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Our formation - somewhere over Germany

Our formation somewhere over Germany

Chapter 10 - MidTour Veteran - The Messerschmidt Twitch

The period after the aborted mission which put us down in France, on fire, until February 15 was a very trying one. Missions were scheduled and scrubbed. After France we were at an emotional high pitch and would have preferred to keep flying regularly. The waiting for missions created tension that were difficult to handle. Letters from Doris were helpful but we all wanted to move on. Norris, Barclay and Sweeney received promotions to staff sergeant. To relieve part of the pressure an impromptu shindig at the officers club materialized; an account of which follows in a letter to Doris;

February 11, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Dear Doris,

Just returned from the officers club. What a shindig our squadron dreamt up, all at the spur of the moment, once the beer started flowing a damn good time was had by all. The rules were that you couldn’t put down an empty pint without picking up one that was full. Plenty of unique songs, more beer and good fellowship; we monopolized the club. I entered the spirit of things by doing a kip(swinging from the rafters). No flying scheduled for tomorrow so we drank the bar dry. A psychologist would have had a field day. Loneliness and tension were at a high point - the blowout was just a method of blowing off steam and trying to relax.

To day was another stand down day. Got up with a hangover so after ground school I wrangled a 24 hour pass. Just couldn’t keep still, had to keep moving intended to head for London but gradually the sack looked more inviting - no London. Will take a hike into the country tomorrow.



February 12, 1945 Chelvaston, England

My Darling,

Your letters of 25, 26, 28, 29 and 30th arrived so I spent the morning with them propped up for a while. I still felt rocky after the blowout so despite the headache and generally miserable feeling, after the letters, I kicked myself mentally and got into dirty pinks and GI shoes and set out on my hike.

The countryside here is starting to awaken again. There is a slight smell of musty hay and cow flop in the air. Not much sign of activity guess its still too early for spring planting. Off in the distance you can see the church steeples of the nearby towns. You can always spot the towns by these outstanding landmarks. Every town seems to have a church at its center. As I plodded along occasionally my thoughts would drift - to how much I wanted you to be there to share these scenes with me, to find a grassy spot and enjoy that twinge of spring together and absorb everything about us, sometimes in silence sometimes verbally. About 2 miles down the road an army truck offered me a lift. Didn’t know where he was going but I hopped on anyway. He dropped me off at a town that would compare with Albany, Georgia. It was a quiet, sedate place. Spent a little time wandering thru the churchyard reading the epitaphs. Some of them were rather interesting; an occasional one went back to the 1700’s; about on par with most everything in England. One bright prominently displayed poster covered a series of lectures and discussions on the life and thought in the USSR, taking place in town. Saw a matinee in the town theater, a movie that was easy to forget. Took a bus back to the town nearest my airfield, refused a lift and hiked back. The bus had included a group of school children. How clean and sparkling their faces. How old and creaky they made me feel - how envious I was of their light hearted gaity. They had something that we’ve already lost. Optimistically not lost just misplaced for awhile.

All my love

P.S. : Not scheduled for tomorrows mission. Incidentally we heard that the first contingent of Negro WAC’s arrived in England. Naturally the discussion rotated about this, some of it was pretty crude. One guy mentioned that since English women had gone out with Negro soldiers, he wondered whether the English men would do the same with the Negro WAC’s; some jerk of a captain in Intelligence indignantly exclaimed that this meant retreading civilization; whatever that meant.


February 15, 1945 Chelveston, England

Dearest Doris,

Finally flew todays mission. It was a long haul and I’m tired. My thoughts are so turbulent now. It was rather rough getting off this morning. We did but couple of boys weren’t as lucky. Just two plumes of smoke in the fog. We were the last off safely, takeoffs were canceled afterward, so we went in short handed. The mission was routine. Was surprised to hear who had been clobbered this morning - what a hell of a war.

I’m sleepy, good night hon, your love is like a protective and refreshing shower.



This particular mission was a very controversial one. It was the fire bombing of Dresden. There was little military or industry in this city; over a period of two days of day and night bombing irreplaceable medieval architecture was destroyed and apparently large numbers of war civilians incinerated notwithstanding the pinpoint bombing concept of the U.S. The mission was designed to intimidate the people and drive them out on the roads to clog military transport. The justification for this travesty was the bombing of London and Coventry and the resultant civilian losses. Naturally we were unaware of all of this until well after the war.

February 17, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Another mission today. In the air for seven hours and no credit for a mission. Halfway over we received a recall message and had to turn back, probably because of bad weather over the target. Before returning to our base the bombs were salvoed into the English channel. Landing with a full bomb load was precarious. What a pity to see all those bombs dropping out-wasted. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of us could live in luxury for a lifetime for what was dropped into the sea.

Missions are coming more slowly now because of bad weather and the addition of several new crews so we don’t fly as often.

Its Saturday night, wondering what you up too?



Since this was the approximate mid point at the crews mission count we were offered a flak or rest leave of 10 days.The entire crew readily accepted - except myself. It meant civilian clothes on an English estate with great food and drink - but also delay in completing missions. I refused and elected to fly during this interval completing five missions in a row with pick up crews. As luck would have it these missions enabled me to complete my 35 missions and return home before VE day whereas the rest of the crew was held over for 6 months to participate in the photographic strategic bombing survey of Europe. These were flown on 22, 23,24,25 and 26 and are summarized below.

February 22, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Finally got another mission in today, still a long road to travel. This trip was rather unique as it was made from an extremely low altitude for a heavy bomber. We could see everything as plain as day. Fires were started from our bombs and down on the deck our fighter support were strafing ground installations. It was quite a show- however we did sweat because of the low altitude, requiring pinpoint navigation, and `bandits’ in the area; which fortunately were occupied elsewhere.


February 23, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Another low altitude mission today. similar to yesterdays. a long haul and it was sweat, sweat, sweat all the way. Too close to the ground for comfort and its impossible to plot all the flak guns; particularly since they can be easily moved on railroad cars. On the way home we did get a beautiful view of the Alps. The valleys with those peaceful little villages seemed so out of place with the bombers thundering overhead.

February 24, 1945 Chelvaston, England

As usual am dead tired tonight after a mission. Yes, third in a row, things are moving.

We flew a hell of a mission today into the heart of southern Germany. Struck at the very origin of the Nazi party and really pasted it. Could see it as plan as day as well as the flak, lots of it. Just a few small holes in our aircraft.

You asked about missions; yes we do eat concentrated foods, fudge and hard candy. Eating is a chore with an oxygen mask on for 5 to 6 hours and your stomach swollen because of reduced pressure. Incidentally, if your not shaven your face itches fiercely. I use a bottle to urinate in so I don’t have to leave the controls, however there is a relief tube available in the bomb bay. If you reach enemy territory you do get mission credit. Theoretically you do have a ship assigned but when not flying it, others do or if it needs repair you fly another.


February 25, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Another mission today; fourth in a row. Came back groggy and will tumble into the sack after this note.

February 26, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Another long haul today, was supposed to rest after four in a row but I was on standby and one of the ships aborted so I filled in. Its been a grind but the mission count is mounting up and I do have a 48 hour pass tomorrow. Mulvaney and I are headed for London and R & R.

After Doris’s letter of the 19th in which she mentioned her wanting to shift to war work her letters express her desire frequently and forcefully.

February 20, 1945

Do you know that the more I handle these darn scissors and paper the more unrelated to whats happening outside, this job becomes.

February 23, 1945

Told my boss of my plans to quit Allied Display, because I feel guilty working with something as useless as paper sculpture. She held her head down; I wonder why? She has done all that talking about how - tough it was being a refugee - well I’ve initiated some constructive action. Tomorrow I will being looking for some meaningful defense work.

February 26, 1945

Spent the morning at the US Employment Agency but they didn’t have anything available in Optics. Came home a bit discouraged.

February 27, 1945

Instead of going to work today I went to the Employment Agency again and was sent to a plant on Hull St. Waited to be interviewed from 11.00 A.M. to 2.00 P.M. Hallahuyah, got the job inspecting lenses at 75 cents per hour. Even though I haven’t started I feel better already.


February 28, 1945

Quit my job today, before I intended. My boss fired one of the other girls without notice so being riled at her for being such a bastard I decided not to give her any notice. Tomorrow I start being a defense worker - wish me luck.


February 26, 1945 Chelvaston, England

A rather tame night at the club tonight closed at 10.30 P.M. so we bought a whole keg of beer, got a jeep and brought it back to the barrack.When it was tapped the spigot fell out and out gushed the beer. What a scramble for glasses until somebody put the plug back. You should see the floor. `Doc’ our flight surgeon contributed a bottle of Hiram Walkers to spice up the beer. After awhile the harmonizing began; Roll Me Over’, `Parley Voux’ and others. Am tired after 48 hours of flying in five days. Germany was almost completely pasted this week. The boys are now sounding off with `Kalamoozoozoo’.

Morning of the 27th

Fell asleep after writing the above, the keg tapping continued until 3.00 A.M. I’m told. after I tottered off to bed. Will be leaving for London in a couple of hours - headache and all.

Love you and miss you,



February 27 and 28, 1945 London, England


Got into London rather late so I, Kelly and Mulvaney saw a matinee stage show, then after a late supper attended a dance at one of the drinking clubs. The usual number of phoneys and prostitutes amongst the attendees, Kelly left with some dame, not sure of the category. I returned to our rooms early.

Took a hot bath - the first in a long time. Really hit the spot, Lie awake thinking of you for quite awhile before going to sleep. My thoughts would have made you blush.

Awake at 10 A.M., saw an early show and then took a walk thru the East End. Was impressed most by a couple with their baby, tired looking, shabbily dressed, yet they represented the spirit and will of the English commoners to live and bring life into this precarious world. What courage it must take - what a powerful emotion love can be.

Took an early train, back to the base. Met a shoe dealer while on the train who after hearing my name identified himself as a Jew and invited me to his home. Lives close to our base. It would be interesting to discuss the status of Jews in England. Anti-semitism exists here but a bit more refined or covert than in the States.

Wish you wouldn’t donate blood as often as you have been . Don’t run yourself down.

Been here three months now - Take care of yourself - for me

Pleasant dreams


Doris’s close connection with my daily life and that of the crew become ever tighter as time went on. Her congratulations to the crew on their promotions were sent on February 19 at the same time she inquired about my promotion to 1st lieutenant. Unbeknownst to her I had been passed over twice - my relationship with the West Point operations officer was not the best. I was now the oldest second lieutenant by mission count. This situation was remedied by the intervention of the squadron commander at about my thirtieth mission. Normally a first pilot received his promotion at the midpoint of his mission tour. However there were more important considerations at this point such as, delivering your bomb load, surviving the unexpected and returning to the base.

Upon my return from London I slowly got back into the mission routine on March 3rd after a standby on the 2nd. I was spared this mission because all ships got off the ground.


March 3, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Dear Fatty,

You can chalk up another one darling. Gosh what a long haul - lots of flak all the way. We were one of five that returned to base directly. The rest had to hand elsewhere to refuel. We did thank our lucky stars for good fuel management and tapping our tanks after preflight, before taking off. More trouble for the ground crew but added insurance for us.

I previously promised to describe my room. Its oblong 22 feet by 8 feet with a door in the center of the long side. On the opposite side are two windows (Badly in need of a cleaning). The short sides contain two double deckers. Mulvaney and myself occupy the left wall. Kelly and Jackson the right. In the center of the long wall between the two windows stands our food, cake and tidbit storage box. Under each window was a table scattered with our junk also scattered around the room are four chairs and our luggage; clothes are hung on a bar suspended between two rafters, one in each corner of the room, on each side of the doors are shelves for odds & ends. The bare walls are filled with pinup pictures of God knows who. Above my bed, the top bunk, are pictures of you smiling down on me. In the center of the room is a small cast iron coke oven which we are constantly stealing coke for, from the squadron supply. There it is - not much but it's home. Join us anytime you like. Its a typical young mens room - messed up and disorderly.

Pleasant dreams - may they all come true.


March 4, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello Babe,

The stoves red hot giving up plenty of heat making us all drowsy. Tired after todays mission, a milk run as far as flak and fighters were concerned. Weather was our biggest concern but it kept the flak and fighters away in the target area, so no complaints. Had plenty of time to look over the countryside on the way back. We were flying low under the weather and could plainly see rugby players near the schools and peaceful looking suburbs outside of London. Probably fly again tomorrow; looks like another stretch of daily missions.

All my love

March 6, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello Kid,

The happenings of today seem very far away as I sit here trying to stay awake so I can finish this letter. For some reason the Group was stood down today so I didn’t roll out of the sack until 11 A.M. Got stuck on a practice mission. What a laugh. Over 200 combat hours and I'm still struck on practice missions. Well, that seems to depend on who you know, just as in civilian life. Didn’t get down until 6 P.M. after which I attended a pilots meeting at which the colonel blew off steam about various insignificant topics.

The only thing I keep looking forward to is more missions so I can get home and start living again. Am going to contact Lou Fish, the Jewish chap I met on the train and accept his invite to a Kosher meal and conversation.

Love me always

P.S.: Received your letters of the 26th containing your pictures. After looking at them I didn’t know whether to burst into tears or grin happily. Couldn't help but feel proud. You are as beautiful as ever (slightly chunkier). Enjoy your new job.

P.P.S. A news flash over the radio; the Rhine has just been crossed, a tremendous event!

A B-17 on fire

An unusual picture - A B-17 on fire over the target

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