World War II
Memories and Biography
Letter written by Ken Dropek.
Mission of 12 March 1944 - Siracourt...
Our crew trained at Davis Monthan in Arizona in B-24-Ds, and at Blythe, CA in B-24-H. While at Blythe, we made several flights to Norton AFB to get the planes modified.
We left Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, KS in a B-17-G, and arrived in ETO on 30 November 1943. Our destination was to be Prestwich, Scotland. We then went to Cheddington, which was the 2nd CCRD (replacement depot) and flew some training missions in the B-24-D. They were Blue and white jobs from sub patrol, coastal command.
We arrived at the 44th on January 29th, 1944. Four planes had been shot down in the Pas de Calais area the previous week (21 January) and the 44th needed replacements. We flew several missions with Sam Bowman being our first pilot. The crew members were: Sam Bowman, Jim Rossman, Bill Young, Chuck Gordon, Ken Dropek, Bernie Breedon, Tom Curry, Mike Tarzia, Don Ennis and Pat Commisa.
On 12 March, the day we went down near Beachy Head, we had No. 2 engine out. It was a mission to the Pas-de-Calais area, with only three 8th Air Force Groups sent up that day. They were the 44th, the 93rd, and the 392nd Bomb Groups - all B-24s.
When we took off, the ceiling was almost zero. We climbed through solid overcast to 18,000 feet. We finally made a formation and went to our target, bombed okay. We had to feather No. 2 engine, flew back to England okay, but still solid clouds at all bases. After formation flying around for several hours, we were notified we were again over France and to put the machine guns back in place. After milling around for awhile, we were back over England, and by then were told to land wherever we could and suggested Ford Field.
After following the formation around on only three engines, we were low on gas, so we left the formation and, as the fickle finger of fate would have it, we found a small hole in the clouds. With our engines cutting out, set down as soon as land appeared. We barely cleared some high voltage power lines by lowering the flaps about ten degrees. The crash caused the plane to burn up, but we were able to get out with only minor injuries.
We made one more mission as a complete crew, to Frederickhafen on March 18th, 1944, but that is a complete story unto itself.
A few substitute crewmembers flew with us on the rest of our missions but five of the original crew finished our 30 missions together on the 30th day of May, 1944. They were: Rossman, Young, Dropek, Creedon and Gurry. Bowman was reduced to copilot and flew with Lt. Rose and different crews. The rest of our crew made it, too, and I have been in contact with a few of them...
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
February 5, 1988
Your book came on January 16th. Thanks a lot for the book and the nice letter. It is a piece of work to be treasured and goes very well with other books in my 44th and 8th Air Force collection.
A lot of the guys' names and plane names, codes, and etc., were very familiar. The incidents related to in crew reports brought back quite a few memories. The day we went down we also had a dead engine. Number 2 was shot out - flak? No oil pressure and also out of gas.
It is 12 Noon right now and 4 degrees above zero with a strong wind blowing which makes it about 40 degrees below.
Insert from Ken's wife, Marge:
Hi Folks, while Ken is thinking of what else he wants to write, I'll jot a few words of hello. Ken is his old feisty self again, though he does tire easily but not like he was a year ago this month or even as he was as late as December and January (we found out he was becoming dehydrated at the January doctor's visit.
Ken back again:
Marge is going to Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. I spent six moths there in 1942 in Aircraft Mechanical School. Went to Gunnery School in Laredo, Texas. I took my phase training in Salt Lake City, Davis Monthan in Tucson and Blythe, California. I hitch-hiked to L.A. several times. Had some relatives there to let me use their Chrysler. We took some B-24s to San Bernardino several times for modifications -- Norton Air Force Base. Left for England from Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas.
Hope to see you and Irene again some time.
P.S. I got a letter from Art Hand in Paris, IL a few days ago. I had written to him about a year ago in regards to locating my first pilot and bombardier - Sam Bowman and Chuck Gordon. Could not even get their war time addresses. Also I do not get any response from my tail gunner, Don Ennis. I think these guys move and do not leave any forwarding addresses.