Part Three of Three
21. BERLIN, GERMANY
March 6, 1944 (B-17 252-"Sweaty Betty") TARGET: Heart of city
TEMP.: -26º F.T.: 8:40 E.T.: 4:35 ALT.: 21,000 BOMB LD.: 2.5 tons
I've finally got my wish--a raid on Big B. Somehow I'm not as anxious,
but I'd like to get it under my belt. Our crew led the 94th, then just
as we crossed into Germany, we had to lead the 3rd Division over the target.
It was just like any other rough raid over the Reich, except we got a double
Scotch at interrogation and had our pictures taken when we landed. Our
command pilot [who sat in the copilot's seat] was Colonel Thorup [one of
the air base commanders].
We crossed the Channel and entered Holland and ran into light but very,
very accurate flak and met our escort, P-47s at this point. When we left
we had some eager attacks by about thirty 109s and 190s. We managed to
keep them honest till our escort of P-51s showed up. Then the dogfights
began. The sky above us was full of vapor trails in one massive dogfight.
Several fighters were knocked down-mostly Jerries. Meanwhile, the group
just in back of us lost eight Forts in one pass by about sixty 109s and
FW 190s. Several parachutes filled the sky-couldn't keep track as fighters
came at us. Then the 51s came and everybody was shooting at somebody. What
a mess! As we started our bomb run, very heavy flak filled the sky. I could
hear every burst around us, and the steel hitting our ship and the ship
jolting up and down and sideways with the concussions. I saw the city-big
and beautiful and then it was burning. What a shame! We dropped our bombs
and got the heck away as soon as we could, as the flak was murder. Our
left wing was hit bad. Saw several (about five) Forts go down over the
target. I think the flak is beginning to get on my nerves. When we left
the flak area, we were met by another escort-P-51s. Very comforting. As
we left Germany into Holland, we again ran into light flak, but extremely
accurate. A few more fighter attacks, a few more dogfights, then the Channel
and sighs of relief-we made it OK. Tonight BBC said the Eighth lost sixty-eight
bombers. Oh yes, I flew right waist gunner today. Protocol called for an
officer in the tail on lead ships. The crew was leery about this and so
was I, but he did OK-whoever he was.
22. BRUNSWICK, GERMANY
March 15, 1944 (B-17 704) TARGET: Heart of city TEMP.: -28º F.T.:
7:45 E.T.: 2:50 ALT.: 21,000 BOMB LD.: 2 tons mixed
I flew with [Lieutenant] Senior today. As usual, they put him in Purple
Heart Corner again. None of the brass like him but he was an excellent
pilot and the crew loved him-that's good enough for me. It was his last
mission-it was also Stan Kyowski's last. He's the waist gunner. I thought
it would be another rough one but this time Brunswick wasn't too bad. I
know now why the crew loved the pilot. When the group ran into flak he
would pull away from the formation till it was past the flak area. He would
only do this when there were no fighters around and he was flying low and
outside. This broke all the rules-but he didn't care. We crossed the Dutch
coast and some light but accurate flak came up. Our escort, a large group
of P-38s, was all around us. At one time, about fifty fighters tried to
break through but the 38s were all over them so they couldn't concentrate
too much on us, although they managed to get in a few whacks. The Fort
in front of us got it and went into a spin-only one chute came out. Saw
a couple of hundred fighters mixing it above us. Jerries and P-38s were
going down. Then a group of P-47s go into it and really broke it open.
I still think they're the best. I know they must have the most courage.
Coming back was uneventful-pockets of light flak way off and a few feeble
fighter attacks. Our escort made this one pretty easy. Got back OK.
23. MUNICH, GERMANY
March 18, 1944 (B-17 252-"Sweaty Betty") TARGET: Railroad marshaling
yard TEMP.: -32º F.T.: 10:05 E.T.: 5:45 ALT.: 20,000 BOMB LD.: 2 tons
Another long haul but the escort was pretty good-P-47s, 51s, and 38s.
Over France ran into several light and inaccurate flak pockets. As we entered
Germany, I could see the Alps in the distance. Der Fatherland was covered
with snow-lovely sight. Just as I was beginning to appreciate the scenery,
some heavy flak woke me up to reality. We ran the gauntlet of flak and
fighters from Augsburg to Munich. Flew the waist again today. Too dull-not
like the tail. Got a few shots in, nothing much. Over the target, starting
with the bomb run, the flak got very, very accurate and heavy. Pieces of
steel ricocheting inside the ship, the loud noise of the flak bursts, the
jostling of the plane, the wishing I was somewhere else. A few seconds
after the bombs dropped, a burst of flak exploded outside my gun position,
knocking me flat on my back, cutting the gun barrel in half, and destroying
the armor plate. No one was hit-I don't know why! A foot higher and I would
have lost my head. By the way-could see the bombs hit the railroad yard-Locomotives
and freight cars were coming up in the air, end over end. Got back OK.
(On May 24, 1944, the "Sweaty Betty" was hit by flak and badly
damaged over Berlin. The pilot nursed the plane back to the English Channel,
where he ditched it. All the crewmen were picked up.)
24. BRUNSWICK, GERMANY
March 23, 1944 (B-17 925) TARGET: Heart of city TEMP.: -38º [F.T.
omitted] E.T.: 3:05 ALT.: 21,000 BOMB LD.: 2 tons incendiaries
My pilot finished up on the last raid, so today I flew with a new pilot,
Lieutenant Butler, a West Point man and a real stiff. We started over Holland
and missed our escort-we were too early. Ran into a few light but accurate
flak areas. The crew were new and inexperienced and they really showed
it. They kept tying up the intercom with a lot of nonsense till I lost
patience and told them to stay off the wire unless they had something important
to say. It worked for a while. We were deep in Germany and ahead of schedule
and no escort in sight. Just as we started our bomb run, contrails appeared
overhead-about fifty of them. They flew in fours, just like our escort.
I tried to convince the crew that those fighters were FW-190s but they
insisted they were P-47s. This was hard for me to take. Just then a bunch
of fighters, Me-109s, came up from below and attacked the group in back
of us. I saw three Forts go down burning on the first pass. Then the fighters
from above dove on us and the fun began. I warned the crew they were enemy
fighters but I was the only one shooting. They hit us hard and two Forts
went down quickly and several others were hit, including ours. It was a
rude awakening to the crew. All the time the dumb pilot was VHF [very high
frequency] instead of intercom and couldn't hear the attacks called out.
The Fort on our right wing was hit and burst into flames. It rolled over
and almost collided with us. It blew up a few seconds later. No one got
out. I didn't get in any good shots as most attacks were either head-on
or from above. Flak was heavy over the target, but not accurate. We hit
a flak area a short while later that was very accurate. Our escort came
just as the Jerries hit us again. One Fort in our group was blown in half.
We passed through a strip of the Ruhr Valley and the flak was murderous.
We took several hits. A ship on our left started to burn badly after taking
a solid flak hit. I saw six get out. Then the flaming ship went out of
control. It slid right through the group. All of the Forts pulled up but
ours as the dopey pilot was still on VHF, and couldn't hear me call. The
burning ship just missed the tail by about three feet. I could hear the
roar of his engines. It leveled off-four more got out, then it rolled over
and broke up. We made it back OK. No thanks to the pilot, and I sure told
25. CHERBOURG, FRANCE
March 26, 1944 (B-17 498-"Passionate Witch II") TARGET: Rocket
sites TEMP.: -26º; F.T.: 5:00 E.T.: 0:20 ALT.: 20,500 BOMB LD.: 2.5
Almost crashed on takeoff. Getting close to the end now and things are
getting a little hairy. Briefing was for Leipzig but somehow it was scrubbed-thank
God! We crossed the French coast and made a right turn. Flak very heavy,
but off to our left. French must be sending it up. Started our bomb run
as soon as bombardier spotted target. All bombs weren't dropped on time.
Saw them hit ground and miss target. A few fighter attacks didn't amount
to much. The Channel always looks good coming home-so do those White Cliffs
of Dover. This was supposed to be my last mission but have to make one
more as they raised them to thirty. Since I had twenty-three when they
upped them, I only have one more to go. Made this one back OK.
(On APRIL 29, 1944, "Passionate Witch II" went down over Berlin,
hit by flak. There were no survivors.)
26. CAZAUX, FRANCE
March 27, 1944 (B-17 540-"Miss Donna Mae II") TARGET: Airdrome
TEMP.: -5º F.T.: 9:15 E.T.: 4:50 ALT.: 12,000 BOMB LD.: 2.5 tons HE
I flew with Gavit today. He's a good pilot. It looked as though the
mission would be scrubbed as a heavy fog rolled in. Takeoff was delayed
two hours. What a way to sweat out my last raid. We finally took off and
could barely see the wingtips, the fog was so thick. We climbed through
the fog for half an hour, along with hundreds of other ships. We were all
sweating. Finally broke through at 10,000 feet. We formed up and crossed
the Channel; France was as clear as a bell. I saw fires and smoke on the
ground where other bombers hit. But we had another two and a half hours
to target. Crossed Brest and flew over the Bay of Biscay. German warships
threw some flak up-very inaccurate. There were scattered dogfights all
the way down-P-38s, P-51s, P-47s against Ju-88s, FW-190s, Me-109s, and
110s. We had a few attacks but they weren't pressed. By the way, our target
is near the Spanish border. We dropped our bombs right on target this time.
At this low altitude we shouldn't miss. Hangars went up and so did the
oil dump. Plenty of heavy smoke. Not much flak. We crossed Brest and some
109s dove out of the sun and hit us hard. Saw one Fort go down. Got in
some shooting-not very good. P-47s arrived and scattered the Jerries. Can't
believe this is the last mission. Made it back OK. Had a celebration in
the barracks. I was the first to finish from the barracks-fifty-two didn't
Excerpted from "No End Save Victory : Perspectives on World
War II" by Robert Cowley (Editor). © March 29, 2001, Putnam Pub.
Group used by permission.