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Legacy Of:

James  B.  Williams

 

Personal Legacy
J. B. WILLIAMS
World War II Memories
Additional Remarks

Lt. General "Jimmy" Doolittle assumed command of the 8th Air Force near the first of January 1944. Considerable changes were made in the operating procedures immediately. Some of those changes which would affect the combat crews were: (1) Bombing missions would be permitted to make predawn takeoff, (2) 30-second intervals between each aircraft taking off, (3) maintain radio silence.

Each aircraft was permitted to have his HF radio tuned to the tower frequency. However, with radio silence there was no method to verify that the HF radio was set on the control tower frequency. Always there were at least two aircraft lined up behind the takeoff aircraft ready to go at their 30-second interval.

Such was the case of the aircraft in front of me. He had added full throttles, which indicated to me it would be a normal takeoff was being made, but such was not the circumstance. He decided to abort his takeoff, but no word was forthcoming on either our HF or VHF radios.

Our crew procedures on blackout takeoffs were to have the pilot lower his seat, then perform a pure instrument takeoff. The copilot would keep an outside view of the runway and the dimmed runway lights. The engineer would be located immediately behind the pilot and copilot to continuously call our airspeed until the "gear-up" command was given. In this instance, the engineer had just called out one hundred when the cockpit was lit up by a red light from the control tower. I immediately looked down the runway and sure enough, there was a B-24 right in the middle of the runway! The blue lights on the horizontal stabilizer were so close there was no time to do anything other than to haul back on the control wheel.

Although there was no indication that we had made contact, there sure was some doubt in my mind. Our aircraft reacted immediately and was airborne instantly so obviously we were above flying speed. We went on to complete the mission without any further incidence. Upon our return, and immediately after the engines had stopped, our engineering officer was quickly examining each propeller blade for nicks or any other damage. I saw him, poked my head out the cockpit window and told him, "We saw the aircraft on the runway and was sure we missed it."

In the final analysis, the third aircraft behind us nicked the horizontal stabilizer of that aborting aircraft on the runway. The tower made no further effort to warn any other aircraft that were behind us.

There were other incidents during my 30 missions that other than the grace of God could we have survived.
 
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Last modified: 01/26/14