Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day- Thank you, Uncle Al!

Stanley Elmer Allen Junior (1925 - 2003)

My mom had five brothers, and her oldest brother was still in high school when World War II broke out. His parents made him promise that he would wait until he was 18 to enlist, and to finish his education. I can tell from his enlistment record that he kept his promise, but just barely. He enlisted at Fort Devens, Massachusetts on 25 May 1944.

Stanley Elmer Allen was born on 15 Jun 1925 in Beverly, Massachusetts, and all his life he was known as “Junior” to most people, but we called him “Uncle Al”. He eventually served with the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific. I know he wanted to be a pilot, but somehow that never happened. He served under General Curtis Emerson LeMay (1906 – 1990) in the 21st Bomber Command as a tail gunner on board a B-29 Superfortress named “Orpen’s Orphans.” His unit was based at the northwest field in Guam, and was involved with the final bombing of Japan and Toyko.

I did some research online, and I think the name on the plane refers to Colonel Bud Orpen (Julius H. Orpen, 1919 - 2009) who was in charge of the 501st Bomb Group. General LeMay was a controversial character, not attending West Point, but rising through the ranks to general starting with ROTC training. When General Hap Arnold had a hard time finding a use for the new B29s in combat service, he brought in LeMay. He abandoned the longtime American practice of daylight, precision bombing, and LeMay stripped the plans of guns, loaded them with incendiaries and sent them out at night. This new strategy devastated Tokyo, and with the dropping of the atomic bombs in August 1945 brought the war to an end. LeMay broke the record, serving as a U.S. general for seventeen years.

Uncle Al attended the 50th reunion with his squadron in 1995, and he died on 14 Jul 2003 at the Maine Veteran’s Hospital in South Paris. He never spoke about the war until after his reunion. This seems to be common with many of our World War II Veterans. He had only a few years to tell his three sons and family about his war memories. I remember visiting him soon after his military reunion, and he proudly showed me all his memorabilia.

After returning to civilian life he married my Aunt Mary (Horgan) in 1947, and worked hard with his cousin Harold at expanding the Allen Fuel Oil business in Hamilton, Massachusetts until the 1980s. After retirement he lived in Maine, where he always spent his summers at his camp along the Crooked River. There were many family reunions and cookouts there at the camp when I was growing up.

We have many fond memories of Uncle Al, and are very grateful for his service to our country during a horrific war. He and other pilots went into harms way to keep those at home safe. These few photos of his time in Guam with his squadron and his plane “Orpen’s Orphans” are historic memories of World War II.

For another war time story about Uncle Al, please see my blog post “A Post Card from a Stranger” at

The website had much interesting information on the Northwest Air Field in Guam, the 501st Bomb Group and the 21st Bombardment Squadron.

UPDATE!  Amazingly, a few years after I wrote this blog post I found the photo below on the wall at the Pima Air and Space Museum.  See this link to another post!

Transcription from the back of the class photo (it's amazing that Uncle Al wrote all the names AND he wrote down their home towns. Is your ancestor or relative on this list?)

"Taken Feb. 1944
52d CTR
Raleigh, North Carolina"

Left to Right
B. H. Cohen -Hartford, Conn.
E. Fishman -Lynn, Mass
R. Connick -Lynn, Mass
D. Whipple - Ascutny, VT
R. N. Aloy, -Chicago, ILL
J. Peprerilla -Andover, Mass
M. Rickard -Worcester, Mass
D. Anderson -Chicago, ILL
S. Allen -Hamilton, Mass
H. Ramsey -Worcester, Mass
J. Audette -Montreal, Can
L. Zivaggo -Bridgeport, Conn
O. Roden – Alabama
B. Wyman – Durham, NH
C. Saunders –Hartford, Conn.
J. Matthewson –Somerville, Mass
S. Kemenski –Boston, Mass
R. King –Durham, NH
R. Ambro – Rockford, ILL
A. Lemoi –Warwick, RI
R. Sowell –Georgia
D. Snow –Keene, NH
E. Bethiume –Worcester, Mass
R. Ward –Bridgeport, RI
Eckwald -Hartford, Conn

Background L to R
Lt. Basinas –Lowell, Mass
G. Stacy –Boston, Mass


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Memorial Day-  Thank you, Uncle Al!", Nutfield Genealogy, posted May 30, 2010, ( accessed [access date]).


  1. Heather,
    I enjoyed hearing about your Uncle Al. I really liked the B-29 picture. Thanks.

  2. Great story--great pics! Thanks for sharing, Heather!

  3. Nice write-up Heather. I created the website and thanks for your reference to it. I'm not sure if we communicated before or not, I get a lot of email. Do you have a larger version of the airplane photo that could be used on the web page? You may reach me at the email address at the bottom of the web page. Thanks. Larry

  4. What excellent research and well written!