Herbert Kaster

Herbert Kaster


Herbert was born in Peabody, MA in 1921.  In 1942, he was a senior at Boston’s Tufts University and it was difficult to get a job since he had a A-1 Draft classification from 1940 with no exemption.  Upon graduation in April 1942 with a degree in chemical engineering, Herb decided to go to Boston with a friend to join the Air Force. He discovered that the Army Air Corp had a recruiting office, so he and a friend entered and took the physical test and a week later he enlisted in the Army Air Corp.

Due to his background in chemical engineering, and after graduating college,  Herb was sent to an aircraft armament for special training at Lowry Field in Denver, CO, on July 1, 1942.  He would stay there for a 20-week training period as an aviation cadet.  At the time of graduation the invasion of Africa, Torch, took place and Herb was supposed to go there with the Twelfth Air Force; however, there was not a need for Herb to go to Africa so he was reassigned to the Eighth Air Force “Flying Fortress Bombing” at the  Honington Air Base, Bury St. Edmonds, England as a 2nd Lieutenant.

He would later achieve the rank of Captain. There he would work with two planes, the B-24 and the B-17.

Herb was in charge of assisting planes that were coming to and from the base.  He would make sure they were prepared for their flights off the base, as well as check all the planes that returned to Honington.  He planned and supervised all turret gun operations , machine operations and bomb racks on the B-17s for the Flying Fortress 3rd Bomb Division.  He oversaw the replacement of parts on the planes that were damaged by gunfire and make all repairs necessary to keep the planes in rotation.   He would also help remove the wounded or killed soldiers.  Planes returning to the base would indicate that there were wounded aboard by lighting a red flair, although many of the wounded had expired by the time the plane landed.

Herb was on leave in Edinburgh, Scotland when the war ended in May of 1945 and was unable to make it back to base to celebrate with his comrades.  Roughly a month later he was slated to go to Japan on the Queen Elizabeth with 15,000 Air Force men, but instead returned to the United States at Camp Kilmer, NJ on the U.S.S. New Jersey.   From there, he was to Fort Devens, MA and give orders to go home for 30 days and then return.  After 30 days, he returned to Fort Devens and informed he was going to be discharged and could return to his family.

Queen Elizabeth. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
U.S.S. New Jersey. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
U.S.S. New Jersey. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During his time at Honington,  the famous jazz musician, Glenn Miller visited the base on December 15, 1944. Miller and his band, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band, where being transported to begin a tour across Europe.  Herb met him he before he boarded a plane to return to the United States.  It would be Miller’s last flight. His plane disappeared over the English Channel.

Herb was awarded a certificate of merit in June 1945 by the Eighth Air Force in June 1945 for performance of duty.

He would marry his wife in 1947.  He ended up living in Cherry Hill when he took a job at Occidental Chemical Plant in Burlington, NJ.  The plant would later move to Pottstown, PA.  Herb would stay with the company as a chemical engineer until 1965, when he retired.  In 1987, he would go back to Honington Air Force base, which was returned to the Royal Air Force, for a 50th reunion.