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Personal Legacy
Bert Carlberg
W.W.II Diary
Short Account of Crandell's Crew

August 18, 1998

With sadness I hear and read of the increasing number of 44th BG veterans adding to the Folded Wings list during these last years of the 20th century. Those of us who remain have reached or passed the average life span of man so, except for those with exceptional longevity genes, there are not too many years left.

I feel fortunate that my memory bank is still functioning on most of its cylinders and, while I am in this state, I want to put down on paper some of these recollections I still have of my time in the 44th BC during late 1944 and winter and spring of 1945.

In October Lt. Leonard Crandell and his crew (including me) departed New York on the Ile de France -- an ocean liner converted into a troop ship. Strange though it may seem now, we were all afraid that the war in Europe would be over before we got there. Generals Patton and Bradley and Field Marshall Montgomery were moving rapidly across Western Europe and the newspapers were predicting the war would be over by Christmas. The Ile de France was loaded with replacement troops, aircrews, and glider pilots. We were packed in like sardines and could not do much except sleep, write letters, read, play cards or shoot dice. At times we would go out on deck for fresh air and exercise. Traveling with us was a USO group - led by comedian Jack Oakie - going over to entertain the troops. They may have put a couple of shows on as we crossed the Atlantic but I was not aware of any. The glider pilots were a very unhappy group. They had all been instructor pilots in the Army Air Corps training command and abruptly pulled out to fly gliders. They envied those of us who were going over to fly aircraft with engines. I've often wondered how many of them survived because, before the war ended, gliders were used frequently supporting the advancing armies.

The trip over the ocean took only seven days. We were not part of a convoy so the Ile de France changed its course heading every three minutes which prevented an enemy submarine from being able to draw a bead on it. We docked at Glasgow, Scotland and went by train to Stoke-on-Trent where we spent a couple of days awaiting assignment to the various air bases in East Anglia. Finally we were on our way - again by rail - to Shipdham, but delayed enroute when a buzz bomb narrowly missed the tracks that we were on. This incident made us realize that we were in the war zone and the enemy had not yet given up. Because of the delay we did not arrive at the air base till late in the evening. Our crew was assigned to the 67th Squadron and Lts. Crandell, Crell and myself quartered in the rear most Quonset hut on the left side adjacent to a large sugar beet field. The hut was divided into four sections with two officers to each section. Crandell and Croll were put in one section and I was put in the adjoining section with Lt. Ed Reynolds who had arrived there three weeks earlier. He was the first pilot and his co-pilot, Stan Fransted and navigator Hal Pendleton, were housed in the section. opposite us. Several years later, when I revisited the 67th Squadron area, our hut was gone with only the concrete slab, on which it rested, remaining.

Lt. Reynolds and I hit it off right away. Most likely because we were from the same part of the country - he from Lowell Massachusetts and I from Meriden, Connecticut. We both had spent our teen years during the very rough times of the depression so we appreciated the basic needs of warmth, food and security more than our younger colleagues.

Having come up through the ranks and finally getting into pilot training he was dedicated to his military profession and kept training in order to become even more proficient. After the war he remained in the Air Force and pulled duty of flight checking navigational aids all over the United States and Alaska. Following his retirement in the early 60's the FAA hired him to become an airlines check pilot, a position he held until his untimely death in the early 70's.

Both our crews - Crandell's and Reynolds - became very friendly and often got together in one or the others section to exchange scuttlebutt, experiences and to have an occasional night time snack. Local farmers found they could make a bit of extra money by selling fresh eggs to the American airman. We were steady customers and some evenings we would bring bread from the mess hall, fry some of those delicious fresh eggs over our small pot-bellied stoves and make ourselves some great egg sandwiches.

My roommate was an animal lover and soon after he arrived at the 67th, he took in a stray black cat. We had a window at the end of our hut so we left it partially open so the cat could get in and out. This cat was quite a hunter and often caught mice and small rats in the drainage ditch just outside the hut. On occasion, at night, the cat would bring in its catch and drop it by my cot or Ed's and loudly announce his hunting ability.

We had a radio in our room and enjoyed listening to the music from the Armed Forces Network as well as the BBC news programs which were identified and preceded with chimes. On occasion we tuned in a German propaganda station which fed us a lot of garbage. One morning, however, we were surprised when, returning from a scrubbed mission, to hear the German station announcer inform us that they were disappointed that our mission was cancelled because they were going to be waiting for us near the target. Even late in the war they still had some means of receiving intelligence information.

My rating was that of aerial navigator. Following graduation from navigator training I was fearful of being assigned to the Pacific theater inasmuch as many combat missions there required flying over long stretches of ocean with few nav aids and frequent use of flying by the stars. I had been taught celestial navigation but it was slow and cumbersome, so when our crew was assigned to the ETA I breathe a big sigh of relief. There, celestial navigation was rarely required. We had good maps with roads, railroads, towns, villages and cities clearly marked. Also radio beacons were readily available. In the last few months of the war we were given a new aid - call a GEE box. Special maps were made that contained curved lines which emanated from a master radar station and a slave station. These lines crossed to give perfect fixes over central and southern England and all the operator had to do was to place the setting or fix of his destination in the GEE box and steer the aircraft towards the fix which he would reach when the radar blips joined. The master station was powerful enough to reach into Western Germany but no other means of navigation. Also when returning to base in early winter darkness and a snowstorm I was able to find our Shipdham base without any problem.

My only use of celestial navigation came into play when we flew our B-24's home in early June 1945. On one leg of the trip - between Iceland and Greenland - we were told to fly a course 10 degrees left of the true heading to the field in Greenland and shoot Celestial readings of the sun which would give us speed readings. When we were within 10 minutes of the projected speed line, that was a beam the airfield, we made a 90 degree turn to the right and after coming over the southern tip of Greenland soon reached the airport. Landing there was a bit difficult though because the sole runway could only be reached by flying up a narrow fjord leading directly to that runway.

Our last combat mission was on April 25th 1945 when we flew to the outskirts of Salzburg, Austria to bomb a small refinery. It was a long mission - total flying time of 9 hours - but not one bit of enemy activity to challenge us. I believe this was the last bombing mission for the 8th Air Force in Europe.

The war in Europe ended on May 8th 1945 but that day and the following one we were kept busy flying what were called "Trolley" missions. On these flights we carried many of our ground support personnel at low level over Holland and the Ruhr valley of Germany to show them the devastation that had resulted from day/night bombing. I remember looking down at the bombed out cities, bridges, railroads, factories and highways, wondering whether they would be able to rebuild. Obviously they were because some of the most modern and beautiful cities have risen from those ashes - thanks to the Marshall plan.

On one of those afternoons - right after May 8th - our squadron commander and a Capt. Fitzgibbons - who lived in the other corner of our hut - took a B24 and flew to a part of the French Coast famous for its wine production. They brought back quite a supply and I'll never forget a wine drinking party that followed. I overindulged ended up throwing my guts out in the ditch next to our hut.

Prior to our departure from Shipdham, we flew a couple of nigh time training flights to brush up on navigation before leaving for the States. Ironically we flew the entire trip in daylight overnighting at Valley, Wales, Keflavik, Iceland and Bluie West One in Greenland. We landed our aircraft at Windsor Locks, Connecticut and I never flew in a B24 again.

"Swede" Carlberg


BERT (SWEDE) CARLBERG
World War II Memories

Taken from a letter to Will Lundy dated April 1984

Dear Will:

With each copy of the 2nd ADA Journal comes a sad realization that the life spans of WWII veterans are ending in greater numbers than before. The list of Folded Wings grows longer and the March 1984 issue listed Ed Reynolds - my roommate, advisor, A/C commander, best man and true friend.

I was a navigator on Lt. Crandall's crew, arrived at Shipdham in late November 1944, and assigned to the 67th Squadron. Lt. Crandall, copilot Croll and myself were given quarters in the last Quonset hut on the left side in the rear of the squadron's area. That hut was quartered with two officers to each quarter. My roommate turned out to be Captain Eddie Reynolds. We hit it off right away because we had one thing in common - we were New Englanders - he from Lowell, Mass. And I from Meriden, Conn.

As time went on, I found out several things about my roommate. The first thing I diagnosed was that Ed was a good and dedicated pilot. He loved to fly but fretted and became upset if his performance was criticized. During practice formation flying, he was admonished several times by Major Banedon, who was at one time squadron commander, for not pulling up real tight. Ed's position was that very tight formation flying was necessary when under attack or over enemy territory but in practice safety was of primary importance. When later, I became Ed's navigator, I noticed that on combat missions he was never criticized and as a lead pilot he kept his squadron under firm control.

Some other things I found out about Ed. He was a scrounger - we often had fresh eggs and fried them over our little stove in the evenings using wood and coal that also had been scrounged. He was not selfish, however. Frequently, the benefactors were members of his crew or other officers in he Quonset hut. He loved to read and also was a great letter writer. He was a very handsome guy with charm to go with it so his mail to and from the female sex was heavy. Ed enjoyed playing poker and was quite good at it. We spent many nights in the small officer's club adjacent to our hut playing poker and he usually came out a winner. One thing Ed was not good at and that was drinking alcoholic beverages, yet he would tie on a beaut now and then. He told me that he hated the taste of alcohol but when he drank any he would drink it straight and fast so that he would only endure the taste for a brief period of time before it took effect.

In early March 1945 Ed had some problem with the performance of his navigator so, without my knowledge, he had me transferred to his crew which had been given lead crew status. I was a little upset because I wanted to finish with Len Crandall but the gods were with me through Eddie Reynolds. On March 24, 1945, while we were flying practice missions, Lt. Crandall and crew flew a low-level supply dropping mission for Field Marshall Montgomery's troops crossing the Rhine River and sustained a direct hit that wiped out the aircraft and entire crew. It took me awhile to get over that.

After the war Ed stayed in the Air Force and spent time at various locations including Alaska where he flew to remote fields, including the Aleutian chain where he checked out navigation aids often under horrendous weather conditions. He once checked out the GCA unit at Gander, Newfoundland when I was stationed there as chief dispatcher for Scandinavian Airlines.

After Ed retired from the Air Force he took a job with the FAA as a pilot and performed the same functions that he had done with the Air Force - flight-checking nav. Aids. In the last years he rode as check pilot on airline pilots.

Ed died on December 29, 1983 following an unsuccessful battle against a brain tumor. Jim Forrest, original crewmember, and myself attended the funeral held at Fort Meyers with burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

I owe the extension of my own life to Ed Reynolds but more than that he was a fine American, a dedicated airman and probably one of countless unsung heroes whose achievements will be lost.

I would appreciate it if this small documentary were placed in the records of the 67th squadron, 44th Bomb Group.

Sincerely...Bert (Swede) Carlberg

* * * * * * * * *


When I joined Lt. Leonard Crandell's crew at Mountain Home, Idaho for combat crew training in September 1944 we were all concerned that the war would end before we became qualified and could be sent overseas. However, we finished our training, proceeded on to Camp Kilmer, sailed out of New York on the Ile de France and received assignment to the 67th Squadron in the 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham, England with the shooting war still going on.

In as much as the war appeared to binding down we were not rushed into combat but were put through a series of formation flying and practice bombing and gunnery flights over the "Wash" - a large ocean inlet north of East Anglia. Each day we would wait for and watch the 44th returning from their mission over German targets and wonder whether we would ever join them. One of the most vivid memories I recall is peering into the navigator's window of a damaged B-24 to see where a 20mm shell had entered from underneath the navigator's table striking the navigator in the head and killing him instantly. I was also a navigator so this particular scene was upsetting to say the least.

The offensive pattern of the war suddenly changed in mid-December when the Germans launched their counter offensive at Ardennes - "The Battle of the Bulge." The timing for their offensive was excellent from the stand point of weather because at that time the UK experienced a prolonged period of dense fog over the Allied air fields preventing massive air retaliation during the initial thrust of the attack. The 8th Air Force was practically grounded during those first few days and it was not until Christmas Eve day when the weather cleared over East Anglia enabling the 8th to get into the air with a maximum effort. Lt. Crandell's crew was not listed for this mission but a few days later we found ourselves on the roster for our first combat mission.

We were young, eager and very green as the results showed for our performance on that day. While climbing on course over the English Channel, the waist gunners reported that they could see fuel siphoning from the ful tanks and vaporizing as it poured from behind each wing. They believed the fuel caps were not properly secured. Flight Engineer Bob Ogilivie and Co-pilot Bill Croll went back to take a look and confirmed that we were indeed losing fuel in this manner. Lt. Crandell decided to abort the mission and return to base but first we had to dispose of our bomb load of six 1000 lb. bombs. I was asked to give a heading to the drop point in the Channel where the bombs could be safely dropped unarmed without endangering any shipping. Unfortunately I did not have the coordinates of the drop point. This was a gross error on my part for not having copied them at the navigator's briefing probably thinking that I would never need them. Looking down at the Channel below all I could see was a lot of sea traffic so I directed Lt Crandell to fly on a northerly heading. In the meantime the pilots repeatedly called back to base asking for the coordinates but received no reply. After 20 to 30 minutes we found ourselves over a part of the Channel that was free of ships so I salvoed the bombs, watched them disappear safely into the water then plotted a course back to base.


After returning to our hard stand the crew chief examined the fuel caps on our aircraft and determined that they were properly locked and we had not lost any fuel through siphoning in flight. We were told that the vapor trails observed by the waist gunners were contrails which form behind engine exhausts in cold air at high altitudes. This combination of errors - mistaking contrails for fuel leakage, aborting the mission, not in possession of the drop point coordinates and breaking of radio silence requesting them - put us in a hell of a pickle with our group commander Colonel Snavely. He ordered us into his office and listened to our sad story of errors - then he gave us a royal chewing out and at this chore he excelled. He promised us that inasmuch as we were the most inefficient crew he had at the moment he would see to it that we would get plenty of practice in order to improve ourselves.

The insignia of the 44th was a flying eight-ball and we were the crew that was right behind it!

Following the collapse of the German counteroffensive Col Snavely's promise did not hold true to the letter but the missions we flew became longer because each day the Allied font lines kept moving eastward. According to my Form 5 the average time permission was seven hours in January and almost eight hours in February. We flew three missions that logged over nine hours each. Two of these were to Berlin.


In early March 1945 we flew a mission to a target near Munich and encountered very heavy flak in the target area. Our B-24 was peppered by the flak bursts but did not suffer a direct hit and did not appear to sustain any serious damage. However on the way home we were losing fuel rapidly and suspected that it was caused by the flak. In addition we were encountering strong headwinds that put us well behind our forecasted ETO's for the check points along the route. The fuel level on our sight gauges dripped below our requirement to Lt. Crandell asked me to give him a heading to one of the alternate air bases in France behind the Allied front lines. At pre-mission briefing we had been warned to keep away from Paris because already too many bombers had diverted there at the slightest pretext therefore I plotted a course to an airfield designated A70 and approximately 75 miles northeast of Paris. WE descended slowly into a cloud cover that extended to the horizon in all directions. Using the Gee box - an early type of radar navigation - I was able to maintain a heading to the alternative, but the limited range of the radar station only gave me a course reading. We were too far away from the radar signal that would provide another blip from which a speed reading check could be made. We kept descending unaware that the depth of the cloud coverage extended almost to the ground. Our altitude was 200 feet when we came over the air field but we were in and out of the base of the clouds and were unable to make an approach to the runway. After making a couple circuits we lost sight of the air field altogether and succeeded in getting quite lost. I recall directing Lt. Crandell back to the southeast so that I could again pick up the course heading on the Gee box for a second approach. This time we came over the air field in a worsened ceiling condition and became very concerned about crashing into a hill or obstacle at our very low altitude. According to my maps the terrain was supposed to be fairly level in that region of France by flying at 200 feet and below in and out of clouds was hairy particularly with the fuel gauges hovering around empty. The rest of the crew, not involved in the flight deck activity, became very frightened and concerned that we were going to run out of fuel. Over the intercom they pleaded with Lt. Crandell to climb to a higher altitude so that we would have a change to bail out safely. All through this ordeal both pilots and radio operator kept trying to make contact with the ground for assistance but to no avail. My maps showed a green patch (low elevation area) just north of a city by the name of Saint Quentin. We headed three slowly climbing through the overcast breaking out at 12,000 feet and leveling off at 13,000. The gunners - John Brown, Irv Germolus, Walt Battenberg and Jim Roach rushed to the opened bomb bay and jumped out in succession. R/O Larry Feeney and F/E Bob Ogilvie were to follow. After Feeney jumped Ogilvie crouched on the catwalk ready to leap but after looking down he turned to me and indicated he did not want to. Expecting the engines to run dry any second, I pushed him out and watched his body plummet down into the clouds without his chute opening. I had a panicky feeling that he froze mentally and was unable to pull the rip cord. As a result I jumped and pulled my rip cord at the same time almost snagging it in the bomb bay. Before I disappeared into the clouds, I watched our B-24 flying smoothly on a seemingly routine flight. However, It ran out of fuel and crashed in an open field soon after the pilots bailed out.

Floating down through clouds I was amazed at the silence - just a little swishing sound caused by the parachute - and the feeling of being in a stat of suspension because I could not see anything. The time was approximately 1830 local time and, although there was bright blue sky at 13,000 feet, it became quite dark as I neared the ground. When I broke contact with the base of the clouds, I was swinging like a pendulum and tried to stop it by pulling on one side of the shroud lines, but, while on a downward swing, I abruptly hit the ground landing flat on by back. I was knocked out momentarily but after a minute or so I got up, unbuckled by chute, rolled it up and then noticed that the force of the impact had left an imprint of my entire body in the wet ground. Carrying my chute I started walking across soaked fields in the gathering dusk and headed for a farmhouse which was about a half mile from where I landed. I thought I might see or hear one or more of the other crew members but there was no one in sight. At the farmhouse I knocked on the door and it was opened by a French woman who expressed surprise and some fright. I must have appeared rather sinister in the fading daylight and she did not know whether I was German, English, American or whatever until I repeated the word "American"several times. She then invited me into the kitchen where there were other members of the family - two daughters and her husband. We could not communicate very well - I couldn't speak French nor they English. Their farm was located on the outskirts of a small village by the name of Fresnoy-Gricourt and the farmer went there to fetch an official by the name and title of Count de Tashcher de la Pagerie. Wile I sat and waited in the kitchen of the farmhouse the girls prepared and gave me a cup of ersatz coffee. It didn't taste much like coffee but I appreciated it anyway. Soon the farmer came back with the Count - a friendly middle-aged gentleman - who spoke English fluently. He told me that he had one of my fellow crew members back in the village and I should accompany him there. Before leaving the farmhouse I told him that I would like to give my parachute silk to the two daughters in appreciation for their hospitality. However the Count advised me not to because this particular family was not on very good terms with the villagers inasmuch as they had been too friendly with the Germans during the occupation. We then went to the village and to the Count's home where the man I had pushed out of the bomb bay, Sergeant Oglivie, was sitting at a table wolfing down a precious egg omelette! The count explained that it was too late to take us to the air base - the same one we had tried unsuccessfully to land on - but we would stay in his home that night and go there in the morning. This very gracious gentleman then proceeded to treat us like royalty with fine food, wine and liqueurs that he must have been carefully hoarding for a VE Day celebration. When we sacked in for the night Bob Oglivie and I each had a private room with soft down filled mattresses and comforters. The house was very luxurious and, according to the Count, had been taken over by the Germans during the occupation and used as an Officer's billet.

The next morning we were taken to the air base and rejoined the rest of our crew. After a couple of days there we were flown to another base where we picked up a B-24 and flew back to Shipdham.

Soon after our return I was transferred to a lead crew commanded by Captain Edward Reynolds, who was also my roommate in the 67th squadron. I fretted a bit over this transfer because I wanted to finish my tour with my original crew but fate guided my destiny to live, whereas Lt. Crandell's crew all perished in a crash following a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire in the March 24th supply drop over the Rhine.

We flew our last combat mission on April 25th bombing an oil refinery on the outskirts of Salzburg in Austria. On VE day, may 8th - we began a series of "Trolly" missions to show ground personnel the devastation that the air forces had wrecked on Germany. Flying at a few hundred feet about the ground we had a bird's eye view of the complete destruction of the industrial Ruhr valley. Those Trolley mission scenes remained etched in my mind and were brought back in focus a few years later when, hung up on a delayed airline flight, I spent a night in Frankfurt touring the city where round the clock reconstruction was in progress and would continue for years to come.

These are the highlights of a short but action packed seven months with two great flying 8 ball crews that I had the privilege to fly with.

Swede Carlberg



Bert Carlberg
W.W.II Diary


When I joined Lt. Leonard Crandell's crew at Mountain Home, Idaho for combat crew training in September 1944 we were all concerned that the war would end before we became qualified and could be sent overseas. However, we finished our training, proceeded on to Camp Kilmer, sailed out of New York on the Ile de France and received assignment to the 67th Squadron in the 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham, England with the shooting war still going on.

In as much as the war appeared to binding down we were not rushed into combat but were put through a series of formation flying and practice bombing and gunnery flights over the "Wash" - a large ocean inlet north of East Anglia. Each day we would wait for and watch the 44th returning from their mission over German targets and wonder whether we would ever join them. One of the most vivid memories I recall is peering into the navigator's window of a damaged B-24 to see where a 20mm shell had entered from underneath the navigator's table striking the navigator in the head and killing him instantly. I was also a navigator so this particular scene was upsetting to say the least.

The offensive pattern of the war suddenly changed in mid-December when the Germans launched their counter offensive at Ardennes - "The Battle of the Bulge." The timing for their offensive was excellent from the stand point of weather because at that time the UK experienced a prolonged period of dense fog over the Allied air fields preventing massive air retaliation during the initial thrust of the attack. The 8th Air Force was practically grounded during those first few days and it was not until Christmas Eve day when the weather cleared over East Anglia enabling the 8th to get into the air with a maximum effort. Lt. Crandell's crew was not listed for this mission but a few days later we found ourselves on the roster for our first combat mission.

We were young, eager and very green as the results showed for our performance on that day. While climbing on course over the English Channel, the waist gunners reported that they could see fuel siphoning from the ful tanks and vaporizing as it poured from behind each wing. They believed the fuel caps were not properly secured. Flight Engineer Bob Ogilivie and Co-pilot Bill Croll went back to take a look and confirmed that we were indeed losing fuel in this manner. Lt. Crandell decided to abort the mission and return to base but first we had to dispose of our bomb load of six 1000 lb. bombs. I was asked to give a heading to the drop point in the Channel where the bombs could be safely dropped unarmed without endangering any shipping. Unfortunately I did not have the coordinates of the drop point. This was a gross error on my part for not having copied them at the navigator's briefing probably thinking that I would never need them. Looking down at the Channel below all I could see was a lot of sea traffic so I directed Lt Crandell to fly on a northerly heading. In the meantime the pilots repeatedly called back to base asking for the coordinates but received no reply. After 20 to 30 minutes we found ourselves over a part of the Channel that was free of ships so I salvoed the bombs, watched them disappear safely into the water then plotted a course back to base.


After returning to our hard stand the crew chief examined the fuel caps on our aircraft and determined that they were properly locked and we had not lost any fuel through siphoning in flight. We were told that the vapor trails observed by the waist gunners were contrails which form behind engine exhausts in cold air at high altitudes. This combination of errors - mistaking contrails for fuel leakage, aborting the mission, not in possession of the drop point coordinates and breaking of radio silence requesting them - put us in a hell of a pickle with our group commander Colonel Snavely. He ordered us into his office and listened to our sad story of errors - then he gave us a royal chewing out and at this chore he excelled. He promised us that inasmuch as we were the most inefficient crew he had at the moment he would see to it that we would get plenty of practice in order to improve ourselves.

The insignia of the 44th was a flying eight-ball and we were the crew that was right behind it!

Following the collapse of the German counteroffensive Col Snavely's promise did not hold true to the letter but the missions we flew became longer because each day the Allied font lines kept moving eastward. According to my Form 5 the average time permission was seven hours in January and almost eight hours in February. We flew three missions that logged over nine hours each. Two of these were to Berlin.


In early March 1945 we flew a mission to a target near Munich and encountered very heavy flak in the target area. Our B-24 was peppered by the flak bursts but did not suffer a direct hit and did not appear to sustain any serious damage. However on the way home we were losing fuel rapidly and suspected that it was caused by the flak. In addition we were encountering strong headwinds that put us well behind our forecasted ETO's for the check points along the route. The fuel level on our sight gauges dripped below our requirement to Lt. Crandell asked me to give him a heading to one of the alternate air bases in France behind the Allied front lines. At pre-mission briefing we had been warned to keep away from Paris because already too many bombers had diverted there at the slightest pretext therefore I plotted a course to an airfield designated A70 and approximately 75 miles northeast of Paris. WE descended slowly into a cloud cover that extended to the horizon in all directions. Using the Gee box - an early type of radar navigation - I was able to maintain a heading to the alternative, but the limited range of the radar station only gave me a course reading. We were too far away from the radar signal that would provide another blip from which a speed reading check could be made. We kept descending unaware that the depth of the cloud coverage extended almost to the ground. Our altitude was 200 feet when we came over the air field but we were in and out of the base of the clouds and were unable to make an approach to the runway. After making a couple circuits we lost sight of the air field altogether and succeeded in getting quite lost. I recall directing Lt. Crandell back to the southeast so that I could again pick up the course heading on the Gee box for a second approach. This time we came over the air field in a worsened ceiling condition and became very concerned about crashing into a hill or obstacle at our very low altitude. According to my maps the terrain was supposed to be fairly level in that region of France by flying at 200 feet and below in and out of clouds was hairy particularly with the fuel gauges hovering around empty. The rest of the crew, not involved in the flight deck activity, became very frightened and concerned that we were going to run out of fuel. Over the intercom they pleaded with Lt. Crandell to climb to a higher altitude so that we would have a change to bail out safely. All through this ordeal both pilots and radio operator kept trying to make contact with the ground for assistance but to no avail. My maps showed a green patch (low elevation area) just north of a city by the name of Saint Quentin. We headed three slowly climbing through the overcast breaking out at 12,000 feet and leveling off at 13,000. The gunners - John Brown, Irv Germolus, Walt Battenberg and Jim Roach rushed to the opened bomb bay and jumped out in succession. R/O Larry Feeney and F/E Bob Ogilvie were to follow. After Feeney jumped Ogilvie crouched on the catwalk ready to leap but after looking down he turned to me and indicated he did not want to. Expecting the engines to run dry any second, I pushed him out and watched his body plummet down into the clouds without his chute opening. I had a panicky feeling that he froze mentally and was unable to pull the rip cord. As a result I jumped and pulled my rip cord at the same time almost snagging it in the bomb bay. Before I disappeared into the clouds, I watched our B-24 flying smoothly on a seemingly routine flight. However, It ran out of fuel and crashed in an open field soon after the pilots bailed out.

Floating down through clouds I was amazed at the silence - just a little swishing sound caused by the parachute - and the feeling of being in a stat of suspension because I could not see anything. The time was approximately 1830 local time and, although there was bright blue sky at 13,000 feet, it became quite dark as I neared the ground. When I broke contact with the base of the clouds, I was swinging like a pendulum and tried to stop it by pulling on one side of the shroud lines, but, while on a downward swing, I abruptly hit the ground landing flat on by back. I was knocked out momentarily but after a minute or so I got up, unbuckled by chute, rolled it up and then noticed that the force of the impact had left an imprint of my entire body in the wet ground. Carrying my chute I started walking across soaked fields in the gathering dusk and headed for a farmhouse which was about a half mile from where I landed. I thought I might see or hear one or more of the other crew members but there was no one in sight. At the farmhouse I knocked on the door and it was opened by a French woman who expressed surprise and some fright. I must have appeared rather sinister in the fading daylight and she did not know whether I was German, English, American or whatever until I repeated the word "American"several times. She then invited me into the kitchen where there were other members of the family - two daughters and her husband. We could not communicate very well - I couldn't speak French nor they English. Their farm was located on the outskirts of a small village by the name of Fresnoy-Gricourt and the farmer went there to fetch an official by the name and title of Count de Tashcher de la Pagerie. Wile I sat and waited in the kitchen of the farmhouse the girls prepared and gave me a cup of ersatz coffee. It didn't taste much like coffee but I appreciated it anyway. Soon the farmer came back with the Count - a friendly middle-aged gentleman - who spoke English fluently. He told me that he had one of my fellow crew members back in the village and I should accompany him there. Before leaving the farmhouse I told him that I would like to give my parachute silk to the two daughters in appreciation for their hospitality. However the Count advised me not to because this particular family was not on very good terms with the villagers inasmuch as they had been too friendly with the Germans during the occupation. We then went to the village and to the Count's home where the man I had pushed out of the bomb bay, Sergeant Oglivie, was sitting at a table wolfing down a precious egg omelette! The count explained that it was too late to take us to the air base - the same one we had tried unsuccessfully to land on - but we would stay in his home that night and go there in the morning. This very gracious gentleman then proceeded to treat us like royalty with fine food, wine and liqueurs that he must have been carefully hoarding for a VE Day celebration. When we sacked in for the night Bob Oglivie and I each had a private room with soft down filled mattresses and comforters. The house was very luxurious and, according to the Count, had been taken over by the Germans during the occupation and used as an Officer's billet.

The next morning we were taken to the air base and rejoined the rest of our crew. After a couple of days there we were flown to another base where we picked up a B-24 and flew back to Shipdham.

Soon after our return I was transferred to a lead crew commanded by Captain Edward Reynolds, who was also my roommate in the 67th squadron. I fretted a bit over this transfer because I wanted to finish my tour with my original crew but fate guided my destiny to live, whereas Lt. Crandell's crew all perished in a crash following a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire in the March 24th supply drop over the Rhine.

We flew our last combat mission on April 25th bombing an oil refinery on the outskirts of Salzburg in Austria. On VE day, may 8th - we began a series of "Trolly" missions to show ground personnel the devastation that the air forces had wrecked on Germany. Flying at a few hundred feet about the ground we had a bird's eye view of the complete destruction of the industrial Ruhr valley. Those Trolley mission scenes remained etched in my mind and were brought back in focus a few years later when, hung up on a delayed airline flight, I spent a night in Frankfurt touring the city where round the clock reconstruction was in progress and would continue for years to come.

These are the highlights of a short but action packed seven months with two great flying 8 ball crews that I had the privilege to fly with.

Swede Carlberg
 
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