September 28, 1944:Today, as the British would say, "We had it," again, we were the only one ship of our element of three to return alive. Our squadron only put up twelve ships today (part of another squadron). Only two came back. We were in a box of twelve ships. We bombed the Krupp works of Magdeburg. Waves of twenty enemy fighters attacked our box of twelve ships. There were a couple hundred enemy fighters in the area. I never expected the Luftwaffe to come back but it did, as I've seen with my own eyes. I also know God is definitely with our crew. I'm pretty sure I got a fighter today. I claimed it but I don't think I'll get credit for it because I didn't actually see it fall; I was too busy. I think Ozzie, our toggalier, got one too.
Copyright © 2001
We got up about three o'clock this morning. Got our pass to briefing, went down to the theater, received Communion and went to breakfast.
I've never seen such a nice priest in my life. He's so concerned about the men. He keeps a list of all the men that are lost and also compares the names with those that receive before every mission. He asks us how missions are, etc.
At briefing, as usual we groaned. This target was right next to Berlin. We were over Germany from early this morning till six tonight. We met some flak on the way to the target but it wasn't so bad, the worst was to come. As we got to the I.P. we opened the bomb bay doors. We were 40 miles from the target. We had five bombs, each weighing 1000 lbs. We had 2700 gallons of gas because this was a long trip. We had about 30 miles to the target when we sighted the enemy off in the distance at 3 o'clock level. It's impossible to describe the feeling. There seemed to be hundreds of them. They went around in back of us to 7 o'clock. Then they seemed to break into groups of 20. I don't know where our fighter escort was. They came for us low. I thought we were all lost but we responded automatically. I guess I was fighting like a cornered rat but somehow I wasn't thinking of myself. There were so many I didn't know which one to shoot at. I got my sight on the nearest one and blasted away at him. All of his guns were firing at us. I tracked him all the way up along side our ship still blasting away. I forgot all about short bursts. As he came alongside, the German crosses were plain as day. I saw fire and smoke starting to come out the right side of his engine. I may get credit for shooting down that fighter. Our navigator verified it. He saw it fall in flames. I could see the dead pilot. His oxygen mask was torn off. The ship looked as if it were hanging in the air for a second, then I turned my guns away from him onto another ship just coming up on our tail. My left gun went out but all this time I was still blasting away with my right one. The other plane went off to the left without attacking. There was another going under. I tracked him all across the sky underneath getting in a few shots but he was pretty far away. The whole ship was vibrating from everyone shooting.
I was too busy but I saw most of our planes blazing and burning alongside of us. Further back I saw one blazing Fortress spinning down and breaking up. I only got in a glance at that. All of a sudden our fighter escort was there and the enemy planes scattered with P-51s on their tails. That was really a show to see the FW-190s get it instead of our Fortresses.
Our interphone had gone out on us and we could hardly talk to each other. These Fortresses are like a flying tomb without an interphone. Our no. 2 engine was shot up from the bandits but it was still pumping away.
We made it to the target with the two ships we had left. Our formations were all broken up. Planes were scattered all over. We got our bombs away in the middle of the flak. At first only two bombs went, so we salvoed the other three to hit part of the city anyway. Again our bomb bay doors wouldn't come up, so Haynes, our engineer, had to sart cranking again. These doors hold the ship back a lot when open. In the process he busted the hose on his mask and almost passed out from the rarefied air. He was trying to hold his breath while someone dug out the extra mask we bring along. His face was starting to get purple and we couldn't leave our positions. The navigator came back and helped him.
Before the fighting started I was in misery because I couldn't leave the turret to relieve myself. When the fighting started I had worse to worry about, so I didn't notice it again until we were headed for friendly territory. Another thing from being in one position all the time, my legs and back ache to beat the dickens.
Our whole squadron was shot down except two of us.
"Moonlight Serenade" By Glenn Miller
Back To Diary Of A B-17 Ball Turret Gunner