COPY OF A 1984 LETTER|
JEWELL TO WILL LUNDY
COMMENTS AFTER SEEING WILL'S 67th HISTORY
Our crew transferred from the 392nd BG to the 44th while the 44th was in Africa. The attitude on the 44th BG field was completely different from what our crew, as well as the three other crews who came over at the same time had been used to.
We were given terrible quarters and isolated from really knowing the ground personnel. All four crews were put in different squadrons, given mission time, but otherwise ignored. NO DECENT QUARTERS, BAD FOOD, NO TRANSPORTATION. The old members of the 44th could get most anything and the ground personnel were the "kings" of the 44th. They were there because it was a bomber base. So many years have passed, but I cannot or my brain will not, make a recall of how we minded being on that base. We were treated like sheep for the slaughter.
The names of the four crews were not even listed as 44th BG members when it was published for the reunion. Very few of the crews that flew when we did are now living, fortunately. General Johnson remembered our crew from flying with us. We read the history of the 44th, but it doesn't read the same as our diaries, and we flew the missions. Some ground pounder wrote what he wanted to, so he could get off duty and into town. I hope you can understand some of this.
Bill Cameron was the only person on the base who had more missions than our crew. A lot of good crews were liquidated over Europe, and they are just statistics on paper. It makes you cry when you remind yourself of what it was like. The three other crews were shot down.
On November 16th I was (assigned) alternate lead, and the lead crashed on takeoff. We did not hear a recall, so I proceeded to target alone while Howington (68th) latched onto my wing. After going through a large front, I found four more B-24s going toward Norway. I latched onto them. However, the planes kept changing positions in the formation, seemed very strange to be there. So I broke radio silence, spoke to them in "Pig-Latin." Each plane answered. I told them I was a lead crew, so they got into formation behind us.
When we arrived at the primary target it was covered with a solid overcast, so we proceeded to the secondary. As we arrived the clouds opened up and the hydro plant was there. We went very low over the target, made three passes, tightened the formation, and put over 90% of the bombs on target. We saw three bursts of flak and one plane but it did not attack. We flew home independently.
After landing, we were told they thought we had a mid-air collision and were lost! Then, after studying the photos and briefing, the General called me in, congratulated me on assuming command, the manner I used to do it, and how pleased intelligence was with the results. I got a Silver Star, and all of my crew got a three-day pass.
When in London we read where they went back to Norway and took a beating.
We took "The Bakadori" with us to the 44th, but lost it on the first mission with them. We got "Banshee assigned to us, and before we finished, we lost Banshee I, Banshee II, and Banshee III. If we did not have a photo of them there would have been no record of us ever being a part of the 44th. Banshee III was number 998 (should be 980), with letter "H" on it. Our crew had confirmed 23 aircraft destroyed; we flew as a unit on 24 missions, and over ten division runs, with six of them under fire, when we only had to complete 25 missions. We were to take the "Lemon Drop" back to the USA for a bond tour, but this did not work out after I was wounded and lost my leg.
On 9 March we 1ed the Wing to Brandenburg. The flak was heavy but inaccurate. We had just completed the run on Neinburg when the lead plane was hit. We were forced to use chutes to land -- no nose wheel, no brakes, and only three engines, three of the crew wounded aboard. That was Banshee III. Every member of our crew was wounded during our tour, but we didn't go to the hospital every time we got a piece of flak in us. Instead, we used the medical kits on board ship and treated ourselves, if possible.
My copilot, Walter Milliner, took my crew, with Col. Dent, and opened up a new base in England. Our crew was one of the most decorated in the USAAC. I was publicly announced at the Pentagon and given a certificate showing up to June 30th, 1944, that I was the seventh most decorated man in the Service. That doesn't get you much, if anything, and our crew laughs at some of the stories that we've heard from late-coming crews who didn't know what it was like before 1944 -- and who cares?
Sorry if I rambled around and may have made some comments some people will resent very much, but it's not only me. I have talked to some of the old timers of the 44th and they feel as I do. It took a great deal of persuasion to get part of the crew there for the reunion, but they say they will never go back to another reunion -- sorry.
There is no record of S/Sgt. Pilots in the Air Corps but there were. I was one of them. We made flight officer -- and where but a few places are they even mentioned in the 44th records. So much is missing, so few care, and I can understand as it's past and it's history.
God bless all of you and may your reunions continue to exist.
Major Kenneth Jewell, USAAF Ret.
P.S. No mention is made of the (Deopham Green?) Banshee coming home from Europe on 26 November 1943 on one engine, crashing on base! We came home one time with one engine, the rest of the times we either had two or three running; no one mentioned the fact our planes were filled with exhaust flame mufflers and we flew lone night trips over Europe for men to parachute out. No one was to know and we took it in stride, did what was expected, and kept our mouths closed. Very few people on the base even knew about it - who cared. The war is over. But no credit was ever given to the crews or the field for these trips.
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
March 11, 1988
I think it very nice of you to take the time to answer my letter. I did not mean to take out my frustrations on you. The war years are something I seldom discuss, except with my family or a person who had the same experiences. It is hard to find someone with an experienced ear who can understand, and really listen.
If Keilman of the 392nd hit that target he must have done it after us, because the target was fully functional when we arrived. I do have a medal citation for leading that strike that day - "enough said!"
In respect to reunions. They are a group of special people. I do not know them, but the only thread of connection is over 45 years ago, we all were in a single group, loosely knitted together to attain an important objective. We did our job, some were badly hurt, some killed and some profited from our losses. I hold good and bad and some fond memories of those days and I accept the fact I most likely will have good and bad dreams till I die.
You are one of those special people and I respect you for your many hours of work in retaining the 44th achievements and keeping the brotherly bind intact.
Reading is a necessity with me and I average three books a week or more. Some of the books are trash, many uneducational, few of them inspiring and many of them not worthy of the cost of the paper it took to make them. With this thought in mind, I often wonder how or why the book companies would even consider them when there are true stories, historical stories, etc. available to be published and they will never be published and read. Oh well! I guess this is part of life - so be it.
Will, you may be interested to know or perhaps you do know there were "Staff Sergeant Pilots in World War II." I was one of them and am active in their reunions. I made flight officer just before going to England. I know there was a Flight Officer Miller in the 44th also. There were 1,800 of us and most of them became well known in the Air Corp and the Air Force, and many of them were top aces. They were a special breed of pilots. The enlisted pilots off the top of my head, I think of the guy who broke the ground barrier, Chuck Yeager.
Enough rambling. Thank you for listening.
Kenneth Jewell, Pilot
KENNETH G. JEWELL
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
June 18, 1984
We transferred to the 44th Bomb Group from the 392nd on October 5, 1943. They sent five crews over because the 44th needed crews very badly. We brought the "Bakatori" over with us and lost it on the first diversion raid over the North Sea and I crashed it on the field.
I checked my diary on November 16th. We hit Rjuken, Norway and we represented ½ of the 44th. They had a recall which we did not receive.
I picked up five other 24s enroute and broke radio silence and talked to them in pig-Latin. I was the only lead plane in the flight and they latched onto our lead. The primary target was socked in solid with clouds and we went to the secondary target Rjuken. We went over the target and the mountain plateau and could see people on the ground running around. There was no flak and no fighters so we went lower and made three passes over the target and tightened up the flight.
We had perfect conditions and hit the lake, the feed pipes and the power plant with every bomb and had good photos. After the hit, we saw one fighter off in the distance at 3 o'clock but he never bothered us. I informed the other planes to scatter, lean out the fuel and if they were hit by fighters go into the solid cloud cover and fly home on instruments.
Our fuel was extremely low when we landed and the group officers were surprised to see us. They thought the two 44th planes had collided in the bad weather getting to rendezvous. For the good job well done, we were given a four-day pass and did not fly when the group hit Norway again.
We flew the Bremen (26 November) raid next and we brought the Banshee home on one engine and it was a complete wreck when we crashed on the field. We then got Banshee II.
In December, I do not know the date, we lost Banshee II and got Banshee III. Around the 1st part of January of 1944, we lost Banshee IV. We then got No. 980, a B-24J with new electric super-charger and we named it "Banshee."
On March 9th our crews second raid on Berlin flew the second section and avoided the heavy flak and none of the group was damaged. Over the target, solid cloud cover and the flak was extremely heavy and accurate and just as we released the bombs, the Banshee was hit by four bursts of flak.
Our nose section was shot up and the front wheel assembly was lost. The front oxygen system was destroyed and all the radio systems were put out of action. The No. 3 engine and right side of plane were heavily damaged and I feathered No. 3 engine.
I had my left leg severely damaged and we tried to remove what was left but had no knife to remove what was left. The copilot vomited in his mask and the crew had to revive him. I was put back in the seat and brought the plane home with the auto-pilot.
The copilot revived, followed my instructions on how to land. This was his first mission, over 24th and he had never landed a 24. We used two parachutes on the waist window gun mounts to get us stopped. We had no brakes and it nosed in around 70 mph. [M.E. War Diary, 8 March, 1 B-24 C/L Shipdham].
Movie-tone was there that day. Major Gen. Kirk, Maj. Gen. Grant, Brig. Gen. Johnson were there when we landed. Kirk sent me to zone of interior Walter Reed Hospital where I became friendly with "Hap" Arnold. Hap put me back on the flying status in February 1945 and I was the first amputee to fly in the USAF Corp. with a wooden leg and was retired on May 1946 as a Major.
As an after thought, I applied for and after a two-year battle became the first commercial civilian pilot registered with the CAA.
I flew till 1969, a period of 30 years and now I am done with flying.
As for the records of the 66th Squadron, I can understand why they are very bad. Major Kahl was a first class ass as squadron CO. Nobody that I know of liked or respected him and did not want to work or fly with him. Most of the time he did not have a first sergeant or adjutant.
I enlisted as a private at 21 and one month. Was a Staff Sgt. Pilot. I loved the service. It was good to me. I had letters, etc. from the Pentagon but lost them in a flood. It may interest you to now I was the most decorated soldier of WWII in the Air corp.
Kenneth G. Jewell
November 16, 1943
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
February 24, 1988
I read the December issue of the 44th Logbook, Vol. No. 6 with great interest. It was about a mission to Norway and telling of Lt. Rockford Griffith's mission and their problems.
On November 16, 1943, I led a group of 24s on a raid to Rkjuden, Norway. We gathered together in the briefing room in the early morning, while it was still dark and could hardly believe the long, red line running up into Norway across the North Sea.
While other groups of 17s and 24s made short trips into France and Holland, our 24s were going on a long, cold trip. The other planes would draw the German fighters away from the coastal air bases and we would have little, if any, opposition. In November of 1943, our fighters could not give long escort. It was a good plan and it worked up to a point.
It was a cold, frosty morning and the weather was stinko. Our plane was the alternate lead and before we started the engines, I got the ground crew and our crewmen to get brooms and sweep the heavy frost off the wings. As they were doing this, we saw other crewmen laughing at us and getting a big kick out of this.
We were alternate lead and the second plane off. I forget the name of the major who was in the lead plane, but we were heavily loaded and his crashed landed on take off. We made it safely into the air and I barely missed the plane when we pulled the gear up. We then knew we were the lead crew, when their plane burst into flame.
The tail gunner began immediately signaling with his aldis light to tell the planes that were following us to hook up in formation. The weather was terrible and visibility was bad. Radio communications were almost impossible. We kept the required pattern and went into the low, overcast, hoping to rendezvous above the overcast. We broke out in into the bright sunshine at 12,500 feet and circled waiting for the other 24s. No one appeared and we tried contacting the base, but it was impossible.
After a discussion, we decided to proceed according to plan. We picked up another B24 from our group and I think it was Lt. Helsel's [Howington, 68th] plane, but of this, I am not certain at this late date.
He latched on our right wing and we started toward the target and kept climbing to 25,000 feet to get over a large, front of heavy black clouds. As we looked beneath us, it was solid overcast as far as you could see. When we got over the front, we could see four other 24s going in the same direction as we were.
The four B24s suddenly slowed and let us catch up with them. They flew near us but would not get a formation together. If one of them got in formation, he would immediately change position.
We watched this unusual behavior for awhile and Lt. Matt Foley, the bombardier called on the intercom and asked, "I wonder if anyone besides us, is a lead crew and has a target.
The Air Corp frowned on open radio conversations between bomber groups and we were stymied for awhile in just what to do. We knew we couldn't survive if the fighters hit us and we couldn't go over the target and make a good bomb run with a straggling bunch of planes. We had men on the plane who could speak Russian, English, Polish and French, but the Germans could also.
Someone said, "Try pig Latin and see what happened." I spoke this "kids" language very well and contacted the other planes and each of the planes had someone on it who could understand us.
We informed them we were a lead crew and get into formation with us. They did and we proceeded to target in a loose formation. We flew above the solid formation of clouds which was approximately 10,000 feet below us. The air was very cold and we were getting fatigued and trying to conserve our strength and stay warm.
There was 140 B24s scheduled to hit this rich target and here we were, only six heavy loaded bombers on our way, a long ways from home base. Our original target was a mine and I forget whether it was an iron ore or coal mine. When we arrived at our number one target, it was solid overcast and there was no way we could it. Lt. Art Sakowski, the navigator, gave me another compass heading and we headed for our alternate target, a power plant at Rjukan.
When we approached the target area, it was sitting up on the mountain like a shining jewel in full sunshine. The clouds had large hole in them over five miles across.
We put the nose of the Banshee down and opened the bomb bay doors and in Pig Latin told the other planes to salvo on the lead plane and close up the formation. As we crossed the target, we could see people running, cars and animals scurrying to get to cover. The bombardier said, "Hold bombs and get lower."
We circled and at 12,000 feet the bombs hit the target solidly and you could see the gushing water and the electric towers throwing huge sparks and destroying themselves in the big transmission line. We even hit the small bridge over the stream at the foot of the ridge.
They put up there small bursts of flak which was way off target and we saw one plane that flew alongside us over two miles away but we had no opposition.
We then proceeded home just above the solid overcast and after a long, tiresome trip, we landed at our respective bases. Helsel's crew was being debriefed when we landed and the senior officers were present. Colonel Johnson was very pleased and surprised at our success because they thought we were dead. In the heavy overcast, two 24s collided and they thought it was Helsel and our crew. It seemed that when Helsel's crew saw us sweeping the frost off the wings, they did the same thing and we both got off safely. He was the third plane off and the raid was canceled, but we did not know this because of the bad radio reception.
We asked Helsel why he sweeps the frost and he remembered I studied aerodynamics and was a former test pilot at Patterson Field. He then ordered the frost removed from his plane and thankful he did.
A few things did not add up in our reports. There was supposed to be heavy flak and strong fighter opposition and we did not encounter it. The Colonel was so pleased, he gave us three days leave and we went to London. While we were in London, we heard the bombers hit Norway again and were heavily damaged. When we returned, a good many of the old crews were gone. We talked to ground personnel and medical people and it seemed that all the gold bricks decided that if Helsel and Jewell's crew had a nice, safe mission, they wanted to go the next time for the milk run.
This time, the Germans weren't surprised and were waiting for them and they were badly mauled.
Because of the atmosphere, it was really necessary to stay on top of each engine to keep them from icing up. I had some of the engines cut out for short periods of time because of this but thanks to a good copilot, Lt. Walt Milliner, we made it, one more time.
This trip was the beginning for our crew as a lead crew of the 66th squadron. We finished up our missions and as far as I know, we were the first crew in the 66th to get our missions in. On March 9th of 1944, over Berlin, our final mission, I had my left leg shot off and that finished my tour of fighting the Germans.
Our crew was scheduled to take the Lemon Drop to the states and make a bond tour, but that was canceled, too. The officers and enlisted men of the Banshee were given promotions and they reported to a new base being opened and they became instructors. Arriving in the states, I met General Hap Arnold and he put me back on flying status as a pilot and I trained crews in the states till June of 1946 when I retired as a Major. I feel proud the Air Corp gave me this great opportunity to better myself.
When we went overseas, I was just promoted from Staff Sergeant to Flight Officer and we were in the 392nd till we transferred over to the 44th in September of 1943.
Will, it is hard to communicate with most of the fellows when the reunion comes around. The newer crews cannot picture what it was like in the earlier part of the conflict. The older crews were either shot down, wounded, or killed and you do not get a chance to really talk about conditions. Everyone had a job to do and the men of the 44th were a good group. Perhaps it's me, but I cannot seem to correlate or express myself when I am there. I seem like an outsider. Only two of the pilots I remember are Gen. Hunn and General Johnson. Our rate of mortality was so high, you were shy in making friends. You would meet them, like them, and then lose them. A few times of this and you didn't want to get close to anyone. I hope you can understand this.
I left the service and was the first amputee to get a civilian commercial license and after flying for 40 years have put the wings away. I have an excellent book I wrote about flying in England and Europe and perhaps some day it can be published. They want a small mint and my other leg to publish it.
Thank you for listening.
Kenneth G. Jewell, R#6, Box 106, Bedford, PA 15522