DEDICATED TO 97th BG 414th BS
CAPT. TRUMAN W. CUMMINGS
12th AF 97th BG 414th BS
Material submitted by his daughter
Jennifer Cummings [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Site edited and maintained by Doug Cook
Contacts from 97th BG and 414th Squadron Welcome!
97th Bomb Group Stations During
Capt. Cumming’s Service
Truman Cummings (about 25 years old) in early training days
Cummings before the war
Back: Ralph Salt, George T. Liby, Truman Cummings
Front: Ed Hennessy, G.L. Shelton, unknown
The photo Jennifer Cummings stared at as a kid wondering who all these other men were and what were their stories.
B-17 #223 ‘THER-N-BAK’ 414th BS
L-R crew: James V. Wiseman (Co-Pilot ), Capt. Truman W. Cummings (Pilot), Pope (Waist Gunner), Ray Womack (Top Turret/Flight Engineer), Merlin J. Shields (Navigator), Albert L. Sample (Bombardier), bottom row, L-R, Spaulding (radio Op), Jones (Ball Turret) and Madden (Tail Gunner).
414th BS B-17 ‘Peaches II’ photo from Cumming’s album
Truman Cummings cockpit window
Truman Cummings with cap and helmet. That bomber jacket hung in the closet for years – now long gone.
Mess tent in the desert
GI Victory Garden in Tunisia – notice the plant markers for Spam, Stew, Vino, etc.
Soldier unknown, resting and reading between missions.
Crew from Ther-N-Bak in front of tent.
Back: Jones, Spaulding, unknown. Front: Pope, Womack, unknown.
Target practice, most likely Womack and Pope
Captain in hammock. Staged photo?
Truman Cummings and Eliz Schwab (name on back).
Unusual to see a woman in any of these photos, and such a tall one at that, Cummings was 6’2”.
Ther-N-Bak in the desert off the runway, likely from the same emergency landing that Womack told about.
“On or about
Jennifer Cummings: I have remnants of a newspaper clipping that mentions a 414th BS story that may or may not have referred to Ray Womack: "My top turret gunner was hit in the back by a 20-mm shell, but I didn't find out until he called over the inter-phone saying, 'Sir, I was hit a little while ago - when you have time, will you look back and see if I am bleeding much?' He had been hit in the back and legs, but he hadn't budged from his post!" Then the clipping mentions the copilot was hit too. Is that the same flight that Clausen was hit, and was Womack the top turret gunner as usual? We may never know.
Famed WW1 Flying Ace Eddie Rickenbacker visits the 97th BG.
visits the 97th BG shortly after
Seated 3rd to left of Churchill is Sir Alan Brooke- Chief Imperial Staff.
1943 414th Squadron B-17s rollout on steel mesh runway for a combat mission.
(Photo credit Col. Wm. Ross collection)
Nazi Luftwaffe base destroyed and captured.
After 50 missions, Cummings finished overseas combat and then ferried planes, cargo, and mail.
1945 Not shy, Cummings was also assigned to promote war bonds at rallies.
photo, along with many others, hung on the wall in Cummings’ mother’s house in
The first aircraft my dad ever saw was a single-engine
plane flying over the corn fields near his home in
Truman Cummings was born on
I know it’s cliché, but like so many veterans, he just didn’t talk much about the war. We have lots of documents like flight exams and award letters, and scores of photos, but very few stories. I know he was excited to serve. I know he absolutely loved flying. He said the worst mission they ever flew was on Mother’s Day, because he knew he’d be killing some mother’s son. He told of the mission when his co-pilot got shot up but didn’t say that it was that mission for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. It’s recounted elsewhere on this site that Lt. Clausen, the co-pilot, survived and was sent home.
He was captain of the B-17, Ther-N-Bak,
a brilliantly named plane in my opinion. Good to go,
but even better to get back. Truman flew 50 missions from their bases in
In 1947, Truman started working for Pan American
Airways at first with the cargo division and worked his way up to captain of
707s, though his favorite plane was the Boeing 727. He flew for Pam Am for 31
years never once taking a sick day. For most of his career he was based in
Truman thought being a pilot was the best job in the land, and he couldn’t believe he actually got paid to do it. When he was nearing mandatory retirement at the age of 60, he knew he needed to figure out a second career. As much as he loved golf and tennis, he couldn’t picture a non-working life at the age of 60. An affable guy, he always enjoyed walking through the plane during flights and chatting up the passengers. He noticed how many were afraid to fly, and he seemed to have a knack for calming their fears – at least the ones who didn’t mind that the captain wasn’t currently flying the plane. He developed a program to help fearful flyers overcome their fear through a combination of learning more about the principles of aviation, desensitization, acceptance, relaxation techniques, and the strength of group experiences. Truman by then was known as “Capt. Slim,” tall and skinny, the nickname “Slim” stuck. He held workshops all over the country, wrote a book, produced a helpful cassette tape, and was featured repeatedly in the media as the expert in treating aviophobia. As much as he couldn’t imagine a better job than being a pilot, he’d found a second career that was just as fulfilling to him and also helped thousands of people overcome what they’d thought was an insurmountable debilitation and enjoy the benefits of flying and travel.
I learned from him so many things. How to make a bed so a quarter would bounce on it. Standing with shoulders back and chin up is actually comfortable and good for your health. How to work hard, stay focused, and not quit till the job was done. How to care about people and how to talk to them. How to have a good time and never be afraid to let yourself look silly (though I’m still working on the silly part). How to be responsible, well-meaning, giving, a team-player, a contributing member of society, warm, kind, funny, athletic, and fearless. A tall order, just like him.
He is survived by his wife Carmen, his daughters Deb,
Catherine, and Jennifer, seven grandchildren, nieces Cherie, Beth, and Patty,
and many others who loved him dearly. He suffered greatly from Alzheimer’s
disease at the end, a terrible way to go for anyone let alone such a vital man.
Dad died on
Truman and his daughters; Truman (Slim) and his wife Carmen Cummings (1992)