Personal Story of Perry A. Morse |
I was a nineteen year old Drill Instructor, living on Miami Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and thinking that Army life wasn't really bad.
My mother came to see me, and was proud as a peacock to learn from my Commanding Officer that 'her son was a really nice boy, and we will keep him until the war is over. We will need a cadre to clean up the hotels and return him to the former owners.
I thought, "What am I going to tell my children? That I spent the war, cleaning toilets?" So I volunteered for Gunnery School. My mother was horrified that her only child was going into combat. She prayed for me constantly.
Within a week I was moved from Miami Beach to Tyndell Field. They hadn't moved the previous group out yet, so they put us in tents. It was hot and miserable. The mosquitoes were biting. All I could think was, "Boy, did I make a mistake!"
I met my crew in Salt Lake City. George Beiber was my pilot and my appreciation of his friendship went on to his death in 1995. Every time I flew I got nauseated, but George believed I would get over it, and I did.
They gave us a brand new B-24, and we flew across the Atlantic from Goosebay, Labrador and landed in Greenland. When we woke up the next morning, we learned that it was D-Day.
We flew to Ireland and got some more training then on to our new home at Shipdham in East Anglia. They took our new B-24 and gave us one that showed some wear, but we liked the name, Consolidated Mess. We flew most of our 35 missions in that plane, but occasionally in Joplin Jalopy.
Our first mission was July 7, 1944 to an aircraft plant in Bernberg, Germany. It was awesome. Seeing a fighter plane dive straight into our formation was really scary. The Flak was there, but we were too new to worry about that. Seeing the fighters scared us. I later learned that this was considered an unusually tough mission. Looking at Hal Maggard, Waist Gunner, I said, "If all the missions are like this one, we won't make five missions, much less thirty five." But we did fly the thirty five, and none of the crew got a scratch from enemy action.
Our crew started a routine before every flight. We would make a circle around the bomb bay, hold hands and pray for our safe return. George's reputation as a good pilot became known, and when an airman needed one or two more missions to finish his tour, he asked to fly with our crew.
Although I was assigned as a Tail Gunner, on one occasion I flew in the Nose Turret. When I got back, I had a really bad frostbite on my face. The doctor wanted to ground me for a week, but I wanted to stay with my crew. George told me to just keep flying, and I did, always in the Tail Turret
We flew to Munich on our third mission. The Lead Plane's bombsite was destroyed by flak, and his interphone was shot out, so he couldn't get the message out to drop the bombs. George and Jerry Folsom, our co-pilot, took the plane up to 26,000 feet, and no other plane was in sight. Willis Edgecomb, our Navigator, said "George, I don't know where we are." Boy, was I scared! All alone over enemy territory!!!! Edgecomb said, "Uvanni, can you get us a Fix?" Bill Uvanni, our Radio Operator, promptly found the signal, and we made it to Shipdham with five minutes of gas to spare. Being alone in the clouds over Germany and low on gas that's an event I can never forget.
When the P-51 s began flying with us, we did not see fighters, but Flak was always there. We threw chaff out the windows (aluminum strips) to confuse the anti-aircraft gunners as to our altitude. However, one time a burst of flak came into my turret, and I felt something hot on my neck. I yelled, "I'm hit." Then I put my hand up to my neck, expecting to find blood, but it was Spam. My can of Spam and the orange beside it were both ruptured. All the way back to Shipdham, I was mad at the Germans for destroying my lunch.
Living in the barracks had interesting moments. I chose a comer bunk, happy to have a comer of privacy. Then they told me it was an unlucky comer. The four men who slept there previously had all been KIA. Again I went to my pilot, and he predicted that I would break the spell of bad luck. He was right. I did.
Once I was crew chief in the barracks. A cat made herself a nest there, and had a litter of kittens. The inspecting sergeant came in and ordered me to get rid of those cats. "What shall I do?" I asked. "Kill them," was his answer. "I can't do that," "Then I'll put you on report." Here I was, flying toward death on every mission, and he wanted me to kill innocent cats! I took the problem to George, who told me not to worry about it. The inspector never came back, and as far as I know, the great grandchildren of those cats are still running around East Anglia.
After five missions, I got my air medal. After thirty five, General Johnson pinned on my Distinguished Flying Cross. I went back home on the SS Washington. I worked in the kitchen, which was great, because I ate very well.
When I go to 44th BG Reunions and listen to the stories of men who were wounded, shot down, imprisoned and had other catastrophic happenings, I know that my mother's prayers and our crew prayers reached the Almighty, and he let us come home.