Capt. Earl R. Fryer
Capt. Earl R. Fryer
38th FS - 17 May 1944 - 08 November 1944 (Killed in Action)
|Score Detail||24 August 1944 Ju-88 destroyed (ground)
11 September 1944 (3)Me-109 destroyed (air) S/Erfurt
02 November 1944 FW-190 destroyed (air) Merseburg
|Notes||Born in Boyertown 'Spunktown', Pennsylvania, 30 December 1916.
ASN - O-805025
17 May 1944 - Joined the 38th Fighter Squadron
12 July 1944 - Promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant
05 September 1944 - Appointed Assistant Operations Officer
27 September 1944 - Promoted from 1st Lieutenant to Captain
08 November 1944 - Killed in Action
MACR No. 10440
2/Lt. Huey R. Coward reported: "On 8 November 1944, I was flying Captain Fryer's wing at the time he was hit. We went down through the clouds to strafe a train in the area between Osnabruck and Hannover at approximately 1150 hours. When we broke away from the train Capt. Fryer's airplane was trailing a long plume of what appeared to be coolant. In about 2 minutes this stopped and Capt. Fryer said he was setting course for 270 degrees and heading home. I then saw another train off to our left about 2 miles and requested permission to go strafe it. Capt. Fryer said to go ahead and take Lt. Sill with me. We destroyed the locomotive and tried to find Capt. Fryer and Lt. Holleman, but could not do so. We the set course of 270 degrees and started out ourselves. At about 1220 or 1225 we heard Capt. Fryer call and say he was leaving the plane and to tell his wife he was all right. I believe he got to Holland before he bailed out."
Capt. Fryer made an unsuccessful crash
landing near Renkum, Holland and was buried next to his plane in his
parachute by the Germans. The name of his plane was "Spunktown". He
is buried in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
|Memories||By Bernard J. Colan
'Recipe in the search for Boyertown's Forgotten Ace: take a small foreign car with two passengers, squeeze in one large attorney, and shake well on a bicycle path in Holland. Wait seven years and repeat. (But keep the car off the bike path.)
Last month Boyertown attorney Charles E. Fryer, 59, came back from his second visit to the park near Renkum, Holland where, on Nov. 8, 1944, his uncle, U.S. Army Air Force Captain Earl R. Fryer, died after his P-51 Mustang fighter plane crashed.
While experiencing a malfunction returning from an attack on a target in northern Germany, Capt. Fryer directed his wingman to continue the mission while he headed back to his airstrip in England. He never made it.
A member of his squadron reported seeing a plume of what appeared to be coolant streaming from Fryer's single-engine aircraft as he radioed that he was bailing out. The Germans buried the 27-year old pilot in his parachute next to his plane, "Spunktown, according to Robert M. Littlefield in his book, "Double Nickel - Double Trouble."
In those days his crash site was a farm field where, on May 5, 1945, Hank Brink, a local resident, "was walking with his girlfriend (she became his wife) and found the wreckage from Uncle Earl's plane," Charles Fryer explained recently in his Chestnut Street office.
The attorney, who has practiced law in Boyertown for 28 years, said the accounts jibe with what he'd heard from relatives since he was a child. "Probably 90 percent of what I know about Uncle Earl I got from listening to his brother Ernest, who was a mechanic in the South Pacific and the last of his siblings to see Earl alive while they were both stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base near San Francisco. "Uncle Earl was an instructor there, and he'd once flown his P-38 underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. When he landed, of course, the MPs were there to escort him to the base commander, who said 'Lt. Fryer, you're good, but we can't let you ... do things like this. You could set a bad example, and sooner or later someone's going to miscalculate and crash into the bridge.' "The commander offered no punishment as long as Uncle Earl promised not to pull such a stunt again, but he wouldn't promise, so two weeks later he was shipped off to England. Which is where he wanted to go all along."
Fryer explained that the story was no surprise in the context of the life of his uncle, who was born Dec. 30, 1916 and raised in Englesville, an area on the fringe of Boyertown then known as "Spunktown". "Earl was ancient by most standards when he first started to fly," Charles Fryer explained. "His parents made him quit school in the Depression to help them out. He always wanted to fly, though, so when he was 26 he tried to enlist in the Canadian Air Corps in New York, where they were recruiting, but was told he had to have a high school education." Earl enrolled in Reading High School, where, bald and sitting alongside kids 10 years younger, he finally got his diploma, according to his nephew.
Once he was in combat, his nephew said, Capt. Fryer destroyed 6.5 enemy aircraft, 5.5 in the air and one on the ground. Charles Fryer noted that five enemy "kills" enabled a pilot to earn the distinction of being called an Ace Fighter Pilot.
After Hank Brink reported finding the wreckage of the missing ace's Mustang P-51, Fryer's remains were shipped to Union Cemetery in Boyertown for re-interment. "It was a dream of mine to visit the crash site," Charles Fryer recalled. "I finally flew over there in May, 1999 with my son Kenneth, who was 27 at the time, and we met Hank Brink and his wife. "He told us there was a very ornate cross when he first saw the grave, but when he went back there again a plain cross was in its place, so I guess some people never change."
Fryer said he didn't know what to expect on that first visit to Holland, but that he and his son were received graciously in the Brinks' small, "beautifully maintained" home. "He took us to a spot overlooking the Rhine River, and it reminded me of Boyertown Park," Fryer reported. "Mr. Brink, who's about 89 years old now, squeezed us into his little Fiat and took us to the top of a hill where we viewed the site of the Battle of Arnhem. "Later he pointed down: 'See that house with the red roof? The plane came to earth about 400 meters away...' We thought that was it for the tour, but after we got back in the car he whipped off the road onto this bicycle path and into the woods, where we disembarked and stood on the site where the P-51 came to rest.
"One man who was with his family came up to the side of the car, and I could tell he was hot," the attorney continued. "He calmed down as soon as he learned what was going on, and actually started beaming and nodding his head, but let me tell you: That was one bumpy ride!"
Fryer said he was impressed with the gratitude Brink and other local people seemed to still harbor for U.S. involvement in World War II, even though it was more than 50 years ago. He was impressed with their generosity as well. "We were about to leave and the Brinks asked my son what his dreams were when he was a kid, and Kenneth said he wanted to be a professional ice hockey player," Fryer said. "Hank had a shed out back, you know, one of those things covered with something like Texture 1-11, and he went out to it and got something wrapped in these old newspapers and gave them to his wife, which she proceeded to unfold. "It turns out," he continued, "inside were these two pieces of wood with metal blades and crude straps that his wife got when she was 12 years old: A pair of ice skates. She gave them to Kenneth. He has them on the wall of his home now."
But the Brinks, he later learned, were not alone in discovering the crash site of Earl Fryer. "I found a guy who was inquiring about Earl Fryer on the Internet," Charles Fryer said. "His name was Hans Roelofs, and after he stumbled onto the crash site near his village, he made regular visits there with his trusty metal detector, dredging bits of metal from the aircraft, a watch, and even a pair of sunglasses that evidently belonged to my uncle." They struck up a correspondence, and last month Fryer went back to Holland, taking his daughter Ellen, 25, who has concluded work on her master's degree in art history at Penn State University. They met the Brinks again, and also Roelof and his family, who has, over the years, collected several other items from the site. This time they walked to the old crash site, and didn't take the car along the bike path. There were still some surprises. "Do you believe it?" Fryer asked. "I actually found a live .50 caliber round there. I couldn't believe it. Hans told me I should take it home, but I thought airport security might be trouble." He said Roelof is considering lending or donating the materials he's collected to a museum such as the Boyertown Area Historical Society where they would be preserved. Fryer added that he and his wife, Irene, are members of the Historical Society's World War II Committee, where just such a space for the Forgotten Ace may be created. The exposition, tentatively titled "Boyertown at War," will feature the actual voices of veterans of World War II, who recounted their experiences on tape for a Society project more than a decade ago. Though focusing on that war, the exhibit will honor veterans from all the actions in which Boyertown area heroes fought to keep our country free. Fryer, who is fundraising chairman of the committee, said the exposition will debut on Armed Forces Day Nov. 11, and remain open on weekends for three months afterward. Honorees will include General Carl Spaatz, an exhibit on whom will be brought down from the relative obscurity of its second-floor niche at the Historical Society's building on 43 S. Chestnut St. It will share prominence with material from the collection of Boyertown resident Chris Boswell and others, along with a display highlighting the Forgotten Ace of Boyertown, Earl R. Fryer. "General Spaatz is known as THE World War II Army Air Force hero in this town, and rightfully so," Fryer hastened to add. "But Uncle Earl was Boyertown's only ace fighter pilot. I am very happy he's getting recognition for his ultimate sacrifice.
"His memory, along with the other 16 million World War II veterans cannot be allowed to fade."
(Nb. Article originally published in the local Press by Bernard J. Colan)
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