15 February 1943 [legacy, Charles Arnold]|
Charles Arnold (letter to Will Lundy)
July 24, 1985
Thank you for your letter of July 5th.
It's funny how well I can remember some events of 40 years ago, but can't remember where I put my car keys ten minutes ago.
I've often wondered what happened in the nose and cockpit of that old 24 after we got hit. Most of all, I wondered what happened to Captain Cullen, the navigator, bombardier, and co-pilot. I had heard from some of the men who got shot down later that Capt. Cullen rode the ship down and both his legs were broken and he was in a German hospital. Never did confirm this.
Sorry to hear David Woo has forgotten Jesse Norwood and me (Charles Arnold). Jessie, David and I were the only ones in the waist and tail. I'm sure our tail gunner, J. Hilley, and belly gunner Thomas McKinsey didn't make it.
Since "Pappy Hall" was my pilot and I was subbing for Cap. Cullen's regular waist gunner, I didn't know the copilot (D. Macdonald), navigator (John L. Mackey), and bombardier (Paul D. Caldwell), too well.
Just before takeoff, Cap. Cullen's regular waist gunner (Cecil D. Goddard), got clearance for flying by Dr. Hymie and wanted to take my place and for me to fly with Lt. Oliphant, but since I had already gotten my gear aboard, I asked to stay aboard and he flew with Oliphant on our right wing. After we got shot down, I thought - Heck! I should have flown with Lt. Oliphant and I'd probably be back at the base or in some English Pub now. But later, I heard Oliphant's ship was shot down with no survivors. No way to confirm. Was this so? [Yes]
Well, you asked for it, Will. I hope I didn't bore you.
I was transferred into the 44th from the 15th. The 15th with A-20s went to North Africa. So I didn't get a chance to know men of the 44th as well as my old outfit.
15 February 1943 - Beautiful day for flying. We took off for Dunkirk, early afternoon, approaching target.
Flak not too heavy. Flying straight and leader. Muffled explosion, dull thud, front or belly?
Plane shudders but flies straight and level for a few seconds. Then flips over on right wing and starts spinning. Radio out. Everything loose, flying all around. Jessie, David and I all tangled up. I knew we'd had it.
I got hung up on waist window between gun mount and window frame. Jessie went out the other window. Woo didn't remember how he got out. Said he thought the plane broke in two and threw him out.
While I was stuck in waist window, I saw someone from the nose fly past me. Got just a glimmer of yellow Mae West and black hair. I couldn't identify. I got several letters from the War Department later trying to identify who it was, but I just didn't see that much in just a flash.
Finally got out of the window and fell free of plane. Landed in village of Dunkirk on top of high barn. Got free of my chute. Fell off barn and hit in pile of fresh cow manure. German field attachment sergeant picked me up.
Woo, Norwood and I were together in Dulag Luft, 8B and 7A. Left Jessie and Woo at 7A. I escaped three times and was caught twice. Last attempt was successful. Came back through Russia.
Will, thank you for all the information and addresses. If you've any news of Dean Deavers or Lester Klug, would like to hear from them. I'll write Art. Sorry about David's lapse of memory. He was like an older brother to me and I guess I'll always love the Chinese because of Woo.
Know I bent your ears enough for one time, so take care and wishing you clear sailing with your history of 44th.