Corporal Robert C. Milan – Park 65

– For a super long time, Milan sat in my stuck file, he was an only child [no one alive to contact]; I had found little about him.  Things changed when I answered my phone.  My lucky charm is a retired chiropractor friend.  He checked in with me and I spent 50 quality minutes on the treadmill while he chatted me up.  He inquired, “So how is that park thing?”  I told him I needed a pep talk.  He then proceeded to tell me a story about how his mother once dragged him to a park dedication [“like a million years ago”] .. then something about his mom’s friend Gladys and her boy Bobbie.   Thanks god. 🙂 My lucky day. I found a little clarity and worked off that raw chocolate chip cookie dough I had abused the day before.  Honor the small things in life, they can change the landscape in an instant.  Thanks for reading.  ag

I'd love to credit this photocopied photo of Robert Milan because I feel so lucky to have found it. I can't. It was in a clipping file undated with no attribution. So thanks to that lost soul photographer who took this photo.
I’d love to credit this photocopied photo of Robert Milan because I feel so lucky to have found it. I can’t. It was in a  file undated with no attribution. So thanks to that lost soul photographer who took this photo.

Continue reading “Corporal Robert C. Milan – Park 65”

2ND LT. JAMES T. HOPE – PARK #40

 

In my opinion, this playfield is one of the loveliest in Detroit.  Situated alongside a neighborhood, the park’s wooded area fronts Burgess Street.  The west side slopes into a large field.  An asphalt trail meanders through the entire park for fitness walkers / runners.  The amenities are a well groomed baseball field, newer playground equipment, picnic shelter and wrought iron park entry.  It’s the home of the Crowell Rec Center.  [I’ll have to update this story with his info.]  Hope Park has been well maintained in recent years thanks to the ongoing investment made by the Lear Corporation, various landscapers and Motor City Blight Busters.  It is bordered by Burgess, Lahser, Verne and Puritan. 

Park isn’t on google maps but the outline of the walking trail is new.

UNLIMITED VIEW, NO HAZE

In 1940, James Hope had a year of college under his belt.  He had just begun to work and was living with his parents and sisters on Grand Boulevard in Detroit.  He enlisted for service in WWII on October 15, 1940 entering into the Air Corp National Guard.  Hope served with the 414th Night Fighter Squadron, 62nd Fighter Wing. He was a pilot and achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  

The emblem of the 414th Night Fighter Squadron. Public domain, courtesy US Air Force
The emblem of the 414th Night Fighter Squadron.
Public domain, courtesy US Air Force

 

 

In late August 1944, Hope and his First Officer / Navigator, Carmen Phillippi left on an intruder mission in a Beaufighter VIF VIII around 8:10pm from the island of Sardinia, Italy.  They were scheduled to reach their target outside of Milan at approximately 10:30pm; bomb for 30 minutes and return to Sardinia.  They were 10 minutes late in leaving with their fighter group and this misstep would become their demise.

 

The path of flight on that fatal night in 1945.
The path of flight on that fatal night in 1945.

10 MINUTES LATE

The Beaufighter was a British plane made by the Bristol Company and used by many nations in wartime.  It held a crew of two and had a max speed of 333 mph.  The variant model that Hope flew that night had a redesigned nose and improved radar system.  This aircraft was fitted with ten guns and was often referred to as the “Ten Gun Terror”.

The dedication plaque is intact on the flagpole base.
The dedication plaque is intact on the flagpole base. The play field was passed as an ordinance in 1951.

DISAPPEARED WITHOUT A TRACE

Hope’s last transmission was overheard by two other aircraft from his squadron and three ground stations – it came through at 10:25pm: “Ghero 34 bailing out, mayday, mayday”.  His manner of speaking was hurried.  

Military calculations report Lt. Hope was on his return most likely over the Italian coast when he spoke these final words.  There was an unlimited view from the craft with no haze that evening.  The fighter’s altitude would have been at 7000 feet due to the mountains he needed to cross. 

What is known:  Hope and Phillippi both bailed from the plane under the cover of darkness with no eyewitness accounts.  The US military concluded the bomber was attacked by anti-aircraft fire.  Several US and British air-sea rescue searches were conducted the next morning.  Neither Hope nor Phillipi were found.  Both men are memorialized at the Tablets of the Missing American Cemetery in Florence, Italy.   

2nd Lt. James Hope was decorated posthumously with the Purple Heart and the Soldier’s Air Medal.  His lovely memorial playfield in Detroit was dedicated in 1952.

Thanks for reading.  Copyright, 2018  Andrea Gallucci.