BILL A. ROSSER|
World War II Memories
Taken from a letter to Will Lundy 8/21/95
Fortunately, I just rediscovered the first issue of 8 Ball Tails. I haven't any juicy "gravy" to contribute because most of my memories are of simple, funny little incidents. My memory banks seem more adapted to those rather than some of the sheer terror type things. Guess I'm lucky that way.
As latecomers, we arrived at 44th BG on the day of the 200 mission (11 August 1944) party, so we had a rather distorted vision of how a war was fought - beer kegs on every corner with tin cups attached by strings, no one wearing rank insignia, just one big party!!! Then we woke up in the real world - somewhat confused, but we made it.
Of my crew, I now have contact only with Al Weaver, tail gunner. One of those funny memories occurred late on a return from a deep mission. We were somewhere above the Rhine, beginning to wind down a bit, when Al shook us up when he cut loose with his 50s. He had spotted some barges on the Rhine, so he was "strafing" them from 15,000 feet!!
Leo Austin (wings folded), our bombardier, was riding in the nose turret one mission when someone above cleared their guns and the casings broke the Plexiglas on the turret. In getting out, Leo nicked his shoulder on a sharp edge. We were kidding him about his "wound" and the major debriefing us offered Leo a Purple Heart! I doubt that he really put it where Leo told him because it would have been painful to his majorship!!
On one of our later missions, an ME262(?) jet, the first we had seen, was mushing along beside our group after our fighters had left. Armorer gunner "Kirk" Kirksey (wings folded) decided to "wake him up" by lobbing a few tracers at him. Boy, could that thing move! We'd never seen anything like that.
One rather scary incident happened when we were flying squadron lead to Magdeburg (02/03/45). We had damage to #1 engine on the bomb run, and soon after release I called my deputy to take over as I slid out (Alley) and to the left. The call was confirmed by the copilot, but the pilot was flying. However, he was on intercom and did not hear the message, so when I pulled out, he stayed on my wing and much of the squadron tried to follow. We were a very lucky squadron that day, because it took some excellent flying by several people to avoid an incident that could have brought down several planes.
On the low level resupply mission to Best, Holland (09/18/44), we transferred our marker beacon antenna from below the catwalk to a Dutch haystack. We were low. I will never forget the flooded fields and the starving animals trapped on the dikes, and the young girl tending cattle in one of the few unflooded fields who saw us coming and waved her white apron at us. I've always hoped that she was cheering us on rather than asking us not to hurt her. That must have been an awesome sight for her.
We always had a reputation of which we were very proud. We were considered a "lucky" crew, meaning that we seldom had problems. Since we always had one non-crew member aboard, we were proud that the guys making up a mission wanted to fly with our "lucky" crew.
My wife, Lee, and I plan to go to the San Antonio Reunion and hope to see you and so many others there.
Sincerely yours...Bill A. Rosser
BILL A. ROSSER
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
8121 Country Wood Road NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109-5262
October 2, 1995
Thanks so very much for your letter and list of our missions. During one of Lee's and my many moves, a box containing most of our memorabilia was lost, including the official log of my missions. For some unknown reason, my flight school logbook in which I had noted our missions was not in that box. Your list and mien are quite similar and only the October 3 mission to Offenberg is really different. I had made a very few comments, which are included.
My first mission was as copilot (John J. Ryan) on Ryan's crew on August 24, 1944 [then on as 1st pilot]. I was shipped out immediately after my 35th and was not allowed to go with my guys on their 35th. I think they may have arrived back in the U.S. before I did, though, because at Stone (?), I was assigned to a very large group for a large ship. However, that ship was needed for a hospital shipment, so we had to wait until another large ship was available. As I recall through 50 years of haze, it was about one month before such a ship was free. We were not allowed to challenge the "logic" that our group could not be broken up into smaller shipments!
I cannot recall why or just when we were moved from the 506th [30 August] to the 66th. I think we were lucky that it happened, though, because we were billeted with Joe Testa's crew and they were a wonderful bunch of men who were more experienced and we learned much from them.
I mentioned in my recent letter that we were a "lucky" crew. There were two occasions in which we might not have been able to make it all the way home. One was October 18, when the fuel transfer pump was sprinkled by the engineer who was relieving himself on Hitler when we hit some propwash and he missed the bombs. We usually did not transfer fuel from the outboard tanks until needed because an empty tank full of fumes was much more likely to explode from hot shrapnel than a full tank. When we landed at a newly liberated field at Brussels where the only fuel was in Jerry cans we were not particularly welcome, especially when they learned that we had 450 gallons of gas in our outer tanks. We were able to transfer after the pump thawed, so that relieved the problem to some degree.
We landed at Orly, as you indicated, on January 16. Had fields on the continent not been available, it is doubtful that the mission could have been completed as flown because a great many planes were low on fuel. I don't remember how many landed at Orly, but there were a lot of them. Someone ran off the taxi strip into deep mud and stranded several planes. Since there was no equipment available to free him, we were "stuck" in Paris for three days. I told you we were lucky!
We look forward to seeing you in San Antonio. Best regards, Bill
P.S. Will, my individual flight record indicates I was transferred from 506th to 66th on August 30, 1944.
BILL A. ROSSER
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Ian Shuttleworth and forwarded to Will Lundy)
2775 S. Moline Ct.
Aurora, CO 80014
13 July 1982
Your rather surprising letter of June 25 has evoked some long-forgotten memories, although I'm afraid I can't really be of much help to you in anything specific in your research project.
I was assigned to the 44th BG from July 1944 through April 1945, during which time I flew 35 missions as a pilot. Those missions were flown in several different aircraft since, for the most part, crews were not assigned to a particular ship. It is quite likely that I flew the plane in which you are interested, on one or more occasions, although I have no specific recollections of any plane other than one with the call sign of H+, which we flew on several occasions, and which I saw in an air show in Moline, Illinois, some months after my return to the U.S.
I don't know if I can express to you my feelings of that phase of my life. It is as if it were another lifetime, which has no relationship to my present one. I had never been active in, or even joined, such organizations as the 2nd ADA, because they represented that other life. Then, a year or so ago, a business associate insisted that I joint he 2nd ADA. Although I am not active in the association, I do enjoy their newsletter. Although I've been in England (London, actually) a number of times during the past 15 years, I've never visited Norwich or Hingham. Perhaps I'm afraid I'll destroy the good memories - I long ago chose to wipe out the bad ones.
But I do retain many good ones, such as -
Of our first night in England (Stone) after having flown a B-24 over, when we sneaked out a hole in the fence for our first visit to an English pub. Of not caring for the warm beer and deciding the best way to handle it was to "chug-a-lug" it - and the man who slid over next to me and said, "I say, matey, if ye're going out to meet Jerry tomorrow, ye'd best stick to the wee ones." And the party which followed with our new English friends teaching us better pub manners; and the local semantics (both sorely needed by a young Texan on his first trip abroad).
Of the developing camaraderie of brave young men totally dedicated to a cause in which they believed. Subsequent conflicts have not been "good" ones with black and white issues.
Of being known as a "lucky" crew. Nothing bad ever happened to us, and we were proud that other airmen who had to fly make-up missions wanted to fly with Rosser's lucky crew.
Of my admiration for, almost idolatry of, Winston Churchill and his marvelous voice and his mastery of the language, as well as his indomitable spirit.
Of the day we bought bicycles in Norwich and riding them back to base that night, and the air raid as we rode with searchlights sweeping the ground, as well as the skies - and wondering if we would be thought to be parachuted agents if the lights picked us up. We hid in ditches.
Of the 200 mission party on our first day at the 44th, with beer kegs and tin cups on strings at every intersection on the base and wondering if this could be the way that wars are fought.
Of the day that General Johnson gave two of us a lift in his staff car and our astonishment that a general with a Medal of Honor could be so considerate of two junior members of his command.
Of the one-eyed man sent to repair the broken gate on our coke and coal compound, who had been an able-bodied seaman all his life, but due to the insanity of wartime rules, was no longer allowed to sail - and understanding his bitterness. And the awakening in us of the plight of the civilian population when he would not eat the orange we gave him because he wanted to take it to his granddaughter, who had never tasted one. He took her several.
Of the very young farm boy, dressed in his Sunday best, who would (quite illegally, I'm sure) bring boiled eggs to our Quonset huts to sell for six pence each.
Of the memorable week between Christmas and New Year's Day, which we spent in Coomb House at Salisbury, which had been turned into a rest and recuperation place.
And, of course, of the too many nights of too many drinks at the little pub near the base (Ethan Green??), and pub-crawling in Norwich and London, and the girls, and the after-hours clubs, and the girls, and Soho, and the girls, the Regent Palace Hotel, V-1s, and V-2s, the taxis, the Windmill Theatre and Dixie Lee . . .
Well, Ian, I'm afraid this thing has gotten out of hand. It started out to be a draft for my secretary to type, but somehow, these reminiscence just don't seem to lend themselves to type ...
I'm sorry that I don't recognize any of the names on your list, and in a way, I'm glad, because among the bad memories are those of the empty bunks of guys I had known. In spite of the camaraderie, you never allowed yourself to become too close, so those empty bunk memories are among the first you erase. Rightly or wrongly, those have been erased and the names are mostly gone.
Perhaps if my travels take me again to England, I will make a little "pilgrimage" back to the Norwich area. If circumstances permit, perhaps you could help me find that country pub . . . could it have been the Crown and Anchor? I can't recall.
Very truly yours,
Bill A. Rosser
12 December 1984
I probably hold the indoor and outdoor world's record for being a bad correspondent. Until Bob King (Michigan) located me a couple of years ago, I had completely lost touch with the guys on our crew. Bob and Beth visited us briefly summer before last, and we had hoped to meet them at a 44th reunion that year or this. However, my semi-retirement got interrupted both times. My intentions are still good, though, and I hope to attend the next one, wherever it is.
It is interesting that you should inquire about the Jack Ketchum crew. In the summer of 1982, I received a letter from a young Englishman (Ian Shuttleworth) asking about the same crew. I'm sure you are aware of his interest, but in case you aren't, I'll enclose a copy of his letter and my reply. Unfortunately, though I've been back to England a few times since and I haven't had the opportunity to contact him, nor, regrettably, to visit the museum in Norwich.
Thank you again for your letter. I will endeavor to be a better correspondent and hope to make the next 44th and/or 2nd AD Association reunion.
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
I have just been going through some things regarding our past life in the 44th BG, and realized how much you have meant to preserving our history, and especially for the information you have sent me. I had lost my official list of missions many years ago and when this was mentioned when writing you about something else one time several years ago you were kind enough to send me a list of missions on which you found my name. That was completely unexpected, but in my records, I find no copy of any note of appreciation. Very unthoughtful on my part, and I would like to think, uncharacteristic.
Anyway, I have enjoyed this little excursion back to when not only my back was stronger, but I would like to think my brain and memory bones were, also.
Since we have lived such a nomadic life in the oil exploration business, I was never much of a "joiner," but since retiring here several years ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed meetings of the 8th AFHS and a recently discovered historical aircraft group.
Anyway, my belated thanks for all you've done not only for the Association, but for me, personally.
Thanks again for all your dedicated work. Please send me the computerized list as you have it since there were a couple of target name differences between what I had written in my logbook and the list you sent. I don't know why it makes any difference after 50+ years, so please don't go to any trouble or expense to do it.
We had a reputation as being a "lucky" crew, so the gunners who had a mission to make up wanted to fly with us. There was one instance when a buddy of our guys flew his final mission with us, so there was a celebration at the NCO club. They really weren't through celebrating when the club closed, and there happened to be a keg of cider behind the club, which they "requisitioned," and started rolling down the road to their day room. That was hard work, and when the chaplain's jeep happened to be nearby, it was also requisitioned. After the OD had come by once and told them to break it up they went to their barracks to continue. The OD came by later and the lights were still on in their quarters, so he reached in and flicked off the lights. One guy, not on our crew, was loading his .45 and then pumping out the cartridges. When the lights went out, he somehow fired the pistol and hit a guy's hand and grazed the head of another. The guy whose head was hit bailed out of his top bunk and was pounding the head of the shooter against the floor when the OD came back to see what had happened.
As a result, everybody in the room lost their stripes. We flew one mission with our guys as buck privates. Our new CO, Col. Snavely said he'd have no flying privates in his group, so the guys got back three stripes, no rockers. Can't remember if they ever got them back.
We arrived at the 44th on 11 August 1944, the day of the 200th mission party, so we had a distorted image of the way a war was fought. We expected kegs of beer, with tin cups attached by strings on every tram stop to be the norm. I still have a picture of General Johnson flying through the air just before hitting the duck pond because his car had a flag with a start on it, so the guys said he was showing his rank!!! You can see why we had a distorted idea about war.
Thanks again for all your good work.