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The crew of the Idiot's Delight

Chapter 9 - Combat At Last - This Is It, The Waiting Begins

Sleep had not come easily because of the jumble of thoughts and mixed emotions; what was ahead. We were all like thoroughbred race horses at the starting gate. Gone was the feeling of being hot rock airmen. Instead doubts creep in, was our training sufficient for the task ahead; who would be our squadron mates; what was it really like being shot at; would we be lucky; was survival based on alertness and quick responses. Well, we would soon find out.

Letters were exchanged on a daily basis but only those considered relevant to the continuity and content of our story will be presented.

20 December 1944 Chelvaston, England

Darling Doris,

Today was a busy day. Had our teeth checked again; apparently a detailed dental map sometimes aids identification in a bad crackup. We were assigned to the 422 Bomb Squadron, one of four in the 305th Bomb Group, turned in our records and orders, assigned permanent quarters and met our squadron officers. I was rather surprised to find our operations officer was a guy I had flown with when training my first crew at Tampa. He was the West Pointer that I had requested not to be flown with again because of what I felt was his poor judgment in leading a flight. Apparently West Pointers are pushed ahead rapidly.

The field is a large one, typical of those built by the English for heavy bombers, two runways, the one used most often was 5000 feet long. The Group flying record is an excellent one. Facilities of course are rather limited although the officers club is not bad with beer and whisky readily available; also has a reading room, billiard room and shower room. Our quarters are in small huts, containing four rooms with the officers of each crew bunking together in one room. The enlisted men are in Quonset huts (metal, semi circular shells) one large barrack like room with about 40 men bunking together. Showers and toilets are contained in a separate outside room. If hot water is desired it must be heated by ourselves. Each room has a small coke stove with a limited supply of coke; its the only source of heat so we will be making use of our woolen longjohns. Right now I’ve got my feet propped on the stove to keep them warm. As soon as we get things set up it should be cozy enough. The shelves are already in, stolen from another empty room. We’ve got Jackson's radio for keeping up with the war news, censored no doubt, but the radio gives it the homey touch.

Apparently, we will be attending briefings, classes and flying practice missions for approximately two weeks before combat missions. The briefings included first aid, up to date oxygen usage, flak, and escape from enemy territory. Before flying combat all of the enlisted men will be promoted to sergeants. Treatment in prisoner of war camps is based on rank.

Bad news, the German breakthrough in Belgium. To bad we can’t convince them that their licked.



22 December 1944 Chelvaston, England

Dear Doris,

The last time I saw you was 26 days ago - a dreadfully long time it seems.

More ground school. Weather is miserable grounding our aircraft, helping the German offensive.

Had some beer at the club and a few games of billiards before going back to the barracks tonight.

Tomorrow is our squadron party, one is held every three weeks as a morale lifter. From what I hear they are quite lively. In the early hours of the morning some of the gals can be seen sneaking out of the barracks of many of the boys. Most of the women are only interested in the food and a fun time.

No mail from you yet !

Pleasant dreams sweetheart



23 December 1944 Chelvaston England

Hello Mrs;

Just got back from the squadron party. Had a few beers and waited just long enough for the food to be served; cake sandwiches, and cookies - all delicacies over here. In fact, as I said in my last letter, its so much of an attraction that most of the women attending are there for that reason, some for other reasons; loneliness etc.

Another day of ground school and was able to see the boys take off on a mission today; the first since I’ve been here. It was quite a thrill seeing them all rev up their engines, leap ahead and disappear into the mist at the end of the runway. It was a bigger thrill seeing them all come back safely and land in weather that would have grounded all ships in the states. You can’t help but reflect on being in their shoes and how it felt feeling your way in the fog and straining to see the ships that had missed their first try and were coming around again. Very often because of the proximity of the air fields in the area traffic patterns could overlap and collisions often occur.

Good night,



25 December 1944 (Christmas day) Chelvaston, England

Hello sweetheart,

Christmas eve was spend in bed trying to keep warm. An unusual activity with you 3000 miles away. Wrote and did some whittling; had quite a time clearing away the chips. Kelly and Mulvaney went to midnight mass. Religion becomes more meaningful out here.

Incidentally the boys were unable to land at our field today because of extreme weather conditions so the Christmas luncheon was postponed till they could get back, which made it a Christmas dinner. I had gotten up at 12 o’ clock hustled to the mess hall only to hear of the postponement so I spent the afternoon playing pinochle, a new card game for me. Won 16 dollars - beginners luck.

It was pretty out today. All the trees were covered with hoarfrost making the scenery look unreal. The heavy fog added to the surrealism.

The Christmas meal was a good one, aided by several shots of sherry wine at the club. The boys are reminiscing about, home, wives and sweethearts. I held my own. Incidentally we are all in longjohns. Its a long way from the beautiful Florida weather.

The breakthrough news is better tonight. They are being slowed down. Perhaps we’ll counter attack soon.

`I walk alone’ is coming over the radio. Listening to it brings memories to mind. How did you spend Christmas day?



A little insight into Doris’s activities and frame of mind around Christmas time can be gained from her letters written on the 24 and 25 December! Excerpts from these follow ;

My dearest pilot,

Tomorrow is Christmas, I will be thinking of you constantly, as I am now. Perhaps next year because of your help (and a bit of mine) we will be able to say `peace on earth and good will towards man’. That phrase is what we are fighting for and will continue too until it is achieved.

Tonight I received my Christmas gifts from you, two V-mail letters. They meant more than anything else that could be presented to me.

Earlier in the day I met your friend Natty, the BT-13 instructor. He is now going to a P-51 Transitional school. Sends his regards.

(This letter was continued on 25 December)

My beloved hubby,

Today is Christmas day. Mom, Marion and myself have opened our presents; a lovely robe and slippers for me. Everything would have been more joyous if you were there to complete a perfect morning. I should be helping to clean up the place but my only desire is to sit and think of you.

Very soon we will be going to see the play `Anna Lucosta’ and visit the Museum of Modern Art.

Will close now, for awhile. Regards to the boys.

All my Love



27 December 1944 Chelvaston, England

Dear Doris,

Still no mail; have just about given up hope but tomorrow will probably see us all bothering the mail orderly once again. Washed clothes today - in cold water, quite a workout as a result, dirt seemed glued on.

More whittling today. Tomorrow we are scheduled for a practice flight, just to get familiar with the surrounding countryside and with field protocols and procedures.

Just a little while ago Jackson and Mulvaney decided to tear off the chimney cover in order to allow the stove to draw better. Well, it took 20 minutes to clear the place of smoke and sort but strangely enough the stove operation has improved.

Good night darling, Love



29 December Chelvaston, England

Dearest Doris,

Yesterday, we attended the briefing of an actual mission. We weren’t scheduled to fly the mission, just accompany them to the coast and came back. Sorry we didn’t make it, as from what the boys said it was a milk run; little flak and no fighters. However, it was a thrill to attend the briefing. You never know whether its going to be tough are not yet everybody appeared to be quite calm. The briefing officer unveils the map route which is outlined with a red ribbon going to the target and return. Then everybody sets their time to the briefing pilots back watch. These moments are quite dramatic. Afterwards, its out to the aircraft carrying parachutes, food and gun barrels the gunners.

Today I finally made my first trip over Germany. Flew as copilot to an experienced crew. The second mission will be as first pilot with an experienced crew; the third will be with my own crew. Really nothing to say about it; some flak no fighters. Came back with a few small holes in the aircraft. The worst part of the mission was getting up about 2 A.M.

The war news seems to have taken a turn for the better, guess I’m part of that news now.

Pleasant dreams



31 December 1944 Chelvaston, England

My Darling Doris,

Sitting at the club now, just before the New Years blowout. Listening to some soft music, wondering what your doing tonight. Hope your not feeling as lonely as I. We certainly could be going places tonight. Lets hope that New Years 1945 sees us together for a midnight stroll in the park while trying to decide whether our knitting should be done in pink or blue.

This morning at about 2.30 A.M. I was just about awake when the orderly came to wake us up. Without a word, I proceeded to dress and stumbled to the mess hall. About half way there I realized that he hadn’t called my name, meaning I wasn’t scheduled to fly. I must have looked funny kicking myself the rest of the way to the mess hall. Made up for it by eating four eggs and then hustled back to the sack. No sooner did I relax and lie back when I felt a hand on my shoulder and I was up again on the way to the briefing to take somebody else’s place. Almost blew a cylinder when I found I wasn’t needed after all.

Slept much of the day. This party has all the earmarks of a superduper, no doubt many of the nooks and corners plus the beds will be occupied tonight.

I left the shindig about an hour after it started. There weren’t more than 10 sober people in the place. Don’t see how they will be able to fly tomorrow.

Did some more mail censoring tonight but didn’t run into any original lines so I guess all I can say is `I love you and miss you’ - still no letters.



Doris’s thoughts and activities on New Years eve were covered in her letter of 1 January.

My most precious one,

Oh, what a lousy New Years eve I spent and you were the cause of it. Every time they song `should Auld Acquaintance’ a lump would form in my throat. The girls at the party I was to attend went to a movie and would not be back until 11.30 P.M. so home I went to the party planned by Marion which was full of complications. The people attending didn’t know each other and there was an imbalance of girls and boys. Confusion ranged, in addition my state of mind was not the best with you elsewhere. I comforted myself by looking back on 1944 which has been an exciting year and one which had brought us closer together than ever - so many happy moments together. Incidentally, the original party was made up of a group of girls all of which had husbands in the service.

Take care of yourself and give them hell.

Your Mrs.


My New Year day was spent somewhat differently.

1 January 1944 Chelvaston, England

Hello Baby,

How's my gal today. As usual I’m pretty tired - just came down from a pretty rough one, over Kassel, Germany. The boys aren’t saying much so things are pretty quiet in the room except for the radio, Martha Raye and Mischa Auer are on.

I did some more mail censoring. Feel like a gossip prying into the enlisted men’s mail. Each with their loves and hopes, each an individual - yet here only a number.

I’m looking forward to your mail, I want to share your thoughts as I share mine with you.

Good night sweetheart


Missions were flown on 5, 6 and 7 January. These days were enlivened by seeing a V-2 rocket headed for England on the 5th and the first receipt of mail from Doris since I left the states.

6 January 1944 Chelvaston, England

My Darling Wife,

I feel as if I'm setting on top of the world. You’d get a kick out of seeing that broad smile on my face. You see, I just received five V-mails from you. To start from the beginning. This morning we took off and blew hell out of a few of Hitler's prized bridges. The flak was only moderate and low. On the way back the weather closed in and landing at our base was ticklish because of heavy haze. As you can see we did all right although it took three trys.

After reading your letter I took a few moments to analyze my thoughts. At first I felt all aglow then a few minutes afterward I felt choked up with my longing for you. Appreciated all the news and sentiments.

Love me always



Doris’s letters kept coming consistently and in bunch’s during the month of January.

I digested them avidly and was kept apprised of her concerns and activities such as her success in finding a job consistent with her art training, making up overseas packages for me and other friends, visits to my folks, recreational activities as well as her mounting loneliness. Excerpts follow:

5 January 1944

Just left your folks house where your sister introduced me to your nieces boyfriend Seymour. He kept us in stitches doing Peter Lorre impersonations. Boy, I wish you were there, I miss you and its getting harder to be casual about it. Your pop feels Helen is too young for a serious relationship.

7 January 1944

Just got thru talking to Mimi Tobock over the phone. She is now working in the local 65 finance office. Red has been away for 10 months now and she misses him, naturally. Sends her best to you. Also spoke to Irene about her job and am going to the Jewish center to roll bandages.

8 January 1944

Wrote you a letter yesterday but going to your sisters with many packages under my arm, I probably dropped it.

Also went for a job interview with Allied Display doing paper sculpture. Started to work today and found it rather pleasant. There are six girls working there, most of them German Jewish refugees with interesting backgrounds. Spent all day working on butterflies, what fun. Incidentally the pay is $24 per week - not bad.


10 January 1944

Went shopping for a robe for your mom, its lovely green wool and delivered it last night. It received quite a response. Pop looked mighty handsome as he had just gotten a haircut.

14 January 1944

Your sister asked me if you had gone on any missions yet; only practice missions I told her so far. How many have you completed? Just heard that the 8th Air Force has been over Germany - 600 heavy bombers. I was wondering whether you were tail end Charley again. If you were, its one more closer to the happy day.

In fact I wasn’t but flew on 15 January. It was my eighth mission with the 7th as tail end Charley, in purple heart corner (last ship in the formation, a very vulnerable spot). On my return I felt justified in being rotated to another formation slot so I went to see the operations officer about it. His answer was `We need a good man in that spot.’ I turned around with a silent SOB an my lips and left. Called my crew together and told them we were due for more of the same and they could request a transfer if they wanted one. No one did ! We went on to 20 missions in that spot. Learned to fly it well and exploit the positive advantages such as pulling out easily if necessary since there was no one behind me, particularly in bad weather.


13 and 14 January 1944

Dear Doris,

Dreamt of you last night. We were far from our home base and the day hadn’t been an easy one. We had been diverted from our homebase because of bad weather. I had awakened to find I had been talking in may sleep - to you. My thoughts are always with you! The squadron had been forced to split up because of the low visibility. Mulvaney did a fine job in bringing us into a field that was in the clear. We stayed there overnight and returned this afternoon. Funny the only inconvenience I felt at being away from our base was not being able to write to you.

Your sketches are a morale builder to me - send lots of them; I’d rather receive them, than the tasty packages.

By the way this idea of reaping the harvest of my efforts making you feel guilty? Just remember your always beside me when I fly those missions and drop the bombs where needed. Without your morale building letters I would be one `sad sack’

Good night darling - stay as sweet as you are!




15 January 1945 Chelvaston, England

Flew again today. We got a most beautiful view of the Alps from our bombing altitude. The mission itself was a milk run. Yet when your setting up there with your bomb bay doors open - not knowing what to expect, you sweat! The time drags and your heart beats more rapidly, as the black puffs of flak seem to be reaching out - for you. Your jaws really give the gum a working over and you huddle inside your flaksuit trying to shrink a little and you check your flak helmet strap. Thank God for that steel plate your sitting on and the armored seat back; You wonder if your eyeballs are as distended as your copilots. All the while your doing your darnedest to hold your place in formation - watch for enemy aircraft and try not to pay too much attention to the flak. You heave a sigh of relief when its bombs away and the ship lurches upward. A sharp diving turn off the target and your homeward bound still watching for fighters. Oh, nuts you can read this in the Saturday Evening post. How fortified I feel when I allow my thought to drift to you and your protective shadow over me and I relax a bit.

Got a kick out of your description of the meeting with Helen’s boyfriend, Seymour.

Good night honey


P.S. : Just got back from a pilots meeting, a `bitch’ session and review of the missions of the previous week. There were also some swell combat shots of our fighters shooting down the new jets the Germans are using.


Doris kept me up to date on her activities; a typically informative letter of 18 January 1945 follows:

Hi Stinky (one of many nicknames)

Ate out tonight with a girl from work. she goes to Cooper Union Art School (evening) Has one more year to go. When I called mother to tell her I would be home late she told me that Mrs. Mulvaney, Joe's mother called, lives in Manhattan only an hour subway ride away. I wrote to her immediately asking she would be receptive to my visiting on Saturday. She replied immediately asking me to plan on staying all day. Tell Joe my lips are sealed about his escapades and his missions.

By the way mother was hit on the head by something stored in her office closet. Doctor says nothing serious.

I love you sweetheart

Your Mrs.


21 January 1945


Saw the Mulvaney family yesterday; took my camera with me. They are lovely people. As soon as I came in Mrs. Mulvaney was down on her knees taking off my rubber boats. We sat and talked, drinking port wine after which we went up on the roof with Mrs. Mulvaney's camera and took pictures of her, Joes sister Mary, and his youngest brother. They will send the copies next week.

Mary then entertained me with the family photo album while Mrs. Mulvaney prepared supper. she insisted I stay and would not accept `no’ for an answer. It was a really pleasant visit. By the way Joes sister is rather attractive.

Incidentally please explain to Joe what it means to the folks back home to send packages to the one they love. Ask him to send a requisition to his mother.

All my Love


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Its interesting to note that in Doris’s letter of 25 January she said the following "If it would make you feel more secure imagine me sitting next to you in the copilots seat (on Jackson’s Lap) hoping for a safe return" It seems that her thoughts were similar to mine in the letter I wrote on 15 January expressing how I felt on the mission I flew that day.

After my ninth mission I secured a two day pass for some relaxation and I decided to visit my buddy Buggsy at his field in the Norwich area. The details are covered in my next letter to Doris.

18-19 January 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hello Darling,

Just got back from my two day pass and am safely tucked in my sack. To start from the beginning. I got up at 3.00 A.M. and managed to wrangle a jeep ride to Peterboro. There I caught a 7.00 A.M. train and after one more change I arrived at my destination at 10.00 A.M. Although the total trip was only 70 miles it took about seven hours. Great stuff, these English railroads. It was about three miles from the station to Buggsys field and the town was too small to support a taxi so I started hoofing, just keeping ahead of a rain shower. The countryside was very pleasant, small cottages dotting the landscape. Oh, yes on the train I chewed the fat with an RAF Wellington pilot. He was just returning from a fifteen day leave, spent with his wife, a baby was in the oven. He asked about my family. I told him we were still a twosome - for now.

To resume; I got to the field, located the officers mess and was doing justice to a reasonably good meal, when in walked Buggsy. We were both jubilant since it was a year from our last meeting. Talked solidly for 3-4 hours. The beer flowed liberally, and the subjects ranged from the English countryside to flying missions to our marriage. Unfortunately I had left all your pictures above my bunk. Buggsy spoke of the English women and his relationships with them. Was a bit disillusioned with them and hoped that marriage was different I assured him there was no comparison as he would see.

After supper and getting our second wind we talked until 11.00 P.M. when in walked his room mate. What a surprise! He was a high school class mate, in fact lived a block away. His father had been over to see Pop and had asked him to have me look up his son. This meeting called for more gab and beer. Three Brooklyn boys - England ceased to exist for us. We hit the sack at 1.30 P.M. and I left the following morning for another return trip of eight hours. I was quite a novelty during my stay since Buggsys’ group fly B-24’s (called flying bath tubs by us B-17 pilots)

Miss you more than ever


20 January 1945 Chelvaston, England


Received your package today. All I can say is thanks, everything I like and in good shape.

Some of the guys that went to London are starting to worry. Three pounds was the average price of a `Piccadilly Commando’ - Now they are wondering whether the experience was worth it.

Went on a short but busy and exciting mission today. At 28,000 feet while crossing over France the number four engine exhaust stack blew and we were left with an engine supplying only a fraction of its power. We worked like hell to stay with the formation and drop our bombs. However, at bombs away our bombs stuck in their racks so the toggleer had to crawl out on the catwalk and release them manually. While doing this Barclay, the radio operator froze his wrists hanging on to his legs, it was 55 degrees below zero. In addition Norris, backing up Barclay, passed out from the lack of oxygen, his walk around bottle had run out. We caught him in time and were able to revive him. After this the bomb bay door stuck (froze) and we had to fly for two hours with them open. This was followed by a frozen gas valve so we couldn’t reach our reserve gas supply, about 25 percent of the total. We were a busy bunch for awhile. Oh yes forgot to say that Mulvaneys G-2 Box (a navigational instrument) also started burning. But here we are, everything worked out.

Ready for the sack


Events of the rest of January are summarized below:

January 22, 1945

It was a pleasant surprise when I roller over this morning and found it to be 7.00 A.M. This could only be scrubbed mission so I rolled back and got some more sleep.

Everytime I read the papers I say a silent prayer for the Russians - only 200 miles from Berlin and going strong.

The biggest thrill you get on a bombing mission comes at the split second the bombs are released. You work your head off bringing your load over the target sweating every second. Somehow you feel rewarded when you see those greeting cards trickling out the bellys of the bombers ahead and know yours are doing the same.


January 23, 1945

Went to a pilots’ meeting. Our squadron got a pat on the head from the colonel for the stick formation flown on the mission of the 21st. We really did stick in close that day. Probably more frightened than usual.


January 24, 1945

Up at 3.30 P.M. wondering why the orderly hadn't gotten me up for the scheduled mission. It was scrubbed due to weather. Funny how you generally get up before the orderly comes when a mission is scheduled. However we were up at 7.00 P.M. for a practice mission. What a farce that was, the fog could be cut like cheese, so we waited until 10.00 A.M. Grumbling all the time, before it was scrubbed.

About my missions, one of these days, I’ll send you a detailed account. How long? - about 7 to 11 hours in the air. How often? - depends on weather.


January 25, 1945

Fourth consecutive day we’ve been grounded by weather. At home, snow and cold weather generally was clear. England combines a misty, cheese like fog with its snow falls. Wish to hell the weather would clear, laying around is not good for the morale.

January 26, 1945

Wasn’t surprised when you mentioned the snow and how you wanted me there. My thoughts were synonymous with yours during our snow.


January 27, 1945

Went to ground school all day. Weather is still bad, squadron party tonight. The Colonel insists that the women leave the barracks by midnight.

January 28 1945

Practiced landings and takeoffs and was P.O.d when I was scheduled for a night cross country. Fortunately it was scrubbed.

This is our week for censoring mail. Feel sorry for some of those guys. A guy receives a letter from his wife - in it she asks `Do you still love me’ his letters are so infrequent. His answer would have made a stone shed tears. He couldn’t spell well and expressing his thoughts was very difficult for him. Her doubts hurt him so - stunned him. My sympathies were with him.

After a censoring detail you feel like starting a `Mr. Anthony’ column.

Terra firma felt awfully good to me today. We were up 8 hours on this mission. I was leading the low flight, consisting of two ships plus myself. Being unfamiliar with the slot I worked myself into a frazzle staying in formation. Little flak but quite accurate. Felt like an overstretched rubberband. To the sack and another mission tomorrow.


January 29, 1945

Got my air medal today, one for every six missions; oak leaf clusters after that; the citation has the usual; for courage and valor `----’ and sustained aerial flights over enemy territory’. The ribbon is blue and orange, the medal is bronze with an eagle carrying lightening bolts in its claws.



January 30, 1945

Joe Kelly is in the hospital. Coughed up blood while at altitude and he’s in for observation.

Told Joe Mulvaney about you going to visit his mom. All he could say was `oops’. He’s been a good boy. It seems there is a gal back in Pennsylvania at his CTD location.

Five inches of snow greeted us this morning when we awake, no flying shoveling to clear the taxi strips, runways and parking revetments, all hands.


Doris' concerns and activities during the same period can best be expressed by letters that were written daily.

`I am enjoying my work thoroughly. At odd intervals the girls and I sing to express our joy. All day I dream of the time when I’ll he working with the thought of seeing you in the evening.

`Say the Russians are doing a swell job, captured 5 more towns in one day. Now only 165 miles from Germany.’

Ran home tonite before going to pops for supper for I was hungry for a word from you but was disappointed when I found the mail box empty.’

My mom quit working, going to stay home for a while. She looks lousy and needs the rest.’

`By the way still no mail from you makes it two days now.’

`The Soviets have advanced another 13 miles now only 125 miles from Berlin, however, Max Weiner says the Germans are only 40 miles from Moscow so we shouldn’t be overoptimistic.’

`Its funny there isn’t any cause for worry - come to think of it I’m not worried - just anxious to hear from you.’

`I was damn glad to hear that the rough mission was called off.’

`Glad to receive your V-mail of January 17th and hear you were able to see Buggsy - Tell me all about it.’

Just came back from the Red Cross were I was busy rolling bandages and enjoyed gossiping with the other women.

Just got your letters of January 20,21 and 22, they sure lit the spot. Boy that mission of the 20th sounded rough, glad you could speak about it. Are you sure thats all that happened?


Doris’s concerns relative to receiving letters regularly are expressed below. Its interesting to speculate on how many people on the home front were walking in her shoes. The importance of the US mail system in maintaining this flow is obvious.

February 2, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

No mail today, was a bit disappointing but maybe tomorrow will be brighter. I was so engrossed in dreaming that when the phone rang, I jumped, thought it was you saying `hello’ but I quickly realized that I was at Allied Display Studio with pencil and paper in hand


February 4, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

"In a little on the lonely side tonight, I’m thinking of you only and wishing you were by my side." This song is synonymous with my mood, no letters again so I reread many your previous ones.

February 5, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

Called Mom during my lunch hours to see if there had been any mail from you. Excitedly she yelled `4 of them.’ Boy that cheered up the rest of the day. They were from 25, 26, 27, 28 January.


February 6, 1945 Brooklyn, New York

Came home after a dull day at the studio to find the mailbox empty. Sweetheart you’ve spoiled me. I realize that the mail may be slow or that you’ve had a hard day and sleep is important, or? Do you blame me?

Doris’s second visit to the Mulvaneys follows. It supplies much insight into another average American family enmeshed in the war.

February 11 and 12 Brooklyn, New York

Hello again,

Have to tell you about my second visit to the Mulvaneys’. Mrs. Mulvaney, Mr. Mulvaney, his brother Jerry, sister Mary and his favorite aunt were there. They were so pleased to see me and receive news about Joe. Joe’s father supplied me with a pack of cigarettes, ( up to 25 cents a pack when their available). He had some swell ideas about discrimination. I told him about the refusal of my boss, Mrs. Weiss’ to hire the two Negro girls I had recommended. He responded with a statement about the lower classes being discriminated against by the upper capitalists in control. It was Capitalists against Labor. He also felt that after the war, labor with the returning G.I.s would control the country. Being an Irishman I suspect he was active with the IRA in Ireland before emigrating.

Joes aunt Bess was particularly interested in you, the crew and of course how big Joe was doing. I was particularly complementary about Joes’ role as the navigator.

After a delicious meal, Mary took me for a tour of upper Manhattan which I was quite familiar with but I pretended not to be unfamiliar with it, since she enjoyed showing me around. We returned to the Mulvaney household for another delicious meal and more questions about the missions. `Do they eat while on a mission’? `Do you get credit for a mission if you don’t hit the target?’ `What is the name of the airplane you fly’?

By the way remind Joe to send package request to his folks.

Have to close now, mom requests the lights be turned off. Good night darling. Love!

P.S. : By the way a joke from Mr. Mulvaney `Does a tree grow in Brooklyn? No, only flat bushes. Flat bush*.

* Flat bush is a large residential section in Brooklyn.

February 2, 1945 London, England

Dear Doris,

Tonight finds me in the big city of London. Lots to do - wine, women and song. However, my greatest desire is to find a quite spot and write to you; this has to suffice, for it is as close as I can come to being with you. Your presence is always so real to me yet so untouchable.

This mornings mission was scrubled just as we were ready to taxi to our takeoff positions. Smiles were very apparent as it was to be a long haul. Although I can't say where but I can say we would have been able to spit over to the Russian lines. Got a few more hours sleep and tried to contact Buggsy but the English phone system would not cooperate so I gave up and left for London on my two day pass which had came thru unexpectedly.

Got to London after dark so didn’t see much of it. However, from the looks of it, its a rather large sprawling city. In order to get to a Red Cross center I had to take the underground(subway) I was amazed at the spaciousness of the stations, the number of people using it and its depth. Everything is quite modern. The train doors are quite a hazard, once they start to close you can’t stop them - I found out the hard way, almost lost my hat. A country hick is the best description I can give of myself regarding these trains. Couldn't get out at the station I wanted - too crowded. Got a bed at the Red Cross hotel set up for American officers; nothing elaborate but all that was available in this crowded city. My 48 hours pass starts at midnight so there will be pretty of time for exploration tomorrow after some sleep. No desire to to prowl the streets tonight. Many of the others have done so - booze and Piccadilly Commandos - and are now sleeping it off.

In certainly glad your visit to the Mulvaney's house was so pleasant, I’ll tell him all about it.


February 3, 1945 London, England

Hello sweetheart,

I’m a tired man tonight. Been moving all day long. Am now back at the Red Cross hotel ready to relate the happenings of the day.

Ate breakfast at first light and made arrangements to return to the same bed, then set off to see London. A taxi took me to my first stop, an officers PX to buy more socks and insignia. Then a newspaper to see what the cinemas had to offer; ` Winged Victory’ for the afternoon and `Arsenic and Old Lace’ on the stage. Had a malted milk, horrible, don’t know what substitutes were in it. No peanuts or candy bars for the show since I had no ration tickets. Winged Victory was a movie about flying cadets, their training, loves and so on. A real tearjerker that hit close to home, your presence would have been appreciated. Got a kick out of seeing all those armchair officers rushing about town carrying their little briefcases, no doubt carrying loads of useless paper and their lunches.

After the movie I stopped off at the three and six (five and dime). Asked for apple pie and was amazed to get it - dehydrated. Walked along the Thames River for a spell. Up until now I had been on the west side of London, impressive buildings and many monuments we’ve read about. Something was missing so I crossed the river to the East End(eastern side of the city). Sure enough there they were - the slums, the working people. Will continue my saga when I get back to the field, have run out of V-mail forms.


February 4, 1945 Chelvaston, England

Hi Honey,

Well my excursion to the big city is over. It felt good getting back to the field. While in London my thoughts would run like this `Hm a nice statue, wonder what Doris would think of it.’ What do you think of that stiff necked gent Doris’ and I’d half turn then remember you were not beside me, wishing you were. Its easier on the field, there are less things to stir up memories and that yearning for you. Amongst the civilians, I see little houses and lovers walking had in hand; felt so envious. Well back to London.

As I said the slum section is called the East End the details of which your familiar with, just smaller houses, dirtier than I had seen in the states. Got so engrossed in my walk, went so far, I had to take a taxi to get back to the officers’ mess at Hyde Park. What a study in contrasts,  Fifth Ave. and Harlem.

Afterward I saw `Arsenic and Old Lace’. It was quite comical as the locality was supposed to be Brooklyn and hearing those English accents was delightful. The show has run for two years. Have you seen it? No, it wasn’t off to Piccadilly afterward but back to the sack and then an early breakfast and off to Hyde Park, a section of which is world renowned as `Spouters Corner.’ It’s very similar to our `Union Square’ in New York, however the discussions are more general, louder and occasionally get personal. I spent the greater part of the afternoon listening to everything from the `Society for the personal Freedom’ to something similar to ` Jehovah's Witnesses’. Some speakers get up there to trade jokes with the crowd. One guy was raving about individual freedoms, rather unbalanced and pro-facist,which drew comments that were refreshingly anti-facist and familiar.

I suppose by this time you have heard about the pasting the boys gave to Berlin. It happened during my London sojourn. Probably there will be a repeat soon.

Be the way, Picadilly is comparable to a more rowdy Times Square and has many more darker and winding streets radiating out from its center.

Well I’m set for tomorrows mission and ready for the sack. Wish me luck.

Hugs and kisses

February 6, 1945 Chelvaston, England

My Dearest Sweetheart,

Its been 5 minutes now that I’ve been twisting and squirming in my chair trying to find words to describe the singing of my heart. I received your heart shaped Valentine card today; it was beautiful. What a gift it is to be able to express yourself so plainly without stumbling over words as I do.

I was stood down today. The boys took off early in the morning. Haven’t returned yet. From the looks of things, the weather mainly, they may be diverted to another field. Cripes, I hate to hang around doing nothing when I could have been flying accomplishing something in my campaign to finish up and came home to make you miserable. Feeling blue - missing you. Lousy rhythm.

The crew as a whole is doing a fine job. They do their jobs quickly and efficiently. They’ve all got 7 or 8 missions now and have come thru very well. None of them get rotted and stay cool. I’m well satisfied with them.

All my Love


The following letter covers a mission that occurred on February 7th, after my return from London, which although particularly nerve wracking we received no mission credit for it.

February 7 and 8 1945 Chelvaston, England

Dear Doris,

February 7th, Started off as a rather routine day but ended up quite differently, which is the reason I was unable to write. Guess I’ll start from the beginning and tell you the whole story; for your ears only.

We took off on a mission that morning which looked like a milk run. Mulvaney unfortunately being rushed because of a late start missed the assembly point and we were unable to locate the group. I gambled on intercepting them at the coast and set off in that direction. At 22,000 feet a thick overcast screwed things up again and we missed them. Our last chance to intercept them was at the enemy coast so we set off in that direction. We arrived there a bit early at about 27,000 feet, just above the clouds. After circling for a while we went down into the overcast to formations altitude. While spiraling down, the fun began. Number 3 engine started to shake itself apart. The vibration was awful - just about like a cocktail shaker. I hit the feathering button but there was no response, the prop kept windmilling. While I kept the ship on course Jackson kept cutting switches and so on. Norris transferred all the gas of the bad engine into the fuel tanks of the good ones to prevent fire. Barclay, switched his radio to the emergency channel so we did not receive the Group recall message because of the bad weather we were in and anticipated ahead. All the while the engine kept throwing off bits of metal putting holes thru the navigators compartment; worse than flak. Mulvaney and the toggleer were forced to abandon the position, because of the likelihood of the prop tearing loose. We kept losing altitude all the while. I sent a Mayday (SOS) message to England and explained the situation. They answered immediately giving us the option of an emergency landing field in southern England across the channel or a field in Northern. France that was now ours. I elected to stay over land in case of a bail out; the crew was gathered in the radio room with chutes on. Even after salvoing our bomb load we continued to go down. Number 2 started running rough so we cut back on its power but had to keep it running as our instrument flight gyros were coupled to its functioning and we were in solid cloud. Shortly afterword number 3 started to burn because of the windmilling prop. The engine fire extinguishers only subdued the flames but did not put them out. I was able to contact the emergency landing field in France and they gave us a course to fly making corrections every sixty seconds. After about an hour we broke out at 800 feet and could see the ground. To our relief the field was dead ahead. Made a slight correction and greased it in. As soon as I had it stopped we quickly evacuated the aircraft - running like hell as the engine was now blazing brightly. The waiting fire trucks quickly put the fire out. As I ran I looked back and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Norris was using a hand extinguisher which ran out very quickly. Down went the extinguisher and he took off after us.

After unloading the aircraft and unwinding over some beer and sandwiches we made a survey of the field and found an intact B-17 which had landed a few days ago with a chunk out of one prop blade. The hole had been dressed down and the aircraft was flyable. I checked with operations and received permission to fly it to a repair depot in England. Not everybody was happy about it but I was anxious to get back and let our squadron know we were OK so no MIA message would process through channels and then home. Image my consternation when on taxiing out and checking our gas supply we found it nearly empty. So back we went looking for a gas tanker only to find all personnel had left for town. It was after 5 P.M. and since this was a temporary assignment on a recently captured air field, the war would just have to wait, so into town we went. It's impossible to describe the poverty of these poor people. I got the queerest sensation upon shaking the hand of one of the little boys. His skin was exceptionally dry and his hand as light as a feather - so fragile. All the younger children from about 8 years down seemed so thin, undernourished and sickly. The older kids did not seem to be affected as much. Everybody was pretty ragged. This little town had some of the most queerest odors. Parts of it were pretty shattered by shelling.

I picked up a couple of souvenir handkerchiefs and past card pictures. No, not the usual French pictures, just souvenir cards. The beer joints or cafes as they are called in French always seem to be run by women with young vivacious daughters who the boys are always after. However, mama is always there at the critical moment, although the girls don’t find the Yanks advances obnoxious at all. Oh, yes French beer is - horrible.

The three years of German occupation has been a heary strain of these people. God, if that should happen to the U.S.

We stayed overnight and left for England the following morning at the deck, 300 ft above terrain, the overcast was still with us but I was anxious to forestall the possibility of any MIA message. We landed at the repair depot, after dodging a couple of ballons and returned to our base in trucks. All in all, it was a beneficial and educational experience. Everybody performed well.

Funny you’re not scared, you’re skeptical, you have to force yourself to realize the gravity of the situation. Oh well - Nuf said Mum’s the word to the folks.

My biggest disappoint came when I checked the mail room - no mail ! To say I missed you the past two days would be putting it mildly. Wanted you to be able to see what I had seen and experience the sensations I had.



February 9, 1945 Chelveston, England

Hello sweetheart,

I was not disappointed today. Your letters of 24, 25 and 28 January arrived.

Today the boys told me they each said a prayer on that February 7th mission. I said one too - it was to you, to love and protect me always. Keep up the good work and I’ll do my part. It felt well to hear my squadron mates say; 'Glad to see you back, Levine, we were sweating you out'. Needless to say my answer was 'Glad to be back'; Amen!

Its a comforting feeling to know you’re there, thinking of me loving me, protecting me.

All my love



Doris’s response to my letter of February 7 and 8 follows below in her letter of February 19.

My dearest most lovable pilot,

There were 11 letters waiting for me when I came home. While reading your letter dated 7 and 8 February, I felt a strange ache within me. I wish I could have been there when you landed to comfort you. It made me feel so helpless not to have been there. All I can say is that I’m proud of you and without prejudice feel you are a great pilot. Oh, if you could only see my chest expanding even while sitting here. Thank you for sending those souvenirs of France.

I feel like singing after reading your letters and would like to give you my shoulder to lean on.

The 8th Air Force has been doing a swell job this week. Will the mission of the 7th count in your total?

I’m afraid I’ll have to break my promise to you, I can no longer stay away from doing war work. I was more than fed up today cutting out paper dolls while the news of the Tokyo and Berlin raids came over the radio. How insignificant our work is and its wrong to stay here while our husband and sons are over there giving their lives. Your mission of the 7th had much to do with this decision. Saturday I’m going to the U.S. Employment service to see if they can use my experience in the optical field I’m sure you’ll understand my desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

I love you and am proud of you. Best of luck - hope to be seeing you soon.

Mrs Levine



Doris' V-Mail

My Birthday Card from Doris written using V-Mail, airmail that was written on special paper which was photo-reduced prior to sending

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