This page is designed to reflect Group veteran's personal
memories of their time spent in England based with the 467th BG at Rackheath during WW2.
The following has been conveyed in correspondence and e-mail and highlighted here to give
something of the flavour of life and times experienced with an operational Bomb Group in
war time England. As well as combat mission recollections it is hoped to include a wide
range of off-base memories, incidents, activities, and encourage others to commit personal
remembrances to this developing page. If any of you feel you have material of interest to
add to this page, please contact Andy
McKenzie, crew commander,
crew#58, 790th Bomb Squadron.
It was our last mission on January l6, 1945. We were
flying plane #394 which was the only time we had flown it in all our 35 missions. It was a
long mission to Dresden. About the only enemy opposition was some distant flak enroute and
then moderate flak on the bomb run. While on the bomb run, we started losing power on No 3
engine as the RPM's and manifold pressure surged from high to low intermittently. We
nursed it along until completing the bomb run. We couldn't seem to do anything about it,
so we feathered it. From then on, keeping up with the formation increased our fuel
Now comes the good part....As we were over central France
that if any planes had severe mechanical problems or low fuel, they should land at an
alternate field because ceilings were practically on the ground at our home bases. We were
given "co-ordinates" where we could land. I immediately gave them to the
navigator and he found that they were for Orly field. At that, I hit the intercom and
said, "Hey guys, we're going to Paris." Perfect timing, eh? Last mission too.
So we headed for Orly Field. On arrival, it seemed like
hundreds of other planes of all descriptions had done likewise. When making our landing
approach, I came in high since we were on three engines. We were shooting red flares, but
so was everyone else. Consequently, on final someone else was under us and indeed, we did
have to pull up and go around.On our next pass we were lower but again, we were carrying
excessive speed just in case.
When we landed, the runway was covered with ice and snow.
Landing hot, it was a nail-biter as whether we were going to get stopped before sliding
off the end of the runway. Fortunately, we were slowed enough to make a taxi strip at the
end of the runway. So there we were taxiing in and we were directed to park in a snow
covered field in line with dozens of all kinds of planes from B-24's to B-l7's, P-47's,
P-51's, P-38's, C-47's and possibly others. The field itself was covered with more than a
foot of snow.
We went into operations and reported we were low on fuel
and landed with 3 engines operating and needed a check-up on our #3 engine. They arranged
to truck us into the city where they put us up in a small hotel. They also told us they
would be unable to check or mechanical problem the following day because of the large
number of stray planes there, so check with them in a couple of days. We did that and also
for 3 following days with the same answer. They hadn't had time to look at it yet.
We had very little money to start with, some English
(when the pound was worth about $4, I think) and a smattering of American money. Meantime,
we had sold our Hack Watches and probably any other loose gear that was saleable. I
honestly don't remember the details of what we did, but I know we had a great time doing
it. So by the fifth day, we were actually anxious to return to Rackheath.
So the flight engineer and decided to go out and look at
our crippled #3 engine ourselves. We borrowed some basic tools and went out and removed
the cowling from the engine. We found signs of what appeared to be fuel and oil dirtying
up around one of the cylinders. Looking further we found a spark plug that was loose. It
appeared that someone had screwed the plug in with their fingers, but had forgotten to
tighten it with a wrench. Long story short...we replaced the spark plug and, MAGIC, we
were able to start the engine and it tested normal.
Getting out was another chore. As I said, we were in a
long line of aircraft in rather deep snow. It was necessary to taxi between two rows of
planes where there was just about enough clearance to accommodate the wing span of a B-24.
So we shovelled out a path about 50 feet for our tricycle gear. Once we started taxiing,
we didn't want to stop for fear of getting stuck. So with a guy running along under each
wing tip to check for necessary clearance, we barrelled through the snow about 300 feet to
a hard taxi way. The rest of the trip back to Rackheath was routine.
I have two odd memories of Paris. One was that it was
blacked out at the time. The other was that on our morning trips back to the field, we
would see smoke coming out of eight or ten chimneys all the way out, probably due to the
lack of fuel for heat.
So that was how we got to see Paris, and it couldn't have
happened at a better time..... after our last mission.
DISASTER" by Ed King, crew commander,
crew#46, 789th Bomb Squadron.
And was it the "Massillon Tiger" that we took
out on that disastrous practice mission one sunny day, when a sudden and vicious winter
storm swept in over the British Isles and northern Europe like an express train? The
practice mission having been called back, our formation headed out over the North Sea,
looking for a way down through the solid cloud mass which was engulfing us. We were in the
last squadron to turn and head down through the clouds, partly within a small
"canyon" of clear space within that otherwise solid undercast. We broke out of
the clouds a few hundred feet above the water, but as we proceeded toward the east coast
of England, the cloud ceiling pushed us lower and lower, closer and closer to that icy
Laval Beniot, our radio operator (God rest his Soul) was
plumbing our height above the water by measuring out the trailing radio antenna until he
got a voltage drop! The cloud mass was now right on top of us, and we appeared to be no
more than 75 feet over the water when I decided that disaster was surely waiting for us
just ahead and I opted to peel out of the formation and start climbing up into the cloud
mass as we neared London.
We climbed up and agonizingly up and around in that solid
overcast until we finally broke out on top at about 22,000 feet! That climb on instruments
proved to be the worst ordeal of my short flying career. (I had at one point in that long
climb suffered a complete loss of orientation, hope, and faith in my instruments, so that
I was ready to just let go and let the plane take us into the North Sea (or whatever was
under us); but Tom Elsen's (copilot) encouraging voice got through to me and made me take
hold again and come back fighting.
Once on top, we flew for hours, up and down the east
coast of England - - figuring that if we could not eventually find a clearing to come down
for a visual landing, we would fly inland a way when the gas got low, let the crew bail
out, and then head the ship out over the North Sea before we hit the silk. Meanwhile, we
hoped that our IFF was sending out the right signal so that English ACK ACK would not
start trying to bring us down!
We were in radio contact with the base, asking if there
was ANY field open ANYWHERE IN EUROPE where we would have a chance of landing: but there
was NO place open. That winter storm had socked in all of northwest Europe! So we flew and
flew, periodically measuring our gas, and every eye on board straining to find a hole in
that cotton mattress beneath us. Finally one of the waist gunners screamed "I see a
light on the ground! A light on the ground!", and having found the hole, I upended
the "Massillon Tiger" and we spiralled down through that skinny little chimney
until we broke out several hundred feet above the ground, practically on top of RACKHEATH!
What a Navigator Ed Gore was! (But we wouldn't have cared if we were over Germany!)
But we still had three significant problems: (1) The
windows and windshield had iced up so badly on that trip down the chimney that I could not
see through the windshield well enough to be sure I could land; (2) Either our gas was
about gone, or the carburettors were iced up so much that the engines were having trouble
digesting the gasoline - - splutter, sputter; and (3) Rackheath field had a solid, thick
blanket of snow covering everything: there were no runways visible!
(1) I slid open the side window beside my seat and
reached out and around the windshield in front of me - - a wrench in my hand - - and
chopped a small, 50c piece hole in the ice in front of me, but big enough (and soon enough
so that my frozen hand did not drop off!). (2) & (3) We prayed for the engines not to
quit, and advised the Tower that we were in serious trouble and had to have the lights
turned on so we could find a runway PDQ.
(3) The Tower operator flicked a switch, and lo and
behold we could see ONE, PARTIAL string of runway lights shining mistily through a snow
cover, on ONE side of a runway. "Which side of the runway are those lights on?"
we asked. "I don't know. They are still out there shovelling and I don't have any
contact with them or anyone to find out." "Curses" (or something like that)
we said; FIND OUT before we run out of gas!" He said he was leaving the Tower: don't
panic; he would go out and find out and call us back.
A heckuva long time and a few engine coughs later, having
lost all human contact with the outside world, I decided that we had better GO FOR IT! I
bet our lives that the few runway lights were on the left side of the runway, and we went
in. As I neared the depthless white sheet and began to flair out, my 50c hole rose up and
looked at the black sky! The lights had passed from view, and the rudders were getting
very mushy, and I rode the hell out of them, PRAYING that it would not be a crash landing
from 30 feet in the air!
And then softly, gently, the nose came down and we
realized that we were ON THE RUNWAY and rolling it out! The softest, smoothest landing I
ever made in my life! (A few hours earlier, I wouldn't have bet a nickel on her survival
(the "Massillon Tiger") - - or ours!)
"SHOOT DOWN - 29th May
44" by Andy Beasley, co-pilot
Lt. Rufus Stephens crew, 791st
May 29, 1944, 56 years ago, is the day I was shot down
after an effective strike against a Focke-Wolf assembly plant in Tutow, Germany. It was
the 2nd raid against that particular facility, since damage the first try was minimal. We
didnt have any "smart bombs" those days and if the target was important
enough, we kept trying until we got it right. The second try whomped it good, but the
antiaircraft guns were good too ! The Germans had two kinds of AA. One was 88mm they used
mostly for barrage or box fire. The batteries fired shells in the pattern of a
box in the air, and depended on our flying into that box. Altitude for the box wasnt
always too accurate, even though azimuth was pretty effective. These boxes were fired from
large concentrations of guns, deployed based on their concept of the importance of the
target. For instance, Berlin was truly frightening . The aiming was done using mechanical
measurements, and thus subject to how well they could see us, and set the firing
sequences. The 88mm stuff did provided more misery than we needed The real problem came
with 108mm guns, radar controlled. You knew when they were being used. Youd see one
burst, right at your altitude, then a second at about the same place in front of you. They
always had your altitude on the money, were tracking you (radar), but if you saw the
bursts you knew they didnt quite have the azimuth locked in. These 108's were
deployed in four gun batteries controlled by the same radar - and as their larger size
indicates, had considerably more bang for the buck.
On that infamous day, we were under fire from 108's, saw
the first 4 rounds detonate and then all hell broke with the next firing sequence. On the
starboard wing, the outboard engine was blasted away, and the inboard engine was hanging
maybe 45 degrees downward and sheeting fire over the wing back to the tail assembly. The
two waist gunners bailed out at that time. They landed in the Baltic and with the cold
water, died of hypothermia before the Germans could pick them up.( I briefly talked with
an Oxford educated colonel who said he felt the war was already over. He gave me the
information on the waist gunners and said the A/C was yet to be examined.) The AC was now
in a wind-up tight spiral and came back to the Baltic shore. The pilot, Ruphus Stephens
appeared wounded, seriously. We had a very loud bell system and it was here I punched the
ten-ring abandon ship sequence. Meanwhile, S/Sgt. Peacock, crew chief and top turret
operator. anticipating the move, moved onto the narrow catwalk of the bomb bay and hand
cranked the bomb bay doors open - the only route of exit except the waist gunners windows.
With hydraulics shot out, hand cranking was the only alternative. All of us working in the
nose section, had chest packs needing to be snapped on to the harness. . When I went out,
Peacock was still on the catwalk and I can only surmise he tried to help Stephens. Another
factor could explain why neither Stephens nor Peacock got out. With time, the AC, now in a
spin, created crushing centrifugal force which may have pinned either or both to the
degree they couldnt make it out. What Peacock did always seemed heroic to me. He
could have retrieved his chest pack and got out with the rest of us. I always presumed he
went to see if Stephens needed help and got caught by the centrifugal forces. Even though
wounded Stephens must have known the AC was a goner and had he been able, made it out. He
was a good ole Georgia boy and had a touch of stubbornness in his bones that may
have led him to believe he could fly out of the situation - but thats not logical,
and he couldnt see all the damage very well from his left seat. It was all clearly
visible to me from my right seat We had both been putting a maximum effort on the yoke and
rudders to hold level flight, the hanging engine was running away, meaning the
RPM controls werent at work and the engine speed would soon destroy it even if it
hadnt been on fire. With a section of the outside end of that wing also shot away,
the likelihood of regaining control of the AC was zero. Even with 3 operating engines, but
with a good part of the right wing gone and the fire under control, unlikely here, descent
to a lower altitude was mandated, leaving one lonely bird prey to fighters, and high fuel
usage - not enough at that rate to make it home, especially with the wing fuel cells
ruptured feeding that all-consuming fire. The AC was mortally wounded. Destroy the
aerodynamics of any AC and just wont fly !
We had only a nine man crew that day, normally ten. Our
navigator was in the hospital with a pineal cyst, however our bombardier was dual rated
and could do both tasks.
So, from the story I so frequently think about, you can
see that 5 of us made it, and even with the POW status, making it makes it a celebrated
The following spring Gen. Pattons forces liberated
us at Moosberg. The Germans had marched us, poorly prepared, west, away from advancing
Soviet troops. Some of the coldest weather of the winter saw POWs and guards dropping by
the wayside. Most of us, poorly shod to begin, were able to ward off frostbite by tying
rags around our feet. We marched to the area of Chemnitz, were put in the old 40X8s of WWI
- only this time about 80 per car - detrained at Nuernberg and put in a flea ridden former
detention camp to watch the RAF night saturation bombing with the Mosquito target finding
fireworks display that guided the heavies to target. During the days we could watch the
contrails of the 8th. Some bombs fell quite close and the Germans allowed us to dig slit
trenches where we squatted, folded blanket over your head. The concussion of the bombs was
felt as much as heard. The falling pieces from AA bursts provided a sound like no other in
the world. Following this flea-picking stay, on the road again to Moosberg, the truly
moving day there was the day we could see the U.S. flag raised over Moosberg !
When Patton came through the gates with pearl handled
pistols, the POWs lifted him from his jeep and wanted to honor him by carrying him around
on their shoulders but he must have thought this below his dignity. He repeatedly said,
"Put me down, GD it, put me down !" Not for a while, anyhow.
We were transported by C-47's to Camp Lucky Strike near
Le Harve. Deloused, uniformed and sent on otherwise empty Liberty ships to, in my case,
To borrow from the French, now laissez les bon temps
WINGMAN" By Ted Wheeler, crew commander,
crew#6, 788th Bomb Squadron.
Mission 5 - March 2, 1945
Our overcast weather prevails as we prepare for a mission to Magdeburg, another deep penetration into the heartland of the
Reich. Our target is the Krupp tank works, and a re-visitation of the area of my first mission.
Magdeburg was considered a tough target as it had a formidable system of anti-aircraft defenses. I won't say that I was very worried about this one,
but I was resigned to the realization that it would not be easy.
We flew "Monster", aircraft #4440166, and carried twelve 500 lb. GP bombs.
Our position was in the low loft element of the 2nd squadron.
Because of the near solid cloud cover over the target, we were briefed to bomb H2X method, which is by radar. Enemy fighters attacked the group ahead
of us but did not hit us at this time.
It was a squadron of ME 109s and they used a frontal attack for openers. This was a tactic we had been briefed on, and is the ultimate game of
"Chicken" or "Aerial Roulette". The enemy planes flying in line abreast (wing tip to wing tip) came in
head on at the same altitude as the bomber formation.
Their closing speed is over 500 MPH and they start firing when within range.
These enemy pilots know that the bombers will not waver, so they are reasonably sure they will not collide unless something goes wrong or they
This is a devastating and terrifying thing to experience. As they approach
they roll upside down while firing, and dive under the bomber formation, break off and come back to attack from all directions.
We could not see too much of what was happening because the lead group was
some distance ahead and to our right. A couple of the bombers dropped out of
the formation trailing smoke.
As we approached the IP we could see flak coming up ahead of the lead
squadron, and by the time all three squadrons had made the turn on to the bomb run the barrage became intense and very accurate. As our standard
procedure required that we take no evasive action on this leg of our attack,
we could not help but feel like the proverbial "sitting ducks". This was perhaps the most nerve wracking part of any mission. It was like the 4th of
July grande finale times ten!
One ship in the 3rd squadron lost an engine and we were to find out later that of the 29 planes in our group, 14 received moderate to heavy flak
damage. Amazingly no one was wounded.
With great relief we released our bomb loads at 23,000ft, and still bracketed
by bursting shells changed course and altitude to the rally point. Because of the clouds being socked in over the target we were unable to
observe our hits.
We were headed for home , but it wasn't over yet. As we skirted the gun positions of the Hanover/Brunswick area we were attacked by another squadron
of ME 109s. This was our first direct encounter with Luftwaffe fighters. They came in behind and to the right of us so we could not see them when we
first heard the alert. Now they were all around us like a pack of hornets,
and appeared to be working in pairs. They hit our third (trailing) squadron
on the first pass, and one of the planes, #117 piloted by Lt. Reed, had an
engine shot out. This bomber was the same one that lost an engine over the
target, so now they were in serious trouble. With two engines out they could
not maintain their speed to keep up with the group. They were now straggling
below and behind our formation and easy prey for the German fighters.
Fortunately our own fighter escort had rejoined us after the rally point and
were now engaging the 1099 in dog fights. Two Messerschmitts made a diving
pass from 9 o'clock high and disappeared under us. At that instant the plexiglass window beside my head shattered and our right hand manifold
pressure gauge and the left side mixture control gauge disintegrated in a split second. My #1 engine was also hit, and there were several holes along
the left wing.
It was determined later that a single stray 20MM bullet had done the damage
to the instrument panel, tore through the nose wheel compartment, and exited
through the lower right of the nose section.
Our tail gunner reported to me an the intercom that Lt. Read's plane was
going down trailing a plume of dirty smoke, but was not on fire, and still
seemed to be under control. No chutes were seen. As it disappeared in the undercoat my navigator had its position as approximately 25 miles north of
Osnabruck and heading toward Dummer Lake a well known check point for aircrews.
Things were happening very fast around us. One of our P-51 Mustangs was shot
down and the pilot was seen to bail out.
I was being blasted by sub-zero wind coming through the shattered window when my flight engineer handed me a heavy wool face mask to put over my
head. I had to remove my steel helmet. oxygen mask, and goggles to put it on, so I turned the controls over to Tom for a few minutes. The mask felt
good against the icy cold and I wore it most of the way back.
As I adjusted my oxygen mask and checked the pressure gauge I could hear some excited chatter on the intercom. Some one said, "Jesus! look out to the
left!" I could hardly believe my eyes, but there sitting about 40 feet off
my left wing was an ME 109. As I stared in shock the German pilot lowered his flaps and landing gear and just flow right along with us.
Two P-51s had "corraled" him and his only safe way out was to slide into our
formation. Our fighters could not fire at him and our gunners could not fire
at him without hitting each other. For this to happen at all shows the high
degree of excitement at and confusion with these encounters.
It seemed like a long time that the German plane hung there, but it was
actually only a few minutes. Never again would I be this close to the enemy!
Our eyes met as he looked from side to side. Everything seemed so vivid it
was almost hypnotic. There was a number 8 just forward of the iron cross painted on the fuselage, and what looked like a yellow serpent on the nose.
Suddenly the wheels and flaps retracted and the plane rolled upside down and
disappeared below, the P-51s in pursuit. We never saw them again so do not
know the outcome, but we were all rooting for the Luftwaffe pilot and hoped
he got away. I thought he was not only daring to do what he did, but very clever also.
We theorized that he may have been out of ammunition or that his guns were
jammed when the American fighters closed in on him. He was a skillful pilot
to say the least and I would like to have met him after the war just to congratulate him and compare notes.
From the beginning of the enemy attack this whole scenario probably lasted
no more then ten minutes. The difference between life and death is measured
in minutes and inches.
TALE OF TAILWIND" by Charles Russell, crew commander,
crew#36, 789th Bomb Squadron
In January and February of 1944, the
467th Bomb Group was finishing up operational training at Wendover, Utah,
and began receiving new aircraft that were to be flown overseas for use in
combat. We did not know where we were heading overseas, at least the
flying crews did not know, some one did I'm sure. As the new planes
arrived, it was a pleasure to be scheduled to fly our training
missions in them rather than the old, worn out, war weary planes we had
been flying all winter; planes that only part of the systems worked,
engines that liked to catch on fire, turbos that ran away and props that
would not stay in sync. My crew was scheduled to fly aircraft 41-29368 one
day in January. We were to fly a local mission of dropping practice bombs,
I am not sure that it was not a single aircraft mission.
We took off from the field and were into
our mission over the salt flats when a call came from the Wendover Tower
to warn us that the weather was closing in and we were advised to head
east to Salt Lake City or to Casper, Wyoming.
We flew on to Salt Lake City and the
ground was covered with fog or smog, but you could see straight down. We
made a pass at the runway but there was no radio aid in locating the
runway so we had to line up visually. We missed the runway on the first
pass, but could see the end as we were abreast of it. We went around and
were sure we would line up with the runway on the second try. Sure enough
we missed it but were close enough that I made a couple of quick turns and
got the plane down in the first third of the runway, however, when I
applied the brakes I discovered a very disturbing fact, the runway was
covered with patches of ice. When we reached the end of the runway we were
still moving at a pretty good pace. The overrun was covered with about 12
inches of snow and fortunately the ground was frozen. The snow really
slowed us down and before the plane stopped I gave it full power on the
two right engines and we turned right around and came back to the end of
the runway. We taxied to the ramp at about one mile per hour.
We stayed the night at the Salt Lake Army
Air Base while the storm moved past us to the east. The next morning when
we went to the flight line we found the airplane covered with ice. The
whole crew started chipping away at the ice but it was stuck awfully
tight. One of the ground crew members gave me a crow bar and I started
jabbing away and punched two holes through the skin of the wing. About
then I decided it was better to stop chipping away and have the line crew
tow the airplane into the hangar and let the ice melt. This we did and the
following day flew back to Wendover.
On the ground at Wendover, it only took
about two milliseconds for the ground crew to discover the holes in the
brand new combat plane and report it to the Group Commander. He was all
over the Squadron Commander and faster than it takes to tell it, I was
before the Squadron Operations Officer. He gave me holy hell until he gave
out and then when he couldn't think of anything else to say, he said,
"And just for that I'm going to give you that airplane and you are
going to fly it wherever we are going".
Our crew had not been scheduled for an
airplane before this and later used to kid me about the way we were
assigned one. Capt. Robert W. Doenges was not all bad even if he did make
off with all our fly away K-rations as soon as we landed at Rackheath.
Our crew was proud of our patched up
airplane and at Herrington, Kansas, we paid some kid to paint a picture on
the nose, as almost every crew did. We chose a picture from a calendar of
a girl behind an airplane that had the engine running. She was trying to
hold her hat on with one hand and her skirt down with the other. We named
our plane, "Tailwind".
It performed perfectly for us over the
southern ATC route to Valley, Wales, and then on to Rackheath where our
crew flew 18 missions in her. She was lost on 11th July 44 with the Lt.
James Underwood crew returning from a mission to Munich.
My crew, an original crew of the 789th
Bomb Squadron, completed their missions on August 11th 44. The crew
members were: Charles C. Russell, Pilot; Harold Chilver, Copilot (killed
with another crew); Michael Woloszyn, Navigator; Ralph Anderson,
Bombardier; Houston Carlisle, Engineer; Raymond Barnes, Radio; Richard
Borton, Gunner; Albert Gross, Gunner; Calvin Jensen, Gunner; William
21st March 1945
a visit to the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, in May 2005,
I made a point of visiting the Shell House Building that was the
former HQ of the occupying Gestapo back in 1945 and also held numerous
senior members of the Danish Resistance movement as well as archives
pertaining to the Resistance movement. At the request of the Resistance
movement the RAF was asked to attempt a low level bombing of the building so
Danish prisoners may attempt an escape and archives be destroyed.
the morning of 21st March 1945, a group of 20 D.H. Mosquito
aircraft of the RAF 2nd TAF including some 30 Mustang aircraft
acting as fighter cover and anti aircraft fire, attempted the audacious raid
on the Gestapo HQ. Three waves of Mosquito aircraft attacked the building
but things went badly wrong. One of the first wave aircraft crashed beyond
the building close to a French Convent School. Elements of the following
waves seeing the burning plane mistook this as the target and bombed.
However enough aircraft did recognize the target and bombed accordingly.
At the end of the day, the building was successfully damaged, many
Danish Resistance prisoners escaped, many Gestapo were killed, but
unfortunately many school children were also killed in the raid.
there are numerous plaques on the building including a bronze-cast
propeller, names of Allied air crew killed in the attack, also names of
those prisoners killed during the raid, also a monument across the road to
the many school children who were so sadly victims.
I reached home I researched the Copenhagen Raid a little deeper and to my
astonishment discovered a photo of one of the attacking Mosquito aircraft
piloted by F/O Bob Kirkpatrick
had landed his aircraft back at Rackheath immediately following the mission.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, I located Bob Kirkpatrick and asked him
to describe the events of that day 21st March 45. Here is Bob’s
Attack on the Gestapo HQ Copenhagen, Denmark, 21st March 1945 by
start with a little chronology. I was born in Canada while my US parents 3rd
generation were visiting there. Returned to States when I was 10 months old.
Dec 8,1941 I enlisted in US Marines, Dec 9 physical, reported for camp Dec
12 and was told I had a heart murmer and not fit. Dec 15 I went to Windsor,
Ont, Canada and joined the RCAF, didn't mention the Marines. Was accepted
and called in Feb 42. Got my wings June 43 ,UK in Aug 43, twin engine
conversions and a Beau OTU and then a Mossie OTU. Joined 21 Sqdn RAF Sep 44.
flew MkVI Mossies, mostly at nite and singly.
15,45 I was sent to Cambrai (France) to pick up DZ383 a MKIV Mosquito used
by 2 Group for PRU (Photo/Recon) work. Aircraft was at 138 Wing. March 16,
17, and 18 flew some picture taking of low level formation practice of 21
Sq, my "looker" (navigator) Fl/Lt R S Undrill took the pictures.
Mar 20 , a Sgt Hearne a photographer went with me as we followed 21, 464,
and 487 Squadrons to Fersfield airfield [near Norwich].
was early morning on 21st that we were briefed and told about Shellhaus.
were 20 Mossies, 21 Sq, 6 in 1st flt plus DZ 464 [another MKIV flown by
Fl/Lt Ken Greenwood].464 RAAF 6 in 2nd flt and 487 RNZAF 6 plus me in DZ383
in 3rd flt. Low level all the way, Embry (Commanding Officer) said anyone
flying higher than me I'll personally shoot him down. Don't know how he
would have known , he was 3rd in 1st flt. At Lake Tisso, about 20 miles west
of Copenhagen the first flt went on, the rest were to circle Tisso once for
464, twice for 487 and three times for DZ383 and then proceed to target.
I was about 2 minutes from target I saw 4 Mossies coming from my left and
turning east towards a big pile of smoke, I tho't , am I lost? They have
navigators and they were so close I either had to turn right 360 or get
close to them because of the delayed action bombs. 30 seconds for first 3,
11 for 2nd three. I slipped right next to #4 and we went thru the smoke and
they unloaded their bombs, unfortunately as we later learned on the French
School. I was carrying
incendiaries and told to drop them a few blocks from the target to create a
diversion in case some of the prisoners were able to escape. Turns out I
burnt up a few houses east of the school and west of Shellhaus.
Our windscreens were fouled with salt spray and difficult to see thru, this
precluded my right 360 and prompted me to join the 4 from 487. As it turned
out 464 the second wave also were diverted by the school crash and missed
their run-in, they orbited and the leader bombed Shellhaus, 2 were shot down
and one took his bombs home. Good
news , bad news; had 464 been successful
in their orbit and 487 on target, 487 would probably been blown up, had
everybody been on target no prisoners would probably have survived.
We picked up some flak
that damaged the starboard engine and the nose. Engine kept
running OK but as I wasn't completely comfortable in the MKIV Mosquito and
it was a long trip, I was sweating fuel, 8 tanks to monitor, nobody
to follow, I just flew reciprocals and
when I saw England picked first
field I saw to land, turned out to be Rackheath.
was no traffic at the time , about 14:00. Got the gear down but no brakes , so just coasted
to a stop at the end of 26. Was met by a jeep full of MP's and taken to the
tower, Sgt Hearne brought his film and when I called base and was told they
would pick us up in the morning, he said " I'll be in London before
then". I think he had asked an MP to take our picture which showed us
examining holes in the cowling and nose. That was the last I saw of 383 or
Sgt. Hearne. I don't remember much of my sojourn at Rackheath, probably
slept most of the time.
Have seen quite a few reruns of our films
both during practice and from the raid.
Bob flew 9 more operations after the Copenhagen Raid of the 21st
March 45. He
was back in Copenhagen with participants in the raid on July 3, 4 and 5,1945
for a victory celebration and to meet the prisoners able to be
freed, also honored by King Christian 10th, and given silver
cufflinks with a Danish symbol on them.
left the RCAF in October 1945. Retired in 1984 after 20,000 hours of
business flying and crop spraying. Bob returned to Copenhagen in 93 and 95
for the dedication of several memorials to the Shell House attack, including
those at the former French Convent School where many children lost their
lives that day. He currently lives in Humboldt, Iowa, and looking forward to
celebrating a 60th wedding anniversary in September.
interesting web links concerning the Copenhagen Raid:
Excellent Danish Mil. History site
A short film of the raid
"MEMORIES OF RACKHEATH AND THE GROUP PHOTO
SECTION", by Joseph M. Smith Jr.
I've always said "I've been a lucky guy",
its been that way all my life. Not lucky as in winning money, just lucky in
life. (so far) From Scotland, we went by train through Norfolk County,
England to Rackheath, near Norwich. That's East Anglia. We were the 467th
Bomb Group which had four bomb squadrons. I was in the 791st, which was
right near the road to Norwich from the air base. The second day I was
there, me, and a couple of other guys decided to find a pub. Now this was
war time in England, and when it got dark, no lights were to be on. In total
darkness, we found the road and went in the right direction to Norwich.
There were no direction signs, either. After a while, our eyes adjusted to
the dark and we could see a bit. We made it to the "Blue Boar "
Pub. Only having US money, we didn't know whether they would sell us a beer.
Worse yet, we didn't know the exchange rate. The barkeep, I guess, was
honest and we were able to get a few beers and have some British money to
return to base with. After we were at the base a week, we got regular passes
to go out and in the gate. It didn't take long to make friends with the
people at the pub. One couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hobart, lived near the pub and
visited there almost every night. I got to know these folks very well. Mrs.
Hobart and Mom wrote to each other quite often. One night at the pub, a WAAF
girl, Eileen, and her mother were there and we became friendly. We were at
the pub one night and the air raid siren sounded. Eileen and her mother took
me to their home to their bomb shelter in the back yard. After small talk
and a half hour had passed, and no "all clear" siren yet, her
mother said she was going in the house. As I look back on it now, I had a
real good opportunity to get laid but back then I was too innocent and
didn't know anything.
We had a nice photo lab near the tower. Our job was
loading film into the automatic camera and putting them in the bomb bays of
the B-24's whenever a raid was scheduled. When the plane came back, it was a
rush to get the cameras out and develop and print the pictures. (The camera
was turned on when the bombs left the bomb bay, they took a shot every 5 or
10 seconds until the film ran out. This way, you could follow the bombs to
the ground and check impact and resulting damage.) The Intelligence Officer
was right there to check out the pictures. I guess that was the main reason
for the photo lab, but we did a lot of other picture work and lab work. My
time in England was wonderful. I really enjoyed myself and I never knew a
war was happening. Another girl and her family, Bob Bumm and I met at the
Queen Anne Inn & Pub was Mr. & Mrs. Shuber and Margaret. Margaret
interested both Bob and I. She was about 18, tall, with nice legs. Alec
Shuber was with the Agricultural Ministry and had a car. He took a liking to
both of us and invited us to their home in Wisbech, quite far from our base.
When Bob and I got a pass, we would take a train to Wisbech and spend the
weekend with them. I told Alec of our greenhouse at home, and I think that
made him favor me more. He used to take me places, and took me to Boston
where the Pilgrims set sail for the new land. Day Shuher was an artist. She
also exchanged letters with Mom. The people in England were very nice to me.
At 20 - 21 years of age, it was one of the best time of my life. I really
didn't think much about a war going on, I just enjoyed traveling around
England and doing my job at the base. Just before VJ day, Bob and I went to
London for a weekend. It was wonderful. We actually met and talked to the
Well, the war was over in Europe, but we still had
to take care of Japan. I guess it was early July when the 467th sailed on
the "Queen Mary for home. I know I was home for my birthday, and was
still home when we dropped the A-Bomb on Japan. The war was over, but I had
to go back to Fort Dix. In September, I was sent to Sioux Falls, South
Dakota where I worked at the base lab 'till I was discharged.