B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group


  "Balls of Fire!!!" Alias "Fletcher's Folly!!!"
by Ben West, 443rd Bomb Squadron


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It's Our Turn Now


Now it is our turn to experience those flashing red balls of fire. The flak explosion knock us about. We are somewhat used to their black mushroom smoke clouds by day, but their nighttime cloaks are unreal, right out of Dante’s Inferno. Our bombardier, Buelow, reports that trying to pick up the target in the Norden bomb sight is like putting his eye against an inkwell. There are no raging fires set by previous bomber elements that he can see. They had not been successful. Either that or our navigation is in error.

We pass over the target without dropping our bombs. Our pilot decides to take our element back through this devil’s gauntlet again to the dismay of the rest of the crew members in the formation. Is he crazy? The obstinate bastard is tickling the arm of fate once again and really asking for it.

The Army has given him the authority to commit not only himself, but all the other men in the formation. All we can do is grit our teeth and follow the mad leader. However, the next pass may be more successful. But so may the German antiaircraft gunners down below and they are really on us this time.

All around us the flak explosions are terrifying. With pulsating abrupt changes from eerie moonlight to blinding red explosions of nearby flak bursts, I doubt any of us were in our right minds nor make creditable witnesses (One pilot later reports that there are so many bursts he could have read a newspaper by the light. This statement is included in the squadron’s war diary).

At least the pilot could concentrate on following the PDI6 during the bomb run; while the bombardier endeavored to ply his trade via the “Norden” sight as if that were possible. Meanwhile all I had to do was to try to shrink within my flak suit by puffing in my neck & hunkering down within my helmet; grit my teeth; observe the nightmare around us and desperately wish I were somewhere else. You bet we are all scared.

I don’t know whether our bombardier is really picking up the target on the bombsight or not, but I am certain he damn sure does not want us to try a third pass.

Immediately upon “bombs away” declaration our tail gunner who has the best view of all the red nightmare around us shouts over the intercom, “Get the hell out of here”! We go into a wild diving break to race out over the sea from the devil bursts of flak which damage half of our aircraft. Fortunately no one is hurt. (Continued)

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