for a Mission.
flew my first mission on January 15, 1944 over south
Orvieto, Italy. The mission was a bridge at on the northern
railroad line from Florence to Rome. The group had lost
some airplanes over Orvieto and the pilots who had been
there before didn't want to go back. The Germans had
a lot of guns there and we could see a lot of flak.
I flew co-pilot for a very nervous pilot who had lost
some of his teeth. He kept calling the tower to see
if the mission was cancelled. He must have had a hard
time in North Africa. On landing after the mission he
overshot the cross wind leg of the pattern and had to
come in on an angle to line up with the runway. I never
saw him again; I think they sent him home. If I had
known how hard it had been for the pilots in North Africa,
I would have been nervous too.
I flew missions to Anzio
beachhead, Florence, Florence again, Rome three times,
and Anzio three times, the Po River Valley almost to
Germany a couple times, Pisa, and Elba. The rest of
the missions were between the Po River Valley and Anzio
in the south of Italy. I flew one mission to southern
France, but a mistake was made on my mission papers
and it is listed as Italy. In the first 34 missions
I flew, my records show that 26 B-26ís were lost in
our four squadrons for different reasons: some shot
down, crash-landings, take offs, damaged from flak.
Some fell in the ocean trying to get back to home base.
I didn't count losses in the next 30 missions I was
on. In going back and reading about the missions I had
flown, I now see that most of them were more dangerous
than I thought at the time.
returning from my 5th mission, I learned that one of
my best friends, Lt. Demetree, had been in a very bad
airplane accident on his birthday. On take off, Lt.
Meyer was flying first pilot with Demetree as co-pilot.
At 300 ft the engines started malfunctioning and before
they knew it, the ground was coming up to meet them.
They were going down. They were able to miss some big
rocks and a ditch. The tail of the airplane broke off
and the crew in back were able to get out. Lt. Meyers
and Lt. Demetree were able to get out the top of the
airplane through the pilot's exit, which was usually
locked, but this time was open. They realized that the
navigator and bombardier were still inside so they climbed
back in and were able to get them out. Once on the ground
they were not able to run much so they crawled and were
about 100 feet from the airplane when the plane's four
1000-lbs. bombs and a load full of gas blew up. They
were very lucky and they were flying again in a couple
the bomb run.
Notice the lead ship's bombs are spaced
further apart. This allowed for the split second recation
time it took for the other planes to drop their load.
my 63rd mission, I had a co-pilot that had just arrived
in the squadron and this was his first mission. We had
checked the airplane and taken our place on the runway
for a three ship take off. We were going about 100 miles
per hour when he pointed to the fuel pressure gauge.
The needle on the right engine was jumping around pretty
bad so I cut both engines off and the co-pilot really
jumped in his seat. I applied full brakes, because our
position was on the outside in the three ship take off
and the runway was long I could do this. I had to get
out of the way because there were three ships taking
off right after us. I informed the tower of what was
wrong and taxied to the take off position. We did a
good check on the engines, but we could not find anything
wrong so I asked the tower for permission to take off.
After we were in air it took about 20 minutes before
I could catch up to the formation which was about half
way to Italy by that time.
one of our missions we had bad flak and fighters after
us. Because the flak and fighters had shot up so many
of our planes, Col. Fletcher, the flight commander,
decided to fly to Corsica on the return trip. It had
been a long mission and the C.O. gave the rest of the
squadron permission to go on to the home base (Decimo)
if we had the fuel. Captain Johnson decided to go to
Decimo, about 20 miles from the base the right engine
quit so I feathered the propeller. We called the tower
and they said they would be ready for us. Captain Johnson
made a fine single engine landing and taxied to the
pad without any trouble.
had our fair share of flak.
one mission as we were returning to the base we were
in the mountains when we hit a down draft. I didn't
have my safety belt fastened and my head hit the top
of the airplane. I had hair then, but it still hurt.
The Pilots in our house; Johnson, Burke and I, were
set up to try out three airplanes that had new engines
on them. Johnson was the lead pilot. I was flying formation
on Johnson and Burke was flying a little above me on
my wing. Johnson decided to buzz the squadron. The 444
squadron was located in an olive grove. I had my eyes
on Johnson when all of a sudden I could not see him.
I was boxed in with Burke flying above me, so I had
no choice but to fly straight ahead. Johnsonís airplane
was painted an olive color so as soon as we got through
the olive grove I could see Johnson again but I was
closer to him then I really wanted to be.(Continued)