The exhibit is grouped into the following sections: The Cache, The Combat, The Captains, The Crew, and The Camps. Each aspect of life in the European strategic bombing theater of World War II offers a unique clue to the life and times of the men who barely talked about their experiences after the war. All images included in “Bomber Boys” are from the KBL Family Collection, a secret cache of images found after the death of tail gunner Keith B. Lile in 1993.
All images used with the express permission of the KBL Family Collection.
Included in the KBL Family Collection are more than 200 items, including artifacts, ephemera, images, letters, and a diary from 1945. The following sampler provides insights into the life and service of men in the 445th squadron of the 321st Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Wing, 12th Army Air Corps who served in the European/Mediterranean Theater. All are from the KBL Family Collection, with the exception of the troop ship bunks which is from the National Archives. Each item provides a piece of the puzzle that was a bomber boy’s life during World War II, and specifically between 1943-1945.
The KBL Family Collection contains a wide array of images and ephemera from Keith B. Lile who served as a tail gunner with the 445th on Corsica and in Italy between 1943 and 45.
Bering Street Studio is proud to manage the KBL Family Collection of WWII images and ephemera. We will be digitizing and making the collection available for research, exhibits, and publications. Much in the same way that museums and libraries make their images available for licensing, we will be doing the same with the KBL Family Collection. As images become available, we will post gallery sets for review as well as any pertinent research information we have available. The goal is to make the collection accessible to a wide array of people, both for research purposes and to potentially gain additional information about the subjects of the images. Exhibit developers and publishers are encouraged to contact us for more information regarding image licensing.
THE KBL FAMILY COLLECTION of WWII images and ephemera is a unique collection that was literally saved from the burn pile by two family members. Stored for decades in the hayloft of a horse barn, the collection was once a sea of curled, dusty photographs but is now being cleaned, cataloged, and digitized for future research. It was the collection of Army Air Corps enlistee Keith Bishop Lile who served as a tail gunner in the European Theater. He survived 59 missions in the back end of a B-25 and spent much of his off time printing photographs in a makeshift darkroom. Approximately 500 objects strong, the collection consists of postcards, photographs, pamphlets, letters, a diary, mission lists, tickets, and an address book, all of which had been tucked away literally out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
This amazing collection inspired The Tail Gunner, a novel by S. T. Lile that is based largely on objects in the KBL Family Collection.