• Dennis McCaslin

Stone Gardens: Sgt. Harmon Eldon "Slick" Amos - US Army Air Force Hell Cats - 1922-2004

Harmon Eldon "Slick" Amos was born September 7, 1922 in the home of his parents Jesse and Winnifred (Swanson) Amos., who had both been born in Arkansas right around the turn of the century.

The Amos line of his family had migrated to Arkansas from Alabama in 1972-73 and his paternal line can be traced to pioneer Georgia back to the time of the American Revolution.

Harmon Amos was born September 7, 1922 in the community of Excelsior, which was located just west of present day US Highway 71 near the junction of Arkansas 253. Once a boom town fueled by the coal mining operations in the area, little remains today to give the impression that a town once graced the area.

Amos attended school in Excelsior and later Greenwood. Once out of school, he joined the Army Air Force, where he reached the rank of sergeant.

Although the United States actually declared war against Germany in December 1941, a successful assault on Nazi-occupied Europe could not happen until Germany's industrial and military might were crippled.

The first target was the Luftwaffe--the most powerful and battle-hardened air force in the world. The United States Army Air Forces joined with Great Britain's already-engaged Royal Air Force to launch a strategic air campaign that ultimately brought the Luftwaffe to its knees.

One of the standout units of this campaign was the legendary 303rd Bomber Group--the Hell's Angels.

The "Hell's Angels" were named after the B-17 Flying Fortress 41-24577 of the same name, which was the first B-17 in the Eighth Air Force to complete 25 missions.

The Group was based solely at Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, between September 12, 1942 and June 11, 1945, flying 364 missions in 10,721 sorties (more than any other B-17 Eighth Air Force Group) and dropping 24,918 tons of bombs.

The Army Air Forces was created in June 1941 to provide structure for the control of doctrine of an aviation section and organization that had been ongoing within the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1914.

After going through several revisions in its early years, and following the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a supplemental appropriation of nearly a billion dollars, a production program of 50,000 aircraft a year, and a military air force of 50,000 aircraft.

It was into this scenario in which Amos was thrust when he entered the military, and after extensive training he was assigned a role as a bottom turret gunner in a B-17 bomber of the infamous "Hell Cats" of the 308th Squadron.

Amos flew missions with two pilots--Lt. Walter Kamstra and Lt. Richard E. Burton--and served as the bubble turret gunner on the last four sorties flown at the end of the war.

On April 15, 1945 the crew bombed gun emplacements located at at Royan, France. Two days later, the squad was involved in the destruction of the Friedrichstadt Railroad marshaling yard in Dresden, Germany. April 20 saw another bombing run devastated the railroad marshaling Yard in Treunbrietzen, Germany

The last combat mission for the group was April 25, 1945 to the Skoda Armament Works, in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. making his crew part of the last flight before Adolph Hitler surrendered.

Three days later, Hitler and Eva Braun were married in the Führerbunker, where they committed suicide on April 30 by swallowing cyanide capsules.

Amos remained in the military and became a sheet metal supervisor with the Department of Defense.

Returning from the war, Amos married Edith Mae Pugh in 1947 and lived out the remainder of his life in the area of Sebastian and Leflore counties, moving to Pocola sometime before his death on July 27, 2004.

Part of his obituary reads "Mr. Amos was a member of the Temple Baptist Church, and Reid Lodge #163 F&AM of Mansfield, Arkansas.

He was also an avid fan of sports and enjoyed the Pocola Indians, the Conway Wampus Cats, the Arkansas Hogs, and the St. Louis Cardinals."

Harmon Ellis was buried in the Liberty Cemetery in Greenwood among two dozen of his kith and kin, including his parents and grandparents, who also called Sebastian County home.

True to form, his gravesite in the Greenwood stone garden features an emblem of his beloved Cardinals.

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