Idiot's Delight after a mission

Idiot's Delight after a mission

Chapter 11 - Getting Close - Sweating It Out / Mission Count

March 9, 1945 initiated another sequence of daily missions that continued until the 12th. The high or low points of my letters follow:


March 9, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello Darling,

Another mission today. They keep adding up slowly - so slowly. Guess all we can do is sweat; hope and say on the ball. The boys have been doing fine job and I feel proud of them - they are really on the ball and I'm privileged to have them. Heavy flak today. While on the bomb run Irons(ball turret) spotted fluid streaming back from the right wing. Stopped after a short while so I figured it was a punctured gas tank and the self sealing tanks has sealed the hole, therefore paid no further attention. However, when I hit the runway upon landing and applied my brakes - no response. It had been a hydraulic line that had been severed, A slap on Jacksons shoulders got him pumping the manual system, with no results. All that was accomplished was more fluid spewing out of the broken line; by coincidence we later found out the flak had hit at the intersection of both the primary and emergency brake systems hydraulics. This piece of flak was later recovered by my crew chief and now resides as an exhibit in my Nostalgia corner. Our only option was to cut the inboard engines, keeping the outboards running for directional control and coast off the end of the runway into the field beyond. I was horrorsticken when I looked ahead and saw another B-17 had run of the end of the runway and was dead ahead. Jackson quickly unlocked the tail wheel, I waited until we reached the end of the runway (still at about 70 miles per hour), pulled the right throttle all the way back then rammed the left forward which pivoted the aircraft until the 90 degrees point was reached. The right throttle was then rammed forward to halt the spin, after which both engines were cut. That was all we could do except watch ground personnel scatter; I had turned toward the parking apron, not away. Fortunately it coasted to a stop before hitting another aircraft. It was hilarious seeing the scattering taking place; we walked away laughing to relieve the tension. All's well that ends well.

Love
Ray

 


March 10, 1945

For about fifteen minutes I’ve been lying on my bed with my head buried in my blankets. I didn’t want the the boys to see how tired I feel tonight, Things kind have hit me between the eyes; its been a hard, lovely trail, takes a lot out of you, particularly mentally. Thinking about the missions to go put a vise about my chest. So much to go thru yet.

The mission today was a milk run and went off very smoothly. This fact and your letters of 27, 28 February and 1 and 2 March, which arrived today are helping to lift the black cloud.

Missing you,

Love
Ray



March 11, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello sweetheart,

Another mission today, third in a row. Wasn’t too bad but I am tired. Weather was beautiful- seemed like such a shame to be going out to kill and maim. Finally got around to taking a bath and shave today after I landed. The officers absolutions (pretty fancy) were finally fixed; it was a pleasure to loll in a warm bath and get clean for a change.

Am flying again tomorrow. Thought of you while in the blue today, five miles up. So close, protecting me.

Love
Ray



March 12, 1945(written next morning) Chelvaston, England

Hello,

Last night I was so far gone that even receiving six V-mails and a package didn’t make much of an impression on me. I got down from yesterdays mission(fourth in a row) feeling like a limp dish rag with a hell of a headache. It was a long haul could have glided to the Russian lines. Came back, crawled into my sack and I do mean crawled and slept until 10 A.M. this morning. The world now looks brighter and your cookies taste swell; in addition I’m still in the sack.

I'm sure Joe appreciates your visits to his folks

All my love
Ray


Doris’s letters remained chatty, covering such topics as the war news, recreational activities, visits to my folks, news of her family, her wondering about the mission count and concerns about my well being in view of the long and frequent missions. Her anticipation of the new defense job and introductory experiences follow:


February 28, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

Hi Stinky,

Do you actually believe that in your absence I could gain weight? You are not around me to encourage me to eat enormous meals, much on peanuts and popcorn or to get fat just being happy. Doing all of this without you around is no soap. I no longer enjoy my meals as I used to, when you were beside me. The fact is that all my clothes had to be taken in. I’ve lost five pounds.

Monday I’m starting my lens inspection job at Merganthaler Linotype.

Love
Doris

P.S.: There is now a 12 A.M. curfew at the night clubs.

 


March 2, 1945 Brooklyn New York

Hello Love,

Collected my two days pay at Allied Display and then went on to my new job. Received a thorough medical examination (am in perfect condition) and was ready for work but they insisted on a birth certificate so back I went to the New York, Health Department for a copy which will take three days; consequently will start on the 5th.

After digesting your letter of February 26, 27 and 28 I felt an acute love sick pang, oh how I miss you,

Love
Doris

 


March 7, 1945 Brooklyn, Yew York

Hi Honey,

I checked into my new job this morning and was introduced to my boss. He appears to be a nice fellow. For some reason he alerted me as to whom to trust and whom to watch out for, then we entered the Inspection department and I met the other people I will be working with. Didn’t do a thing for the rest of the day.

Love
Doris


March 9, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

Hi,

Don’t worry I wont work myself to death on the job. Apparently, my department is more interested in precision and good work rather than production figures. I believe we do too much loafing.

Your CTD buddy, Al Rutel visited your folks last night; unfortunately I missed him. They were quite impressed "He’s so tall and handsome" was your sisters comment "He’s a swell boy", your father said. "Oh he’s gorgeous", was your nieces response. He was thoughtful enough to bring a cartoon of cigarettes, which are in such short supply. Also amused them with stories of girlfriend's correspondence.

I Love you
Doris



March 12, 1945 Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sweetheart,

What a job I have! I’m still waiting for them to give me something to do. I’m in the ladies room a good deal of the time and spend much time hounding my superior for work to do. He sits me down with an hours work and tells me to make that do for the entire day. I’m sure it will pick up shortly.

All my love
Doris




March 13, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello sweetheart,

Just got back from visiting the Jewish chap I mentioned. He now lives in Wellingboro about fifteen miles from the base. Was bombed out of London and is now living here temporarily. His wife is quite a beautiful lady. They made me feel comfortable and had me stay for supper. The meal was plain, well prepared and obviously nonkosher (immaterial to me) a whisky chaser followed. We chewed the fat about the Jewish problem in England as compared to the States and other less weighty matters. I got that old familiar ache as I watched Mrs. Fish putter around, dishing out the food, kneeling to light the fire and just gabbing. Wished to hell it was you and I sitting in front of the fire being human. They invited me back whenever I could make it. A very relaxing visit.

Scheduled to fly tomorrow. Good night

Ray



March 14, 1945

Dear Doris,

Today for the first time in four or five days I am starting to feel relaxed and rid of the horrible tension that has been gripping me. Its something hard to describe and comes from   no cause other than too much flying in too short an interval of time. I found it hard to concentrate on anything, couldn’t even appreciate your sweet letters to the fullest. I’m sure you noticed this tension in my letters. Found it difficult to write coherently. Today, after spending a couple of hours stretched out on a blanket in the pasture I feel just about normal again. It was an early spring day and the sun carried a little warmth with it. Made me pleasantly drowsy, oblivious to my surroundings - my thoughts miles away, on the many many times we had stretched out this way. It was a beautiful dreamlike state.

As far as my missions go, none today. If things go O.K. I should be home very soon. At the present time the ones I have left can be counted on the fingers of your hands.

Pleasant dreams.

Ray

 

Ray and his dad About this time I realized there had been no direct references to my mother and the state of her health. A query to Doris had been ignored. The silence was ominous and led me to believe that things were not good. As I surmised she had died in early March and my father had made the decision not to inform me; he felt under the circumstances it might disturb me enough to affect my flying.

The 17th of March mission initiated another chain of memorable missions, which I’ve recounted below. The losses were high on heavily protected targets, `Big B’(Berlin) amongst them It was my second trip to Berlin


March 17, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello Darling,

Another mission under my belt today, lousy weather and a lousy lead. In addition, one of our ships pealed off and disappeared over the target. No word from them*. Glad to get my feet on the ground. Keep these fingers crossed, you’ve done an excellent job so far. It was a long haul to Jena, an optical works; I’m tired and there’s just enough time for a good nights’s sleep - then into the blue again tomorrow. Not much else to say. You are uppermost in my thoughts. Love

Ray

* The next news of this ship was received by me at a squadron reunion in 1988. Will cover this incident later in Appendix A.


March 18, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Its great to be able to sit down and carry on a conversation with my gal. Today’s mission was a `lallopolloza’ in other words pretty god-damned rough. Undoubtedly you’ll read about it. The ground felt awfully good. Frankly, I felt puny and exposed - and thought of you taking care of me; particularly after the low flight disappeared*. - silly but true. The low flight is normally my position but I was moved up to the high flight for this one - you must have used your magic wand.

Should write the folks but just don’t feel like it. Hope you understand. I’ll write when I feel more relaxed. What a bloody mess we are in. We blew hell out of the city we went after. Makes the price more worthwhile.

Love
Ray

* This mission was to Berlin and the details of what occurred were not available until the group reunion of 1988. They were told by the pilot who replaced me in the low flight. The mission of the 17th and 18th were tried together in a strange coincidental way. Details later in Appendix A

 


March 19 1945

Hello Doris,

Well, you can chalk up another one. Long haul, ten and a half hours, weather the most serious problem. Imagine trying to fly formation with an aircraft you can barely see - sweat, sweat. I was so tired when I got down I could scarcely see straight. Asked for a day off to get some rest - that should fix me up. Missions to go can be counted on one hand.

Pleasant dreams

Love
Ray

 

 

March 20, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Tonight for some reason I don’t feel as tired as yesterday. No, I didn’t get a day’s rest; was up in the blue again - another mission. It was a rough one and there were many enemy fighters in the area. In fact they were close enough for us to throw some fifty calibers at three jets making passes at us. We had lost an engine to flak on the bomb run and couldn't stay with the formation. As a straggler we were vulnerable, but the boys held them off long enough for me to dive and squat under the umbrella of another group of B-17s until we reached the North Sea. The jet fighters don’t have the range for pursuit. It was a breeze after that. The boys did well.

Stand down tomorrow - hopefully,

Love
Ray

 


March 21, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello,

Today for the first time in five days I’ve had enough time to relax, sleep late and sit down to write in a relaxed fashion. It was fly, eat and sleep a few hours. You don’t feel much like eating under those circumstances. This stand down today was a matter of necessity - to rest both men and planes (repairs), slept until 11 A.M. then went to afternoon chow leisurely, after which I took a well needed bath and shave. Went thru your letters of the past few days; first chance to really digest them It’s nice to be kept up to date on the family gossip. Thanks a million! Incidentally a Passover meal over here would probably consist of beans, potatoes and a little meat and eggs as a delicacy - the war and rationing has priority.

As far as my relationship with the operations officer. You know me, I generally do not hesitate to say what I think and I’ve a mind of my own. This very often strains relationships - perhaps my diplomacy leaves something to be desired.

Probably be flying again tomorrow but I’m ready for it.

All my love

Ray



March 22 and 23, 1945 London, England

Dear Doris,

I did fly on the 22nd. A short, rough mission. Got back early found I had a 48 hour pass waiting so I decided to visit the shoe dealer again before leaving for London early the following morning. He and his wife were happy to see me and took me visiting to the only other Jewish family in town. We were greeted very cordially once Mr. Fish said `He is one of us’. The families were very close. My impressions of the family group and the visit were quite vivid but are quite lengthy so I’ll save it for my arrival home, which should be shortly (I hope). Mrs. Fish put me up for the night on a comfortable sofa sheets and all. There was fresh eggs (black market) butter, bread and tea for breakfast and then after thanking them profusely I caught the early train for London.

Without you, I floated around rather aimlessly. At 11 A.M. I went to a cinema. Gregory Peck, in `Keys of the Kingdom’. Not bad. Later, I met a few of my squadron and stopped in on a stage show, `Strike It Again’ a so called musical; all slapstick and smut. Supper at the Hyde Park officers’ club then `Spouter’s Corner’; disappointing this time. All evangelists and soul savers. Noticed a crowd off on the lawn, `A cricket game’ I said to myself. What a laugh I had when I found it was a group of American GIs playing softball. The comments of the crowd were sidesplitting. After an evening show, all murders, I relaxed by, walking along Picadilly watching the `Commandos’ at work. I had to dodge to avoid them. The newsvendors are supplied with the contraceptives and peddle them along with the newspaper. Continued back to the club I was staying at and had two big dishes of ice cream interspread with a lot of gab from a chatty old Red Cross hostess. Had me covered for 45 minutes. She meant well but I was anxious to get started on my letter. Usually by the time my pass is up I’m glad to get back to the field and the grind, I'm attaining something there getting closer to you. Sleep well darling and pleasant dreams.

Missing you

Ray

 


March 24, 1945 Chelvaston, England

My Darling Doris,

Am safely back at the field now, relaxing in front of a hot stove after spending the early part of the day in London. Slept until 10.30 A.M. then a hot bath and shave. What a pleasure stretching out at whole length in a bath - just soaking. A visit to the barber afterward left me - practically bald. Caught a show before the train left `Tomorrow the World’ with Frederic March and Betty Fields. Not a bad show. Back at the field at 6.30 P.M. Supper then I’ll hop over to the club for the squadron party, beer and --? Pleasant dreams - Love you

Ray

 

Since the missions were piling up and tensions increasing for both of us Doris’s letters reflected this by constantly counting missions and querying me about where the count stood. I kept her uninformed as I wanted to surprise her at the conclusion of my 35th which wasn’t too far off.

 

March 14, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

"All day I go around counting numbers, they must think I'm nuts. I keep figuring the amount of time to complete the 35 missions. Lets see 22 completed, 8 more this month then all he needs it 5 more" Is there a possibility of getting a flight home immediately? How long does it usually take?

 


March 17 1945

Received your letters of the 10th and 11th only 10 more to go.

 


March 20 1945

Here it is 3 days since I last heard from you and I'm walking around without half of me. I must confess I’m more married now and need your letters more than ever. Going to see your folks tonight and pretend I heard from you today. Why should they worry too. I know - I’ll hear from you tomorrow. I’m really sweating out these last 10 missions.


March 21, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

I recognized your fatigue in your letters of 12, 13 and 14. To be expected after all that flying.


March 22, 1945 Brooklyn, N.Y.

Boy, I can’t wait to receive the cablegram stating that you are on your way home. I know it won’t be long. In fact, I predict it will arrive between 13 to 15 April. ( Fact is I finished on April 7th; the cable arrived on the 14th. How could she have made this prediction? Strong Vibs?)

 


March 25, 1945 Brooklyn, N.Y.

Honey, you can’t believe how I long for your safety. I don’t believe prayers by if my faith and love in your ability will help, you will be back safely. I'm sweating out the last 7 missions with you. You are never alone. The day I receive the cable will be the day I start living again.

(At this point I had completed 31 missions but was frustrated by recalls, missions scrubbed and aircraft ground malfunctions and unable to increase the count until April 3rd.) Excerpts from my letters of 27, 28, 29 March and 1 and 2 reveal these frustrations.

 

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Mission Count

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