We arrived in April, 1944, at Shipdham. |
The routine at the time was for the Pilot (Rhodes) to fly co-pilot with an experienced Combat Pilot (Howard Clearey) On their fourth mission they were classified Missing In Action. I was then assigned to a lead crew as Co-Pilot. I was told "lead" is a dangerous position, if we survived 10 lead missions, our tour would be complete at 30 missions. We survived!
I was promoted to 1st Lt., this completed the other officers tour, they were promoted to Capt. I flew about 5 more missions, then checked out as 1st Pilot. As 1st Pilot, I flew wing and element lead.
In April and early May our fighter escort would turn back at the French side of the Channel. Then came the P-51s, what a morale booster that was. Not long after that, on a Berlin mission, we were attached by a barrel-shaped-rocket plane and then later ME262s. We actually saw them go through the formation, with B24s rolling over.
I flew 3 missions on June 6th (D-Day). My tour continued to November, 1944, when I had completed 30 missions. I was called into the office and told I could end my tour at 30 or fly 5 more and be promoted to Capt. Disappointed, I elected to end it at 30 and went home as a 1st Lt.
I was sent to Instructor's School in Smyrna, TN., then sent to Liberal, KS as a B-24 Instructor. In July, 1945, I was sent to Fort Dix, NJ, where I was honorably discharged.
I was deeply saddened to see Ray Shirley listed in the Vol 6 #5 issue, Folded Wings section to the 44th's Journal. He was the engineer on the Rhodes crew.
I remember a 200th Mission Party. All had a good time!
The entire group being flat on its back from Ptomaine Poisioing. The cots were lined up in a hanger. I remember sharing a barf bucket with Col. Snavely. The Air Force Brass was all over the place, suspecting sabotage. The group was grounded for 3 days. Turned out it was a bad meringue pie!
The Air Medal was hung on me by Col Snavely, the DFC by Gen. Leon Johnson.
All of the missions were intense and dangerous with heavy flak barrages and fighter attacks. I was, and still am, very proud of the B-24. I feel it hasn't gotten the credit it really deserves as the best bomber in WW II.
This personal statement is from recall, my personal orders and record's file was lost in a move in 1960; hence, the lack of exact dates and names of some individuals.
William (Bill) J. Meyerriecks