WILLIAM G. RITTER|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
July 14, 1992
You wrote to me on February 1, 1992, with some questions about a B-24 which I flew on September 8, 1944. I have to apologize for not answering sooner, but somehow your letter was misplaced and I just found it again.
To answer your questions, I took over our crew from Bob Knablein, on my 25th mission, September 8, 1944. Bob had finished his tour of 30 missions at that time.
According to my file, on September 8th, we were scheduled to hit Karlsruhe. I am not positive about what exactly happened, but I believe we had trouble starting one of the engines on the plane assigned to us. We either finally got it started, or we were assigned another plane. In any event, our squadron had all taken off and we were late. We eventually did catch up with them at altitude, but it cost us extra fuel.
After the bombing run and on the way home, we checked our fuel supply. It was questionable whether we could make it back to England. Checking our flight file, we were aware of a fighter group that had recently been set up outside of Paris. They had steel matting for runways, but they were long enough for us to land. WE identified ourselves and received permission to land, which we did most gratefully. The Field Commander gave us as much fuel as they could spare and we took off for Shipdham.
The landing at Shipdham was one of the smoothest I have ever made. When we taxied to a revetment and climbed out, the field engineer came up and pointed to our left landing gear. Instead of hanging straight down form the wing to the runway, it was at a slight angle, tilted away form the fuselage. Looking up into the wheel well, we could see a lengthy crack in the main support structure. We never did find out what caused it, and I believe a decision was made to scrap the airplane because a major repair of this type could not be made at Shipdham.
I had always thought that the plane was "Gypsy Queen," but the serial numbers do not match up. In any event, that was probably why you have it listed as a crash-landing. If I had known about the crack before we landed, I may have ordered bail out instead, but thank God, it all turned out well.
Regarding the crew, I took over the original crew, except for Knablein and our flight engineer, S/Sgt. Norman Bergh, who finished his tour, also.
Our navigator, Lt. Tom Ryan, and our bombardier, Lt. Hal Farmer, as well as our radioman Sgt. Murray Kramer, finished their tours before me and left for the states about October 10th.
The rest of the crew flew with me until our last mission (35th) to Kaiserlautern, on October 14th. They were all Sergeants and gunners. Harold Barnes, Glenn Barr, Nicholas Rizak and Nicola Rutigliano. All listed in Webb Todds History of the 68th.
Incidentally, that book shows all five of us as tour completion on September 8, 1944. As noted above, it should be October 14, 1944.
I hope this will help keep the record straight.
My very best regards.
William G. Ritter
248-41 Thebes Avenue
Little Neck, NY 11362
Note: Gypsy Queen completed the war.