One Day in a Very Long War

The four engines revved up to their maximum 8,800 horsepower and then, at fifty-second intervals, the planes slowly started off down the mile—and-a—half runways. Though the thunderous pounding of piston engines was heard instead of the whine of jets, the Superfortresses were very much the ‘Jumbos’ of their day, dwarfing other bomber types and with extremely slender wings whose slight swaying seemed altogether inappropriate to the task of getting even the four massive engines airborne let alone the rest of the enormously long plane.




US bombers prepare the ground for Operation Cobra

The devastating bomb load is released.

It was impossible to give help as long as the air raid lasted. Several companies of the 5th Para Division who tried to withdraw to the north in the direction of Marigny were entirely destroyed by Lightnings, pursuit planes and bombers. On that day my company lost one officer, and 34 non-commissioned officers and enlisted men. The attack lasted approximately three hours.




Attacks on French airfields are stepped up

A B-24 over Orly airfield on the 14th May

Mack told us that we were about 50 miles from the French coast. This also reminded us of the briefing before the operation when we were told of the heavy coastal defences, in particular the light anti-aircraft batteries. After injecting pain—killing drugs into Bill’s arms, I acted as another pair of eyes from the astrodome. By now Ron had decided to take the aircraft down as close to the ground as possible, and we literally hedge-hopped across France with the three engines giving us some l80mph




Bombing – Berliners ‘prepared to see it through’

B17 over Berlin

Special rations and fear help things along, there’s grumbling here and there, but on the whole people carry on with self-confident Berlin wit and cockiness. No one is expecting imminent defeat; some say the war will last another two years, others, that the decisive German “retribution” is at hand. (For months there was official talk of “retribution,” then the public scoffed at it, then nothing more was heard of it. And now it pops up again in this account.)




Heavy civilian casualties as the Allies bomb Paris

From a B-17 Flying Fortress of the 8th AAF Bomber Command on 31 December when they attacked the vital CAM ball- bearing plant and the nearby Hispano Suiza aircraft engine repair depot in Paris, France, 1943.

Thus, I woke up at 5am and boarded the first Métro carriage which stopped at Jules Joffrin station. From there I reached, running more or less, the warehouse. Everything was burning. The Porte de La Chapelle was particularly knocked down. All the houses have collapsed on the ground. A bomb exploded over the Métro which is in shambles. From the Porte de La Chapelle to our warehouse [ca. 1 km], everything was flames and devastation. The bombing was very dense.




The bombing of Semlin Judenlager

The post raid evaluation of bomb strikes with the target area marked in white and the area of Semlin subsequently make in red.

Besides the dead, there were several hundred wounded, so the surviving pavilions were turned into hospitals. There were no beds, and certainly no bandages or surgical equipment, although we did have several doctors and surgeons among the interns




A day in the life of a 8th Air Force radio operator

B-17s en route to another target in Germany.

British and American pursuit ships are always buzzing our field, sometimes within 15 feet of the runways, I guess it’s to help us along in our aircraft recognition. Today my pilot took some us and returned the compliment. He did a good job too. I wish you could have seen us. The Limey’s seldom see such a big ship out buzzing them and they were all eyes, we could see them from where we were.




Easter – a ‘macabre idyll’ in a ‘grotesque’ Berlin

Charred corpses are removed from the cellars of bombed out buildings in Berlin. 8th April 1944

Children play on the lake, although they are forbidden to do so, and have made themselves rafts out of charred planks. A child was almost drowned the other day and was only saved at the last minute by an attaché from the Swiss legation. Flowers grow in the rubble, rank and yellow, but the air is clean and the weeds are green and fish have already settled down in the lake. It is a kind of macabre idyll.




USAAF return to bomb the oil refinery at Ploesti

Smoke rises from the Astra Romana refinery in Ploesti Romania following low level bombing attack by B-24 Liberators, Aug 1 1943.

One hour and ten minutes before target time 2 FW 190’s were seen flying in from the south and they stayed with our formation until the first attack was made acting as observers and, without doubt, radioing information as to strength and heading to attacking units. The first attack come 25 minutes from the target by 10/12 ME 109’s who, using cloud cover, made a surprise attack from 12 o’clock high.




Relieving the Gurkhas in front of the Monastery

German prisoners captured by New Zealand troops are held at gunpoint on a road beside a Sherman tank. After repeated unsuccessful assaults, the Allied offensive was again called off on 22 March.

As we worked our way up the terraced, shell-torn slope towards the ruin of a building that looked like the headquarters we were seeking, the smell of death – the old familiar smell – became increasingly powerful. The most immediate cause turned out to be a mule, in an advanced stage of decomposition, and black with feasting flies. (Wags later used the mule as a signpost for visitors. They used to say ‘bear hard right when the mule begins to smell really strongly’.)