14 May 1943 [legacy, Richard Butler]|
41-24009 Jansen pilot
KIEL, GERMANY, KRUPP SUBMARINE WORKS
A/C 41-24009 - Margaret Ann
JANSEN, George R. - 1st Lieutenant - Pilot
GIRARD, Louis V. - 1st Lieutenant - Copilot
VICKERY, Eugene OP. - 2nd Lieutenant - Navigator
GUILFORD, George W. - Staff Sergeant - Bombardier
STRANDBERG, Clarence W. - Staff Sergeant - Radio Op/Gunner
HUFF, Corwin C. - Staff Sergeant - Eng./Top Turret Gun.
McCRADY, Jr., Leo V. - Staff Sergeant - Top Turret Gunner - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Killed in Action
REASONER, Robert J. - Staff Sergeant - Belly Gunner - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Seriously wounded
SMITH, Robert M. - Master Sergeant - Right Waist Gun. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Seriously wounded
BUTLER, R. J. - Sergeant - Tail Gunner - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Seriously wounded
It was a good day for a bombing mission as the sky was clear except for a few scattered clouds below us. Soon after we crossed the coastline and were over the continent, we began to have fighter attacks at irregular intervals before we reached the target city. As we reached the outskirts of Kiel, the fighter attacks intensified and became almost constant. At about that time I saw Captain O'Brien's ship drop out of formation and lag behind. He was under heavy attack and the fighters were just swarming around them. I was unable to observe any parachutes drop from the plane because of the large number of fighters in the area.
As we were nearing the target, we had become "tail-end Charlie," because of the loss of Captain O'Brien's ship. (I think we were flying No. 2 position and O'Brien was No. 3). Captain Jansen had called me over the intercom and said, "Let me know when the best ---- are coming in!" When I called and said, "Here they come!" He then slipped up under the leadship of our formation and did such evasive action that the gunners of the lead ship said they could almost touch us. At the home base, they were worried that Captain Jansen would cut the bottom out of their ship with his props.
It seemed the fighters would never stop coming in on us. Most of the attacks were from 6 o'clock high and were mostly FW 190s that lined up one behind the other and came in. Their tracer bullets coming at me appeared to be like little streaks of light that flashed on and off. On one attack, I suddenly found myself hanging on my back out of the tail turret. [Butler?] I didn't know what had happened until I got back in position in the turret. At that time, I saw a bullet hole in the turret Plexiglas at eye level just above the bulletproof glass on the rear of the turret. The bullet would have hit me in the center of the forehead, but I was saved because I was shooting at the right and when sighting through the gunsight, I had to bend forward and stoop slightly.
The bullet had just broken the skin on my head. It felt just like a hard blow with a heavy club. The bullet had torn a slit in my helmet, clipped my headset, and continued on into the aircraft structure. My imagination took over and I could feel the blood seeping on my head. I didn't dare check then, but it turned out to be my imagination because the blood had remained in the area where the bullet struck me.
Even after the bombardier had dropped our bombs, the fighters continued to attack in large numbers. It seemed they would never stop their attacks. By this time I had just about given up and wondered why Captain Jansen had not rung the bailout bell. I looked in the waist section to see if the other gunners were still there. I could see they were still firing their guns and it looked like they were up to their ankles in spent 50-caliber cartridges.
As the fighters had begun their attacks rather slowly, they ended their attacks abruptly. I wondered why and looked around for a reason. The tail gunner is the last to know! There, below, was the coastline of the North Sea. The timing was perfect for us. My right gun was out of ammo and the left gun had a strip of ammo about 18 inches long.
The safety from the fighters as we reached the North Sea, gave us a chance to look around for the first time. When we saw all the holes in our plane, we thought of the new danger of the cold water below and how long we could survive if we had to bail out or crash-land in the water. Also, how long before we could expect to be picked up and would it be in time?
Anyway, Captain Jansen kept MARGARET ANN going with her No. 3 engine feathered. All of us in the waist kept a sharp lookout for any other signs of failure, but none appeared and we arrived back at our base at Shipdham. The engineer shot a red flare indicating wounded aboard, and we were cleared to land immediately. Captain Jansen made a perfect landing - he held the plane on the left main landing wheel as the right tire had been flattened by a 20-mm armor piercing shell. When the plane slowed until he could not hold it off the right wheel any longer, he let it touch down and made a curve off the runway onto the beautiful green grass and soft earth of England. The exit of the crew from MARGARET ANN must have set some kind of a record.
MARGARET ANN was riddled. The ground crew told us later that we had 250 major holes (1/2 inch or bigger) in our aircraft. Most of the fuel tanks had been punctured but luckily, the hits were above the gas line. There were three holes in the tail turret. The one that hit me on the head, one that came in at a slight angle and knocked the handle off the Plexiglas door behind me (an early modification to keep the cold air off the tail gunner) and one that came through the bottom of the turret and nearly cut the toes out of my G.I. shoes stored under the catwalk behind the turret. In the turret, I wore silk socks covered by wool socks and fleece-lined flying boots. The ground crew traced the bullet that hit me and presented me with the steel point of a 30-caliber armor-piercing bullet.
I'm sure those of us that still survive will always remember the first American raid on Kiel. All of us in the rear of the plane had been slightly wounded. Besides me, the two waist gunners had been hit by 20-mm explosive shell fragments. The bottom gunner (McCrady) had received internal injures and died the next day.