On December 14, Kenwood Productions lost one of our great friends and a terrific storyteller when Shirl John Hoffman passed away at age 94. Shirl was one of five crew members of the legendary B-17 Betty Boop/Pisol Packin’ Mama of the 390th Bomb Group. Shirl was the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner.
Back in 1990, Shirl along with Jim Geary (Pilot), Richard Perry (Co-Pilot), Gus Mencow (Navigator), and Clifford Puckett (Ball Turret) came to Minneapolis to film their interviews for our film. Over three days of wining, dining, and storytelling, we got to know these wonderful men.
Not all WWII vets enjoyed telling of their experiences. Many were reticent, most were uncomfortable, and some struggled to remember and relate painful tales of loss and violence. Shirl enjoyed telling stories. When in response to one of our questions he would launch into his answer, there would appear a twinkle in his eye indicating he would be taking as much pleasure in the telling as we were going to experience in the hearing. He really enjoyed telling tales.
I want to thank Sandy, his daughter, for sending some photos of Shirl, the plane, and a picture of the men when they were here. From left to right, they are Cliff Puckett, Dick Perry, Gus Mencow, Shirl, and Jim Geary. Shirl was the last of the crew.