Robert E. Misner,|
Navigator 44th Bomb Group 66th Squadron
Rank - 2nd Lt., 1st Lt., Captain
I received my commission in April 1942 at Turner Field, Albany, Georgia, as a navigator, 2nd Lt. I was 23 years old, born of homesteader parents in Montana, and raised in Hurley, South Dakota during the dirty '30's. My long time fiance left a school teaching job in South Dakota to come down to Albany where we were wed in March 1942.
My first assignment was with a B-25 outfit. I later went to B26's. I can't remember their title. Our stations were Jackson, Mississippi, Columbia, South Carolina, then Meridian, Mississippi, where my pay finally caught up with us.
At that time German subs were having great success devastating shipping on the Gulf of Mexico, so I was sent to Barksdale Field, Shreveport, Louisiana and joined the 66th squadron and met and flew gulf patrol missions with my greatest aviation hero, Al Key, who had a huge history of
aviation fame. I navigated for him on several gulf missions and a special memorable flight to San Francisco to meet his famous brother who reputedly looped a B17 to evade Japanese fighter planes. It was on this trip that I first experienced St. Elmo's fire.
The 66th became designated to a combat status and was transferred to Oklahoma City, Will Rogers field, where, if my memory serves me right, the rest of the 44th squadrons joined us. It is at this station that I first met Mike Mikoloski, past president of our 44th Bomb Group Association, who was a co-navigator in our combat session. Our training for combat was quite minimal. I recall the first time I fired a 50-caliber machine gun was taxing up to a dirt bank and firing a few bursts. The second time was at German Fighters.
Our final pre-war station was Manchester, New Hampshire. There we took our final shakedown flights. Our overseas fight was Manchester via Ganders, Newfoundland, where we waited for good weather for two or three days: I met Elliott Roosevelt, the President's son who was on the way to England with his recon photo group.
Some of the names of our overseas fight crew were Harold (Bill) Brandon - Pilot, Curtis Griffin - Co-Pilot, John Mooney - Bombardier, Adam Wygonik - Engineer, and others. In my old age, I can't recall some.
Our flight overseas fromNewfoundland to Prestwick, Scotland was quite routine. My navigation was adequate until a hundred mile and hour head wind destroyed my ETA into Prestwick.
After two or three days our group was went to a base in southern England. Our first mishap occurred on the trip. An English R.A.F. Navigator was assigned to our group to lead us to our assigned base. On landing he stepped out of the lead B-24 into a still rotating prop with tragic results.
After a week or two, as I recall, we were sent to our base at Shipdam, from which we operated the remainder of 1942 and into 1943 when we were sent to Libya to support the invasion of Sicily and to prepare for the low altitude raid on the Polesti Oil Complex.
At the time of being a member of the 445h Bomb Group, the 8th Air Force rule was 25 missions comprised a tour. We were attached to the 9th Air Force in Africa, 300 hours of combat flight comprised a tour. As I recall, when we left England, I had 13 missions to my credit. After the 28th mission, the C.O. called us in and said we, Bob Abernathy - Pilot, Hooch Miders Bombardier, and I, were done unless we were needed for the Polesti Raid. Luckily we were not needed.
With time on our hands, the three of us hitched a ride to what is known now to be Israel. Our time there was highlighted by a tour of the Holy Land. We roomed at the U.S. Officers Club in Tel A Viv, where there appeared orders to report to Cairo, Egypt for shipment to Bangor, Maine which was my separation from the 44th Bomb Group.
The first attempts at missions by the 66th were plagued with mishaps, mechanical problems, inexperience, etc. Luckily, we had Al Key, our Squadron C.O., who had some previous combat experience in the South Pacific. Our pilot, Bill Brandon, was plagued with health problems, so couldn't fly, so Major Al Key filled in for him.
On our first squadron mission was to bomb railroad yards in a French coastal city. As we approached our departure point on the English coast, we circled to let any stragglers catch up. We found that we were by ourselves. Everyone else had aborted due to mechanical problems. So we aborted too. Thank goodness we circled!
One of the most memorable missions was on a huge endeavor by the entire 8th Air Force, both B24' s and B 17' s on Romilly-Sur _Seine, a major German Air Depot 100 miles east of Paris, in occupied France. It was aplajor air battle, continuous attacks by German fighters. I was awed by their bravery and skill. We took a hit by a 20-millimeter shell that killed the belly gunner, Sgt. Lund, wounded the two side gunners, and damaged some controls that Major Key handled.
Another mission of note was one on which Jim Kaht..was our pilot, and when our formation became scattered by a whole cloud of German Fighters. He showed tremendous skills in evasive piloting that got us back safely to Shipdam.
Upon returning stateside, I was engaged for the remainder of the war in training Navigators of B24 crews at Casper, Wyoming and of B29's at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
At war's end, I opted to get out of the Military. I went to Iowa State University and received a degree in Veterinary Medicine. I was in a Veterinary Practice for thirty years at Belmond, Iowa. I retired in 1980. My wife of 62 years in April 2004, and I, have been snowbirds, and enjoying life. We live in Yorktown, Virginia.
A great value of my life is the experiences and association with the 44th Bomb Group.