420nd Bomb Squadron Reunion

420nd Bomb Squadron Reunion

Appendix A

One of my motives in attending the 305th Bomb Group Historical Association Reunion of 1988 was to see if I could clarify the happenings of the missions that took place on March 17 and 18, 1945. Immediately after arriving, I met one of the navigators in my squadron who had been on the Berlin mission which took place on the 18th. I questioned him about McCaldin the pilot who had flown in my usual position that day. I was amazed to hear him say, `Turn around’, which I did and found myself face to face with the man in question with whom I hadn’t seen since March 18, 1945. After we shook hands McCaldin and I sat down together and briefly got caught up to date. Since one of his crew members was also at the reunion we agreed that we would get together with a taperecorder and record the reactions of the crew in interview fashion. Coincidentally I was also able to locate two members of the Laumier crew that had gone down on March 17 so I was able to get a combined story.

On March 17, the Laumier aircraft was heading for Jena with the rest of the group. It was a hit on the bomb run and peeled away from the formation with numbers 2 and 4 engine feathered which I couldn’t see at the time and number one running rough. The crew elected to stay with the aircraft, jettisoning guns, ammunition and ball turret, almost losing the engineer during this operation. They headed for the Russian lines descending all the time. Laumier spotted an abandoned runway and set the aircraft down wheels up. The ball turret hole acted like a scoop with the mud filling the tail and softening the landing. No one was hurt. The Russians picked them up and slowly transported them to Poltavia, a Russian- American base. They traveled by train and by foot. About two weeks later they met up with Murphy the tail gunner temporarily assigned to McCaldin from the Laumier crew who had hailed out on the Berlin Mission. The link-up amazed everyone.

On March 18,1945, the McCaldin aircraft was hit by a ME 262 fighter over Berlin. The ME 262 had come in under the heavy contrails, both generated by aircraft under certain weather conditions. Number 2 and 4 engine’s were shot out as well as part of the stabilizer and a section of right wing. The same ME 262 continued ahead and shot down the other two ships in the element. One managed to crash land in Belgium. The McCaldin co-pilot and engineer bailed out immediately landed and were made prisoners of war. Three of the four remaining members stayed until the ailing plane crossed the Russian lines and then bailed out. Luckily the fourth remained aboard so that he could hold the controls until McCaldin hooked his chest pack on. Then they both jumped, McCaldin holding his opened chute, as the rip card had been snagged by a throttle control. Everybody survived the bailout. McCaldin and the toggleer dropped within sight of each other, remaining together to be picked up by the Russians and eventually got to Poltavia. They then made their way back to England eventually by air from Poltavia, through Egypt, to Italy, to France; finally arriving back at the Group after the war’s end. Meeting the survivors and hearing their stories, an open loop of many years standing. A happy ending for myself, Laumier and McCaldin.

What made the whole interview most interesting is that neither group knew the others story until this get together.
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