Diary of World War II|
Mission 1 -- 27 Sept 1944
Target: Kassel - tank factory. Plane Desig. ?
Two planes following hit by flak. Two observed going down. Not 44th.
Mission 2 -- 30 Sept.
Target: Hamm -- Marshalling Yard Plane Desig. G E+542
Mission 3 -- 3 Oct.
Target: Offenburg -- Marshalling Yard (42-100314) Plane Desig. N+
Bomb sight failure in Q+. We took N+ instead. Caught up with group already in formation over Beachy Head.
Mission 4 -- 5 Oct.
Target: Lippstadt -- Airfield Plane Desig. Q+ 276 No. F.S.
Reports showed we destroyed several buildings on the field.
Mission 5 -- 7 Oct.
Target: Kassel -- Tiger Tank Works Plane Desig. G E+542
Much smoke from target. Also noticed and reported to I.O. new building at village of Gonna, on lake.
Mission 6 -- 14 Oct.
Target: Kaiserslautern -- Marshalling yards Plane Desig. Q+ 276
B-17s came through our formation. Hinshaw pulled up and over one fort. They were too late and too low.
Mission 7 -- 15 Oct.
Target: Neuwied -- Ford Motor Plant on Rhine River Plane Desig. L+ 234
We missed primary but hit oil storage facilities at Cologne. Gerson M/Y
Mission 8 -- 18 Oct.
Target: Leverhausen -- Chemical plant near Cologne. Plane Design. Q+ 276
Returned with bombs after passing over target. No one dropped.
Mission 9 -- 25 Oct.
Target: Gelsenkirchen -- Buer synthetic oil refinery Plane Design. Q+ 276
Lt. Col. Turnbull and most of two crews lost in collision over channel.
Mission 10 -- 26 Oct.
Target: Essen -- oil refineries
Mission 11 -- 30 Oct.
Target: Harburg -- oil refinery near Hamburg. Plane Design. Q+ 276
Flew element lead. Accurate four-gun batteries. Observed one Lib. Going down overturned. (Bentcliff)
Mission 12 -- 2 Nov.
Target: Castrop -- Rauxel oil refinery Plane Design. Q+ 276
Mission 13 -- 4 Nov.
Target: Gelsenkirchen -- oil refinery.
Heavy clouds all the way. Flew slot position. Flak tracked formation from Zuider Zee all the way to target and return.
Mission 14 -- 6 Nov.
Target: Rohr synthetic oil -- benzene oil refinery Plane Design. M+ 161
Have little record of this mission other than being there.
Mission 15 -- 9 Nov.
Target: Metz area -- ground support of Patton. Plane Design. Q+ 276
Bombed just past red flak smoke used to show lines. On return to base, were told Patton advanced 20 miles.
Mission 16 -- 10 Nov.
Target: Hanau -- airfield near Frankfurt. Plane Design. Q+ 276
Several holes in bomb bay, wings, No. 2 engine, top of nose turret removed. I alternated as nose gunner while Sgt. Robert Ray and I took turns warming up inside, all the way back.
Mission 17 -- 26 Nov.
Target: Bielfeld -- 26 arch-reinforced concrete viaduct. No damage done to bridge.
Mission 18 -- 30 Nov.
Target: Neuenkirchen -- marshalling yard Plane Design. Q+ 276
Meager flak. Mix-up of times caused low, lead, and high squadrons to be over target simultaneously. Bombs from high squadron struck plane ahead of ours. It exploded and disappeared completely in one flash. No chutes observed. Our plane rocked by force of explosion. Hinshaw added power and took position of missing plane. Another ship on fire in No. 3 engine. Pilot sideslipped, blowing flames out. One crewmember bailed out of waist although plane returned safely to base. Since this was predicted to be a "milk run," we carried a ground officer who was trying for five easy missions to "earn" an Air Medal. He filled his pants at the first burst of flak and it wasn't even close to us.
Mission 19 -- 4 Dec.
Target: Gissen/Soest -- marshalling yard Plane Design. Q+ 276
This was a screwed up deal if I ever saw one. Group lead plane missed locating target and we made a Grand Tour of the Third Reich. As we ran into flak, our number 4 engine quit with a thump. Copilot Armstrong, feather number 4 prop as we dropped out of formation. We located Liege after a bit of difficulty and landed on metal strip emergency runway designed only for much lighter planes. Stayed overnight and hitched ride back to Shipdham on a war-weary C-47 next morning. Intelligence said we bombed Bebra??? (A-93 Belgium Larson A/F Liege/Bierset).
Mission 20 -- 30 Dec.
Target: Altenahr -- road and railroad bridge over Rohr supplying German front line troops.
Dropped short of target due to GH bombing failure. Flew deputy lead.
Mission 21 -- 1 Jan 1945
Target: Coblenz/Lutzel -- railroad bridge Plane Design. B+ 965
Flew lead, second section. Heavy and accurate flak as we took squadron over target through flak. We dropped bombs on approaches to bridge. Other squadrons avoided heavy flak by going around those areas and missed target completely. The gunners counted about 20 holes in plane fuselage after we landed.
Mission 22 -- 7 Jan.
Target: Landau -- marshalling yards Plane Design. B+ 42-51907
Railroads were supplying German front line troops from depots in large cities such as Mannheim and Frankfurt. Since this was close to our allied lines, only a brief time was spent over enemy territory. As in many prior missions, we had the support of P51s. Flew lead of second section.
Mission 23 -- 8 Jan.
Target: Burg Reuland -- Troop support. Plane Design. B+ 907
Bombed road junction serving German front lines. I have no other record of this mission other than this description. (Dep. Lead group)
Mission 24 -- 14 Feb.
Target: Magdeburg -- marshalling yards Plane Design. B+ 907
Flew lead of third section. Bombed secondary target. No record other than shown. Moderate, accurate flak.
Mission 25 -- 21 Feb.
Target: Nurnburg -- marshalling yards Plane Design. B+ 907
Plan A was Berlin. Plan B was Nurnburg. We flew Plan B. Flew lead, high right squadron. Flak at primary and at I.P. Butt end of one flak shell went through our No. 4 engine. Copilot feathered prop. We made emergency landing at Brussels. Once again, we hitched a ride on a C-47 to Wendling, the 392nd BG. Got a truck ride back to Shipdham. Armstrong kept shell butt as souvenir.
Mission 26 -- 23 Feb.
Target: Weimar -- rail center. Plane Design. A 821
Flew lead, 2nd section. Planned as a low level mission but clouds drove us up to 20,000 feet. Bombed by Mickey. Lt. Lipton, our Mickey operator passed out from oxygen failure. Luckily, Armstrong discovered him and revived him with a "walk-around" oxygen bottle. While climbing to altitude through thick clouds, after take-off, another plane came down through the same route narrowly missing us. Someone in the nose had a bright red Aldis lamp and was flashing it as he passed us. Think it must have been one of the "Formation Ships" in trouble as no other planes were equipped with those lamps. (300th mission).
Mission 27 -- 2 Mar.
Target: Magdeburg -- marshalling yard. Plane Design. C+ 823
Flew group lead with Capt. Hobbs observing. Garbage, Dep. Lead, took over to bomb, then returned to deputy lead position.
Mission 28 -- 3 Mar.
Target: Magdeburg -- chemical works Plane Design. A+ 672
Flew lead, second section. Hit Rothansee oil refinery. Intense flak through and after target area. Right side of our plane had several holes. Flak pieces pierced bomb bay doors, some pieces bounced off our bomb load without detonating them. One piece went through waist directly above heads of both waist gunners. Group behind ours hit by fighters. One ME263 passed over our number 2 plane. Our gunners fired but failed to hit. Excellent bombing by 2nd section!!
Mission 29 -- 10 Mar.
Target: Bielfeld Viaduct -- that bridge again. Plane Design. A+ 672
Bombed GH through 10/10 clouds. Unobserved results. We were told we missed it again, our bombs hitting ground west of target. (Later destroyed by huge British bomb). Group Dep. Lead.
Mission 30 -- 15 Mar.
Target: Zossen Military Hq. -- German Genl. Staff. Plane Design. B+ 907
Intelligence reported that German General HQ moved to Zossen, a few miles south of Berlin, to avoid Russians who were nearing, or in, the outskirts of Berlin. It was reported also that they were protected by a network of underground bunkers.
We approached and turned almost directly over Berlin to start our bomb run. We were told our combined loads included high-explosive bombs, some with delayed action fuses, and incendiaries. It was felt the H.E.'s would bring them up and the incendiaries would send them back down. The delayed fuses would prolong the effect over a long period of time, long after we had headed for home base.
On the return trip, flak from what appeared to be one 4-gun flak battery at Neinburg, destroyed my chest pack parachute, ripping out about a quarter of the canopy nylon and sending the "D" ring flying into the tunnel. The same piece also destroyed the wires to and from the bombsight, passed through my navigation table, and numbed my hand with the shock of striking the plywood table. I felt, at first, that I had been hit in the hand and face. Actually, it was just fine bits of the nose Plexiglas that peppered me. The heater, an ineffectual device at best, was removed from the right side of the plane and deposited up by the pilot's rudder pedal next to a two-inch-long piece of flak.
On landing, the crew counted an additional handful of holes in the bomb bays and wings. On turning in what was left of my parachute, the sergeant told me to come back in a day or two. When I did, he gave me a scarf made form some of the nylon. He said the rest of the chute would be used by someone in Hingham to be made into a wedding dress.
For most of our crew, this was the last mission before returning stateside. The two members who had missions to make up completed them within the next couple of days.
In about a week, we were flown to "Chorley"??? and in another week or so we were loaded abroad the Ile De France for the trip home. We traveled without escort as this ship was considered faster than any "U" boat. Entered New York harbor on the seventh day.
Notes to Will Lundy:
This is the record of Hinshaw's crew missions. There were a couple of variations with two of the crew who were replaced with "sandbaggers" on a couple of trips.
Thanks to you, I now know some of the targets that I failed to note down in my diary. And also, all of my crew were sketchy on which planes we flew. I don't recall Q+ as such but might know it by its nickname or nose art.
According to your report, there was no flak on that Zossen mission and no damage. Somebody shot at us and they were pretty accurate. I've always had the vision of some German gunner running out in his long underwear and pulling the lanyard once, then turning about and going back to the sack, his duty done. It was a pretty scary few seconds, especially on our last scheduled mission.
ROBERT B. FISK "RICK"
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
562 Buckingham Ave.
Syracuse, New York 13210
Old mailman was real good to me these past few days. First came your very informative letter, followed by an answer from an inquiry I sent to Erwin Strohmaier about a letter he sent to the 44th Logbook. Then a day alter, I received a long letter from Thompson H. "Smoke" Daily whom I hadn't heard form since he left Shipdham for home during the war.
Erwin Strohmaier mentioned Ursell Harvell, the Photo Officer of the 44th. Before I knew who Harvell was, I dropped into a photo store in Fulton, NY, about 25 miles north of my home in Syracuse. The shop was "wall papered with strike photos, flak maps, and probably a hundred or more pictures of crews, damaged and undamaged planes, nose art, scenes of activities around the base, and other evidence that he must have had a slew of negatives at hand somewhere. Then, horror or horrors, I read that the building he occupied along with a theater and other shops had been destroyed by fire. About that time I joined the local Air Force Reserve unit in Syracuse. VARTU Volunteer Air Reserve Training Unit (Strictly non-pay except a handful of folks who had some special status). Ursell Harvell joined about that time and remained a member until attaining the required age of mandatory retirement. Never got in enough years to receive a pension I hear. There was some bitterness at that point. I was working as a photographer and motion picture cameraman at Syracuse University. A job I held until I retired last December at age 67.
Harvell got in touch with me twice to see if I could help him in a revision re-edit, reissue of "Liberators over Europe." (I still have not seen a copy of that book, although there was a copy for sale at a recent air show for sixty or seventy bucks). Each time I went to Fulton to talk over the plans, he had change his mind. I would have helped all I could just to have seen some of those old pictures. The original must have had a cut-off date of just after "D" Day as none of the crew I went over with were included, from that period until VE Day.
Tom Daily had to return to the USA before he completed his tour due to some family emergency. He more than made up for that by participating in the Berlin AirLift, and both the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. Not sure yet what he flew in those two wars, but whatever he handled went smoothly. He was one of the best I ever flew with. I appreciated anyone who made the pilot grade as I washed out in Primary. After fighting to keep that Stearman on an even keel and then finding it flew beautifully "hands off" was enough to demoralize anyone. Guess he stayed in for thirty aviating years. Now lives near Travis Air Base where he separated from the service. His letter included a few names I had also been trying to track down. Teddy Hoffiz, Pilot, and Daily's Navigator, Wylie Hubbard who transplanted from the wide-open ranges of the west to somewhere in Massachusetts. Wylie almost got himself killed by agreeing to ride a bronco at a fair in Norwich. Said he had done it a lot of times back home, out west. Unfortunately, the bronco hadn't heard of his background so he dumped Wylie on it.
My wife, Connie, and I have been to Shipdham a couple of times. In 1955, after working for the University on a contract with the Marshall Plan in Iran for three years, we took our time coming home and spent some time in Norwich and Dereham. The pictures I sent to Joe Warth were taken at that time. I have not found the negatives, but did locate some prints I made for one of our crew reunions a few years back. I'll include them although I'm not sure which buildings are which. When we went through the base in 55, most of the line buildings were still intact. True, the hangars were full of grain but the rest including the parachute loft, the Navigator's Celestial Nav. Training Tower, and others near the flight line were all four square and almost ready for occupancy.
The mess halls, clubs, and shower facilities were stripped as were the metal Quonset barracks in the living areas. Only the blocky cement buildings were still there. I did have one picture of a horse looking out of what had been our gunner's barracks. When I did a bit of exploring, I found what looked like a guard shack at the line near the tower. It still had a mound of khaki tins of shoe dubbing.
Apparently, that was one item no one else had found a use for either. All plumbing items were either removed or smashed. The barbed wire enclosure that held the coke pile (from which we were given one bucket a week allowance - in winter) was still there. I still remember one bitter night when both Armstrong, our copilot, and I were stocking up on enough fuel to heat a K-ration tin of meat. Someone yelled at us and we thought it was one of our crew kidding us. Just then the figure passed a window that had a small light and we saw Major's leaves that shown like neon. It was Major Hughes, and he had a full head of steam. I ducked into the shadow of the barracks next to our own while Armstrong ran through our neighbor's hut, in the front and out the back, depositing the buckets neatly by their stove in the mad dash. For about an hour we could hear the yelling in that barracks as the accused and accuser battled it out. This has bothered my conscience not a bit because our neighbor loved to run by with a baseball bat, in the wee hours of the night, dragging it over the corrugations of our barracks. Something like being inside the base drum during a Sousa march.
I recall that I kept a complete record of our missions, in pencil, on the curved ceiling and wall of the barracks. I hope somewhere that record has survived.
Connie and I returned to Shipdham in 1982 or 83 and Joe Warth organized one of those great reunions. We wined and dined at the Abbey Inn, Wymondham. They erected a memorial stone in the old church in Shipdham and Joe and an Air Force chaplain unveiled it. The service they held in the church saw the first and only standing room crowd they ever had in about 500 or so years. Being an old photographer, I got just about each event down on 35mm film. Sent a complete set of about 60 or 70 pictures to Joe showing the parade, the crows, the monument dedication, our field trips to Cambridge Cemetery, the British Air Museum, and a bunch of informal get-togethers at the Abbey Inn. Man, could I go for some steak and kidney pie right now.
The book "Fields of Little America" was one of the prizes I bought for home. Sent a copy to our engineer who was too ill to travel. The author was nice enough to autograph my copy. General Gibson was there and my own crew was represented by Howard C. (Chuck) Hinshaw, the greatest, and our left or right waist gunner, Lester Carrick. I hope all crews got along as did ours. We were always like a family. Never any discord, and authority was where it was meant to be, and used as it was intended to be.
If I haven't mentioned other crewmembers (I immediately lost the copy of the note I sent you), I will now.
Howard C. Hinshaw - pilot - Box 656, Liberty, N. Carolina 27298
Charles E. Holbrook - engineer - 3067 Ridge Avenue, Macon, Georgia 31204
James Barber - waist gunner - 1219 Keffield St. Roanoke, Virginia 24019
Lester Carrick - waist gunner - 3404 Notre Dame St., Hyattsville, MD 20783
Charles Brenton - radio op; top turret - 200 Ridgley Rd., Glen Bernie, MD 21061
James Wilson - (Temporarily misplaced his file card. Tore the house apart looking)
Jimmy Wilson was the intrepid tail gunner who flew on despite loss of heat to his feet. And once or twice oxygen failure.
Donald R. Armstrong - copilot - Now deceased according to "Folded Wings"
Robert Ray - armorer gunner and nose gunner - I alternated with him when business was slack. Like the time something took the top off the plastic turret material. It was rather breezy so we spelled one another so we could freeze in slower stages. Think I've still got chill blames from that flight. He was discharged, but went back into the service when meter reading proved too dull. Flew in the Berlin Airlift as a crewmember and got in his 20 plus years. He made one of our reunions but word reached us of his passing before the next one.
Not to be left out - I was the navigator. You've heard of "Wrong Way Corrigan"
haven't you?? Well, thank God for Jerry Lipton and his "mickey" set.
This should be about all the eyestrain anyone should have to bear, so thanks for your great letter.
ROBERT B. FISK
World War II
Memories and Biography
September 1944 to March 1945
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
December 11, 1994
Recently, I wrote a note to Pete Henry wherein I lamented the loss of the 44th Logbook and it's always welcomed stories and new items. Then a letter arrived the next day announcing the formation of the new organization, the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association. From the list of names included in the Executive Board, it sounds like you're off and running, apparently without missing a step. Wonderful.
In the letter to Pete, I told of an incident that occurred just before Christmas in 1944. Since our family, through several generations, always had lighted candles as part of our Christmas decorations, I thought it would be appropriate to have some lighted candles on Christmas Eve in our barracks. That's what led up to my gathering the empty "K" ration's heavily waxed outer carton. Using my ever handy G.I. mess kit knife, I scraped enough wax off the cartons to make three candles. Using an unraveled shoe lace for a wick, I warmed and kneaded out the wax until it was thin and pliable enough to roll up into a cylinder with the wick inside. Ended up with three, sort of grungy-looking items, about an inch across and four or five inches long.
Stretching my luck, I paid a late night visit to the mess hall where one of the cooks gave me a couple of tins of evaporated milk, a couple one pound cans of bacon, and some cartons of powdered eggs. Fortunately, this cook was one of whom I had complimented on some great pancakes, or griddle cakes, he had serve up to me, after hours, and after a late return from a long mission.
When the gang from my barracks drifted in that Christmas eve, we got our Sibley stove fired up (with some 'borrowed' coke from that 'off limits' coke pile in the 66ths area) and whomped up some mean omelets made with carefully blended powdered eggs, bacon, butter, and evaporated milk. With a bit of care in preparation, that powdered hen fruit turns out to be right tasty, fried in the mess kit all-purpose pan.
Others in our barracks broke out carefully cached chocolate for cocoa, and another found a bottle of liberated wine for a one-round toast.
When those three candles were lighted and placed in the window of our barracks, we figured the German Air Force would be too busy observing their own Yule Eve to interfere with ours.
Within moments of the lighting, the barracks lapsed into almost complete silence as, one by one, each of us traveled back in time to other Christmases spent in happier times and places.
That's about all the story that I told Pete. If you wish to add it to your publication, and if it isn't too maudlin a tale, it might fill up one of those blank spaces that often stare a writer in the face. Better check with Pete to see if he approves of my repeating it.
Meanwhile, I repeat my wishes for your Merry Christmas and Great New Year.
Rob Fisk (Nav. On Howard "Chuck" Hinshaw's crew)
562 Buckingham Ave.
Syracuse, New York 13210
P.S. I'm loafing but enjoying it, with some volunteering here and there, where and when called. Also have passed the 18-gallon point in my blood donations. Only because they serve a great cup-o-coffee at the local Red Cross.
About 30 years ago, I ran an Air Force Reserve Blood Drive for the Red Cross. The selected day saw us brought to a standstill with a record blizzard. Since I had "promised" the RC a total of 25 pints, and we collected four that day, I took it upon myself to make up the balance personally. Then I "forgot" to stop. Now up to 147 pints and still dripping.
ROBERT B. FISK
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
27 December 1994
Just received your letter. Sorry I didn't get that Christmas story about the "candle making," to you in time for the season. When I dug out the stuff for my "Army Life" tale, that my youngest son had requested, memories of several happenings and events came flooding back to mind. Wish some of the rest of my crew, and yours, would do the same, and get their stories down on paper. When we're gone, so are the stories, unless someone takes the time to write them down. Sure, probably only one out of a hundred experiences might be worth the re-telling, but that one might strike a chord in someone who wants to know what World War II was like, other than those hyped up Hollywood versions. Now what do you know. That reminds me of a story.
On our base at Shipdham, we had a PX. This was a modest sort of shop. I believed it was housed in one room in a Quonset hut. On a few shelves, they displayed when "in stock," cigarettes, candy bars, pipe tobacco, razor blades, and chewing gum, as the "most in demand" items. Trouble was, they seldom seemed to have "in stock," when I entered the store, any of the most desired items of commerce.
Word would go out to the flight crews that a large consignment of cartons had arrived at the PX. Cartons bearing such logos as Baby Ruth, Hershey, Nestle, Lucky Strike, Camel, Chesterfield, Old Gold, Wrigley, etc. etc. were seen being carted through that PX doorway, followed immediately by the posting of a sign that read "Closed for Inventory," In the front door.
That sign seemed to stay permanently posted until just moments after the last plane had left the ground for the next mission. As the noise of most, if not all, the planes and their combat flight crews finally faded into the distance, and it looked like there was little chance of a "recall," another sign would appear in the door. It read, "Open."
When, and if, we were lucky enough to return, and had completed the post-mission interrogation session, we would try to make it to the PX before it closed, to pick up our shares of the goodies.
On the few times I got there while they were still "open for business," I found the cigarette shelf stock reduced to a few sacks of Bull Durham or Dukes Mixture, and a few packs of Himyar and Wings cigarettes. The chewing gum space would be completely empty, and the space that once held Clark Bars and Baby Ruths, etc., now held a carton or two of "Ping" bars. That was all.
Anyone who bought a Ping bar would seldom (if in his right mind) buy another one. I'll attempt to describe a Ping.
Take an oblong rectangle of semi-fossilized white stuff that the perpetrators boldly called marshmallow. Coat it with a dark-chocolate colored glaze that chewed like paraffin and tasted like the dipstick from a Model "A" Ford that had been run too long and too hot without an oil change, and you have an accurate description of a "Ping."
After about my fourth or fifth unsuccessful excursion to the PX, I broke down one day and bought out the entire stock -- two 24 bar cartons of Pings, at the going price of a nickel a bar. I salted them away in my blue barracks bag until the next day's mission was announced.
After my usual pre-mission breakfast, (I was always an early bird at that meal), I crammed Pings in my briefcase, with my flight suit taking the overload for a total of 48 bars.
Just after take-off, with the bomb bay doors rolled shut, I tossed the entire lot into the bomb bay where they would freeze to cast-iron hardness.
Later in the mission, as we turned at our IP and those doors rolled open, down went our PX's entire stock of those infamous things, those #^$%@^#%$ Ping bars, cascading upon an unsuspecting enemy below.
Someone in another crew, hearing about my dropping candy bars into Germany, said I might be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Obviously, he had never been reduced to trying to eat a Ping bar.
Next time Ping bars appeared on the PX shelves, two other crews climbed on to the band wagon and dropped another couple of cartons into Germany. Some diseases are catching.
A couple of months ago, I went to a movie in the local mall. Getting hungry for something sweet, I visited the candy counter. In the showcase, nestled between the Milk Duds and the Jujubes, were a half dozen Ping bars. I suddenly lost my appetite for candy and opted for a dripping cholesterol loaded bag of popcorn instead. Life's too precious to trust it to another bout with that "Dark Chocolate Delight," that someone is still foisting off on an unsuspecting public.
Will, you and your family have a very happy New Year. Meanwhile, I'll look forward to a continuation of the Eight Baller's Organization into the coming years.
P.S. Will, if I haven't mentioned it, I did send a version of the "Christmas Candle" tale to Pete Henry. He mentioned in one of the issues that he needed "Stuff" to round out the 44ers column. Thought that one might stir up a memory or two, especially since that happened just about an even 50 years ago.
World War II
History and Biography
(Taken from a letter sent to "Joe" (editor) and forwarded to Will Lundy)
562 Buckingham Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13210
I guess that holidays promote reminiscing, especially as we complete another year. That, and the correspondence we have with former crewmembers, all seem to jog our memories. It's just enough to shake another 50-year-old scene loose from the mist of the past. Wish I could get more of our gang to put them down on paper as they come to mind.
One recurring memory is of our preparations for a mission in the ETO. Since I've always liked a good breakfast, I usually left for the mess hall almost immediately upon being wakened for a flight. Most of the others preferred to get those extra 40 winks. Consequently, I often got real eggs and still-warm pancakes and fresh toast. The others usually ended up with powdered eggs and splintery dry toast. Guess I never flew with an empty stomach. Gad, you ought to see me now.
At the mess hall, I almost always heard, "You're going to Kassel today," or to Magdeburg, or Coblenz, from the K.P.'s behind the tables of food. Funny thing, but they, the mess attendants, were never wrong. When, at briefing, the dramatic moment arrived when the drape was pulled back uncovering the target map, there would be that damned red string, indicating the route in and out, with all its turns, the I.P., the target, and hopefully the route home. Without exception, that target was the one described to us by the guys dishing out the eggs. Never could learn how they knew before Colonel Gibson or Snavely, got the word to us at the briefing.
I recall one time when a mission was scrubbed just as we were getting prepared and before the actual briefing had taken place. I inadvertently said out loud to our copilot, Don Armstrong, "Well, I'm glad we're missing this trip to _____ today." (I did give the target name, as told me by the cook as he was crisping the bacon.) Unfortunately, I was overheard by our Squadron Operations Officer, Merrill Berthrong. I found out quickly that "that was not the Thing To Do."
Another recurring memory is this. About the time my third Christmas in the Army was about to hit me, I began to feel that old nostalgia of thoughts of holidays at home. We always had candles in our living room on Christmas Eve. A couple of weeks before the 25th of December, I started gathering those inner boxes from K rations. The outer box described the contents, somewhat, but that inner box had been dipped in wax to protect the stuff from moisture. Found that I could scrape some of the wax from each box. The "scrapings" I stored in an empty tobacco can in my "desk," a wooden bomb fin box I had liberated somewhere. When I had gathered a fair amount of the wax, I kneaded it until it was soft and rolled it into something resembling rough, hand-dipped candles. Used an unraveled G.I. shoelace for the wicks. Ended up with a total of five, which we lighted on Christmas Eve and placed around the inside of our Quonset hut. Can't say there was a whole lot of gaiety in the place. We each had our private thoughts to sort through. I did notice though that the rest of my barracks mates seemed appreciative of that little touch of home-like atmosphere. Someone got our radio going and picked up some carols coming from the Armed Forces Radio. The music helped us forget the war and the dozen more missions we had yet to fly.
I know you were enduring life in some Stalag at that time. We can only imagine what hardships you guys were subjected to. My close friend, Lt. Dudley Chase, filling in as Navigator on a crew other than his own, failed to return at this period just before Christmas. We could only hope he had landed somewhere safely. (Didn't find out until after the war that he was killed by German civilians, armed with farm tools, as he parachuted to earth).
My wife and I still hope to make that reunion in Ohio. My crew held a get-together in Dayton and the Air Force Museum, about 20 years back. The museum personnel opened up the Liberator on display just so we could climb aboard one last time. I've just got to get there again.
'Nuff said for one letter. I do get a bit "wordy" when it's my turn at the word processor. Hope this finds you and your better half in good health. Hope to see you at that Dayton get-together. My wife and I, along with two other members of our crew, Pilot Howard Hinshaw and waists gunner Les Carrick, managed to make that reunion with you and our 44th in Shipdham in 1983. We'll always remember that trip with fondness.
Nav. Hinshaw's Crew 66th Sq.