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James  A.  Struthers

 

Personal Legacy
JAMES A. STRUTHERS
World War II
Memories and Biography
December 24, 1944

Mission 22, Plane I (B-24) 42-95193 Tex Burress A/C
67th Squadron, 44th B.G., 8th Air Force

We were assigned a plane whose status was on a red "X" which meant that it was not supposed to be flown because of mechanical faults. But it was an all-out effort and every plane was ordered into the air (Note 1).

After takeoff, we knew we did not have enough gasoline to complete the mission (Note 2). I radioed the lead plane and was told to use my discretion. We decided to continue the mission and after dropping our bombs to use the excuse to go to Paris to refuel and spend the night there (Note 3). We flew bucket position. It was a troop support mission.

As we climbed in formation out over the Channel, there was a long line of groups of bombers spaced out ahead of us and P51s climbing up from below flying faster to on ahead above. During the mission, we had P51s, P38s and P47s escorting. The weather was clear.

The glass tubes in our B24 showing the fuel levels were drained while over enemy territory.

We dropped our bombs, 24 250-GPs from 22,000 feet on the target, a road junction near Pfazel, Germany. Flak was moderate and fairly accurate.

After leaving the target, Harry McDonald, our engineer, reported that we were almost out of gasoline. I radioed on an emergency frequency for a vector to the nearest airfield and was given a vector in the Southwest quadrant. The radio frequency had too many people on it and we lost contact.

We were letting down slowly with power pulled back when down to a few thousand feet we spotted an air strip ahead and below. I flew to the right of it, made a 180-left and came into the single strip runway heading east. I misjudged and we came in too high to get down, so I made a 360 to the left. I did not think we would make it around because our fuel was so low, and I kept watching the plowed fields below thinking we might have to belly in. We did make it around, though, No. 2 engine cutting out in the turn, another on final and a third while landing. At the end of our roll-out after landing only No. 4 engine was still running. Lloyd had feathered one prop.

I got out of our plane and Major came up and said that we could not stay because there were German tanks five miles away in the woods to the east and the air strip was being abandoned.

He had one gas truck with 1,500 gallons and said we could have 500 gallons. McDonald fueled our plane with 700 or 800 gallons.

The landing strip was a single concrete east-west runway. I do not remember any buildings. Maybe 20 or 30 planes that were disabled had been pushed off the runway after landing to keep the runway clear. One B-24 had a propeller that could be spun freely without the engine turning. A P-51 landed with a large hole in the middle of one wing. I estimate the hole was two feet across. Griffith says he stood up through the hole. The pilot said it was hit with a 40 mm shell. I was surprised the P-51 was able to survive to an emergency landing.

There was no wind. The countryside was plowed fields with woods in the distance. There was a small town about five miles away to the NNW. The land between us and the town was open with a long, gentle dip with the town on the rise. Was this Dinant, Belgium or Denain, France?

Some other soldiers asked to ride back to England with us, including a crew from the 466th bomb group (Note 4). I told them what part of the plane to get in by loading in the rear until the B-24 rocked back onto its tail skid, then loaded in the nose until it rocked back onto the nose wheel so as to balance the plane.

We took off heading west at sunset. I could only see part way down the runway because of the haze and the sun on the horizon. I remember staring down the runway hoping there was nothing on the runway that we might hit. Because of the light gas load we got off quickly.

It was soon dark, and we flew back to our base at Shipdham in England. When we landed, the passengers got out and disappeared into the dark.

Flying time was six hours zero minutes plus one hour 45 minutes. We must have been on the ground in between a couple of hours.

Notes

Note 1. I do not remember why it was a red "X." Harry McDonald, our flight engineer died in 1973 so I cannot ask him.
Note 2. Perhaps the plane had not been fully fueled as the plane was not supposed to be flown; I do not remember.
Note 3. Later, I learned that Paris was off limits and that soldiers were being picked up because of deserters from the Battle of the Bulge.
Note 4. Dave Jacobs, our radio operator, says there was a B-17 crew that rode back with us. The 466th was a B-24 crew. We had so many on the plane I think we probably had both and maybe some more.




JAMES A. STRUTHERS
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

6113 Ashcroft Ave. South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55424

7 August 1982

Dear Will:

I received the copy of the History of the 67 Bombardment Squadron. It is great. You should be greatly commended for the work you did on it.

On the last page there is a flak map and comments of navigator. Are there similar maps for any of the other missions?

Looking back on those days, at the time, I did not appreciate the support that the ground crews were giving with their good maintenance. My belated thanks.

Sincerely,

James A. Struthers

***

August 21, 1982

Dear Will:

Enclosed is a negative made from a print which I believe is a picture of Curly Nelson. You are welcome to keep the negative or pass it on to Curly Nelson, or as you please. I think Curly deserved his picture in your book more than I did. If you put out a second edition, maybe you should substitute. Also enclosed are copies of two other pictures of which they gave me several copies. For some reason I only ended up with one of Curly Nelson which I do not want to part with and for which reason the negative copy instead.

Also, enclosed is other trivia from my diary, etc.

The following regarding your book:

P. 139 29 June 1944 #193 SV (what is category "SV?") [salvaged?]
P. 151 5 September 1944 I 193 landed in France [gas]
P. 152 13 September 1944 I forced to land in France
P. 171 24 December 1944 See my enclosed remembrance of Flying I. Why so much trouble with I?
P. 149 18 August 1944 First mission of Struthers and crew.
P. 152 12 September 1944 "The lead bombardier left the extended vision on his bomb sight and we dropped six miles short of target."
P. 153 22 September 1944 Lavitt flew his first mission as my copilot.
P. 154 27 September 1944 "Group behind us was hit by fighters. Out of 40 bombers, 30 were shot down and five crippled had to land in France." "Bandits in area jumped 445 in back of us - P51, 47, 38 went back."
P. 159,162 18 October 1944 Lt. Struthers and crew in U. Lead plane tried to climb over front. Struthers thought too much gas being wasted so broke formation to let down alone.
P. 168 4 December 1944 Finally dropped bombs in open field.
P. 180 5 January 1945 "Mission scrubbed. Was too 'Big B' again."

Thanks and cheers!

Jim Struthers
 
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