STAFF SERGEANT ERLE P. FLANAGAN was born in 1917 to Edgar J. and Margaret J. Flanagan. In 1930 the family, which included brother Edgar Jr. and sister Doris, owned a home at 400 Nicholson Road in Audubon NJ. Edgar Flanagan Sr. was working as the Superintendent of Service Stations for a gasoline company. The family later moved to 219 South Logan Avenue in Audubon.
Erle Flanagan enlisted in the United States Army sometime after July 1, 1940. He qualified for flight duty, and in November of 1943 was training at the Army Air Force Navigation School at San Marcos TX.
Staff Sergeant Flanagan was assigned to the 871st Bomber Squadron, 497th Bomber Group, Very Heavy. The 497th was constituted as 497th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) on November 19, 1943 and activated on November 20 at El Paso TX. On December 1, the group moved to Clovis NM and prepared for overseas duty with B-29's until April 13, 1944, when the unit moved to Pratt Army Air Field in Kansas. The group moved to Saipan in stages between July and October of 1944, and assigned to Twentieth Air Force. Based at Isley Field on Saipan, the unit began operations in October of 1944 with attacks against Iwo Jima and the Truk Islands. Took part in the first attack on November 24 1944 on Japan by Army Air Force planes based in the Marianas. Flew many missions against strategic objectives in Japan; on numerous raids, made its attacks in daylight and from high altitude.
The 497th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on January 27, 1945. On that day: although weather conditions prevented the group from bombing its primary objective, the unescorted B-29's withstood severe enemy attacks to strike an alternate target, the industrial area of Hamamatsu. The group was awarded second Distinguished Unit Citation for attacking strategic centers in Japan during July and August, 1945. The group assisted the assault on Okinawa in April 1945 by bombing enemy airfields to cut down air attacks against the invasion force. Beginning in March 1945 and continuing until the end of the war the group made incendiary raids against Japan, flying at night and at low altitude to bomb area targets.
Staff Sergeant Flanagan was reported missing in action on August 15, 1945. His body was recovered several months after the war had ended and he was buried at the Honolulu Memorial cemetery in Honolulu HI. He is memorialized where his parents and brother rest at New St. Mary's Cemetery in Bellmawr NJ.
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