AT SATIN DOLL'S HARDSTAND - (submitted by Mike Munday, 316th Sqn)
"Sorry about the holes, Pops. The flak was a little thick today," 1st Lt. J.P. McConnell explained to Satin Doll's Crew Chief, MSgt Clayton 'Pops' Hardison.
"That's alright, Lieutenant, as long as you boys made it back okay. My tin benders, can patch this up in no time," Hardison replied.
"Hey, Pops!" SSgt George F. Turner called out. "How's about paintin' a couple of new crosses on the nose for the Me-109 and FW-190 I got today?"
"Don't forget about my Messerschmitt Georgie!" added tail gunner Sgt Peter J. Wheeler.
" Yeah Pee Wee, if you'd left him alone I'd have nailed him and made ace," countered their ball gunner, Sgt. William Blankenship.
The Crew Chief listened to the good-natured banter, saying that he'd get the kills painted on before the next mission. Turning back to McConnell, he asked, "How'd it go today, sir?"
McConnell was used to the Chief wanting to know every detail of a mission, not just aircraft performance, and damage, but also what had happened. "Well Chief, we've been through worse, that's for sure," McConnell replied. "We didn't see any Krauts until we neared the coast in Zone 3. I saw 3 Me-109's stacked up at 12 high, 12 level, and 12 low, then Pee Wee called out another at 6 low. I started thinking that taking on the extra mission wasn't such a hot idea. The P-38's drilled the ones at 12 level & low, and George pasted the 109 at 12 high. Then Pee Wee called in that he'd blasted the cockpit out of the one trying to slip up under us from behind. Heading toward the target, we drew a little bit of luck and didn't run into any fighters. They must've been spooked by the flak. Pops, I'm tellin ya, that stuff was thicker'n fleas on an old hound dog. Krump, Bang! Krump, Bang! The first hit peppered the tail, then the waist, that's when Hal found out that his flak helmet was issued for a reason. If he hadn't been wearing it, that chunk of flak that grazed him would've done more than messed up his haircut! I knew they had us zeroed in good now, that's when they hit the radio room and the bomb bay. I just knew that the bombs were hit and waited for them to blow. Man! Talk about lucky Even with the extra bouncing around, PJ put 30% on the mark. We were turning off the target and a lone 109 set up a pass from 3 low. He never even got off a shot, a P-38 plastered him all over the sky. Nearing the coast again, an FW-190 tried to take a run at us from 1030 high but got drilled by George's .50s. The rest of the way home was pretty quiet for us."
"Hey, Mac," interrupted co-pilot Hank Johnson, "Doc's finished checking out Hal's head. Says he'll be alright and that if he hadn't been wearin' his helmet, he'd be missing more than just a few hairs. We'd better be gettin' to Interrogation."
"OK, thanks," McConnell replies. "See ya later, Chief"
POST-MISSION DEBRIEF - (submitted by Eddie Githens, 399th Sqn)
"Next crew, next crew, please." The Intelligence NCO called to the crews milling about the Red Cross table, sipping hot coffee, laughing, and bantering about the run-ins and close calls each had encountered on the just-completed mission to Ferrara. One crew snaked their way around the various tables toward him. Each table in the room was surrounded by a returning crew and an intelligence specialist such as himself, taking down the pertinent information needed to complete the mission report.
Must be a new crew, the NCO thought. Never seen these boys before. "What crew is this?" the NCO asked.
"Dimianos. Ship 838," the pilot answered.
The NCO waved
his hand toward the chairs arranged around the table. "Have a seat.
We'll get this out of the way as quickly as possible." Italian. I
bet he's Italian. "Firstly, is there any intelligence information that
you have that is of such significance
that I must transmit it up the chain immediately?"
"Well, we got shot at by some German fighters," spoke up one of the enlisted men.
Oh, yeah, this guy's Irish. Easy accent to identify.
"And flak was heavy around the target", piped up one of the officers.
Jeez, this IS a new crew! For one, most of the more experienced crews knew that significant intelligence information dealt with changes in Luftwaffe tactics, new aircraft types, new weapons. If you fly over enemy territory, you are GOING TO GET SHOT AT BY FIGHTERS AND FLAK! And secondly, most crews are anxious to get this over with. They're blurting out the information before their butts hit the chairs; We hit the target, we shot down some Krauts, Smitty took a direct burst over target, no chutes, were going to the club to get drunk. These guys still have that fresh from the training units stink on them. It'll wear of soon enough. If they make it that long.
After copying down target information and weather conditions, the NCO began to quiz them about enemy resistance. "Before we got to the target, a 109 closed in on us at about 3 o'clock," the gunner who identified himself as Sgt. Maher, the Irish one, said. "I opened up on him . . ."
"Me too," interrupted another gunner,
". . . and saw some strikes on him. I though I saw some pieces fly off and he half rolled and dived away," Sgt. Maher continued.
"Did he have any markings on him?" the NCO continued as he jotted down the information on his form.
The intelligence NCO looked up at who asked the question. His eyes met Sgt. Maher, looking at him with a questioning look on his face. "Well, yes. Markings. Did he have any distinguishing emblems or colors on his aircraft? That kind of information could provide us what unit conducted the attack, or more importantly, tell us if new Luftwaffe units have arrived in theater." Of the hundreds of debriefs I've taken, I guess I can still count on one hand the number of crews worth anything when it came to collecting valuable intelligence information about Luftwaffe operations.
"Hell, it was dark-colored and had bullets shooting out of its nose at me!" Sgt. Maher snorted. The other crew members laughed.
No one ever understands how important that kind of information is!
One of the other gunners spoke up, directing his comments to the Irishman. "Remember, Shawnny? In gunnery school, they taught us to try and see emblems on the tail and fuselage side? It was part of the visually identifying enemy aircraft."
Sgt. Maher shook his head and chuckled, "I don't remember that part. I musta been asleep or something!"
The other gunner who also shot at the plane spoke up again, "The way you was shooting today, I'd place a bet you slept through the whole course!" The entire crew burst out laughing, punching the Irish gunner on the shoulder. Moments later, they proceeded to discuss another aircraft that had struck the bomber.
"It came from
six high explained the radio operator. I heard Dom yell out and I saw it
about a hundred feet behind and above us. I only had a moment to fire
before it zipped past us."
"It was my fault," quietly exclaimed the blonde-headed gunner, whom the NCO had earlier identified as the tail gunner. Strange accent that one. Swedish? No. But definitely European origin.
"Don't blame yourself," said Sgt. Maher. "None of us hit a thing today, 'cept me!" He beamed as he looked at the rest of the crew.
The tail gunner spoke up again. "No, I mean it was my fault." Very quiet guy. If I met him in the street back home, I wouldn't have guessed him as an aircraft gunner. Not outgoing enough. Pretty shy guy, if you asked me. "I wasn't paying attention to the sky. I was watching our other bombers. I guess I began daydreaming. The pilot, Dimiano, was it? cast a look at the young skinny, blonde-haired, European-accented gunner with a stare of a man bent on killing. The NCO could see the tendons in the lieutenant's neck tense. Oh, I would not want to be that gunner! Why the hell didn't you keep you mouth shut, kid? I wouldn't have guessed him a gunner back home. Maybe he's not cut out to be a gunner. I'd of thought he was a 501.
"Thank you, gentlemen. That will be all."