T/Sgt Howard COLVIN
308th Bomb Group, 425th Bomb Squadron
Howard Colvin hailed from LaCrosse, Wisconsin having been born in Nebraska in 1908. After two years of college education at Minnesota University's School of Architecture, Colvin went into business and set up an advertising agency which became Howard Colvin Advertising.
After enlisting in May 1942 he was sent to the Aircraft Armorer School at Buckley Field, Colorado and then attended the Bendix Turret Specialty School at South Bends, Indiana. Qualified as a turret specialist, he was despatched overseas on 15th February 1943 to join the 14th Air Force in China and assigned to 308th Bomb Group having passed through Karachi, travelled on by train to Agra and finally flown to China.
Colvin described his official task as to "clean and prepare machine guns for the air crews and check and maintain bombing equipment on the planes". "It was pretty hard work and we worked night and day," reported Colvin. But it was the seven weeks he spent at an advanced base behind Japanese lines that left some of the most vivid of memories. "There were 17 bombing raids (by the Japanese) while I was there," he wrote. It was here that Colvin lost most of his personal belongings when a disastrous fire burnt his barracks to the ground on 17th December 1944. The losses included 20 rolls of film, $15,000 in Chinese currency and his parachute. Subsequently, during a hasty evacuation of the base as the Japanese rapidly advanced, Colvin grabbed a spare chute from a destroyed plane. "I don't know ... whether it would have worked in case I needed it," he wrote.
Later, Colvin flew on many missions over the "Hump" between India and China. During 31 months spent overseas in the 14th Air Force he sketched over 100 portraits of his fellow airmen ("...and had 120 more to do!"), charging $10 a piece. He also found time to paint a number of nose arts, some of which he signed. What, if anything, he charged for these is not known.
After the war, Colvin joined the LaCrosse Tribune and set up their first art department and remained with the paper until his retirement having become advertising manager.
© Ray Bowden 2 December 2023