Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The following story was told by Dad on 10/3/2009:
During the Battle of the Bulge there was some resentment between the Army Air Corp and the Army Infantry personnel. To help with this situation, some members of each group were assigned to accompany groups of the other on some missions.
An infantryman was assigned to Dad's B-26 for three missions to bomb over Germany. The first two went fairly well with little or no resistance. The infantryman teased the bomber crew about how easy their job was. They just flew, dropped their bombs, and flew back. They got to sleep in dry tents and eat warm meals.
On the third mission things changed. Dad's plane was in the #4 position. The box formation consists of six planes. Across the front are three, #2, 1, 3; with #1 being the lead plane for the mission and flying slightly ahead of #2,3. Right behind these three were #5,4,6. Also with #4 being slightly ahead of #5,6. If something happened to #1, then #4 would pull up and assume lead position. The back three were right behind and just below the front three. The wing tips for #5,6 were about 30 feet off of the wingtips for #4, so it was a fairly tight formation.
After dropping the bombs over Germany, the box was flying back and as they were crossing the Rhine River, German anti-aircraft fire struck direct hits on #5 and #6 planes, at the same time. "Both planes vaporized. It was hard to even see shrapnel."
German anti-aircraft (AA) worked as follows: One man controlled four guns that all fired together. They were good at firing to explode at the correct altitude of the planes. All four shells would explode, at once, in a square shape. When two of the four shells hit #5,6 planes, the other two shells were right behind the box.
The infantryman was sitting on the floor in the waist of the plane when the two planes were hit and disappeared on each side.
When they landed he got out and said, "Never again!"
Dad then ended the story with, "There was considerable risk involved."
The photo above shows two box formations, at the top of the photo, forming up as they began a mission.