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ANOTHER WEBSITE ON CREW 2366: ADDITIONAL DETAILS.

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KEITH PALMER, PILOT CLIFF BOLTON, CO-PILOT FRED BECCHETTI, BOMBARDIER VINCENT HAMILTON, NAVIGATOR LEROY DEROUEN, ENGINEER/GUNNER GARL MCHENRY, RADIO OPERATOR/GUNNER GREGORY MCGOVERN, ARMOUR/GUNNER LAWRENCE SLADOVNIK, WAIST GUNNER JOHN M. SMITH, BALL TURRET GUNNER ROBERT SHERICK, TAIL TURRET GUNNER INDIVIDUAL CREW MEMBER PICTURES DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC) AIR MEDAL WITH 3 OAK LEAF CLUSTERS JUBILEE OF LIBERTY MEDAL EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL AMERICAN CAMPAIGN RIBBON VICTORY RIBBON GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL TIBENHAM FIELD, ENGLAND FLIGHT SUIT SKETCH PROPAGANDA BROADCASTER NORDEN BOMB SIGHT GARL MCHENRY R & R GARL & RUTH MCHENRY 1996 WINDOW BANNER AIR FORCE MAGAZINE PROPAGANDA LEAFLET PROPAGANDA LEAFLET SHOULDER AND ARM PATCHES BOB & MYRTLE FRED & VIV CATERPILLAR CLUB ENTIRE CREW BOMBER FLAK SKETCH GARL & FRED 1995 ARMY Air Force pin PARACHUTE ASSISTED LANDING ASSISTED LANDING SKETCH TYPICAL B-24 KILROY WAS HERE CREW POSITIONS Aircraft Crew Member Wings Aircraft Gunners Wings GUNNERY SCHOOL HELMET DECAL INSIGNIAS CATERPILLAR PINS ENEMY FLAK .50 AND .30 CALIBER SHELLS Dog Tags RUPTURED DUCK
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THE PRE-COMBAT EXPERIENCES OF CREW 2366

November 1943.
Salt Lake City, Utah. The airmen who would eventually form B-24 Crew 2366 began arriving individually in Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 1943 from their respective training programs in other parts of the country. Without being immediately assigned to any crew, all of them satisfied certain pre-combat administrative and medical requirements on the base and attended classes in such things as radio and armament during one of the harshest winters and holiday seasons in Salt Lake City history.



January 11, 1944. The ten men assigned to Crew 2366 boarded a train at 11:00 p.m. for Casper, Wyoming, This was the first time they had met one another as fellow crew members. Overnight, the Pullman train took them over the Rocky Mountains, passing through many smoke-filled tunnels and rolling for another day and night over the plains of Wyoming.


January 13, 1944. The crew arrived in Casper, Wyoming, at 9:00 a.m. and took up their schedule as a crew. The crew was composed of the following trained airmen (Photos available in later sections).


NAMES OF CREW MEMBERS
Keith Palmer, pilot, from Waco, Texas.
Fred Becchetti, bombardier, from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Phil Genussa, navigator, from Long Island, New York. [Phil would be with the crew until Feb. 25, when he shipped out for training at Wendover, Utah, with another crew.]
Vincent P. Hamilton, navigator, from New York City [Replaced Genussa on March 11].
Garl D. McHenry, part time radio operator and part time top turret gunner, from Markle, Indiana.
Leroy DeRouen, flight engineer and part time top turret gunner, from New Iberia, Louisiana. [Leroy would fly 17 combat missions before being relieved because of a nervous breakdown.]
Bernard Goldstein, flight engineer and part time top turret gunner, from Middleton, Connecticut [Replaced DeRouen on June 23, 1944].
Gregory McGovern, armorer and waist gunner, from Chicago, Illinois.
Lawrence Sladovnik, waist gunner, from San Antonio, Texas.
Robert Sherick, tail gunner, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
John M. Smith, ball-turret gunner, from Bay Harbor, Florida.

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OVERSEAS ROUTING

April 7, 1944. After training as a B-24 crew in wintry Casper Wyoming for three months, the crew shipped out by troop train for Topeka, Kansas, where they would pick up a new B-24 to fly to England.

April 15, 1944. After six days of pre-combat orientation and diversion in Topeka and nearby Kansas City, the crew boarded a new B-24 and took off at dawn for Morrison Field, Florida, near West Palm Beach.

April 20, 1944. After two days in sub-tropical Florida, the crew took off, leaving the U.S. at 12:26.40 p.m.EST. Landed in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at 12:00 noon. Scheduled to leave the next day, but grounded by weather until April 22.

April 22, 1944. Takeoff from Trinidad at 1:00 a.m. Crossed the Equator at 9:07.30 that morning on the way to Fortaleza, Brazil.

April 23, 1944. Landed in Fortaleza, Brazil, at 11:00 a.m. Did some engine maintenance and got some exposure to Brazilian culture.

April 24, 1944.Took off from Fortaleza at 9:10 p.m. and crossed the Atlantic with Vince Hamilton doing the navigation to Dakar.

April 25, 1944.Landed in Dakar, French West Africa, at 8:15 a.m. Very primitive quarters.

April 26, 1944.Took off from Dakar at 5:a.m.. Bad weather forced us to land at Tindouf Ramp. Took off from Tindouf at 2:00 p.m. and flew through a violent thunderstorm over the Atlas Mountains, to land at Marrakech, where we cleaned and loaded our .50 caliber machine guns for the final lap to England.

April 29, 1944. Took off from Marrakech at 8:00 p.m. after three days exposure to Arabic and French culture. Overnight flight along the western edge of Europe.

April 30, 1944. Landed in Wales, England, at 6:30 a.m. The crew reluctantly surrendered the new B-24. The crew's understanding at this point was that they would have to fly 25 combat missions.

May 1, 1944. The crew left by train at 8:30 a.m. for Stone, England.

May 5, 1944. The crew left by train and arrived at their base, Tibenham, England's 445th Bomb Group, in the afternoon. The crew's new understanding was that they would have to fly 30 combat missions.

May 7, 1944. The crew's first practice mission from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Assigned to 702nd Squadron.

May 8, 1944. Second practice mission at 7:00 p.m. for 45 minutes. Bolton did takeoff and landing.

May 9, 1944. Third practice mission. Three hours.

May 11, 1944. Crew flew fourth practice mission, dropping four bombs. Vince Hamilton was called for his first mission that morning because of a group shortage of navigators.

May 13, 1944. Afternoon practice mission.

May 15, 1944. Practice mission to the English coast in darkness, taking off at 2:00 a.m.

May 19, 1944. Crew placed on alert for next day's combat mission.


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MAP OF TIBENHAM FIELD

The base in England which was home to the 445th Bomb Group. It is presently used by a glider club.


















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TYPICAL B-24 CONFIGURATION
THE B-24 LIBERATOR HEAVY BOMBER

Introduction.

      We flew the B-24 Liberator out of the 445th Bomb Group. We had flown the B-24 since our heavy bombardment training at Casper, Wyoming, January 13 to April 7, 1944. We flew a shining new B-24 from Topeka, Kansas, to Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida, and then to Wales, England, via Trinidad, Fortaleza, Dakar, Marrakech, April 20 to April 30, 1944. After six practice flights over England in a B-24 at the 445th BG, we were ready for our first combat mission on May 20, 1944. By then we knew the B-24 literally inside and out, and we knew our duties and responsibilities thoroughly.
      We were loyal to the B-24, so that whenever we were in a conversation with B-17 flyers and, inevitably, in a good natured comparison of the two bombers, we defended the B-24 in spite of how it looked and how it was viewed from the public relations standpoint in comparison to the sleek Boeing B-17 with its glamorous nickname "The Flying Fortress."
     We knew that the B-24 was hard to fly in formation, but we also knew from firsthand experience what a battering the aircraft could take and still bring us home. It was called a "banana boat," but we would always stick by it.
     The B-24 was conceived in 1939 and promoted to the U.S. Army Air Corps as superior to the B-17. The earliest B-24's were sold to the British, but with Pearl Harbor, the U.S. began using them in the Pacific, mostly as ocean patrol bombers. The B-24 then underwent periodic upgrades so that by May 1944 our 445th Bomb Group was flying the B-24G and the B-24H, which featured the new Briggs-Sperry ball turret and the Emerson nose turret. These two new turrets plugged two weaknesses in the B-24's defense against fighters.
     We didn't have much time to learn the statistics on the B-24. It was just the vehicle that took us into combat, and it was one of the largest airplanes in the world. That was enough for us to know about the B-24 at that time.

Size of the B-24.

     Our bomber had a span of 110 feet (33.5 meters) from wingtip to wingtip. From the front turret to the end of the tail turret it was 67 feet long (20.5 meters). It was 18 feet high (5.5 meters).

Engines of the B-24.

     The B-24 was propeller-driven by four Pratt & Whitney radial piston engines which could generate 1,299 horsepower for takeoff and would cruise at 1,050 horsepower at 7,500 feet of altitude (2,286 meters).

Speed of the B-24.

     On takeoff it was lucky to get up a speed of 90-100 mph (145-160 kilometers/h), depending on the load. It had to be loaded with great care as to total weight and ratio of bombs to fuel. In the air, at an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) it could do 300 mph (482.8 kilometers/h), but it was not flown at that altitude in the Eighth Air Force. At the normal altitude of an Eight Air Force mission, 20,000 to 25,000 feet (6,096 to 7,620 meters) the B-24 could do about 220 mph (354 kilometers/h), depending on its bomb load. It could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) with a 5,000 pound bomb load (2,268 kilograms) in about 25 minutes.

Weight and Load Capacity of the B-24.

     An empty B-24 weighed 36,500 pounds (16,556 kilograms). In the bomb bay it could carry up to 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) in bombs. Within that limit it could carry four 2000-pound bombs (907- kilogram) or sixteen 500-pounders (227-kilogram). One of the most important duties of the bombardier and the engineer before takeoff on a bombing mission was to study the ratio between fuel and bomb load and to determine the aircraft's center of gravity.

Guns on the B-24.

     It carried two Browning .50 caliber(12.7 millimeter) machine-guns in each of four turrets: tail turret, ball turret below the aircraft, top turret over the engineer and radio operator's compartment and front turret directly over the bombardier's compartment. There was also a .50 caliber (12.7 millimeter) gun on each side of the waist compartment.

CONSOLIDATED MISSION LIST

     The first 32 missions listed below were flown by T/Sgt   Garl McHenry as a    
Radio Operator/Gunner on crew 2366. All 35 missions were flown by Fred
Becchetti as a Bombardier/Navigator on crew 2366. The crew was attached to the
8th AAF, 2nd Air Division, 445th Bomb Group, 702nd Bomb Squadron.
MISSION FLYING TIME NUMBER DATE TARGET CITY TARGET INSTALLATION (HRS) 1 MAY 20, 44 REIMS, FRANCE MARSHALLING YARDS 6 2 MAY 22, 44 ORLEY, FRANCE AIR FIELD HANGERS 5.3 3 MAY 26, 44 TROYES, FRANCE MARSHALLING YARDS 8 4 MAY 27, 44 DECAMP, FRANCE GUN INSTALLATIONS 4.3 5 MAY 28, 44 MERSENBURG, GERMANY SYNTHETIC OIL REFINERY 8.2 6 MAY 30, 44 ODENBURG, GERMANY AIR FIELD HANGERS 7.15 7 MAY 31, 44 LUMES, FRANCE MARSHALLING YARDS 4.4 8 JUNE 2, 44 PAS DE CALAIS, FRANCE COASTAL GUNS 6.1 9 JUNE 3, 44 PAS DE CALIAS, FRANCE THREE 150 MM HOWISTZERS 5.1 * 10 JUNE 6, 44 LAHARVE, FRANCE GUN INSTALLATIONS 6.1 11 JUNE 8, 44 RENNES, FRANCE RAILROAD BRIDGE 6.15 12 JUNE 11, 44 SAUMUR, FRANCE RAILROAD BRIDGE 5 13 JUNE 12, 44 RENNES, FRANCE RAILROAD BRIDGE 6.45 14 JUNE 13, 44 RENNES, FRANCE RAILROAD BRIDGE 6.45 15 JUNE 15, 44 TOURS, FRANCE RAILROAD BRIDGE 6.15 16 JUNE 20, 44 STETTIN, GERMANY SYNTHETIC OIL REFINERY 8 17 JUNE 21, 44 BERLIN, GERMANY TANK & AIRCRAFT ENGINE PLANT 8.3 18 JUNE 23, 44 JUMINCOURT, FRANCE AIR FIELD 5.15 19 JUNE 24, 44 AMEINS, FRANCE TRANSFORMER BUILDING 4.15 20 JUNE 27, 44 PARIS, FRANCE MARSHALLING YARDS 5 21 JUNE 29, 44 KOTHEN, GERMANY JUNKERS AERO ENGINE PLANT 7 22 JULY 11, 44 MUNICH, GERMANY REIM AIRFIELD (JET AIRCRAFT) 9 23 JULY 12, 44 MUNICH, GERMANY CIVIL AIRFIELD 10 24 JULY 16, 44 SAARBRUCKEN, GER MARSHALLING YARDS 7 25 JULY 17, 44 ROMELLY SURSEINE, FR MORNE RIVER RR BRIDGE 6 26 JULY 19, 44 LEIPHEIM, GERMANY AIRFIELD 8.3 27 JULY 20, 44 GOTHA, GERMANY MESSERSCHMITT ASSEMBLY PLANT 7.45 28 JULY 23, 44 CARBIEL (LAON), FRANCE LAON AIRFIELD 7 29 JULY 24, 44 CAEN (BEACH HEAD) GERMAN FRONT LINES 5.3 30 JULY 25, 44 ST LO, FRANCE GUN EMPLACEMENTS 6 # 31 JULY 29, 44 BREMEN, GERMANY OIL REFINERY 6.2 ~ 32 JULY 31, 44 LUDWIGSHAVEN, GER CHEMICAL PLANT (ABORTED) 33 AUG 6, 44 HARBURG GERMANY OIL REFINERY NEAR HAMBURG 7 34 AUG 11, 44 STRASBOURG, FRANCE OIL REFINERY 35 AUG 14, 44 FINESSE, FRANCE RR BRIDGE SOUTH OF LAON, FRANCE * ALLIED INVASION (D DAY) # 265 ANTI AIRCRAFT GUNS REPORTED AT THE TARGET SITE.
~ LOST ALTITUDE OVER ENEMY TERRITORY AND LEFT FORMATION TO FLY HOME ALONE.
Dropped everything we could get loose from the aircraft. Arrived over England at
1600 ft with cloud cover and still loosing altitude. Seven crew members parachuted resulting
in 4 leg injuries. Pilot and co-pilot could then hold altitude and took the aircraft in for
a safe landing. Tour of duty was considered complete (Normal tour 35 missions) and the
injured crew members were removed from combat status with 203.5 hours of air combat time.
The remaining crew members flew the complete tour of 35 missions. Each crew member was
awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters.
DETAILED LIST OF BOMBING MISSIONS

THE WW II BOMBING MISSIONS OF T/SGT. GARL D. McHENRY AND LT. FRED BECCHETTI FROM MAY TO AUGUST, 1944, WITH B-24 LIBERATOR CREW NO. 2366 IN THE U.S. EIGHTH AIR FORCE, 445TH BOMB GROUP, 702ND SQUADRON, BASED AT TIBENHAM, NORFOLK, ENGLAND
     Radio Operator T/Sgt. McHenry and Bombardier-Navigator Lt. Becchetti flew together in all the missions from May 20 to July 31, 1944. On the 32nd mission on July 31, the crew had to make an emergency parachute jump over England. McHenry sustained an injury and was taken off combat flying status permanently. Becchetti suffered a minor injury on the same jump, but was returned to flying status on August 5 and flew four additional missions without McHenry, completing his full quota of 35 missions on August 14. The crew did no individual aiming and dropping of bombs on any of these missions. They always flew as part of a group or squadron formation, dropping their bombs on signal from the formation's lead bombardier.

1ST MISSION MAY 20, 1944. RHEIMS, FRANCE, NEAR PARIS TO BOMB R.R. MARSHALING YARDS
     Wake-up at 3:00 a.m. Took off at 5:30 a.m., carrying six 1000-pound bombs. The pilot was 2nd Lt Dobson with Keith Palmer flying co-pilot. Crossed English Channel at 23,000 feet. A little flak at the French coast. Escort of P-47's, P-38's and P-51's was excellent. Bombs fell short of target, which was about 2,000 yards north of Rheims Cathedral. During return, bombardier was trapped in his nose turret, which had jammed sideways so that the entry door was blown off by the airstream. Before the turret could be unjammed manually, the bombardier suffered frostbite on the left side of his face. Returned to base at 1:00 p.m. Mission length: 6:00 hrs.

2nd MISSION MAY 24, 1944. PARIS, FRANCE TO BOMB HANGARS AT ORLY AIRFIELD, 2 MI. SOUTH.
     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Take-off at 6:00 a.m., carrying twelve 500-pound bombs. Palmer again flying co-pilot and Lt. Dobson flying as pilot. Lots of flak over area around Paris. No enemy fighters. Good P-47 escort. Piece of flak hit cowling of No.2 engine. Bombs hit the target; one hangar on fire. Some bombs fell in residential area. Bombardier became jammed in nose turret again, but released quickly. Mission carried out at about 25,000 feet. Returned to base at 7:00 a.m. Mission length: 5:30 hrs.

3rd MISSION MAY 25, 1944 TROYES, FRANCE, 15 MI. SOUTH OF PARIS TO BOMB R.R. MARSHALING YARDS
     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Take-off at 6:30 a.m., carrying twenty 250-pound bombs. Palmer flying pilot for first time and Cliff Bolton, co-pilot. Lead bombardier failed to recognize primary target. Also failed to see secondary target. Formation returned to base without dropping bombs. Heavy flak over secondary target and at French coast. Flak hole in cowling of No. 2 engine. Returned to base at 2:45 p.m. with only 50 gal. gas for each engine. Mission length, thanks to search for a target, was 8:00 hrs.

4th MISSION MAY 27, 1944 FÉCAMP, FRANCE TO BOMB HEAVY COASTAL GUN EMPLACEMENTS
     Wake-up at 7:30 a.m. and take-off at 9:00 a.m., carrying twelve 250-pound bombs, in a six-plane formation. Over enemy territory for about four minutes. No flak. No enemy fighters. Dropped bombs, but did no damage to the target. Returned to base at 3:30 p.m. Mission length: 4:30 hrs.


5th MISSION MAY 28, 1944 MERSEBURG, GERMANY TO BOMB A SYNTHETIC OIL REFINERY
     Wake-up at 7:00 a.m.. Take-off at 9:00 a.m., carrying ten 500-pound bombs. Heavy flak at the target and on route over France. We lost one ship from the formation and the waist gunner saw all ten parachutes. At "bombs away" a piece of flak punctured several hydraulic lines on the right wall of the bomb bay. At one point in the return flight, a German JU-88 passed under the formation, but made no attack, and nobody shot at him, either. On the return, in preparing for landing, crew discovered that hydraulic leak prevented operation of flaps, brakes and landing gear. The crew mechanically cranked the landing gear down. To land, the crew rigged two parachutes at waist windows, which braked the plane on the runway (See below: "Second Parachute-Assisted Landing in HistoryFull Narrative" base at 5:00 p.m.. Fuselage had 15 flak holes, from one to three inches in diameter. Mission length: 8:20 hrs.


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CRUCIAL MISSIONS
PARACHUTE ASSISTED LANDING

PHOTO-PARACHUTE ASSISTED LANDING

SECOND PARACHUTE-ASSISTED LANDING IN HISTORY (?) FULL NARRATIVE Mission To Merseburg

     The crew's fifth combat mission on May 28, 1944, over eight hours in length, with Lt. Dobson as pilot and Keith Palmer as co-pilot, took them deep into Germany to Merseburg. The Eighth Air Force's objective was the destruction of a synthetic oil refinery, which was heavily protected, so that the mission encountered an extraordinary amount of anti-aircraft flak on the approach and the bomb-run.

Hydraulic System Damaged
     After the "bombs away" and after all the bombs had dropped, a large piece of flak shot into the bomb bay and punctured several hydraulic lines on the right wall of the bomb bay, so that the hydraulic fluid essential to the operation of the landing gear, brakes and wing flaps leaked out. On their return, over the Channel, in their preparations for entering the traffic pattern at Tibenham prior to landing, the crew discovered that neither the landing gear nor the flaps functioned properly, since the hydraulic fluid was depleted.

Crew Opts for Braking With Parachutes
     One of the crew members had read in The Stars and Stripes Magazine, in a story about another theater of operations, about a crew's use of parachutes to brake their plane in a similar circumstance. He suggested the idea, and Crew 2366, liking the concept, decided on a parachute-assisted landing. They began rigging the parachute "brakes." They harnessed two packed chest parachutes to the .50 caliber machine gun mountings in the waist, one on each side of the plane and stationed a man at each parachute with his hand on the rip cord.
     After alerting the Tibenham tower to the crew's predicament and their plan, the cockpit crew told the crew to lower the landing gear manually and made the final approach without being able to slow the speed with the flaps. As the wheels touched the runway, the assigned crew member at each waist window yanked the rip cord of the parachute, coordinating with each other in order to have a balanced braking of the plane.
     The parachute at the right hand window popped perfectly and ballooned behind the tail assembly. The parachute on the left side snagged on the .50 caliber gun sight and failed to open; however, the opened parachute on the right provided enough braking power to stop the plane before it could reach the end of the runway. The plane was immediately surrounded by emergency equipment and personnel.
Publicity
     The 445th Bomb Group's photographer took a photo as the crew was coming out onto the ramp after the plane had come to rest. The photo of what may have been the second parachute-assisted landing in history, with Garl McHenry standing near the tail and Fred Becchetti stooping under the plane appeared on p. 62 of the March 1945 issue of Air Force Magazine.

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6th MISSION MAY 30, 1944 OLDENBURG, GERMANY TO BOMB FIVE HANGARS ON THE AIRFIELD

     Wake-up at 4:00 a.m. Take-off at 7:30 a.m., carrying fifty-two 100-pound incendiary bombs. Entered Germany by way of Zyder Zee; returned by way of the North Sea. Some flak, but not too heavy. Bombs hit on target, but damage was light. On the return, Radio Operator McHenry picked up an SOS from a plane that had to ditch but was not certain that it was from our group. Fighter escort by the RAF flying P-51's. One-inch flak hole near No. 2 engine. Mission length: 7:15 hrs.
7th MISSION MAY 31, 1944 LUMES, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. MARSHALING YARDS
     Wake-up at 4:00 a.m. Take-off at 6:15 a.m. carrying three 2000-pound bombs. Specific target was the round house of the 15-mile long railroad yards. A little flak at the French coast. The weather turned bad, obscuring the target so that there was a chance that bombs would land in a residential area. Formation returned to base with bombs. On the return, the crew's 445th Group became separated from the main formation by bad weather and returned to base alone without other bombers and without a fighter escort. Crew very nervous. In the cloud cover over the Channel the crew almost collided with another plane. Returned to base at 12:15 noon, 30 minutes earlier than if the mission had been completed. Mission length: 4:40 hrs. Crew was not given credit for this mission at first; it was counted later, however.
8th MISSION JUNE 2, 1944 PAS DE CALAIS, FRANCE TO BOMB COASTAL GUNS PRE-INVASION TACTIC
     Wake-up at 4:00 a.m. Take-off at 6:30 a.m. carrying four 2000-pound bombs with Lt. Dobson as the pilot. We flew in a rather new plane (H Model) dubbed "Dixie Flier". Lead plane could not find primary target, so we dropped bombs on secondary target using lead plane's radar. Cloud cover prevented damage assessment. No flak, no fighters. Over enemy territory only five minutes. Some planes from another group dropped bombs in the Channel near the coast, causing mines to explode. Mission length: 6:10 hrs.
9th MISSION JUNE 3, 1944 BREQUE EN SUR, FRANCE TO BOMB COASTAL GUNS AS PRE-INVASION TACTIC
     Wake-up at 4:00 a.m. Take-off at 9:00 a.m. with twelve 500-pound bombs on board. Specific target was three 150mm howitzers, about 100 yards from a Red Cross hospital. Flak very intense and accurate, some green in color. Several flak holes in fuselage. One flak hole three feet from McHenry's radio position. No fighters. Co-pilot Bolton reported about six rockets. Not able to make damage assessment. Back at base at 2:00 p.m. Mission length: 5:10 hrs, about ten minutes over enemy territory. Tibenham base under high alert. Officers wearing .45 pistols and enlisted men pulling guard duty on the base. No passes off the base.
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NORMANDY INVASION - D DAY JUNE 6, 1944
10th MISSION JUNE 6, 1944 D-DAY LaHAVRE. FRANCE TO BOMB ENEMY PERSONNEL ON BEACH

     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Take-off at 2:52 a.m. Carrying 320 anti-personnel fragmentation bombs to bomb enemy gun emplacements in support of the Allied invasion. We flew in "H for Harry" with a 7 man crew, ie, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Engineer, Radio Operator and Tail Gunner. Solid clouds below as planes tried to make up formations. Crew 2366 finally became part of another formation. Using the lead ship's radar, the formation dropped bombs beyond the invasion beach. S-2 said we hit the beach about 2 minutes before the allied troups landed on the beach head. There were 1,500 bombers, 1,200 fighter escorts and 900 fighter bombers supporting the D-Day landing, but because of the weather, they were not able to give effective support. Returned to base at about 11:00 a.m., logging 6:10 hrs of flying time. Becchetti was able to see landing barges and firing from enemy's defensive positions through breaks in the clouds. McHenry could see large ships belching fire and smoke in their shelling of the beach and landing craft zig zagging through the water towards the beach. McHenry's IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) broke down before the mission. The ground crew replaced it before take-off. Crew unhappy about the level of support they were able to give the men on the ground through the 100% cloud cover.
11th MISSION JUNE 8, 1944 RENNES, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. BRIDGE NORTH OF RENNES
     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Loaded with three 500-pound bombs. Briefed for one target, but target was changed. Prepared for take-off at 5:15 a.m., but mission was scrubbed at 5:16 a.m. as the cloud ceiling dropped to zero. Mission called on again at 6:00 a.m. and planes assembled over the southern tip of England, did four 360-degree turns in formation over the Channel and then went in at low level through intense and accurate flak to bomb a railway bridge, and miss it. Lead ship became confused on the return and took the formation over the target and the flak again. The 6:15-hour mission was declared a total failure.
12th MISSION JUNE 11, 1944 MAYENNE, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. BRIDGE
     Wake-up at 2:30 a.m. Take-off at 5:30 a.m. with four 500-pound bombs to bomb R.R. bridge about four miles east of Saumur at Mayenne. The formation assembled at 5,000 ft. and never went higher than 11,000 ft., going over the target at 8,000 ft. The target was clouded over, so the formation returned with the bombs. No flak or fighter opposition. Becchetti rode as navigator for the first time. On the return the crew searched for a target of opportunity, opening the bomb bays several times, but dropping no bombs. Mission length: 5:00 hrs.
13th MISSION JUNE 12, 1944 MAYENNE, FRANCE TO BOMB SAME R.R. BRIDGE
     Wake-up at 2:15 a.m. Take-off at 5:00 a.m. High-level mission with an 8-man crew. Over target at 20,000 ft. Heavy and accurate flak on the first run over the target. Had to make a second run. Hit the target, but no assessment of damage. No fighters, but plane returned with flak holes in the right wing, in left tail fin, at right waist window and No.3 engine cowling. Mission length: 6:45 hrs. 3:30 hrs on oxygen.
14th MISSION JUNE 13, 1944 RENNES, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. BRIDGE 7 MI. WEST OF CITY
     Afternoon take-off at 4:10 p.m. carrying ten 500-pound bombs for the 445th Bomb Group's 100th mission. Poor formation assembly, but the group finally crossed the Channel, going in at high altitude and almost lobbing the bombs at the target from the coast. No fighter or flak opposition. Our bombs hit beyond the bridge, but the formation's bombs did some damage. Mission length: 6:45 hrs. On oxygen for four hours. Returned to base at 10:45 p.m. Big 100th mission party until 3:00 a.m.
15th MISSION JUNE 15, 1944 TOURS, FRANCE TO BOMB R. R. BRIDGE 10 MI. WEST OF CITY
     Wake-up at 1:10 a.m. after only about one hour of sleep. Take-off at 8:00 a.m. with 12 500-pound bombs to bomb a 700 ft. bridge. Very smooth mission in perfect weather. Navigation perfect. Formation's bombs landed in a 2,000-ft circle. Bridge demolished. No flak, no fighters. Visual bombing from 20,000 ft. P-51 escorts. Mission length: 6:15 hrs.
48-HOUR PASS JUNE 17, 1944 LONDON, ENGLAND TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
     Wake-up at midnight for a short mission, but the cloud ceiling dropped, and the mission was scrubbed, so the crew finally received a 48-hour pass to London. Caught train at 8:24 a.m. and arrived in London at 11:00 a.m. Found London under attack by German "buzz bombs" so crew remained alert to danger for two days; although they had a wonderful time, staying at the Imperial Hotel and eating some of their meals at the nearby Green Parrot. Saw Danny Kaye movie "Up in Arms," browsed at Picadilly Circus among the "commandos" or prostitutes. On Sunday, went on sightseeing tour - Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Church, Buckingham Palace, No. 10 Downing Street, Coventry blitzed area, London Bridge and the official one-foot length in silver at the Lord Mayor's Office. No dancing or partying, because clubs required membership. To bed very tired Sunday night at 1:00 a.m.
16th MISSION JUNE 20, 1944 STETTIN (SZEZECIN), POLAND TO BOMB SYNTHETIC OIL PLANT
     Wake-up at 1:00 a.m. Take-off at 5:00 carrying ten 500-pound bombs to bomb the important synthetic oil plant at Politz, Germany, with 21 bomb groups of the 8th Air Force participating. The 445th was the last group to hit the target. Flak was intense and accurate. Many enemy fighters. Plane returned with numerous flak holes in the fuselage. The replacement waist gunner Sgt. Hoffman was struck by a small piece of flak in the head just between his temple and his right eye. Bombardier Becchetti as first aid officer crossed the bomb bay catwalk into the waist compartment to treat Hoffman's wound. Fortunately, the flak had spent itself before striking Hoffman, so the piece of flak was embedded in his head. Becchetti was able to take out the piece of flak, clean the wound, which did not bleed much, and then apply a compress. With sufficient velocity, the flak would have taken off Hoffman's head. Enemy fighters shot down several bombers; a few bombers had to turn off to Sweden for the duration of the war; and at least one bomber ditched in the Channel on the return. The raid was extraordinarily successful, leaving the plant in ruins, but German slave labor was able to rehabilitate the plant so that the 8th. Air Force had to attack it again six weeks later. Crew 2366 did not go on the second mission to Politz. Mission length at high altitude: 8:00 hrs.
17th MISSION JUNE 21, 1944 BERLIN, GERMANY TO BOMB AN AERO-TANK FACTORY
     Wake-up at 1:00 a.m. Take-off at 6:00 a.m. with ten 500-pound bombs to bomb an aero-tank factory on the southeastern part of Berlin, Germany. Secondary target was center of Berlin. Encountered heavy flak and enemy fighter opposition, but the plane did not take many flak hits in spite of the intensity of the barrage. The factory was obscured by clouds, so the group headed for the center of Berlin, but the flak barrage was so intense that the group veered off and dropped bombs on the open countryside. Two bombs failed to release, so Radio Operator McHenry had to go out on the cat walk of the bomb bay to unhook them while standing in the strong airstream. The 445th group lost four bombers to flak. The crew watched various bombers go down, trailing parachutes. Long-feared Berlin raid turned out to be a long milk run, but only because our group was not hit by fighters. Mission length: 8:30 hrs. This would be the last mission for Engineer Leroy DeRouen, the oldest member of Crew 2366, who broke under the strain of the seventeen missions, especially the last two to Politz and Berlin. He was mercifully grounded, and the crew would miss his laughter and good humor. Crew glad to have the Berlin raid out of the way.
18th MISSION JUNE 23, 1944 RHEIMS, FRANCE TO BOMB JUVINCOURT AIR FIELD
     Wake-up at 12:00 noon. Take-off at 4:30 p.m. carrying 240 anti-personnel fragmentation bombs. The new engineer replacing Leroy DeRouen was Bernard Goldstein. No fighters, but lots of flak going in and coming out, some of it hitting the fuselage near the pilot's position. Crew flew in last in the formation and salvoed bombs over airfield. On return flight the crew saw a B-24 explode in midair near Brussels. Returned to base at 8:30 p.m. Mission length: 5:15 hrs.
19th MISSION JUNE 24, 1944 AMIENS, FRANCE TO BOMB A TRANSFORMER BUILDING
     Wake-up at 12:00 noon. Take-off at 4:30 p.m. carrying fifty-two 100-pound bombs. Lead ship failed to locate the transformer building; then the lead navigator became lost and led the formation over areas of flak in the region. Flak very accurate over Pas de Calais. At the coast all four engines suddenly cut off, and plane dropped 2,000 feet before Pilot Palmer could recover. Cause was a burned out wire in the navigator's radar gee box. Flak popped through front turret and struck bombardier on his knee but did not penetrate the skin. Flak also hit just below the co-pilot's position and burst the hydraulic line supplying hydraulic power to the bomb bay doors and the landing gear. For landing, the crew had to lower landing gear manually. At one point the crew almost collided in midair with another bomber. Should have been an easy milk run mission, but it became complicated and dangerous. Returned at 8:45 p.m. Mission length: 4:15 hrs.
20th MISSION JUNE 27, 1944 PARIS, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. YARDS NORTH OF CITY
     Wake-up at 12:00 noon. Take-off at 3:55 p.m. with load of twelve 500-pound bombs to bomb a railroad junction and marshaling yards near small town of Creil about six or eight miles north of Paris. Plan was to bomb by radar, but weather was clear, so bombing was visual. We hit the target, but lost a bomber to flak. McHenry had to go out into the open bomb bay to release a bomb which had failed to release. While in the bomb bay, McHenry saw a bomber peel off and saw a speck come out, but no open parachute. Rumor was that the bomber had to ditch in the Channel. The bomb run was a terrible 29 minutes long across two airfields which threw up heavy flak barrages. No fighters, but returned with flak holes in the tail and left wing. Back at base at 6:48 p.m. Mission length: 5:00 hrs.
21st MISSION JUNE 29, 1944 KOTHEN, GERMANY TO BOMB JUNKERS AIRCRAFT FACTORY
     Wake-up at 12:00 midnight. Take-off at 5:30 a.m. with ten 500-pound bombs to bomb a Junkers Aero Engine Factory on the east side of the railroad near Kothen. Low clouds obscured the primary target. Lead squadron also missed the secondary target and dropped their bombs in the woods ten miles east of Burg. The crew's squadron peeled off and dropped their bombs on a target of opportunity, a railroad marshaling yard at Debisbel, Kalternidor, Germany. No fighters, but intense and accurate flak. Mission length: 7:00 hrs. On oxygen for 5:40 hrs.
48-HOUR PASS FOURTH OF JULY LONDON, ENGLAND TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
     Arrived at the Imperial Hotel in London at 11:30 a.m. German buzz-bombs flying overhead with deadly frequency. Saw movies. Met old friends from training in the U.S. Went dancing at Covent Gardens. Ate, drank and enjoyed the whole two days.
ABORT MISSION JULY 8, 1944 ST. QUENTIN, FRANCE TO BOMB A BRIDGE IN FRANCE
     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Take-off at about 5:30. Flew across the Channel, but weather socked in, and base recalled the mission. Not enough time over enemy territory to get credit for a mission.
22nd MISSION JULY 11, 1944 MUNICH, GERMANY TO BOMB REIM AIRFIELD EAST OF MUNICH
     Wake-up at 3:00 a.m. Take-off at 8:15 a.m. with two 500-pound bombs and ten bundles of propaganda leaflets weighing 350 lbs per cluster. The primary target was Reim Airfield, Luftwaffe headquarters. Secondary target was the center of Munich, to be bombed if the overcast was 90%. It was a coordinated mission with the 15th Air Force out of Italy, so there were about 1,500 bombers focused on Munich. This was first mission on which the center of a major city was designated as a target. Intelligence officers explained that the bombers would not be bombing civilians; they would be bombing "skilled workers." Some of the bombs would have delayed-action fuses. Whole European continent was covered by low-lying clouds, so the center of Munich was main target from beginning. Many pockets of flak along the way, and the flak over Munich was very intense, but its effect was diminished by the bombers' use of chaff (aluminum strips) to throw off the radar of the anti-aircraft guns. No enemy fighters hit the 445th Bomb Group. No 445th bombers lost to flak, but one bomber turned off to Switzerland; however, it was reported later that the plane did not reach Switzerland. Mission length: 9:00. 7:00 hrs on oxygen.

23rd MISSION JULY 12TH, 1944 MUNICH, GERMANY TO BOMB REIM AIRFIELD

     Wake-up at 4:00 a.m. Take-off at 8:30 a.m. with six 500-pound bombs and four clusters of incendiary bombs to bomb the Reim Airfield or the industrial section of Munich, with both the 8th and the 15th Air Forces converging on the city. Europe was again covered by clouds, so the formation headed directly for Munich, bombing through the clouds by radar. No enemy fighters hit the 445th, but flak was heavy. On the way to the target the crew lost the No. 1 engine's supercharger near Luxembourg. The crew debated aborting, but decided to stick with the formation rather than go it alone against German fighters. No. 3 engine began spitting oil, so Becchetti, as navigator, began plotting a course back to base or to Switzerland, but the plane recovered and the crew stuck with the formation into and out of Munich. On the bomb run, McHenry had to go out into the open bomb bay and release a cluster of incendiary bombs that had hung up. The crew returned to base at 6:30 p.m. after 10:00 hours in the air and six hours on oxygen.
24th MISSION JULY 16, 1944 SAARBRUCKEN, GERMANY TO BOMB R.R. MARSHALING YARDS
     Wake-up at 1:10 a.m. Take-off at 5:30 a.m. with load of twelve 500-pound bombs. One bomber carried leaflets. Target covered by clouds and flak barrage was intense. Saw some pink flak over Luxembourg . Dropped our bombs through the clouds by radar. No enemy fighters, but lots of flak, some of it red in color. No battle damage on plane. Mission length: 7:00 hrs.
25th MISSION JULY 17, 1944 PARIS, FRANCE TO BOMB BRIDGE OVER MARNE RIVER
     Wake-up at 2:00 a.m. Take-off at 6:30 a.m. with load of eight 500-pound bombs. Primary target was railroad bridge on the Marne River about 35 miles east of Paris. Clouds all the way to the target, but they suddenly cleared over the target. Formation missed the bridge on two bomb runs from 21,000 feet. Bomb bay doors jammed halfway, so bombs had to be salvoed mechanically. Returned to base at 12:30 noon. Mission length: 6:00 hrs.
26th MISSION JULY 19, 1944 GUNSBURG, GERMANY TO BOMB JET PLANE FACTORY
     Wake-up at 12:00 midnight. Take-off at 4:45 a.m. with load of 240 anti-personnel fragmentation bombs weighing 20 pounds each. Target was a factory one mile southeast of Leipheim where they were manufacturing jet-propelled Messerschmidt-232's. Crews fragmentation bombs were dropped squarely on jets parked on the ramps; first three squadrons dropped 500-pound bombs on the assembly plant and hangars. Bombing results were very good. No enemy fighters in the air and flak moderate and inaccurate. Returned to base at 1:05 p.m. Mission length: 8:30 hrs.
27th MISSION JULY 20, 1944 GOTHA, GERMANY TO BOMB MESSERSCHMIDT-110 FACTORY
     Wake-up at 1:30 a.m. Take-off at 7:40 a.m. with twelve 500-pound bombs. Primary target was Messerschmidt-110 assembly plant northwest of Gotha. Secondary target was airfield about 215 miles northwest of Gotha. The 445th Bomb Group lost 13 of 26 bombers on its last mission to Gotha on Feb. 21, 1944, so this mission was somewhat fearful. This mission dropped fragmentation bombs and 500-pounders and produced good results. Lots of flak over the target and along the route. No enemy fighters. Returned to base at 2:30 p.m. Mission length: 7:45 hrs. A replacement nose gunner caused a stir among the crew when he tested his guns on the way in without warning the crew by intercom.
28th MISSION JULY 22, 1944 LAON, FRANCE TO BOMB AIRFIELD 40 MI. NE OF PARIS
     Wake-up at 11:00 a.m., but mission was scrubbed, so crew went to lunch. Halfway through lunch, the crew was called out again for a take-off at 3:00 p.m. with a load of forty 300-pound bombs to bomb the Laon Airfield 40 miles northeast of Paris. The lead plane had to abort, so the formation continued to the target on No. 2 leader. Some flak along the route, but no flak over target. Good bombing from 22,000 ft. Mission length: 7:00 hrs.
29th MISSION JULY 24, 1944 ST.LO, FRANCE AREA TO BOMB PERIERS-ST. LO ROAD
Background: On D-Day, June 6, the Allies had invaded Europe. They spent over a month digging in and preparing for a drive eastward into the heart of Germany. They broke out of their beachhead at a place near St. Lo, France on July 24. The Eighth Air Force helped by softening up the Nazi lines. Bombing was from relatively low altitude, so that anti-aircraft fire was very accurate and deadly. The St. Lo missions were about as dangerous as it could get for slow and heavy bombers. The fact that there were men and machinery of the Allies moving below added to the danger.
     Wake-up at 12:00 midnight. Zero hour set at 9:00 a.m., so the crew went back to their huts to sleep until 7:00 a.m. Take-off was at 9:20 a.m. with a load of twenty-four 260-pound anti-personnel bombs. The target was the front of the German lines on the Periers-St. Lo road south of Caen, France. There was an 80% overcast, so the formation returned to base with its bombs for fear of hitting Allied troops on the beachhead. Flak was heavy and accurate since the formation was at only 12,000 feet. One B-24 off the crew's wing exploded in midair from flak, with no parachutes seen. No battle damage in spite of the heavy flak. Mission length: 5:30 hrs.
30th MISSION JULY 25, 1944 ST. LO, FRANCE AREA TO BOMB PERIERS-ST. LO ROAD
     Wake-up at 2:00 a.m. Take-off at 6:00 a.m. carrying twenty-four 260-pound anti-personnel bombs. Target was the gun emplacements on the Periers-St. Lo road. The formation assembled at 8,000 feet and did its bomb run at 11,000 feet, so flak was very accurate. Ground forces outlined the target area with yellow smoke bombs. Group lost two planes to flak. One plane returned with three crew members wounded. One pilot was shot down on his first mission. His plane caught fire , smoked for two minutes past the target; then the tail burned off and the plane blew into four pieces, but three parachutes could be seen. Good fighter escort, but fighters could do nothing about the flak. Mission length: 6:00 hrs. At base there was a rumor that the 14th Combat Wing had dropped bombs on Allied soldiers. The rumor turned out to be true.
48-HOUR PASS JULY 26, 1944 LONDON, ENGLAND TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
     Caught a 1:00 p.m. train to London. At the Imperial Hotel as usual. Movie. German buzz-bombs still landing in the city, but they are treated as routine by Londoners. Second day, the crew did some sightseeing. Went to Covent Gardens for dancing. Becchetti met a school chum near Picadilly Circus. At Covent Gardens he danced with a girl and asked to take her home. She had a chaperone. The second night, during five hours of sleep, there were 19 buzz-bombs over London.
31st MISSION JULY 29, 1944 BREMEN, GERMANY TO BOMB OIL REFINERY N. OF BREMEN
     Wake-up at 2:00 a.m. Take-off at 7:05 a.m. with a load of sixteen 250-pound bombs and four 500-pound incendiary bombs. The overcast was 100%, so bombing was by radar from 23,000 feet. Flak was extremely heavy, like over Berlin, but chaff helped. No enemy fighters. Good fighter escort. One flak hole in the top of the fuselage by the waist gunners. Back at base at 1:00 p.m. Mission length: 6:20 hrs. On oxygen for four hours. Crew's original navigator finished his 35 missions with this one.
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BAIL OUT OVER ENGLAND

ABORT MISSION JULY 31, 1944 LUDWIGSHAVEN, GERMANY TO BOMB A CHEMICAL PLANT

     Wake-up at 2:30 a.m. Take-off at 10:00 a.m. with a load of twelve clusters of small unfused incendiary bombs in 500-pound bundles. As the formation assembled over England at 17,000 feet, the crew's plane lost its No. 4 engine. Pilot Palmer had to feather the propeller. Then the No. 1 engine supercharger went out and the plane began losing altitude dangerously. The incendiary bombs were not to be returned to base, since they were not fused, so the crew requested landing instructions from base. Base ordered them to head out into the Channel and jettison the bombs through the cloud cover at a prescribed set of coordinates, which bombardier-navigator Becchetti was able to plot. Still losing altitude, the crew began lightening the plane by jettisoning all loose items in the plane like ammunition, waist guns, flak suits, radio tuners, etc. At 1,500 feet, pilot called for a bail-out through the 500-ft cloud cover. McGovern, Sherick, Sladovnik, Smith, Becchetti and McHenry bailed out. Pilot Palmer, Co-pilot Bolton and Engineer Bernard Goldstein were able to stabilize the plane sufficiently and find a break in the cloud cover to land the plane at the base. McGovern fractured his right ankle, Sladovnik broke his leg, Smith injured his ankle, McHenry injured his ankle. No more missions for them. Becchetti injured his ankle, but he was kept on combat flying status to finish his 35 missions.


BAIL OUT OVER ENGLAND

JULY 31, 1944, BAIL-OUT OVER NORWICH, ENGLAND THIS ACCOUNT OF THE BAIL OUT IS THE COMBINED EFFORT OF GARL MCHENRY AND FRED BECCHETTI FROM THE RECORDS THEY MADE AFTER RETURNING TO THE STATES AND THEIR TOUR OF DUTY IN THE MILITARY.

     The 445th Bomb Group's target for July 31, 1944, was a chemical plant deep in Germany at Ludwigshaven, Our crew, after one day's rest from a six-hour mission to bomb an oil refinery in Bremen, was awakened at 2:30 a.m. for a briefing on our 32nd combat mission, scheduled for takeoff at 9:00 a.m. We would be carrying twelve clusters of small unfused incendiary bombs in 500-pound bundles. We picked up our flying suits and equipment, rode out to the hardstand where our B-24 was parked and loaded and did our preflight checks at our individual positions. At about 10:00 a.m. we took off through the 500 ft. cloud ceiling that covered England that morning. We gained altitude over Tibenham to the 16,000 ft where the group formation was assembling. We began our move to take our prescribed position in the formation, but our B-24's No. 4 engine suddenly ran away at maximum RPMs. Pilot Keith Palmer turned off the engine, feathered the propeller and immediately called in an aborted mission for his aircraft. He reported that the aircraft was losing altitude at the rate of 300 ft. per minute.
     Since our bomb bay is loaded with unfused bombs, we cannot return to base and land without running the risk of their exploding. So, as instructed in the bombardier's briefing, we navigate to a precise set of latitude-longitude coordinates over the English Channel and salvo the bombs through the clouds into the sea.
     After unloading the bombs, we turn for our base at Tibenham to land the plane, but No. 1 engine's supercharger goes out and we lose another engine. With only two engines we begin to lose altitude at a dangerous rate.
     To lessen the weight of the aircraft and slow down our loss of altitude, we begin to throw out all loose objects on the plane. We were conscious of being over the English countryside, which we could not see because of the cloud cover, but we threw things out frantically anyway: the two .50 caliber machine guns in the waist compartment, our flak suits, radio tuning units, the auxiliary generator. The most cumbersome job was the jettisoning of the heavy belts of .50 caliber ammunition at the various gun positions. They were difficult to take out of their containers, to carry to the bomb bay and finally to toss out into the air stream without their whipping up and damaging the fuselage or the tail section. We could not help imagining what a terrible experience it must have been for anyone on the ground as the long belts of bullets came out of the clouds whistling, rattling and hissing to fall on the ground or in the trees. At one point in the hectic activity of throwing objects out of the plane one crew member jokingly grabbed another by the leg as if to throw him out, bringing on a laugh that broke the tension somewhat.
     By this time the plane, now at 1,500 ft. and steadily losing altitude, was near the base at Tibenham, and Pilot Palmer was searching for a break in the clouds that would allow him to make a landing. Under these conditions Palmer called for the crew's intercom vote on abandoning the plane by parachute - bailing out. There was no choice but to bail out. We could not take the plane through the clouds without having a place to land, especially in an inhabited area like Norfolk, England, dotted with small villages and even the large city of Norwich. Besides, we needed some altitude for our 24-ft. diameter chest packs to open, so a split-second decision had to be made, considering the plane's rapid loss of altitude. The bail-out vote was "Yes" and everyone grabbed for his chest pack and hooked it on.
     Pilot Palmer directed Radio Operator McHenry to inform the Army Airways Communication System (AACS) that we were bailing out. He leafed through the code book of the day and quickly composed the coded message "Bailed Out" and sent it to the AACS.
     The bail-out procedure goes into effect as Bombardier Fred Becchetti makes his way from the bombardier compartment in the nose, past the pilot's and radio operator's compartments, across the bomb bay cat walk, past the waist to the rear camera hatch, where Becchetti proceeds to supervise the bail-out through the camera hatch. He checks each man's parachute for proper and snug harnessing and then assists them in positioning themselves over the camera hatch for a safe bail-out, that is, upside down, with head, shoulders and arms on the rear edge of the hatch and legs towards the front of the aircraft.
     Armorer-Gunner Gregory McGovern was first to bail out at the camera hatch. He was followed by Tail Gunner Robert Sherick, Waist Gunner Lawrence Sladovnik and Ball Turret Gunner John M. Smith. Bombardier Becchetti then bailed out, leaving Pilot Palmer, Co-pilot Cliff Bolton, Engineer Bernard Goldstein and Radio Operator McHenry in the plane at 1,200 ft. and losing altitude over the cloud cover.
     At this point Palmer gave McHenry the choice of bailing out or sticking with the plane while he, Bolton and Goldstein continued their search for a break in the clouds which would permit them to land. Palmer indicated that it seemed wiser for McHenry to bail out, because he thought that even his weight would make it more difficult to circle and burn off fuel and to land if he should find a cloud opening. So McHenry went to the rear of the plane to bail out, carrying his chest pack, since he could not fit through the cat walk with the parachute attached to the harness.
     The waist area was completely empty, with the camera hatch wide open. Everyone had bailed out. Seeing that we were descending to the level of the cloud cover, he hurriedly strapped the chest pack to his parachute harness, which all of us wore during flight. He tightened the leg straps to ease the jolt when the parachute opens. He checked everything a second time and then lay down across the camera hatch looking upward with his feet towards the front of the aircraft. He rolled backwards out of the camera hatch and into the slipstream.
     He first noticed the noise of the aircraft engines fade away and pulled the rip cord as he entered the cloud bank. He kept the ripcord in his hand after the parachute blossomed into a beautiful canopy over his head. He stuffed the ripcord behind his parachute harness for a future keepsake and drifted into the cloud bank. In the cloud bank all the way down, he did not see the ground until he was about ten feet above it. As a result, he landed with most of his weight on his right leg, spraining his ankle, which was weak from having sprained it playing basketball in high school.
     On the ground, the wind was very calm, so the parachute settled by his side. He was in a field about 50 to 100 ft. from a hedge way and a road, which he could see only faintly because of the fog. He heard a yell for help from farther out in the field. He unhooked his parachute from the harness and limped toward the sound. He found Waist Gunner Sladovnik about 400 ft. out in the field. Still attached to his parachute, he lay on the ground and said, "I think I broke my leg. Get me some help."
     Leaving Sladovnik in the field, he limped to the road and was able to flag down a truck. He explained the predicament to the driver, who took him to a nearby airbase, where the gate guard called an ambulance. He got into the ambulance and described the situation to the driver while they followed the truck back to the field. The fog had lifted a little so that the parachutes could be seen out on the field.
With a small group of people looking on, the ambulance crew placed Sladovnik in the ambulance. McHenry gathered up Slavnovik's parachute and walked across the field to get his parachute. After he rolled up the parachutes and headed back towards the ambulance, he heard a gasp from the crowd who would evidently liked to have the parachutes for personal use had they known they were laying out in the field.
     At the hospital, Sladovnik was treated for a broken leg, and McHenry was placed in a bed next to Ball Turret Gunner John Smith, who had also sprained his right ankle in the bail-out. A few days later Sladovnik was flown back to a base close to his home in Texas to recuperate. Smith and McHenry remained in the hospital for eight days and then spent three days with crutches before getting back to normal.
     It was indeed fortunate that McHenry landed in the same field with Sladovnik, because he would not have been discovered for several hours because of the fog. McHenry had bailed out much later than Sladovnik, so our pilot must have been circling over the area thus making it possible for him to bail out over the same field where Sladovnik had bailed out earlier.
     Armorer Gunner McGovern, meanwhile, had fractured his leg in the bail-out and was taken to Wymondham hospital to recuperate. Ball turret Gunner Smith was considered by most of us as the most fortunate, even though he sprained an ankle badly on landing. However, he landed on the grounds of a British Women's Air Force (WAAF) base. He was rescued by the women and received special treatment as a good-looking Yank airman. Smith's story became increasingly elaborate and flamboyant as the days passed. Later he would re-visit the WAAF base bearing cigarettes, nylon stockings, chocolates and other items of interest to his rescuers.
     As for Bombardier Fred Becchetti, after supervising the bail-out by the other crew members, he launched himself out the camera hatch, counted to three, pulled the ripcord and had his parachute open above him as he went into the cloud bank. He remembers vividly the sudden silence in the sky after the plane had flown away with all its rattling and engine noise. As he floated down through the clouds he whistled a song to dispel the silence, which "almost made him hysterical." He remembers that as he began to come out of the cloud cover he heard the sound of vehicles and people speaking from below. Then he saw that he was coming down in a residential area, with a large tree to his right, a tall hedge in front, a house and yard to his left and a house and yard behind him. There was no wind, so he came straight down, landing on two feet in the soft earth of a newly spaded garden. His parachute drifted down and settled over the tree to his right. After landing, he fell forward and lay prone, with his face halfway in the soft soil. As he lay there quietly, he heard a rustling in the hedge in front of him. He looked up and saw the hedge open up to reveal the beaming face of an Englishman with Churchillian features. The Englishman, seemingly amused, looked at Becchetti and up at the parachute draped over the tree and asked, "Are you 'aving a bit of trouble, Yank?" Becchetti, taken aback by the Englishman's understatement, burst out laughing, while spitting out some of the soil that had gotten in his mouth. The Englishman, Mr. Morris of 185 Newmarket Road, Norwich, England, came through the hedge, stood by while Becchetti unhooked himself from the parachute and then walked him into his home on the other side of the hedge, where he gave Becchetti a scotch and soda. A few minutes later two English Bobbies pedaled up to investigate. They were suspicious, especially when Becchetti revealed his Italian name. Before the Bobbies could take any official action, the M.P.'s from our Tibenham base arrived and took Becchetti to the base, where he received some treatment for a mildly sprained ankle. Before leaving England, Becchetti returned to Norwich and thanked Mr. Morris, giving him a book of Churchill's speeches and a bottle of scotch whiskey. In November 1995, fifty-one years later, Becchetti visited Norwich as part of a European tour he was taking with his son. On that visit, he met with Sidney Taylor, the son of the maid who was in Mr. Morris' service when Becchetti bailed out. Taylor drove him to the house at 185 Newmarket Road, where Becchetti was able to walk the same ground where he had landed and touch the tree, grown much larger, where his parachute had landed, only to be plucked off the branches by the neighborhood wives, who were undoubtedly able to put the nylon to good use in making dresses for their daughters.
     The pilot, co-pilot and Engineer Bernard Goldstein remained in the plane and had the good fortune to find an opening in the clouds that allowed them to make a safe landing at our home base in Tibenham, a pleasant surprise after our bail-out message.
     Thus, the results of the bail-out were as follows:
     Pilot Keith Palmer stayed with the plane and landed it safely at Tibenham. He would continue on flying status and complete 35 missions.
     Co-pilot Cliff Bolton stayed with the plane for the safe landing at Tibenham. He would continue on flying status and complete 35 missions.
     Bombardier Fred Becchetti sprained his ankle slightly, but he would continue on flying status and complete 35 missions.
     Engineer Bernard Goldstein stayed with the plane for the safe landing at Tibenham. He would continue flying and complete 35 missions.
     Radio Operator Garl McHenry sprained his right ankle, was hospitalized and his tour of combat was considered complete at 32 missions.
     Waist Gunner Lawrence Sladovnik broke his leg, was evacuated to the U.S. and his combat tour was considered complete.
     Armorer Gunner Gregory McGovern broke his leg, was hospitalized and his combat tour was considered complete at 32 missions.
     Ball Turret Gunner John M. Smith sprained his ankle, was hospitalized and his combat tour was considered complete.
     Tail Gunner Robert Sherick was uninjured and kept on flying status. He would continue flying to complete 35 missions.
[END OF PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF NORWICH BAIL-OUT. LIST OF COMBAT MISSIONS CONTINUES BELOW.]
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32nd MISSION AUGUST 5, 1944 BRUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY TO BOMB AIRCRAFT ENGINE FACTORY

     Wake-up at 5:00 a.m. Take-off for Becchetti, without McHenry and other members of Crew 2366. Becchetti has a sprained ankle and is very nervous after the July 31 bail-out over Norwich. Big flak barrage over the city of Brunschweig, but the factory was relatively flak-free. Bombs hit short of the target. No flak damage of plane. Mission length: 7:00 hrs.
33rd MISSION AUGUST 6, 1944 HARBURG, GERMANY TO BOMB OIL REFINERY NEAR HAMBURG
     Wake-up at 4:15 a.m. Beautiful day for bombing mission. Bomb run through very heavy flak. Good hit on target. Mission length: 7:00 hrs. Becchetti flew without his crew. Sladovnik already flown back to states for medical treatment. McGovern at Wymondham hospital.
ABORT MISSION AUGUST 9, 1944 STRASBOURG, FRANCE TO BOMB OIL REFINERY
     Up early for mission with Palmer as pilot, Bolton as co-pilot. Mission went bad from beginning. Engine No. 3 would not start. We taxied late for formation. Radar gee box not working right. Sixty miles into enemy territory, nose turret gunner became stuck in turret and other problems with the plane arose, so Palmer decided to abort. Becchetti navigated across the Channel to Yarmouth in case we had to use the emergency landing strip there. They made it back to base and requested that mission be counted, but base did not give credit.
34th MISSION AUGUST 11, 1944 STRASBOURG, FRANCE TO BOMB OIL REFINERY
     Wake-up at 8:45 a.m. for another mission to get the Strasbourg oil refinery. Clear day. Formation made a good hit on the target. Lots of flak, especially after bombs away. Nose turret badly damaged by flak. Becchetti, Palmer and Bolton hoping to get credit for aborted mission to Strasbourg on August 9.
35th MISSION AUGUST 14, 1944 FINESSE, FRANCE TO BOMB R.R. BRIDGE SOUTH OF LAON, FRANCE
     First thing the crew heard was that the August 9 aborted mission would be counted as a mission, so technically this would be Becchetti's 36th mission. The target was a bridge near Finesse, France. There was no flak, no opposition of any kind. The formation made one run but did not drop bombs. They dropped on the second run and missed the target by a mile. Landed at Tibenham and kissed the ground. No more combat flying for Becchetti.
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PRE COMBAT TRAINING

FRED BECCHETTI: HIS STORY OF HIS TRAINING

Becchetti Joins Up.

     On Sunday, December 7, 1941, as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I was at my job as dishwasher in the kitchen of the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was in my last year of high school and a recipient of a scholarship to study at the University of New Mexico beginning in the fall of 1942. On my 18th birthday in March 1942, I registered for the military draft, but in November 1942 I enlisted in the Army Air Corps with my eye on the Air Cadet Program for producing officers as pilots, navigators and bombardiers.
     During the remainder of 1942, I won my high school letter in track in the spring, graduated in May and continued working at the Alvarado Hotel, where I had progressed from dishwasher to salad and dessert cook. With college study put aside and my future in the hands of the Army Air Corps, I spent the last months of 1942 working days and enjoying the nights as only a free 18-year old of that period could, that is, hanging out with good friends, dancing jitterbug to big band music in a noisy dance hall every Saturday night and, in Albuquerque, eating wonderful Mexican food late at night after the dance.
     My life as a civilian ended on January 29, 1943, when I boarded a bus for Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a fast physical examination and my first marching, from the Armory to the troop train that would take me to Wichita Falls, Texas, for basic training.

Becchetti at Sheppard Field.

      Basic training at a "hell hole" like Sheppard Field was never mentioned in the recruiting literature for air cadets, so the experience was a shock to all of us, but, like everything else in the military, we became accustomed to it.
     For almost a month we were treated almost like animals at Sheppard Field. Our hair was cut down to about an inch, we were injected in both arms, we were subjected to painful calisthenics by seemingly sadistic instructors, we were forced to participate in games on a dirt field called "the Cow Pasture" in which we fought for giant balls like dogs after a bone, we marched in close-order drill for hours, we did two twenty-mile hikes carrying heavy packs and guns, we cleaned toilets, we scrubbed rough barracks floors, we did work in the mess hall (K.P.) on weekends, we walked through gas chambers with and without gas masks, we endured inspection of our beds and our personal possessions periodically, we shined our heavy shoes to a mirror shine, we learned to salute, we studied such things as "The Articles of War," we learned to make our beds so tight that a coin would bounce off them, we ate anything that was put into our mess kits and we learned to expect punishment for any voluntary or even involuntary or careless infraction of the rules. Above all, we learned the concept of "us and them" and learned to gripe ("bitch") as individuals and as a group in the grand tradition of all armies since the beginning of time.
     We emerged from the Sheppard Field experience in excellent physical condition but slightly confused as to how the primitive treatment could contribute to our becoming "officers and gentlemen" in the Army Air Corps. Nevertheless, in retrospect, Sheppard Field became the standard against which I would measure every phase of training from then on. Nothing was ever as bad as Sheppard Field.

Becchetti at Wichita University.

      The original plan had been that we would go directly into the air cadet program from Sheppard Field, but the program called for a delay, so the Air Corps developed the College Training Detachment concept by which cadet-bound trainees would receive two months of academic training at a university.
     On February 26, 1943, we took a troop train across the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma to Wichita, Kansas, and Wichita University. After the brutalizing Sheppard Field experience, this was like being brought back to civilization.
     On the university campus we found beautiful girls; classes in such esoteric subjects as trigonometry and physics; and ten hours' instruction in flying a Piper Cub. We also had to do military things such as marching, calisthenics, close-order drill, hikes, saluting and inspections. With the help of friends who had a background in mathematics, I was able to pass trigonometry and physics, but with great difficulty.
     Blame it on a lackadaisical flight instructor, but I never quite grasped the idea and the skill of flying the Piper Cub, so I failed the final flight with the FAA inspector thus dooming my hopes of ever becoming a pilot in the cadet program.
     We left Wichita University on May 1, 1943, for San Antonio, Texas, where we would be bombarded with a series of physical, psychological and intelligence tests to determine if we should be accepted into the Air Cadet Program and, if so, into pilot, bombardier or navigator training. If we were not qualified for any of these training programs and were still qualified for flying, we would be routed into aircraft gunnery.
     It was hard to leave the comfortable training program at Wichita University, but all of us were eager to get into the cadet program, and San Antonio was the gateway.

Becchetti at San Antonio Classification Center.

      It was very hot in San Antonio, hot and humid. On my third day, I took sixteen mental and psychological examinations. The next day I did the unusual psychomotor test of a man's coordination, using testing devices that none of us had ever seen. This was followed by my interview with a psychiatrist and by a complete physical examination. Besides being tested, we had to do such things as mess hall duty, picking up litter on the grounds, stand for bed inspection, do physical training and, of course, march.
     After ten days, on May 11, 1943, I learned that all my tests had qualified me for Air Cadet training and that I would be sent to bombardier training. On May 28, I was on a train to Houston and Ellington Field for pre-flight training.

Becchetti at Ellington Field.

      This was a three-month phase of bombardier training in which we studied code, math, maps and charts and physics without ever flying. Ellington Field would be the most comfortable base in my air corps experience, even though I had to study very hard to pass the courses. The base was run on somewhat of a "West Point" basis, with upper and lower classmen, the honor code, white glove inspections, punishment by "tours," that is, solo marching back and forth for an hour for each tour and a constant emphasis on strict discipline, precision and gentlemanly conduct. The food on the base was the best that I would ever receive; the passes into Houston were always enjoyable, especially because of the hospitality of the girls in Houston and of their families; the instructors were competent and helpful to us individually.
     The most unforgettable event at Ellington Field was the July 27, 1943, hurricane that roared up from Louisiana at 80 mph to threaten the destruction of hundreds of airplanes on the airfields around Houston. We were called out at mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon and all night until the early morning hours literally holding down airplanes by their guy ropes as the hurricane blew over us and the two feet of storm driven water swirled around us.
     We graduated on July 30 after two months of courses, but the bombardier program was backed up, so we were not able to leave Houston for almost another month, which had a poor effect on everybody's morale at Ellington Field. Finally, on August 25, 1943, we shipped out for Big Spring, Texas, and advanced bombardier training, the place where we would win our officer's bars and our bombardier wings.

Becchetti at Big Spring Advanced Training.

      Big Spring was a far cry from Houston and Ellington Field. From August 27 to November 13, 1943, I would put into practice all the theoretical knowledge I had acquired at Ellington Field.
     The ultra secret Norden bombsight and its operation became my major obsession. In large hangars I did hours of "bombing" of a "bug" which moved in coordination with the elevated Norden bombsight to simulate a plane's flight over a target. Every simulated bomb run was recorded as the cadet's procedure and the accuracy of the impact on the bug's target.
     After a month of hangar " bombing" of the moving bug, I went up on my first bombing flight on September 20, watching my instructor operate the Norden bombsight. I dropped my first practice bombs on Sept. 23, with my instructor looking over my shoulder. My five bombs landed within 200 feet of the "shack" (bullseye) of the target scraped out on the plains of Texas.
     We also bombed with the Sperry bombsight, with its more powerful gyroscopes, but it was understood that the Norden would be the bombsight that we would use in combat. While doing all this bombing in hangars and from airplanes, we were also attending ground classes. I was taking final exams a few days before graduation. The very last day before graduation we were taken out on a cold and miserable five-day bivouac in 20-degree weather.
     Instead of receiving a 2nd Lieutenant's gold bars at graduation, I was made a Flight Officer, the Air Corps equivalent of an Army Warrant Officer, which was a cross between and officer and a non-commissioned officer. This didn't matter much to me, because I had officer's privileges and salary and, most of all, I had won my bombardier wings.

Becchetti Joins Crew 2366 in Casper, Wyoming.

      After a ten-day leave in Albuquerque, I went by train to Salt Lake City, where I spent the very harsh winter doing some insignificant busy-work classes at the air base and spending most of my time enjoying myself in Salt Lake City. We were in Salt Lake City for assignment to a heavy bomber crew.
      On January 8, 1944, I was placed on alert to ship out to a heavy bombardment training base. On January 11, after learning happily that I was not going to Wendover Air Base in western Utah, a base notorious for the great number of training accidents occurring there, I boarded a troop train for Casper, Wyoming. I met only one member of my crew on the train, Co-pilot Cliff Bolton.
      On January 14, 1944, I met the other members of my crew, Crew No. 2366. It was not hard for us to like one another. We would fly B-24's in Casper until April 7. On January 19, our training as a crew began with a seven-hour flight to Amarillo, Texas and back. From then until April 6, we were kept busy with ground classes, long navigational flights to places like Bismarck, North Dakota, bombing missions in which I dropped dummy bombs on a target out on the Wyoming plains from an altitude of 22,000 feet and some gunnery missions in which we learned the operation of our various turrets. Most of our married crew members were accompanied in Casper by their wives, who saw to it that we had a busy social life in Casper.

Becchetti in Topeka.

      The Crew took a troop train from Casper to Topeka, Kansas, where we were to pick up a new B-24 and fly it to England. We arrived in Topeka on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944, and Navigator Vince Hamilton and I teamed up for a good time in Topeka and in nearby Kansas City during the few days that we were waiting to fly out of Topeka.

Becchetti Leaves for Combat.

      We flew out of Topeka on our own B-24 on April 16, 1944, and landed at Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida, at 11:00 a.m. We then prepared ourselves and our B-24 for the flight to England. We left the U.S. at exactly 12:26.40 midnight, heading for the Caribbean, Trinidad, Brazil, Africa, England and combat.

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RADIO OPERATOR GARL MCHENRY
GARL MCHENRY: HIS STORY OF HIS TRAINING

      When the war began in 1939, I was delivering the Huntington Herald Press Newspaper to sixty customers every night on the west side of Markle, Indiana.
      On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the next day that we were at war with Japan and Germany, I was in my last year of high school, and it was predicted by our teachers that most of the boys in the senior class would be in the armed services after graduation.
      First, the Indiana National Guard came to Markle and picked up all the men who were members of the Guard. The next spring, the Selective Service Organization began drafting men, and I registered for the draft on my eighteenth birthday. After graduation I worked at the White Rose Filling Station in Markle on State Route 224. In the fall I started driving a milk truck picking up from farms and hauling it to the Central Dairy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I worked at this job until I received my draft call in March 1943.
      On the day requested I reported for my physical examination and was bused to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. I passed the examination and later that month I returned to Fort Benjamin Harrison for ten days of indoctrination and testing. On the basis of my tests I was offered my choice of the Army, the Navy or the Army Air Corps, and I chose the Army Air Corps, which sent me to Clearwater, Florida, for basic training. We lived there in the Clearwater Hotel and trained on the beaches. I was then sent to St. Petersburg, Florida, called "Tent City" at that time, for more testing and further field training.

MCHENRY IN RADIO SCHOOL.

      The Air Corps offered me training in radio, which I accepted, having had an interest in radio since high school. My Air Corps radio school was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The course consisted of 36 weeks of Morse code, theory and two weeks of field training on aircraft parked in wooded areas around the base. Only one third of the participants made it through in 36 weeks and some had to take six additional weeks of training. We received four hours of code and four hours of theory every day. We spent the last two weeks operating electronic equipment in airplanes parked in wooded areas and did code blinker messages from several towers on the edge of the woods.

MCHENRY IN GUNNERY SCHOOL.

      After graduation from radio school and a short home leave in Markle, Indiana, I took a train to Laredo, Texas, right on the Mexican border, for gunnery school.
      Gunnery was a 12-week course in which we learned to fire .30 and .50 caliber machine guns at moving targets. We spent the first few weeks on an oval track firing shot guns from the back of a moving truck at clay pigeons which other students launched from bunkers just outside the oval track. We would fire about 100 shotgun rounds from the truck and then switch places with the students in the clay pigeon bunkers. The work in the bunkers was extremely unpleasant. They usually had water and mud in them, trash and even snakes.
      We did our target practice the last two weeks from the rear cockpit of an AY-6 aircraft, firing at a sleeve target towed by another aircraft. This was more fun than work, but our hits on the target were counted, so we had to fire with seriousness. Our bullets were designed so that they made an identifying colored mark in the sleeve target which could be counted for the student who had struck the target.
      But there was real danger in gunnery school, too. While I was at Laredo, there was a midair collision of two planes which killed the two pilots and two students named McGinnis and McGuire. After the accident a student ahead of me in the alphabet told me that he had saved my life that day. He had planned to go on sick call that morning but decided not to at the last minute. If he had gone on sick call, I would have taken the place of McGuire in the plane that went down.
      After gunnery school I went home to Markle for another short leave and then took the train all the way across the United States to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I was to be assigned to a heavy bomber crew. When I arrived in Salt Lake City, I had to go on sick call, and the experience was so bad that I swore that I would have to be half dead before going on sick call again. We spent the hard winter of 1943-44 in Salt Lake City doing general labor and calisthenics to keep busy.

MCHENRY IN CASPER, WYOMING.

      Assigned to B-24 Crew No. 2366, I left the Salt Lake City air base and met the other crew members at the railroad station. At first it seemed that we were being sent to Wendover Air Base in Utah. This was a disappointment, because we knew that Wendover's base was surrounded by mountains so that there had been many training accidents there. However, before we left the railroad station at Salt Lake City, we were assigned to training at Casper Air Base to our great relief, so we took a train east and over the Rocky Mountains to Casper, Wyoming.
      At Casper, for three months in the dead of winter and early spring, we flew old B-24's on day and night training missions to simulate bomb runs on various cities. We also did some bomb runs on the open range dropping sacks of flour and dummy bombs. Because of the ore deposits in the surrounding mountains my radio transmissions were sometimes difficult, so that I even had trouble keeping in touch with the AACS (Army Airways Communications System). I spent some time on the radio compass triangulating our position to verify the navigator's coordinates. I used the liaison set mostly to communicate with AACS and tuned the transmitter by letting out a long wire antenna with a lead weight on the end. I had to wind up the antenna after a flight, a job which I forgot to do one time. Other radio operators had done the same thing, because there were always antennas on the ground at the end of the runway.

MCHENRY LEAVES FOR COMBAT.

      After Casper, I went to Topeka, Kansas, had a short home leave and then flew to England as described by Fred Becchetti in the above paragraphs.

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TYPICAL BOMBING MISSION - BACKGROUND INFORMATION
     The following paragraphs will describe a typical bombing mission to occupied France and Germany by the 8th Air Force in Europe during WWII. The missions were flown by the 445th Bomb Group, 702nd Bomb Squad, Crew 2366. The group was stationed around Norwich and Tibenham England and flew 30 to 35 missions depending on the crew position and injuries sustained. The missions were flown in support of the Normandy Beachhead and invasion of Europe during the time period May 20, 1944 through July 31, 1944 with an accumulated total Air Combat time of approx. 203.5 hours per crew member. Each crew member was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters for the tour of duty. All the missions were daylight missions which was typical for the 8th Air Force. In conjunction with these missions, night bombing was performed by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The 445th Bomb Group was one of 14 Bomb Groups, 3 fighter groups and 2 escort fighter groups making up the 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. The 445 Bomb Group consisted of 3 Bomb Squadrons, 701st, 702nd and 703rd which consisted of approximately 50 B-24 aircraft. On a typical bombing mission the 445th usually supplied 36 aircraft for the mission.
     In general, the missions were flown as a 7 to 10 man crew but occasionally substitute crew members were used because of injuries, illnesses, battle fatigue and the need for experience. When the crew arrived at the base, the new pilot often flew as a co-pilot with an experienced crew before being sent out with a new green crew. New crews were then given the older aircraft in the squadron and many of them had numerous flak holes which had been patched up and put back in combat. As a crew gained experience, new crew members were substituted on missions to provide experience and see how the individual reacted under pressure.
     Normally, if the group assembled in formation, flew across the North Sea and crossed into Europe the bomb group would credit the crew with a mission, but there were no hard and fast rules about this. If a bomber had to cancel its flight with the formation, it was called an "aborted" mission. "We had to abort." Whenever you aborted a mission you had to wait for the bomb group to credit you or not credit you for the mission, and many factors came into consideration.
      Every mission was different, of course, but there was a fairly universal pattern, beginning with the night before.


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ALERT

      Normally, we were placed on alert the day or night before a mission. This modified our day and night somewhat. When on alert, we usually did not leave the base on a pass to Norwich. Perhaps we went to our respective clubs on the base or the British pubs, but we drank only moderately. In most cases we stayed in our quarters and wrote letters. Nevertheless, there were men who made no changes in their behavior because of an alert. They left the base or went to their respective club and frequently got drunk, making their way back to their quarters very late in the night.

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WAKE UP

      We were awakened for a mission very early in the morning, long before sunrise, very frequently at 1:30 or 2:30 a.m.; although we flew some of our missions in the afternoon. The wake-up was done by a man in a jeep who circulated among the huts and barracks knocking on doors and yelling out names. Such wake-ups took place in almost total darkness because of our blackout conditions and, very often, early morning fog. The target for the day was kept secret until the briefings. When you were awaken for the mission, it was customary to ask the fuel and bomb load for the mission. This gave a clue to the type of target and the approximate range. The aircraft had a maximum load capacity of 12 to 14 tons. The fuel load was dependent on the target destination and the remaining weight was filled up with pay or bomb load. When the fuel load was 2700 gallon, the target was always deep in German territory (probably Munich or Berlin) which was a 13 hr mission with 7 or 9 hours on oxygen.


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CREW POSITIONS AND AIRCRAFT CROSS SECTION

GENERAL BRIEFING

      From our quarters we walked or rode bicycles, somewhat bleary-eyed, through the darkness and fog to the mess hall for a good breakfast, and from breakfast we gathered in the briefing room for a general briefing.
      The target was announced by the drawing of a curtain from across a map of Europe. On the map there would be a length of colored yarn stretched from Tibenham across the North Sea to a series of pegs guiding the yarn along the route that we would take to the primary target marked by a red dot at the end of the yarn. A secondary target would be indicated by a dot of another color. The target was greeted by varying remarks from the airmen, depending on how long the mission was or how deep into Germany it was.
      The Intelligence Officer briefed us on the significance of the target and on the resistance we might encounter. We were shown slides of both the primary and secondary target area and the area surrounding the target. The Weather Officer briefed us on the predicted winds, temperatures and cloud cover over the target and along the route to the target and on return to England. At this briefing we also learned our position in the formation. The last act was to "hack" our watches so that everybody would be synchronized on the mission.

BRIEFING
     After breakfast on a mission day, all crew members attended a common briefing where details of the target were given along with the expected enemy resistance details. We were shown slides of the target area and given both primary and secondary targets along with expected weather information at the target area. We were assigned a position in the formation and details regarding our squadron forming and timing over the initial points during the mission. Each crew member then went to a separate briefing pertaining to the crew position he was filling on the aircraft. As a Radio Operator/Gunner, my primary position was Radio Operation and the code books for the day were distributed along with radio silence requirements and a schedule when headquarter messages would be transmitted and repeated through out the mission. The radio man was also responsible for taking pictures of the target after the bombs detonated so comments regarding the camera and target were provided. Details of the armament on the aircraft was not provided to the Radio Man and the Engineer on the crew and this information was obtained later at the aircraft from the Gunnery/Turret Operators. The Engineer and Radio Operator shared the top turret on the aircraft. The Engineer occupied the turret while the Radio Operator was monitoring home base communications (usually every half hour) and the Radio Operator operated the turret while the Engineer transferred fuel from the outer fuel tanks to the regular fuel tanks.
     After the individual crew position meetings were over, each crew member drew clothing and supplies from the flight line. This included heated flying suits, heated gloves/boots, helmets, head sets and of course the all important parachute and life preserver. Flak vests, flak helmets, throat microphones, portable oxygen equipment, camera's, etc. were supposed to be on board the aircraft.
     The crew, excluding the Pilot was then taken by truck to the aircraft which was usually a mile or so away. The aircraft was a B-24 parked in a camouflaged area out on the country side close to the runway. Each aircraft had a crew chief who usually bivouacked with the aircraft. The crew chief usually briefed the flying crew members on the peculiarities of his particular aircraft and then the flying crew members performed a pre-flight check of the aircraft. The Radio Man made sure all radio's were receiving properly, the Identification-Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment was in place and the detonators were usable in case the equipment needed to be destroyed. It was usually a good time to make sure you had a flak vest and flak helmet at your position along with all the extra protection equipment you could scrounge. Flak helmets were very scarce because they made convenient commodes during flight and it was easier to throw them from the aircraft than to empty and clean them. Relief tubes were available on this aircraft but these were not adequate in case of air sickness and when other toilet functions were necessary. A few minutes before take off time, a van or Jeep brought the Pilots around and dropped your Pilot off at the aircraft. The crew was supposed to be done with the pre-flight and standing along side of the aircraft where the Co-pilot called them to attention when the Pilot arrived to give last minute details of the mission. This was done the first few missions but it was soon learned that the Pilot was just as dependent on the Gunners for protection as the Gunners were of getting to the target and back so the crew developed an equal respect atmosphere regardless of rank. This type crew relationship seemed to produce the best operating environment and inter crew relationship.



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INDIVIDUAL BRIEFING

      After the general briefing we went to individual briefings pertaining to our positions on the aircraft. Radio Operator McHenry checked out his code books and received information on radio silence requirements and the schedule for transmission and repetition of headquarters messages. Bombardier Becchetti was briefed on the type and weight of bombs we would be carrying along with any details about fuses. If we were riding with a navigator, he would receive a packet of charts for plotting our route. In most cases Becchetti did double duty as bombardier and navigator, so he carried charts as well as any information he needed for reading the Gee Box radar instrument. Engineer DeRouen and later Goldstein was briefed on fuel problems, although he would receive most of his information from the chief of the ground crew after arriving at the B-24 we would fly. Since we were not assigned a permanent B-24 it was important that the engineer, the pilot and co-pilot discuss with ground crew chief any peculiarities of the plane they would be flying.
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Clothing, Equipment, Coffee, Religion.

      After the individual briefings all of us checked out our flying clothing and supplies at the flight line. This included a heated flying suit with heated gloves and boots, a flying helmet with sewn-in head set, a chest-type parachute and a "mae west" life preserver.
      We would find a flak suit, a flak helmet, throat microphones and portable oxygen tanks at our positions in the plane. McHenry would also find the camera with which he was to film the pattern of bomb hits over the target. We also received a survival kit containing basic maps of Europe, chewing gum and two Camel brand cigarettes.
      The Red Cross had its coffee and doughnut bar next to the equipment checkout room, where one or two Red Cross women volunteers, usually attractive and personable, served us.
      At this point we met with our respective religious ministers - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. The Catholics, for example, received automatic absolution for their sins without having to go to Confession, said the Act of Contrition in chorus and then received Holy Communion as they walked out to the flight line.


FLIGHT SUIT SKETCH
EQUIPMENT AND FLIGHT ENVIRONMENT

     Perhaps this sounds fairly easy and glamorous but lets take another look at it. This was before the days of pressurized and heated cabins and even if these conveniences were available, one small flak hole would have put the system out of commission. Very seldom did any aircraft go thru a flak concentration without getting at least one flak hole which was heard by all crew members from the familiar "whuff" followed by the intercom inquiry "anybody hurt" and intercom "check in" by each crew member to make sure. You just hoped and prayed it hit in some insignificant spot which would not effect the mission. Crew 2366 had the hydraulic lines shot out on one mission and had to brake the aircraft on the runway by hanging parachutes out the waist windows. Pictures of this event was published on page 62 of the March 1945 issue of Air Force Magazine. On another occasion the aircraft went into a dive at about 10,000 ft for an unknown reason and flak or a burnt wire was the suspect. The Pilot and Co-pilot together was able to recover at about 1200 ft by bracing the co-pilots feet on the instrument panel and pulling back on the stick. They thought the wings would probably shear when we came out of it. When this happened, anyone not strapped in a seat or turret was pinned against the top of the aircraft along with all other loose articles such as: parachutes, ammunition, logbooks, pencils and debris. As the aircraft recovered, these articles were then pinned to the floor and the ammunition from the guns landed on escape hatches which would have added to the problem of getting out. Needless to say, we came home at little more than tree top level. Many other inconveniences must also be endured on the mission. At 10,000 to 22,000 ft, the temperature in the aircraft is 60 to 70 degrees below zero and above 10,000 ft , it is necessary to breath from an oxygen mask. Imagine sitting in an environment where the background noise consists of 4 aircraft engines at approximately full power. You were clothed in a heated flying suit with heated gloves and heated boots plugged into it and rarely was everything working at one time. Coupled with this you were wearing a helmet with headphones sewn in, a pair of goggles and an oxygen mask covering your face to prevent frost bite and receive oxygen. You were also wearing a parachute harness over the heated flying suit. You also had a throat microphone around your neck and was attached to the aircraft via the microphone cable, headset wire, the heated suit wire and a oxygen hose. If the mission was over water sometimes you were wearing a life preserver; however the North Sea was so cold your life expectancy was about 5 minutes if you had to ditch the aircraft. While over enemy territory, you wore a flak vest which weighed several pounds and a metal helmet when one was available. It was also desirable to be sitting on a spare flak suit because most of the flak came up from the bottom of the aircraft. Every few minutes, it was necessary to swing the oxygen mask aside and shake the frost from it and dry your face, wearing gloves which were probably frozen. Meanwhile you wanted to be aware of the position of your chest pack parachute in case you needed to grab it in a hurry, tear the flak suit off and snap it to the harness you were wearing over the heated flying suit. The flak suit covered your chest and back and had two ties on your shoulder. If you needed to talk on the radio or intercom, it was necessary to be sure the selector switch on the wall was in the proper position, press the microphone button and press the microphone firmly against your throat each side of your Adam's apple to be heard clearly while wearing gloves and reaching around the oxygen mask hose going to your chin. Now if you had other duties and needed to move around the aircraft to throw out bombs that hung up in the bomb bay or take photographs of the target from the bomb bay, it was necessary to disconnect the wires and oxygen tube going to the aircraft and strap on a portable oxygen bottle which hung around your neck and in front of your chest. Of course this oxygen supply would only last 7 minutes and since you were not connected to the aircraft intercom, it was impossible to alert other crew members in case of trouble. If you ran out of oxygen, you probably would not know it to warn any one because the symptoms of no oxygen are like going to sleep. You only hoped the guy assigned to watch you while you were on portable equipment did not get busy doing something else and forget you.



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NORDEN BOMB SIGHT
PRE-FLIGHT CHECKS

      Except for the pilot, all of us rode a canvas-covered troop carrier out to the camouflaged hard stand where our B-24 was parked and being made ready by the ground crew. In most cases we did not know which B-24 we would be flying until we arrived at the hard stand parking area. The ground crew chief gave a short briefing on any peculiarities of the aircraft he was turning over to us.
      Then all of us boarded the plane and went to our positions for a pre-flight check. First, we checked to be sure that we had a flak suit and a flak helmet at our position. All the gunners checked the operation of their turrets, something they would do again over the North Sea on the way to the target. Radio Operator McHenry checked his equipment for proper reception and made sure that his IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) was functioning properly and that the detonators for destroying the secret IFF were available and properly installed. Bombardier Becchetti checked his bomb release equipment up front and turned on his radar Gee Box and checked its settings for any independent navigation he might have to do. The co-pilot, meanwhile, did a preliminary flight check in the pilot's compartment. With all positions pre-flighted the crew sat near the plane to wait for Pilot Keith Palmer and take-off.





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TAKE OFF AND ASSEMBLY

      A few minutes before take-off time, a van or jeep arrived with Pilot Keith Palmer. Pilot Palmer gave the crew any last minute details about the mission and everybody went to their take-off positions.
      At the assigned take-off time the pilot and co-pilot taxied the plane off the hard stand and into take-off position on signals from the tower. They carried on their pre-flight check of instruments and equipment while taxiing, and just before getting into position for take-off they were able to do a final warming up of the engines.
      The first aircraft to take off was a brightly painted B-24 which was marked in a distinguishable manner but not combat worthy. This aircraft proceeded to the designated squadron assembly area and altitude then began firing colored flares designating the particular squadron. The 445th had a black tail with a horizontal white stripe. Within the stripe was one or two letters designating the aircraft within the group. Some markings included underlines and marks above the letter to designate aircraft with the same letter We took off at about 30-second intervals and rose methodically to the altitude where our formation would be assembled, all of us at our positions and watching for other planes to avoid a collision. . This was often happening around daybreak and was really a sight to see. We assembled by squadrons, twelve bombers in close formation behind the lead plane, which fired a flare occasionally to identify the squadron.
      Once the three squadrons were in formation, they moved into group formation. The lead squadron established the altitude and course heading. A second squadron flew slightly lower and to the left of the lead squadron, and the third squadron, slightly higher and to the right.
      Eventually, the group would move into its assigned position in the Second Air Division's formation, which in turn would seek its position in a full Eighth Air Force assault, such as on a major target like Berlin or Munich. In such an assault there could be 36 groups flying about 1,000 yards apart all on the same course. Upon reaching the target area, at the so-called IP or Initial Point, the larger formation would break up, with each group peeling off for its specific target.
      After hitting their respective targets, the groups would re-assemble for the return to England under the protection of a large formation.
      The assembling of a formation was far from being a routine exercise. During a one-hour period there were up to 1,000 bombers circling over East Anglia moving into tight formation, so tight that we could wave at friends in the planes alongside our plane and see the expressions on their faces. Pilots were quite proud of their ability to "fly in tight" in a formation. A tight formation plus a fighter escort, of course, was the key to effective defense against attacking fighters.


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FLIGHT TO THE TARGET

      The route to the target was planned for deceiving the enemy and for avoiding anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters. Thus the formation never went directly to the target. The route plotted on the map was usually a jagged line across Europe or over the North Sea to an IP befor breaking to the mainland.
      From beginning to the end of the mission the pilot and co-pilot were under maximum stress as they kept the plane in tight formation within the squadron. The B-24, notoriously awkward in formation, had to be flown constantly under those conditions, so the pilots were handling their controls, adjusting their speed and watching their instruments every second. They had to listen for any change of plans by the lead plane, such as, changes in altitude, direction or speed, and then they had to manhandle the B-24 to adapt to the change.
      Radio Operator McHenry had to monitor radio transmissions from the 445th throughout the flight on a prescribed schedule and be aware of the plane's geographic position constantly.
      Bombardier Becchetti had taken on the navigator's function early in the combat tour, so he had to keep alert to the plane's position and, in addition, be in position to use the radar Gee Box for navigation in an emergency. As navigator, he also kept track of our position relative to the countries of safe haven in case of our having to leave the formation for some reason---Switzerland on missions in the southern regions of Germany and Sweden for missions in the northern areas.
      Engineer DeRouen, later Goldstein, worked closely with the pilots in monitoring the operation of the four engines and fuel levels. The aircraft's main job was to carry bombs, and the ratio of bomb weight to the weight of fuel was calculated very carefully. We carried just enough fuel to make the mission on the prescribed route. Any deviation from the designated route or any loss of fuel for other reasons would put the plane's return in jeopardy.
      All of us were in a constant state of alert to all movement in the air around the plane. We watched other planes in our formation for any change in flight attitude. We rotated our gun turrets to keep them flexible and ready for action, watching constantly for "bandits," that is, enemy fighters, identifying them and giving their direction from the plane. We reported flak bursts, giving their direction from the plane: "Flak at three o'clock, low" or "Flak over Strausburg at one o'clock." We also reported the presence of our fighter escorts, usually with some expression of joy.
      Nobody slept or even relaxed on these missions. A mission was a life-or-death experience for all of us. We were surrounded by danger from guns on the ground, from enemy fighters, from the other bombers in our formation and even from the machinery and equipment of our own aircraft. There was no idle chit-chat on the intercom. The stress and fear was constant.

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BOMBER FLAK (SKETCHED FLAK)

ENEMY RESISTANCE: ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS AND FLAK

      Technically, the word "flak" refers to the anti-aircraft guns, which the Germans called fliegerabwehrkanone, but from our point of view, flak referred to the explosion of the shells from the German guns near our plane or within view.
      Flak also referred to the shrapnel from those explosions which could easily penetrate the aluminum skin of a B-24 and do damage to equipment and, of course, to the human body. Flak could pepper the outer surface of the plane harmlessly but frighteningly so that it sounded as though we were flying through sprays of gravel. Flak could leave holes of varying sizes in the fuselage and was accompanied by a familiar "Whuff" followed by an intercom inquiry "Anybody hurt" and a routine check in by all crew members. Flak could take out an engine or damage the plane sufficiently to make it inoperative and unable to maintain its position in the formation so that it became isolated and an easy prey for enemy fighters. And, obviously, with a direct hit in the bomb bay or the fuel tanks, flak could blow the plane to smithereens and its crew to eternity.
      German gunners had no difficulty aiming at a formation of hundreds of bombers. They could not miss. In many cases the number of guns were estimated at over 270 and often rail car mounted guns were brought in to increase the firepower. In order to do serious damage to our bombers the German gunners had to adjust their shells so that they exploded at the same altitude that we were flying. German fighters would radio information on altitude, speed and direction to the anti-aircraft batteries. The Germans were also known to send up captured American bombers to attach themselves to the formations and radio pertinent information to the flak gunners. With such data at hand, the expert German gunners, with their radar assisted guns, could knock out bombers almost at will and totally disrupt the formation, except for one thing: chaff.
      One of the reasons that American cigarette and chewing gum manufacturers had stopped wrapping their product in metal foil was our use of chaff on our bombing raids, probably tons of it over Europe. Chaff received its name from its similarity to the fine husks of wheat carried off by the wind as the seed was separated from the plant. In the context of a bombing raid, chaff was the narrow strips of metal that we tossed out of our bombers to jam the radar screens of the German gunners and thus prevent them from adjusting accurately for our altitude. The shiny strips were six inches long and one-eighth inch wide. They were in small loosely bound bundles about an inch in diameter. Every bomber carried as large a supply of chaff as they could get. During any flak barrage our crew, mainly the waist gunners, would toss the bundles of chaff out the waist windows, where the propeller wash would scatter the metal strips below us, creating a drifting metallic cloud that fouled German radar, so that the gunners had to guess at our altitude. Most of the explosions were below the formation; although some of them would hit above and exactly at our level, as the gunners bracketed their radar signals. All of us swore by the effectiveness of chaff, and what little laughter we enjoyed regarding the missions was based on the image of our waist gunners Sladovnik and McGovern frantically tossing chaff out the windows. Unfortunately, however, the very important leading bombers in our formation could not benefit from the spreading of chaff, unless other formations ahead of them had tossed out enough chaff to create a cloud of metal strips that trailed under our formation. Nevertheless, in spite of chaff, flak was our nightmare. As we flew across Europe we could see frightening clouds of flak over cities to the left and right of our formation under attack by other American bomb groups. Then we would turn onto our target and see our own cloud of flak bursts awaiting us like a curtain of death and injury. From a distance the bursts looked like harmless puffs of smoke, as we got nearer we could see the flame of the explosions and the swift and powerful effects bursting through the smoke. You would occasionally see aircraft peeling from the puffs of smoke either on fire or out of control struggling to stay airborne. Then you would hear the explosions themselves and hear the shrapnel striking the plane. A terrible, helpless experience in which all you can do was pray.

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ENEMY RESISTANCE-FIGHTERS

      The Eighth Air Force learned very early that our bombers, even in formation, were no match for a concentrated attack by German fighter planes. Without interference from American fighters, the German Luftwaffe pilots in their Messerschmitt-109's and Focke Wolfe-190's could literally wipe out an entire bomb group in a few minutes.
      This actually occurred relatively late in the war on September 27, 1944. Several weeks after all of our crew had left England and were back in the U.S., our 445th Bomb Group sent 35 B-24's on a major raid against Kassel, Germany. The 445th became separated from the main formation and came under attack by 90 German fighters. In less than ten minutes the German fighters brought down 25 of the 35 bombers. Only four bombers returned to their base at Tibenham. The other six made emergency landings over Europe.
      It is frightening to imagine what the Luftwaffe could have done to our bombers and our fighters if they had developed and produced in numbers their jet-propelled Messerschmitt-262 fighter earlier. In September 1944, even before our crew had left England, 445th BG airmen were encountering the jet fighter. They returned to base with incredible accounts of the jet's blinding speed and maneuverability. Our eyes were not adjusted to such speeds at that time.
      For the Germans, the ideal fighter attack on our bombers was from 600 to 1000 yards out, high and out of the sun, but they would attack from any angle; however, they would never attack a formation with a fighter escort. They preferred to attack smaller, unescorted formations or solitary bombers isolated from the main formation for one reason or another, and they were deadly in such attacks. Thus, the first defensive move was to tighten the formation so that the bombers flew only ten or twenty-feet apart. This prevented German fighters from flying and firing their guns through the formation.
      With everybody watching for "bandits," any intercom message indicating the location and flight angle of a fighter on the attack would cause all turrets to cover the area of attack, thus concentrating the bomber's firepower on the attacking fighter. All of the men on our .50 caliber guns had received gunnery training, so they knew how to lead the speeding fighter for a hit. We did not use tracer bullets, because they had been found to be ineffective and confusing.
      The principal form of defense against German fighters was, of course, the American fighters that escorted our formations to and from the target. Our fighters were the Lockheed P-38 Lightning with its distinctive twin fuselage, Republic's stubby but deadly P-47 Thunderbolt and North American's sleek P-51 Mustang. These fighters had taken control of the skies over Europe by the time our crew arrived in England, so we were never under direct attack by German fighters, although we were witness to fighter attacks on planes and groups in our formation. In spite of American domination of the skies, however, the German Luftwaffe remained a threat until the end of the war, especially as the German defensive perimeter became tighter after D-Day and the Allied surge across Europe.

ENEMY FIGHTER ACTIVITY
     The Germans flew Junkers 88's, Focke Wolf 190's and Messerschmitts 109 aircraft. They also experimented with the first jet fighter ever known in combat and it flew out of Munich Germany. We made a couple missions to Munich but never saw a jet plane in the air during the war. We did see Buzz Bomb and rocket propelled missiles over England which were fired from France. Our fighter protection consisted of P-38's, P-39's P-47's and P51's. These planes had done a lot of damage to the German Air Force and had done a lot of small scale bombing and strafing so they were eager to get into dog fights etc. and the enemy fighters were very scarce when they were around. The problem was that the escort planes were small and could not fly as far and as long as the bombers but they could fly faster for the dog fights. As a result, the fighters were equipped with wing fuel tanks instead of bombs. They would fly with the bombers until low on fuel and then go home and another group of fighters would join the bombers. It usually took 3 or 4 changes of fighter escorts during a bombing mission and sometimes during the change, the bombers would get hit with enemy fighters. If our escorts were around, they would drop their wing fuel tanks and engage the enemy fighters in air to air combat. If the enemy fighter tried to attack the bombers, it usually tried to attack the squadron where it could approach out of the sun. When the fighters were around, the bomber Pilots closed the formation very tight and usually only 10 or 20 ft between the aircraft. This was to prevent the enemy fighters from flying through the formation and getting better shots. The enemy usually lurked around out away from the formation about 600 yards. All crew members were made aware of the presence of enemy aircraft thru the intercom on the bomber. The fighter would usually attack from a higher altitude and dive past the formation. Once you saw his outer wing tip up he was on the attack. You could tell his distance by the number of radicals he filled in the gun sight and knowing his wing span. When he was within 200 yards, you better be firing and then you only have a few seconds for him to dive past the formation. You never fired directly at him but between him and the tail of your own aircraft to account for where he would be when the projectile got there. Tracers were used at first (about every 10th shell) but later discontinued due to the confusion they caused. It appeared they were going right thru the aircraft but actually were going behind it. Our crew only had one substitute crew member to get credit for destroying an enemy aircraft and he was only probably attacked about 3 times. This says a lot about our pilots because enemy fighter used to fly up and down the string of groups looking for sloppy groups to attack. Eventually an error was made after crew 2366 finished the tour and on Sept 27,1944, our group suffered the worst loss in 8th Air Force history when they lost 25 of the 35 aircraft to approximately 90 enemy fighters in a raid on Kassel Germany. It resulted from a navigational error which left the group alone away from the protection of the other aircraft on the mission. This all happened over a time span of about 3 minutes.



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THE BOMB RUN

      After the full formation had made its way across Europe, it reached a point where it would break up into bomb groups with specific targets within the larger targeted area. In most cases we would have to turn ninety degrees onto a bomb run leading into our specific target. This would inevitably give us a view of the flak barrage that awaited us over our target - usually a most frightening sight for all of us. At this point all of us braced ourselves for another fearful and almost paralyzing confrontation with the possibility of death in the plane's explosion from a direct hit or by being struck in the body by a jagged chunk of shrapnel from a near miss.
      Before this, Radio Operator McHenry had made his way out onto the catwalk of the bomb bay to pull the pins on the bomb fuses which had kept them safe while being loaded and during the flight. With everyone at his position we turned onto the bomb run, which would include the formation's evasive action at the beginning and then become a straight, unwavering course through every obstacle that the enemy could throw at us. As we flew closer to the target the flak barrage became more furious. The gray puffs of smoke that we had seen from a distance became black explosions laced with fire. Becchetti would describe these nearby flak bursts later as "the black orchids of death." All of us became fatalistic about flak, saying that "if you saw the flak burst and didn't feel anything, that meant that you were alive and hadn't been wounded."
      Obviously, Pilot Palmer and Co-pilot Bolton on the bomb run were kept occupied by the requirements of keeping just off the wing of the airplane next to us in the formation. There was an added requirement of a tight formation over the target so that the formation's bomb pattern would be concentrated, so the pilot made a special effort to fly tight.
      On the bomb run, all eyes were focused on the lead plane in the formation. The lead plane and the second lead to its right were the only planes in the formation in which the bombardier was manning the Norden bombsight to trigger the release of the bombs on the target. If for some reason the lead plane was not able to carry out the bomb run, the second lead would take over.
      As the formation moved into the straight course of the bomb run the lead plane opened it bomb bay doors and Bombardier Becchetti opened our bomb bay doors, announcing to the crew by intercom, "Bomb bay doors open." However, the announcement was not necessary. The rattle of the bomb bay doors and the sudden rush of cold air through the plane were enough to inform everybody that we had begun the most important part of the bomb run---the most important part of the mission.
      From this moment on we held our breaths and said our prayers while Waist Gunners Sladovnik and McGovern threw out chaff as fast as they could to confound the radar of anti-aircraft guns and keep the flak bursts below the formation. Meanwhile, Bombardier Becchetti's eye was fixed on the lead plane's open bomb bay, waiting for the bomb drop.
      The beginning of the lead plane's bomb drop was accompanied by two colored smoke bombs. On seeing the drop, Bombardier Becchetti released our bombs, announcing on the intercom, "Bombs away." But again there was no need for this announcement, because with the sudden release of the bombs our plane along with the other planes in the formation would rise two hundred feet so that everybody on the plane knew that the bombs were gone.
      Normally at this point Radio Operator McHenry, with a camera in hand, would leave his position and lean over the front edge of the bomb bay and film the impact of the bombs on the target. Then the bomb bay doors were closed, and the formation moved out of the bomb run and set course for a rendezvous with the other bomb groups for the return to England.
      At times bombs would get hung up in the front bomb bay racks, and Radio Operator McHenry, before filming the bomb impact, would walk out onto the catwalk of the open bomb bay and manually release the hung-up bombs, a terribly dangerous duty in which he had to carry a portable oxygen tank and be out of intercom communication out on the cold edge of nothingness without his parachute attached to his harness, since he could not move on the narrow catwalk with his parachute attached. Since McHenry was out of communication, the flight engineer would watch his progress, ready to act in case of an emergency out on the catwalk. If the bomb hung up at the rear of the bomb bay, Waist Gunner Sladovnik went out on the catwalk to release it, while Waist Gunner McGovern watched from the waist compartment.
     The bombing run was a point in the mission which was dreaded and much relief was felt after it was over. The targets were usually protected with anti-aircraft guns, especially airfields, chemical plants, oil refineries, submarine pens, rail marshalling yards and assembly plants. Bridges, gun emplacement, transformer buildings, etc, were usually pretty easy targets. In some cases, the entire load of bombs were salvoed on the target and in other cases a time interval was built in to drop a bomb about every 100 to 1000 ft. Most of the time the bomb load was made up of 500 pound bombs. Several missions were made with 2000 lb bombs and the entire bomb load consisted of 3 bombs about 2 ft in diameter and 6 ft long. The detonator of the bombs were usually on the nose of the bomb and tail fins were on the rear to guide the bomb to the target in the nose down position. The detonator contained a small propeller which was made ready for activation by pulling the safety pin. When the bomb was released, the slip stream of the aircraft caused the propeller to spin off and arm the bomb for detonation on impact with the target. Other types of bombs were used such as: fragmentation bombs, incendiary bombs and leaflet bundles. These bombs were held in bundles and released with the delayed dispersment technique from the aircraft to cover or destroy a large area of the target. This type bomb dropped within 1500 ft of the ground where the cluster or bundle split apart and dropped over a wide area to destroy troops, start fires or distribute propaganda leaflets.



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RETURN FROM THE TARGET

     Return to England. With "Bombs away" it was not unusual for somebody on the plane to say, "Let's get the hell out of here." And we would do this, but not in the dramatic fashion popularized in the movies. We turned away from the flak protected target as soon as we could, but we were in formation with other 36,000-pound bombers, which meant an agonizingly slow retreat from danger, with everyone holding his breath with fear as flak continued to explode around the plane. In our anxiety it often seemed that our plane had quit moving as it turned, making us sitting ducks for the German anti-aircraft gunners. We did not relax until we could no longer hear the flak explosions, and even then we could not relax completely until we had joined the main formation and reached the English Channel.
      In our dash for the Channel we were still vulnerable to enemy fighter attacks, so we remained alert to "bandits" throughout the return. Earlier in the war, when the German Luftwaffe dominated the skies over Europe, there were some instances of German fighters shooting down bombers in their landing pattern directly over their home base in England. This had occurred once at Tibenham.
      In general, however, we were light-hearted during the return flight. Once we had reported in to the pilot from our positions, we were able to lean back with the satisfaction of having survived another mission; although anything could happen before we landed at Tibenham.
      The first one to see the Channel and the White Cliffs of Dover would report it to the crew, but there was no deviation from the formation until we had crossed the Channel and were over England. At that moment the lead plane would signal to those bombers requesting priority in landing, granting them permission to drop out of the formation and fly directly to the home field or to an emergency field. Planes with wounded crew members and aircraft flying on less than four engines were given priority in landing.
      Aircraft without emergency situations stayed in formation with the lead plane. On reaching Tibenham, the formation flew over the runway, giving ground crews a check on the planes returning, and then planes began peeling off to the right and 360 degrees around the base for their landings, about thirty seconds apart, depending on how long it took to clear the runway. The crew chief usually met his aircraft at the end of the runway in his Jeep and guided the plane to a hard stand parking area. After the plane was parked a truck arrived to pick up the crew and their equipment and drive them to de briefing.
     The return trip to England was made in the same manner as the trip to the target but by a different prescribed course. The trip was not any easier in the way of flak and enemy fighter encounters but at least we did not have the explosive devices and were usually faster and more maneuverable. Usually by that time, the squadron was no longer 12 aircraft because some had dropped out because of mechanical problems, battle damage, etc.. The enemy did not let up until we started back across the English Channel. They were aware of the fact that the more aircraft they destroyed, the fewer they would see on the next mission.

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DEBRIEFING

      A chaplain and the debriefing officer met the crew at the debriefing room. There was coffee, liquor and candy bars for the crew. The mood was one of exhaustion and impatience, even though all of us knew that debriefing was necessary. The pilot, co-pilot, and bombardier-navigator had to prepare written reports on the mission, which they did in addition to the entire crew answering the questions of the debriefing officers.
      Their questions covered every aspect of the mission. They wanted to know about enemy countermeasures, enemy ground activity that we might have seen, weather conditions, target conditions, assessment of bomb damage, enemy fighter activity, fighter protection, disabled bombers, numbers of parachutes visible from downed or damaged aircraft. During the debriefing we also got information on crews that had problems on the mission.
     And So To Bed. After the debriefing we turned in our flight equipment and went to the mess hall for a good meal. After a mission that had kept us awake for ten to eighteen hours we then made our way to our huts and went to bed, with the hope that we could shake off the tension and then sleep restfully until the next wake-up.

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OFF DUTY ACTIVITIES

     During our tour of duty in the European Theatre of combat which lasted from May 20, 1944 through July 31, 1944, we had 2 passes to London for 3 days each and one of those occurred on the weekend the German's started sending Buzz Bombs over and the English people were terrorized. We spent a few moments diving into underground stairways when the Buzz Bomb engines cut off. We then waited for the explosion and then got up and went on as if nothing had happened. We observed some bomb damage in London and of course there was the black outs at night. All the vehicles used lights but they were mere horizontal slots and very dim. No German aircraft at the time. I think only one movie house was open in London at the time. It was playing Danny Kay's "Up In Arms" both times we were there and I believe we saw it 4 times in the 6 days we were there. The crew had rooms at the Imperial Hotel on Russell Square in London, W.C. on July 4th and July 26th of 1944. We joined The Green Parrot (A private club) at 44 Gerrard Street, W.I. in order to get drinks. It was only open 3 hours a day including Sundays. We assembled and operated out of this club when it was open because you could always find the Co-pilot (Bolton) there. It was on the second floor over a business place and it was not very fancy.



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HOUSING


     The housing and living quarters for bomber crews in England was in single story barracks or sort of like Quonset Huts. The officers lived. separately from the enlisted men (Non-Coms). Each barracks for the enlisted men held about 30 or 40 men or roughly 6 or 8 crews. The bunks were double decked with windows and blackout curtains. The barracks were grouped 2 or 3 to a cluster so enemy bombers could not wipe out a large number of crews with one bomb. Clusters of barracks and quonset huts were placed in small clusters around the base. Transportation was mostly by walking and you did not do that long before you purchased a bicycle from an outgoing crew member or service men dealing in black market items. Elmo was our source and he could get anything. He was in the pool to fill in for needed crew members after sickness and injury and was slow getting his missions in. He lived off base most of the time but checked in at his bed about once a day. He tried to keep track of his missions by shooting holes in the roof until the Air Raid Warden caught him. He was a lumberman from Oregon prior to the war and did not like to write home. Finally the squadron commander called him in and made him sit down in front of him and write his mother and then took it and mailed it himself. One evening we had a correspondent who wanted to bunk with the crew enlisted men. After lights out, Elmo came in all drunk up and found out he was there. Elmo got his pistol out of the foot locker and put 2 bullet holes in the roof over the correspondent's bed. The correspondent left the next morning without saying a word about it. Elmo flew with our crew on a couple missions. He had shot down a German aircraft on one of the earlier missions and was somewhat of a hero around base. When he flew with us, he was borderline alcoholic and had to breathe pure oxygen to get sobered up. He was also airsick a lot from hangover but people liked to have him around and tolerated him.



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THE GI ENVIRONMENT

      The following paragraphs explain some of the conditions the Air Force servicemen lived under while serving in the armed forces during WWII.

AIR BASE ENVIRONMENT

      All of the military bases were built around an air strip to minimize the transportation problem. The Air Force used some of the larger bases in the country. The basis configuration was the air strip and flight line along one side of the field and a school or training area on one end of the air strip and a housing area on the other end. Student housing was usually close to the training area. Permanent party personnel were not housed with the students and transient personnel. Officers were housed in a separate area and the female military personnel had a separate area. All the bases contained an area used for medical purposes including a hospital area, Doctor and Dentist offices. Another area was the headquarters which corresponded to the government offices of a modern city. The bases had a base theatre where the movie was changed about 3 times a week. A Post Exchange (PX) was located close to the serviceman housing area. The PX usually sold uniform decorations, candy and occasionally sandwiches and side dishes with about a 6 bar stool counter or booth in one area. At the larger bases, one end of a barracks was sometimes converted to a small one room PX area selling Candy, Cigarettes and misc. items. Mess halls were usually scattered through out the areas around the barracks complex. The mess halls were usually manned by permanent party personnel with rotational GI part time help from the enlisted men who did the preliminary food preparation, dish washing, scrubbing and serving. This duty was known as kitchen police (KP). During the serving hours the mess hall could usually be noted by long lines of GI's waiting to be served. Each group of men in a 3 to 10 barracks area was usually served by an orderly room or office where an officer ruled over the group and records were kept for each serviceman. This was the area where most day to day operations were assigned including the issuing of passes into town and furlough's home. Day rooms were scattered about the base area. This was usually one barracks size room with tables and comfortable chairs for writing letters, reading or enjoying the magazines which were provided in the room. It was usually a quiet area to relax away from the barracks area. Since TV was not yet available a radio was sometimes present. The mail was distributed in what was known as "Mail Call". It was usually at the same designated time each day and sometimes around the orderly room. The mail clerk stood on an elevated platform and called out the names from a stack of mail in his hand. The mail was then handed back to the receiver. If you were unable to make the mail call, it was desirable to designate a barrachs mate to pick up your mail. Some latrines were located at the end of the barrachs and others were a seperate building with about 4 barrachs assigned to one latrine. The enlisted men took turns serving on latrine duty cleaning the latrines.

      All the air strips within the US usually contained concrete runways, taxi strips and aircraft parking area's. Going overseas we encountered several runways in Africa consisting of metal matting sections laid on a rolled sand base and interconnected by metal rods. These airstrips were very noisy to land on and were dangerous because of the possibility of the sections being damaged and rolling up to damage the aircraft. All the bases in the US was surrounded by an 8 ft. chain link fence. The gates into the complex were on the roads leading to the base and contained a guard shack where passes were checked and busses arrived to transport GI's into town on leave. On the bigger bases, the busses went around the base and picked up at the stops and the passes were then checked by a guard mounting the bus at the gate. In some of the make shift bases attended while going overseas, the base was not enclosed and guards were stationed around the barracks and stored aircraft. Housing in these areas were more primitive and we encountered dusty conditions and in some cases slept under nets for protection from malaria infested mosquitoes, poisonous spiders and snakes. Fortunately these conditions only existed during layovers in the flight overseas or waiting out storms before continuing with the journey.

TROOP TRAVEL

      While attending basic training, radio school, gunnery school and other non crew training assignments, we traveled from one base to another via troop trains. After being assigned to an aircraft crew we usually flew an airplane from one base to another in route overseas. In the early phases of army life the major travel between bases was accomplished by troop trains. Some travel was arranged to include a delay-in-route. In this case civilian travel arrangements were made and a few days were spent at home or other desired locations. In the case of troop train travel, the whole train contained troops transferring from one base to another. The trains took the same rail routes as the civilian trains and many times set on rail sidings awaiting the tracks to clear of the civilian schedule before continuing on the journey. In this case it could take days or a week to go from one destination to another. Many times the troop train cars were very old and pulled from a salvage yard and put back into service just to haul the troops. This was the case in travel across the larger states such as Texas which could take 3 or 4 days to cross the one state. The cars were not air conditioned and the engine's were coal burning resulting in a dirty, smoky dusty trip because the windows were open to keep cool as the train moved. When the train stopped the cars became hot sweltering cages. The sleeping arrangements were sitting up in a seat as Pullman cars were only available on trains originating in the larger cities along the coast. The center of each troop train contained a kitchen car where food was prepared. The cooks picked GI's from the train to help in the preparation of the food. The GI's then took the food down the aisles of each car and served the servicemen in the seats eating from trays and mess kits. Rest room conditions were atrocious and the waste fell to the ties and tracks below the car. Sandwiches, cigarettes and drinks could be bought from venders setting up stands at the stops in some of the larger cities.


HEADWEAR



      A garrison hat similar to that shown on the left was worn by the officers in dress uniform. Enlisted men were not allowed to wear this type hat on the base and in some cases they could not possess this type hat on base. In other cases the hat could be worn off base but was carried outside the base and exchanged for the regular GI cap shown in the lower photo. Most enlisted men owned a garrison hat and wore it on furlough around home. The primary dress uniform hat for the serviceman on base was the GI cap shown in the lower photo. When not in the dress uniform, a fatigue hat was worn which was a beanie cap with about a 2 inch rim all the way around. This was light green in color and matched the fatigue uniform similar to coveralls worn on work assignments. In some cases a helmet liner was worn and a gas mask was carried. This usually occurred one day a week and surprise gas attacks were staged through out the day. The GI was not allowed to go bare headed. GI shoes were usually worn on base but some bases allowed brown dress shoes to be worn with the dress uniform.












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LEATHER AND EISENHOUR JACKETS


      After becoming a member of a flight crew, a leather waist length jacket was issued. This could be worn instead of the dress uniform jacket on some occasions. Many crew members painted emblems and photo's on the back of the jacket and in some cases the owner added a bomb symbol for each combat mission he flew. The officers were allowed to wear a dark green waist length jacket referred to as an Eisenhour jacket because it was commonly worn by Gen Dwight Eisenhour. The common uniform permitted at the daily retreat ceremony was the full length dress jacket. This was a daily ceremony to lower the flag and attended by an assigned group every day and each member was to be dressed in the uniform of the day.

MEDICAL LECTURES AND EXAMINATIONS

      It was a monthly routine to have to attend a medical lecture and probably see a film clip on health care and the prevailing contagious diseases. The session never ended with out some mention or film on venereal disease. This was necessary along with a regularly scheduled physical inspection where every GI stood at the foot of his bed in an exposed condition and the medical officers performed a walk through inspection. This was necessary in order to receive your pay for the month.

PAY DAY

      Pay day usually occurred one day every month. In some cases you received a months pay and in other cases you received a partial pay or back pay because of incomplete records or the previous month pay off. In all cases the group lined up in alphabetical order in front of officers sitting at a table. As your turn came about, you gave a solute to the officers and repeated the last 4 numbers of your army serial number. If all conditions were proper you were counted out the payment in cash.

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POST COMBAT SERVICE

FRED BECCHETTI: HIS STORY OF SERVICE AFTER COMBAT
Becchetti Leaves England.

      My last combat mission was on August 14, 1944. Our target was a bridge in France. There was no flak, no opposition of any kind. A milk run. I kissed the ground when we landed in Tibenham. The next day, I had to move out of my hut to make room for new combat flyers.
     For another week I remained at Tibenham as a non-flying "paddlefoot" anxiously waiting to greet Co-pilot Cliff Bolton as he landed on his last mission on August 18 and generally missing the other crew members, all of whom had finished their missions and were in various parts of England on their way home to the States.
     On August 22, I officially became a Second Lieutenant and received the Distinguished Flying Cross just before leaving the 445th BG base at Tibenham. I stayed in Norwich until I took a train for Preston on August 24. On September 2, I boarded a train in Preston which took me to Prestwick, Scotland, where I boarded a C-54 that took off at 11:15 a.m. on September 3, 1944, arrived in Iceland at 1:50 p.m., left Iceland at 3:12 p.m. and arrived in Washington D.C. at 5:04 a.m. on Monday, September 4. I continued on to San Antonio that day, stayed there overnight, caught a train to Austin, Texas, to visit my high school buddy Burton Smith, who served in Austin as a pilot instructor throughout the war, and the parents of our waist gunner Sladovnik. From Austin I went to Waco, Texas, to visit Esther, our pilot's wife who had been with us in Casper. Finally, I took a train from Temple, Texas to New Mexico on September 6 to spend a few days in Albuquerque with friends and relatives and then report to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where they gave me a furlough for further visits in Carrizozo and Albuquerque, New Mexico. They also assigned me to Santa Monica, California for rest and rehabilitation (R&R).

Becchetti on R&R.

     On October 5, 1944, I left Albuquerque on the Santa Fe "El Capitan" for Los Angeles and Santa Monica, where I spent a luxurious ten days, during which I went into Hollywood and danced at the famous Palladium. I also took a bus to San Pedro, California, to visit my father and grandfather, who were working in the shipyards.

Becchetti Becomes Bombardier Instructor.

     Before leaving Santa Monica, I applied for cadet pilot training, but my immediate assignment was to Midland, Texas, just down the road from Big Spring where I had won my bombardier wings. In Midland, I was to be trained to be a bombardier instructor. At Midland, I met John B. Guarisco and his wife Camille from New Orleans. They would be assigned to Carlsbad, too, and be a good influence for me in Carlsbad, and friends for life.
     From October 19, 1944, for almost three months, I refined my bombardiering skills and got back in physical shape, and on January 8, 1945, I shipped out to my assignment as bombardier instructor at Carlsbad Army Air Base, New Mexico, but I took a furlough to Albuquerque and did not report until January 19.
     On reporting to Carlsbad, I learned that the Army Air Corps had acted on my application for pilot training, so I immediately took a train from Carlsbad to San Antonio, Texas.
In San Antonio, for more than a month, I took more or less the same tests that I had taken there when I was first classified to go into bombardier cadet training. The tests this time did not qualify me for pilot training, so on February 28, 1945, I returned to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and took up my assignment as a bombardier instructor.
      For seven months, I gave bombardier instructions to cadets, some of them Nationalist Chinese. It was a relaxing seven months, during which several momentous events occurred: President Roosevelt died, the war in Europe ended, the atom bomb was tested just over the mountains near Alamogordo, New Mexico, we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and on August 14, 1945, World War II ended with Japan's surrender.

Becchetti Separates Himself From the Military.

     The war ended on August 14, and by September 20 I was on my way to Fort Bliss Separation Center in El Paso, Texas, where I was discharged on September 23, 1945, at 7:10 p.m., so that by September 29, 1945, I was home in Albuquerque celebrating the birthday of my favorite cousin. Music, dancing and laughter. The perfect ending to almost 1,000 days of direct participation in the war. I was 23 years old, and war had robbed me of two years and nine months of those 23 years.

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GARL MCHENRY'S STORY OF HIS SERVICE AFTER COMBAT
McHenry Sails Home.

      After completing thirty-one missions and the parachute jump over England in 1944, I spent eight days in the hospital with a sprained ankle. I walked on crutches and rode around the base on a bicycle; then I learned that I had been reassigned to the States.
      It took four weeks for me to get shipping orders and for arrangements for my return to the U.S. Finally, I departed England on the French liner Pasteur with about 200 other American airmen and the hold full of German prisoners headed for prison camps in the U.S. The Germans were happy about being transferred to the U.S., so they were no trouble on the ship, since Germany was about to lose the war and was suffering many shortages.
      The Atlantic crossing took eight days. We changed course every fifteen minutes to foil enemy submarines. The ship's crew did some gun practice twice during the crossing, so that all of us had to go below to keep from being hit by falling shrapnel. Nights on the ship were uncomfortable. We slept in hammocks three-high. The humidity was high and the atmosphere was smelly with sweat. The showers and commodes operated with salt water, so bathing was not a refreshing experience. We slept best on the open deck in the day time.
      We had the job of guarding the German prisoners as they did kitchen work, cleaning and other chores. We guarded them with billy clubs, not guns. There were about 600 Germans below, and all of them were eager to volunteer for work in order to get aboveboard and escape the humidity and the sweaty atmosphere below. I did not volunteer for guard duty, since many other airmen were willing to do the job.
      During almost the entire eight days I lay in a lifeboat on the top deck and dreamed of thirty days on home leave followed by rest and recuperation (R&R) in Miami Beach, Florida.
      We arrived in New York Harbor on a cool, damp morning and passed under the Statue of Liberty, which made me very proud and caused me to weep with emotion. We docked at Navy Pier, where a group of shipbuilders, USO workers and a small band greeted us. They cheered us and gave each of us a small pouch containing shaving needs, food and other articles.
      We boarded a bus that took us to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, where we stayed for two days while the paperwork was processed for our thirty-day leaves and our transfer to a hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, for a period of rest and recuperation.
      From Maryland I left by train for Huntington, Indiana, where my parents had moved while I was overseas.

McHenry on the Beach for R&R.

     After thirty days in Indiana I went by train to Miami Beach, Florida, for thirty days of rest and recuperation. I stayed at a hotel between the main street and the ocean front of Miami Beach. We had hotel maids to do all the work, cleaning our rooms and making beds. We ate at a mess hall in a hotel just down the beach, where the Army had taken over the ballroom and made it into a large dining room. The food was unbelievable!
      We roamed up and down the main street and took in movies and other entertainment. Some of the soldiers gambled; I didn't. The USO had good entertainment and food.
      A week after we arrived there we were asked to help board-up the hotel because of a hurricane moving toward Florida. The hurricane missed us, but we got a lot of rain, and the debris on beach had to be cleaned up. By the time the hurricane has passed by, they were cutting my shipping orders to go to Scott Field, Illinois, to be an instructor in the radio school.

McHenry at Scott Field.

      Before going to Scott Field, I received a week's "delay enroute" and bought my own train ticket to spend a week with my parents in Huntington, Indiana.
      Scott Field was the the largest air base I had ever seen. There were Boeing B-29 bombers there, and they were definitely the largest airplane I had ever seen. The B-29 had a wingspan of 141 feet (43 meters) and a length of 99 feet (30 meters). This made the B-17 with its wingspan of 103 feet (31 meters) and length of 74 feet (22 meters) and our B-24's with their wingspan of 110 feet (33 meters) and length of 67 feet (20 meters) look like medium bombers. I also saw my first Black Widow Fighter/Bomber both on the ground and in the air.
      At this time the war in Europe was winding down. The Allies were racing for Berlin at 50 to 100 miles a day. They did not need radio operators or instructors at radio schools. The students at Scott Field knew that they were training for service against the Japanese in the Pacific.
      After two weeks at Scott Field, I was shipped to gunnery school at Yuma, Arizona, for a refresher in case I was needed in the South Pacific.

McHenry at Yuma, Arizona.

      About 500 men arrived at Yuma with me for the refresher in gunnery. They were divided into five 100-man platoons, each of them with a different colored insignia on their helmet liners. Probably because of my tech sergeant's rank I was selected to lead one of the platoons, in spite of my being younger than many of the men. I was able to handle the marching and the basic military discipline of my platoon, but because of my youth I was not prepared for some of the personal problems that the men would bring me. I sometimes turned to several older men in the platoon for advice with problems I could not handle.
      After graduation from the refresher gunnery school, the trainees continued their flight training at other bases, but those of us who had been in combat remained in Yuma to do the work of preserving airplanes being brought back from the European Theater. We went out to the desert every morning to do such things as inserting moisture absorbing plugs in the spark plugs holes of the engines and block up the wheels to keep the tires out of the sand; however, we spent most of the time in the shade of an aircraft wing doing nothing. We were preserving the aircraft in case they would be needed against Japan, but what actually happened to these planes out in the desert was that they were eventually scrapped after sitting out on the desert for years.
      One good thing about being at Yuma was that I got back on flying status. If you flew more than four hours a month, you received fifty percent more pay. My salary as a tech sergeant was $110, but by flying the four hours per month I received about $155 per month. This allowed me to send money to my mother, who banked every penny of it for me. I heard of men whose parents spent all the money they sent, so that when they got home after the war, they didn't have anything.
      In May 1945 the war in Europe ended, but there was no great celebration, because we still had the fighting in the Pacific. About this time, I was shipped by a very slow troop train. to California.

McHenry Ends His Military Career.

      The troop train took me to San Bernardino Army Air Force Base northeast of Los Angeles. We were sent there to replace the civilians who were doing the clerical work for shipments of air freight all over the U.S. and overseas. Because of my typing skills I was given some easy jobs in the shipping operation.
      One night I took a train to Hollywood on my own. I saw some shows, stood on the famous corner of Hollywood and Vine, saw the stars of the famous movie actors in the sidewalk and took a tour bus past the homes of the movie stars. I stayed at a hotel that night, but I was not so lucky to find a place to sleep the second night. Along with a few other soldiers for protection I spent the night sleeping on a bench along the street. One of the things that impressed me most was the giant searchlights in front of the various theaters where the latest movies were being shown or the movie stars themselves were performing.
      President Franklin D. Roosevelt died while I was in San Bernardino. We also heard about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima while I was there and figured that the war would not last much longer. On the day that Japan surrendered I was on my way to the San Bernardino train station to take a three-day train ride to Chicago, Illinois, where I would board the New York Central's famous "Redbird" special into Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a leave in Huntington with my parents.
      By the time I returned to San Bernardino, the government had converted the base into a mustering out center. Men were mustered out of the armed services on the basis of earned points - one point for each month in the service, another point for each month overseas, additional points for actual combat service and a certain number of points for medals and honors received. My points added up to 109, but there were many men who had been in the Pacific for several years and had 120 to 135 points, so they were mustered out ahead of me. I could have requested a transfer to Camp Atterbery, Indiana, for mustering out closer to home, but I chose to wait it out in San Bernardino.
      When I was finally mustered out I rejected all programs that the military offered. After 33 months I wanted no part of the military. I even turned down the Reserves and Veterans Insurance. My final transaction with the military was when the Air Force paid the mileage for me to take a train back home to Indiana. It was the same trip I had made a few weeks before, but this time I made money on it.


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FRED BECCHETTI: HIS LIFE AFTER THE WAR

Discharge and the G.I. Bill

     After almost a thousand days in the military Freddie went to Ft. Bliss, Texas, and received his honorable discharge on September 23, 1945. He could barely wait to get out of the military and back into civilian life. He took a bus north to Albuquerque, loafed around for a few weeks, and then enrolled under the G.I. Bill of Rights as a freshman at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where classes were getting a late start on October 30, 1945. He vaguely planned to study "journalism." The University of New Mexico turned out to be too easy, but he did meet his future wife there---Vivienne Fleissner from Park Ridge, Illinois.
College Studies and Marriage

     He completed his freshman year at the University of New Mexico; worked for the N.M. Highway Department as a soils inspector and in Park Ridge, Illinois on a construction gang during the summer; enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia, one of the major journalism schools in the country; moved to Columbia, Missouri; began classes while working in the university library to supplement his $75 a month G.I. Bill allotment; married Vivienne in Park Ridge during the school holidays, on December 28, 1946 and brought his bride to Columbia to live in the 18-ft. Ironwood trailer that he had bought in part with a $1,000 loan from Vivienne's brother Conny. With marriage, he began receiving a G.I. Bill allotment of $105 a month, supplemented by his earnings at the university library and by Vivienne's salary from her job in the home economics department of nearby Stephens College.
     Marriage caused him to question journalism as a career, so he switched to working on a teaching degree. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Education in 1948 and followed up with his Master of Arts degree in 1949. While working on his master's degree, he taught two classes in Spanish for the university, and at the end of the year the university offered him a teaching position on condition that he begin work towards a Ph.D.
     With college teaching as his goal he moved back to Albuquerque with Vivienne and their six-weeks old son and began his Ph.D. studies at the University of New Mexico while working nights at the Albuquerque Journal. After a year of advanced studies in Spanish and Portuguese and after satisfying all the requirements for a Ph.D. except the writing of his dissertation, Freddie became exhausted with academic studies and abandoned the Ph.D. and the teaching position at the University of Missouri. He accepted an offer of a $2,610 a year position teaching high school Spanish and English in Benson, Arizona, pop. 3,000 and spent the remainder of his working life in teaching, various summer jobs and finally, in the diplomatic service.
Working Career

     In Benson, Arizona, he taught for eleven years, during which he also did summer jobs as a construction laborer, factory worker, truck driver, school maintenance man, city policeman and burial plan salesman. He was elected mayor of Benson and served during three tempestuous years. After eleven years in Benson, he taught a summer course in foreign language teaching at Louisiana State University and a full year of Spanish at Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Then he joined the U.S. Foreign Service. With his family of Vivienne and five children he did diplomatic work for the U.S. under the U.S. Information Agency, mostly in the field of cultural exchange, spending about three years in each of the following countries: Honduras, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Chile and the Dominican Republic. He also did a short tour on the Island of Grenada after the U.S. intervention. He completed his foreign service career with a 4-year tour in Washington, D.C., in which he worked with journalists from Spain, Portugal, Brazil and all the Latin American countries stationed in the U.S.
Retirement

     He retired in 1989 and has spent his retirement years traveling and watercoloring in the U.S. under the Elderhostel Program.
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GARL MCHENRY
GARL MCHENRY: LIFE AFTER THE WAR

Discharge & Education.

      The first thing Garl did after his October 11, 1945, discharge from the Army was to go back to Huntington, Indiana, buy some civilian clothes, go to Detroit to buy a used car, loaf for six weeks and then get a job. He became a bandsaw and beltsander operator at Caswell Runyon Manufacturing Co. in the Sewing Cabinet Department.
      Realizing his need for more education, he enrolled at Indiana Technical College in Fort Wayne under the G.I. Bill of Rights, and three years later, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Radio Engineering degree, which included courses in electrical engineering and special training in vacuum tube theory and electronics.
      During this period he married his high school classmate Millicent Ruth Swaidner, who was working at General Electric Co. in Fort Wayne. They combined their incomes and moved into an apartment. They had two children, and their happy marriage is still intact after 55 years.

The Working World.

      He worked at odd jobs at first, servicing radios, truck driving, carpentry and white washing dairy barns, but eventually he got into the electronics field for which he had been educated in college. His career evolved into one of many positions with a wide variety of companies in public and private sector programs of great importance during the nation's explosive industrial and technological expansion during the last half of the 1900's. This is a list of most of his positions during that period:
- RCA Assembly Plant, Indianapolis.
Troubleshooter on the TV assembly lines.
- General Electric, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Methods planner in the large motor and generator plant.
- Magnavox Co., Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Quality Control testing of equipment and spare parts for government contracts.
- Klaehn's Appliances, Fort Wayne.
Repairs and installations of TV's and appliances.
- Private business.
TV sales and repair service in Markle, Indiana.
- ITT, International Telephone & Telegraph, Fort Wayne.

      Designed test equipment for Bomarc Missile launching sites at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Served as ITT consultant at Cape Canaveral and at Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Obtained U.S. Patent No. 2,986,699 for a PRF Counter to count the number of beacon responses in one-tenth of a second and compare it with a required response range. Designed high voltage power supplies for the Dew Line Early Warning project.
- General Electric, Huntsville, Alabama.

      Consultant on the Saturn launch vehicle. ( Took a correspondence course in "Electronics for Automation" from RCA Institute and switched skills from vacuum tubes to transistors and low level integrated circuits.
- Ledex, Inc., Dayton, Ohio.

      Designed electronic support circuits for electro-mechanical stepping switch applications. Also designed various solid state stepping circuits in aircraft munitions control equipment. Obtained his second U.S. Patent No. 3,504,189 for a sequence timing circuit used as an intervalometer to control the interval of firing rockets and missiles from aircraft. Helped set up the thick film integrated circuit manufacturing facility at Ledex. (Attended the University of Cincinnati to study micro electronics.)
- TRW Globe Motors, Dayton, Ohio.
Senior Design Engineer.
      He designed test equipment and small motor control circuits. Worked with Hughes Aircraft Co. and designed test equipment for torque motors used in the guidance package of the Maverick Missile and with General Dynamics on the control circuits for the M-1 Tank gun turret. He attended the University of Cincinnati and Wright State University to study Servo Control Systems and became TRW's Servo Engineer. He continued in this position for TRW until his retirement.

Hobbies & Retirement activity.

      While pursuing his career in electronics, Garl also worked at his goal of building a house every ten years of his married life. As of year 2001, he has built six houses including the general contracting in the building of two houses.
      During his working career and now in retirement he has been a ham radio operator (W9FXX) and has experimented with citizen band radio. Because of his training in servo systems he has enjoyed building remote-controlled equipment such as toys, the first remote-controlled lawn mower to be seen in his hometown and a remote-controlled paddle boat with a rake capable of being raised and lowered to rake floating weeds and trash from lake channels.
      As a young man on the farm he developed a love for tractors and other farm equipment, so he has bought old tractors and restored them for re-sale. Even today, he owns two tractors that he uses for mowing fields, snow plowing and dirt moving for himself, his neighbors and his church. He also sells the firewood that he gets from cleaning up wooded areas near his home in Ohio.
      During combat he realized how dependent he was on God for his existence, and he became a Christian. He has been very religious and a strong and active church member all his life, holding the office of Deacon, Trustee, teaching Bible classes and doing hard construction and maintenance work for his church.
      He and his wife Ruth have taken ballroom dancing lessons. They keep in contact with many friends by email. He is interested in genealogy and manages four private My Family websites.


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RELATED MATERIAL WRITINGS
AN ARTICLE BY FRED BECCHETTI

                  A BOMB RUN IN SAVANNAH MADE ME CRY                                
 

     The "bomb run exhibit" at the Savannah Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum isn't a high-tech exhibit, but it was real enough to make me cry. The details are somewhat vague in my memory, but I remember walking in and sitting on a plain bench in the middle of a room while a guide explained that we were going to experience a bomb run in a heavy bomber against a Nazi target. We were at the IP (initial point) making our turn toward the target, and the flak began to burst around us. Did I see flak bursts on a screen? I don't remember. But my mind's eye saw the sky ahead dotted by frightening black explosions with flaming cores of fire. The explosive flashes of light around the ship blinded me. Did the room shake? I doubt it. But I felt the thunder of the explosions and sensed a jolting of the ship off its course toward the target. The body of the ship rattling around me in the airstream, panels buckling in and out, cables scraping, stanchions twisting and clanging. The whole ship groaning from nose to tail. Fragments of flak bounced off the fuselage. Long forgotten dialogues on the intercom flowed through my consciousness as the pilot surrendered the ship to the bombardier for the final run through the flak-pocked sky. "Bomb bays open!" And I felt the freezing air sweep through the ship. I held my breath and thought my thoughts of death as the evasive action stopped and we made our final unswerving run at the target, with flak exploding in front and around us. "Bombs away Bomb bays closed!" The flak exploded behind us as we left the target, the lights came on in the museum's bomb-run exhibit room and I sat on the bench and wept.
     For the first time since January 1943 when I went into Cadets, became a bombardier and did my thirty-five missions out of the Eighth through D-Day and the St. Lo breakthrough during the spring and summer of 1944, I cried about the war. Since the war, there have been many sad, bittersweet and even joyful events in my life to make me cry, but this was the first time in 53 years of telling air stories and talking and writing about the war that a thought about the war had made me cry. Don't ask me why I cried. A psychiatrist could probably put together a lot of gibberish explaining it, but I think I cried partly at the thought of our navigator Vince Hamilton, a wonderful guy and so full of life, who got behind in flying missions with our crew and had to fly a couple after we had finished our quota, only to get shot down and die without us. He was 20.
     The tears may have been for the low-level mission at St. Lo breakout when I saw a waist gunner with his flight suit on fire jump out of a burning plane to our right without a parachute, look directly at me in utter terror and pain while falling, falling, falling with his hands clasped desperately on his head, 11,000 feet to the ground and eternity. My tears could have flowed from the thought of the wounded B-17 over Berlin, dipping heavily into a long slow spiral while parachutes popped out and we counted, "1,2,3,4,5,6, -- can't see any more of them." Our engineer at 26 was the oldest man on the crew. Leroy DeRouen, a cajun from New Iberia, Louisiana, married to his lovely and gentle Iris. Fun-loving, with hundreds of stories about his people in the bayous. After fifteen experiences with flak, his mind, nerves and body began to deteriorate, until he was grounded and sent home, leaving a major vacuum of love and happy moments in our crew. I cried for what the war had done to Leroy. It might be said that those three years of war and the G.I.Bill that followed them improved my life, but I believe I cried on that museum bench about the loss of those three years, too. It doesn't matter that the cause was just and that we were fighting to save the world from tyranny. That terrible war ripped me out of the innocence of my youth and brutalized me for three years!
     Our training featured the philosophy of "kill, kill, kill" as far as Germans and Japanese were concerned, so I hardly blinked an eye when we were ordered to bomb the center of Munich in case we could not see our primary military target. "They're not civilians, gentlemen. They are skilled workers!" the briefing officer explained. But even though I am still not sure about the Germans after a half century (Our brainwashing in the 1940's was very thorough!), I may have been weeping in the museum for the innocent people who were killed and maimed by the 1,500 bombers of the Eighth and Fifteenth converging over Munich and dropping their bombs blindly through the clouds, as well as for the British who died several years before during the Blitz by the dive-bombing Stukas of the Nazi Lufthwaffe.
     The bomb-run experience at the Heritage Museum didn't only make me cry. It made me wonder where those surprising tears have been hiding for more than fifty years. Suddenly, for the first time, I could identify with the guys with shattered mind and spirit who didn't die with the 53,000 who didn't come back from Vietnam.
     My tears in Savannah also made me wonder about what we have been doing in the Eighth Air Force Historical Society since its founding. My weeping in Savannah made me wonder why our journals, our meetings and our conventions are marked by colorful reminiscences, humorous stories of life among the good people of Norfolk, England, and sketchy and technical descriptions of our escapades in the air over Nazi-Occupied Europe. My tears lead me to believe that all this may be the babbling ramblings of men in pain who, for more than fifty years, have talked about the war in the air over Europe but never really tapped their feelings about that war. I am fairly certain that this is what has happened to me. I seem to have been just too busy making a life for myself after the war to let my emotions participate in my memory of those horrible five months of battle.
     Our radioman (Garl McHenry) is the only member of our crew with whom I have made contact. I wrote him about my experience in the Savannah bomb-run simulator. He wrote back, "I know how you felt when you broke down during the simulated bomb run. I, too, broke down during a B-17 film at the Air Force Museum a few years ago. I guess I had put a lot of that out of my mind over the years, and it reappeared very realistically." So it's not just me. And it's probably not just the two of us. Let's face it, guys. It was a crappy, dangerous experience, from beginning to end. Lots of laughs, perhaps, but basically a brutal period in our lives. We've forgotten how cold it could get up in that unfriendly sky while riding in a rattletrap of a B-24 with the air stream whistling through the cracks in the fuselage and from underneath through the vibrating doors of the bomb bay which never shut themselves quite tight enough. Just think back on those great screens of deadly flak over Berlin, Munich, Strasbourgh and, yes, Paris as you made the final run to the target. Listen in your mind's ear to the deadly hail of flak fragments rattling on the thin skin of the ship and every once in a while zinging through and glancing from one inner wall to another and sometimes ending the ricochet in the body of one of your crew. Do you remember getting back to base, sliding out of the ship, shaking yourself back into sanity and then taking a long look at the plane and at the gaping holes in the wings and tail where antiaircraft shells had gone through without exploding or heavy chunks of flak had ripped at the plane, fortunately without hitting a fuel tank? Nobody can forget how we scanned the skies constantly for "bandits," eyes fairly popping out of your head to see better against the blue and against the white of the thunderheads so that you could get your guns in position to try to knock them out of the sky.
     Today, jets take you from New York to London in a few short hours, so you may have forgotten those nine and a half hours in the air to Munich and back, preceded by cold, damp morning hours of briefing and followed by nerve-wracking debriefing after the mission, when all you wanted to do was get back to your hut and try to forget the terror you had just lived through. One would think that you could sleep after a mission, but you sometimes didn't. You flew the mission over and over again. Your legs and arms went numb on you in bed. And the flight surgeon gave you sleeping pills to get you to sleep, because you were needed for another mission tomorrow morning. And try to remember those times when you got separated from the formation and had to make it back to base on three engines, expecting fighters any minute, sweating out your navigation and your remaining engines, while reviewing the procedure for bailing out or ditching in the Channel. This doesn't even include actually being shot down, parachuting and falling into the hands of angry German farmers with pitchforks and becoming a POW or hooking up with the Underground and making your way across Germany, France and Spain to Gibraltar.
     Just think of the 1,000 young guys like you who died every month while the Eighth was in operation. Think of how the bombers were used as decoys to bring the German fighters up so that our fighters could knock them out of the sky and gain air superiority just before D-Day. Remember the Kassel Raid in September 1944, when ninety German fighters, in three minutes, shot down 25 of the 445th Bomb Group's 35 ships, killing 113 young guys like you and scattering another 120 or more over the German landscape. Three minutes of horror!
     There was nothing humorous or quaint about anything that happened to us up there; none of it was glorious or heroic. It was a cold, miserable, bloody experience. Not an adventure at all. It was an ordeal. Like most guys, I guess, I have my medals where I can see them and where my children might look at them and wonder at their meaning. If you're not careful, you get to thinking that the medals have a real meaning. You might look on them as measurements of heroism, but actually they have no meaning at all. There was nothing heroic about what I did, and I sure didn't meet any heroes where I was. All of us would have done the things we did without the medals. Sure, there were a few who might have been real heroes, worthy of special medals, but, in general, the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross were simply markers of the number of missions flown, nothing else. Their only value lay in the discharge points they were worth when we had the chance to get out from under the tyranny of the military. It is something like the 20,000 medals that were passed around after the invasion of Grenada. The only thing that had any value was the comradeship we enjoyed with our crew, and even that was fleeting, because in most cases we did our tour, shipped out and never saw one another again. The only thing we shared was several months of flirting with death. Once that was over, we had nothing else in common.
     The greatest value of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society has been to revive some of that comradeship and, of course, to promote the history of "The Mighty Eighth." Undoubtedly, it should continue to do this through its chapters, conventions, scholarly studies and, yes, stories written by Society members and published in the journals. However, the Society must guard itself from glorifying the things we did in the skies over Europe. It seems time to focus on the ugliness of what it meant to fly missions under the wings of the Mighty Eighth. It seems time to remember the terror that accompanied us on every mission. Above all, it seems time to remember the death of some friends and the wounds that other friends have had to live with for fifty years and more.
     None of us will ever forget the experience, but now it seems time to focus on the fact that flying in a heavy bomber over Nazi Europe was the most dangerous place in the world. It seems time to turn off some of the air stories and humorous anecdotes. Now may be the time for letting our feelings show. Maybe that is why my radioman and I cried.


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WAR EXPERIENCE
                 CLIPPED FROM A LETTER WRITTEN BY FREDDIE BECCHETTI IN YEAR 2000

     Recently I went to a nearby airport where they had the last flying B-24 and a B-17 on display. I took part in a program in which "real live air veterans" spoke to a group of about 150 seventh and eighth graders on a field trip to see the planes and hear about the war. My fellow veterans gave talks on their exciting experiences, punctuating everything with humor. I stood up for my talks, and the first thing I said was, "I was in the air corps for three years and flew 35 bombing missions against Nazi Germany, and I hated every minute of it." I told them not to look on the air war as though it had been some kind of video game. I showed them a picture of myself at the age of 20, and explained that all of us were very young "just a few years older than you" when we went to war and when some of us went to our deaths. I told them that I wasn't there to tell them pretty stories. I wanted them to go back to their schools with a hatred for war and with the desire to prevent war. Their two teachers came up and thanked me for my words, which "gave some perspective" to what the kids believed about the war.


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AXIS SALLY PROPAGANDA

AXIS SALLY BROADCASTS
     During the war in Europe, we received daily propaganda broadcasts from Germany. The most noted voice was that of a young woman who played music and broadcast the propaganda. She had a soft spoken sexy voice and between pieces she often reminded the GI's of home life and taunted them with stories regarding girlfriends, wives and loved ones left behind. In a way she probably thought she was making the GI's homesick and in a few cases she probably did. To most of us we looked forward to her broadcast for the music and especially her theme song "Lillie Marlane" which she sang herself in a very sexy voice. Her broadcasts usually came in the evening when letter writing and relaxing was being accomplished.
      Axis Sally was in reality an American woman named Mildred Gillars. She called herself "Midge at the Mike" and she claimed the GI's named her "Axis Sally". She was born around 1900 in Ashtubla Ohio and attended Ohio Wesleyan College. After a try at broadway in the 1930's she went to Europe.
      After the war she was put on trial in 1949 charged with 10 counts of treason. She denied using the name "Axis Sally" on the air and claimed many of the statements attributed to her were made by a girl who called herself "Axis Sally" and broadcast from Italy. Miss Gillars claimed to have protested to the German Foreign Office to have her taken off the air. Miss Gillars was convicted of one count of treason and spent 10 years in the Federal Woman's Reformatory at Alderson, W. Va. In early 1966 she was teaching music in a boarding school for girls interested in entering religious life at an unspecified location in the USA. She had not taken vows but lived on the school premises and was paid a salary for teaching music. She had found peace and contentment in her work and would not talk about wars, saying, "No one would be interested in what I have to say".



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KILROY WAS HERE
KILROY GRAFFITI

     The American GI's developed a universal method of marking the territory they touched during the war. This became a standard among all branches of the service and did not result from any act of congress or orders from higher headquarters. Many GI's carried a piece of chalk or other marking device and during times of rest or a lull in the action they managed to mark some object, building, roadway or vehicle with the slogan "KILROY WAS HERE!". In a way it was a form of graffiti that let every one know the American GI had the situation under control and had passed this way before. It was not even a form of rivalry among the branches of service but sort of a form of salute that we were working together to accomplish a common goal of ending the war. These slogans began appearing as early as basic training and carried through all branches of training and into the field of combat. I am sure many artillery shells were fired at the enemy carrying this slogan and it appeared on many of the bombs we dropped on enemy territory. It was impossible to tell where the slogan was added and could have come from state side, during shipment or while loading the bombs on the aircraft. For all we knew it could have originated with one of our crew members. Occasionally it was accompanied by a SNAFU character indicating the "Situation Normal - All Fouled Up" drawing just to break the monotony.



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PROPAGANDA LEAFLET

     These leaflets were dropped over the residential areas and airfields in Germany on our 22nd mission. They were designed to inform the German people that high ranking German officers were giving up and cooperating with US forces to bring the war to a close. Other pages in the brochure showed an outline drawing of the B-29 overlaid on a B-17 to emphasize that larger aircraft were in service to increase the bombing activity directed against Germany. It was intended to bring civilian pressure on the German government to stop the war.

















PROPAGANDA LEAFLET

     These leaflets were dropped over the front lines and military targets (Dropped on our 24th Mission) in France and Germany to show how well the prisoners were treated and fed as prisoners of war. It was designed to influence those still bearing arms to surrender and help bring an end to the war.


















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POW TRAINING AND MATERIAL

     During our training in Europe, we were advised how to react if we were in enemy territory and trying to avoid capture. We were also advised on answers to be given in case of capture. We were also supplied with a document and materials to help us communicate with underground groups and generate documents to ease our transportation if the occasion arose to walk out of the teritory under the underground movement organizations. This material is not described in detail because some of the teachings and documents are probably still used by men entering combat in present day encounters.

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AIR FORCE MAGAZINE

     This magazine was the Official Service Journal of the U. S. Army Air Force published monthly during the war. It was primarily a medium for the exchange of ideas and information among Army Air Force personnel. Readers were encouraged to submit articles, short subjects, photographs and art work. It was published by the U. S. Army Air Forces at the Air Force Editorial Office in New York, N.Y.
















STARS AND STRIPES PAPER
     The Stars and Stripes Newspaper was a publication circulated weekly to all branches of the service. It covered the war on both the European and Pacific front. It contained articles relative to all branches of the service. It was free to all servicemen.

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CATERPILLAR CLUB MEMBERSHIP CERTIFICATE

     The Caterpillar Club was an organization that recognized any person whose life had been spared by an emergency parachute jump. A certificate and plastic laminated membership card was issued to all who qualified by the Switlik Parachute Co. The 7 crew members of crew 2366 who parachuted over England after aborting the 32nd mission qualified as members of this club.















CATERPILLAR PINS

These pins were issued for servicemen who made emergency parachute jumps resulting in the saving of a life. Two pins were received as a result of the jump described in the certificate above. One was from the maker of the parachute and the other (Gold) from the bomb group we belonged with when making the jump.










WINDOW BANNER
     A banner similiar to this hung in the front window of homes all across the United States indicating the home was represented by a father, son, husband or relative in the service. The banner usually indicated the branch of service served by the relative. The number of stars represented the number of family members in the service and some homes had as many as 5 stars on the banner.




















CIVILIAN HARDSHIPS
     During the war things on the home front was far from the conditions enjoyed during peace time. Almost everything was rationed and the materials were used to make weapons or to send to the men in service. Gasoline, oil, tires and auto parts were the most inconvenient. You were issued gasoline ration coupons for one vehicle per person and the number of coupons depended upon how important you were to the war effort. A regular family received an A Ration Book which provided 4 gallons of gas per week. If you worked at a plant where they made weapons for the war effort you had a C Ration Book and the number of coupons depended on the mileage driven to get to work. Tires were also rationed and you were only allowed one set of tires per vehicle. The national speed limit on the highways was 35 MPH and if a car passed you doing more than the speed limit they were usually given the V for Victory honk which consisted of 3 shorts and 1 long blast of the horn. This was essentially calling the driver unpatriotic. Most of the small towns operated buses or car pools to the major plants in surrounding large towns to save gas and rubber.       Many of the food supplies were rationed including butter, sugar, meat, coffee, soap, etc.. Several clothing items were rationed including nylon stockings and shoes. Chewing gum was also in short supply and candy bars were so filled with substitutes they were not enjoyable. The nylon was used to make parachutes and the tinfoil around the gum was replaced with wax paper so the tinfoil could be used to make chaff and confuse the enemy radar. Of course electricity was used cautiously as it was usually generated by burning coal which was a vital commodity.
     Farmers were allowed extra rations along with the essential war supply manufacturing employees. Most of the commodities raised by the farmers were taken over by the government for the war effort. Exempt military service was given to people on large farms or where the person was the sole supporter of a large family. These people were sometimes looked down upon as draft dodgers. People who could not pass the physical to get into the army were classified as 4F rather than the normal 1A rating of the healthy service man. Many of these men were later accepted into the armed forces for limited service.

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Radioman Garl McHenry & Bombardier Fred Becchetti at the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio about 1994.


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DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC)

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) was the highest medal received by crew 2366 members. Each member that finished the tour of over 30 missions received the DFC. The crew was also eligible to wear the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and 4 more medals which have not been issued to all crew members. These are the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars and the Good Conduct Medal. These medals are shown below.















AIR MEDAL WITH 3 OAK LEAF CLUSTERS


The Air Medal was the 2nd highest medal received by crew 2366 members. Each member that finished the tour of over 7 missions received the Air Medal. An Oak Leaf Cluster was received for each series of 7 missions after that. Each crew member received the Air Medal and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters for the tour of duty. The crew was also eligible to wear 5 more medals which have not been issued to all crew members. These are the DFC, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars and the Good Conduct medal.













THE JUBILEE OF LIBERTY MEDAL

The Jubilee Of Liberty Medal was presented by the French government 50 years after the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. It was presented to anyone who participated in D-Day and/or in the Battle of Normandy between June 6, 1944 and August 1944. Garl McHenry received the medal at the Memorial Hall in Dayton, Ohio on Dec 7th 2001. The medal was presented by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall.
















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EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL

The European Campaign Ribbon was awarded to all service men who participated in the war in Europe. This included the airmen based in England and Italy as well as those who landed during the invasions of France and Italy. It also included airmen stationed in North Africa who participated in the bombing of Europe.


















AMERICAN CAMPAIGN RIBBON

The American Campaign Ribbon was awarded to all service men who participated in WWII including the European Theatre, South Pacific, North Africa, Continential USA and all possessions of the US.




















VICTORY RIBBON

The Victory Ribbon was Awarded to all service men who participated in WWII during the time of combat in either Europe, North Africa or the South Pacific.






















GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL

The Good Conduct Medal was awarded to all service men who had a good and honorable standing in all branches of the service in the US military. It was by far the easiest medal to earn as all that was necessary was to stay out of trouble. The medal was hardly ever worn alone unless other medals had been earned and could be worn along with the ribbon. In most cases the ribbon bar contained the other medal or medals earned along with the theatre of operations ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.



















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AIRCRAFT CREW MEMBER WINGS


The crew members wings were issued to servicemen after completing courses training them to be a member of an aircraft crew. This included radio school, gunnery school, armament school and aircraft mechanics school.







AIRCRAFT GUNNERS WINGS

This medal was made available to servicemen who completed the course in aircraft gunnery. Other medals with similiar objects replacing the armament was available to denote the function performed on the aircraft.







INSIGNIAS

The buttons above the belt buckle was placed in the lapel of the dress uniform. The US button was placed on the left lapel and the propeller insignia was placed on the soldiers right lapel. The belt buckle was optional and not GI issue but could be placed on the belt.









SHOULDER AND ARM PATCHES

These patches were worn on the left sleeve and shoulder of the dress uniform. The upper left patch was worn by those servicemen assigned to the Air Force prior to going overseas. After being assigned overseas the Air Force unit patch was worn in place of the original patch. The triangular patch was worn on the lower part of the left sleeve to indicate the function performed on the aircraft crew. The patch shown is the radio operators patch and other crew member displayed similiar patches indicating the work they performed.









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DOG TAGS

Two dog tags were placed on a chain about the neck of every serviceman and worn at all times while in the service. The tags contained the name, army serial number and blood type of the individual. Two tags were required in case the serviceman was killed and had to be left on the battlefield. If this happened, one tag was left with the serviceman and the other taken by the medic attending the serviceman.









GUNNERY SCHOOL HELMET DECAL

While attending gunnery school, each group in the school would attend a different section of the school during the day. One group would be attending classroom study while another group would be on the firing range. Another group might be assigned leisure time or assigned to the barricks area or calisthetics. All students wore a helmet liner painted silver. Each helmet liner had a decal on the front of the helmet linner and each group used a different color decal. This way the permanent party personnel could tell if the student was goofing off or was in the wrong place at the wrong time.








ENEMY FLAK

The 3 pieces of flak hit our aircraft during one of the missions. It came through the skin of the aircraft and bounced off the co-pilots armour plating and lodged in the radio compartment as Garl was sitting there listening to the radio. One piece landed on the floor, two pieces landed on the desk Garl was using after one of the pieces put a small dent in the radio receiver on the desk. The three pieces fit together to make up the single piece that came through the skin of the aircraft.








.50 AND .30 CALIBER SHELLS

This image shows the relative size of the ammunition fired from the 10 guns on the aircraft. The dime indicates the size of the shells. All shells fired from the B-24 were of the .50 caliber. The .30 caliber shells were used part of the time during gunnery school for training.















RUPTURED DUCK

The Honorable Discharge Button was given to the serviceman upon discharge from the service. It was jokingly referred to by the GI's as the ruptured duck and the name is more popular for this award.













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ARMY AIR FORCE PIN

This lapel pin was awarded by the US Air Force close to the end of the war to servicemen who served in the Air Force. It arrived in the mail while Garl was awaiting discharge in Yuma Arizona pickling aircraft out on the desert.










                                          ENTIRE CREW PICTURE

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CREW IDENTIFICATION





CREW 2366 HISTORY : SCATTERED TO THE WINDS
     Life moved very fast during the war, and we were too young to know this or even concern ourselves about it. For three years, we were constantly on alert. On a moment's notice we could pack our possessions and move on to a new base. We met others like us, became bosom friends in a day, trusted our very lives to them and left them for another assignment the next day. No ten men could have been closer than the members of Crew 2366. We flew through thirty kinds of hell together, but it all ended with a bail-out over Norwich, England, and almost overnight we suddenly found ourselves moving in ten different directions, never to see one another again; and what's worse: We had never thought about how we would ever make contact with one another after getting back to the States or "after the war." Life was so uncertain for all of us that we couldn't project our existence beyond tomorrow at breakfast, much less "after the war." So only three of us are left with some names, many vivid memories, a few facts and the hope for a miracle to complete the roll call of Crew 2366, perhaps with this website. These are the members of Crew 2366 with all the information about them that Garl McHenry and Fred Becchetti have been able to gather. We would appreciating having any information on our fellow crew members. Contact either Garl McHenry (garld1945@aol.com) or Fred Becchetti (FBecchetti@cs.com) via this website.




Keith Palmer, Pilot, from Waco, Texas.
      Keith was probably 28-29 when he took command of the Crew. He flew 29 missions as our pilot and six missions as co-pilot during his training at the 445th Bomb Group. He was a first lieutenant, having served for some time as a pilot instructor in Waco, Texas. He was married to Esther Bruck, a lively woman who was with him while the Crew trained in Casper, Wyoming, from January to April, 1944. He was from Waco, Texas, or Grinnell, Iowa. We have been unable to contact him.








Cliff Bolton, Co-Pilot, Lincoln Park, Michigan.
      Cliff, a second lieutenant, was 29 when he joined the Crew. He flew the full 35 combat missions, almost all of them as our co-pilot. He was born in Kentucky in 1915 but he joined the service from Michigan. He was the last member of the Crew to complete his 35 missions. He was married, but he divorced right after the war and remarried. He and his wife Geneva had two daughters, Jennifer and Lois. After the war he worked in a body shop and then with Rockwell International in Chelsea, Michigan, for eighteen years. He died June 8, 1984 at age 69.








Fred Becchetti, Bombardier/Navigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
      Freddie, as he was called, was 20 years old when he joined the crew. He was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had won his bombardier's wings and his officer's bars at Big Spring, Texas, in November 1943. He flew the full 35 missions, four of them after the crew's bail-out over Norwich. His complete story is contained in other sections of this website.



E-Mail            fbecchetti@cox.net






Vincent P. Hamilton, Navigator, New York City, New York.
      Vince joined the Crew in Casper, Wyoming, after our original navigator, Phil Genussa, got transferred to a crew going to Wendover, Utah. Vince was a fun-loving guy about 20 years old from East 120th Street, New York City. He did the navigation for our trip to England on the Southern Route, but he never flew with us again after we arrived at the 445th Bomb Group. As a full-fledged and skilled navigator, he was in demand at the 445th for flying on the lead or second-lead bomber, so he flew with other crews, even though he shared living quarters with Becchetti. He was the first of us to go on a combat mission and the first one to complete his 35 missions. He completed them on June 28, 1944, but for some reason he remained at the base and continued flying. After all of us had completed our missions and were on our way back to the States, we received word that Vince had been killed on a combat mission. We never did learn what he was doing there. We have not been able to contact his family.



Leroy DeRouen, Flight Engineer and Part Time Top Turret Gunner, New Iberia, Louisiana.
      Leroy was a happy "cajun" from New Iberia, Louisiana. He was our oldest crew member at about 31. As a tech sergeant he was responsible for the mechanical operation of the aircraft in flight. He also operated the top gun turret during normal flight, trading off with the radio operator whenever he was required for such duties as fuel transfers, controlling fluid leaks or repairing malfunctioning equipment. After our seventeenth mission, which was to Berlin, Leroy suffered a nervous breakdown and was transferred back to the U.S. , where he spent two weeks in an Army hospital in Miami and then was discharged, but not before they had taken out his tonsils. Before the war he had been a deputy sheriff in New Iberia and a follower of Huey P. Long, but after his discharge he decided to get out of politics and was taken into the Civil Service and worked for the Post Office Department in New Iberia for twenty-seven years. He died of heart trouble and complications in 1991 at the age of 78. His wife Iris still lives in New Iberia and looks back with fondness to the time she spent with Leroy and the Crew in Casper, Wyoming, in the winter of 1944.


Garl McHenry, Radio Operator and Part Time Top Turret Gunner, Markle, Indiana.
     Garl was a tech sergeant who was trained to handle the communications between the aircraft and ground control during the missions. He was also an aid in the navigation of the aircraft by using radio compass/positioning equipment and aircraft identification equipment on the aircraft. He flew a total of 31 missions with crew 2366 and was relieved from combat duty after an injury on a bail out mission during assembly for mission 32. Garl monitored messages from AACS at precise intervals during the mission and relieved the top turret gunner during fuel transfers and mechanical difficulties. Garl was not married until after the war. He married Millicent Ruth Swaidner and the couple raised 2 children. The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage in 1996 and now reside in Ohio. More details on his training and activities can be found in this document and he can be contacted via e-mail as one of the co-authors listed at the end of the web site.
                                                            E-Mail            garld1945@aol.com


Gregory McGovern, Armorer, Waist Gunner, Chicago, Illinois.
      McGovern was a staff sergeant with training in maintaining guns and ammunition. He seemed to be in his mid 20's. On the aircraft, he operated the .50 caliber machine gun on the lefthand side of the waist compartment. He flew 31 combat missions but was relieved from combat because of the broken leg he sustained in the Crew's bail-out over England on their 32nd mission. We know nothing about him except that he was from Chicago, Illinois, and may have been married. We have not been able to contact him.








Lawrence Sladovnik, Waist Gunner, San Antonio, Texas.
      Slad was a staff sergeant from Temple, Texas, with gunnery school training. He operated the the righthand .50 caliber waist gun. He completed 31 combat missions, but was relieved from combat and transferred to the U.S. because of the broken leg he sustained in his bail-out on the Crew's 32nd mission. After being discharged, he married Lorene Stefka and they had two sons, Larry and Lynn. He and his brother opened a night club, the S & S Club in Temple. After that, he owned a grocery story in Killeen, Texas, and later moved to Laredo, Texas, where he managed the air base commissary. After other business ventures, he entered the Civil Service and managed Army commissaries in Austin, Turkey and finally at Sheppard Field, in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he died from complications of heart surgery in 1975.





John M. Smith, Ball Turret Gunner, Bay Harbor, Florida.
      Smitty was a staff sergeant from Bay Harbor, Florida, with gunnery school training. He was about 20 years old and unmarried. He completed 31 combat missions and was relieved from combat because of his injury during the Crew's bail-out on their 32nd mission. We have not been able to contact John M. Smith.










Robert E. Sherick, Tail-Gunner, Lancaster. Pennsylvania
Staff sergeant from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with gunnery school training. He was 23 years old when he joined the crew. He was also married, having married Myrtle in 1943. Myrtle did not go to Casper, Wyoming, when the crew was training there, but she did go to Topeka, Kansas, for the departure for combat. In combat he escaped injury in the bail-out on our 32nd mission, so he had to fly four more missions to complete his 35. In speaking of the bail-out, he tells of having landed in a farmer's field, where he was placed under arrest by the British police until the American MPs arrived to take him back to the air base. After the war, he received his discharge in Laredo, Texas. He worked for a little while in a civil service job; then he went to work in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for Hamilton Watch Company, where he worked on cold rolled metals. He retired from the company in 1978 and now lives in Washington Boro, Pennsylvania, with Myrtle. They have a son, Robert, and a daughter, Shirley.

Bernard Goldstein, Flight Engineer and Top-turret Gunner. (Deceased 1989)
     Bernie, from Middletown, Connecticut, was about 22 when he took over as our flight engineer and top-turret gunner after Leroy DeRouen had been relieved from that position because of his nervous breakdown. Bernie was a tech sergeant who fit in with the Crew immediately and stayed with us until he had completed his 35 combat missions. He was with us when we bailed out, but because of his responsibility to try to remedy the malfunctioning of the aircraft, he remained in the plane and helped the pilot and co-pilot through the clouds and into Tibenham for a safe landing after all the other crew members had bailed out. He was married to Virginia, whom we never met, and they had three sons: Michael, Barry and Neal. After the war, Bernie worked in an aircraft factory and in manufacturing. He died in 1989 in Connecticut.


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RELATED WEB SITES (Click below to link to web sites.)

THE MIGHTY EIGHTH AIR FORCE HERITAGE MUSEUM
USAAF
445th BOMB GROUP
WWII HISTORY PLACE
B-24 BEST WEB
ANOTHER CREW 2366 WEB SITE

BRIEF SUMMARY OF ROBERT E. SHERICK'S LIFE DURING WWII AND IN RETIREMENT.

      In March 2002, Becchetti located a telephone number for Robert E. Sherick the former tail gunner on Crew 2366 during WWII. He found the now retired Sherick living with his wife Myrtle in their home in Washington Boro, Pennsylvania.
      They live only 150 miles from Becchetti, so on March 10, 2002, Becchetti drove up to see the Shericks. After 58 years, it was a most happy reunion between Becchetti and Sherick, and Sherick's wife Myrtle.
      Bob, born in 1920, grew up in Pennsylvania, near Lancaster and worked in airplane engine repair, which earned him three draft deferments. He married Myrtle just before finally being drafted into the military early in 1943, so Myrtle accompanied him through his training and waited for him during his combat service.
      He got his basic training in St. Petersburg, Florida; went to pre-gunnery school in Seymour Johnson, North Carolina; received his gunner's wings in Ft. Myers, Florida; and was sent to Salt Lake City, where he was assigned as tail gunner for Crew 2366.
      Sherick escaped injury in the Crew's bail-out, so he had to finish out his 35 missions. In the bail-out, Sherick landed in a farmer's field, where he was arrested by English "bobbies" and taken into the owner's manor house, where they served him tea while notifying the American authorities. The 445th's M.P.'s soon arrived to take him back to base.
      After completing his missions, he returned to the States by ship, and he recalls that the ship was loaded with German prisoners. After some R & R in Atlantic City he was assigned to Laredo, Texas, where he served as a gunnery instructor until he was able to get his discharge under the point system.       After discharge, he returned to Pennsylvania, where he worked for one year at his old job in Middleton repairing airplane engines. Then he went to work for Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster, in the production of rolled cold metal. He retired from Hamilton Watch Co. in 1978 at the age of 58.
      Bob and Myrtle have lived in the same house in Washington Boro since after the war. They have two children, Shirley and Robert. They gave Robert the middle name of Leroy in honor of the Crew's engineer, Leroy DeRouen.



WEB SITE AUTHORS
CO-AUTHOR GARL MCHENRY & WIFE RUTH (CIRCA 1996).



     WEBMASTER/AUTHOR:
     Garl McHenry
     Ohio Valley Resident
     E-Mail      garld1945@aol.com












CO-AUTHOR FRED BECCHETTI & WIFE VIVIENNE

     AUTHOR:
     Fred Becchetti
      (Eastern USA)
      E-Mail      fbecchetti@cox.net











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