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TSGT Harry Peter Bonnikson, Jr
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Birth: Dec. 23, 1919
San Francisco
San Francisco County
California, USA
Death: Mar. 3, 1997
Petaluma
Sonoma County
California, USA

Technical Sergeant Harry Peter Bonnikson Jr, Army serial number 19026421, was born at San Francisco, California on December 23, 1919. He was the oldest of three children of Harry Peter Bonnikson Sr (24 May 1890 – 5 May 1978), who was born at Ferndale, Humboldt County, California; and Sylvia Clare (Miller) Bonnikson (29 May 1886 – 12 Dec 1981), who was born at Akron, Plymouth County, Iowa. He had a sister, Betty Adele (Bonnikson) Brooks (18 Jan 1922 – 6 May 2012); and a brother, Willard M. 'Bill' Bonnikson (27 Dec 1923 – 20 Jun 1973). His parents married about 1916, and by June 1917 lived at 2226 Parker Street, Berkeley, California. His father was a veterinarian employed by the Dairy Bureau of the California Department of Agriculture. His mother was a trained nurse. By 1920 the family moved to Sacramento, California. In 1940 the family lived at 2716 10th Avenue, Sacramento, California.

Harry Bonnikson Jr completed three years of college at Sacramento Junior College, and lived with his wife Sherma Frances (Dempster) Bonnikson at 121 Daniels Avenue in Vallejo, Solano County, California. He worked as a teller for the Bank of America in Vallejo. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet at Santa Ana Army Air Base, California on March 9, 1943. He wanted to be a pilot, but after classification at Santa Ana he was assigned to radio school at the Army Air Forces Technical School at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He arrived there by July 1943. Apparently he did some of his Basic Training in conjunction with his radio school training. There are photos of a basic training bivouac at Dell Rapids, South Dakota taken on August 1–2, 1943. He completed the course of training at Sioux Falls for Class 3 Radio Operators and Mechanics on December 3, 1943. From December 1943 to January 1944 he was assigned to aerial gunnery school at Yuma, Arizona, where he graduated in Class 44-4. In January 1944 he had a ten-day delay en route from Yuma, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah. He spent that time with Sherma at his parents' home in Sacramento, California. He was assigned to the Army Air Base at Camp Kearns near Salt Lake City, Utah through the end of March 1944. Sherma went with him to Salt Lake City. At Camp Kearns, the home of the 18th Replacement Wing of the 2d Air Force, he was assigned as radio operator on the heavy bomber crew of Lt James S. Van Epps.

From April to June 1944 the Van Epps crew completed B-17 operational training at Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa. During that time Harry and Sherma Bonnikson lived at 1700 Court Street, Sioux City, Iowa. After training, the Van Epps crew reported to Kearney Army Airfield, Nebraska to pick up a new B-17 and receive its overseas assignment. By June 16, 1944 the crew was at Grenier Field, New Hampshire, preparing for the flight to the United Kingdom via the North Atlantic route. Sherma Bonnikson took a train home from Iowa to California in July 1944.

The Van Epps crew arrived in England on July 1, 1944, and was assigned to the 837th Bomb Squadron of the 487th Bomb Group. This Group was based at Army Air Forces Station 137 (also called RAF Lavenham), about two miles north of the village of Lavenham, Suffolk, England. The airfield occupied a large part of David and Beth Alston's Lavenham Lodge Farm, and parts of several surrounding farms. The control tower is located at map coordinates 52.1330°N, 0.7693°E. When returning from missions aircrews watched for a familiar landmark, the bell tower of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Lavenham.

T/Sgt Bonnikson's Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was 757, Radio Operator-Mechanic-Gunner. His first combat mission was on August 1, 1944 to bomb the airfield at Tours, France. His second mission was on August 2, 1944 to bomb the Val-des-Joncs V-Weapon site near Dieppe, in the Pas-de-Calais region of France. In August 1944 the Van Epps crew was selected as a lead crew. On August 11, 1944 the crew was ordered to Army Air Forces Station 468, base of the 94th Bomb Group near Bury St. Edmunds, for lead crew training.

The crew's first mission as a lead crew was on September 12, 1944, when it flew as deputy Group lead to bomb the oil refinery at Magdeburg, Germany. Here is the crew roster at that time:
James S. Van Epps - Pilot
William Thomas 'Bud' Searby Jr - Copilot and Officer Tail Gunner
Chilton Wilson 'Cork' Castle - Navigator
Bruce S. Corby - Bombardier
Ramor William Dippo - Radar Operator
• Sidney B. Hare - Engineer
• Harry Peter Bonnikson Jr - Radio Operator
• David J. Beck - Gunner

A senior air leader flew in the copilot position, and Lt Bud Searby flew as Officer Tail Gunner to observe the formation. Flak over the target was heavy, and Lt Searby was wounded by flak. Harry Bonnikson wrote:
   "Flak heavy and accurate. Flew deputy Group lead. Hit by burst of flak. Wrecked part of the oxygen system. Cut some control wires. Hit the copilot's helmet and dazed him. Put a dozen holes in our ship. Some were very large for flak holes."

The Van Epps crew led the 487th Bomb Group's High Squadron on Eighth Army Air Force mission #760 on December 24, 1944, the largest Allied aerial mission of the war. On January 3–10, 1945, after the crew's 23rd combat mission, T/Sgt Bonnikson and the other enlisted crew members went on flak leave (rest leave) at Army Air Forces Station 558, Walhampton House, near Lymington, Hampshire, England. During that time the men visited Carisbrooke Castle at Newport, Isle of Wight. At the same time, the officers on the crew went on flak leave at Army Air Forces Station 567, Eynsham Hall near Hanborough, Oxfordshire, England.

Harry Bonnikson's 30th and final combat mission was on February 24, 1945 to bomb the submarine shipyard at Bremen, Germany. He departed Station 137 on March 16, 1945, and was processed by the 13th Replacement Control Depot at Station 569, Bamber Bridge, England. He returned home to Vallejo, California by April 5, 1945. From May to July 1945 he was assigned to Williams Field at Chandler, Arizona. Sherma joined him there. On July 13, 1945 the California Department of Agriculture inspected his private vehicle at Blythe, California, and allowed him to enter the state. From August to October 1945 he was assigned to San Bernardino Army Air Field, California.

Harry P. Bonnington Jr, called 'Bonnie' by his friends, departed this life at Petaluma, Sonoma County, California on March 3, 1997. His wife Sherma joined him on October 16, 1998. They are buried at Sacramento Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento, California.

Some relatives:
   • His wife's parents were Frank Sherman Dempster (12 Feb 1897 – 26 Jul 1960), who was born at Madison, Lake County, South Dakota; and Nora G. (McKee, aka Dick) Dempster (26 Apr 1898 – 16 Feb 1975), who was born at Gentry County, Missouri; they married at Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon about 1918, and lived at Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California.
   • His father's parents were Rasmus 'Amos' Bonnikson (12 Dec 1857 – 23 Apr 1944), who was born in Denmark and immigrated to America about 1877; and Rasmine Hansine 'Minnie' (Nielsen) Bonnikson (10 Aug 1862 – 22 Oct 1910), who was born in Denmark and immigrated to America about 1878. They married at Humboldt County, California on April 10, 1884, and lived at Ferndale, Humboldt County, California. Amos Bonnikson was a dairyman.
   • His mother's parents were Robert Eugene Miller (12 Dec 1858 – 19 Oct 1934), who was born in Minnesota; and Sarah Ordella (Douglass) Miller (3 Nov 1862 – 15 Oct 1909), who was born at Decatur County, Iowa.

Sources:
1. 487th Bomb Group Association
2. 1880 US Census; California; Humboldt County; Bear River and Eagle Prairie. Bonixson, Amos [sic] (Amos Bonnikson, his father's father)
3. 1885 Iowa State Census; Plymouth County; Portland Township; Akron. Miller, Robert E. Jan 1885 (Robert Eugene Miller and Sarah O. Miller, his mother's parents)
4. 1900 US Census; California; Humboldt County; Pacific Township; Island Precinct. Bonnickson, Amos [sic]. 4 Jun 1900 (Amos Bonnikson, his father's father)
5. 1900 US Census; California; Santa Barbara; Lompoc. Miller, Robert. 6 Jun 1900 (Robert E. Miller, his mother's father)
6. 1910 US Census; California; Humboldt County; Pacific Township. Bonnickson, Amos [sic]. Apr 1910 (Amos Bonnikson, his father's father)
7. 1910 US Census; California; Alameda County, Berkeley. Miller, Robert E. Apr 1910 (his mother's father)
8. 1920 US Census; California; Sacramento County; Sacramento. Bonnikson, Harry. Jan 1920 (his father)
9. 1920 US Census; Oregon; Multnomah County; Portland. Dempster, Frank S. Jan 1920 (his wife's father)
10. 1930 US Census; California; Sacramento County; Sacramento; Donner Way. Bonnikson, Harry P. 11 Apr 1930 (his father)
11. 1930 US Census; California; Sacramento County; Sacramento. Dempster, Frank S. Apr 1930 (his wife's father)
12. 1940 US Census; California; Sacramento County; Sacramento; 2716 10th Ave. Bonnikson, Harry P. 16 Apr 1940 (his father)
13. 1940 US Census; California; Sacramento County; Sacramento; 1861 10th Ave. Dempster, Frank S. 13 Apr 1940 (his wife's father)
14. California Birth Index, 1905-1995
15. California, County Marriages, 1850-1952: Amos Bonnikson married Minnie Nielson at Ferndale, Humboldt County, California on 10 Apr 1884 (his father's parents)
16. California Death Index
17. California Great Registers: Voter Registration on 7 Oct 1892 and 27 Jul 1896: Robert Eugene Miller, born abt 1859 in Minnesota; registration place: Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California (his mother's father)
18. Cemetery Records of Sacramento Memorial Lawn Cemetery, 6100 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95824
19. Corby, Kathleen C. Photos, Letters and Personnel Records of Bruce S. Corby (Daughter of Bruce S. Corby, bombardier, James S. Van Epps crew, 837th Bomb Squadron, 487th Bomb Group)
20. de Jong, Ivo. The History of the 487th Bomb Group (H). Paducah KY: Turner Publishing, Oct 2004
21. Enlistment Record of Harry P. Bonnikson Jr
22. HQ, Army Air Forces Station 137. Special Orders Number 130. 11 Aug 1944 (Van Epps crew ordered to AAF Station 468, 94th Bomb Group, on 12 Aug 1944 for an indefinite period for the purpose of training—lead crew training)
23. HQ, Army Air Forces Station 137. Special Orders Number 1. 1 Jan 1945 (Van Epps crew ordered on flak leave—the officers to AAF Station 567, Eynsham Hall near Hanborough, Oxfordshire; and the enlisted men to AAF Station 558, Walhampton House near Lymington, Hampshire)
24. Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935: Sylvia Clare Miller born at Akron, Plymouth County, Iowa on 29 May 1886 (his mother); her parents: R.E. Miller and Sarah Ordell (Douglass) Miller
25. Mundia.com (ancestry.com) profiles of Bonnikson family members
26. Searby, Kathy A. Photo Album and Scrapbook of William T. Searby Jr (daughter-in-law of William T. Searby Jr, copilot, James S. Van Epps crew, 837th Bomb Squadron, 487th Bomb Group)
27. Social Security Death Index
28. Stebbins, Janet M. Photo Album, Personal Notebook, and Combat Diary of Harry P. Bonnikson Jr. 1944-1945 (his daughter)
29. U.S. National World War II Memorial Registry. World War II Honoree Harry Bonnikson Jr
30. WikiTree entries for Frank Sherman Dempster and Nora G. (McKee, aka Dick) Dempster (his mother's parents)
31. World War I Draft Registration of Harry P. Bonnikson Sr. 5 Jun 1917 (his father)
32. World War II Draft Registration of Harry P. Bonnikson Sr. 27 Apr 1942 (his father)

Research by:
Paul Webber
Secretary, 487th Bomb Group Association
Find A Grave member ID 47577572 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Harry Peter Bonnikson (1890 - 1978)
  Sylvia Clare Miller Bonnikson (1886 - 1981)
 
 Spouse:
  Sherma Frances Dempster Bonnikson (1920 - 1998)
 
 Siblings:
  Harry Peter Bonnikson (1919 - 1997)
  Betty Adele Bonnikson Brooks (1922 - 2012)*
  Willard M Bonnikson (1923 - 1973)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Inscription:
        HARRY P. BONNIKSON
BELOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER
 DEC. 23, 1919 – MARCH 3, 1997
 
Burial:
Sacramento Memorial Lawn Cemetery
Sacramento
Sacramento County
California, USA
Plot: Fuchsia Mausoleum, South Wall, Row D, Space 20
 
Created by: Paul Webber
Record added: Jan 20, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 123831648
TSGT Harry Peter Bonnikson, Jr
Added by: Sheila Sanders
 
TSGT Harry Peter Bonnikson, Jr
Added by: Paul Webber
 
TSGT Harry Peter Bonnikson, Jr
Added by: Paul Webber
 
 
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- MICHAEL WAYNE HUTCHISON A PROUD U.S. ARMY VET
 Added: Jan. 29, 2014
 
 
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