bombers

Sep

16

1943

Navigating a first combat mission in a B-17 over France


16th September 1943: Navigating a first combat mission in B-17 over France

Finally, the target was reached, bomb-bay doors were opened, the lead bombardier released his bombs, and the other planes toggled their bombs on that signal. The formation headed out to sea, reducing altitude again, so as to fly back to England out of view of German radar on the French coast. The fighters deserted the formation, and headed back to their home bases. I navigated primarily by flight plan, calculating occasional dead-reckoning fixes for practice, and was pleased to find that these fixes agreed closely with the flight plan.

Aug

25

1943

A letter from a Bomber Command Group Captain


25th August 1943: A letter from a Bomber Command Group Captain

Experience up to the present has shown that quite a fair proportion of our flying personnel who are reported missing in operations against the enemy have managed to make a safe descent by parachute or in the aircraft itself. Therefore I am able to assure you that there must be some hope that your son is safe and a prisoner in enemy hands.
 Your son was very well reported on by his Squadron Commander, and I am sure that he and his companions gave a very good account of themselves under whatever circumstances prevented them from bringing their aircraft back.

Aug

23

1943

Bomber Command crews are briefed for Berlin


23rd August 1943: Bomber Command crews are briefed for Berlin

Two hours later, the main brieng hall was packed. This time the gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers were in the big room. The wing commander, a billiard cue in his right hand, traced on the map the course and heights they were to fly at, the estimated time of arrival at their turning points. He told them — and there was a sigh of relief at his words — that twenty minutes before they crossed the enemy coast 22 aircraft from the OTUs would make a dummy feint a hundred miles from their landfall.

Aug

17

1943

Bomber Command smashes secret Nazi weapons site


17th August 1943: Bomber Command smashes secret Nazi weapons site

I stared at the German pilot. You’re no good, I thought. You’re a damned poor shot and a bloody awful pilot. Why the hell doesn’t the mid-upper fire? I snapped the mike switch on. ‘For Christ’s sake, George, shoot that bastard down!’ At once, the guns chattered, and a stream of orange sparks curved slowly down and through the fighter’s nose. He rolled over on his back, and dived straight down, disappearing into a sheet of stratus thousands of feet below.

Aug

12

1943

Flight Sergeant Aaron dies saving his crew


12th August 1943: Flight Sergeant Aaron dies saving his crew

A bullet struck Flight Sergeant Aaron in the face, breaking his jaw and tearing away part of his face. He was also wounded in the lung and his right arm was rendered useless. As he fell forward over the control column, the aircraft dived several thousand feet. Control was regained by the flight engineer at 3,000 feet. Unable to speak, Flight Sergeant Aaron urged the bomb aimer by signs to take over the controls. Course was then set southwards in an endeavour to fly the crippled bomber, with one engine out of action, to Sicily or North Africa.

Aug

1

1943

USAAF long distance, low level raid on Ploesti oil fields


1st August 1943: USAAF long distance, low level raid on Ploesti oil fields

I looked out to the right for a moment and saw a sheet of raw gasoline trailing Pete’s left wing. He stuck right in formation with us. He must have known he was hard hit because the gas was coming out in such volume that it blinded the waist gunners in his ship from our view. Poor Petel Fine religious, conscientious boy with a young wife waiting for him back in Texas. He was holding his ship in formation to drop his bombs on the target, knowing if he didn’t pull up he would have to fly through a solid room of fire with a tremendous stream of gasoline gushing from his ship. I flicked the switch intermittently to fire the remote-control, fixed fifty caliber machine guns specially installed for my use. I watched my tracers dig the ground. Poor Pete. How I wished he’d pull up a few hundred feet and drop from a higher altitude.

Jul

3

1943

A new bomber pilot encounters the skies over Germany

Lancaster engines


3rd July 1943: A new bomber pilot encounters the skies over Germany

The bombs dropped. McLaughlin swung the wheel to port as the bomb-doors closed. Gradually the searchlights and the barrage fell behind us. A sense of relief pervaded me; elated phrases bubbled in my thoughts, and I put my hand to the microphone switch on my mask to utter them. I turned to McLaughlin. His posture was unchanged, his eyes looked back serenely, pale blue, slightly bloodshot. I left the mike switch off, the thoughts unspoken, and bent to take the readings on the fuel gauges.

Jun

28

1943

A USAAF bomber crew waits for an Op.


28th June 1943: A USAAF bomber crew waits for an Op.

They sip the at, tasteless beer. One of them says, “I saw a paper from home at the Red Cross in London.” It is quiet. The others look at him across their glasses. A mixed group of pilots and ATS girls at the other end of the pub have started a song. It is astonishing how many of the songs are American. “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to,” they sing. And the beat of the song is subtly changed. It has become an English song. The waist gunner raises his voice to be heard over the singing. “It seems to me that we are afraid to announce our losses. It seems almost as if the War Department was afraid that the country couldn’t take it. I never saw anything the country couldn’t take.”

Jun

25

1943

Guyanian navigator blasted into the sky over Holland


25th June 1943: Bomber navigator blasted into the sky over Holland

The German fired a long volley and a jet of tracer spat out towards us. Addison, from his tail turret, returned fire immediately. The fighter climbed a little and veered off to the right, bringing him into the field of fire of the mid-upper gunner, Sergeant Geoffrey Wallis, who immediately opened fire. Everything was happening very fast. All hell had broken loose.

Jun

24

1943

Australian Lancaster crew bale out over Belgium


24th June 1943: Australian Lancaster crew bale out over Belgium

We could see Wuppertal, ablaze, in front of us and still ten miles away. Dozens of searchlights speared skywards around the familiar box barrage of exploding anti-aircraft shells. Green and red target indicators confirmed the presence of our Pathfinder force. Heavy bombers were as thick as flies, thankfully all going in somewhat the same direction.