| Shown above, the front and back portion of a HQ 2nd Bombardment Division Class A pass, issued to Amador Espinosa, dated January
16, 1943 in Los Angeles, California. The pass is signed by Capt. Frank P. Walthall. Walthall would remain with the squadron and would
eventually go on to serve as the adjutant of the 701st Bomb Squadron once deployed overseas.
|S/Sgt. Amador Espinosa 702nd Bomb Squadron
445th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
| Amador Bernard Espinosa was born on August 20, 1923, in Gardena, California. His family lived in Gardena until Amador was three, then moved to
Redondo Beach, California. The eldest of four boys, Amador grew up helping to care for his younger brothers, Marcus, Gilbert "Pinky" and Paul. His
younger years were spent listening to his favorite radio shows, including The Lone Ranger and Jack Benny, and playing games including marbles, tops
and bottle caps. He was an all American kid.
Amador attended grade school at Beryl and Central Schools before enrolling at Redondo Union High School. At the age of twelve, a heavy burden
was placed upon him as he became the man of the house, with his father having left the family. During his high school years, he worked at the Fox
Theater in Redondo Beach, participated in numerous school sponsored events, was a member of the high school band, and was the member of a
quartet, playing both the clarinet and the violin. He graduated from Redondo Union High School in June of 1942. Below is a program from Redondo
Union High School for the Senior Annual Orchestra Concert, held on May 28th, 1941. Inside, Amador is listed as one of the clarinet players who
participated in the concert.
As can be seen in his induction photograph to the left, Amador always wore a smile. He was friendly, kind, respectful and giving. He closely
followed his mother's teachings, regularly attended church and strived to help others.
| Private Espinosa, service #39277399, entered service with the United States Army Air Corps on
January 16, 1943, being inducted into service at Fort McAurthur in San Pedro, California. Here Amador
remained for four days, receiving most of his Army issued equipment, then being shipped to Keesler Field
in Mississippi for basic training. Amador was initially assigned to the 309th Flight Training Squadron,
Flight 688. It would be a few weeks before Amador would receive his first Army pay check, which was
$43.87. He sent $35.00 of that check home to his mother and an extra $1 for his brother Paul. He notes
in one of his remembrance books that he then had $7.87 until the next pay day.
On March 7, 1943, Amador and another 688 flight member, Johnny Stark (of Hermosa Beach) were
transfered to Laredo Army Air Field in Laredo, Texas. There they would attend the Flexible Gunnery
School. Amador noted that cots replaced beds with springs, but the food was much better than it was in
Amador would attend church every Sunday and visit Laredo often, taking in movies and enjoying the town
with Johnny Stark. For several weeks, Stark and Amador would clean, drill, write letters, sew insignia on
their newly issued Army shirts and visit Laredo, while assigned to Area H, Barracks #704, Block 43 of
Laredo Army Air Field. On March 22, 1943, Amador's gunnery training begin. His writings in his journal
stopped at this time, indicating an incredibly busy training schedule which would last until his deployment
| Above: A photograph showing Amador and other gunnery training recruits inside one of the heavy
bombers, most likely a B-24. Espinosa can be seen in the middle of the second row. Amador and the
other recruits are wearing the M3 bomber crew flak helmets and "Mae West" life preservers.
| The Fox Theater in Redondo Beach, once located at 300 Diamond Street, a place where
Amador spent much of his time working after attending Redondo Union High School during the
day. The theater was in existence from 1929 to 1973.
| Amador's mother, Refugio or Ruth, suffered the same wartime rationing that all Americans
experienced. Above, one of the many ration book applications used by the Espinosa family during the war.
| Like all air crewmen during the war, Amador would transit the country attending one training school after another until finally being deployed overseas for combat duty. Amador
would ultimately be assigned as a radio operator/gunner in the 702nd Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group, 2nd Bombardment Wing, 2nd Bombardment Division, of the famed 8th
The 445th Bomb Group and its squadrons would be based at Tibenham in Norfolk County, England. From this once abandoned RAF base, the squadrons making up the 445th would
fly a total of 280 missions.
Note: Amador would fly a total of 32 missions, spanning 5 campaigns. During the vast majority of those missions, Amador served as a tail gunner. During one mission he served as
the nose gunner and there were a few missions that he served as a waist gunner. This information was confirmed through research with the 445th Bomb Group historian. Among
other medals including the WWII Victory Medal and several campaign medals, Amador would be awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters.
| A photograph showing the "Bennett crew." Amador is seen on the bottom row, second from the left.
Given the flight clothing being worn, it would appear this photograph was taken at the end of or during
their training cycle, before being deployed overseas. The pilot of this crew was John Bennett with
co-pilot Rodney "Tex" Erxleben. Although not all are pictured here, Amador recorded the crewmen he
normally flew with, along with some replacements. They are as follows in his notes:
William Browne - Radar Navigator
Carl Nordberg - Pilotage Navigator
Joseph Stewart - Navigator
Sam Smith - Navigator
Charles Turner - Engineer
Lee Garson - Tail Gunner
Richard Hoyt - Radio Operator
Coleman Pinkerton - Waist Gunner
Robert Vest - Gunner
I am currently researching the "Bennett crew" and will post additional information once it becomes
available. I am particular interested in finding information related to the missions they flew and the crew
assignments during those missions.
| Shown at the left, a wartime photograph of Amador wearing his aircrew wings. Given the insignia on his
uniform, specifically the "Sustineo Alas" shields on his lapel, this photograph was likely taken at the end of
or shortlyafter his training cycle, when he held the rank of Sergeant. Shown above is a photograph of
Amador's original pair of aircrew wings, along with one of the Sustineo Alas shield pins, as seen in the
|Artifacts from Amador's grouping indicates he made several trips to London on leave. Bus and train tickets like the ones shown above were a
common sight to American's visiting London, who had no other way to travel but to use the English, public transportation system. Tibenham is
located approximately 108 miles from London, a very long distance to travel on leave during the war.
|A small notation by Amador on a small scrap of paper provides us details with how he returned home from the war. The S.S. Ile de France was a
French ocean liner built in 1926. During WWII, the liner was transformed into a troop carrier and was responsible for bringing home both Canadian
and American service men at the end of the war.
|After returning home from the war, like all soldiers and airmen, Amador would begin to readjust to civilian life. A former teacher of his suggested he attend a trade college and
Amador enrolled, learning a new skill set to serve him in civilian life. Wanting to be a police officer, Amador applied for and tested with the Redondo Beach Police Department to
be a police officer. Despite passing the initial entrance exams, it was indicated to Amador that the department at that time would not hire a Hispanic police officer. Undeterred,
Amador pushed on and was later approached to work for the Chief of Police as a secretary. Amador would go on to serve 7 Chiefs of Police, until retiring from the police
department in 1993. After retiring, Amador would continue to volunteer at the police department, often working 10 to 12 hour days, serving in whatever capacity he could. His
paid career and his volunteer career with the police department would span nearly 38 years. Amador would leave his mark on the department and the city that he served for so
many years. He could always be found with a smile, a warm gesture and a moment to visit.
On May 7th, 1996, employees of the City of Redondo Beach and members of the Redondo Beach Police Department contributed funds to give Espinosa one last ride in a B-24.
Espinosa was treated to a ride aboard the "All American", a B-24 operated by the Collings Foundation. The occasion occurred at Zamperini Field (then the Torrance Municipal
Airport) in Torrance, California. The group act of kindness was a testament to the type of person Amador was and the mark he had left on those who worked with him and
encountered him on a daily basis.
Espinosa quietly passed away on May 9th, 2013. An Honor Guard detail from the Redondo Beach Police Department stood watch over Amador the night before his funeral
service, and stood guard during the service itself the following day, with members of the United States Army Honor Guard also present during the funeral service. This inclusion
of the police department Honor Guard was a detail not generally afforded civilian personnel, but was a display of respect for Amador and his service to the city and the
department. The funeral service was widely attended by many who had met and worked with Amador over his many years of service to the community.
|The cramped tail gunner's position where Amador would have spent the
majority of his time while on missions.
|Amador's gunners wings and dog tag. The information on the dog tag shows he entered
service with the Air Corps in 1943, was blood type B and the lone C stands for "Catholic."
|Above and left, Amador's original wartime sunglasses, an original 8th Air Force patch, a cloth version of the aircrew wings, two of his leather name tabs for use on his leather
flight jacket, and a souvenir .50 caliber bullet, dated 1942. Above and right is Amador's original Air Medal, an 8th Air Force patch, his Staff Sergeant chevrons, another
leather name tab and his Catholic Missal. Given his religious convictions, it is likely he carried this with him on missions to comfort him during the long, dangerous missions.
|Amador's original, wartime flight jacket patch of the 702nd Bomb
|Left, Amador's service record
diary from Keesler Army Air Field
in Mississippi. In this leather
covered diary, Amador recorded
his first few weeks in the Air
Corps, his billeting information, his
thoughts on military life and his
impressions of traveling across
|This page is dedicated to the memory of Amador Espinosa, with deep appreciation for his service
as an aircrew member during WWII, his service to the Redondo Beach Police Department and his
dedication to the City of Redondo Beach.
This page is also presented in honor of all of the men of the 445th Bombardment Group. For
additional information, please take some time and visit the links below to learn more about this
dedicated group of pilots, air crewmen and ground crewmen who so valiantly took the fight to the
|Right: US Army Air Corps pilot Paul Conger of the 56th Fighter Group standing next to a
P-47D fighter plane, (serial # 42-7880 HV-N) with "Redondo Beach, California" painted on
the fuselage. Citizens of Redondo Beach, California donated enough money in war bonds to
pay for the production of this aircraft and were recognized with the city name being painted
on its side.