Ross Bales, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bales of Caldwell, trained for three months at Gowen Field in Boise before heading overseas. Bales never forgot his home state, naming the first bomber he piloted the “Idaho Potato Peeler.”
The B17F with the Idaho name completed 21 combat missions with Bales at the helm. Returning from a bombing run on January 23, 1943, Bales had to make an emergency, wheels-up, landing, sliding the plane onto the runway at Chipping Warden, England. None of the crew were hurt, but the plane was too badly damaged to get back into service right away.
Captain Bales took the stick of another B17F. He carried his naming tradition forward with one important twist. The new plane became “FDR’s Potato Peeler Kids.”
The Caldwell native flew the second Potato Peeler on 13 more combat missions before crashing into the North Sea. The plan was last seen going down in a spin. Several parachutes popped, but no survivors were recovered.
Captain Ross C. Bales is memorialized on the Wall of the Missing in the Netherlands.
Thanks to Jeff Schrade who provided much of the information for this story.