Master Sergeant | Army Air Forces
Since the 19th century, Worcester, Mass. has been a hub for immigration with a prominent Armenian population. Garabed, born in 1915, grew up in a three-decker apartment with his Turkish father Arten, a grocery store clerk, Russian mother Anna, an older brother and two younger sisters. Kassabian joined the Army Air Force in August, 1939 and trained on the Douglas A-20 Havoc with the 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light), 27th Bm Gp (L) at Barksdale Field in Louisiana beginning in April, 1940. Throughout that year, Barksdale trained recruits in maneuvers that would simulate combat operations in the European theater. As the 27th Bm gp left for combat in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, the 15th was reassigned and moved to Ft. Dix Army Airfield, where they flew anti-submarine patrols off the East Coast.
After a promotion to Staff Sergeant in January 1942, Garabed stayed with the 15th Bm Sq (L) upon its reorganization and reassignment to the 8th Air Force in England. By May 12, he was overseas and settled at RAF Molesworth by June. The unit received the British Boston III Bomber (a variant of the A-20) from the RAF, and after a brief training period, six crews of the 15th joined six RAF crews to become not only the first U.S. bomb unit in theater, but the first American unit to fly a bombing mission in the European campaign.
Later that year, the 15th Bm Sq (L) was reassigned to the newly formed 12th Air Force as they flew DB-7s from the U.K. to Oran, Algeria to support Allied landings in North Africa. The 15th was assigned to the Northwest African Training Command where its combat veterans provided advanced training in ground air support with A-20s and A-36 Apaches throughout 1943. It was inactivated at Médiouna Airfield, Algeria on 1 October 1943 and its crews and aircraft were absorbed into the 47th Bombardment Group.
The 47th Bm Gp flew the A-20 Havoc exclusively. At the time then T/Sgt Kassabian arrived, the 47th was supporting 8th Air Force operations in Italy and the men of the 15th Bm Sq who had been reassigned to the 47th moved from Algiers to Vincenzo Airfield, Italy. "From Vincenzo most missions were in support of ground forces in central Italy, but there was another war to the east. We made night drops to native guerilla forces in occupied Yugoslavia. We did daylight bombing also on pinpoint targets for which we received radioed thanks from the friendly guerrillas over there, sometimes before our aircraft had returned to base. The Group's next home was Vesuvius Airdrome southeast of Naples and next to the famous Mount Vesuvius. From here we engaged in intensive operations against road and rail bridges, enemy airfields and enemy ground forces throughout early 1944. In March of that year we saw the biggest show of all by Mother Nature herself. Vesuvio decided to join the war with a mighty eruption. It was a mountain afire at night. Lava pushed down next to our airfield; some tragedy, some damage, some excitement. We all have our own pictures of this awesome volcano" (1).
Garabed finally arrived home in December, 1944 after participating in four major campaigns covering locations in England, North Africa, Italy, and France. He was discharged a year later with the rank of Master Sergeant, but immediately reenlisted and continued to serve in the Air Force through the beginning of its transitional era, finally leaving the service in 1952.
(1) "History." 47th Bombardment Group. 47th Bomb Group Reunion, 1979, 2009. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Carter, Kit C., and Robert Mueller. "U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII: Combat Chronology." Center for Air Force History, 1991. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.