I hope you all won't mind if I step to the front of the line here and try to clear up a few points that will aid the search for information.
First of all it is essential that one establish the target.
Several points made in the course of the following thread might tend to lead you astray if you presume the soldiers status, rank or other things.It is important to start at the beginning and find as much basic data as possible.
Chris postulated that Finn was a Bombardier, which immediately conjurs up an officer in the Army Air Forces.
That he trained at MacDill is a moot point, and possible service in the 91st is also speculative.Many units passed through MacDill.I happen to have the printed history of the 91st on my shelf, and he is not listed, so the 91st is off the table.
Also consultation in Bombardier Rosters did not show his name, and they are pretty thorough.
That he was a combat casualty is significant and with the full first, middle and last name, we can consult National Archives and find the following as the only Howard L. Finn listed:
SGT Howard L. Finn ID: 36314543 Branch of Service: U.S. Army Status: KIA
With his service number we can cross reference at NARA for his enlistment data and pick him out of the 7 Howard Finn's listed (and two Howard Ls).Here is his information the day he walked in the gate:
ARMY SERIAL NUMBER 36314543 NAME FINN HOWARD L RESIDENCE: STATE ILLINOIS RESIDENCE: COUNTY COOK PLACE OF ENLISTMENT CAMP GRANT ILLINOIS DATE OF ENLISTMENT DAY 29JAN42 GRADE: PVT Private TERM OF ENLISTMENT Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law SOURCE OF ARMY PERSONNEL Civil Life NATIVITY TENNESSEE YEAR OF BIRTH 1920 RACE AND CITIZENSHIP White, citizen EDUCATION 3 years of high school CIVILIAN OCCUPATION 874 Undefined Code MARITAL STATUS Single, without dependents COMPONENT OF THE ARMY Selectees (Enlisted Men)
What the above tells us is that he was in fact drafted as his ASN begins with a 3 and occurs before APR43.Also he was living in Illinois, although he was a native of Tennessee.
Everybody--including future officers, entered the serviceasPrivate and made the grade one way or another.Howard apparently rose in rank to Sgt. which is the rank he carried when he was KIA.
Now to find the unit and circumstances.I did not find his name on any of the lists I have access to for 1942-1945: aviation oriented losses. There is a reason for that, I just haven't figured it out yet.He may well have been in ground operations (liason) and not a casualty in an air oriented loss--although he was in the AAF.Just something to consider.
The date is also a point that needs verified, and I won't be able to do that until Tuesday.
Now about his being a Bombardier. Bombardiers were technicaly trained individuals and there were no Enlisted Bombardiers. (Well the exception was some of the flight engineer Sgts on the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo--but they were not operating a Norden or Sperry sight...just an angle pointer...) Bombardier as a title was 99.9% commissioned officers.(Including Flight Officers).
So how does a Sgt. get the historical reputation of being a Bombardier?Long about mid 1944 it was determined that there was less need for trained Officer Bombardiers who individually did the calculation to put their bombs on the target.It was determined that there was a greater need for defensive armament specialists, so they took the Officer Bombardier out of the nose position of the bombers where the sight was located, and replaced him with an Enlisted GUNNER.
The new tactic was that the Bombers--flying in relatively tight formation--would be led to the target area by the LEAD Bombardier--usually the most highly skilled Bombardier in the Group--and when HE determined that he was on target he would drop his load, and everybody else in the formation would then do the same.The expression was "DROP ON LEADER".
The enlised man working the forward guns would simply reach over and flip a switch and the planes bomb load would go.This was very easy to do on a B-17 as the toggle switch is just to the left of the forward gun position.On a B-24 with a complete nose turret this would be more difficult as the Sperry sight was on the wall several feet behind the gunner, let alone the fact that he'd have to crawl out of his turret to accomplish the flipping of the switch--unless they rewired it and moved it closer to his turret.Even then you don't want to be reaching out of the turret as when it swivels there is a danger of you losing an arm as the the turret housing passes the frame of the plane....but I digress.
The point is that Finn could have been what they called a "TOGGELIER".An enlisted man gunner whose job it was to toggle the bombs on visual cues from the Group leader.
We must also not discount the possibility that Finn just might have been in the Infantry and the references to the Air Corps are something that has taken hold over time...never close the door on any possibility.
So now we have some hard data on Sgt. Finn, most importantly his ASN which is the most important number that can he had. It is the number that separates him from all the other Howards and all the other Finns.
More to follow when I determine the actual date of loss.