Friday, March 24, 2017

World War II B-17 pilot goes up in one again

"I remember now why I'm hard of hearing," he said. "A thousand hours of those engine grinding in my ears probably didn't help."

20 years old and in command of 12 bombers and 120 crew.  I expect he was harder to "trigger" than today's 20 year olds.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

1 comment:

Jeff Wood said...

My Dad was triggered by B-17s early one morning, returning across France after a raid on Germany, except the wrong way.

Dad's RAF Lancaster squadron were Pathfinders, heading out solo in advance of a raid to check weather, winds and visibility. They dropped their bombs to mark the target, saw the squadrons in, then made their own way home. Bomber Command mostly worked at night, for very good reasons.

Dawn had broken as they flew back across France. From his seat in the mid-upper gunner's blister, Dad saw a squadron of B-17s heading east toward Germany. They were perhaps five or ten miles to the north.

The crew had seen casualties before, but this was different. In the two or three minutes your chaps were in view, five Fortresses fell out of the sky. Dad's crew were silent for a long time: they knew the carnage continued behind them.

The first time Dad, now 95, told me the story, I asked if he saw flak bursts. For the umpteenth time, he looked back and decided No, the US boys were shot down by the Luftwaffe.

This was in the early days of US involvement, when you paid an awful price for daylight raids without escort. When your Mustangs were fitted with Merlin engines and drop tanks, things improved.

I believe the entire US bomber force was grounded for a while while the tactics were re-examined. It was an awful time for your lads.