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Legacy Of:

George  R.  Insley

 

Personal Legacy
First Combat Mission

The 10th of Oct. 1943 will live with me forever! I looked at my gages to see all 4 engines were dead! The altimeter was unwinding! I rang the ditching bell! It looked like a long cold swim over the North Sea and that water is COLD. But I am getting ahead of my story.

It was around 4th of September 1943 when we first arrived at the 44th Bomb Group, in Shipdom, England. At Shipdom, we were sent to combat crew training for a couple of weeks. When we returned we found most of the 44th had gone to Africa area to do some missions with the 15th Air Force.

As other crews arrived from the US we were sent out to practice Combat formation flying. Then we were sent out on some diversions to try to make the enemy think we were sending in a bomber formation to attack a target, but hopefully we would turn back prior to being attacked. It was during this time that we were sent on our lst mission.

We were rudely awaken by a loud knock on our door and a shout "Insley crew scheduled for a mission, breakfast is ready and briefing in l hour". We were shocked awake at the news and dressed and headed out to breakfast of scrambled powdered eggs and cereal with powdered milk. In the briefing room we sat with five other new crews awaiting to be briefed. The target in Poland, was the German battleship. We were to join forces with another group for our 'baptism of fire'. My position was low, left and last - in 'Purple Heart Corner'. It was a long mission, I recorded 9:50 hours of flight time. We took off and climbed to our staging area and joined the formation. The route took us over the North Sea crossing Denmark and flying on to Poland. As we approached Denmark the anti-aircraft gunners were waiting for us. They were putting up a wall of flak for us to fly thru, a giant black cloud. Every thing was new, unknown and scary. As soon as I saw the flak, my feet were dancing on the rudder pedals and I was all over the sky (who me scared, never). I was trying to stay in formation, but the way I was flying the fighters couldn't have hit me if they tried, and they were going to try.

Well, we flew thru those black clouds and on to Poland. We climbed up to our assigned altitude and began our bomb run. When we came within range the flak began again. This flak was large caliber, bigger explosions, and blacker smoke. It was right at our altitude. They were putting it right in front of me. The shells exploded and instantly the plane hit the smoke and what a noise the explosions made. I was glad that they were on automatic tracking as the exploding shells stayed out in front of us instead of moving closer so we were not hit. It was many missions after this before I heard flak exploding again, though we had it on every mission. Those gunners on the battleship and the surrounding area were really top notch. Keep calm, cool and collected fly straight and level was what a good pilot was suppose to do, yet here I was flying all over the sky due to my initial fright. Those combat orientation lectures didn't sound like this one. We had experienced our lst flak and sound of flak explosions.

Headed home, we were transfering fuel from the Tokyo (wing tips) tank to the main tank. "Twin engine fighters at 8 o'clock level"! They came boring in repeatedly, attacking till they ran out of ammo. They left but returned after they had refueled and filled up on ammo. These twin-engine fighters kept attacking on our element. They were black so we presumed that they were night fighters, and fortunately they were not overly aggressive. Possibly they were students and this were there lst mission also. Here we were a group of B-17s and a group of B-24s, so when the fighters showed up the B-24 leader slid our formation in under the B-17s for more protection as well as more defense against the fighters, maybe that was the reason they were not overly aggressive. Where did they attack? Yes in my corner low, left and last. So you can see why they called it 'Purple Heart corner'. This is often the plane they shoot at lst. My tail gunner, George Federlin, from Columbus, Ohio, shot up all of his ammo and the waist gunner took more ammo to him. Then the fighters returned to have another go at us. I didn't see any fighters go down nor did we lose any planes. I saw one plane with a smoking engine.

When we were over the North Sea about 50 miles off the coast of Denmark, the fighters left us returning to their base. Suddenly I felt the ship yaw and I saw the fuel pressure of #4 engine drop to zero, so I feathered #4 and spoke to the crew over the intercom about the problem. Then #3 fuel pressure dropped to zero, so I feathered it. Then #1 & #2 engines stopped??sure was quiet. I rang the emergency bell in preparation for ditching the plane in the North Sea. The engineer, Rudi, dropped out of the top turret and into the bomb bay to find the radio operator there, who just pointed at the fuel shutoff valves. The engineer turned the valves on and we had power again. We had been going down several thousand feet a minute and it had looked like it was going to be a cold swim. What had happened? The engineer had been transferring fuel when the fighters attacked us. He didn't want to leave his guns unmanned even after the fighters had left us. So he ask the radio operator to shut off the transfer pumps, located behind the bomb bay. Instead the radioman Paul Kittle, from Norton, West Virginia, mistakenly turned off the fuel shut off valves, which stopped the fuel flow from the gas tanks. Thankfully Flight Engineer, Rudolph Jandreu, from St.Francis, Maine got them running again so we didn't have to try our life rafts. We never did catch up with the rest of the formation till we got back over England.

That was the first mission of 48 that we flew in the 20 months we were in England, I sure am glad that they weren't all like this one.

George R. Insley
44th Bg. ,66 & 506 Sqd.
2nd AD., 8th Air Force.
Shipdom, England
Edited 8/2000



APRIL FOOLS DAY
Group Mission # 115, our 24th mission.

I probably didn't know that it was April Fools day when I went out on this mission. But it was 1 April 1944.

Our target was Grafenhausen, Germany. A plane was leading us that had the capability of dropping the bombs on target through the over cast using a form of Radar. As we flew towards the target all we could see was clouds, yes we were going to need all the help we could get to hit the target today.

These were the beginning of this type of blind bombing missions, since we had so much trouble with clouds and often could not find the target at all. Often it was dropping through a hole in the clouds etc.

Unless we had a visual sight of our target long enough for my Bombardier Leonard Dwelle, of Chicago, to sight through his bombsight and put in the necessary correction for drift and ground speed, he would not be able to bomb a specific target.

A couple types of blind bombing technique were developed, one was called "Gee" which was a radio signal sent from two different locations (similar to Loran) and the receiver in the plane told the navigator his location and when the proper signal came up the bombardier and the Navigator would drop our bombs on the crossing of these two signals. We were to see later that the Germans could jam or change the signals. We ended up dropping 27 miles short, dropping behind our troops front line on one mission.

They were also experimenting with Radar. One of these systems was installed in a special B-17, which gave it the ability and the instrumentation to see the target through overcast. Later we had our own B-24 equipped and used them as lead ships instead of relying upon the B-17 which was slower than the B-24.

Our lead ship and I believe the deputy lead was equipped to drop blind on this mission. I was squadron leader of the 2nd squadron of 12 planes. We didn't have any equipment for blind bombing so we had to drop on the smoke signals of the lead ship. After we turned at the IP, (initial point is where the squadrons flew in line a trail of the group leader so a smaller more accurate bombing pattern would result). We then flew on a compass heading to the target. My Navigator Milton Finestein navigated what is called D/R. He used elapse time and mileage using the last know wind speed. The lead ship flew the required time according to our speed and distance, but then kept on flying. Even after the deputy leader radio the lead ship and was assured that all equipment was working Ok, but they kept on flying and not dropping their smoke signals. After approximately. 30 min. we knew that they had over flown the target evidently not seeing. Finally we saw through a break in the clouds a large lake and a piece of land, (later identified as lake Constance, which was the Germany and Swiss border) way South of the target. The lead ship turned to the right and headed North West from the lake for home, so we decided to drop our bombs on a target of opportunity. As we flew north the clouds were breaking up below us and a river with a town became visible, so the bombardier, picked out a target and dropped our bombs. Confusion had reigned due to the leader not finding the target, causing problems of navigation for the navigators. Another problem had also effected the flight was high winds aloft, now called jet stream that had pushed us way south of our target and the leader had turned west. Unfortunately it turned out that we had bombed a Swiss border town much to our regret. The people of that Swiss town still think that it was bombed on purpose and not a navigational error, and they hold a memorial gathering each anniversary. The lead ship was probably passed the target at the IP, but I have no facts to prove it. Yes this unknown "Jet stream" wind caused many problems during the war.


BERLIN - My Third Mission by George Insley

It was a dark winter night when they routed me out of my bed. I looked at my watch, to find it was just 0200 hours. I hadn't expected to be called for a mission, so I had been reading an interesting book till 2300 hours. Only 3 hours of sleep.
After a breakfast of scrambled powdered eggs, I went down to the briefing room and sweated out the time till the briefing started. The curtain was withdrawn that covered the map and my heart skipped a beat as my eyes traced the red course line to Berlin! Berlin!!! Right into the center of the lions den. We had never flown to this target before. I was scared. Berlin! The Germans would have every plane they could muster against us and flack guns! We had heard of all the flack installations around the city.
I don't remember everything that was said, but the map was speckled with red blotches indicating where the flak installations were located along the route as well as at the target. They reported the expected fighters concentrations. The good news was that this cold winter day of 1943 a FREEZING RAIN was falling over all of Europe and that the fighters would not be able to get off of the ground nor fly with out having de-icing equipment. That was all well and good, but I was still SCARED. They could still shoot the flak cannons even with freezing rain. Much more was said, but all I could think of was I was afraid.
After the briefing, I went out by my self and fell on my knees and talked to God whom I knew casually, but I hadn't bothered much with God. Sure I went to Sunday school, some of the time, even to Church. I believed in Him. Did I love Him? Did I follow His teachings? Some! As I talked to Him, laying my heart burden before Him, the fright slowly melted away and I had peace.
I gave my life to God that early morning. I had a need, I came seeking help and I was helped! Yes, the fright had disappeared, I was calm as I went to my plane and waited to fly with my crew to Berlin. As we waited, a jeep drove up and the driver said, "The flight has been scrubbed!" PRAISE GOD!! My peace continues today even as it did when I flew my two tours for 48 missions. Yes even over the more than 40 years of flying over the Amazon Jungles, He was there.
Though my crises are no longer Berlin flights, yet God is still there for me and He will be for you if you ask Him. "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God--" John 1:12.



Stories of George Robert Insley
Chapter 1

The following stories are my experiences during my 8 years in the Army Air Corp.

The radio blared, "The Japanese have Bombed Pearl Harbor!" I was working at Hutchinson's Bakery when a neighbor came running in "Hey, the radio just reported that the Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbor!" It was difficult to realize what this all meant. We talked; listen to the next announcement, talked some more, and then worked a while. I know that my mind was running a mile a minute. What was this going to mean to me"? I knew that my brother Lewis was up at Oregon State getting his 2 years of college so he had already signed up and he received a telegram saying "Report immediately to Randolph Field, Texas". He decided to wait till after Christmas since He didn't know when he would be coming back again. He found out that the military when they say now that is what they meant. I had been mulling this in my mind and did some checking with the recruiting office, but I didn't have the 2 years of college, just a high school education. I had always wanted to be a pilot so how could I reach my goal. The recruiter said if I enlisted I could become a pilot with a rank of flying non-com. OK! So I enlisted, and was inducted and received a grand salary of $18.00 a month. I left by Greyhound Bus for Portland, OR, along with several other recruits on the 7th of Jan. 1942. As I woke up that morning the ground was covered with a frost. By the time we arrived in Eugene, the frost had turned into a silver thaw with broken limbs, power lines down, really looking like a battle zone. The further north we got the worse the silver thaw was. We arrived in the suburbs of Portland the roads had about 3" of ice on all of the roads. The bus was coming up a steep curving hill like an onramp with a car spinning his tires trying to go ahead with out success. The Bus driver yelled "A bunch of you guys jump out and push that car out of there, if I get stopped I will not be able to get going again. So we jumped out, we pushed the car up the hill and the bus kept inching up the hill trying not to spin his wheels, finally the bus got up the hill and delivered us to our destination. As I recalled we signed into the military and was sent on to Fort Lewis, Washington. At Fort Lewis we were issued Army uniform. Some fitted well, and other things not so good. We were glad for the wool uniforms, as well as the long johns. I tried my long johns on and they fit real snug around the ankles and legs, and as I pulled them up around my waist I saw that they were for a TALL FAT MAN. I could have cut hole in the waistband and pulled them up on my shoulders like a set of spenders. I don't know what size they called those bottoms, but they were huge. They gave us a lot of tests etc. One was an IQ test. I scored 107 what ever that meant. They didn't have anything else to keep us occupied so they put us on guard duty. This was an area that they had you walk back and forth. Good exercise.
While I was patrolling I had a 2nd Lt. come by and stood around, but I didn't salute him. We were told to wear a tag that indicated we were raw recruits so we wouldn't get into trouble, as I would have for not saluting an officer. Orders were given to a group of us to report to Shepherd Field, Tex. So these on orders were taken by bus to the train depot and we started our trip across Eastern Washington. Every thing was white and frozen. We were headed into Montana in the Rocky Mts. We were on the Great Northern RR heading for Butte, MT; the scenic mountain route was beautiful with blue white ice on the rock walls of the cuts. Since we were going to Butte I remembered Mrs. Renner's niece Helen Lloyd lived there, so I asked the conductor if I could send a telegram to her. I was happy to see her again. We went on further East across Wyoming and into the Dakotas, then we headed SW to Denver and on South thru a deep canyon called Royal Gorge. The train stopped and every one got off to look up at the car bridge that crossed the gorge. It looked like it was at least a thousand feet above us, maybe more. WE headed on South into New Mexico before we headed East to the Texas Panhandle. Then on to Wichita Falls, Texas, the home of Sheppard Field, which became home to me for about 6 months.
We soon were out on the drill field learning to march like a soldier is supposed to march. Many hours were spent in close order drill.
One day we had a group of Officers arrive for a meeting across the street from our barracks. These were men with professions, like Doctors, businessmen etc. who were given direct commissions as officers into the Army Air Corp. They didn't know how to march etc. just as we were when we first got in to the service. Some one of the enlisted men began to jeer and make fun of these officers, cat calling them etc. The end results were the entire barracks ended up on KP for a couple of weeks. It was then that I learned you didn't belittle officers regardless of who they were or how long they had been in the Military. On KP duty, I also found out that the military had purchased chickens, which had been frozen with heads and feet on. The innards had been frozen in them too. So they took meat clever and cut them in to quarters and threw them into a big pot of water to thaw them out, then the guts were removed. Needless to say I didn't enjoy fried chicken Army style.
We had early morning calls from time to time where every recruit s were lined up and marched down to the hangers. Some days it was for injections then they had 4-6 medics giving 2-4 shots to each one of us on the base. And other days they would march us down to the hangers with only our wool trench coats on for a VD check.
This was one of the schools for A&E (Aircraft and Engine) mechanics. I learned a lot about the systems of the B-24 & B-17. They had teachers from all parts of the states. One of the teachers was from Boston area with an accent so heavy that we couldn't understand him, or at least some of his words. So he said if you couldn't understand him to raise our hand and he would write the word on the black board. I enjoyed the school very much. I can't think of what went on during the classes. One of the major complaints was the hours. Reveille was at 0400 to clean up ourselves, the barracks and headed off for the chow hall and off to school by 0600.
I remember one fellow took a nap in the evening and woke up, as every one was getting ready for bed. I saw him go to the latrine then he went out the door. I wondered what he was doing, but 20 min or so later he came in and I asked him where he had gone. He sheepishly told me he thought it was morning and had gone down to stand in the chow line. When no one else arrived he looked at his watch and was surprised to find out that it was bed time and not chow time.
I recall another fellow who always came up to his bunk and jumped up and leveled off over his bed and dropped down with a sheer luxury. One night he went to town so as a prank we removed the springs on his bunk and tied them together with string. As he came in we all watched as he leveled off over his bed and ended up on his mattress on the floor. Of course we all roared with laughter.
There were also a couple of local brothers in our barracks, Clifford & Mallard Northcraft, from the Ten Mile area near Roseburg. I enjoyed the barracks, the conversations and fun times we had.
The Post Exchange (PX) had lots of stuff to buy, but at $18.00 dollars a month you had to watch what you did with your money. I spent most of my money on ice cream, 8 cents a pint. The films on the base were also cheap, but only changed twice a week. We could eat all we want to at the dinning hall. All of our clothes were given to us as well as shoes. After the first month we were allowed to go off the base. Their was a recreation room where we could go any time we were off duty.
I buddied around with a fellow by the name of Rex Foster. We played lots of table tennis and he taught me how to keep backing off from the table and hit the balls real hard and accurately. Even though I learned to play pretty good, I never was as good as Rex. (After the War I saw Rex and his wife Rita out in Arizona where he did office work for various companies.)
We also attend church on Sundays. After one church service a lady invited 4 of us soldiers to her home for lunch. After GI grub for a while, a home cooked meal would be great treat and much appreciated. We accompanied her to her car, driven by a chauffer. When we arrived at her home we found out it was quite a mansion. When dinner was called, we went to the dining room and were seated, and were served by a waiter. Really don't recall what was served, but it was good and we appreciated the meal very much and her thoughtfulness.
One hot dry day we got a cloud burst, so I and another fellow stripped to out shorts and went out and played in the rain for a while. The streets were running completely full. Since this was a new base and no grass was growing, so we had either blowing red dust or rain with blowing dust.
A week prior to our graduation from the mechanics course I received a notice to go to the orderly room and they shipped me to San Antonio, Texas for Cadet training.
Upon arrival, we were issued our Cadet uniform. These looked very similar to Officers dress clothes. We spent the next month in ground school and lots more drilling. One time I went to a different town by bus. When I exited the bus and a group of soldiers came to attention and saluted me. They thought I was an officer and they were not use to seeing cadets.
From San Antonio they shipped me to Corsicana for preflight. Here I was introduced to the PT-19. It was a Fairchild, 2-place open cockpit, with a 175HP-inverted Ranger inline engine. The instructor was in the front seat and there were no radios but to communicate he would yell into a Gasport tube. I couldn't reply so it was a one-way system and no back talk.
After I had flown dual for a few hours, the instructor climbed out and told me to take it around the pattern and land. So I did and about ground looped, but I caught it with the brake. Just too relaxed. One time the instructor worked me down wind of high-tension power line, when he pulled a forced landing. I wasn't sure which to do, over fly the power line and land upwind, or stay away from the power line and land downwind. So I didn't do either and gave the stick back to the instructor and talked with him after I landed. He wasn't very pleased about my not making a decision but after 60 hours of flight time I graduated from primary flight school.
Being in Texas in the winter we had lot of weather problems. One day I was down on the flight line and they had a hailstorm come thru and the planes were landing ever which way trying to get down. Also planes that were on the line they wanted in the hanger. So I hopped into a plane and a starter (person who hand cranked planes) cranked it up. I took it over to the hangers where it was taken inside. Large hail could damage the cloth fabric if it was large.
On the weekend I usually went to town for a treat. I went to the same restaurant that I liked. One item they had on the menu was a steak that was called a cadet special steak. It was large, lopping over the platter on all sides, all for $1.25 a serving. Cadets received $75.00 a month pay so we could live a little higher on the "hog" then when I was a recruit.
We were shipped up to Sherman & Dennison for Basic training, where we learned to fly the BT-13. It was more commonly called the Vultee Vibrator. It had a 450 HP radial engine and it was a noisy plane. It had fixed gear, and an enclosed canopy. Besides learning to fly it, we also learn to fly using instrument. We learned to do acrobatics as well. Spins we only allowed only with an instructor if I remember correctly. The BT-13 and the AT-6 were both quite wicked spinners and you had to be on you toes to keep it from going into a 2nd dairy spin. We also were introduced to formation flying. I had a problem on my lst flight of not being able to hear what the instructor said because of needing a smaller flight helmet that would hold my earphones tight against my ears.
We were given night formation takeoff. This led to a crash a few nights later when a lead plane drifted left and this put the left wing man into a row of parked planes and that cadet was killed in the crash and fire.
After 60 hours of flight time, we were shipped on to twin-engine training at Lackland AFB, Waco, TX. We had 2 types of planes, the AT-9, and theAT-10. The AT- 9 was an all-metal plane with a pair of 300 radial engines; this was a hot landing ship that every one liked. Both planes would cruise around 160 MPH. We always flew with a crew of two pilots. I enjoyed flying low across the sagebrush hills to the West of Waco. I also like to fly up around the hills and valleys of the clouds.
The AT-10 was plywood and cloth covered plane with a pair of 300 hp engines. We used to say that the AT-10's were made of the boxes that the AT-9's came in. Both planes were low wing. The AT-10, you had to be careful about flying with the cabin window open because if you flew two fast it would crush the fuselage and crash. It happened to one plane while I was stationed there.
Feb. 16, 1943. I graduated from flight school at the Lackland Field, and presented with my silver pilots wings. During the ceremony I was also presented my commission as 2nd Lieutenant. We had to resign our status in the Army as enlisted personnel in order to received my commission. I was given orders along with many new pilots to proceed by railroad to Salt Lake city, Utah. This was a replacement depot for pilots. A group of us were assigned to Blyth, CA. Upon arrival at Blyth I was assigned to a crew as copilot in B-17's. We trained for combat, and I was disappointed when they took me off of the crew and sent me to Pilot training in B-24s at Clovis Field, Clovis New Mexico.


From Cadet training through four Engine Bomber Training

I graduated from flight school Feb 16, 1943, class of 43-B in Waco, Texas. The Lackland AFB. We had been flying AT- 9 and At-10. We were told to clear the abase, so each one of us were given a paper to take around to all of the departments to get a signature saying that we owed nothing and was clear to leave the base. When we had the paper all signed we returned it to the Adjutants department and then they could cut orders for us to leave the base. This was a ritual that we did ever time we were leaving a base. About a day later we received our orders. A group of us Pilot were told to proceed by train to Salt Lake City to a dispersal pool. About 20 pilots were selected to proceed to Blythe, Cal. by train. We embarked as per order and they took us South. We had sleeping accommodations on the train. When we woke up the next morning, we were on a siding and not a train in sight. About 6 of us got tired just sitting there so we went enquiring as to what we could find to do. We were told that we would be about 18 hours before a train would pick us up and take us on to Blythe. There wasn't a town, just a building or two, so doing the town was out. We saw a man, so enquired what we could do to use up some of the time. We found out that they were on the Sheriff's posse and that there was a ghost town not to far away. They offered us horses and took us out in the desert to an abandoned mining town of 20 or so buildings. It had been set up for summer tourist trade. In one of the mining shafts they had a display of minerals that glowed in different colors with the use of black light. We had a very enjoyable time and appreciated them taking the time to show us around.
Eventually the train came and took us the rest of the journey to Blythe, Calif. Here we were assigned to a B-17 crew as co-pilots. This was a real hot spot at the edge of the desert. In the 2 months that we were there the temperature got up to over 115 degrees. My pilot was a 1st Lt. Who had graduated from West Point and then had become a Cadet and then took training in B-17. One evening we were assigned a night flight and the Pilot taxied out for take off, and then lined up on a taxi way and took off, much to my surprise right over the Officers club. I guess it goes to show that despite your rank you can pull a bone head stunt that could have gotten us killed. He didn't realize that he was not lined up on the runway. Out on the desert the tank corps. was doing their training and these desert maneuvers really stir up the dust clouds up to about 7-8,000 feet. One thing about it they wouldn't have trouble with running into a tree.
I was surprised and disappointed when the crew received their orders to go overseas to combat. They received an untrained copilot and I was sent off to Clovis, New Mexico for B-24 transition training. My logbook showed that I had 93 hours of B-17 co-pilot. My last flight there was April 11, 1943 and signed into Clovis on the 19th. I don't remember how I got there, but I expect it was by train.
Clovis had a huge runway 10,000 ft long and 500 ft. wide. It was so wide, it gave me trouble trying to land there at night as they didn't have a center line to the runway and it was difficult to tell if you were lined up on the runway or drifting sideway. I don't remember too much about checking out in the B-24. I didn't think it was a difficult plane to fly. I had flown about 20 hours of dual instructions when my instructor, said that I could take it out solo (that is with a copilot, flight engineer, and two gunners in the rear to check that the wheels were down and lock etc.) I lined up on the runway after checking out the planes engines and instruments. I applied the take off power and watch the airspeed build up and checked the instruments. When the speed built up I pulled back on the wheel to raise the nose wheel off of the runway, as the wings had a negative angle of attack so as long as the nose wheel was on the runway the plane would not take off regardless of the speed it attained. With the nose wheel off of the runway the plane lifted smoothly into the air. I put the brakes on to stop the wheel from spinning and called for gear up, and the co-pilot put the lever to retraction and the wheels came up. The crew in the waist gunner's position called on interphone saying the wheels were up. Just then I felt a tap on my shoulder and the engineer said Excuse me sir, you have a fire in # 3 engine!" "Fire in #3 engine?" "Yes I can see it through the edge of the cowling." I reached over and put the Carburetor mixture control to the off position and reached up and hit the #3 feathering button to stop the engine from wind milling, pulled the fire extinguisher and called on the radio. " MAYDAY, MAYDAY", to the tower that I had an emergency with a fire in #3 engine. The tower responded with rodger, clear to land. I forgot to change my power setting and was sailing down wind in the traffic patter at 190 MPH. I called on the radio, " final approach", and the tower responded, "Rodger, wheels down and lock?" I thought "Wheels down and lock" (I had forgotten them) and I reached over and put the wheels down and pulled off the power as I still had climbing power on. As I continued to let down, keeping lined up on the center of the runway and then I remember to put the flaps down about the time I was starting to flare and I touched down but the flaps made me flare up and off the runway again and then I touched down and stayed on, braking and slowing the plane down and turning off of the runway at the taxi strip. I wasn't nervous or anything. I almost blew every thing the instructor had been telling me for the past 20 hours.
A day or two after this incident they assigned me a crew that would continue to train with me at Clovis and then into combat training at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas.
When I met my crew, I was trying to get to know then and I told them about my emergency on take off. "You were the pilot, really", said Milton Finestein, my new Navigator. "They were telling us about the flight in our briefing, and I had thought I wouldn't want to fly with him". After more flying with the crew we finished our transition training and moved on to Biggs Field and Combat training. El Paso isn't a long jump from Clovis, but again I don't remember how we got there.
I don't recall any problems with flying. We had short hops, and we had some long missions. Night mission. Getting us use to flying the B-24 in all kind of weather and endurance. As a crew we all got along well. There was a little competition with a couple of the men who wanted to be radio operator, but I left them as they were assigned and we had no problem.
Weather was some thing else. Late one afternoon I took off with the crew on a simulated mission with several doglegs and a simulated bombing on some target that I long since forgot. The route took us late in the evening into New Mexico and we must have hit into one of the frontal activity as we hit torrential rain as I was flying on instruments during these night flights I was buck the turbulence and the rain and as I glance over to my instruments, I saw a strange sight on my windshield-there was a worm crawling up my windshield, unlike anything I had seen before, but I had read about it. It was St Elmo's fire and this was static electricity a worm would crawl up the windshield zigging and zagging as it went then it would dissipate and another one would start at time there would be several of these glowing objects crawling up the windshield. Then as the heavy rains continued the air speed indicator Pitot tube would flare up as if it was a large torch and then die down again only to flare anew. So we had a torch on both side of the area where the Navigator and Bombardier were riding, then someone of the crew said look at the props and there they were a ring of fire around each propeller. All this was static electricity due to friction of the rain on the plane. I couldn't see any of the antennas but I had to turn the radios down due to the buzz of the static electricity. But I don't think that was as nerve wracking as the time we were flying through the Cumalo Nimbus, or thunder Heads we flew into that night. It was a very dark night, and very turbulent and we could see lighting ahead of us as we flew in and out of the clouds. The lighting disappeared as we flew into solid clouds and the turbulence grew worse so I was staying on the gages most of the time with a break as I glanced at the engine instruments. As we flew along we broke into a big opening which was a series of large thunder heads and the lighting was striking across the area between the clouds, in the clouds and down out of the clouds. Just a continues flashing of lighting. Milton called me on the inter-phone "Lets get out of here" and I agreed, so we change headings and was soon in solid clouds again with out the lighting. It had only been a few days earlier that one of our planes disappeared on one of our night missions. We were sent out to search for it the next day. I was assigned the area NW over in the Mountain of New Mexico and Colorado. We found a wreck plane on Mt. Side near the top of a peak, so we reported it, but that was a know wrecks. We never saw anything else. Wreckage was reported in Texas scattered over a large area. The plane had disintegrated, probably in a thunderhead. What many inexperienced pilots failed to do was ride the up and down drafts. In a thunder head you have cells of high wind going up and down so that if you try to hold your altitude by sticking your nose down you can pick up several hundred miles an hour of excess speed and if you go over the stress limits you can destroy the plane. These up and down drafts in a severe thunderhead can hundreds of miles an hour fast. If you are in one of these cells going 200 MPH and the cells speed is 200 MPH you put your nose down and you will be quickly going 400 MPH and structural failure can develop especially if its turbulent as well.
I was assigned an altitude of 8,000 ft. flying out of New Orleans over the Caribbean Sea. I was above the clouds in bright sunshine. The clouds were rising and I had to go on instruments to stay at 8,000 ft. All of a sudden I got into severe turbulent and as I held my plane level it started in a cell going up like an elevator at over 2,000 ft a min. climb then I would get a sinker and be going down as fast. I slowed the plane down by dropping my gear as for a landing. This startled Milton Feinstein and Leonard Dwelle in the nose of the plane as they sit just in front of the nose wheel when it is in its storage position. As I fought these up and down drafts, I got a doozer of an up draft that took me from 8,000 and threw the plane out of the top of the cloud at 12, 000 feet. That was quite an elevator ride. Milton always wanted to try and make a landing, so I thought that this return into Biloxi would be a good place for him to try. He took the Co-pilots seat and I talked him through the landing. All was going well till he began to settle to fast. I thought I could catch it by just pulling up on the nose, but I had to pull to high and we hit the bumper in the back of the fuselage that keeps from damaging the tail of the plane. I reported, and I had an unhappy General, as this was the plane he always flew anytime he needed to go anywhere. It was a new plane, it was HIS baby.
Our time in Biggs was drawing to a close. Soon we would be leaving for our combat field. We didn't know where, but our orders came and we were to go to Herrington, Kansas to pick up a new Plane. Thus we entered into another phase of my flying. So we continue on in my story of Crossing The Pond.
An interesting side note.
In flying 4 engine aircrafts, I flew 93 hours in B-17 as copilot.
At Clovis, B-24 transition was 57 hours.
At Biggs, Combat training was 215 hours.
From Herrington, Kansas to Shipdom, England, was 38 hours.
When I went into Combat I had less than 400 hours of four-engine flight experience. One time I asked an airline what experience I needed to become a pilot with their airline and I needed 5000 hours as copilot before I could expect to become a Captain.


Story about Acid fuses.

The current bomb fuses for tail and nose were put in at the time the bombs were loaded, or the Bombardier installed them prior to takeoff. I believe they were Mercury Fulminate, which was quite sensitive to heat and shock, which would cause it to explode. They had a propeller that spun off as the bombs were dropping and that would arm them so upon impact they would explode or were time delayed so that upon hitting a roof of a factory etc. they were delayed till they entered the floor before they would explode thus causing more damage. For an example, if the fuse exploded upon contact with a metal roof of a hangar it would get blown off, but the rest of the equipment in the hangar would be only lightly damaged, but if it was delayed and exploded as it went into the ground greater damage to the building and the machinery would result.
A new type of bomb fuses had been developed for our bombs. These new fuses were had a vial of acid which upon impact the acid would begin to attack the separator. When it ate through the separator it would explode. Most of these types were delayed 4 hours, 8, 12, 24, or 48 hours of time delay. This caused the enemy problems as a bomb that didn't explode had to be removed before clean up could begin or people return to work, or homes etc. These fuses were tamper resistance so that if a bomb disposal unit attempted to remove them they would explode.
My ship was one of 4 in the squadron that had these new bomb fuses. Great no big deal I thought. So we took off and headed off with the formation as scheduled. Then the mission was scrubbed, due to bad weather.
We returned to base and I made a VERY, VERY SMOOTH LANDING. A guard was put on the plane for the night so no one would tamper with these fuses. The next day we were again briefed on targets etc. Grabbing a truck we went out to the plane. While we were waiting, something in the bomb bay went "pop" and a little plate dropped to the ground with a "ting", and continued to roll in a small circle till it lost motion. The engineer Rudy Jandreau went over and pick it up and called out, "Hey fellows its one of those new fuses"! Swish and people were scrambling to get away from those bombs, and Rudy just roaring with laughter. It was an oxygen regulator that broke and not the fuses. The crew was about ready to string Rudy up for his unplanned practical joke.
We again took off for the mission, with the same bombs aboard. But again the mission was scrubbed before we got to the English Channel. I flew back to base and again made a BEAUTIFUL LANDING.
On the 3rd day we headed out flying to the coast and for the 3rd time it was scrubbed due to bad weather over our target area. Now a little thought came into my head??what if the acid was working eating up the metal. I had made smooth landings, but I didn't know the safety of the fuses, so I radioed permission to drop the bombs in the North Sea, which was granted. No more sweat.



A Ferry Trip Across The Pond.

The time span of this article would be 15 August 1943 to 6 Sept. 43. Actual flight time was about 7 days.
Our time at Biggs Field was drawing to a close. We had our complete combat crew, we had all of our training-we were ready to fight Hitler, so we thought. All we needed was a plane. Then we were selected to fly a new B24D to England. We left Biggs Field early August 1943 for Herrington, Kansas. If I remember correctly, we were allowed a 2-week visit to our home prior to leaving.
Our plane had been modified and ready to go, a B24D, Number 42-72877, this would be the one that we would be flying to England. There might be mechanical problems so our crew gave it a shake down flight for about 5 hours and when these squawks were corrected we would be ready to go.
Our first leg was up to New York area where we landed and refueled. Checking the weather and making out our flight plan we flew up to Nova Scotia where we refueled again then spent the night. The weather had been good so this next leg should put us up to Labrador. The plane didn't give us any problems, and we were anxious to continue. As we flew North the navigator got confused when he came to the St. Lawrence River, instead of a small river this was miles across so that he didn't realize that it was the mouth of the river. Since he was on course we flew on to Labrador.
Labrador is a cold isolated place; very desolate with little habitation, though lots of short evergreen trees. It was pushing mid August, but the snow was already on the ground. We were glad to have a warm place to stay and a good meal at the military hostel. We were briefed for the Atlantic crossing direct to Iceland including all of the emergency landing fields, but I can't recall that we had any cold weather clothing.
The weather moved in during the night, more snow had fallen, so we would have an instrument take off and I would be flying on instruments till we got ahead of the weather front somewhere over the Atlantic. It was slushy as I taxied out for take off, a lot of slush on the taxiway, though the runway had been cleared. Even though the ceiling was low we had good visibility on the ground. Lining up on the center of the runway I checked my instruments, set my directional gyro went to full power, as the copilot watched ahead making sure I was holding the center line, and was quickly up to speed, pulling back on the wheel and started to climb, we immediately flew into the clouds and, climbed on course up to our assigned altitude. The clouds were very smooth so not difficult to fly on instruments. We were on instruments for several hours, finally breaking out of the clouds just South of Greenland. It was a beautiful sight, sun shinning on the snow, no other plane or ship in view. I am sure Milton, my navagator was glad to be able to confirm his navigation skills, by the checkpoint. I was glad we didn't have to go into Greenland; on instruments it was a very difficult place to find the airfield and land. The rest of the trip was clear and we arrived in Iceland around 9:00PM. I called for clearance to land, all OK till I put the gear down. The nose gear wouldn't come down, even after recycling several times, so I asked the flight engineer to put it down manually. After circling for about an hour they finally got the nose gear down and locked. The moisture on take off and the cold flight the gear had frozen.
About all I can say about these locations is that we were there, and the only thing we saw was the airfield and the quarters we stayed in.
The next leg of the journey was to Glasgow, Scotland. It turned out to be a sunny day, and a relaxing flight. As we cruised along several hours past, when the radioman taped me on the shoulder and he handed me a radio message, it read "for all of the planes that were on our flight we were to divert and land on the Orkney Island air field due to fog in Glasgow. I called my navigator, Milton Finestein, who took the coordinates and found it on his map. As we came closer, I called for landing instructions and was given clearance to land. As I let down approaching the island over the ocean I saw that the airfield started on the top of a cliff and it was a short landing area and then it started down hill and then rising up at the end of the runway you had a "T" with a taxiway going both ways, but no over run as there was an abrupt low bank. All of the planes landed OK except the last one landed long and didn't get on the ground till the bottom of the decent and thus was still going to fast to get stopped or turned and ended up on the bench at the end of the runway with blown tires. He spent several days waiting for replacement tires. Approaching and landing on this field was a lot like landing on an aircraft carrier, with out a signalman. You had to be high enough to be on top of the cliff, yet low enough to land on the level spot, because if you landed long the runway was dropping out from under you about as fast as you were dropping, thus you would use up a lot of runway as the last man found out. You would think I would remember the time on the ground, or the quarters, but I remember none of it.
The next day the weather was OK and we got into Glasgow with out any problem. We landed as per tower instructions leaving the plane we were assigned a BOQ for the night. After cleaning up the officers went to the officers club for supper. Shortly a waitress came to our table and said something which we didn't understand, so we asked her to say it again. Again we didn't understand so I asked a British officer what was being said. "O she is asking if you wanted tea or dinner". She was Scotch but we never were able to understand her. So with the help of the British Officer we were able to get our food.
The next day we were briefed on flying in the British Isles, what to do if you heard the barrage balloon signal on our radio, do a 180 immediately so you wouldn't run into the cable. They had balloons on most of the mid to large cities. There were many other instructions, but I don't remember any of them now. We were refuel and given orders and took off for Shipdom the home base of the "flying 8 ball', the 44th Bomb Group with which we were assigned for combat. Our assignment orders were written for the 7th of Sept. 1943, assigning us to the 66th Bomb Squadron. We turned the plane 42-72877 over to the operation officer, and we never saw it again.


Flak Vest

These were special overlaid pieces of tempered steel covered with cloth to keep flak fragments from injuring a crewmember in the upper body.
I don't recall the target, but it was in the Munster area, Brandon was the PFF lead and I was flying L-177 as deputy group lead and Major Spencer Hunn was command pilot, of our group. Spencer was watching out the left side window by the radioman's desk watching another group bomb their target. I heard someone say on our intercom "I'm hit".
I turned to look at the crew on the flight deck and I saw Spencer laying on his back with his head against the throttle quadrant, clutching his stomach, I told the radio operator Paul Kittle of Norton, West Virginia, "See how badly he was hurt"! Spencer didn't want to remove his flak vest, as we were still getting flak, but finally he did. The flak had hit him in the belly and had gone through the flak vest through all of his clothes coming to rest on his tee shirt. He wasn't hurt, but had a badly bruised stomach. The flak vests sure were a mess, but it saved his life. He had been knocked about 8ft. Spencer was a believer in flak vests. I wonder if he got to keep it as a souvenir?
Over 50 years later, the 44th had a reunion in Salt Lake City, the area where Spence was from. I made enquires if he was attending the 66th sqd. Banquet he was and I told this story to the squadron that we both belong to many years ago. Then I got the rest of the story. Spencer said that he usually didn't wear a flight vest, but a voice told him to check out a flight vest, so he did, and wore it and thus probably saved his life, and now you know the rest of the story.



My 25th Mission - - Revised 1/24/01

The target was Brunswick, Germany. I have vivid memories from the picture in my mind of the German fighters dropping out of the clouds ahead of us in a line of breast formation. I can still see down the gun barrels of the fighter that was aiming at me. This was my 25th mission, 3 more to go on my tour of 28 missions. Over the past months I had lost many friends to flak, to German fighters, mid air collisions etc. They were here and then we saw them no more. Yet on our crew the only person who was injured was my Bombardier Leonard A. Dwelle from Chicago. We had several close calls, numerous fighter attacks on almost every mission and flak on all of them. I always wore my black logger boots that I bought in Oregon to have a good hiking boot if I had to walk home or escape from the Germans. I had faith in God, I knew He would take care of me and my crew, so in many ways it was a challenge for me and my navigator Milton Finestein to out smart the German AA gunners, and the pilots. As I look back I can see many ways that we out guessed them. This mission was one of them even though it was the deadliest mission that I was on. Our group lost 13 B-24 Bomber with one pass of the fighters plus the anti-aircraft cannons helped to thin out the ranks. One of the l3 though not shot down felt that they needed to divert to Sweden a neutral haven in time of need.

The fighter attack.
It was April 8th, 1944 and the 44th Bomb Group was sent to Brunswick, Germany, the target was a factory fabricating aircraft parts.
Col. Gibson was command Pilot flying with Armstrong, as Division leader. I was assigned Dep. leader of the 2nd section, a 12-ship formation flying higher and to the right of the lead squadron. I was flying the B-24 # 42-109820 or A-820 for short. We had a solid overcast on the route and we were cruising at 1000 feet below this layer. The German fighters dropped out of this over cast directly in front of our formation. When I first saw them I was sure there must have been a hundred or more, but in reality probably 30 or so. I didn't have any trouble seeing the plane that was heading right at me, since fighters have fixed guns and he has to aim his plane directly at me in order to hit me, so I could see down his gun barrels. I had always said I was not going to be a sitting duck, so I just gently slid sideways back and forth in formation. As I watched closely his approach, I thought to myself that guy is going to shoot NOW! I pressed the wheel forwards and dropped maybe 30 feet or so and leveled off and looked up at my leader and saw the line of 20mm cannon shells exploding where I had just vacated. "Thank You Lord". I saw my leaders plane had a large hole blown in his left wing just aft of his gas tank and #1 engine was dead (later they counted 90 30 cal bullets that had stopped the engine.) To the left of the leader I saw a bomber with its wing engulfed in flames. I saw a chute streamed open as some one bailed out. The plane was rolling over when it exploded. That was the picture I saw in the aftermath of the attack. It was over in seconds. I remembered an incident that was being played out in the nose of our ship. Since we were Dep. Lead of the 2nd sqd. I was assigned a nose turret gunner. He only had a few mission to go. This was his lst time flying with our crew. When he saw all of these fighters drop out of the clouds he must of thought "We will be shot down I'll get ready to jump before we are shot down". So out of the turret he came. When Milton saw what was happening He grabbed the Gunner and stuffed him back into the turret and I expect not too gently as my navigator, Milton Finestine was a big fellow. I do not remember the gunner's name, but Milton was ready to throw the fellow out of the plane, he was really angry with him. My leader signaled to me to take over the lead as he had a engine out and damaged wing so I took over the squadron lead and led the squadron to bomb the target, but due to smoke screening, the primary and secondary targets were obscure so a target of opportunity was selected the airfield of Langenhagen.
As a pilot in combat my eyes were constantly roving, I needed to watch the plane I was flying next to, to check my instruments, make a quick inspection of the sky for other planes, especially the specks that could be enemy planes and call them out to my crew on the inntercom, listen and respond if needed to the crew's constant chatter. So you can see that all of us were alert for the entire flight. I couldn't rivet my attention on anything, just a glimpse and move on. So it was easy to misread what I saw. That is the reason I was confused as to the planes that were lost. I saw only the few planes in my immediate vicinity. If a plane was out of place in-between glances I could easily mistake which plane exploded, I thought it was the #3 plane, but I was mistaken. I saw a B-24 with its wing all on fire, and then someone bailing out, the plane nosed up and was doing a wing over when it exploded. It was just a few seconds in my glance. I had always thought the exploded plane was our #3 plane, but it wasn't lost. Who was it? I still don't know for sure, but since it was slightly ahead and to left of my leader it was probably a plane from the lead squadron.
I have more time now, and as I look at the formation diagram and read what others have written or told, who was the unlucky plane, where did it come from? I believe that it was probably #5 plane, Winn in 423, of the lead squadron, the one that was rammed by the German fighter, that the top turret gunner hit from #2 plane. The formations had separated at the IP to fly line in trail to be in position for bombing. Possibly it was Herding in T-023, both planes were reported exploding but all escaped and became POW.

Mission debriefing
From the formation chart, the planes reported missing and the report of POW and KIA (Prisoners of war and killed in action) it is easier to see the entire picture of what happened though I haven't listed damage done to individual planes except what I saw or was reported.
All told the group had lost 13 planes out of 38. The formation chart lists the lead Sqd. as having 4 planes not returning, 2nd Sqd. 4 not returning and the 3rd Sqd. lists 5 planes not returning of which one was interned in Sweden.
The lead ship was K-PFF flown by Armstrong with Col. Gibson as command pilot, they apparently were not hit, but #2 D-PFF with Lt. England as pilot and Capt. Lehnausen as Command Pilot They were hit heavily by 20 mm fire, but the top turret gunner managed to get the fighter, {which crashed, into the B-24 behind them). #3 plane McCaslin, one KIA but the plane returned. Plane #4, Johnson in X-506 failed to return and listed as l KIA, and 9 POW. Winn in T-423 was in position #5 was probably rammed by the German fighter. Winn and His crew were all POW. In the top element, plane #7 was Marx in Z-153 and Herzing in T-023 #9 failed to return; both listed as having 10 POW.
In the 2nd Squadron, 4 planes failed to return. The leader was Fineman in P-049. He was hit in left wing with 20mm cannon just aft of the wing tanks and the #1 engine was dead with 90 bullets from 30 cal. Machine gun fire,they returned safely. #2 Insley in A-820 not hit, and took over the squadron lead. #3 Winchester in H-829 returned. (This is the one I thought exploded). #8 Richardson I-996 were all KIA. #11, #12, & #15 didn't return. Mayes in X-083 had l POW and 9 KIA. Lt. Thom C-767 listed 10 POW. Thom miraculously survived the bailout minus a parachute, as it was listed in the 44th Bomb Group book. Wahler in G-293 crew bailed out, presumably over England or channel, as no POW and 1 killed in action.
In the Low Squadron, 5 planes failed to return. #2 Altemus Z-020 had 7 KIA and 4 POW. #7 Palmer in R-156, 10 interned in Sweden. #11,12 & 13 failed to return. Townsend in O-822 had 5 POW & 5 KIA. Barry in S-987 had 9 POW, & 1 KIA. Sprinkle in Q-827 had 4 POW & 6 KIA. It was not a good day for the 44th. 13 planes failed to return. 41 KIA, 72 POW, and 10 interned.
I hope this report is of interest and useful even though there are several unanswered questions in my mind.

George Insley, Pilot Deputy-lead the 2nd Squadron.
66th Sqd., 44th BG.



Fredrichshaven, Germany
Group mission 107, 16 March 1944, Insley's 21
Group Mission 108, 18 March 1944, Insley's 22

Mission 107 was another bombing thru the clouds, so no result could be seen.
Mission 108. Again we head out on a long mission to the Swiss border. We were headed out to bomb aircraft parts plant in the city of Fredrichshaven. It was a clear day today, so it looks like we should have a good bombing results. As we approached the target, another group of planes crossed below us and we had to abandon our run and so the leader chose to make a 2nd run. The flak was intense and accurate all around the circuit to get on the heading of our bomb run.
We also had several enemy planes making passes at us, firing as often as they could, but the US fighters, the P-38 were very fast, but were not aggressive enough, they would make a dive at them, but wouldn't press in to make a kill. The enemy fighters would stop diving and swing back up to make a quick attack on the formation and then flee again. This went around and around, but in the end we lost a couple of our Bombers to fighters or flak.
The P-38 fighters were the lst that I had seen for fighter protection. I believe that they came from Italy. They may have had a different set of instruction as to how to cover the Bomber group. In England they finally gave the US fighters a free hand on protecting the Bombers, but allowed them to engage with destruction of the enemy even roving out ahead of the formation and shooting up the fighter fields before they got off of the ground if possible. I remember one time we had a real low cloud cover, and the fighters were up at our altitude, but if an enemy stuck his nose up through the clouds our fighters would dive down and pick them off.
On our 2nd run over the target the Anti Aircraft gunners had the altitude down pat so we were hit very hard, but we got the bombs dropped with good results. The 44th Bomb Group paid the price with a loss of 8 planes, though 6 of them choose to be interned in Switzerland. I guess Switzerland must have thought that they were being invaded with so many planes coming in for landing. One of our planes had a shell go thru the wing that did so much damaged that the wing bent up as if it would break off at anytime. Some had to bail out of their plane by parachute due to damage.
Needless to say, we were not very happy with 2nd runs over the same target in the same day.



Surging Supercharger 21 Nov. 2000

We had crossed over the the coast of France heading South to the area of Bordeaux, France. It was a clear day with lots of visibility. As we cruised along at 20,000 feet of altitude, we were able to see a long way. As we passed abeam of Paris, my plane gave a yaw, then it gave a yaw to the other direction. What was going on? As I looked over the instruments, one engine went to idle, then it went to maximum power. I had no control over that engine. Our engines were equiped with turbo Superchargers, the older ships had manual controls, but this newer ship had electronic controls and the one engine's control was out of control. The reason we have superchargers was so the engine could have more rammed air at altitude. We ran out of sea level power, but with the supercharger we could go much higher. It was difficult to fly the plane in formation with one engine surging like this. Should I abort and return to the base or continue on. I finally decided to fly just outside of the formation and if fighters showed up I would duck back into formation. Since we were flying over friendly territory though it was still occupied by Germans, it was still risky. The fighters based in France were drawn to Germany to attack the plane formations flying over Germany. Even though I was out side of the formation, this # 3 engine still went from idle to full power, to idle to full power with out me doing anything. So on we continued the mission and didn't encounter any fighters. We finally approached the target and I slip into to formation for bombing the target. I felt it was a very tense flight for all of us. We had real good maintenance and seldom had to turn back from a flight.
 
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