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Legacy Of:

Richard  J.  Comey

 

Personal Legacy
RICHARD J. COMEY
Memories of World War II

Portions taken from a letter
from Richard J. Comey to Ralph Golubock


The first few missions, including Ploesti, I flew with Joe Flaherty, 66th Squadron, 44th BG. He was a single-engine pilot who came to the 44th straight out of flight school, and was a permanent copilot on several missions until I got there.

He sat on the left side and I sat on the right. It was sort of a cooperative effort between the two of us to get the plane to the target and back. Our fourth mission (13 July) saw us lose two engines and land at Malta on a small field. We left the first B-24 Princess there for repairs. The princess that went to Ploesti kept her engines running all the way in and all the way back - for which we were duly thankful. While several people shot at us, including a "75," we were extremely lucky as the Princess only picked up one bullet hole, as I remember it.

We flew her back to England, but immediately after Ploesti, I moved to the left seat and my regular copilot, Tom Drysdale, moved back in to the right.

Back to Ploesti - We bombed White V, right behind General Johnson. However, so many planes were shot down, disabled, or out of position, it was like we were all alone after hitting the target on the nose. So we re-joined another squadron of the 44th and came home.

The 44th made a second trip to Africa (in September) and we had a mission to Wiener-Neustadt. Besides losing an engine, we acquired an unbelievable number of holes in our plane. We landed near Naples at a British fighter base, and left the plane there. We rode back to England on a DC-4.

On a later raid (11 December 1943) out of England, we received a direct hit on the nose, right above the navigator, Louis Trouve. The force of the explosion knocked him backwards, over on the nose wheel doors, and out he went. Fortunately, though wounded, he opened his chute, landed in a bay, and was picked up by the Germans. (Lou and his wife, Charlotte and I got together in New York after the war.)

After Lou was gone, we found flames were licking out of the hole in the nose, so I pressed the alarm button, "Prepare to abandon ship." The ball gunner (Neitzel?) saw Lou go by his turret and decided things were really serious. He tried to get out of his ball, but some empty shells, or perhaps a belt or two had jammed the back exit door. With Brute strength, and he was not a very heavily built guy - he pushed the door right off its hinges and got out. The bombardier passed out in he nose turret and we thought he was a goner.

It turned out the flame was fed by a broken oxygen line, and when the oxygen was used up, it went out! By then, I was half-way out of my seat and preparing to signal "abandon ship" when I realized things were not so bad, and finally got things back on keel again. However, we were now alone and I headed for the Channel, losing altitude at a rapid pace.

When we reached about 10,000 feet or so, the bombardier's voice comes on the intercom. He was alive and okay, just passed out from lack of oxygen.

We were luckily crossed the Channel and returned to base without encountering any German fighters. The hydraulic system was shot out, but there was enough pressure still in those spheres to work the brakes. I should have stopped at the end of the runway and received a hero's welcome, but I taxied back to our pad and coasted very slowly off the edge of it when the pressure finally ran out.

That "Princess Charlotte" (really nice and naughty) like all the others, got us home okay. We were blessed with good fortune as far as the crew was concerned.

I believe I saw her fuselage on the junk heap later. (Yes, she crashed at Shipdham on 4 January 44 while on takeoff). I still have the stencil that says "Princess Charlotte" used on some of these planes.

Completed 25 missions in the Princesses - some bore the name in paint. Others, in mind only. Some bore two names, but as far as I was concerned, they were all Princessses, and all great. I flew missions for the 66th Squadron, although for Ploesti we were assigned to another squadron (67th?) to fill out the formation.

Charlotte and I have been married 50 years and are living here in Stowe, Vermont. Regards.




RICHARD J. COMEY
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Ralph Golubeck and forwarded to Will Lundy)

I hope the following information is of some benefit to you. My fiancé was named Charlotte, so I, in turn, named all of the B-24s I flew "Princess Charlotte." Though I trained in B-24s, the first Princess Charlotte was a B-17 which I flew across the Atlantic with my crew.

The first few missions, including Ploesti, I flew with Joe Flaherty, 66th squadron, 44th bomb group. He was a single-engine pilot who came to the 44th straight out of flight school, and was a permanent co-pilot on several missions until I got there.

He sat on the left side and I sat on the right. It was sort of a cooperative effort between the two of us to get the plane to the target and back. Our fourth mission (13 July) saw us lose two engines and land at Malta on a small field. We left the first B-24 Princess there for repairs. The Princess that went to Ploesti kept her engines running all the way in and all the way back - for which we were duly thankful. While several people shot at us, including a "75," we were extremely lucky as the Princess only picked up one bullet hole, as I remember it.

We flew her back to England. But immediately after Ploesti, I moved to the left seat and my regular copilot, Tom Drysdale, moved back into the right.

Back to Ploesti - we bombed white V, right behind General Johnson. However, so many planes were shot down, disabled or out of position, it was like we were all alone after hitting the target on the nose. So we rejoined another squadron of the 44th and came home.

The 44th made a second trip to Africa (in September) and we had a mission to Wiener-Neustadt. Besides losing an engine, we acquired an unbelievable number of holes in our plane. We landed near Naples at a British fighter base, and left the plane there. We rode back to England on a DC-4.

On a later raid (11 December 1943) out of England, we received a direct hit on the nose, right above the navigator, Louis Trouve. The force of the explosion knocked him backwards, over on the nose wheel doors, and out he went. Fortunately, though wounded, he opened his chute, landed in a bay, and was picked up by the Germans. (Lou and his wife, and Charlotte and I got together in New York after the war).

After Lou was gone, we found flames were licking out of the hole in the nose, so I pressed the alarm button, "prepare to abandon ship." The ball gunner (Neitzel?) saw Lou go by his turret and decided things were really serious. He tried to get out of his ball, but some empty shells or perhaps a belt or two had jammed the back exit door. With brute strength and he was not a very heavily built guy - he pushed the door right off its hinges and got out. The bombardier passed out in the nose turret and we thought he was a goner.

It turned out the flame was fed by a broken oxygen line, and when the oxygen was used up, it went out! By then, I was halfway out of my seat and preparing to signal "Abandon Ship" when I realized things were not so bad, and finally got things back on keel again. However we were now alone and I headed for the Channel, losing altitude at a rapid pace.
 
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