MOMENTS OF WARTIME BEFORE |
At one time my parents bought 'coffee table" pictorial books of World War 1. I can remember looking at the carnage, devastation and desolation involved in war. I wondered if we would ever again be in war and if I would be involved. The thoughts were of a transitory nature and I would put them at the back of my mind. They were brought to mind for good in Sept. 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. I can remember that our local paper, The Post Register, issued an extra the morning of the invasion and I remember showing it into Dad and Mom. Events carried on but they were far away and of little concern. I graduated from Idaho Falls High School in 1941; enrolled in the University of Idaho, Southern Branch, in Pocatello to study Scientific Pharmacy, which also was a pre-med course. [Dad had purchased a small drug store in Tetonia, Idaho and was being taught by the local doctor, hence my choice of pharmacy.]. Things went well, except for a TOUGH English course. I joined a pharmacy fraternity; Phi Delta Chi. Our initiation was on the night of Dec. 6,1941.
ON THE MOVE
I was one of the first to wake up on Dec. 7 th and heard the news that changed every ones' lives. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp. as an aviation cadet in September of 1942 [upon reporting for active duty in February 1943 in Lincoln, Nebraska we were shocked to find that we were just privates with regular GI uniforms]. Another shock was insufficient uniforms and shoes so we ddifed in mostly civilian clothes during March of 1943. Our next move was by train [Civil War variety with hard benches and pot bellied stoves] to Drury College in Springfield, Mo. for a short time and then on to San Antonio, Texas, for classification and assignment. I had indicated a preference to be a navigator but was told because of a shortage of pilots I could either be a pilot or a gunner. I didnl have much confidence in learning to fly but like a lot of things in life, I found that we have more ability [this I learned over and over when overseas] than we give ourselves credit for. So I opted for pilot training. Following rapidly was preflight at San Antonio, primary flight training at Chickasha, Oklahoma, basic at Garden City, Kansas [again I learned the lesson about ability. Afterjust a few hours in the 8T 13,[aptly called the Vultee Vibrator], I was told to solo. I thought the instructor wanted me dead. Then on to Frederick, Oklahoma to fly twin engines, learn night formation and blitz landings at night [this meant no landing lights and only a 15 degree aperture opening on the runway lights]. Next came graduation and a commission as a 2nd. Lieutenant and my first leave home [where my folks didn't recognize me] After two weeks at home it was on to liberal, Kansas for B-24 transition. One of the first things you learned was to leave the bomb bay doors cracked open to suck out gasoline fumes. We lost a ship occasionally when the doors weren't open and someone lit up a cigarette. Next onto California to pick up our assigned crews and on to Walla Walla, WA. for combat crew training. Formation flying in the B-24 was real work; the beast didn't really like someone flying it.
READY TO GO
We received orders for Hamilton Field, Calif. the staging area for the Pacific Theater. The thoughts of all that water to fly over gave us some apprehension but we were in our late teens, twenty and twenty one, hence we were immortal. After a few days we were loaded on a troop train; we hadn't heard of a troop train over the Pacific Ocean. instead we headed east to Camp Kilmer, N.J., then on to England on the English liner "Aquatania" with I 0,000 other troops and no escort. We landed in Glasgow, Scotland on Thanksgiving Day. Now everyone knows that no matter where you were, on Thanksgiving you got a turkey dinner. This is the truth, I have myoid orders on file for proof; they said 'Cooked rat in kind will be provided while traveling". We didn't have rat but we did have a K ration feast.
NOT QUITE READY TO GO
On 29 Nov. 1944 we arrived at Kimbolton, England [in the Midlands] and facing us were not the twin tails of the 8-24 but the single fin of the 8-1 7. This was our first knowledge of what was going on; a shortage of combat crews in Europe pulled us out of the Pacific. We then had to undergo a short transition into the B-1 7 and were we glad!!. It was easier to fly, took more damage and flew higher than the B-24. So far, so good but on the evening of the next day, what did the red flares coming out of planes on their final approach mean? We found the answer; the day's target was a synthetic oil refinery at Zeitz, German and they had to make two runs; hence wounded on board.
ON OUR WAY
A long spell of English weather kept us grounded for several days, during which the Battle of the Bulge commenced. Our troops were caught by surprise by the sudden attack; they had no winter clothing and little ammunition and wouldn't have until the skies cleared enough for parachute drops. Henceforth events will be chronological. Dec. 24th, 1944 Christmas Eve]: our first mission; target airdromes in the Frankfurt area. The weather was so bad that jeeps had to lead us to the end of our runway. We would set our gyro-compass to the runway heading and take off, looking at the compass instead of outside where the visibility was less than 100 yards. As one plane took off, a radio operator at the end of the runway would radio to send another. We climbed through 400 feet of clouds and broke into the clear, formed our formation, joined the bomber stream and were on our way. We dropped our bombs at 22000 ft at 14:50. During the bomb run, the twin fifty-caliber machine guns in the top turret behind my head started firing. The gunner 'thought' he had seen a fighter. From our C.O.'s report on returning to England he said, "weather was reported as poor; we asked if we were to be diverted and were told to return to our bases and circle our buncher beacons. Just before we reached our base we received instructions to divert to Mendelsham, immediately followed up by a message to divert to Grafton/Underwood; in the traffic pattern there another message Game in instructing us back to Mendelsham. We landed at Mendelsham with a great amount of traffic which could have been avoided if we had been instructed to land there an hour before'. Three groups of approx. 30 planes each were trying to land at this time.
27 Dec.1944 - 28 Dec.1944 - 29 Dec.1944 - 1 Jan. 1945 - 2 Jan.1945 - 7 Jan.1945 – 8 Jan.1945 - 15 Jan. 1945 - 17 Jan. 1945 - 20 Jan. 1945 - 23 Jan. 1945 target: Euskirchen [marshaling yards] target: Brubi [marshaling yards] target: Wittlich [communication center] target: Goftingen-Kassel [marshaling yards] target: Daun [communication center] target: Germund [communiration center] target: Speicher [communication center] target: Ingoistadt [railway shops] target: Paderborn [railway shops] target: Mannheim [bridge] thi_ had been missed so much that it was said that the Germans always hid under it for safety target: Neuss [marshaling yards] Quoting from our book "Shades of Kimbolton". "On the cold moming of 23Jan all but four of our B-17s had taken off by 7:30 A.M. Snow flurries whipped by a freezing wind swept out of the north across the base. All personnel not flying were returning to the warmth of their beds, some were just getting ready for their day's work. The B-1 7 [immeiately after me] roaring down the icy runway lifted about 25 feet in the air, then suddenly tilted crazily towards the left and headed for,the 525th. living site [mine], a half mile away. Tree limbs, power lines and telephone wires in its path were sheared off. Without warning it crashed into the 525th. orderly room. Gas from the bursted tanks exploded first; what happened next nine men will never know. Bombs were exploding, ammunition was firing in all directions and with each next explosion more buildings collapsed. The 525th living area was destroyed. [That morning in the bed next to mine, an officer from Pocatello, Idaho told me how 'sorry he was that I had to fly while he could sleep in his warm bed" He along with eight others were killed.]
6 Feb 1945 16 Feb 1945 20 Feb. 1945 22 Feb. 1945 23 Feb. 1945 24 Feb. 1945 26 Feb. 1945 28 Feb. 1945 2 Mar. 19454 Mar. 19458 Mar. 1945 14 Mar. 1945 18 Mar. 1945 target: Gotha [marshaling yards] target: landendreer [synthetic oil] Heavy accurate flak over the target; our plane received major damage along with 14 others and 19 others sustained minor damage. target: Nurnberci [marshaling yard] saw my first German rocket fighter, "The Kornet' target: luneburci [marshaling yard] Unusual bomb run, we climbed to 20,000 feet and then let down to 8000 feet over the target. It felt like our rear ends were exposed. target: Crailsheim [marshaling yard]. landed on two engines [no gas], another ran out of gas on the runway, had to be towed. target: Hamburci I ynthetic oil]. target: Berlin [marshaling yards] On this mission we were briefed with a tail wind going in so were loaded with the maximum bomb load and gas of 2700 gallons. At elevation the tail wind became a direct head wind forcing us to use more gas; on egress we separated over the North Sea to conserve on gas; my navigator picked the closest field in England. Within sight of the coast two engines ran out of gas; an English fighter field was in sight; on our down wind leg we lost a third engine and landed on 1 engine on a crosswind runway. Transferring gas to empty tanks was not advisable becaus_ of inaccurate gauges; we didn't want all four to run out at the same time. target: Hacien [marshaling yards] target: Chemnitz [chemical plant] Because of the time length of the mission [take off at 06:43, landed at 19:301 we were short on gas and landed at Manston, a large emergency field in England. At 15:14 we saw a B-1 7 blow up about 4 miles south of Calais, France. We saw 9 chutes leave the plane. target: Ulm target: Essen [Benzol chemigal plant] target: Minden [Minden Bridge] target: Berlin [Marshaling yards] Part way to the target, #2 & #3 engines were running rough; had to jettison bombs; returned alone with fighter support. One ship was hit by flak and landed in Russia