|From Fantasy To Reality
© Copyright 2002 by Wally Hoffman
“I did not die, and did not
remain alive; now think for thyself,
if thou hast any grain of ingenuity, what I became,
deprived of both life and death”
“Once one has reached the point of no return—Reality then begins."
I walked through the gate at the Flight Museum onto the tarmac at Boeing Field observing one of the most beautiful and enduring planes of WW II, the B 17 Flyingfortress. I was scheduled to make a local flight, which would be the first time I had flown in a B 17 since February 1945. As I go in through the waist door I was advised to proceed through the bomb bay to the flight deck. I stood behind the pilot and copilot while they went through the pre- flight check list everything came back to me. I found myself registering the preflight list as I had done when I was a 22-year-old pilot. Looking at the instrument panel I identified where and what they all were. There are about 156 instrument and controls, starting the engines I found myself going through all the steps with them. We were soon airborne, and after leaving the pattern the copilot turned to me and ask if I would like to sit in for a few minutes. This was unbelievable as this flight was turning into an experience of lifetime. It was like a time warp as if I had never left as the plane responded to the light touch to the controls, and was surging to go like I remembered with a full bomb load. We were flying locally, but I spent my time looking at the instruments continually being amazed that every one was where I remembered and at the proper reading.
All too soon I lifted myself from the seat, and looked at the Pilot in the left seat and thought about 1943, and the historic mission to Schweinfurt. That was the position I had occupied as Pilot. In addition to flying and getting the plane under duress to and from the target I was also the airplane commander. Flying a 10-man weapon I was responsible for the safety and efficiency of the crew.
Chris was our 20-year-old copilot and just a little over a year before had been working in a shipyard in Vancouver. He was the executive officer and my right hand man and would take over the flying when needed, was also the engineering officer proficient in engine operations. When he would realize I was getting tired he would always tap me on the shoulder and with a smile indicate he was taking the controls. He was the playboy of the crew always wisecracking and rough housing and always had a positive attitude.
I dropped down to go to the nose, and looked at the bomb sight and there sat Phil our bombardier who was the largest man on the crew at 6 feet 4 inches and the most reserved character of the crew. Phil had been an Assistant Manager in a hardware store in Muncie, Indiana. As we left to go overseas he had received a "Dear John" letter, which ate him up, but he never showed it. As the Bombardier he was responsible for the accurate and effective bombing which is the purpose of the entire airplane and crew. He was responsible for the success or failure of the mission on that interval of the bomb run, and in addition manned the nose guns for head on attacks. He also initiated the oxygen checks every 10 minutes, with some smart wisecrack.
As I turned to the left there was the Navigator’s table and I could see that constant smile from Eddie who was the youngest in the crew at 19 and always bouncing with seemingly unending energy, Just a year ago he had been at Penn State hoping to become an Engineer. He must direct the flight from departure to return knowing the exact position of the airplane at all times keeping a log of the flight, plus operating the cheek guns.
As I returned to the flight deck I expected to see "Pappy" (John who was the oldest man of the crew at 27) transferring fuel or whirling around in the top turret always looking for enemy planes. Pappy had been a lead man in a steel mill in Pittsburgh, and I was always sure he could have had a deferment, but felt he had a job to do get the war on its way. Pappy never seemed to get excited and never showed any fear except for chewing on his ever-present pipe. He is the chief source of information concerning the airplane and spent many of his free hours with the crew chief. In addition to operating the top turret he must work closely with the Co-Pilot checking engine operation, fuel consumption, and the operation of all equipment. He also worked with the Bombardier to cock, lock, and loads the bomb racks.
I walk through the narrow 6-inch walkway in the bomb bay and opened the door to the radio room. Sitting there is Mike our Radio Operator with his head down coping code like mad from some station, not too long ago had been working making radio equipment in Rochester, NY. The little compartment is full of radio equipment, and I had full confidence knew all about this equipment, and how to operate it. Mike was always giving us positions reports, and assisting the Navigator in taking fixes plus keeping the liaison and command sets properly tuned and in good operating conditions. When the flak was at its worst Mike would huddle down with his flak helmet and tune in the fastest code he could find to transcribe.
I opened the door to the waist where most of the offensive firepower from the caliber 50 machine guns to ward off the approaching fighters is found. The B 17 is the most effective gun platform which our Gunners very proficiency applied their duties against enemy action. The power Turrets require many mental and physical qualities similar to an inherit flying ability. The flexible Gunners must have a fine sense of timing, and be familiar with the speed and path for leading the attacking fighter.
There in from of me is the Ball Turret and standing ready to enter the turret is Bill who a year ago was working on the assembly line for GM in Detroit, MI. The Ball Turret protects the bottom of the plane, and the gunner fits into in an almost fetal position with the guns on both side of him. With control handles he moves the turret around and up and down to point the guns. Should something happen to the plane this is the most dangerous position, as he must crawl out to attach his parachute to leave the plane. Bill always took the opportunity to say a prayer for all of us with his Priest before each mission, and when things became rough you always would hear "Holy Cow"
Just behind are the two waist gunners. Bob commands the left waist gun, and a year ago he was preparing to enter a Seminary to become a Minister in his church. Bob carried a fear of a crash and burning on take off in all the missions. He worried for all of us. He finished his tour and was killed in a crash in Wales returning home. The right waist gun belonged to Jim who was from West Texas who always had a story to tell and was always on the intercom. He was probably the best shot of all the Gunners.
Then there was the Tail Gunner, John who had the coldest and most precarious position in the plane who hailed from Kalispell, Montana. A little over a year ago he had been driving log trucks. He was always getting one last shot at the fighters, having to continually refill his ammunition belts. Several times he had to change barrels in flight.
My memory flashes back to that fateful day of October 14, 1943, which began with that pesky flashlight in my face, and the invitation —"Breakfast at Five and Briefing at Six." I remember dragging my eyes open and getting my thoughts together, little did I know how the reality of this fateful day would end.
This was mission number four. I wonder what hellish target is on that map in the Briefing Room? We’ve been to Cologne, Bremen, and Kassel and flew as a Spare yesterday. If nothing else we are surely learning the geography of Germany. This time I shaved in warm water, as I had kept in mind to fill my helmet and put it on the stove before going to bed. There had been hot water last night, so had the luxury of a hot shower. We seem to be getting into a routine as I dressed in layers from the clothes I laid out the night before.
Walking out the door I glanced at those empty beds with the mattresses rolled up, and thought those guys were here yesterday doing the same things I am doing today. Outside, it was ink black, and foggy, they couldn’t possibly have us take off with such limited visibility well below minimums. Walking into the Combat Mess there was the usual knot in my stomach, and those eggs were still staring at me. Sitting down at the table with the rest of the crew there was Bob (Sgt Robert Smith) with a full plate and a blank look on his face. Resnik (S
Sgt John Resnik) was no longer interested in eating too much after that first mission when at altitude he ended up with terrific cramps.
I thought what you learn with each mission: (1) using a condom to put over the mike in your oxygen mask to keep it dry, (2) keep squeezing your oxygen mask so the ice doesn’t clog it up, (3) then shaking the ice out. I was now smart enough to carry two masks. (4) Using a condom to urinate by tying a knot in it, and throwing it out as a gift to Germany (When my children ask what I had done during the war I told them, "the pleasure of pissing all over Germany").
On the first mission soon after we left the target many of the planes would again open their bomb bay doors and you would see one or two cardboard chaff boxes come tumbling out (chaff were thin strips of tinfoil used to confuse the German radar). When ask I received a big laugh and was advised this is "Our Secret Weapon", you will soon find out! On the trip to Bremen one of the crew had to answer nature’s call. He used one of the chaff boxes and we were also able to bomb Germany twice on that trip (Lord Haw Haw on a radio broadcast accused our bomb group of conducting "Biological Warfare").
Suddenly the doors to the Briefing Room swung open, and the MPs were checking our names off the mission list. Almost immediately we are all enveloped in a heavy smoke haze, with the temperature increasing noticeably from all the body heat of everyone sweating out the mission. I look around everyone is sitting at all angles and postures. Some are sitting up straight as a ramrod staring sightlessly ahead, and some are even sound asleep. Others are engaged in animated conversations about nothing with their neighbors. We were all well acquainted with fear. Knowing full well the specter of death incessantly hovered over all of us as she patiently waited to take us to her bosom. We are confident in each other and knew only too well the odds were stacked against us, but we had the flying fortress with the spirit and the soul pushing those odds in our favor. The plane was our protector as it continued against all probability to get us back to our base. It might have been battered and broken with less than a full deck of engines, but would some how struggle to get us home. There was a bond of trust between the heart and soul of the B 17 and the crew who flew her.
Abruptly a nattily dressed Major (a ground-pounder) steps on the stage and begins roll call, calling the names of each crew commanders as each pilot answers for his crew. Moving to the back of the stage he drew the strings of the black curtain of doom revealing the map of Europe, which would dictate our lives for the next fourteen hours. There is a hushed silence as everyone leans forward following the fateful end of the red yarn. "It’s Schweinfurt" the Major says with a mordant smile, and gives us time to think. Abruptly a buzz of voices breaks out, and one voice says "Sonofabitch! This is my Last Mission." And it was, as he was one of those who never made it back.
The Security Officer steps forward and instructs us; "Do not talk about the mission once you have left the room, and this applies to a Scrubbed Target. Be sure to wear your dog tags, GI shoes, and don’t wear any insignia. Carry your rank, name and serial number, and no billfolds, pictures, nor letters. No one will leave this briefing until dismissed." We were told this at every briefing.
Everyone now is sitting up attentively listening to the intelligence officer. There is no longer any screwing around for his instructions are life and death to us. You experience the immediate feeling of the immeasurable doom, which goes through the briefing room, and no one looks at one another. We are all thinking the same thing, "Who will be absent from here tonight?" "How many crews will get it today?"
The flak should be light enroute although we will pick up some south of the Ruhr. About 500 88mm guns will defend the target and the gun crews are very good. We would be under aimed fire from the flak for seven minutes on the IP. This means that all during the 7 minutes we will be flying straight and level into the dense flak with no evasive action possible. The enemy fighters will be persistent and aggressive. The fighters will try to break up the formation with head-on attacks. Don’t panic and try to dodge. This leaves you wide open if you become a straggler. Always stay in the defensive diamond formations and if someone ahead of you gets knocked out of the formation, move right up into his place, for he has been hit and will go down anyway. We would never dally around, because it’s our necks.
The weather officer takes the stage and is the least assuring of all. The weather is lousy. The visibility is down to ¼ of a mile but we were assured it would be up to one mile by take off (it wasn’t). You are rolling down a foggy runway, which is only a mile long with 3,000 gallons of 100 octane flaming inferno, and the belly of our plane is pregnant with stifled hell. Everyone begins to leave as that is our day. We proceed to our special briefings and to pick up our flimsies, but some wait. They assemble in little groups as men slip to their knees before their chaplains-Protestant, Catholic, and Jew.
As I walked into the ready room I was suddenly hit with this deep depression and a feeling of dread as I thought, "This is not the glamorized Wild Blue Yonder we had all heard so many times." We will be fighting 6 miles above the earth in an open plane. The temperature will be minus 50 to 60 degrees below zero on an oxygen mask trying to stay alive in the rarefied air. There are no foxholes to hide in up there. Most of the time there isn’t even the opportunity of fighting back; you just sit there and take it. We will be living by the laws of chance as we drive through the flak, which always seems thick enough to walk on. There is always that possibility to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the projectile shot at us by random from the ground would intersect the plane and ourselves? We are continually facing the life and death struggle of the plane with all of us inside. Maybe some dead, perhaps some wounded, and some not even scratched. It wasn’t the anxiety of maybe being killed before the day ended, but a deeper far-off feeling as if I weren’t operating within my own body. As I put on my electric flight suit and heavy flight clothes, for the long mission, I looked at the rest of the crew with a detached and lonely sadness wondering will we still be together tonight? No way did I want to expose my feelings to the crew for fear they would feel I was not equal to doing my part, all of our lives totally depended on each other.
In kind of a dream I proceeded to our plane, thinking the B 17 was certainly a very forgiving plane to fly. Once it was in the air you would set the trim tabs and the plane would stay where you had set it. This of course greatly reduced the amount of leg and shoulder effort especially in formation flying. There was always the natural air turbulence, prop wash from other planes, and the flak, always requiring considerable physical effort in the long hours of a mission. Other tricks you learn are sighting on the element lead, a light hand on the throttles always being aware of the attitude, power and position changes, trim settings, relaxation techniques. The B 17 always responded making life a little easier allowing you that extra effort when calamity struck. The plane response with one or two of those durable engines out the plane would somehow get you back to England if there was enough of the plane left to somehow keep flying.
I went through the motions of the checklist for pre-flight inspecting the plane with the crew chief. I was there, physically doing all things, which were necessary, but seemed detached and totally out of my body I had the feeling I was in another dimension watching what I was doing. I was there, but wasn’t there. Knowing we were in for a rough mission and would catch hell from the fighters we loaded many additional boxes of caliber 50 ammunition. We rechecked our flak suits and helmets then all of us made one last trip to the bushes to relieve ourselves.
All too soon there was the green flare and we were starting the engines, taxiing into position, checking our magnetos. The throttles move forward with the engine noise becoming a bass scream. Moving down the runway we could barely see just skimming those damn trees just barely making it off the ground. We soon were climbing out and formed up at 28,000 feet. Soon we were crossing the English Channel heading for Europe with the contrails following behind us for the Luftwaffe to see
Abruptly with a shock I hear on the intercom from the top turret "Bandits 9:00 O’clock High" instantaneously followed by warning from the tail and the nose of fighters coming in from all directions. Immediately you could feel those 20 millimeters going through the plane. The sound of a cannon shell hitting a fortress depends on where you are. If you aren’t too close it is like a metallic woof and you feel a jar that shakes the whole plane, which reaches you and leaves you instantly. If the shell explodes close to you there is nothing gentle and it certainly isn’t a momentary tremor. It is like a giant slapping his hand on the water. There are two sounds one from the impact and the second of it exploding. It’s like firing a shotgun into a bucket which all comes back exploding in your face. For a moment you aren’t scared because your senses are dulled. Your bowels seem weak, (you tighten your pucker string); your stomach shrivels up until you can figure out how much you are hurt. It was then a huge electrical shock had hit me and from then on to this day I have never felt fear. It was as if my mind had gone into a corner to hide and had then come charging out to do battle. In talking to others later, I found we all have gone through some factors of this type of withdrawal. Some retreated from themselves and would no longer be able perform.
As the fighters descended upon us I immediately found myself in a world alien to everything I had ever experienced as the maelstrom began. There were ME-109s and FW-190s leaping into existence from everywhere without warning. When they began firing you saw sudden flashes of light winking at you from the distance. Soon there existed a canopy of cannon shells and bombs, aerial mines and rockets exploding everywhere. Each one was intent on hitting our pregnant bomb load and us. We were no longer in a stately march in tight combat formation. We try desperately to return to the crisp efficiency of our tight formation, but it is impossible to achieve in this raging space of time. We find ourselves slogging our way through a thickening mass of exploding flame and smoke, with planes blowing up and spinning in leaving a trail of parachutes behind. We drive ahead through a solid whirlwind of steel splinters, flame, and jagged chunks of red hot metal. The steel is everywhere; it crashes into wings, engines, and bulkhead and airplane bodies; and into the bodies of men spewing blood, tissues, intestines, and brains.
The plane seemingly is alive with lights as all the guns are firing and the noise is deafening. There is incessantly on the intercom the shout of "incoming bandits" from all around the clock. The thirteen caliber 50 machine guns of our plane can be heard and felt above all the roar of the plane. Our world seems to plunge into insanity as the sounds of air battle are all around us seemingly merging into an inhuman shriek. Our ship doesn’t seem to be occupied by men. We are beings from another world, with the strange breathing systems dangling beneath our faces.
As quickly as it started the fighters are gone and we are alone with only the extremely bright sun. Our enemy now is the temperature, which is minus sixty degrees and never seems to relax its vigil exposing us to sensitive freezing flesh and frostbite.
Central Germany is now below us and in the distance we can see the first black specks of flak over the target. We begin a radio check to assess what battle damage we had taken and were everybody OK? Soon, everyone was checking in: Tail OK, except almost out of ammo and was reloading the belts; Waist OK, lost my flak helmet somewhere; Ball Turret, one of the side windows was hit and can’t see anything except straight ahead; Radio, OK; Top Turret, think I was hit in the leg and my ammunition boxes are gone with one gun inoperable. It turns out that a 20 mm came through the turret knocking out one of the guns and the ammo boxes on each side. This also tore off his flight suit at the thigh. He had a slight red mark on one leg. Ammo boxes were moved in and connected to the remaining gun with the hope they wouldn’t jam.
In the cockpit the gauges were still working but all the glass on the dials looks as if someone had taken a hammer to them. The radio compass is shattered and the other radios are hanging by their connecting cords. All seem to be working; at least the intercom is OK. The right portion of the windshield in front of the co-pilot has two vicious looking cracks in it. The co-pilot’s flak helmet was knocked off and has a huge hole in it. He doesn’t have a mark although I think he is turning gray. In the nose one of the cheek guns is out, the navigator’s table is shattered as well as his instruments and flight log. For all the holes unbelievably all four engines are running and our plane is still flying. It’s a miracle nobody has been seriously wounded.
When we turned on IP the bombardier is already looking for his aiming point as the plane controls are hooked to the bombsight. Again the fighters are coming in all directions, but this time it is the squadron ahead who are taking the beating. Soon the sky around us filled with flak burst, paving a solid black-steel asphalt roadway to Schweinfurt. The explosions sound as if someone is throwing rocks at you when they burst close. Those flak gunners on the ground are good. Normally the fighters will usually leave when you get into the flak on the IP for the target, this time they are flying through their own flak. Apparently, they have been ordered to defend the target at all costs. These fighters may be the enemy but I have never seen braver men. All the German efforts to keep us from the target have so far failed, but we have paid a tremendous price in men and planes. The stakes were high but the "Devil" was the winner. The target below is now fast deteriorating into smoke and debris as our strings of bombs walk through the city. The dead will outnumber our losses by a great number. Finally we feel the plane lighten in little upward jerks as the bombs pass out the bomb bay on their way to Germany. We are now at the halfway point of the mission as we begin a wide turn to the right. There is little need to get into formation, as everyone is staying close. As we make our turn one can see the other formations behind us. They look ragged and are still under attack from the fighters. The fighters are leaving the "cripples" alone, going for those planes still carrying bombs. As we turn you can see the target below and the sticks of bombs on their six-mile flight to the earth. The target is covered with smoke and gray dust is rising from the impact of the bombs.
As we look out there are no fighters roaring in against us with their guns winking at us. It seems so quiet and good to only hear the noise of the engines and the air rushing by as our faithful girl hurtles us towards our base in England. We are soon over France and a few fighters appear in the distance but do not press any attack against us. We wonder are they as low on ammunition and as tired as we are? We also now look for our little friends and assume they must be busy somewhere else. The cloud cover comes up to 20,000 feet and we are told to let down over the channel. Each group will proceed to their base individually. We soon see the angry water of the channel, and are flying up the "Wash" (a large estuary on the east coast of England). When the smokestacks of Peterborough are in sight we turn southwest and there is Polebrook below us. What a wonderful sight, and how many times in the past twelve hours have we all wondered if we’d ever see the base again?
As we cross the field preparing to break into the landing pattern we can see the men on the handstands, the meat wagons with the large red cross on the top, and the fire trucks parked all along the runway. They are all watching us and counting the bombers and trying to read the symbols as we fly over. All at once, there are large numbers of red flares indicating wounded on board. They have the priority to proceed into the pattern and land first. Soon we are lined up with the runway on our final approach, crossing the boundary of the field, begin the flare and soon the wheels are finally touching the runway. We made it and are again down on mother earth. As the tail settles to the runway, there is a terrific bang as if the plane had been ripped apart, followed with a loud screeching of metal! Not only had the tail wheel blown, but also the whole tail assembly seems to be dragging behind the plane. The tower tells us we look like a giant sparkler and as soon as we have completed our roll to pull off the runway and get out of the plane. We find later that during the fighter attacks the total frame just forward of the horizontal stabilizer had been totally torn apart by the 20mm shells. Only the skin and the control cables held it together. We complete our roll and moving off the runway into the grass and mud. The faithful engines’ roar dies out and the silence is followed by a mad dash of everyone from the plane. As we are leaving the plane a fire truck and ambulance are Johnny-on-the-spot.
Our plane, "Morning Delight" just seemed to sit there panting. That gallant lady gave us all she had and more for the total effort during the past 10 hours. She never flew again as she was so heavily damaged and became another "Queen Bee’s"--(used for parts). You don’t live and fly a fortress for months without coming to know the plane in the most intimate way. You know the sturdy construction she represents and how forgiving she is to fly. She is there in our hearts, for all of us for the days to come if by chance we survive this war.
We retrieve our gear from the plane and are picked up by a truck. We pass the handstands (parking and maintenance area for the plane) with their waiting crews. They all wave and give us the victory sign. However, many of these ground crews will soon silently and sadly return to their headquarters as their plane and crewmen, who were a part of them, did not return. They will wait for a new bomber with a new combat crew. We have the truck stop at our hardstand so we can tell the crew chief and his people that we made it. If it weren’t for the maintenance on that plane we would probably be down somewhere in Germany and now a statistic. It is a little wonder we have come to the realization it is impossible to complete a full tour. Everyone comes to the conclusion you will either get it, or be shot down eventually.
As we all proceed to de-briefing you look around and the faces this morning, which had the look of expectation are now gray and blank. We are all thinking of too many friends who have gone down in flames before our eyes. What about tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that? There are too many concrete handstands stained with oil and grease where the bombers had once stood so majestically are now standing empty, only a terrible aching void remains. A ground crewman is seen aimlessly walking off looking as if he had lost his brother.
In the de-briefing room we all sit around the table and this time the questions are quietly asked with a great deal of consideration. How many fighters, types, and methods of attack? Were there any special weapons or markings? How about the flak, how much, did it appear accurate?
THE FOLLOWING IS A QUOTE FROM A POST MISSION BRIEFING OF A B-17 PILOT, OCTOBER 14, 1943:
"I had accepted the fact that I was not going to live through this mission. It was as simple as that. I was calm; it was a strange sort of resignation. I knew for certain that it was only a matter of seconds or minutes. It was impossible for us to survive...." (This sums it up for all of us).
The de-briefing was usually not so solemn, however, this time all of us are totally engulfed by the shock of the mission. Most of us still didn’t believe we are here, safe on the ground. We are bone tired (I still remember how tired I was all the time I flew combat) and feel sick with the reflection of all that death. We somehow survived but our friends and brothers were struck down, never to return from that undiscovered country from whom no traveler returns. We all stare at the floor with eyes glazed, smoke cigarettes, and drink tasteless coffee. As we are leaving the briefing room we notice that Bob is stumbling along. We see, as we look closer that he is crying—for all of us thinking of those who didn’t get back. Despite all these attacks against our formations the 8th Air Force was never turned back by enemy opposition and always bombed the target. We had a life expectancy of three and half missions before fighter cover all the way to the target became possible. Those of us who came home and got on with our lives ask ourselves the question: "Why me—why did I survive?" Only through the advent of the P 51 and the pilots who flew them were we able to complete our missions. Those fighters and the determination of those who flew them rescued "Daylight Bombing".
Thus ended the fateful day when I was introduced to reality.
We remember the battle, which took place five miles up in the air where we fought to the death. There is no way anyone could ever re-visit the battleground as it took place in the sky, which today is now washed clean. There are no scars and no one can walk the battleground and say here by that hill is where it all took place. There were neither bystanders nor any noncombatants with a first hand look. All those who saw the battle were on the ground six miles or more away, and they saw only the flaming planes, the parachutes, contrails, explosions, smoke, and the charred bodies. Nor did they see the flak and bullet riddled planes as they struggled home to an asphalt runway across the English Channel to return in the coming days. There no longer exists the roar of all those planes, the flashing propellers, open hatches with the smoking 50 caliber machine guns. The punishment of the long hours, at sub zero temperature, breathing oxygen in the frozen uncomfortable oxygen mask because of the thin rarefied air.
That page of blazing history is now closed, although the scars of those of us who came home will always remain. It is always easy to write of the battles won with the enemy conquered. We fought and struggled to reach the target and on the way were mauled and shot to pieces by the fighters and flak guns of the enemy. The German pilots knew only too well the effectiveness against our bombers. They also witnessed the burning planes, bombers with the wings torn off, crews tumbling through the air, and the burning bodies. How could those bomber crews take such punishment and hand it back while continuing to fly towards the target? There never was a question of not reaching the target, no matter how many formations were split apart, how many bombers were in flame, and how cruel the test. The following is a quote from a Tail Gunner of the 388th Bomb Group: As we left the coast of Europe the Luftwaffe disappeared. I bent forward rested my head on the window and began to cry uncontrollably. I stopped long enough to say "Thank You God". I cannot to this day know from where came the voice "Trust Me". But in my heart I knew I had not been alone in the tail."
The citizens of Schweinfurt have erected a monument in Schweinfurt to this battle with the following inscription:
"IN MEMORY OF CITIZENS OF SCHWEINFURT
AND AIRMEN OF THE 8TH U.S. AIR FORCE AND THE GERMAN LUFTWAFFE WHO LOST THEIR
LIVES IN MISSION 115, OCTOBER 14, 1943, KNOWN TO THOSE WHO WERE THERE AS
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Wally's Story List and Biography