B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

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by Benjamin C. McCartney, 443rd Bomb Squadron

 

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Grim Business Affects Men Differently

 

He went around to the tail section where Sergeant Mensch and Sergeant Callahan were going over their guns and brought them around to the nose. I got out the maps and the pictures and showed them the route in.

"See what you can see in the way of rolling stock or traffic on the roads. Call me up and I'll mark it down on the map. Now here's our target."

"Tell me it's a real pretty city," Callahan said.

"How come they're bombing it?" Just asked. "I thought they wasn't going to bomb it."

"The Germans are using it to get stuff through to the south," I said. "We're the only ones to bomb it. You can tell your family that one."

Mensch looked at the maps and the photos intently, but said nothing. In a year we had not heard him speak more than three or four words in any one day. He was our tail gunner, but not small, rather powerful. He never wore his headset; so there was always a lot of trouble getting him to tell us whether everything was all right back there after we had been through bad flak or had been jumped by fighters.

He was the opposite of Callahan, who was usually so happy to be alive when he came off the target that he filled the inter-phone with enthusiastic little observations and drawling Southern speech, generally until we reached the coast on our way out.

When I had finished showing them the target and the things to look for, I inspected the bombs to see that they were hung right and that the fins were straight so that they would fall true. Then I squeezed past Bob Cooke, who was reading a book by Thurber he had read five or six times before, and crawled up into the nose.

I checked my bombsight to make sure it would operate correctly and ran through my bomb racks. Finally Stan Ackerman climbed into the pilot's seat, and Just and Callahan got into the navigator's compartment.

I was testing the bombardier's interphone, and when it came alive I could hear Bob Cooke talking in a mimic radio voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, from the smart Mercator Room of Martin's Old Marauder, we bring you the supper music of Cal Callahan and his Debonairs. . . ."

"O.K., Bob, get off the interphone. Let me check with Ack."

I checked with Ack in the pilot's inter-phone and then crawled back out of the nose and into the navigator's compartment. We started our engines and Ack gave them a long power check. The ship shuddered and whimpered, bucking against the big brakes, and then the propellers eased off again. (Continued)


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