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Legacy Of:

Donald  H.  Ennis

 

Personal Legacy

(These stories are a vitally important part of the "Living Monument")

February 20 / 25,1944: "Big Week"

SSG Ennis flew on his first mission since arriving at Shipdham on February 25, 1944. This was one of several important missions the 44th was participating in that particular week. Dubbed "The Big Week"-or "Operation Argument," some 37 aircraft headed out over the North Sea. The bomber crews were given one primary duty during the week beginning February 20th: Disrupting the Nazi aeroplane and aero-engine industry through a continuous series of attacks upon major sources of production.

The weeklong assault by heavy bomber groups based both in England and Italy would record more than 3000 individual bomber sorties. The allied leaders had determined to target a series of major targets in Germany that would weaken the German forces and pave the way for an allied invasion of Europe.

The crew of B24 pilot Lt. Samuel H. Bowman III, with Ennis manning his tail gunner position, flew to Fuerth, Germany on that final day of the "Big Week"


March 12,11944 - "Heaven Can Wait"

SSG Ennis, along with the rest of Bowman's crew, was flying aboard "Heaven Can Wait", on a short bombing mission to Siracourt, France when the B24 was forced to crash land near Friston, Sussex, on a small English fighter strip.

After the fully-loaded aircraft had dropped it's bombs, the trouble began as failing oil pressure on the number two engine suggested that some flak damage had been sustained. Some three hours later, with a second engine faltering out over the English Channel, Bowman and co-pilot Lt. James M. Rossman skillfully kept the aircraft in the air at a precariously low altitude.

Fighting for every inch of height, they just cleared the White Cliffs of Dover with no altitude to spare. With no time to think about landing gear as they lined up their aircraft over the small grass landing strip, which had power lines running across the area, the bomber belly slithered on to the turf, with her crew fearful of the disintegration and death that frequently accompanied such escapades in a B24. Instead, to the crews' amazement, "Heaven Can Wait" skid to a standstill in a faultless example of a wheels-up crash landing. All of the crew managed to scramble clear and then watched their burning plane create her own funeral pyre. Following this harrowing mishap, one thing was certain: "Heaven Can Wait" was true to her word!


April 22. 1944 - "The Night of the Intruders"

Aboard "Full House", enroute to marshalling yards, Hamm, Germany, Ennis and crew were flying an unusual nighttime mission, along with several other B24 crews. The events of that mission are told in a book entitled, "The Night of the Intruders."

Instead of their usual take-off time of about 6 a.m. and return time around 4 p.m., the "Full House" crew took off around noon, for reasons never fully explained. They were accustomed to flying in full daylight, but the return was different this time. It began to get dark while the crew was still over enemy territory. When they finally reached the English Channel, it was pitch black, but the crews felt reasonably secure that they were out of the enemy's reach at that point.

Out of fear of running into each other while flying in formation in the dark, the crews began turning on their lights. Co-pilot James Rossman recalled seeing a big orange flash up ahead and thought a collision had occurred, so everyone turned on more lights and they saw more orange flashes. Suddenly, over the radio came this excited message, "Bandits in the air! Turn offthose lights!"

Unknown to the crews, German fighters had carefully flown their planes directly above the bombers, concealed in the darkness. They were shooting down the American bombers as they came in for a landing approach. In all, 14 U.S. bombers were lost over their own bases that fateful night.


January 21, 1945 - Time to bail out

Ennis and the crew of pilot Lt. Walter Franks were forced to bailout while on a bombing mission to Pforzheim, Germany marshalling yards. Problems with the. electrical system and a gradual icing-up of the bomber led to the bail-out over French territory. The entire crew received "Caterpillar Club" awards for having to parachute out of their disabled aircraft in order to save their lives.

But the adventure didn't end here for SSG Ennis.

Five days previous, another B24 out of Shipdham had been damaged by flak gunners and its crew, which included Group Commander Col. Eugene Snavely, was forced to bailout in the area where German, Luxembourg and French national borders meet.

Snavely, one of the last of the crew to exit, unfortunately had to leave behind his coveted "50-Mission" crusher cap. After this bail-out and everyone was accounted for, the colonel was briefing crews for their next mission. Snavely explained that he would not be on this next mission, which was to occur around the same territory where he had bailed out without his cap. The crews were further instructed to bring back the hat, if found.

When Ennis and his crew had to bailout on that next mission, Ennis was not sure where , he was when he landed, so he walked along carefully hidden from the townspeople in case he was not on friendly ground. He realized where he was when he saw a group of GI's a short distance away. Ennis approached the American soldiers and they told him that they saw a plane crash and explode upon impact a few days ,earlier. They further explained that they went to look for survivors but all they found was a beat-up old hat. Ennis asked them to take him to the plane and he recovered the colonel's cap. When he got back to his base, Ennis went directly to the colonel's office, knocked, entered and saluted.

"Sir, Sergeant Ennis reporting with the colonel's cap--as ordered."

Several Close Calls!

Several of his 35 missions resulted in close calls and near misses.

SSG Robert Stenstrom, a former crew member of SSG Ennis reported that on one particular action-packed bombing mission over Berlin, they successfully dropped their bomb load and were under heavy fire from the enemy while trying to leave Germany. The crew managed to escape unharmed despite their B24 taking several "hits". When they landed back at Shipdham, the crew was amazed when they looked over their aircraft, which had 84 bullet holes in it!
 
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Last modified: 01/26/14