WELCOMING A NEW CREW, December 15th, 1943 -
(submitted by Magnus Kimura, 399th
Welcome to the 399th Bomb Squadron, Lt. Mershon! I'm Lt. Frank Kingsley, and these gentlemen are in my crew. This is 2nd Lt. Nat Duncan, from Anderson, South Carolina. His slow southern drawl is hard to understand sometimes, and you might need an interpreter. If you do, ask Lt. Shannon. They spend a lot of time together in the nose and they speak the same language, since Vic is from Texas. Hiding behind Vic is Lt. Siegel, our co-pilot from Colorado. Knows everything about the mountains and how to live, how to really live, you know?
Lieutenant, we arrived on the 12th, and were assigned to the 399th and hoped that we would get a few days of rest and more training, but yesterday we we were thrown into it. Went on our first mission, flying with the 318th. It was hell. Lost a good friend, our waist gunner, Sgt. Landau. It's hard to understand. He's been with us a long time and suddenly he's gone. It was hell yesterday . . .
No, no, let's drink to your arrival and . . . to the 399th! Well, we're only two ships, but it's a start.
And lost friends.
Now playing "Scrap Happy Daffy" at the Movie Tent.- (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 318th Sqn)
Well, at least it's a canned morale that we can laugh at! It's better then the canned news that we have been getting. Seems like nothing is going right out in the Pacific Theater right now.
WELCOMING THE NEW REPLACEMENTS, December 17th, 1943 -
(submitted by Paul Sommer, 316th
"Lieutenant Coleridge? Hi, I'm Jones, Robert Jones but you can call me Bob. Personnel sent me here. I'm your new co-pilot."
Coleridge studied the new man. Early twenties, barely old enough to shave. Although he knew the answer, he'd asked anyway. "Any combat experience, Bob?"
"Do I have any combat experience? Well, sorry sir, but I just got here last week . . . Spent most of my time in paper work hell at Wing."
"Lieutenant Coleridge? We understand you specifically asked for us? Hello, I'm Mark Walton your new bombardier and this here is your new navigator, Stephen Martinsen. You're lucky; you're getting two guys who have some experience. I've gone on one mission while Stephen has been on two.
"Lieutenant. I'm Steve. Pleased to meet you. You won't regret you decision by selecting Mark and me to be a part of your crew."
Coleridge looks up with a grave smile. "Glad to have you guys with us . . . the crew is a little down after the last trip. Your job is to pep 'em up some, okay? That's all guys. Move your stuff in and settle down "
NEXT-OF-KIN REPLY - (submitted by Jay Haygood, 316th Sqn)
Lt. Colonel Lamb,
I would like to thank you for the kind words at the loss of my nephew Ben Sterling. I am glad to hear you felt he did his duty while under your command.
This war has taken many of our friends and family and will probably take many more before this dreadful time is past. But I hope that the courage and conviction displayed by our fathers, sons, and brothers will see us through this so we may all live in a better world.
Continued good luck to everyone in the 88BG from the 200BG.
Thanks again for your words about Ben.
Brig. General Sterling, commanding, 200BG
DIARY ENTRIES FOR LT. YOSHIKAWA - (submitted by
Mark Yoshikawa, 317th
Well, here we are after the second mission. So far, we had two Casey Jones' missions and we were able to get out of the first one unscathed, but the second raid was a different matter. On the second one, SSgt. Matsura was seriously injured and looks like he will be sent back stateside. Hopefully he will be able to recover fully in an Army Hospital instead of being sent back to Tule Lake where his parents were sent. I hope he will be the last one that I have to see go. But I know that this is a false hope. At least we didn't provide more names to the butcher bill. I know that in this raid the list was long. (One plane didn't come back and presumed that all hands were lost).
As far as the second raid, the good news that we were able to hit the target again, the bad news is SSgt. Matsura. We did hit a lot of planes (killed three ratzy planes and damaged three). The plane is also in decent shape still since all the damage was just on the starboard wing. All of which the hanger lice should be able to fix before our next mission. Lt. Osa still show's why he's a goofer, this time he was able to damage one FW 190. Like I said before, he should be able to make Ace before long.
This last mission we were in Bulgeria, where it was field officer's weather. The AA over the target wasn't bad at all. In fact, Lt. Osa was able to look through the greenhouse and not sweat about getting hit him before the drop. All he had to do is fly the iron bean to the target. I hope the future targets will be this easy. We don't need more guy's biting the dust like they did on the last mission.
Found out that family is in the Rowher Relocation Center in Arkansas. Talk about irony's! Being sent to an area where all there is are rednecks! From what Mom and Dad say, the Negro's are treated better then they are. Hope this thing doesn't last to long; Don't want Dad to feel that he's useless since there before the was he worked on the farm seven day's a week.
Hope next mission will be as easy as the last two!
December 19, 1943
The good news . . . is scuttlebutt is that we don't have another Casey Jones' mission. The bad news . . . is the scuttlebutt say's that we are tail-end Charlie. So Sgt. Hayashi who is the tail stinger better keep his eye's open. Since every kraut plane coming in at 6:00 o'clock will be coming to him first! At least we aren't in the Purple Heart corner. We don't need to be in that position this soon after the last mission. Hope this is a piece of cake; will find out tomorrow how long of a haul we have.
We have a good crew of hanger lice. They were able to fix the damage from the last mission and we have a plane that is good as new. I hope that we don't bring in the plane with a bunch of holes like we did last time. With all the damage the other planes are getting, I don't think other crews will be able to help us.
Went and saw SSGT. Matsura yesterday. He looks better, at least he has more color to him then when they pulled him out of the plane a couple of day's ago. From what I understand from the butch that was taking care of him, he should be able to recover from his wounds fairly quickly. Just that it will take a while for him to be able to get is strength is all. I hope that I don't have to do this on a regular basis is all.
"DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?" - (submitted by Todd Wilson, 318th Sqn)
"Hey Lieutenant, what's the good news?"
Lt. Todd Wilson looked up to see his ball gunner, Sgt. Mick
Archibald, throwing a football in his direction. Awkwardly catching
the pass in the pre-dawn light the young lieutenant smiled at thoughts of family and friends, and a happier life far away. Five
days before Christmas he had hoped their wouldn't be another mission until after the 25th, but of course that was expecting too much from the army. "The good news? Weren't you at the briefing with everyone else?"
Mick smiled, "Of course, but I wanted my commander's opinion, you know, to build my confidence."
Feigning a fatherly tone Wilson answered Mick who was only a
few months younger, "Well in that case son, it's going to be a cake
walk. We'll be in the middle of the 88th for a change so we shouldn't be
as busy as last mission. And although we're flying in
the lead squadron at least we're not up front. That 'honour' goes to Lt. Smith and his crew in Gold Dragon."
With a sympathetic grimace Mick replied, "Lucky guys."
Getting serious again, the lieutenant continued, "I know what you mean Mick. Hopefully we can expect better protection from the P-38s now that they have those new drop tanks."
"Well then, what's the bad news?" Mick asked, though not wanting to hear any answer.
"Not much. It'll be a LONG trip to the target and Intel is
expecting heavier flak then we've had before. Don't worry though,
Lucky Laurel has been a good bird so far . . . and we've got the best crew in the 15th Air Force. Right?" With a friendly smile Wilson tossed the ball back at Mick, "You'll see, this mission is like an early Christmas present. You better get your gear sorted, but I'm thinking the football can stay here." Mick nodded and headed to the locker room.
That was better, Wilson thought to himself. He was always worried about looking like a leader and he wasn't happy with the way he had lost his temper on the Sofia mission. Swearing after his navigator Pat Carriere was killed wasn't good leadership He recalled his dad's advice . . . "Son remember, when you're in charge your men will look to you to ease their fears. Your confidence will give them courage. Never lose you composure." It had all sounded so easy at the time, but when the bullets are slamming into the plane and your friend is dead . . . well, that's another story.
Thankfully Wilson's plan to get drunk and pick a fight with
Lt. Forrest after the Sofia raid hadn't come to pass. That night, after
writing to Pat's family, his rage was spent and he sat quietly in the officer's club with a cold beer and confused thoughts. Nicks and the entire crew of Flying Bewildered were gone and many men from the 318th were casualties, even Captain Franks was killed. In reality the crew of Lucky Laurel was lucky indeed . . . at least most were alive that night. It's an odd sort of life as a member of a bomber crew -- a few hours of terror separated by days of relative peace and comfort. With only two missions under his belt, Wilson felt the weight of being a leader in combat. "I'll do better next time."
Snapping back to the present Wilson saw the replacement pilots, Andrews and Wilcox readying for their first mission. He had seen these two guys in the mess, but he couldn't make himself go over and pretend to be friendly. He thought it best to wait until after the next mission, just in case they didn't make it. But now, on the verge of battle, that seemed rather 'selfish' (for lack of a better word). Instead, Lt. Todd Wilson as a veteran of just TWO missions yet feeling older and quite experienced smiled at his comrades, "Hey, good luck fellas. This one should be pretty easy. I'll buy you both a beer after the mission to celebrate your first milk run."
MOUNTING UP - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th
As the men of The Russian Lady prepared for their first flight, pilot Frank Andrews looked around at his men. They were serious and, except for the occasional joke from 'Spanky' Lynch, very quiet. Andrews was slightly uncomfortable -- the men were expecting something from him, he could FEEL it -- they wanted inspiring words, comforting words, and he wasn't sure what to say. Finally, as he finished getting ready, Andrews straightened up and cleared his throat. His men looked immediately to him.
"Men," he began as he thought, What a cheesy way to start, "this is our first mission where we'll be seeing enemy fighters and flak. I don't mind telling, I'm a little nervous. I think you'd have to be a fool not to be. But I'm also confident that we're going to get this job done and get back here safely. Because I know what each one of you can do, and I know that we are part of the best army in the world! We have the best training, the best equipment, the best planes, the best leadership," as he thought he saw a few eyebrows raise at that one, but he went on, "but most of all, we have the best men! Let's get up there, concentrate on our jobs like we've been trained to do, and look out for each other."
He didn't think it was his best speech, but it looked like it
loosened the guys up a bit. As he was about to tell the men to mount
up, a voice spoke at his side. Once again, Sgt. Seaton had seemed to appear from nowhere.
"Sir," asked Seaton tentatively, "would you mind if I led the crew in a brief prayer?"
"Uh, no, go ahead, sergeant," replied Andrews.
But before he could start, a voice roared from nearby "Andrews! Are you running a knitting circle or a bomber??? Get in your plane now!"
"Yes, SIR, Colonel Lamb!" And they quickly boarded The Russian Lady for their first flight.
THE 317th SQUADRON BEFORE TAKE OFF - (submitted by Shaun Edley, 317th Sqn)
Montague stomped around impatiently waiting for his two feather-dusters to arrive. Those two Ivy-leaguers that just seemed to get his spleen working whenever he had to think about them. Finally they arrived with little contrite but sarcastic looks in their baby-faces.
"Right, men. This is number 3. We've done fairly
well so far so let's keep it up and get the bombs on target and our asses home.
Mark, you've got tail-end but I know you're up to it and you'll do us all proud. The rest of you, do your jobs, keep your heads out of
your butts and we'll do just fine. Meet you on the flight line. Dismissed."
With that, he walked off to get his notes and maps.
Some fresh stogies wouldn't hurt, even if his co said it smelt like he was
smoking banana leaves and stinking up the plane. To hell with him. At least it was better than the sweat, pee, blood and plain old fear that seemed to soak every last panel and rivet of his bird. Well, his bird once he'd pried the signed form out of his crew chief's hands. That guy would be happy with his planes stuck in concrete in some museum. "Well, loot, that ways you guys can't hurt 'em." Bloody New Yorkers.
He got into the rickety old bus that was to take them to their planes. "Hey, Skip", his co-pilot called, "think we'll be OK this trip? The other squadrons are getting hammered real hard lately."
"Oh, dry up, co. If you wanted a nice safe job, why didn't you volunteer for minesweeping or the rangers? You know if you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined."
"It's just that I wanted to know if you're getting worried, Skip. Some of the other guys have been talking about handing in their wings and getting sent home."
"Home, hell. The only place they'll go is in the infantry. We'll be fine. So will the rest of the good ol' 317. They're all good guys. Even those two weasels can do their jobs alright and that's all it's gonna take. Do our jobs and we can all go home sooner."
THE 317th SQUADRON BEFORE TAKE OFF, continued - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)
Rank can do strange things to a man, mused Milton B Forrest III, as he listened to Montague drone on about camaraderie and the such-like. The man clearly thought he had attained a status befitting him, by sole dint of the fact that wore some shiny U.S. Government-sponsored gold trinkets on his lapels. The man was hardly the type to invite yachting at the Hamptons, or to be seen in public with, let alone lead a Forrest into battle!
He hadn't had a reply from his father, even though he'd
written him over two weeks ago, imploring him to arrange for Montague's transfer
to Alaska. Father clearly didn't understand the importance of his request.
He'd found little sympathy from his co-pilot, Lt Williams, the imbecile.
The man could barely fly in a straight line, and insisted that Forrest concern
himself with trivia such as trim and manifold pressures. He had bigger,
better concerns - getting onto the general staff, for one thing! The man
was a hindrance to his career, and would have to be dealt with severely.
No, his career path meant getting off operations and behind a
Forrest had no great desire to fly again. He would NEVER admit it to anyone, but he found the prospect of more flak and fighters to be terrifying. He'd managed to conceal it from his crew, of course, but he'd had about enough of combat. He'd complained of a fever this morning to the moronic Williams, who'd shot him a dark and knowing look, and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. The fact that the man thought he knew what Forrest was aiming at galled and infuriated him! Now he'd HAVE to fly the damned mission! Best get it over with, he thought.
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