IT'S STILL THE SAME OLD STORY
While the crews sit out the bad weather at the O-Club, a bitter parody of a popular song from the movie, Casablanca, is heard from a group of drunk airmen.
It's still the same old story
The Eighth gets all the glory
While we go out to die . . .
The fundamental things apply,
As flak goes by . . .
TOWER RECEPTIONS: MISSION 50
Intercom Chatter from Armadillo While Outbound Over Yugoslavia (zone-3):
Over Yugoslavia four Fw-190s attacked approached the 88th BG. While one fighter was driven off by the escorts, three Fw-190s targeted the right most B-17 of the third flight in the leading squadron, manned by a new B-17 crew on their first mission with the group.
Lonnie Cermak, Flight Engineer: “I’ll take the twelve high!”
Max Gorsuch, Radio Operator: “Coming in fast - vertical dive!!”
Max Ancona, Pilot: “Sounds like both planes hit us with walking hits . . the Co-pilot is hit . . . looks serious . . . Tail, Damm, I . . .”
As 20mm shells from the 6 o’clock high Fw-190 struck the bomb bay area, the bombs detonated on the Armadillo, killing all ten crewmen.
Radio Transmission from Rough Times As It Approaches Vienna (zone-6):
“CRAP I CAN’T CONTROL HER! BUCKEYE ONE, THIS IS JOKER EIGHT WE ARE LOSING SPEED HARD TO CONTROL THE PLANE THINK WE TOOK A DIRECT HIT FROM FLAK . . . BUCKEYE ONE, JOKER EIGHT IS DROPPING OUT OF FORMATION . . .”
Intercom Chatter in Rough Times As It leaves Vienna (zone-6):
After gaining control of the B-17, their Bombardier had had control of her to initiate his bomb run when things went to hell . . .
“You OK, Dean?” inquires 2nd Lt. Windley of his copilot.
“I’m OK, I’m OK. What hit us?” replies 2nd Lt. Huffaker.
“Do-know!” Whindley said.
“CREW, DAMAGE CHECK, CALL IN,” barked Lieutenant Windley.
“BOMBARDIER, OK,” called 2nd Lt. Geist.
“NAVIGATOR, OK,” responds 2nd Lt. Winans
“ENGINEERING, OK,” chimes in SSgt. Bronco.
After a bit of dead air, “TAIL GUNNER, OK,” Sgt. Simien reports, finally speaking up.
“RICH, GO BACK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENED,” ordered Lt. Windley.
“OK," came back the reply. After a minute had passed, “LIEUTENANT, LESTER IN SHOCK . . . WE’VE LOST THE WAIST SECTION . . . KELEMEN’S GONE, ARCURI AND MOFFIT ARE BOTH DEAD. DIRECT HIT SIR! LARGE HOLE IN THE PORT AND BALL TURRET SECTION,” came the appraisal from the horrified engineer.
“SIR, SERGEANT PIA SEAMS TO BE COMING OUT OF HIS SHOCK,” added Rich Bronco. Being over the target at the time of the flak hit, Lieutenant Geist loosed his eggs, but to no avail as they fell wide of the factory.
Lieutenants Windley and Huffaker would now have to fight the wounded bird home and at a painfully slow pace. “MEN, THIS IS GOING TO BE A LONG AND ARDUOUS TRIP HOME. LET’S KEEP IT CRISP. WE ARE ON OUR OWN NOW.” Windley informed the remaining crew of their fate. Huffaker looked at Windley with a perplexed look. How would they do this, only their third mission, you can’t train for this type of situation? What could they do?
Shortly after the Bomb Run As The Group leaves Vienna (zone-6):
Without any radio transmissions to the group, Buckeye Seven (Civic Duty III) begins to sink from formation, smoke bellowing from the radio room, her #4 engine out, and her rudder shredded...
Intercom Chatter in Rough Times Coming Off The Target (zone-6), :
1st lieutenant Windlley states, “Alright boys, let’s pull it together. We have a long trip home and we’ll need to work together to make this.” He continues, “We’re dropping out of formation and Jerry will concentrate on us now, be sharp.”
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!
“Dang, that was close!” yelled Lieutenant Huffaker. More flak -- great!
“Hold on gang, we’ll get us out of this,” as Lieutenants Windley and Huffaker went into evasion mode. Banking their B-17 to the right in the hopes of throwing off the 88 crews shots. It seamed to work as none hit them and the flak stopped after a few minutes.
“Here they come!” yelled Lieutenant Geist, “12 o’clock level,” he continued.
“Three o’clock level,” came from MSgt Bronco.
TaT, TaT, Tat, TaT, Tat!!!
“Get `em little friends!” Continued Bronco as he swung his twin 50’s at the Fw-190 coming in from 10:30 high.
“You hit him Rich, you hit him,” spouted Lieutenant Winans.
“One at a time, boys,” interjected Lieutenant Huffaker, "one at a time!”
“Me-110 six low,” Sergeant Simien informed the crew.
THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!
“WE’RE HIT! WE’RE HIT!”
Radio Transmission From Tule Lake Samurai II Coming Off The Target (zone-6), :
“THIS IS COWBOY FIVE . . . THIS IS COWBOY FIVE, AM ENCOUNTERING FLAK ON THE RETURN LEG . . . REPEAT AM ENCOUNTERING FLAK ON THE RETURN LEG . . . HIT TWICE BUT NOT BAD . . . OVER AND OUT . . .”
Rough Times Events 150 miles out from Foggia (zone-4 inbound):
It has been a half hour now since Lieutenant Winans moved from the nose and took over the top turret. Now that the enemy activity had stopped, he tried to gather his thoughts.
Looking forward he could see Staff Sergeant Branco, the engineer, lying very still. He hasn’t moved for the last fifteen minutes. The shot in the gut looked bad and there was no one left onboard that could do anything. Lieutenants Windley and Huffaker were busy trying to keep the bird aloft, Sergeant Simien’s was defending the rear and, Lieutenant Geist had the front. He had moved to the top turret to help cover what he could.
The last hour was a baptism by fire training course. He had severely damaged one Me-109, but these boys had to be green, Winans thought. They came in flat and flew too straight for too long to be seasoned pilots. Luckily, he hadn’t jammed the guns on the first shot. He had held the triggers a bit long and you could feel the heat coming of the breaches.
Searching the skies to the 5 o’clock sector Winans was broken out of his thoughts . . .
“JERRIES FROM TEN-THIRTY HIGH AND 12 O’CLOCK LEVEL!” barked out Lieutenant Geist.
For two attacks Rough Times gunners and the two Krauts missed each other. But on the third attack there was a change.
As Sergeant Simien sighted in on the Fw-190 bearing in from level there was a terrible THUD crawling down the B-17 fuselage towards the rear. Simien squeezed off his shot, hitting the 190 cutting across the fighters cowling causing its engine to flame up and start to smoke. Yet through the smoke Simien saw the flash of 20mm’s coming his way. All of a sudden Simien’s world blew up. His gun breaches exploded in his hands. Then the glass in front of him just flew apart and his heated suits outlet exploded. There was also a load bang underneath his seat and above his head. Unbuckling his harness, Rob Simien scurried back up the tail, stopping about half way to the waist. Sitting for a few seconds he calmed his nerves. Checking his body, amazingly there were no wounds.
“WHAT HAPPENED? REPORT DAMAGE!” called out Lieutenant Windley to the remaining crew. All checked in but Simien. With an uneasy silence the crew waited.
Knowing that his guns were gone, Sergeant Semien moved forward. Passing the carnage of the waist Rob moved onto the radio room where Rob saw that Tech Sergeant Pei had moved forward to man an unoccupied gun. Sergeant Semien took up the radio room gun.
“TAIL’S A MESS, BUT I’M FINE!” replied the sergeant from the radio room. “MY GUNS ARE GONE I’VE MOVED TO THE RADIO ROOM,” he added.
That was his last communication as an Fw-190 raked the starboard wing and side of Rough Times he had seriously wounded the sergeant with 20 mm shells.
This second group of four Focke-Wulfs and a lone Messerschmitt, ravaged the B-17. Friendly fighter cover was light and able to chasse off one Focke-Wulf but the lone P-38 could do nothing else. Lieutenant Geist downed the Me-109 when he ignited the starboard wing and the Germans plane disintegrated in a ball of flames.
The bomber was continually racked with 20mm rounds but none seemed to be fatal, until their third attack. One Focke-Wulf came from the silent 6 o’clock position. Taking his time he fanned his shot spraying the port and starboard wing.
With a flash, the number one engine started to belch a dark smoke. Just a few flames licked at the cowling but the engine was running rough.
“SHUT IT DOWN, SHUT IT DOWN!” Huffacker nudged Windley into action. He shut it down and feathered the prop.
“ANY MORE FLAMES?” cried out Huffaker.
“NO! NO, I THINK THEY’RE OUT!” came the answer from the pilot.
Scanning the skies, Lieut. Winans rotated the top turret looking for returning fighters.
“THEY’RE . . . THEY’RE GONE!” Winans informed the remaining crew.
Within sight of the Italian coast Windley called out, “PREPARE FOR LANDING. PREPARE FOR A CRASH LANDING!”
The crew moved the injured and made ready for the crash landing. Crewmembers know that their wounded friends had been out to long for them to parachute first and they would have to ride out a crash-landing. The wounded needed medical help soon.
“STERPARONE FIELD THIS IS JOKER EIGHT, STERPARONE FIELD . . .”
Over the Adriatic (zone-2 inbound):
As the 88th BG approached the safety of the southern Italy, an unseen Me-109 sliced down vertically and shot out the #3 engine on the lead ship whose #4 engine was already out.
“Buckeye one to Buckeye Four!! You’ve got the lead!! Buckeye One out.”
The 399th watched as Carolina Lady II fell out of formation with a gaggle of Me-109’s lining up to attack.
At Sterparone Field:
There had been many B-17s that had gone through this base. Scores of them never return. It never gets any better, you become close to the crews. Learn about their families, their loves, their closest dreams. This just makes it worst when the B-17 doesn’t return.
Most ships have returned and there are reports of stragglers coming across the coast. Could Pappy's charge, Rough Times be one of them? He could only hope.
Private Sandy Fenstrum approached his crew chief, Master Sergeant Pappy Fenn. “Did you hear, Sir?”
“Yes,” replied Pappy.
Sandy wondered, “You think it’s her, Sir?”
Pappy answered again, “Don’t know . . . Hope so.”
Sandy commented, “Word is this one’s beat up bad.”
“We’ll see,” Pappy cautioned. Sandy just stood there silent now . . .
With only the crews of the Armadillo, Nightwing and Rough Times not yet back, MSgt. Fenn was worried. His hopes were lifted twice before when late comers were approaching the field. But those had been the Carolina Lady II and the Civic Duty III.
Now a half hour later all they could do was wait.
“PAPPY, PAPPY ONE’S COMING IN!” shouted Private Sandy Fenstrum.
“She's smoking," was all that Fenn said. The rest of the ground crews strained to see if it was their charge or one of the other crews bird.
“Sir, looks as though number one’s smoking . . . it’s feathered,” came a response from Sandy. The B-17 was crabbing, the pilots are struggling to keep her lined up with the runway.
As the red flares arched from the cockpit, Pappy could just be heard saying, “Hold in there boys.”
“O’MY LORD,” said Sandy. “LOOK AT HER SIDE! SHE HAS BEEN HIT IN THE WAIST!” observed the private.
The bomber hit hard and bounced back up into the air. She hit hard again, finally settling in on the third attempt. As the tail tried to touchdown, all the ground personal noticed the tail wheel was missing. When the tail touched the runway the weakened port wing collapsed. All the crews gasped at the sight. The B-17 skidded across the tarmac till it hit the grass which stopped the forward motion with a jerk. This is when Fenn noticed which ship it was, the Rough Times.
With the sound of the emergency vehicle sirens, Pappy said to his crew, “Let’s go boys, this ones ours.” This wasn’t good . . .
RETURN TO STERPARONE FIELD