Lt Ted S. Faulkner was on. (See JSTOR for 1962 article, "A Delicate Mission: Aerial Reconnaissance of Japanese Islands Before WW-II".)
There is no doubt that the members of the 88th Recon Sqdn / 19th BG / 435th / Kangaroo Squadron - included many amazing missions. Sweeping away the discrepancies where possible makes them even more amazing and inspiring. Heartfelt gratitude to all.
>>>> To be continued... Contributions welcome...
>>>> Corrections to history books, including "Four Decades of Courage" would be appreciated...
Ruth G Bostrom (1908 - 1985)
Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Plot: SECTION M ROW 12 SITE 20
Maintained by: Greg Campbell
Originally Created by: Bev Winship
Record added: Oct 24, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 60558779