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Michael L. Arooth was officially considered the top "bomber ace," having 19 aerial victories officially credited. He accomplished this feat as the tail gunner on a B-17 bomber.
Not much has been found concerning the life and service of Michael Arooth.
His parents were Salem and Dora Arooth. The US Censuses 1930 and 1940 show the family residing in Springfield, Massachusetts.
His NARA enlistment record confirms certain facts. He enlisted in Springfield, Massachusetts on August 25, 1942. He had completed 3 years of high school and was single. He had been employed as a semiskilled machine shop employee. The bits and pieces found to date indicate he served from 1942, and retired as a Master Sergeant. His grave marker indicates he served in Korea as well as in World War II, but nothing has been found to substantiate this.
One instance of his service can be cited. The bomber crew of which he was a part participated in the infamous Schweinfurt raid in September 1943. They encountered flak and enemy fighters, and the aircraft was severely damaged. Sgt Arooth had shot down 3 enemy aircraft on this mission, but now, on the return trip home, more trouble erupted.
The oxygen system of the aircraft was damaged and only partially working, and Sgt Arooth was severely wounded when he discovered one gun was jammed. In spite of the situation, he repaired the gun in time to shoot down his 4th adversary. The aircraft attempted to make it to base, but was eventually ditched in the English Channel, with all hands being saved. For his efforts, Sgt Arooth was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (Excerpt from citation for award of the Distinguished Service Cross.)
NOTE: According to a family friend, information concerning a mission on September 6, 1943 in which Arooth was shot down and rescued from the North Sea was received on July 28, 2015. This info states that the pilot on this mission was Bohn Fawkes, not Carl Brinks listed in the mission loading list. According to this source, Brinks had become a POW some time earlier.
Nothing else has been found concerning Sgt Arooth except that he passed away February 15, 1990 in St. Augustine, Florida. He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, located in Phoenix. His resting place is Plot 29 0 45.
NOTE: There is no record of service other than that quoted above. The ribbon rack, with the exception of known awards, has been constructed to show the decorations and service awards that could be construed from the length and places of service.
The service time is extrapolated from his known combat record (1943) and the fact he retired for longevity; therefore the time given (1942-1962) is but an approximation.
Michael L. Arooth flew as part of crew 32 (Brink's crew) on B-17G # 42-29896, nicknamed "Tondelayo," from the 527th Bomb Squadron of the 379th Bomb Group out of Kimbolton, England.
Crew is given as:
2 Lt Carl W, Brink, Jr p
2 Lt Bohn E. Fawkes. Jr c-p
2 Lt Elmer S. Bendiner nav
2 Lt Robert L. Hejuy bomb
TSgt Lawrence H. Redmann eng/tt gun
Sgt Herbert J. ??
Sgt Frederic W. ??
Sgt John A. Leary
SSgt Elvin E. Doll
SSgt Michael L. Arooth tail gun
NOTE: The orders that assigned this crew is blotched and smudged, and in some area,
NOTE: Because the air crew were rescued, there is no Missing Air Crew Report. The USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory does show this aircraft as lost in the English Channel on July 30, 1943.
Today, there is an airworthy B-25 bomber that is named "Tondelayo" that flies at air shows around the world.
Citation to Accompany the Award of the Distinguished Service Cross
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Staff Sergeant Michael Arooth, United States Army Air Forces for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as a Tail gunner on a B-17 Heavy Bomber of the 527th Bombardment Squadron, 379th Bombardment Group (H) Eighth Air Force while participating in a a bombing mission on July 30, 1943, against enemy ground targets in Germany. On this date, Staff Sergeant Arooth shot down three enemy planes, and though the aircraft's oxygen line was broken, one gun was jammed, and he was severely wounded, he remained at his post, repaired the gun, and hot down the fourth plane. Thee personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Staff Sergeant Arooth on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.
General Order 61, (1943( Hdqters, European Theater of Operation, US Army
US Census 1930
US Census 1940