#1 As a copilot at the time, I was along more for the ride – “wheels up” &
sort of thing and there as backup pilot. Oh yes, also I was there to absorb
any stray flak that might enter the right side of the cockpit and threaten
the pilot¹s safety. Why else was the pilot’s station practically entombed
with armor plate while the copilot’s station was completely exposed except
for bottom side of the family jewels. If the body was to be transformed
a sieve what earthly good is the latter?
#2 Decimomannu field had six, parallel strips which were used for formation
takeoff and formation landings which greatly increased the time available
for enemy penetrations. However, these operations were hazardous should an
aircraft blow a tire or other mishap occur. The 320th group operated
alternating three ships abreast while the 319th used six ships abreast.
Either way it was a flyers delight to see such operations with B-26
#3 Such did occur several times on a mission I flew on August 15th, 1944
involving our bombing to support our ground forces in their D-Day landings
on the beaches of southern France at Baie De Cavalaire.
#4 A story told in the bars was about a new copilot observing the seasoned
veteran’s actions during take off in a B-26. After the veteran pushes the
throttles wide open he folds his arms seemingly letting the ship do
it may. After the plane gets in the air the new copilot observes the
placing his hands again on the control column while solemnly saying, “Thank
you Lord, I’ll take over from here!”
There’s a large measure of truth there indeed. After all, they didn’t call
the B-26 the “Baltimore Whore” or “Widow Maker” for nothing. It’s wings
were so short it appeared to have no visible means of support.
From design drawings the B-26 was ordered with new innovations and without
prototype test plane having been built. With excessive accident rates
congressional committees debated endeavoring to force the military to
With better maintenance and the solving of mechanical problems, the
later proved to be the safest to fly in combat, but only after it was used
at medium altitudes instead of at low levels that it was designed for.
It was indeed a very solidly built aircraft that could take a real beating
from flak and enemy fighters and still get home. On crash landings the main
structure often held together well, permitting it’s crew to often get away
before it caught fire and exploded.
#5 German intelligence was so detailed “they even knew who were members of
crew” according to Buelow ,my bombardier who was shot down a few weeks
when he filled in temporarily on another crew. This he learned during his
interrogation as a prisoner of war. He informed me of this when on pure
chance I ran into him while taking a picture of the Arch of Triumph in
nine months later ,just after his liberation by allied armies from a
prisoner of war camp.
#6 PDI= Pilot Direction Indicator Instrument.
#7 IP = Initial point; a recognizable point on the ground, about 25 miles
away from the target to fly over just prior to the bomb run so that the
approach would provide the best opportunity for the bomb strikes to destroy