courtesy of Charles A. Smith, P-44, Radar
Sampsel was born August 30, 1920 on farm near Bellefonte,
PA. His wife, Jean was also raised on farm, along with three
others on Crew 44 - Geringer, Payne and Volmar. Max graduated
from Walker Township High School. Jean attended and graduated
from east Penn's Valley High School in 1940. Max and Jean
first met in 1941.
enlisted in the Army Air Corps, September 28, 1942 and
took pre-flight cadet training at Knox College, Galesburg,
Illinois. He then attended pilot's school but was released
from the program when it was suspended in late 1943.
was then sent to gunnery school at Fort Myers, Florida,
then to Lowery Field in Denver for B-29 training. He joined
Crew 44 in the fall of 1944 at Salina, Kansas where he
under went further specialized gunnery and armored instruction.
the crew neared the end of its stay at Salina, Max sent
for Jean to visit him, and in March 1945 they exchanged
vows. Their time together though was short. On April 7th
the crew departed for Mather Field on the first leg of
its journey to Pacific.
was stationed at more bases during this military service
(20 or more) than any other member of the crew with the
possible exception of A/C Payne and Charles Smith.
crew found Sampsel to be outgoing, likable, personable
and constantly upbeat. He possessed a great sense of humor,
which would erupt frequently in spontaneous fashion.
was Sampsel who first realized the competency and expectations
of Airplane Commander Payne. He would remind us with regularity,
"Skipper" knows his job 110 percent and is 90 percent
familiar with yours, so you darn well better know your
Payne was always amused during the sometimes-tense situations
that would arise. As the tension mounted, Max's voice
would rise to a higher and higher pitch. One night in
the early morning hours, while at Smoky Hill (Army Air
Field) P-44, encountering a problems with two engines.
Twice when they "revved up" the engines in preparation
to take-off, it was necessary to taxi back to the hanger
for additional power and pressure checks. For couple of
hours the crew sat around drinking coffee as they awaited
completion of the necessary repairs. Finally the problem
was apparently solved and they returned once more to make
their delayed take-off. P-44 had barely gotten airborne
when flames starting shooting out of the two engines.
Payne called Sampsel on the
and Jean Sampsel - 1991
and asked, "How do things look?"
replied, "My God Skipper, she looks a flaming Christmas
tree back here …flames are shooting out behind our tail."
the A/C prepared the crew for a crash landing inasmuch
as they lacked power to reach sufficient attitude for
bail out. The "May-Day" appeal was given, ground emergency
units were alerted and Payne radioed, "We're coming in!"
A/C made a superb smooth landing, but by this time Geringer
had drained the fire extinguishers and the fire was pretty
well subdued. At the end of the runway, the crew hurriedly
excited the plane as fire-fighting personnel arrived on
completed 22 combat missions by war's end and was the
recipient of the Distinguished
Flying Cross and three Air
Medals among other awards. He was discharge at Greensboro,
NC November 1945 holding the rank of Technical Sergeant.
returned to his hometown, Bellefonte, and to his wife
Jean. He took up employment with the Warner Stove Company
and then worked in a store for an automotive chain. During
the following 26 years, he held several other jobs, among
which were Dean Phipps Auto Stores and U.S. Rubber Company.
From 1972 until 1986, he operated a commissary at the
Pennsylvania State Correctional Department. He retired
in January of 1986.
jean retired at the same time as Max after 19 years with
Penn State University.
Sampsels have two sons: Gregory and Kurtis and proud grandparents
of two girls.
and Jean's interests include involvement in the Lutheran
Church, the VFW and American Legion and the Lion's Club.
They have also been active in heart and cancer fund raising
was proud to have been interviewed by Air and Space Magazine.
Obviously, he still retains his interest in aviation.