WILLIAM R. CAMERON|
World War II
Memories and Biography
March 4, 1945
(Taken from a letter to Mr. Stapfer (?))
December 26, 1984
Dear Mr. Stapfer:
I ran across your letter to Bill Robertie in the Second Air Division Journal this morning and decided to drop you a line. It is a rather cold, rainy day and I am happy to have something interesting to do, indoors.
I probably can't help you very much, but I was the 44th command pilot on March 4, 1945. My record of the missions for which I received combat credit show Tuttlingen, Germany as the primary target. I can find nothing about it in Roger Freeman's The Mighty Eighty, or in Will Lundy's excellent history of the 67th Bomb Squadron (which indicates the target was Kaltenkirchen Airfield, and the 44th was lead by my good friend, now deceased, Major Wayne Middleton), or in any other source I have here at home.
My flight Form for March 1945 indicates that I flew eight hours on March 3rd as command pilot .. no destination was given on the form, which was customary (unfortunately). However, I have noted that the Flight Record Form was occasionally off by one day for some unexplained reason. So I will go by the official record of my combat missions and conclude it was the 4th. Will Lundy's history indicates that we were stood down on the 3rd because of bad weather. So, so much for that. That is to say, I was the command pilot for the 44th on March 4th, whatever was the primary target, but I assume it was Tuttlingen.
My memory is far from perfect, but I do recall that the weather was awful. I had one helluva time communicating with the weather scouts and our other units because of outlandish failure of pilots (probably copilots) to stay off the radio! The calls were of the "You damn fool, let's get out of here and go home. We can't bomb in this weather!" etc. Much of the language was much more basic!
I nearly went out of my mind in frustration trying to reach the weather scouts to see if they could find us our secondary or some other target, but even if there was an opening, I could not communicate with them. The weather was obviously terrible, so I had no choice but put out the recall order and permission to bomb on selected "targets of opportunity." I am sure that the bomber force was scattered out over Germany, and most, as in our case, carried their bombs back to our base.
Our lead aircraft (on landing) was taxied to the tower, to allow me, as command pilot, to disembark and give an initial verbal report to our Wing Commander, Leon Johnson. His first words to me were, "Bill, what happened?" That question took me by surprise because it was obvious from reports made to 8th Air Force Headquarters while we were en route, over the target area, etc. that we could not complete our missions successfully because of the weather conditions over Europe. Not totally unusual, but always disappointing. He then explained to me that Switzerland had been bombed!
It turned out that one of the squadrons from our formation (that could have been as few as six aircraft) of our three groups had gone off course, assumed that they had picked up a lake showing on their maps and near an apparent "target of opportunity," and dropped their bombs on radar - relatively primitive in those years. I vaguely recall that it turned out to be Lake Cosntance? I am reasonably sure that this squadron was from the 392nd BG, one of the three groups in our wing.
It was eventually determined that unpredicted, exceptionally strong winds at their altitude resulted in the error - they were quite some distance from their assumed position. Although we did receive some congressional attention, it was finally concluded that it was "an act of God" - obviously an unfortunate error but totally unintentional. Anyhow, that is the way I remember it - and I hope this may be of some help to you.
I doubt if I have anything more I can add, but be willing to try if you have questions.
William R. Cameron
4320 Tolando Trail
Carmel, CA 93923
Abstracted from the "Journal" written by William R. Cameron
Formation of 1st Lt. W. R. Cameron's Crew
In late March, 1943, there was a desperate search for people to form new crews in the 67th Squadron. In a few days, I soloed in the "Little Beaver." Shortly thereafter, two officers recently transferred from the RAF were assigned to me as my copilot, Bill Dabney and Navigator, Tom Clifford. Five volunteers from the ground crews who had worked on "The Line" were sent off to gunnery school. Upon their return, I had my two flight engineers in Winter and Gola Gibby; two waist gunners, Ernest McCabe and Jerry Grett; and a tail gunner, Frank Maruszewski. A real character, a reject from a B-17 outfit, was given to us as our radio operator, Gerald "Sparky" Sparks. The last to join our crew was our bombardier, "Gentleman" Jim DeVinney.
Thus was our crew born - a fine, eager bunch of kids it was!
With the exception of Capt. Cameron and his copilot Bill Dabney, this crew was still intact, but on this date replaced by two new pilots borrowed for this mission as Capt. Cameron had more than completed his tour of duty.
When it was learned that this crew did not return from this mission and I was informed that my close friend, Ernest McCabe, had been killed, I had the very sad duty to post a letter to his girlfriend that he had given to me in the event that he was lost. What a very sorrowful task that was.
Dear Boyhood Heroes, dear Friends,
August 1, 1943, my friend William R. Cameron led the second element of the 44th BG over White Five target, Ploesti, Rumania. Bill had actually completed his combat tour of duty with the previous raid (Rome): “It was ''high adventure'' and although I didn't know what the destination would be, I hated to miss out on it. Furthermore, the crew of the Buzzin' Bear didn't want to go with a new pilot. As an additional incentive, I was thoroughly enjoying the low-level flying.”
Bill survived the famous low-level raid to fly ten more missions, ending up as the 67th Squadron Commander, 44th BG.
His plane, Buzzin Bear, only lasted until 16 August 1943 when she went down with her brave gunners.
At the beginning of 2004, William R. Cameron died, leaving earth for never-ending missions in Buzzin Bear, with "George" Chester Phillips flying Little Beaver on his wing. Bill will live in my heart and soul, as all my Boyhood Heroes.
Luckily, many of them, the brave American Airmen who fought in World War II, are still alive. I wish them a long and happy life. But when they will make the last take-off run, the fuel they need to stay airborne is remembrance.
As long as people in their country or over here in Europe will remember them for what they did for Freedom, they will fly forever for the largest sky is in the spirit of respectful generations.
Cheers to the Ploesti Veterans
Cheers to the 8th men
Cheers to my Boyhood Heroes
Your friend from Belgium