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Legacy Of:

Charles  W.  Titkemeyer

 

Personal Legacy
EXCERPTS FROM THE DIARY
OF LT. CHARLES TITKEMEYER, NAVIGATOR
1148 Aurora Place, Baton Rouge LA 70806
October 24, 1991 -- Tel. (504) 927-4842

Dear Will,

Enclosed is my diary, which I have spent most of the past week typing. It contains information exactly as I wrote it always within a very few days of the time of the action. I am anxious to hear how nearly my record of the missions agrees with the sortie reports you have. My descriptions are exactly as I recorded them at the time and are not the result of my stories getting bigger and better as time passes.

My vivid description of the Ploesti Oil Raid was written the day after it happened. You are probably aware that a lot of the damage to the 2nd Division Liberators was caused by the time interval between our bombing and that of the 14th Division. Our delay was caused by a difference in training of crews of the two divisions. When 8th Air Force crews encountered a cloud formation, they made a wide 360-degree turn while gaining altitude. The 14th trained to separate slightly, maintain their heading and fly through the cloud formation. We did as we were trained and flew above the formation. They went straight through it and gained about 15 minutes time on us. They dropped their bombs about 15 minutes before we reached the target. They had few losses. This time interval gave gunners on the ground a chance to make corrections when they were alerted to the low level of our attack. We also flew over their exploding bombs and through heavy black smoke obscuring the tall buildings and smokestacks, which our crews ran into.

My account of our second attack on Weiner Neustadt on October 1 dynamically reveals the frustrations of our crew at the severity of our losses. From the standpoint of Felber's crew, this was by far our toughest mission. Our plane was the only plane from the 66th squadron that returned to base. When we flew back to England, after being completely defeated, we carried as much squadron equipment, records and personnel of the 66th squadron that we could load on our beat-up plane. That explains why there is so little historical material on our second African trip.

Because I was a navigator, I kept precise records concerning times of take off, bombing and return to base. During my last 12 missions, I flew as either the lead or deputy lead navigator. I was much more concerned with the success of the navigation than with the destruction of the target. After we got fighter protection, it was absolutely essential that we reached each checkpoint at exactly the agreed-upon time. Our lives depended upon our rendezvous with the fighters and I took great pride in my skill in keeping us on course and on time.

7/28/43
The rumors concerning the very important raid are coming to a focus. One of the most important raids in history is to take place very soon. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin's Aide planned this raid at Casa Blanca. For the past seven months, military strategists have worked and planned on this mission. The target has been attacked twice before - once by Americans and once by the Russians but everyone has failed. This is a very, very important mission and I hope to be on it.

7/29/43
Today we learned that the target that is so important is the Romanian town of Ploesti where the oil refineries, cracking plants and distillation units are located. These oil producing plants produce one-third of all the fuel used by the Axis. If this attack is successful, the war should be over in Europe by Christmas. However, it is a suicide mission. If the enemy finds out we are coming, no one will be able to return. If it is a surprise, some of us have a chance to return. The General claims it will save the lives of 200,000 men.

7/30/43
We spent the day studying the target area and the course to the target in order that there shall be no slip-ups. We saw a movie by Intelligence showing all targets and places of importance.

7/31/43
I drew my maps, plotted the course and memorized all-important details. We cleaned our guns and worked on the plane, 123778, "Lady Luck," that we are to use on this raid. It is Capt. Scrivener's old plane and he is taking a new one. Tomorrow is the day.

8/1/43
Remember the day - August 1, 1943. We got up at 4:30 and ate breakfast. We went out to our plane and started the engines at 7:20. We had quite a bit of trouble. "Lady Luck" was an old wreck that no one thought would fly. We had trouble getting one engine started, the put-put caught fire and the generator shorted out. After much effort, we finally took off. We were late and were way behind the formation but finally caught up and got into our proper place in the formation. We flew across the Mediterranean and turned for the long trip across Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania.

While crossing the mountains, we encountered heavy cloud formations and had to go around many thunderheads. We finally reached the Beautiful Blue Danube, reformed our group and headed for Ploesti and the Initial Point. As we passed over towns, many people waved at us giving evidence that they knew we were coming. Just before we reached the IP, we met some of our own bombers returning who had already bombed the target. Great smoke clouds were coming from Ploesti. Obviously they were waiting to give us all they had.

We turned at the IP and began one of the most terrifying rides I have ever taken as we flew straight into the jaws of death. No words can describe the millions of things that took place during the next few seconds. We flew at 220 miles per hour just over the surface of the ground. We went down through a cornfield clipping tassels as we went. A long row of anti-aircraft batteries was right beside our course and they gave us all they had. Flak was bursting about 10 feet above us all the way into the target. We opened up on the gunners with our 50 caliber machine guns. Johnny, in the top turret, shot a gunner squarely in the middle and he catapulted off the gun platform. Barcus, at the waist gun also opened up and plastered them squarely. Carroll, in the tail turret, had a wide-open shot and really splattered those gunners.

While this was happening, the plane just ahead of us went down in flames. Another plane directly behind us went straight into the forest in a dive and exploded. The plane behind it was also hit. It went straight up and then fell off into a spin and broke into a million pieces. We raised up just high enough to clear the buildings at the target, dropped our bombs in the doorway of our target and dropped back to ground level. As we "hit the deck" the speedometer registered 240 miles per hour. I looked to the left of us and saw the great horde of Liberators swarming over the town like 17-year locusts. The entire town was ablaze and in an uproar. Thousands of workers stood in the streets with rifles, machine guns and were shooting at the low-flying planes. There was almost a complete wall of bullets flying everywhere in the air. Smoke was pouring out of the town. One plane went head-on into a tall smokestack. That was the end of both plane and stack.

We swooped low over the ground and streaked out of the terrible flak as fast as we could go. By this time, fighters had descended on us and we had to fight our way through them. They just kept coming. We finally got away from them and proceeded homeward. We took stock of ourselves and found that no one was hurt. By the Grace of God, we had been led safely through that terrible wall of lead and steel. Our only damage was the radio antenna. It had been shot off. We also had a dent in the right wing where we had clipped the top out of a small tree as we flew so closely to the ground. Practically all the flak had burst about 10 feet above us plainly indicating that we weren't hit because we were practically scraping the ground.

We continued our journey homeward. We constantly expected fighters to pounce on us and shoot us down, but we were not molested. We reached home base and landed at 9:00 PM just 13 hours and 30 minutes after we had taken off. We had hit the target over 2400 miles away. What a hard day that was. We went to the briefing room and were interrogated by Intelligence. A total of 68 of the 175 planes participating in the raid failed to return. However, the target was destroyed, so the mission was declared a success. August 1, 1943 - Remember the day.

8/2/43
Today we spent resting and listening for news of our buddies who failed to return. Two more planes were contacted. This brought the losses to 66. Of our squadron, the 66th, only four of the nine planes returned. The others, Gentry, Hughes, Winger, Scrivener and Lasco failed to return. Three of these were seen as they were shot down over the target but the other two are just missing. The 98th Group was almost entirely wiped out. Searching parties were sent out to comb the Mediterranean for any that may have run out of fuel. We carried 3100 gallons each and that was just enough with which to make the trip. In the afternoon, funeral services were conducted for 10 men who died on the way home from wounds in battle.

8/3/43
Today Colonel Johnson talked to us about the mission. He told us that it had set two records. One was that it was the first time a large number of heavy bombers had been used in a low-level attack. The second record was for the distance, the trip being over 2400 miles long. He also said, "You men who have returned from this trip can now say you have seen Hell, have ridden through it and have lived to laugh about it afterwards." He thoroughly congratulated us and told us we were all heros. The British Broadcasting Agency said the raid was unparalleled in the annals of heavy bombardment history. It was the most daring, most vital and most destructive raid ever pulled. Perhaps it was, but it certainly cost us. We are to go on another raid next Monday if we can get enough planes together. It can't be as bad as the last one. I am not worried. Remember, "Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday."

8/4/43 Our squadron is still licking the wounds it received Sunday. A few more crews have been picked up out of the Mediterranean. I talked to Kuhlman who spent 36 hours in a dinghy out at sea. He certainly was happy to get picked up. It is still mighty hot and not much doing.

8/5/43 Learned today that high flying mosquito bombers flew over Ploesti today in order to take pictures. The town was till a mass of flames and smoke and they could get no pictures. Personally, I hope the blame place is still burning a year from now.

8/6/43 Today we found out that Lt. Hughes was forced down in Turkey. He and crew are interned there. They are alive though, and that is worth a lot. Nothing much doing on the field. Have been swimming in the Mediterranean every day for the past 3 days.

8/7/43 This morning we test-hopped plane 793. We flew out over the Mediterranean, dropped a couple bombs and returned. I hope we get that ship for our own. We are still receiving reports on the destructiveness of the Ploesti raid. News commentators say we shot down 56 fighters. The Germans claim we shot down 54 of their fighters. Apparently we agree for once. The Germans are putting out a lot of propaganda about the raid. They claim we put thousands of innocent Romanian oil workers out of work, that we ground strafed innocent women and children and killed many ignorant peasants. They say we maliciously set fire to an innocent picnic grounds. We laughed when we saw that. Our waist gunners, Barcus and Corrigan, threw several armloads of incendiary bombs in the woods which was full of tank cars, storage tanks and gun nests. Apparently, all 18 acres of the woods burned. It is strange that Hitler made no mention of the wheat field Barcus set afire. Tomorrow is another briefing.

8/8/43 I believe someone has a birthday today. I wonder if some draft-dodger helped her celebrate. Had a meeting this morning in which a discussion of the last raid was held. Plans were to have another raid tomorrow but the weather is unfit. Spent the afternoon cleaning guns.

8/9/43 Not much doing. Waiting for the next raid.

8/11/43 Were briefed for next mission. We are to hit a Messerschmidt factory at Weiner Neustedt which is about 20 miles south of Vienna. Flying Fortresses are to hit a target 200 miles west of there at the same time. It is such a long trip, we are going to return to Tunis and stay there overnight rather tan attempt to make it back here.

8/13/43 Friday the thirteenth. We took off at 7:30 and began the long trip to Weiner Neustadt. Everything went well except for heavy cloud formations. We gradually climbed on course and kept going higher and higher. About 2 hours before reaching the target, we ran into a flak barrage over a town in Yugoslavia. No one was injured. We reached the I.P. and went over the target at 15:10. They put up a fairly heavy flak barrage, but it exploded before reaching our altitude of 22 000 feet. Our bombs failed to toggle and I and Pete had quite a time salvoing them. I believe we hit the target. Nothing much happened until we reached the coast of Italy. We passed over a fighter field and stirred up a nest of them. They followed us until we reached Sicily but were unable to shoot any of us down. Carroll had a busy time in the turret. We proceeded into Tunis with no losses. We had no place to sleep there so we slept in the plane or on the ground. Logged 12:15 flying time.

8/14/43 Left Tunis at 10:00 for Bengasi. Arrived safely at Bengasi at 15:30. The entire 44th group lost only one plane and the crew was saved on it. A person doesn’t mind going on missions where losses are as light as that. It certainly was different from the Ploesti Raid.

8/15/43 Heard from S2 that about 400 Messerschmidts just off the assembly line were destroyed in the Weiner-Neustadt raid. Today we were briefed for a mission tomorrow in which we are going to bomb a fighter field containing 51 fighters. It is just north of Foggia, Italy

8/7/43 This morning we test-hopped plane 793. We flew out over the Mediterranean, dropped a couple bombs and returned. I hope we get that ship for our own. We are still receiving reports on the destructiveness of the Ploesti raid. News commentators say we shot down 56 fighters. The Germans claim we shot down 54 of their fighters. Apparently we agree for once. The Germans are putting out a lot of propaganda about the raid. They claim we put thousands of innocent Romanian oil workers out of work, that we ground strafed innocent women and children and killed many ignorant peasants. They say we maliciously set fire to an innocent picnic grounds. We laughed when we saw that. Our waist gunners, Barcus and Corrigan, threw several armloads of incendiary bombs in the woods which was full of tank cars, storage tanks and gun nests. Apparently, all 18 acres of the woods burned. It is strange that Hitler made no mention of the wheat field Barcus set afire. Tomorrow is another briefing.

8/8/43 I believe someone has a birthday today. I wonder if some draft-dodger helped her celebrate. Had a meeting this morning in which a discussion of the last raid was held. Plans were to have another raid tomorrow but the weather is unfit. Spent the afternoon cleaning guns.

8/9/43 Not much doing. Waiting for the next raid.

8/11/43 Were briefed for next mission. We are to hit a Messerschmidt factory at Weiner Neustedt which is about 20 miles south of Vienna. Flying Fortresses are to hit a target 200 miles west of there at the same time. It is such a long trip, we are going to return to Tunis and stay there overnight rather tan attempt to make it back here.

8/13/43 Friday the thirteenth. We took off at 7:30 and began the long trip to Weiner Neustadt. Everything went well except for heavy cloud formations. We gradually climbed on course and kept going higher and higher. About 2 hours before reaching the target, we ran into a flak barrage over a town in Yugoslavia. No one was injured. We reached the I.P. and went over the target at 15:10. They put up a fairly heavy flak barrage, but it exploded before reaching our altitude of 22 000 feet. Our bombs failed to toggle and I and Pete had quite a time salvoing them. I believe we hit the target. Nothing much happened until we reached the coast of Italy. We passed over a fighter field and stirred up a nest of them. They followed us until we reached Sicily but were unable to shoot any of us down. Carroll had a busy time in the turret. We proceeded into Tunis with no losses. We had no place to sleep there so we slept in the plane or on the ground. Logged 12:15 flying time.

8/14/43 Left Tunis at 10:00 for Bengasi. Arrived safely at Bengasi at 15:30. The entire 44th group lost only one plane and the crew was saved on it. A person doesn’t mind going on missions where losses are as light as that. It certainly was different from the Ploesti Raid.

8/15/43 Heard from S2 that about 400 Messerschmidts just off the assembly line were destroyed in the Weiner-Neustadt raid. Today we were briefed for a mission tomorrow in which we are going to bomb a fighter field containing 51 fighters. It is just north of Foggia, Italy

8/16/43 Took off early and started for the target. Our group was in lead and everything looked lovely. We proceeded as per schedule and passed the I.P. at 13:28. A JU88 followed us and apparently gave our attitude to the ground gunners. They began throwing flak at us and it was very accurate. Flak burst so close to us that it shook the plane. It certainly scared us plenty. The two planes next to us got hit, the leader losing one engine. We turned from the target and started home. About this time, Goering’s Flying Circus hit us. It was their field we had bombed and they were plenty hot. They came in from behind mostly and got right up to us. Big B-24’s began going down right and left. I watched Lt. Smith’s plane catch fire and go all the way down. It was a terrifying sight. The plane disintegrated and broke into many small pieces before hitting the ground. Carroll was “as busy as a bee” in the tail turret. Five fighters at a time would come in at him. He fought them off time after time. At one time one of them nearly got us.

His bullets made a steady stream about 50 feet to the right of us. One bullet hit the right wing and put a hole in the gas tank. We finally fought our way out of that mess and got home. Links from the plane ahead of us broke the glass in the dome. We found that 7 of the 24 planes in our group were shot down. The other groups were hardly bothered at all. Only one other plane was lost beside our 7. Since we have been with this group in Africa, they have lost 13 of 25 planes in 3 raids we have been on. At that rate we’ll lose them all in 6 raids. In order to finish our 30 raid tour, theoretically we’ll all get killed 5 ½ times. What a life! I wish I were in the infantry.

8/17/43 Barcus was credited with one fighter. They are going to use us as fighter-bombers to gain air supremacy over Italy now that Sicily has fallen. I don’t know who has the crazy idea that a B-24 is a fighter. Oh well, men in the air-corps are expendable. 46 planes were destroyed yesterday, 30 in the air and 16 on ground. Saw Jack Benny at the show tonight. He looks much older than he does on the screen. He is as funny as ever. Winnie Shaw and Larry Addler were with him.
It was a very nice show.

8/18/43 Today we were briefed for another raid to Foggia. We are going to hit the railroad yards today and try to get even with the fighters. Four groups of B-17’s with a P-38 escort are going in 45 minutes ahead of us so they should take care of the fighters-we hope.

8/19/43 We started out as per schedule and flew over Sicily and into Italy. Of the ten planes in the 44th Group, 4 had to turn back before reaching the target. We passed over it at 23 000 feet and dropped bombs into the fires started by the B-17’s. Flak was very bad again, but luckily no plane was hit. We returned home and never saw a single fighter. The 375th group lost 2 planes to fighters: otherwise, no losses. I was probably the easiest mission I’ll ever be on.

8/20/43 Today Colonel Johnson read a Roumanian Report on the Ploesti Raid damages. The bombing was perfect. The town of Ploesti was untouched but the oil refineries were almost entirely wiped out. It was an excellent job well done. We lost 36 bombers over the target and about 20 others on the way home, according to the paper. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for it. The group received a citation. If we get one more citation, we will get to wear a phlogerie on our shoulder.

8/21/43 Three planes from our group went on a raid today. They were all badly shot up but returned safely. Our plane was on it certainly got shot full of holes. Capt. Riebeck’s crew were credited with 3 fighters for the day.

8/22/43 We are going back to England soon. So today our crew was sent to Tel Aviv to pick up men who were there on leave. We got in an old wreck of a plane and after about an hour’s hard work managed to get it to fly. We flew the 900 miles to Tel Aviv across the beautiful Nile Delta and over the Suez Canal. All generators cut out before we reached Lydda field so we were forced down at a British Field about 20 miles from Lydda. The dumb navigator thought it was the correct field. We went into Tel Aviv rather late and spent until 3:45 in the morning looking for a place to sleep. I certainly was glad to get to bed.

8/23/43 Spent the day looking over the sight of Tel Aviv. It is within about 25 miles of Bethlehem and Jericho but we had no time to go there. We saw them from the air, however.

8/24/43 Today we gathered up the men we came after and started home. When we got to the Suez Canal, we turned off and went to Cairo to see the pyramids. We buzzed the pyramids and the sphinx from a very low level and really got a wonderful view of it. Winchester nearly fell out the window while taking pictures. There were 24 of us in the plane on the way home. When we arrived at Bengasi, we found we were leaving the next morning for England, so we hastily loaded the plane and prepared for the take-off.

8/25/43 Left Benagsi early this morning heading for Marrakech which is about 1900 miles from here and is in French Morocco. We were supposed to fly formation, but we flew alone in order to make it easier on the precious pilot. Thanks to some beautiful navigation, we hit all points on the head and arrived safely at Marrakech.

8/26/43 Due to weather conditions, we stayed an extra day. Visited the town, but everyone speaks French, so I didn’t enjoy it much.

8/27/43 Started for home in formation. Passed by the Spanish and French coast without seeing any fighters. Then we ran into a heavy rain storm that reduced visibility to zero. We went first one way and then another for quite a while and soon lost the formation. Then came the big problem of knowing when to turn in order to hit England instead of German occupied France. After much calculation we turned and by luck, radio, etc…we hit our destination at Newquay. We didn’t stop but came right on into our home base here at Shipdham. We certainly were happy to get here. Our friends here looked at us though we were ghosts. Our crew had been reported killed in action and they were very surprised to see us. After sleeping on a hard cot with rats, mice, scorpions, and centipedes, it certainly was great to sleep between clean sheets again.

8/28/43 Resting up and trying to get our empty stomachs filled again. Most of these fellows lost 10 to 15 lbs. while in Africa.

8/29/43 Winchester and I went to London. Had a nice time.

8/30/43 Still in London. Saw a wonderful stage play, “Strike a New Note.” Winchester went to the Embassy Club and saw Bob Hope and Frances Langford there-both drunk.

8/31/43 Returned to home base.

9/1/43 Not much doing here. They are repairing our planes.

9/3/43 Went over to Hethel to hear General Arnold talk. He didn’t say a great deal. It was the first time I ever saw a 4 star general.

9/6/43 Got up at 1:30 in the morning and was briefed for a decoy mission. We have no planes so didn’t get to go.

9/7/43 Got up at 1:30 again and was briefed for a mission to attack on air field in Holland. Felber is grounded, so we didn’t get to go. The ones who went couldn’t bomb target so they bombed a convoy. It was an easy mission.

9/8/43 Nothing much doing.

9/9/43 Got up at 1:30 and were briefed to attack an airdrome at Abbeville, France. We were supposed to hit it this morning and reload and hit another target near there this afternoon. I flew with Irby in the deputy lead position. Was scared to death we were going to have to take the lead of the entire 202nd wing. We passed many allied convoys and thought we were invading France. B-17 groups are also all attacking twice today. Though we expected plenty of opposition, we never had a bit. It was probably the easiest mission I’ll ever be on. Returned to base with no losses and prepared for another raid this afternoon. Were briefed to hit a target near the one we hit it the morning. As we were ready to taxi out, our nose wheel tire began leaking and we had to have it changed. Took off 40 minutes late but caught the formation. We just got into position when they called us all back. I guess two in one day was just too good.

9/12/43 Was briefed to go on mission to Norway. Bad weather so mission was scrubbed.

9/15/43 Went on a raid to Couches, France. Didn’t take off until 4 in the afternoon. Heavy cloud formations caused us to have to bomb some other target. We circled around all over France, got shot at by every flak battery over there and finally bombed an airfield at Dreaux, France. Darkness caught up with us as we left the target. Flak batteries shot through clouds and darkness at us and nearly scared us to death. Fighters came at us and we began shooting at anything we saw including each other. The 93rd Group lost one plane believed to be shot down by another B-24. We finally got back and landed at 10:30. I don’t want any more night flying raids.

9/16/43 At 10 o’clock today, we were told to pack our clothes for another trip for an indefinite period. We hurriedly packed and were ready to go by 1 o’clock. They held us back for some reason or other and then briefed us for a night trip to Marrakech. We took off at 11:00 o’clock and started out alone for Marrakech. It was all over water and very cloudy. We nearly drifted into Spain, but I saw the lights just in time. We reached Marrakech at 9:15 in the morning and spent the rest of the day there. We briefed to go to Tunis the next day.

9/18/43 Took off at 9:00 o’clock in the morning and headed for Tunis. After a rather uneventful flight we arrived at our new base at 3 o’clock. It seems just like Bengasi days. Food is better and from what we hear, missions are shorter and faster. There is also a B-17 Group on this field.

9/19/43 Not much doing. Waiting for rest of Group to get here.

9/21/43 The crew went on a mission today to Leghorn France. I got sick during the night and didn’t get to go. It was a milk-run with no opposition so it is a shame I didn’t get to go.

9/24/43 Went on a mission to bomb the railroad yards at Pisa, Italy. We had no trouble getting there and could see the target quite a bit ahead of time. We dropped our bombs on the target and came home. No opposition at all.

9/25/43 Started on a mission to bomb air field at Lucca, Italy. Got about 2/3 way there and ran into a rain storm and had to come back.

9/26/43 Briefed for the same mission that we didn’t complete yesterday. Due to weather, the flight was scrubbed before take-off.

9/28/43 Put Bombay tanks and four 1000 lb. bombs in ship for a long mission somewhere.

10/1/43 Took off bright and early for Weiner Neustadt to bomb airplane engine factory there. Due to poor leadership we got way behind formation and had to fly full power for three hours to catch up. The 93rd group turned at the I.P. and cut us off. Our planes got all jammed up in a knot as we began the target run. Then all hell broke loose. B-24’s were floundering around in each other’s way nearly missing knocking each other’s wings off. Flak was so think you could hardly see through it and it was knocking hell out of the planes.

About 2 minutes before we hit the target a large swarm of fighters came swooping out of the sun right at us in formation. They blasted the daylights out of part of our planes and badly broke up our formation. The two leaders Carpenter and Henderson were shot down on this first attack. Bombardiers began dropping bombs everywhere and scattered them all over Weiner Neustadt. Our # 3 engine was shot out just before we reached the target. B-24 were going down in flames all around us. About 40 fighters kept attacking us from every angle. We kept fighting them off and trying to keep up with the formation. Nearly everyone had an engine feathered so they couldn’t go any faster than we could. Pete poured a burst into a fighter and it started smoking went into the clouds. I was shooting at fighters all around us. Pretty soon and lined up and came right in at me. I started pouring the lead at him but he kept right on coming. He got larger and larger. I got frantic and held down the trigger in a great long burst at him. Tracers were glancing off his engine. Soon smoke poured out of his engine and he dived into the could and was gone. I held down the trigger too long and completely burned the rifling out of the machine gun. I probably got the fighter but didn’t put in a claim for him. The fight lasted about a half hour. Johnny got one. Carroll got 2 and Wassner claimed one. We finally got back to the conquered part of Italy where some of our planes forced landed. We past 20 miles south of Naples just as the Allies announced its surrender. We saw many ships at the Salerno beach. Then we couldn’t keep up with the remnants of the formation, so we came home alone.

We had only enough gasoline to last until 6:00 and were afraid we wouldn’t make it. I never was so happy in my life to see Tunis. Our wheels hit the ground at 6:00. We were surprised to find make it. Only 9 planes from the 25 in the 44th group got home.

10/2/43 Found out that Irby and Comey from the 66th had landed at Palermo and Salerno. They are parking their planes and coming in by A.T.C.

10/4/43 Lt. Oakley and part of his crew are also safe. Their ship caught fire and the wing burned for three hours before they crash landed in Foggia. Two of their men jumped over the target, 2 were seriously injured and the rest returned. Bridges and Hobson’s crews are assumed lost.

10/6/43
We have no planes left fit for combat duty so we are going back to England. Since we have the only plane that is capable of flying - after replacement of our #3 engine, We began loading our plane with all the records, mechanics tools and everything else of value that was essential for continued operation of the 66th squadron. The bomb bay was nearly filled with squadron materiel.

10/7/43
Every member of the 66th squadron who could possibly get on the plane climbed aboard and we were ready for take-off. For the first time in our lives, Markham and I dared to take off in the nose of the plane. There was no room in the rest of the plane. Thanks to the flatness of the desert, we managed to take off and then skimmed the desert for a considerable distance before gaining altitude. We arrived at Marrakech after 6½ hours of flying time and had only 80 gallons of fuel left.

10/8/43
We got all our people loaded and taxied out for take-off. Not only Markham and I took off in the nose but also a Lieutenant Sternberger who was a navigator from one of the crews that had lost their planes. We slowly began rolling down the runway as the four Pratt & Whitney engines struggled to get us air borne. At the end of the runway was a large mound of dirt left over from runway repair. We three in the nose watched with terror as that mound of dirt kept getting closer and closer with no visible signs that we were going to get air borne. At the last possible second, Winchester lowered the flaps giving us enough lift to hop over the dirt pile. He then slowly milked the flaps back up as, little by little, we began to gain altitude. Once in the air, Sternberger and I worked ourselves nearly to death trying to stay far enough from the coast line to be beyond the range of fighters yet near enough so that we would have enough fuel to make it home. The weather, as usual, was terrible. By a combination of our skills, we managed to find our base at dear old Shipdham.

10/9/43
An inspection of our plane revealed that the main wing spar on our right wing had been shot through during the Weiner Neustadt raid. How that wing remained intact with the terrible overload we had subjected it to is beyond our imagination. This wonderful plane was declared unfit for further combat and was retired from duty. The crew would have been happy to have received the same consideration.

10/10/43
We were informed that we are now squadron leaders. This was not a difficult decision for the administration to make since we had no competition. After only 8 missions, we are now "top dogs." The only problem with this is that we will have to be either the lead or deputy lead on the remaining missions.
Because our group is not nearly up to strength, we went on a diversionary raid for the Flying Fortresses. We had no opposition, so I doubt that we will be credited with a mission.

10/11/43
I am grounded for three days because of dysentery. Our entire crew needed a rest so we will rest for a few days.

10/15/43
Enough new planes and new crews have arrived so that we can begin reorganizing the 66th squadron. We have been flying formation all over England in an effort to break-in the new crews.

10/18/43
Again we pulled a diversion over the North Sea for Fortresses. The group ahead of us was attacked by JU 88's but we weren't. One enemy plane lobbed a few rockets at us and we hope that it was enough action for us to get credit for a mission.

10/21/43
Today the flight surgeon sentenced our entire crew to a week of rest and recuperation at a rest home for flak-happy flyers. We offered no objection.

10/22/43
We went by train the Combe House at Semley Wilts. For one week, we are to completely forget the war. Most of us carried only a toothbrush and a change of clothes. Our very thoughtful pilot, Bob Felber, carried a B-4 bag that felt like it was full of books. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was full of brandy, which he had purchased in North Africa. Needless to say, we completely relaxed for the rest of the week.

10/24/43
The funniest and most relaxing experience of this stay at the rest home was provided by our great pilot, Bob Felber. He dressed in a baggy pair of civilian trousers, a sweatshirt and a derby hat. He then got on his "drunk" bicycle and began riding in a near-by village. By chance, a training detachment of British tanks were going through. Felber got ahead of them on his bicycle and shouted "Follow me men. I'll lead you to victory. CHARGE!!!" They couldn't get around him and he led them all through the town yelling, "Charge" at the top of his voice. Markham and I nearly died laughing. A British lady approached us and asked, "Is he daft?" It was the greatest show we ever saw.

10/25/43
I got thrown from a bicycle today and got skinned up on my legs and arms. This was the only injury I received in the entire war. I was not awarded a Purple Heart.

10/30/43
We left Combe House and spent a day in London. I bought an overcoat to keep from freezing in England's terrible winter weather.

10/31/43
Arrived back at the base refreshed and ready for combat.

11/3/43
We were briefed for a 9:45 take off for a target at Wilhelmshaven. By take off time, Markham, our bombardier failed to show up. We were leading the squadron so I became lead navigator, lead bombardier and operator of a K-20 camera. We arrived at the target, which was completely overcast. Our plane was equipped with electronic equipment so I had to figure out how to drop our bombs with equipment with which I had little familiarity. I opened the bomb bay doors, adjusted the various levers, got into the proper position and hit the toggle with. Nothing happened. I had failed to set in the number of bombs to be dropped on the train device. Before I could hit the salvo lever, someone salvoed them from the flight deck. In spite of the very short delay, the 66th squadron bombs hit very close to the target. Here I was all set to be a great bombardier and I messed it up. We had very little opposition. Eleven groups of Fortresses and four groups of Liberators were on this mission and the fighters had no chance. When we got back to the base, we found that Markham had accidentally shot the tip off a finger while loading his 45 and had to go to the hospital.

11/4/43
We were briefed for a mission to Munster, Germany. Just before take-off, the mission was scrubbed. We found out that the North Sea diversion was considered a mission. I now have 10 missions and can wear the oak leaf cluster on my air medal.

11/5/43
We got up early and were again briefed for the mission to Munster. We took off at 10:00 in the clouds and had a great deal of trouble finding Irby who was supposed to lead. Everyone formed on us so we started out in the lead. We finally caught up with "Lonesome Irby" and let him take over the lead. We proceeded on the mission with perfect fighter escort. flak over the target was terrific and every plane received some damage. When we passed over Rotterdam, we hit considerable flak and a big covey of enemy fighters. Although our plane received several flak holes, it was not seriously damaged. This was the first time we have had fighter escort. They gave us great support and made a very difficult mission completed with few losses. Lt. Vaden was our bombardier.

11/10/43
We have been flying a lot of practice missions. Today, the wing navigator, Capt. Mikolosky, and I led a practice mission all over England. Our G-box quit working and we got hopelessly lost. We were lost for nearly two hours before we managed to locate ourselves by the methods of navigation we used long before we had such technical equipment. I now have the distinction of being the only navigator who got the wing navigator lost.

11/12/43
We got up early for a target in Bremen, Germany. From briefing on, it was obvious to us that it just wasn't our day. We were late taking off and couldn't find the formation because we were a cloud layer above them. Barcus passed out twice because his oxygen mask wasn't functioning correctly. My electric gloves wouldn't work and everything in general seemed to go wrong. Finally #1 engine started smoking and the oil pressure went way down. We returned to the base without completing the mission. Crews that bombed the target had a lot of difficulty. Bickerstaff crash landed at Cromer. Hart crashed on our own field in landing and Amilie didn't return at all. He was flying our old plane, 973. That is the second time that a plane we have quit flying has been shot down on its second trip by its new crew.

11/14/43
We took off for a target in Norway. After much trouble, we got the formation together and started on course. We had so few planes in the formation that the command pilot wisely decided to scrub the formation.

11/16/43
We went on a pass to London. "Enough said!"

11/18/43
While we were on pass, the group went on the mission to Norway, which we were briefed for on November 14. Nine planes failed to return. Lt. Col. Brandon was in one of them. Because it was such a long trip to Norway, the consensus here is that many of them probably flew into the neutral country of Sweden when they realized they did not have enough fuel to make the return trip.

11/23/43
We had quite a scare this morning. We got up very early and were briefed to go to the heartland of Germany, Berlin. The R.A.F. hit it last night and we were to hit it today. We were all ready to take off when the mission was scrubbed. Needless to say, there were many sighs of relief when the mission was scrubbed.

11/26/43
We dropped a bunch of practice bombs in extreme cold weather. It is Thanksgiving but we had very little turkey.

11/27/43
We got up early and were briefed to bomb Bremen. We took off nicely and formed rather quickly. It was 50 degrees below zero at altitude. My watch stopped and wouldn't run until we got on the ground. Flak over Bremen was very accurate and three different bursts nearly got us. We could not get our bomb bay doors shut so Johnny Altman crawled into the bomb bay to close them manually. Flak burst beneath us and threw metal slugs in all directions. One small piece hit him in the leg but didn't pierce his clothing. Fighters again hit us from head-on and poured bullets all around our plane. When we got back to base, we discovered that our hydraulic lines had been shot out and the landing gear had to be cranked down by hand. Other damage included several flak holes in the bomb bay, a large hole in both #2 and 113 engines and a hole in #2 propeller We also had a 30 caliber hole in #3 propeller and a bullet hole that went entirely through one of the wings. This was a rough mission for us. Damage to our plane will take some time to repair. Our only casualties were due to the frigid temperature. Barcus froze his feet and both Carrell and Wasner got frost bitten.

11/28/43
Today our entire crew was awarded the air medal and one oak leaf cluster.

11/30/43
We were briefed to lead the entire wing in a target located in the middle of Rohr Valley. Major Kahl flew in the lead plane with us. We took off in a light rain and begin assembly over Buncher 4. Due to very heavy cloud formations, the radio beam was bent and our formation ended up considerably south of the field. We were five minutes late when we took off on course from our field. I figured we could gain the time back on the next couple of turns and still meet our fighter protection as planned. Then our superchargers quit and we had to abort. Charley Martin took over the lead. They all had to turn back before reaching the target because of the impossible weather.

12/1/43
We got up early, as usual, and were briefed for a raid on Solingen in the heart of the Rohr Valley. We did not have to lead the entire mission but flew as lead of the second box. Everything went nicely. We had great fighter protection and the flak wasn't as bad as we expected. The weather was very cold again and Felber got a foot frostbitten. This was a fairly easy mission and we would like 12 more just like it.

12/3/43
Today we were decorated for the Ploesti oil field mission. I felt very proud when General Johnson pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on my manly chest. I felt that this was pretty good for a little old country boy from Rising Sun, Indiana.

12/5/43
Today our mission was to bomb an airfield at Cognac, France. We had terrible visibility all the way. We were off course most of the time and never did see the target. We ran into a lot of flak and a few fighters. We returned without dropping our bombs but were credited with a mission anyway.

12/10/43
Today I was notified of my promotion to first lieutenant. As squadron navigator, I have been holding a captain's slot ever since October 1, so I figured I deserved it.

12/13/43
Today, our fabulous crew led the 202nd Bomb Wing on a raid on Kiel. We got up at 2:30 and spent an hour and one-half studying targets and route. We ate breakfast and were briefed at 6:00. We took off at 8:15 and all went well. We had one of the quickest and most efficient assemblies on record. We left the base 3 minutes early, lost one minute on the first leg to Cromer, overshot Hunstanton and were in position over our base exactly 30 seconds off schedule. We easily made division assembly with the 93rd and flew behind them the rest of the way to the target. The weather was terrible over the target and we had to bomb by Pathfinder. Other than considerable flak over the target, we had little opposition. This was a well-coordinated mission.

12/15/43
Had an enjoyable critique of the last mission. There were no complaints. We also had a critique at the 11th Wing Headquarters. Everything had gone so smoothly on the mission that it was the shortest wing critique on record. We are proud of our job of leadership on that mission.

12/15/43
I spent the entire night plotting the course and spotting the danger areas for the crews that are going on tomorrow's raid. It was a tiresome night but good experience.

12/16/43
The 44th went on a trip to the Rohr Valley. Lt. Rispoli was the lead navigator on it and did a very creditable job. They had a lot of flak as they passed over Bremen. My good friend, Lt. Picolo was killed in a crash landing over the English Coast. It was his 20th mission. It looks like it is almost impossible to finish a tour of duty over here.

12/20/43
We were briefed to go on a raid to Bremen. Charles Martin was to be the lead and we were deputy lead. Martin had to abort before we reached the enemy coast, so we took over the lead. We led the way to the target and bombed visually. It was very rewarding to see the bombs hit the target instead of having to drop through the clouds by Pathfinder. Flak was heavy in the target area but we are accustomed to that. We returned to the base nicely and were proud of being able to take over the leadership and complete a successful mission.

12/21/43
Today we were given a special secret briefing on a very important target. Apparently the Germans are not fooling about their secret weapon. They have a series of rocket gun installations along the French Coast which have the capability of hurling 200 tons of shells into London on a daily basis. Our target is an installation cleverly concealed in a barnyard. It is very difficult to identify and will be bombed from 12,000 feet. It is strictly a navigator's and bombardier's show. I hope we can find and destroy it.

12/22/43
Today we bombed the rocket installation. It was a beautiful day for a change as we took off for France. We, as usual, were leading the group, and it was my responsibility to find the target and Markham's to hit it. Everything went beautifully. We crossed the coast at exactly the correct spot and proceeded the short distance to the target. We could not see it until we were nearly on it. Markham cranked in a couple of corrections and dropped the bombs. Our bombs hit just a little to the right of the installation. The 392nd hit it dead center. It was another good job of leadership with no complaints.
12/25/43 - Turkey dinner

12/26/43
We had a big party on the post. I believe I was the only sober man on the base.

12/30/43
We held a huge division practice mission. We did not fly as a part of the formation but flew as a photographic plane to take pictures. Among our passengers were General Johnson, Colonel Dent and Major Phillips. In spite of the pressure of flying with that much rank, we did very well although we did lose the formation for a short period.

1/5/44
Today we led the group on a mission to Kiel. We do not fly anymore except as lead. Col. Culbertson flew with us as the command pilot. We made our assembly pattern nicely and hit every checkpoint on the nose. We took off on course and, in due time, reached the IP Due to very strong winds at our altitude, we received orders to make a South - North run instead of the planned North- South run. In the scramble for positions, we were squeezed to the right of the target. Col. Culbertson gave the order not to drop. We made a 180-degree turn and came directly back over the target into a very high head wind. Most of the other planes had dropped their bombs on the first pass. Nine planes followed us as we went directly into the head wind making a ground speed of about 140 miles per hour. There we were. Only 10 planes slowly advancing on one of the heaviest defended targets in Germany. Col. Culbertson crawled beneath the radio table behind the armor plating and closed his eyes. The rest of us held our breaths and prayed as we hung over Kiel for what seemed like several hours. They sent up many rounds of rather ineffective flak. We finally dropped our bombs on the target and began the long overwater flight back to England. With only 10 planes in the formation, we felt mighty lonesome in that dangerous territory. By some rather careful navigation, we managed to bring our little formation back to our base.

1/6/44
At the critique today, a few caustic comments were made concerning Col. Culbertson's decision to make a second bomb run into the wind. Since we had no losses, the complaints weren't too severe although a few admitted that they aged ten years in that slow pass over the target. Our leadership was good and we did hit the target and did get home safely. Our crew received some rather disheartening news. The invincible crew of Felber and company will fly together no more. Felber is to go to group operations and I am to fly with Charles Hughes. The rest of the crew will fly remaining missions with crews that need them.

1/8/44
We are flying every day practicing with Capt. Hughes. Apparently our entire crew has been assigned to him and we will again be leading missions as soon as we develop as a well-coordinated team.

1/10/44
We went on a four-day pass to London. I celebrated my birthday on the 14th in style.

1/20/44
We are still practicing and sweating out our next mission.

1/25/44
Today I almost got a very responsible but safe job. Bomber Command, the brains of the British and American air war, requested that I join them at Bomber Command headquarters to plot bombing raids. I would have had a big office and would have been in the same building with General Doolittle and officers of the British high command. In the military, personnel are under the direct command of the commanding officer of the base. Colonel Dent said I was the top navigator in the group and he would not let me go. I will have to fly my remaining six missions in either the lead or deputy lead positions. He guaranteed me a promotion to Captain as soon as I finished my last mission.

1/30/44
Today we flew on a mission to Hanover, Germany. We flew in the deputy lead spot and had it rather easy. Because of heavy clouds, it was a pathfinder mission all the way. We were supposed to hit Braunsweig. Because we dropped our bombs through the clouds at the direction of the Pathfinder plane, I have no idea what we hit. We had the best fighter protection I have ever seen. I saw two JU 88's and two Dorniors shot down by Thunderbolts. It was a lot of fun watching the dogfights and I sort of enjoyed the mission.

2/3/44
Today we were briefed for a mission over Germany. I was picked by Col. Culbertson, command pilot, to fly with him and Capt. Hihchman's crew to lead the entire division. We took off and began assembly. In spite of terrible cloud coverage, we got the group assembled and left on course and on time. We picked up the 392nd Group, passed over Splasher 5, and due to increased winds, could not make the other points. By some expert corner cutting and cloud dodging, we managed to get the Division together and proceeded on course and on time. The clouds between us and France were so thick and high that we couldn't stay on course. We tried every trick in the book to get around or over the clouds. Our Pathfinder equipment was out, but deputy lead wisely refused to assume the lead. We flew way up over the North Sea, did two 360-degree turns and still couldn't get through or over the clouds. All this time, I was pulling out hair by the hands full trying to keep us from getting lost and keeping Col. Culbertson informed of our position and schedule. We finally gave it up and came home. Due to plenty of Gee fixes, I was able to maintain a rather accurate record of our route in spite of the terrible weather and all the course changes we made. This was the hardest navigation job I've had and we never even got credit for the mission. I think I aged 10 years today.

2/4/44
We got up early and were again scheduled to fly lead in a Pathfinder plane with Col. Culbertson as command pilot. We got briefed and attempted to take off. We could not get one of the engines started. Deputy lead, with Lt. Pitchon as navigator, assumed the lead. We intended to intercept them and take over the lead before they left the coast. We never did get off the ground. Lt. Pitchon, because of a lack of experience, got scared and royally messed up the lead. He got off course and lost the other groups. When he finally found out where they were, they were 15 minutes behind the other groups, had no Pathfinder, so they had to return to the base without bombing a target. Colonel Dent was plenty peeved.

2/5/44
Flew photographic plane and dropped practice bombs.

2/6/44
Got up early for the fourth morning in a row. We flew as deputy lead to bomb a target at St. Pol, France. It was a rocket installation and very difficult to identify. We were leading division again and everything went beautifully. Due to cloud coverage, we could not see the target. We ran into a lot of flak but did not drop our bombs. It as an easy mission and sort of made up for the last three hard days. Capt. Bickerstaff finished his 25th mission today. was my 21st.

2/11/44
We flew a mission to the same target we were supposed to hit on February 6. I flew as lead navigator for the entire wing in a plane equipped with a good G-Box. I, for the first time, had the help of another navigator in our plane. Everything went beautifully. We were on the bomb run straight and level for about 15 minutes. A burst of flak broke right in front of us. A smoke bomb went off in our plane just before the target, causing minor burns to our gunners and nearly injuring Col. Culbertson. We were right on target.

3/2/44
We flew as lead of our group to Frankfurt. Lt. Mauk, an inexperienced navigator, flew with me in the lead plane. We followed the 392nd Group to he target area. The target was completely covered, Pathfinder did not drop, so we all brought our bombs back home. On the way home, I instructed my assistant navigator to keep his eyes open for large cities that were near our route. I was doing strictly dead reckoning and was depending on him to let me know if we were approaching any large cities. During the trip home, I looked out the window and discovered we were passing directly over Brussels, and the largest city in Belgium. Neither Lt. Mauk nor Markham said a word to me about it, but seemed fascinated by the size and beauty of the city. I knew it was loaded with flak guns and feared for the lives of the crews. Fortunately, only six guns shot at us and they didn't hit anything. When we got in the interrogating room, I nearly got mobbed. Col. Denet chewed my butt for 15 minutes. All I could say was "No excuse, Sir." After the briefing, I chewed Lt. Mauk out for 15 minutes for failing to say anything when Brussels was directly in front of us. Thank goodness we had no losses.

3/5/44
I am dreadfully sorry for the harsh things I said to Lt. Mauk three days ago. Today, Lt. Folsom and crew, including Lt. Mauk, were killed when a P-47 ran into them and cut off a wing. Both planes and all personnel were killed. He died thinking I was mad at him. I was only trying to help him live through a tour of duty.

3/6/44
Today, the 44th Bomb Group bombed Berlin. Because we were not scheduled to lead, I was not on the raid. The bomber groups, including the Fortresses, lost a total of 68 planes.

3/8/44
Today we led the second raid on Berlin. We led the division and the fortresses followed us. Everything went nicely. It was a beautiful day and one could see for miles. We passed Berlin to he South and turned and came toward the target, which was the ball-bearing plant at Erfurt, a suburb of Berlin. Berlin was still smoking from the raid on the 6th. Our bombs and those of the entire division, hit the ball-bearing plant right in the middle. The groups behind us said that the rubble from our target rose 8,000 feet. They felt there was nothing left to hit there, so they bombed other targets in the area. As we passed by our target in perfect visibility and I looked down the streets of Berlin and saw every building and a pub there. The Tiergarten was easily visible as was the stadium, and the beautiful lakes and rivers. Berlin is much like London in that it is made up of numerous boroughs or towns all thrown together to make one large city. It was a beautiful sight although smoke was still coming up due to the March 6 bombing. Our group got home with no losses although the 8th Air Force lost 38 planes.

3/12/44
Today is my last mission and I am rather apprehensive. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to live through a tour of duty. There has never been a navigator to finish a tour since the group started. We were briefed for an easy target, a gun emplacement at Sirra Court, France. We flew as deputy lead and everything went beautifully. We bombed the target and started for home with no serious damage. When we got passed London, we got orders that our field was closed and that we should land at Ford Field , a British airport. We took over the lead as we headed toward Ford Field. The weather was the worst I have ever seen. We got close to the field and began to let down on Splasher 9. As this was my last mission, I breathed a sigh of relief and began folding my maps as Capt. Hughes continued the let down over Buncher 9. Unfortunately, it was over-powered by a station in France and we were homing in on a beacon in enemy territory. I came out of my reverie and discovered we had been flying South for about 10 minutes after I knew we were over Ford Field. I told Capt. Hughes and he asked Capt. Gildart to take over the lead. He continued to lead us South and I nearly had a fit. On my last mission, I had visions of being A part of landing the entire group in France. We retook over the Lead and began heading north again. In the meantime, Spitfires, from Ford Field, realized what happened and came out to direct us home. By that time, Splasher 9 had regained its power supremacy and we landed without difficulty. Thank God it was my last mission. If I have learned nothing else on this tour it is to never depend on anyone else and never relax a minute when on an important mission. We went back to Shipdham the next day. At long last, I can relax.

3/14/44
Went on a pass to London. Capt. Hunn, a former Mormon minister went with me. My original plan was to get drunk and stay that way for 3 days. Capt. Hunn reminded me that that would be a mighty poor way of thanking God for getting me through 25 missions. I agreed and he and I had a wonderful time seeing the many cultural sights of London. It was a wonderful experience although somewhat different from most passes in London.

3/18/44
Upon my return to base today, I found that I had been promoted to captain. We had a big party at the base tonight and drank 80 gallons of beer, 2 cases of Scotch, 4 cases of wine and 2 cases of gin. My headache tells me that I drank my share of it.

3/21/44
I left dear ol' Shipdham and went to the 453rd Bomb Group as a tactical advisor.

3/27/44
I hear today that "Myrtle the Fertile Turtle" was shot down on the mission following my last one. Of the six planes our crew flew in combat, five were shot down soon after we got a new plane. The only one not shot down was 870 and it was junked. That is quite a record. Felber's Fabulous crew all lived through a tour of duty although they finished several weeks later that I did since many of my missions were with a special Pathfinder crew. Co-pilot Winchester got his own crew and successfully flew several missions. I completely lost track of him and do not know how he fared on his last few missions. In letters to my mother I wrote that Jim Corrigan, radio operator, finished a tour about the 22nd of March. He is the second of the crew to finish. I am very happy about that since he had a wife and baby.

Thus ends the navigator's account of the missions as flown with the 44th Bomb Group by the well-trained and very experienced crew of Robert E. Felber.

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