Meet the Author of “It Was a Fortress . . .
||February 25th, 2010|
Time waits for no man, even heroes. We have lost so many of our warrior/heroes from WWII . . . only a few are left.
One such man is still with us, Allen Ostrom, whose riveting story about a shot up, beat up, B-17 somehow managed to limp home to its base in England.
He’s 89 and say he plans to live until at least 92; his father and mother both lived into their 90’s and he thinks he’s got the genetic tools to make it. Talking to him on the phone, listening to his deep baritone voice, you would have thought we were talking to a 30 year old man. He sounds great.
We talked of the war, naturally. How it was a miracle that he and his entire crew, though on many a mission, never were wounded or killed. He and his crew were part of the 389th Bomb Group . . . which was also the group from which the B-17 featured in our cover story was from. This group, in turn, was part of the 601’st squadron.
Ostrom saw plenty of action, knew many of the men who took off . . . and never returned. He was the tail gunner on one of those B-17s.
Ostrem is still active as an historian for the 389th Bomb Group; he also edits a quarterly magazine known as Flak News. In addition, the hard copy version, you can read it and his 398th histories online at: 398.org
B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft Richard Williams, a reporter for the Seattle Times coined the name "Flying Fortress" when the Model 299 was rolled out, bristling with multiple machine gun installations. Boeing was quick to see the value of the name and had it trademarked for use.
The mission on which this B-17, the Lovely Julie flew was Mission No. 97, Cologne, Germany, on 15 October 1944. His crew flew in the Lead/High/Low Group.
Allen Ostrem was one of the crew members on the ground when this plane came limping home. In addition to his editing of the Flak News, Ostrom has put together a list of those warriors from the group that have passed on which he publishes every January. He started with about 40 or 50; today, that list has over 1500 names.
One girl wrote me tell me, “my dad was the last member of the Hollis-Daltonon crew.” We published it the Flak News. I got a phone call from a fella later who said, “Not quite true. I’m the navigator and I’m still alive at age 90.”
Ostrem fell and broke a hip three years ago . . but he has recovered nicely from that. He is quite mobile and often drives his car (with over 200,000 miles) around Seattle. He worked as a sports writer for the Seattle Intelligence for about 15 years but left that to buy a Janitorial Supply Business, which was quite successful.
He’s retired now, living in a lovely retirement home, where he is quite happy. “I have a lovely studio apartment, I have my desk and three filing cabinets, my word processor; everything I need to produce the Flak quarterly.”
His wife died three years ago but he has a lady friend whose husband passed away seven years ago, so the two of them often go places together.
Whether you’re a WWII veteran, or just someone who admires veteran warriors, Allen Ostrom would love to hear from you. His phone number is 206.367.2099. Might be nice to call him and thank him for his service to his nation, and for writing such brilliant articles to remind us of our heroes. I spoke with him last Saturday and he’s a delight to visit.