February, 1945 - May 1945, Horham, Suffolk, England (Station 119)
"Bomber Captured Spirit of City - By Harriett Burt, News-Gazette Staff.
Lt. Frank Calicura shows off the "Spirit of Martinez" sign painted on the nose of the B-17 Flying Fortress he piloted for 33 missions over Germany during the closing months of World War II. Calicura and his eight crew members, who were adopted by local service clubs, were always worried when back-up crews flew their plane. However, Calicura wrote, "The Spirit of Martinez" was a fine plane and none of its 50 missions was ever aborted.
"We learned from one of your brothers" the committee wrote Frank, "that you and your crew have completed all training and are awaiting assignment of B-17.
"Somebody else suggested that it would be wonderful if this little city had one of its own boys piloting "The City of Martinez" so it could watch the ship's exploits with pride and hope and feel true community kinship with the pilot, ship and crew."
Calicura agreed and when his new ship was delivered he and crew chose "Spirit of Martinez" as the name. In December, they flew it to Europe to join the 95th Bombardment Group station at Horham, Suffolk, England.
Contra Costa County, Martinez, California 1943.
Twenty-three years old with one son, Calicura was one of 17 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Calicura of 515 Mellus street. After graduating from Alhambra High School in 1938, he became a butcher working for his brother, Sam.
When the war came, Calicura took flying lessons and became a member of the Civil Air Patrol entering the Army Air Corps flight training in February 1943. His brother, Dominic, entered flight training at the same time ending up as a training pilot for fighter aircraft.
Calicura would of prefered lighter aircraft but was instead assigned "heavies" the huge four-engine craft being used in Europe.
"Frank was serious, steady", his widow says. "They take the serious, steady men for the bombers".
When Lt. Calicura graduated from flight training on April 15, 1944 and prepared for assignment and further training, two Calicura boys in addition to him and Dominic were in uniform - brother Nick with the Navy in the Pacific and brother Billy with the infantry in the Europe.
Knowing the importance of keeping the home front feeling involved, 95th B.G public information officers arranged a publicity shot for the hometown press of the plane, Lt. Calicura and another Martinez resident attached to the 95th., statistical officer Capt. David Olsson, son of County Supervisor Oscar Olsson.
Olsson, now a resident of San Jose, remembers that the summons for the photo opportunity was the first he knew of the "Spirit of Martinez". A 1935 graduate of Alhambra, he had known younger Calicura slight here and there at home saw little of him at the air base.
"Only on rare occasions did Frank's and my paths cross" say Olsson. " I was working afternoons and the first half of the night, while Frank was getting some rest, then I was doing the same thing while he was getting up and ready for flying his mission. The pilot did attend Olsson's bachelor party before he married his English wife, Comfort.
The 95th B.G was an outstanding unit Olsson says." It got two Presidential (unit) Citations. Nobody else got two in that theatre.
The 95th led the first American attack on Berlin and participated in a shuttle bombing of a Messerschmitt plant in Regensberg to earn the citations.
Flying about 33 missions from January to April, Calicura sent clippings home from the "Stars and Stripes" about each of the raids he piloted the "Spirit of Martinez." Williams carefully glued the I numbered articles on the black scrapbook pages she put in a specially made wooden scrap-book she keeps to this day.
The "Spirit" and its crew bombed a rail city in Eastern Germany to support the Soviet advance, was one of 900 Flying Fortresses hitting Nuremburg railroad yards and locomotive repair shops, hit the U-boat pens at Kiel and tank and gun factories in Hanover, airfields near Hamburg, Wehrmacht administrative and supply centers, factories in the Ruhr and jet airbases. "Heavies strike Rails again" said the headline for mission 28. The airplane itself made 50 trips to the target and Calicura and his crew fretted each time they weren't flying it.
"Frank said the crew worried every time (the back-up crew) took it out until it came back." The "Spirit" was a dependable ship, Calicura wrote in a letter to Taylor and other civic boosters. An engine was changed after the plane flew nearly 50 missions with 400 combat hours to its credit.
"We can brag about her, Ray," he wrote.
"In all those missions; not once did we or those others who were fortunate to fly her, have to turn back; abort as we call it."
Martinez was pleased to brag about the plane and its crew members, all of whom were adopted by the City, according to the Gazette editorial.
"The nine young men who comprise the crew of the B-17 passed up their wives, girlfriends, cartoon characters and suppressed desires in naming their plane, in order to give a little boost to a city which had supported them with generous purchases of war bonds.
The Martinez Kiwanis Club decided to go a step further and purchase mementos for each crew member. Fine leather wallets, unobtainable on the retail market at the time, were purchased and inscribed with "Spirit of Martinez" and each crew member's name. As Germany's collapse became imminent, the crew and the townspeople thought the plane would be transferred to the Pacific where the war was expected to last another two years.
However, there wasn't enough land mass close enough to Japan to support B-17s so the longer-ranged B-29 Super fortresses including the ship with the little Martinez plaque in its cockpit would be used. Calicura and his crew flew the "Spirit" home, while Taylor and other locals tried to reach Eighth Air Force commander General Jimmy Doolittle through his peacetime employers, Shell Oil Company.
Their mission was to try to bring the plane somewhere in the area where townspeople could see it. However, the War Department had other plans. "The saddest part Frank said, was when he had to fly it back," Williams recalls. "When he landed, before he got his stuff off, they had dismantled it and towed it away. He said if he had known, he would have gotten souvenirs." So the city's plane was already on the scrap heap when the Chamber of Commerce and the town's service clubs decided to put on a luncheon to honor Calicura and all other of the town's service men who were home. The $1.25 per plate luncheon at Armando's restaurant featured speakers and the presentation of a fountain pen to Lt. Calicura, "as an appreciation of our obligation to you for naming your ship for this city." The sudden end of the war in the Pacific the next month meant Calicura's military obligation was at an end.
He resumed his career as a butcher later opening a shop on Main Street with his brother, Billy.
he died of a heart attack in 1962 at age 41."
February, 1943 - December, 1944.
"Spirit of Martinez" crew member photos
8th AF, 95th Bomb Group Crew Photos.