A B17 Flying Fortress Bomber Crew - World War II

By Earl Benham


The Author

The Book

B-17 Bomber


Earl Benham - B17 radio operator

Earl was born July 27, 1915 in Montevideo, Minnesota. His parents were Don and Ida Louise Benham.  He lived in Montevideo until he was seven years old.  At that time, his family moved to a farm near Milan, MN where his father farmed.  Earl spent his younger years on several farms in the Milan area.  He had many fond memories of this time of his life.  He often talked about climbing trees, baseball games, evenings with the neighbors playing cards, and listening to the WLS Barn Dance on the radio.  He also talked about how hard it was growing up during the depression and the hard work of living on a farm. 

In the early 1940’s Earl went to San Diego, CA where he worked in the Consolidated Aircraft Plant.  At the plant he was a riveter working on PBYs.  He often talked about what a wonderful place San Diego was and how much he enjoyed living there. There was a huge difference between there and Minnesota. 

After working in the aircraft plant, he enlisted in the Army.  He remembered how hard he and his friend reviewed what they had learned in school so they would do well on the entrance test so they would be able to have a better job in the military.  He qualified to get into flight school but would have had to wait for over a year to start so he elected to attend radio school.  This part of his life is chronicled in his book, With Crew 13.

After returning from England he was a radio instructor in Sioux Falls, SD.  He married Cora Jane Sundahl August 27, 1944.  They lived in Sioux Falls until the time of his discharge from the Army Air Corp.  After he was discharged he returned to Minnesota and farmed near Milan and Appleton.  In 1948 his only daughter, Correen, was born. He farmed until 1951 when he began working at a parts department in a farm implement store in Appleton.  He enjoyed the atmosphere of the implement and being able to joke with the farmers that came in for parts for their farm equipment.

In the late 1950s the Benham family moved to Worthington, MN.  While in Worthington he worked at General Trading Company as a salesman before owing and managing Gopher Auto Supply a NAPA store.  While in Worthington, he was able to pursue his love of flying.  He had many friends who were involved in one-way or another with aviation.  He was able to get his private flying license, which had been a life long goal.

In 1974 Earl and Cora moved to Phoenix, Arizona.  In Phoenix he worked in the parts field until getting a job with the US Postal Service.  He worked for the Post Office repairing LSM machines until he retired in 1985.

After retirement, Earl decided he wanted to try a computer.  He had a Commodore 64.  It was on this computer he started writing his book.  With the encouragement of his family and help of his grandson, Mike, he kept updating his computer, became fairly computer literate and became familiar with the Internet and e-mail.  He made friends all over the world.  He was excited when he was able to reunite with his flight crew.  Over the years he corresponded with them on a regular basis and they had several reunions.  He often said how they hadn’t changed only aged.  Earl thoroughly enjoyed his retirement.  He spent a great deal of time writing his book and several other articles and antic dotes of his life. He also enjoyed writing to congressmen and news organizations expressing his opinions of current events.

Earl became acquainted with Scott Smith who lives in Cottage Grove, MN.   Scott was instrumental in publishing his book. He took Earl’s text and got it ready for publishing.  Scott did this on his own time with no pay.  Without his assistance With Crew 13 would never have been published.

In 2001, Earl was able to fulfill another lifelong dream.  He went back to England.  Scott accompanied him on this trip.  Earl enjoyed meeting all of the people he had been e-mailing for so many years.  He talked about how much he enjoyed seeing Thorpe Abbots again.  He enjoyed showing it to Scott and introducing him to his friends in England.  Earl and Scott were scheduled to return September 13th.  The unfortunate events of 9/11 enabled him to spend more time in England. 

Earl continued his e-mails and kept his relationship with his friends in England and the 100th Bomb Group.  He moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona in 2006 to be closer to his daughter and grandchildren.  While in Sierra Vista he was able to have one last airplane ride.  For his 91st birthday Dick Pomory gave him a long flight around Cochise County.  He thoroughly enjoyed this flight.  Earl passed away November 19, 2007 at the age of 91.  

Earl Benham  in Dick Pomroy's airplane