STORY: THIS IS IT !
At Ellington I continued my Preflight studies, and I continued to learn more about navigational methods. For instance, I learned there were strings of lights with the lights spaced at twenty mile intervals between all major cities. Each light flashed a specific letter in Morse code permitting you to tell exactly where you were. The lights were called flashers and the string flashes were W U D R K D B G M , or to help remember, " When undertaking difficult routes keep directions by good methods." These lights were really not that bright, but it was amazing how far the flashers could be seen. Later while in pilot school on a very clear night, I counted five in a row or eighty miles.
We had finished Preflight, and it was time to leave Ellington Field and go to Hondo Army Air Corps Base. I had done well academically. I had also been promoted to Cadet Major. This was not a real title but meant I marched about five hundred cadets to meals and reviews and handled a few minor discipline problems usually by conciliation. I almost never saw the Sergeant who really was in charge, and when I did see him he had no adverse comments, and treated me with respect. I discussed many small problems with him concerning the cadets, and he was always understanding and helpful. I wished I had been Adjutant instead of Battalion Commander because the Adjutant carried a beautiful sword, and would whip the sword out of the sheath and salute the Base Commander . I thought this was great, but I probably would have cut my nose off or tripped over the sword and broken my neck.
One of the Cadets who shared a room with me had come to the Cadet Program from the Horse Cavalry - that meant that he rode a horse in the Army. To have horses in the Army in 1942 was unreal - the Polish Cavalry was totally destroyed by German tanks in a few hours in1938. However, he and I went to a Dude Ranch ( I was the dude) and he taught me how to ride like a soldier - back straight, reins in your left hand, and guide the horse by neck reining. The horse that I rode was real dumb and in two days couldn't learn to do anything right and did everything all wrong.
I left Ellington Field with mixed feelings. I knew in my heart I would never see the Pritikins again, but I would get to fly in an airplane. We were told we were going to Hondo, Texas. Hondo is about sixty miles west of San Antonio in the desert. The base was temporary , and all we saw were runways, a tower, temporary wooden barracks, and tumbleweed. The wind blew all the time and so did the tumbleweed. I understood when they sang " Drifting along like a tumbling, tumbling, tumbleweed." In downtown Hondo there were a filling station with a glass topped hand pumped gas pump and a saloon with a bar, mirror, and a brass rail. In the center of the saloon was a pot- bellied stove set in a four inch wooden box partially filled with ashes. This was for tobacco chewing spitters. What a dramatic change from Houston!
After breakfast the next morning, we had a brief period of orientation and were assigned to an instructor. Our flight schedule was posted on the bulletin board and woe betide us if we missed a scheduled flight. We were to fly in AT-7's- a twin engine Beech quite similar to the plane Amelia Earhart flew on her last flight and got lost. On every flight we were given two or three destinations and the last destination was always back to Hondo. We were measured by how close we came to our destination and how close we came to our estimated time of arrival (ETA).Passing was five miles and five minutes, and the method of navigation was prescribed. Pilotage, Dead reckoning, Landfall, Radio Bearings and Star Sights were the primary methods but included were Point of No Return, Fuel availability, and ship interception.. I did very good on the first twenty three flights which saved me when I blew Flights 24 and 25.
On my 24th flight, the destination was Scott Field at Belleville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, and the specified method of navigation was dead reckoning. There was a forty knot wind from the left which made a drift to the right of thirty degrees. I did not believe the drift calculations that I had made and assumed a smaller drift. My instructor disciplined me severely for this. Not for missing Scott Field but not having confidence in myself. He asked me " Who else would I pick to rely on. Is he better than you. You have proved your competence in twenty - three flights. I have confidence in you." At Scott Field the runways were clear of snow but the snow was ten feet deep beside the runway. I felt like burying myself in the deep snow.
On my last flight, the flight was from Hartsfield in Atlanta to Hondo. The wind was pushing us slightly to the left. I did not correct for drift because I planned to wait until we were about ten miles from Hondo and make one big correction. When we passed New Orleans, the wind began to push us to the right, and my calculations indicated we would hit Hondo right on the nose with no corrections and we did. Also, we were within one minute of our ETA. Again my instructor got on my case- he thought my navigating was again showing a lack of confidence and I had sat out the entire flight. I showed him my calculations, and he was satisfied. Now I was ready to graduate.
All of the graduating class were jubilant. The thirty percent wash-outs had left earlier. Another Cadet named Gover and I decided that we would hike into town and have some excitement. We went first to the filling station, waited around until a pick up truck stopped at the gas pump, and watched the attendant put four gallons of gas in the pick up truck. This was so exciting we elected to go into the saloon. We walked right up to the bar, put one foot on the brass rail and told the barkeep "Whisky!" The barkeep brought two small glasses and a bottle of whiskey, put them in front of us and departed.
We watched the spitters hitting the stove for a few minutes, then called for the barkeep. He picked up the bottle, studied it for a minute, then said, "Twenty - five cents." We paid, then departed. This was my last night as a Cadet, and tomorrow I would be an Officer and a Navigator.
March 31, 1995
Back to England! We had lived in England about six months and we knew our way around London. We also learned some English history, and what a great man Churchill was. I was now a First Lieutenant and was the Squadron Navigator. With First Lieutenant pay plus flight pay plus combat pay and no expenses, I was financially secure and was able to save most of my pay. I felt rich. I been rich and I been poor. Rich is better. Later, I used some of the savings to help pay my way through college
However, I did spend some money. For instance, I bought a cute young lady named Margaret Buck a white linen table cloth with twelve napkins which is still in new condition. One day, I would like for Margaret Jane Goodman, my first granddaughter, to have that tablecloth. I also bought my mother a similar tablecloth. I think the store was Harrod's and was in Nelson's Square. Nelson Square is named after Lord Nelson who defeated the French Navy at the Nile and also at Trafalgar. At Trafalgar, both fleets were sailing in two parallel lines just out of cannon range. Lord Nelson had flags run up on his ship which said, " England expects every man will do his duty." Nelson then said," Close on their flagship " and immediately engaged a French man of war. Nelson was killed in the ensuing battle in which the English destroyed the French and Spanish fleets. This ended Napoleon's plans to invade England and Lord Nelson has remained a hero to all of England to this day.
I also did some touring by catching rides on military trucks or borrowing a jeep and a driver, and saw a lot of the English countryside. I also visited some RAF bases and got a good look at their airplanes. I think their bombers were about twenty years behind our B-17.
One unusual thing happened. One night about ten P.M. an airplane entered our traffic pattern but did not contact the tower nor was he squawking the proper IFF (Identification friend or foe). The English were using our field to practice night landings, and all lights were on. The tower gave him landing instructions but was concerned. because several weeks ago an enemy fighter had entered the pattern and shot down three B-17's. Properly, the tower officer should have turned off all landing lights and sounded the alarm but by now the plane was almost at touchdown. The tower officer realized this plane was an Me-109, the top of the line of the Luftwaffe, and turned off all runway lighting. The intruder made a good landing using only the landing lights of the airplane and stopped in the middle of runway 27. The tower officer then sent a "follow me" jeep to lead him to a parking slot.
We had no prisoner of war facilities but the German pilot was questioned. He was a top notch pilot and a real nice guy. It seems that someone had turned him in as having a trace of Jewish blood. He heard of this, considered the options, and knew if he stayed in Germany he and all his family would be killed. With him gone, his Aryan family might survive. He did not hesitate, and within ten minutes he was departing Germany at maximum speed at two hundred foot altitude. As soon as he reached England he had to find an airport with landing lights on before he was picked up on radar or one of our night fighters realized he was there. He was fortunate we did not turn off the lights.
He bunked with us and ate with us for about three weeks. No one knew what to do with him. No one thought that a bomber group would capture any of the enemy . We bought him some clothes and other things he needed, and really enjoyed visiting with him. Yesterday we were bitter enemies. If we had met in the skies he would have tried to kill us, and we would tried to kill him.
Our next target was Romily, France, a very important airfield near Paris. Bomb load was twelve 500 pound bombs with ten bombs fused for one-tenth second delay and two bombs fused for a time interval of thirty minutes after estimated bomb release time. This worried me. There were too many happenings that delay a flight, and I didn't have a lot of confidence in how good they were on setting these timers. Once set, there was no way to change the time of bomb explosion. We had some experiences with this.
The one tenth of a second permitted the bomb to be under ground when it exploded to make a large crater. The long delay of thirty minutes harassed the people who were putting out fires, and people who were trying to rescue people trapped in building wreckage. These slow bombs were set for a specific time which could not be changed. Sometimes a B-17 would lose braking ability, run off the taxi strip, and mire up in mud. The main wheels would sink up so deep in the mud that the bomb bay doors did not have room to open. A plane in this situation had to be extracted from the mud as quickly as possible. Col. Lord was good at extricating these stuck B-17s by digging a ramp and using flaps and maximum power.
For the flight to Romily we expected no fighter escort. We flew 2nd element, high squadron in the 91st Bomb Group which was located ten miles south of Ridgewell. Clore flew beside us. We were awakened at 0130 with departure at 0540. We were not concerned that we had no fighter escort - Intelligence had told us that the Luftwaffe had moved all their fighters to Germany and would not defend France. Things did not work out that way.
When we crossed the English Channel we encountered heavy Flak. This, with the flock of FW 190's, quickly began to take a toll of B-17's. Lord's old plane, 789, the armor plate special , began its death dive, and all ten men of the crew escaped ( we counted ten parachutes that opened ). A B-17 next to us lost power on one engine and could not keep up with the formation. As the plane slowed and slipped out of the protective formation, the German fighters pounced on the cripple. One Focke Wulf was sitting about fifty yards away pouring cannon shot into the doomed B-17, and it appeared that none of the crew was trying to bail out or were unable to. The pilot should have been able to keep up on three engines at Max or double Max but its a hard decision to have all of the engine instruments way past red line maximum values. All guns on the doomed B-17 had been silent but someone managed to get the top turret working and blew the nearest Focke Wulf to bits, but the remaining FW's swarmed on the crippled B-17. It also took the death dive but no parachutes were seen so we presumed that all of the crew were killed. We were making large contrails, and a Focke Wulf got in our contrail about a mile out and flew in it until he was one hundred feet away. He then climbed until he broke out of our contrail. Our tail gunner, Hilbert Braun, had the guns aimed carefully at the Focke Wulf as soon as it appeared but hesitated to shoot. Hilbert told me that the German was just a young kid like himself. But Hilbert shot first and downed the enemy plane. I think the German did not have the firing switches turned on and it took a milli-second to find and turn on the switches. This time Hilbert saw the person he killed, and it really got to him. Hilbert and I talked about this incident last summer. Hilbert said he could see the expression on the German pilots face.
On the bomb run the Flak was heavy and accurate. One FW came at us from beneath. Purdy, the ball turret gunner decided he needed to go to the bath room, and asked me if he could leave the ball turret. I said "NO!" He said if he didn't get out immediately he would wet his pants. He stayed , shot down the FW, and wet his pants. He was too tired to change until he went to bed.
Tilson (our bombardier), was confused by all the enemy fighters, and dropped our bombs too early, but the leader was turning toward the alternate target which was the airfield at Evreaux. The groups bombed this target and put this airfield out of commission big time.
April 30, 1995
We felt a little more comfortable in our flying. We were more aware of what we could do in difficult situations, although our first rule was "Avoid difficult situations." Probably because of our seniority we were flying more in the center of the formation, and we had said "Goodbye" to the most dangerous spot, namely, the tail end Charlie location which was at the tail of the low squadron. A real helper had been installed - an electronic supercharger control which was great. Without it it was necessary to change the throttle and supercharger controls on each engine with every change in thrust. Flying formation, we probably changed thrust at least four times per minute. The problem was that the supercharger lever on number one engine may be all the way back and the supercharger lever on number four engine would be at max and both engines would have the same thrust. This problem of the superchargers was completely solved with the new electronic control.
We were now flying new airplanes with all of the latest equipment. However, the new airplane, a B17G model, did not fly as good as the B17E model. Clore also got a new B17 G and it was not as good as our new B17G. Clore got in trouble over this - he lagged behind the formation and anybody that lags is inviting multiple fighter attacks. Col. Leber, the Commanding Officer and a West Point graduate, told Clore in no uncertain words such flying would not be tolerated. This put down was in front of all the air crews. So we had a big sign made that said ," DON'T MANHANDLE THE CONTROLS! ", and placed the sign on the front windshield of Clore's airplane. When Clore saw the sign he thought that it was funny. I think it brightened his and everybody's day. I really think Clore was having a problem with the new super charger control.
About ninety percent of the fighter attacks were from the front and the balance were from the rear. We would see the fighters off to the right or left all lined up trying to get ahead of us. When they were far enough ahead, the fighters would make a one hundred and eighty degree turn and in blocks of five fighters abreast would attack us head on, each having picked a separate B17. The speed of closure was about nine hundred miles per hour so they went by very fast. A gunner had about five seconds to aim and fire and they were gone. Right behind was another group of five and another group of five. In some cases , this continued for an hour or more. It looked like the Germans were trying to ram us, and I could see bullets from the German cannon shells coming at us. Their guns were good. The guns could throw ninety four pounds of lead at thirteen hundred per second in five seconds. With all these guns firing, some of us got smoked , and some of them got smoked. Always behind us were the smoked trying to get back to home, and some made it. For example , Lt. Frye was badly hit, and bailed out nine of the crew, and all nine of the chutes opened. That was the last I saw of that. But two years later, I realized that the pilot standing next to me at the Operations desk in Houston, Texas, was Lt. Frye. I was thrilled to see him and asked, "What happened ?" Frye told me," The engines were badly damaged and I was crossing the channel. I could have made England, the fighters were leaving, but the last one took one more shot at me and my flaps went down. The plane would not fly now. I turned back toward Holland and as soon as I was over land I bailed out. I became a guest of the Dutch for a week, Then I walked to Spain and took a boat back to England."
I was concerned about ramming and talked to David about it. But David thought the Germans would not ram us if the pilot was alive. If we didn't shoot at the pilot, the pilot would damage us with his guns, and if we did shoot at the pilot and hit him hard, he would ram us. Talk about oxymoron! I knew of three planes that were close to me that were rammed.
The first was Eugene from Oregon. I don't remember his last name but he was super nice, and the second was Col. Lord, a great leader, soft as silk on the outside and tough as nails inside. Both of these head -ones resulted in death of all on the planes. The third collision was a B17 from another Group flying on our right one day . I don't remember who it was. The pilot of Me109 that hit the B17 made a side approach to the formation with all cannons blazing at us. All of our guns on that side were firing at him. At one thousand yards he should have broken off the attack but he didn't. This German pilot was crazy or dead and was aiming at us. Time stood still. At the last micro second, the Me 109 passed over our plane and missed us by inches, and with his wings vertical , hit the B17 on our right. There was a lot of destruction at the waist on the B17, and the control cables to the tail were cut. The B17 immediately was out of control but quickly recovered. The pilot had put the plane on auto pilot, and the auto pilot motors were in the tail. The electrical wires were intact, and by using the auto pilot controller, the pilot could direct the aircraft.
We were not in good shape either. We were flying on two engines and transferring all the gas we could find to these two good engines and were not far from the B17 that was rammed. We stayed within five hundred yards of him hoping to help him if we could. We continued across the channel, and soon we sighted an airfield. He also saw the field, and headed straight for it. Both of our radios were battle damaged. We could hear on our radio but our friend could neither hear nor talk and we sure tried to talk to somebody. This was an English field, and they gave both of us exquisite details, but our friend bored straight in to land on the grass. The English finally cleared the field of all traffic, but they didn't like anyone landing on the grass. We could not maneuver because of battle damage so we quickly found another field, and landed there.
. I was told later that our ground crew was really upset when we didn't show up. We did send an "On The Ground" message. The entire ground crew spent many sleepless nights getting old "This is It" in shape to fly. However, if there was something wrong with any airplane, it was entered on Form 1 in red and the Pilot in command had to sign the form indicating he was aware of the problem We never flew that airplane without having to sign the Form 1.
Our ground crew was really tops. The crew chief was committed to give us a plane in top condition, and the ground crew did their best. I knew the name of the crew chief, and I would look him up if I ever remembered it. I think he was from Atlanta and his name was Robert E Lee _____?.
David was beginning to get worried about the mid-air collision problem, and as some say, "One midair collision can spoil your whole day." David chose me to learn to fly and land a B-17 or assist in helping if the need arose. The need would be significant damage to one or both pilots. So I began schooling in flying and landing this B-17. We began with starting the engines, and it takes a lot of priming to start the engines. We skipped departure, and began practice on lining up with the runway and dropping wheels and flaps. The next practice was approach to a landing from 2000 feet. After a few days we began the real thing. Cross the outer marker(a tall church steeple) , and fire a red -red flare. The tower would pick this up and clear the runway for me. Next the tower would have ambulances and the fire truck near the touch-down area. Next, landing gear and flaps down and don't bother to check them. I only get one try. Set RPM at maximum. Boost pumps on, fuel tank on mains. Adjust throttles for 120 MPH, and aim at the numbers at the end of the runway Slowly slow up and cross the fence at 90 MPH. Don't worry about getting or staying on the runway but keep the airplane straight. After crossing the fence, ease up on the nose and power quickly off. Hold the nose up and let the airplane land itself. I could do it. I would learn to be a pilot.
May 31, 1995
We are stronger now with additional B-17s and crews to fly the airplanes. Before, we had to team up with the 91st Bomb Group to have eighteen flyable airplanes. Now , in addition to the eighteen B17s, we had two backup B-17s in case we had a problem. All of our airplanes were in excellent or new condition, but the cannon fire from the enemy disabled many a B-17, and repairs often required weeks.
Cecil Clore (Cecil was short and required three seat cushions to see out ) and his crew and our crew were tied at twenty missions, with each crew needing five missions to complete their tour. In addition to getting to go home, the crew to finish first would go on a bond selling tour to cover the whole United States. This sounded great, and it also meant we would not go to the Japanese area. Dave and Cecil had fiancees waiting for them, and I knew how badly David wanted to see and marry Mary. In effect, everyone just wanted to complete our tours and go home, but we were superstitious about pushing too much.
We were still careful. For instance, after having significant work on our plane, we would fly that airplane on a " training flight." At this time our bird was having an engine replaced and we would be flying one of the spare B-17s. We would definitely flight test this airplane. There had been a lot of fixes, and I can assure you our crew chief would fix all he could fix, and give us a list of all he could not fix. We were ready for the test flight. We climbed into the plane through the front emergency door, and took our places. Wonder of wonders, this was a brand new airplane.
We started the check list - fasten seat belt, adjust seat , brakes on, master switch on, etc. We took our time on this and were completely sure all was satisfactory. Now we can start which we did by sticking our head out the window and yelling " clear the props " and receiving a reply from the crew chief " props all clear ." All engines started easily, magnetos could not been any better, but number three engine would not do 2500 RPM at 46 inches of boost. This meant number three would not develop one hundred percent power, and we needed one hundred percent power for takeoff. All the other engines were good.
The crew chief was in the copilots seat in a second , started number 3 engine, and advanced the throttle to maximum power, but the engine only went to 2300 RPM.. The crew chief shut it down and said, " there is nothing wrong with this engine. It is OK. We said it was not OK, and called for the Engineering Officer. The Engineering Officer arrived in a very short time, and immediately started number three. He looked at the gauges for a short time with the engine at maximum power and insisted all engines were OK. David argued with him but the Engineering Officer was adamant and so were we. While they were talking, I went outside the plane and stood near number three engine when a noisy bucket of parts came out of the exhaust pipe. These included valves ,valve springs, keepers, and certain other metallic parts, and the engine stopped. I kept one of beat up valves for a long time, but I no longer have it. I also kept a piece of flak which hit my steel helmet and pierced it. Fortunately, I was not wearing the helmet at the time. In any event, this plane was not going to fly on today's mission..
When something like this happens, you call on Col. Lord because he is smart, resourceful, and pleasant to work with. He quickly realized this plane would not fly on todays mission, and we only had seventeen flyable B-17's. Col. Lord leaned back in his chair and said, " I will flip a coin to decide who gets to choose the one remaining airplane. He pulled a handful of change from his pocket, looked at the coins in his hand, selected a Victoria Crown from the handful of change, and studied the coin very carefully. He handed it to David who looked at the coin for a long time. Cecil also studied the coin for a long time. It was a simple coin with a profile of Queen Victoria on one side and some building on the other side, and was worth about fifty cents. Cecil handed the coin to Col. Lord who told Cecil, "Call it in the air." Lord flipped the coin in the air. Clore said, "Heads." Lord caught the coin in the air, looked at the coin and said " It's heads " and showed us the coin. Clore said, "I choose to go." We now have the day off.
I decided to go to London and get my usual haircut and shave. I always did this when in London because the barber would wash my face and hair real good. A B-17 swallows its own gunsmoke which coats your face and all your exposed skin and you always had a grungy feeling. I spent some time at Trafalgar Square and in Harrods, and met David at the Red Cross at 6 PM for the obligatory call to see whether we needed to return tonight or return for tomorrow mission. David called, and hung up the phone in a tone of great emotion. I asked ," What is it ?" David replied, " Clore crashed on takeoff and all were killed. We need to get back." We returned to Ridgewell, arriving about midnight. The next morning we found out what happened
Clore was not flying his usual plane but this plane was almost new. Clore, I am sure, went through the check list thoroughly, took the proper place in the take off line, and departed on runway 27, our longest runway, At this night take off, the right wing and number 3 engine were immediately involved in a very hot fire. Clore shut off all fuel to that engine and feathered the propeller. He dropped all bombs non- exploding, called the tower and said he was having a problem and was returning. However, he could not gain altitude, and crashed into a very large oak tree. The fuel tanks exploded when he hit the tree which turned the B-17 into total flames. All aboard were killed.
The next day we buried Cecil Clore and his crew at the Cambridge American cemetery. I looked at the ten holes in the ground- ten men who had lived and flown with us for nine months. It was a sad scene when they lowered the ten caskets and the bugler blew "Taps. " It was a cold and foggy day, and I shall never forget it. If the coin had landed "tails" they would have been burying me.
The cause of this disaster was slow to be developed but it seems that the outboard fuel tank had fuel leakage caused by a loose clamp on an inter- tank connection of the wing tip fuel tanks and the main gas tanks. This leakage finally filled the right wing with many gallons of AVGas. When the tail wheel was on the ground there was no leakage from the wing but when the tail lifted on takeoff, the fuel drained on to a white hot turbo supercharger and flamed. No pilot could have prevented this.
Cecil's fiancee did not believe he was dead for many years. However, I recently received a letter from Chaplain James Good Brown. I quote: " One of my daughters, Leata, went to England soon after the war ended. She visited the home of Mr. George Goodchild, on whose land Clore crashed. Mr. Goodchild took Leata to the little woodland where the crash occurred. She stooped down, picked some violets, and laid them where the plane crashed.
June 30, 1995
We are at briefing, the briefing room map is uncovered, and we see that we are are going to Gelsenkirchen. Gelsenkirchen is in the Ruhr valley and it is going to be a tough flight. First, it is going to be a long flight which means no fighter escort, and because of the length of the mission we will be low on fuel . The target is located where the Ruhr and Rhine Rivers intersect. This is a highly concentrated industrial area . The Me 109 's and the German jet fighter, the Me 262, are built here. We have to stop the building of these extremely dangerous fighter planes. This a very sensitive area and is guarded by 2000 large cannon and eleven hundred top of the line fighter planes. We have talked about this area for some time, but this is our first mission to this area. If the intelligence people only knew how close the Germans were to having an operational jet they would have more aircraft assigned to this mission to more completely destroy these plants. Incidently, there are twelve Me262's nearing completion at this plant.We will destroy eleven of the twelve and the twelveth will destroy two B 17's and a P-51, and will be untouched in the encounter.
When we were shown where we were going, a common sigh went up. But when they told us we would have fighter escort all the way there and back we felt a little better for a while, however, we had been promised fighters before and never saw the fighters.
Our crew was flying Wing spare. The 381st was lead, and we would fill any slots anywhere but first we keep house on the First Air Wing. The 351st was low, and the 91st was high. There was one aircraft in the 91st which had a supercharger failure, couldn't keep up, and aborted the mission. If he had been over Germany, he would have stayed in formation by going to maximum power on the other three engines. As it was, he headed for home at maximum speed and we moved quickly into his place. There was no using of the radio- we had radio silence. But the airplane without power and wanting to abort would drop his wheels about a foot and immediately pull the wheels back up. The other airplanes would slowly and carefully clear a way out. There were 162 airplanes in this Group flying a very tight formation, and those on the inside of the formation that had to leave often had a difficult time getting clear. I think the best way is to keep your altitude, reduce power, and slide out of the back of the formation.
There was very little Flak until we got to the target and the weather was fairly clear in the target area. I think, despite the fact that we were to use Pathfinder, we bombed with a bombsight. We made a fairly long bombing run with lots of evasive action. About two minutes before "bombs away" the flack began to explode all through the formation. I looked out the left window and just watched it burst. The flak was dense, but only one piece hit our plane. With the flak and attacks of the German fighters our group really took a beating.
Col. Nazzaro, West Pointer, tough guy. who was leading the 381st Bomb Group had two engines knocked out which immediately slowed his speed to about 130 mph, and the whole Group broke up. He wanted to keep the formation intact and creep to England, but he lost it when he slowed. Standard procedure in this situation is to save the formation, and get out of the way unless you can keep up. I flew with Nazzaro several times and noted that he was absolutely fearless. If the Luftwaffe had been here at this particular time, we would have at least twenty aircraft lost.
We took some damage on this trip as the Luftwaffe harassed us to the English Channel where the fighter escort drove off the Luftwaffe. This harassment smoked Butler and his crew bailed out. Butler and his co-pilot flew his airplane home. Hopp went down in a high speed dive and never recovered. Hopp was a nice guy and he brought his motorcycle with him by hoisting the bike into an empty bomb bay. He stayed in trouble because he would not tell where he got the gasoline to drive . Of course , all knew he was siphoning the gas out of his airplane' s auxiliary tank,
The flak was the worst I had ever seen. We were at 29,000 feet and it was thick and accurate. We made it back to Ridgewell ok. I knew one thing: the German pilots always picked on the cripples. Don't be a cripple- stay in tight formation.
Outside of this mission, I had an interesting trip with Col. Nazzaro. After each mission we would meet with Intelligence to divulge any thing new. For instance, the Germans had developed new rockets to fire at us and they were getting good at laying out of machine gun range and shooting these rockets at us.The Col. called me out of this debrief and asked me to fly with him to London to pick up two wet pilots. Within England a copilot was not required but a navigator was required. These two pilots had bailed out over the English Channel and had been picked up by Air-Sea Rescue. They were delighted to see us. It would have been terrible if they had been forced to spend the night in London visiting the pretty girls.
We flew back to Ridgeville in short order, and lo and behold a staff car was waiting to take us to supper. There was a small room just off the main dining room that I did not know about, and there was a server. He asked the Col, "How do you want your steak cooked, Sir." The server turned to me, "How do you want your steak cooked, Sir?" This was the first real steak I had ever had, and I did not know how to answer. All I could think of was country fried. I was saved by the server who suggested, " You might like it cooked as the Col's is cooked." That server saved my life and the next day I looked him up and thanked him.
P.S.In my last letter, I did not clearly explain about Cecils Clore's wife who could not accept the fact that Cecil was dead. After the war. she visited the Goodchild family. She wanted to see the spot where her husband had died. She had to be sure. Mr. George Goodchild took her to the little woodland glen where Clore crashed. The area was still burned with marks of the crash. They stood for a long time. She seemed to gain composure, or perhaps I should say that she accepted the fact that he had died. The wooded spot was still burned.
P.S. The Pathfinder was a wooden airplane, twin , and fast that would mark a target with flares just before the bombers arrived.
(this story is and remains the sole property of the author, Bill Goodman. It is presented here with with his gracious permission. All rights are retained by same)