Franklin Eliser Savage, born 20 November in 1911 near Wood River, Nebraska, to Wendell and Evelyn Savage. The Savage clan were homesteaders from the earlier days and owned 260 acres of land. Frank grew up on that farm throughout the roaring twenties listening to the radio as the F.B.I. chased John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde through the mid-west. He was the middle child, his brother was three years older and his sister was the baby, five years younger. His brother would go into the Navy and be lost during the Battle of Midway, and his sister would marry her childhood sweetheart but lose him in the Marine Corp at Saipan.
One summer at the county fair, a group of barnstormers performed, and Frank knew that flying was for him. One of the planes landed and he was taken aloft, his life was forever changed. During that weekend the pilot befriended Frank and gave him flying lessons, since Frank seemed to have a knack for the stick, it was 1927. Frank then dreamed of flying, and was always drawing airplanes and reading a Popular Mechanics magazine whenever he could get one. The mail planes would buzz the farm, and Frank flew his milk stool into his dreams.
In 1929 after the stock market crash, his folks lost most everything, but 25 acres and the house, the house Frank was born in. He felt he was adding to the problems financially and went to Grand Island and joined the Army, he was 18 years old. He felt this would give him a steady income to help support his Mother and Father.
After boot camp, Frank met and Army Air Corp officer named Captain Willard Crowe, he was also a Nebraska farm boy from Alda. Frank and Wiley hit it off from the get-go, but Frank was and enlisted man. Frank volunteered for the newly forming Army Air Corp as a mechanic, he was sent to school in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and from there he was assigned to a squadron at a new air station in Alabama. In 1931 he met Major Crowe again and Wiley talked with Frank about becoming and officer and going to flight school. The service was going to need pilots, with all the talk of a war in Europe someday. Frank made out the application, passed the physical and with Wiley’s endorsement he submitted it to his commanding officer, who also agreed with it and passed it on for review.
Eight months later, Frank's C.O. called him in and presented him with orders to report to Pensacola, Florida for Officers Candidate School, with a follow on assignment to Langley Field for pilot training. So in May of 1932, Frank Savage became 2nd Lieutenant F. E. Savage, he was 21 years old. Major Crowe was there to pin on his one gold bar and receive Frank’s first salute as and officer.
During flight school, the rule was that the top four students in their class would be advanced to 1st Lieutenant upon graduation when receiving their flight wings, Frank graduated number one in his flight class. The year was 1933 and late in October, and Frank took leave to return home after four years and see his folks. His father was driving a truck between Grand Island and Omaha; his mother took in sewing and sold fruit from the orchard. They were very proud of Frank and he left after one week to return to Alabama and start flying!
Frank was soon bored with flying trainer aircraft and teaching others; he did enjoy the art of navigation and trying to drop a bomb on a target. Then in 1934 a new plane arrived from the Douglas Company, a DC-2 which was the forerunner of the legendary DC-3. Frank quickly master the aircraft, and for a brief moment thought of resigning his commission and going to work for Pan AM Airlines. Enter Colonel Paul James "Pappy" Hartley, when Frank met Pappy at Langley, Frank hung on his every word. Hartley was and old WWI flying Ace and could fly the wings of anything with a motor. Pappy taught Frank how to fly the Douglas B-1 Bolo, and recommended Frank as a test pilot for the Boeing XB-15, Frank flew this plane for the Army research project with Boeing until 1935 as a Captain. He then was requested to join the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo bomber program where he was promoted to Major and was the executive officer. When he transfer in 1936 he was headed for flight training in Boeing’s new B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber in a training command which was forming-up in west Texas. He was 25 years old.
When Frank arrived in the desert Colonel Wiley Crowe was commanding the four training squadrons. After nine months of flight training the squadrons were formed to deploy within the United States, Frank was selected as C.O. for the 483rd Bomb Group, and sent to Wyoming to organize his squadrons and flight crews. They started learning to navigate over Europe and how to drop bombs with the new bomb sights. A young pilot under his command was 1st Lieutenant Joseph Gallagher. Frank held this position for two years. He transferred in 1939 to Washington D.C. for staff duty at the request of Lieutenant General Alan Pritchard, and old flying ACE from WWI and very good friends with Brigadier General Wiley Crowe and Colonel Hartley.
Arriving that June for staff duty in D.C. Frank was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel but found himself not cut-out to fly a desk. The buildings were hot, the beer at the golf course was warm, and paper work was never ending. On the 4th of July, he met Miss Arlene Johnson during a party at the Fort Myer Officer's Club. Arlene was the daughter of Senator Clay Johnson. He was the Chairman of the Arms Committee on aircraft procurement; he was good friends with Lt. General Pritchard. The Senator being a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a veteran of WWI, he was not the best advocate to have when it came to airplanes, he found them loud and required too much maintenance to be reliable. “Give me a ship and the ocean any day, and we can win the war” was his standard phase when he was frustrated with the Army.
Arlene and Frank began a very close relationship for the rest of the summer. They made secret plans to marry in December. The one problem Arlene faced was having her father bless the marriage, and he did not. In fact the Senator told Frank he should have shot him in the head, the first day he met him. As winter approached in D.C. their relationship turned cold like the snow that blanketed the banks of the Potomac River. Frank requested a transfer, and was denied. Lt. General Pritchard liked him, and felt Frank had a real future in the flying Army. As any officer knows; if a General likes you, this means that Stars are in your advancement future.
Frank had been in the Army now for 10 years, his life droned on for another year, and was then sent to England in 1940 to observe the R.A.F. when they were fighting the Battle for Britain. The experience Frank gained from this tour of duty would propel him with endless knowledge of flying over Europe and understanding the British military mind. Frank was in London when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Two days later he was on a ship back to Langley, and upon arrival he was promoted to Colonel, he was 30 years old. He started flying again with a B-17 squadron for bomb training and formation flying. Frank knew that the key to bombing Germany would be tight formation flying for the bomber squadrons.
Colonel Savage returned to England in April of 1942 as part of the 633rd Air Bombardment Group. He was assigned as Air Executive Officer and flew 16 missions with the group and five missions with the R.A.F. In August he returned to Washington, D.C. to help Major General Crowe in Army War Plans. In February 1943 he and Wiley were sent to England; Wiley would be the Wing Commander at Pinetree headquarters as Deputy Commander for General Pritchard, and Frank would be Commanding Officer of the 847th Bomb Group. Frank went on to fly 11 more missions, making his total 32 mission over France, Norway, Denmark and Holland. General Pritchard recalled him to Pinetree to be on his staff, he was promoted to Brigadier General in September 1943. Frank would be in command of the 914th and the 918th Bomb Groups, flying out of Kingsford and Archbury.
One of Frank’s best friends was in command of the 918th, Colonel Keith Davenport. Keith and Frank went way back to the days of the DC-2 and XB-15 program, which seemed so long ago. One of Frank’s main projects was hitting the submarine pens in France, they are a hard target; the altitude the squadrons were flying at is too high. The bombs from 25,000 could not concentrate enough fire power to damage the pens to any degree to justify sending mission after mission with no results. Frank, with Pinetree approval signed the squadron field order for the 914th and the 918th to make the bomb run at 9,000 feet. The logic behind the high level command decision was to make one more mission and inflict heavy damage, saving planes, bombs and lives (in that order) to use on other targets.
Frank was in the middle of reviewing his idea for a first time mission deep into Germany; Schweinfurt, the industrial war city was the target. No U.S. bombers had ever bombed German soil, yet. As Frank rubbed his eyes in the dim light of his room at Pinetree the phone rang.... it was Keith Davenport at the 918th.