Robert M. Faust|
DECISION MISSION 24
6-27-44 44th, Bomb Group 506th B.S.
Shipdham air base, 3:00 a.m., 506th Squadron Quonset Hut everyone was asleep, finally. "YA HO, YA HO,YA HO," rang out. "Time to fly those Bloody Kites. Wake up you flyboys. Doctors Crew, Stone's Crew, breakfast in 15 minutes," the CQ hollered. I had to sleep maybe an hour when he shouted out. I'll probably remember that sound the rest of my life.
Having slept in my flying coveralls, I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my leather jacket and hat and headed for the trucks to take us to the mess hall, along with the rest of my crew. Breakfast at 03:15, briefing at 04:00 came the voice over the PA system.
Breakfast was pancakes and bacon for me, then on to briefing. Our mission was Creil, a marshalling yards north of Paris. We were to carry 12 500-pound GP bombs. The enlisted men were excused from briefing and went on to get on our flying gear and check our valuables. Then by the armory to pick up our guns and on to our aircraft.
The crew went about their task of pre-flight on "Shack Rat" our aircraft. As a right waist gunner the pilot assigned me to be in charge of the rear of the plane. My duties included starting the "Put Put" the auxiliary power generator. After installing my waist gun and starting the A.P.G. I plugged in my heated flying suit and my headphones, spread out a couple of flak suits on the ribbed deck and promptly went to sleep. would doze while the engines were run up and usually during the long period till we joined the formation to head to our target.
We had some problems during assembly of our group, but word from the pilot to test fire our guns meant we were over the channel and headed to France. Before we reached the coast I was ordered to start throwing out chaff, anti-radar strips of tinfoil. Sitting down by the rear hatch I started dropping the bundles through the chute provided. I must have gone through ten boxes of chaff before hearing on the intercom that we had reached our IP and were turning on the target.
On a previous mission Bill Strange and I had seen a B24 pull up beside us in the formation. You could see fuel streaming from the bomb bay. On board the crew could be seen going back and forth working on the problem. Painted on the nose was the name "Tuffey" which was a nickname we had given Bill. Fire erupted from the aircraft and it dove out of our formation and sailed under and off to the left of us. Bodies began jumping out on fire as the B24 burst in two. Their chutes would open only to be consumed in flames. Bill looked at me and said, "If we are ever hit in our fuel tanks, I'm going to get out before the fire begins."
"Bomb bay doors open," came the command and bombs away as the B24 lunged upward releasing the bombs. At that moment flak bracketed our formation. We were hit. I felt the aircraft losing altitude rapidly and the rear of the plane was full of 100-octane gasoline. Feeling a tap on my shoulder I turned around and Bill the other waist gunner handed me my parachute. I stood up disconnecting my oxygen and intercom, and hooked up my chest pack. Looking up I saw Bill open the rear hatch and bail out. Being covered with gasoline I reached the hatch and was going to bail out, also, but we seem to be flying okay, so I decided not to. I think the reason I didn't was lack of Oxygen, having been disconnected from it for I don't know how long.
The intercom was buzzing by now. Orders from the pilot was to turn off all electrical equipment and stand by. I reported that Bill had bailed out and we were soaking with fuel. Looking toward the rear, I saw, Morrie, the tail gunner sitting in his turret looking sadly at me with gasoline splashing in his face. Meanwhile in the bomb bay they were working to stop the flow of fuel from a pump that had been hit. Charlie, our flight engineer, tore a piece of wood from an ammo box and with his false teeth chewed a plug and stopped the leak. By this time things began to settle down after an engine was feathered and the pilot begin to take damage reports. He called me in the waist and asked how bad Bill (right waist gunner) had been hit and did I need help with him. During all the excitement, he had misunderstood that Bill had been wounded instead of having bailed out.
A few minutes later Fred Stone, our Pilot, got on the intercom and told us we were flying all right and he was going to try to make it back to the Channel, but if any of the crew wanted to bail out it was okay. No one else wanted to and we all decided to ride it out with the "Skipper." Sam, the radio operator, remarked later that he would never fly another mission with anyone else than Stone. He said, "If it hadn't been for him shouting out commands during the mission we would have had it."
We had dropped our altitude low enough to get off of oxygen and had picked up fighter support back towards England. As a 19-year-old, I began to realize what had happened, and the shock was setting in. On the intercom I could hear the pilots asking Charlie Brown how the fuel supply was. His answer every time was, "Don't worry we have plenty of fuel, keep going." Over the Channel the question was, "Do we have enough fuel to make it back to the base?" The answer again, "Keep going." The pilot announced, "Anyone wishing to bail out over the Channel can, but I'm going back to Shipdham." We all decided to go with him. Coming in on an emergency approach, the pilot landed on the grass beside the runway to avoid any sparks. When the B24 rolled to a stop, we jumped out of the rear of the plane and began kissing the ground. I think this mission added ten years to my life.
The Crew on this mission: Pilot Fred Stone, Co-Pilot Merritt Derr, Navigator Andrew Patrichuck, Radio Operator Sam Ceverella, Nose Turret Bob Ryan, Upper Turret Charles Brown, Tail Turret Morrie Meunitz, Right Waist Bill Strange, Left Waist Bob Faust, Ball Turret Flegman. All finished their tour and returned to the States except For Bill Strange who spent the rest of the war in a P.O.W. camp. As of this writing only Derr, Faust and Strange are still alive.