458th Bombardment Group (H)
Walt Cline Journal
2LT WALTER MEYLAN “PETE” CLINE
B-24 LIBERATOR NAVIGATOR, 1943-1945, Serial No. O703193
Navigator on the Evans Crew
458th Bomb Group, Horsham St. Faith, England
[Left] Wedding photo, 12 June 1943, Eleanor and Pete Cline
Walt Cline was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and grew up in various towns throughout North and South Carolina and later, Florida. The youngest of seven children, he was a sickly child. He disclosed that when he was in the 6th grade, he was beaten up by a first grader. His strength, however, lay in his intelligence, not in his physique.
After graduation from high school in Tampa, Florida, he went to work for U.S. Customs as a Messenger, the lowest rung on the ladder. For financial reasons, college was not in the cards. As World War II escalated, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. His eyesight prevented him from becoming a pilot, but he did qualify for navigator training.
Stationed at Houston, Texas, in June 1943, he realized that he would likely be sent overseas soon. He telegraphed his fiancé Eleanor, who was living and teaching school in Tampa, to come quickly so they could get married. She took the train to Houston, where they were married on June 12. He had to be back on base by 5:00 P.M. That was the last she saw of him until the next weekend. As he suspected, he soon shipped out for England and was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 2nd Air Division, 96th Combat Bombardment Wing, 458th Bomb Group, at RAF Horsham St. Faith. A copy of his transcribed journal, describing events while he was there, is attached and another is in Norwich, England, at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library.
Unlike many soldiers returning from war, he did relate some of his “war stories” to his children, a few of which are included in his journal. He was careful, though, to relate facts and not his emotions concerning what he was required to do during the war.
After the war, he returned to Tampa and his bride; there, he was reinstated in his job with U.S. Customs. A daughter was born in March 1946 and a son in November 1949. When the Korean Conflict broke out, he was recalled to active duty and served as navigator on the KC-97, a very early refueling tanker. Returning home, he remained on active duty until his commitment was completed, and then finished his 20+ years in the Air Force Reserves. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Rejoining Customs once again, he soon was promoted to Inspector, and later, Deputy Collector of the Port of Palm Beach and then of Miami. Inasmuch as the Collector position was purely political, he was the real “boss” in charge of Customs activities. He was transferred to Mobile, Alabama, in June 1963, again as Deputy Collector. After three years, he moved back to Tampa and served in various positions at the District level. During this tenure with Customs, he earned his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and his M.S. from Syracuse University.
Retiring from Customs in October 1979 after more than 38 years, he immediately began another career as a customs broker, purchasing an existing business from a retiring broker. He maintained that business until his death in May 2004, at which time his son took over the company and still operates it.
Lt Walter M. Cline, Navigator
“Really, this is just a diary – call it a journal, if you will – The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author…..and he’ll argue for them at the drop of a hat!”
June 1, 1944
Just have an urge to do a little talking to myself. Haven’t done much so far toward fighting this war. Help out now and then in planning missions for the other boys – and fly a training mission occasionally, nothing more. Rather wish we could get started. Waiting is kinda monotonous – not that I’m especially anxious to be a hero – dead or alive! Simply a matter of wanting to get the job finished. Did my best to get on the alert list today. Should be some fun when the boys hit those bridges. I’d like to be along. Oh, well, it was fun to help plan the raid. Much safer this way, at any rate. Tough about Forest. He was a good boy. Certainly hate to lose him. Thought a lot of him. That’s all for now.
Quite a lapse since the first entry. So it goes with me and diaries – never can make myself be faithful to them. Nothing – absolutely – has happened, though, so I’ll forgive me. Gibson’s alerted for a night mission. Could be I’m wrong, but it looks to me as if this were the big moment – Invasion! Damn – I wish I could be in on it…..We shall see…..
Gibson waked us at 10:30 with the news – the invasion is officially under way. Darn poor weather, to my way of thinking – clouds are low and getting worse. Don’t see how we can use air cover very well. Maybe the Big Boys have other ideas. “And where did you fight in the war, Daddy?…..From a nice warm sack, my son.” Gets rather discouraging.
Whatta day! Jerry came over at 11:30 last night and gave us a crash alert until about 0100. Had just settled down from that when the orderlies started arriving to wake men for missions. Finally – at 2:45 – they came for us! We were all set and hightailed it around to get ready. Took off at 6:30 (an hour late). Got within 15 miles of the beachhead and got a recall. Buzzed all the way home in formation at 800 feet. Indicated 180-190 most of the time. Landed at 11:30. Hit the sack at 12:30 and were called again at 2:15 – Mein Gott! We could hardly wake up. Took off late – flew instruments to the coast (Brighton) and were recalled again – at last to home and to here. Ready for bed 10:00 P.M. – and no letter to Eleanor! Bub – we’ve had it!
Dull, rainy Sunday. The kind of day it’s nice to just sit at home and read – or make love. Since the latter is definitely out, I’m concentrating on the other. Wish I had some good American books. These British novels are passable, but I get deucedly tired of the hero being such an “older school-tie” man. Jolly well played, Sir, and such rot. It grow-eth monotonous. Weather continues to keep us grounded. Doesn’t fret us as it once did, but we would still welcome a little action – preferably sans flak and fighters. Have just heard that the British year has only three seasons – early winter, winter, and late winter – verily, it is so! Selah – Tomorrow is our first wedding anniversary. As usual, I snafu’d the deal and didn’t send a gift. Damnably careless of me. Eleanor is too dear a wife to complain, but I’m afraid that’s gonna hurt her feelings. C’est la guerre.
Anniversary! What memories the day provokes. A year ago was most wondrous. Today – rather less so. Waked at high noon, spent a couple of hours in class, flew a practice mission to Ipswich, alerted for tomorrow. Hmmmm. Hope we make it. We’ve waited quite a while for this first mission. Put three hundred bucks into money orders – first real move toward Eleanor’s coat. That thing has become an obsession with me. Surely hope I can get it OK. That’s all for now.
Walt Cline flew his first mission (AZON 6) in B-24JAZ-95-CO 42-100341 J4 A Satan’s Mate pictured here, earlier in the war.
First mission today – nose gunner – PN – for lead crew, DeNeffe, Pilot. Hit (at) six targets in general area of Arras. No fighter opposition, moderate flak. Collected two holes from it, no one hit. Bombing foul – hit one target. Gawd, I’m weary.
Gee – once these guys get started, they don’t give ya any rest at all. Up at 0100, take off 5:15. Hit enemy coast at 0700. Again flew as nose gunner. Had trouble with the turret. Good thing we weren’t jumped – I’d have been SOL. Targets were three bridges in France, same area as yesterday.
How they missed ’em, I dunno. These bombardiers are really foul. McCormick’s ship was hit by flak. Killed nose gunner. Had to land at Beachy Head. Other ships hit pretty well by flak. Missed us today – that suits me. Those bursts of smoke are quite lovely, but they can be awfully lethal. All of our officers flew today – Evans’ and Johnson’s first. Tomorrow we’re to fly as a crew. That is good. I’ve had enough of the nose turret for a few days. It’s too darn cold and cramped for me. Still no mail. Seems to be some hold-up. The other boys are without, also. Surely wish I could hear from the li’l gal.
Weather again – two days of it, in fact. This country gets less and less to my liking. Would be rather nice to look at the sun occasionally. Certainly wish I could get some mail. Have drawn a blank this whole week. Could be my incoming mail was held up just as the outgoing. That is ungood. “Homey” little scene here just now. Sprawled out in my easy chair with cigarette and slippers – cozy fire – perfect setting for making love…..and all I have is just a picture to embrace. Coises on the bloomin’ luck. Mamá, yo quiero. Querida mia, yo quiero te mucho.
Red alert last night – first in several days. Wonder what Jerry was up to…..! My mail finally came in today. Surely was welcome. A whole week without was not to my liking. Wish there were some way I could get a message through to Eleanor. Poor kid must be worried sick. Briefed for “that bridge” again. Someday we’re gonna get that thing. Mission was scheduled after briefing, but we’ll probably fly it in the morning – I hope!
Maybe I’d better fill in the last couple of days – briefly! Was all set Monday afternoon to go to London on a 48-hour pass. At the last minute, the major called me to navigate him on a hop – though why he picked on me, I dunno. Anyway, we flew to Heaton Field, London. Three majors – and one shavetail – me! Waited at the field while they went to HQ. In four hours, we had five alerts from the pilotless bombers. Some fun. Didn’t get to see any, but heard the explosions and saw the smoke. Rather rough! When I got back, the others had already left so I stayed home. Tuesday, I went down to Stowmarket to hunt Elwyn Coates, Willie’s beloved. Had a heckuva time locating him. Finally found him five miles from town. Nice guy. I think we could get along well. Would like to know him better. Couldn’t make connections to go on to London, so came on home last night. Helluva way to spend a pass, but I don’t mind too much. I’m happy enough here – or would be if we could make some missions. Group went to Big “B” today. Gibson came back alone on three engines – all instruments out. He was lucky to make it. Evans’ promotion came through. Certainly is time. He’s been a Second Looey for almost 21 months! Weather – worse instead of better. What I wouldn’t give for a little Florida sunshine!
Thought surely we’d make a mission today. The boys did a lovely job on their two targets yesterday, and I was expecting a repeat on it today. Gnats. Weather is rather erratic. Every morning there’s a 10/10 on cover – low! By noon, it begins to break off and the evenings are clear. Surely wish we could get a decent break from Meteo. These clouds are hard to beat. Ah, well, tomorrow is another day…..and very likely – no different! Some cad swiped my hat this evening. Better he should be scourged and put in chains.
B-26 Marauder at Horsham. Possibly the same one mentioned in Walt’s June 24th entry.
Up at 4:30. Take off at 0700 – only we didn’t make it. Number four engine did not choose to run. Finally got off at 0800 (the whole formation had been delayed). Straggled all the way to the enemy coast. The damn junk heap just couldn’t keep up with the others. Gave up 10 miles inside France (they were shootin’ at us!). Best we could do was 24,700 at 145 IAS – formation was at 25,000 and 160. Ach – such is life. Dropped our bombs in the channel and flew straight home. Were off briefed course so the Limeys took a few shots at us to chastise us. Their aim was good, though – they missed us! Took myself a lovely sunbath this P.M. Two hours of it! As a result, I am now a beautiful pink. Wish I could build it into a good tan. While I was snoozin’ out there, a B-26 came over at zero feet and 300 plus mph. He was really pouring on the coal. Sweetest buzz job I’ve seen in many a day. Ended it with a beautiful chandelle up to 3000 – and then landed. Betcha he got a chewing!
Shouldn’t have skipped those two days – they had enough importance to rate a page each. Ah, well, life is rough in the ETO. Sunday, we made a hop to a field at Liverpool – or tried to, I should say. Caught weather halfway there and had to abort. That gets to be a habit. Had a rather close call about that time. Mosquito came at us head-on – and had to zoom to miss us…..by all of ten feet! Not so good – I’d have made a lovely grease spot. Up at 12:30 Monday again. Briefed for group mission to Munich. Were just starting the engines when we got word that the mission was scrubbed. So back to dispersal – only we didn’t make it. Blew a tire on the way! Rather intriguing to consider our chances of getting off and back on – safely. Grease spots, again! This is getting ungood. Three times is out. Bought Evans’ bike today for ten pounds. Invested five ditto in a radio. Rather a costly day.
Yesterday was sooch a lovely day over the continent. Clear as could be over Belgium and France…..and socked in solid over Saarbrucken! Things are really tough in the ETO! Salvoed our bombs late and hit a nice open field – Damn! Had to bomb on PFF so couldn’t see main groups’ bombs. Was really pooped. Johnson and Adkins talked until the orderly came to call us. Briefed at two – off at 5:00. Returned about 11:30 – and went to sleep on the flight deck while we were circling the field. Hit the sack at two P.M. I stayed there till the same time this morning when we were called again. Was only awake from 10:30 to 12:00 – and then, just barely. Mission today was to Aschersleben JU-88 plant. Assembly was at 23,000 and the best we could do was 21,000. Added to that, #2 was throwing oil like a gusher. So – we came home after a couple of hours of trying. Evans got a chewin’, but it couldn’t be helped. Now for a letter to my Darling and to the sack again. I really am awearied. Wish we could have made the raid, though…..It was kinda rough!!
Went with George to the ballet last night. First time for me. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it quite thoroughly. Two-hour program of Cinderella, Chopiniana, and Katyusha. The latter was Russian – not too attractive, while Cinderella was simply the story told in dance. Very nice. But the best of all was Chopiniana. Won’t even venture to hazard a guess as to its story. Just settle by saying it was a fairy-like picture of some ethereal fantasy…..whatever all that means. In spite of music, ballet, and all other art, the war continues to wend its destructive way. The last raid cost us a couple of airplanes, besides a couple of boys who bailed out when their ship was hit by flak. Rough deal…..Tracy’s bomb aimer was nicked. Purple Heart and a couple of days leave for him. Heard that Couch and crew were lost. So it goes – one arrives here full of faith and secure in the knowledge that, though others may fall, he is safe. After a couple of raids, he begins to wonder – not really a question of being afraid – just a sort of morbid curiosity as to what Fate has in store. What decides whether a man is to survive or fall? True: indeed, there is no place for atheists in a war. I had always wondered how I’d react under fire – still haven’t my answer. The flak has been pretty rough – fascinating, but not frightening. Probably would be if it came close enough to make its presence felt. We shall see.
Mission Four at last. Lutzkendorf Oil Refinery (near Leipzig). Bomb load 10 X 500. Lousy formation – lovely weather. Flak extremely heavy. Saw one ship go down at target – one chute. Target well hit. Smoke obscured it so we couldn’t see our bombs. Navigation strictly a cinch. Visibility was perfect and pilotage gave no trouble – and so to bed.
Did our best to make that fifth mission. Supposed to hit a railroad in France. Hit foul weather over Channel. Recall just after Dutch coast. Ach – Dunner Wetter. Another hour and we’d have been on our way home. On the board for tomorrow. Don’t much care if we miss this one. It’ll interfere with our pass. And I still don’t have a hat! Gotta swipe one, I reckon. Later – That counted!
Two practice missions. Damn good formation both times. Evans got a lot of praise.
Almost a week since the last entry. Rather busy. Have flown every day except the two on pass. The trip to London was quite an event. Some burg! Saw all the famous spots – well – most! St. Paul’s – Parliament – Buckenham [sic] – Westminster Abbey – Tower of London and lots else. Came back to find ourselves set for a raid on Munich. Rough! 10/10 solid all the way. Used Gee to Brussels and went on D.R. to the target and back to Brussels! Only two check points were Saarbrucken and target. Knew it was Saarbrucken by the flak! Bombed on PFF. Results? Carried 4 X 500 G.P. Gibson and crew were lost the day before. Details unknown. Believed to have collided with Jones in clouds on climb to assembly. Could be. Alerted for tomorrow. Hope it’s a No-Ball. These long missions are not for me. Thank you – no! Say, I’m up for my Wilkie [sic] Button!
Number Seven – No-Ball! Geez, what a trip. Briefed 15:45. Left coast at 2000. Back again (home) at 2230. No flak. No fighters. No fatigue. This – I like. It’s the swing shift for me. Aborted on Saarbrucken trip yesterday. Johnson’s hangover gave him stomach cramps. Oh, well. We’re up for tomorrow. I’ll shoot that orderly if he calls me before two again. That’s all.
This seems to be degenerating into nothing more than a record of missions. Maybe I should be more faithful to it. Oh, well….. Today was rough. Very. Took off 5:30 for raid on aircraft factory at Eisenach. Lead ship snafu’d the whole course – led us over flak at the coast – overran the IP – and missed Eisenach completely. No excuse, either. It was 10/10 for a while after leaving the coast, but was only 3 to 5 at the target. I was doing pin-point pilotage. Can’t see why the lead couldn’t. Anyway, we missed the target and started stooging around looking for a target of opportunity. Passed up the secondary…..and finally hit Koblenz. Ach du Lieber Gott! What flak! It was only moderate, but extremely accurate. For the first time, I was frankly scared. No flak suit either! Gulp! Had several very near hits. Could feel the ship lift and lurch every time. Amazingly, though, we only had a few small holes. Really lucky.
Came on home uneventfully and lost #2 prop while circling the field. #1 Turbo had been threatening so we immediately dropped our gear and came in for emergency landing. And then our nose wheel stuck! Couldn’t even kick it down. With three engines, it would have been difficult to go around, so we made a real emergency landing. Had all the crew in tail and landed beautifully. Almost stopped on perimeter track when Evans made the mistake of trying to use some brakes. And up she went on her nose. Tough break, but it didn’t hurt the ship much. The SFGO’s tried to blame Evans until he got a little belligerent. That cooled them off. What a day!
Munich again. Very bad weather all the way. Cumulous tops to 24,000. We finally cleared it all at 25,000. Kinda high! Lead ship did poor job. Kept zig-zagging. Made navigation extremely difficult. Did not follow briefed course. DR was next to impossible, but when we finally hit clear weather near the target, pilotage showed my DRP only 20 miles off. After a couple hundred miles, that isn’t too good – nor too bad. Suited me. Normal flak – plenty! Fighters were seen…..by everyone but us! Gotta get these gunners on the ball. Home OK! Over and out!
Up for breakfast voluntarily! Amazing. Still, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday – quite a lapse! Did very little of note today. Repaired the bicycle (again) and wrote letters. Really getting good with the correspondence lately. Dreams last night show traces of flak happiness. Glad I had today to relax in. Maybe I can keep the bats outa the belfry with an occasional day of rest…..I better!
Whatta day. Up at 2:15. Back in bed 4:30. Up again 7:30. Take off 0930. Mission was area bombing in support of the beachhead forces. Apparently they’re planning a push at St. Lo. It’ll have to wait on the weather, though. We found 10/10 coverage and had to bring our bombs home. Really an easy mission. Very little flak, no fighters, ten minutes over enemy territory. Almost the perfect mission. Only trouble was…..we didn’t do any good! Anyway, That’s Mission Ten.
Wilkie Button – 2nd Class! Number Eleven today. Same mission as yesterday, except that it was successful. Went down to 12,400 to bomb. The flak was hell. Luckily, we weren’t over it long. Just before we hit the target, saw a B-24 spinning down with flames spouting from the bomb bays. Terrible – but fascinating. First time I’d seen one close-up. Six chutes were seen. Group navigation notified me that sometime soon I’d have the opportunity of leading the group on a mission. Made me feel good. Should be fun. Still, I’d rather not fly lead. Takes too long to finish a tour of duty. What I want to do is get through and get home as soon as possible. Pass started tonight. Don’t plan to do much – just rest and relax. The flak is getting to be rather annoying. Frankly, that trip to Koblenz shook me up. Those boys had our number. Radio says the boys are doing well at St. Lo after our “softening up”. Good. Those boys deserve all the help they can get.
And we are now officially a lead crew. Leaves me with rather mixed emotions. Naturally, I feel rather good about being chosen, though it certainly is no surprise (after Mottern’s actions and statements). Yet I dislike the thought of having to assume so much responsibility. It just doesn’t pay any dividends. Surely is going to prolong our tour of duty. We’ll be lucky to finish by the end of the year, now. Makes it pretty rough. I’d kinda like to get through and get home.
No news. Just marking time. Enjoying my leisurely existence, though. Really is nice to be able to sit by the radio and listen to hour upon hour of beautiful music with never a thought of having to rush off for a meeting. ’Fraid I’m getting to be quite an introvert – or could it be the novelty of leisure that so attracts me? Actually, this is the first time in my life I’ve had the chance to sit and philosophize to myself with no fear of interruption. Fun to let the mind wander where it will. Perhaps my thoughts are somewhat heretic at times, but they’re usually quite rational – mostly confined to Eleanor and religion. They – together – will probably be the predominant features of my future. Amusing to paint cloud pictures of the possibilities. Who knows – perhaps, in time, they’ll become realities. Let us so hope.
No-Ball to Le Treport but 10/10 undercast necessitated target of opportunity. Hit a small rail yard thirty miles east of Le Havre. Should say “Hit at”. Damned poor bombing. One stick on target – rest in woods. First trip as lead. Flew deputy in third section. Screwy course – solely “G” – couldn’t do much else. ETA home 10 seconds off! Mein Gott! Saw “Once Upon a Time”. Rather appealing fantasy.
Tomorrow I shall murder George. That’s enough.
Target – refinery at Hamburg. Load – 12 x 500 G.P.
Roughest mission I have yet seen. Only over continent 64 minutes but flak at target more than compensated. 230 guns, accurate! Thirty seconds before bombs away, lead ship exploded from direct hit by flak. We assumed lead. Harland synchronized beautifully but forgot release trigger so I salvoed when indices met. Very good results. Blasted hell out of the target. Nerves really shot. Seeing that ship blow up a hundred feet away shook me pretty badly. Don’t think anyone got out. Right wing fell off after about three thousand feet. Ship was burning fiercely, spinning. No one watched it all the way so slim chance some of crew escaped. Surely wish I could think so. Me for a nice binge. Gotta relax somehow.
Lovely day. Baked in the sun – did laundry – and flew Link Trainer. Spent an hour and a half playin’ around – much fine fun. Scheduled to lead Second Section tomorrow. Damn! Wish we could fly deputy – or better still – just “wing”. I don’t like this lead business. Heard that some chutes were seen from Hancock’s ship. Amazing, really. Surely hope it’s true. It was really a flamer.
Mission 14. They’re slowly but surely building up. Wish they’d come a little faster. Today was pretty good. Primary target was ball bearing works at Stuttgart. Secondary, marshalling yards at Saarbrucken. Had good weather, but a lot of haze, so bombed secondary on PFF. Flak was unusually light – for Saarbrucken! Saw one ship go down. Nine chutes out of another one. Learned later the radio operator brought the ship home on two engines. Only one chute out of first ship. We were leading second section. Wasn’t too much work. Easier than I had anticipated. To a great extent, all we were doing was following the first section. Pilotage carried me all the way without difficulty. Bombing was very poor. The whole pattern was short. Understand third section was only one in our group to score any hits. No letter to my Darling. She is leaving for home in six days, so there’s no hurry. Waaaaaa – I wanta go home, too! Mamá yo quiero.
End of another pass. Can’t see any real use of them for me. I never do a darn thing except loaf. Thank gosh the nerves have calmed down a little. Music hath power to charm…..and a hangover will take one’s mind off of any troubles. Horrible necessity – yea! Gee, wonder what tomorrow will bring – and AZON is back!
Almost, but not quite. Started out for an airdrome at Vechta but lost all four generators about 15 minutes from the coast. Lost all interphone, turrets – and everything! Gulp. Was kinda lucky in a way, though (that we came home). We’d have straggled sure as heck, and the boys were hit by ME 109’s. We’d have been sitting ducks. Maybe Number Fifteen will come later. Seems to be awfully slow.
Tried a little AZON mission east of Paris. Meteo snafu’d, however – at the target we found 10/10’s solid – ah, well – it was a lovely way to make Number Fifteen – no flak – no fighters. Not bad a-tall. Kinda long, though – 7-1/2 hours! Looks like we’ll fly lead second section for the group tomorrow. Hmmmm. Maybe we’ll finish this tour before winter, at that.
August 18, 1944: Evan’s crew was flying B-24JAZ-155-CO 44-40281 J4 Q A Dog’s Life when they collided with the Deputy Lead
Boy – Everything happens to us! Never a dull moment – or mission!
Target today was factory at Metz. 12 x 500 G.P. bomb load. Took route over Caen and south of Paris. Reached IP and started to turn on bomb run when Deputy rammed our right wing and knocked off ten feet of the tip. Nearly went into a spin, but Evans pulled it out O.K. Tried to make run on targets of opportunity but ship wouldn’t respond so we jettisoned the bombs and came home. Picked up some Beautiful Escorts – P-51’s – and took a short-cut over the suburbs of Paris. Lovely city, but we weren’t too interested in that. I was working! Major Hinckley, Command Pilot, nearly drove me nuts. I needed a private secretary. Navigation was O.K. Landed on emergency strip east of Ipswich. Again, some nice flying. Evans oughta have a medal for this job. Morford came for us…..and so – to home! Lucky again.
Understand Evans has been recommended for the Silver Star for his work on the last trip. Surely hope he gets it. He certainly deserves some kind of recognition. Nothing new today. Bad weather has again returned. Suppose it’s here for the winter. Flew an hour in the Link. Showed good bit of improvement in flying straight and level. Turns still not good. Reports from France sound good. Wish t’ell this war was over. I wanna go home!
Can’t seem to forget a dream I had the night before our last mission. Seemed Forest and I were home again. But we were alone and couldn’t get to anyone. We went to all the old familiar haunts – but no one would look at us. And then I suddenly realized we were both only spirits! It was all so darn realistic that it stuck with me…..and then, having that trouble immediately afterward…..well! Almost enough to make one believe in things supernatural.
Funny how a man’s soul cringes at the thought of death. We speak of the glories of the “after-life”…..yet we have no desire to leave this one. Fear is such a waste. If we are destined to die, is it not wiser to enjoy life while we may, rather than torturing our minds with thoughts of what might happen? After all, when we are dead, we shall no longer worry – why should we worry now? God’s will will be done. Is that a false philosophy? I wonder….
Made a test hop today trying out a new method of tactical bombing. Theory sounds good, but somebody on the ground snafu’d and it didn’t do so well. Would be nice to try a couple of missions on it…..at least we wouldn’t bomb our own troops again. That would be a great advantage. Not alerted. Dammit.
Mission 17 – AZON – 4 x 1000#. Target – 4800 foot bridge southeast of Rotterdam. Perfect AZON target. Bombing good, but hits dubious. Will have to wait for photos [above] to determine whether they were hits or near misses. I was lead navigator – my first group lead…..only it was squadron. Anyway, either I or the compass snafu’d and we got 20 miles off course over the channel. However, we hit coast at briefed point and kept on course all the way around. The boys kidded me about the error, but complimented my work over the continent. Incidentally – this was swing shift. Took off 1750, landed 2000. That’s the kinda missions I like!
Same as yesterday. 5 x 1000 AZON. Took off 1600. Flew deputy lead First Section. Went off course same as yesterday. That compass must be off. Target area was 6-8/10 cumulus and cumulonimbus. Missed the Cb but overran last turn before IP and hit moderate, accurate flak. Turret had 12” diameter hole in side glass. Adkins wasn’t hurt, but shattered glass hit his face. Home with our bombs. Not too satisfactory, but Mission 18! (Swing shift again, too.)
Weather foul. Stood down last two days. Suits me. The old nerves don’t appreciate these frequent excursions. Can’t take it like we could in the pre-Hamburg era. Wonder if I’ll ever again be as cool as I was on my first raid? Flak didn’t worry me at all then. My, how times have changed!
Fresh back from two days in London. Wonderful trip. Highlight was solo stroll through Piccadilly, Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, ending on Westminster Bridge. Full moon, clear sky, ancient buildings flooded in liquid golden glory. Poetry comes to life. Really a glorious experience – the town slumbering in the moonlight with Big Ben standing guard beside the river. Beautiful to hear the tones of midnight rolling out as a solemn dirge for the dying day. Wish I could write what I felt there. Returned from London to meet Elwyn in Norwich. Enjoyed being with him. Willie has picked herself a darn good boy. I like him. Brought my battle jacket home. Boy, what a sharp set of threads! Some drapist!
Mission 19. Target tank factory at Ulm near Munich. 2700 topped. 10 x 500 M17B incendiary. We led second section. Flew High Right on 467th. Weather was CAVU to within fifty miles of target. 10/10 from there on. Had to drop PFF so couldn’t observe results. Mission did a lot to restore my confidence. Got scared as all heck at the way our wing ships kept threatening to ram us but eventually decided to just ignore them. Seemed to be more afraid of them than of flak. Lead ship took group across Strasbourg – off course – so we took off on dogleg and went around. Did likewise on several other flak areas on the way home. As a result, we didn’t even get a close one. Thank goodness! I don’t like that stuff.
Boys really had it rough today. Glad we weren’t along. Lost one crew [Lt Thomas Horgan]. Alvestad had to sit down at Woodbridge. He was pretty hard hit. Some groups met fighters. Radio says we lost 44. That’s not so good. Deal me out on fighters! I don’t care for some. Lucky! Only other holes (two) were in wings. Target was obscured by clouds, so we came on home with our bombs. Not too satisfactory, but Mission 18! (Swing shift again, too.)
Much fine fun. Got up at 10:45 and learned that we were briefing for an AZON mission at 12:00. Now that’s how I think a war should be fought! Target was an oil refinery on the Danish peninsula. First section carried AZON – we carried regular GP’s. (Led second section.) Made landfall 8 miles left of IP. Bomb run was perfect except for a solitary cloud over the target! We dropped but missed. Lead section did not drop and circled back to the IP for a run on the secondary. Made it OK but bombs fell way short. Someone snafu’d. We followed them around, and caught a little flak just after the target. No hits, though. Rest of trip uneventful. ETA to coast on the money! And so to bed.
Just back from a seven-day leave at Roke Manor, Flak Home [right]. Golly, what a wonderful place. The kind of England you dream about – green – rolling countryside. Strictly rural – very lovely. All kinds of sports available. Spent most of my time at softball and bridge, although I did try a little tennis and riding – my first time on a horse, incidentally. Pardon, did I say horse? What I meant was “fugitive from a glue factory”! Spent one day visiting the Isle of Wight. Beautiful place. Would like to have time to wander around and enjoy it. Visited Carisbrooke Castle, dating back to 1070. Remarkably well-preserved. Most interesting. Returned to base to find the group on the grocery run. Have lost a couple of ships (and crews) in the process. That ain’t good!
Jerry was downright annoying last night. Sent over a couple of buzz bombs that hit within earshot. Damned nuisance. Those things might hurt somebody. Was alerted for a grocery run – rather gasoline run. Was scrubbed because of weather. Strictly a screwed-up deal. Huggard was missing. The rain was kinda fierce. Evans was unhappy. Hmmmm – I’m glad we didn’t go. I like it here.
This cargo running is fine fun as far as navigation is concerned – much better than flying combat! However, these war-weary ships aren’t too reliable. It’s a wonder we don’t lose more than we do. Still, I shouldn’t kick. The Luftwaffe has played hell the last two days. Knocked down 28 planes of the 445th yesterday. Likewise to another group today. Can’t last long that way.
No more trucking. We’re again operational, so today we flew a practice hop. Ach du Lieber Gott. Took off…..the colonel didn’t like our style so we landed, and started again. Finally landed about four P.M. A bit boring – not too bad otherwise. I seem to be getting over my “wing-ship” nerves. Surely hope so. That is no fun. Found out tonight that I’m eligible for Wing Lead. Much prefer to steer clear of that. Me for leading HI-Right only!
Rocket hit pretty close tonight. Really was funny to see everybody hit the floor when the first sound came. By the time the second arrived, everyone was down…..me, too! Didn’t break the windows, but rattled them pretty badly. Damn the Jerries, anyway. Alerted for tomorrow.
Woody promised us a trip tomorrow. I feel like all hell, but I still hope we go. We’ve been alerted the whole week and have flown every day…..but not on missions. Rather annoying. Rockets are still coming over. Seem to be zeroed in on this area. No hits close enough to do any damage other than to our nerves. Those things aren’t healthy!
Target Magdeburg. 6 x 1000 G.P. 2400 gallons. And just oodles of flak! Harland is on leave, so Bullard flew as Bombardier (we had Hi-Right). Dry run on target. Dry run on secondary. Dry run on T/O. Ditto on second T/O. Finally salvoed on a Dutch town. Somebody’ll get their tail pinched in that crack. Strictly illegal. I told Wright (Command Pilot) that it was in Holland, but he claims he didn’t hear me. Rough for him. It’s his li’l red wagon. Didn’t mind him getting the works ’cause he had just been very nasty to me about my long-overdue promotion. Rather quick retribution. Really a lousy trip. Stayed on course mostly, but had to zigzag at 148 IAS to keep from overrunning lead section!! He must have been flying with full flaps. At that, he continued to take us over Osnabruck and Brunswick. He tried, that is. We went around. Golly, I’m wearied. That’s Number 21.
Almost flew this one yesterday – Friday the 13th! Was stood down until this morning though. Target was M/Y in Cologne, and was plenty tough as briefed. 120 guns on the bomb run and a couple of hundred more in the vicinity. Frankly, we were scared. As it turned out, though, things weren’t too bad. Cloud cover was 8/10 so we dropped PFF. Flak was barrage…..and wasn’t too close, though plenty heavy on other outfits. Our worst moment was when another section dropped its bombs through our formation. Luckily no one was hit. On the way home, saw several bits of flak, mostly inaccurate but one lone shell hit us. Left five nice li’l holes! Not a bad mission, all in all. 22 down – eight to go!
Intermittently clear and cloudy. Generally foul. Surely wish I could get out of here before winter sets in. Doesn’t look likely, though. At least another two months, at the very earliest. Gulp. Had a letter from Don Cook today. He’s to go to Saipan. Might be we’ll be there about February or March. Hmmmm…. Just finished 48-hour pass. Didn’t do a darn thing, but enjoyed myself…..playing bridge and pub-dubbing. Fairly harmless amusements. Hope we fly soon.
Whew – Where’ve I been? Flew today. Target was Hamburg refinery – just south of Hamburg. Led Hi – High Right Section. 24 x 250 bomb load. Shortly after crossing the Zuider Zee, we encountered clouds above our level – which was then 24000. Couldn’t go under or over but just stooged on through them. Pretty darn dangerous with a formation. At IP, lost sight of other sections and continued on…..blind! Finally, Command Pilot told me to take us home so I gave Evans a heading from my DRP. Figured to come over target. About ETA, encountered flak, so assumed that was target and bombed. Some fun. That was at 27000, incidentally. After target, continued on DR headings, and eventually found another section with a PFF lead to follow home. Half an hour later, got a Gee fix that put my DR 17 miles off. For a two-hour run of very erratic headings, that isn’t so bad. Rather proud of it, in fact. G’night. I’m pooped.
Mission twenty-four. Primary target ground support target at Metz. Cloud cover necessitated PFF run on secondary – M/Y at Karlsruhe. DR was fairly foul, but picked up pin point just before IP. Rest of trip O.K. Flak at target moderate to low. We were leading High Right and didn’t get any at all. Lead and Low Left caught some but no major damage. Couple of the boys landed in France with engine and gas troubles. This makes my third cluster!
And Mission 25. Target M/Y at Bingen, near Mainz. 10 x 500 G.P. plus 2 x 500 M-17 (incendiaries for a railroad!) We flew #3 off lead ship. Much fine fun. Wish we could fly the rest of ’em in that position. Makes it hard on the pilot – but oh, so easy! For me, that is! Harland finished on this one. Kinda glad. He and I don’t get along too well in the nose. Too crowded. Bombed GH. Missed target. Over. Other sections hit, though. No flak at target, but managed to get off course and find some on the way home. Snafu by courtesy of the 467th. No one was hit, thank goodness. Me for bed!
Target Hanau. Just east of Frankfurt. We led Low Left Section with Frones as bombardier. Lead ship snafu’d and overran the IP thirty miles! Luckily, the clouds opened to give us a visual run, as we found the target all right. Still didn’t hit it, though. Missed by thirty-eight hundred feet! Bombardier malfunction. Good mission, though, ’cause we sure blasted ’ell out of the town. Somebody even hit the MPI in the rail yards! That’s Number 26. They’re coming awf’ly slowly now.
Came darn near flying only one mission this month. Have been alerted – and scrubbed – for about a week. Target today was a railroad bridge just north of Koblenz at Neuweid. Carried 6 x 1000. Led Low Left with Spurgeon as Bombardier. Gee Box went out during assembly and 10/10 cover all the way forced me to go the whole route on DR. Not a very satisfactory means of navigation under such circumstances. No particular trouble though. Just followed the group there ’n back. Golly – this was Twenty-seven!
Jan 1, 1945
Started the New Year out in a very poor way. Started out on a mission to Koblenz (Lead Low Left) with a terrific ground speed of 85 knots over target briefed. Lead section got off course at wing IP and finally reached that point 40 minutes late. Continued on to Trier where we made a 360°!! Why – we still dunno. Finally turned around 20 miles from Group IP and came home – bombs and all. At critique, I had to give the track, since lead Command Pilot didn’t seem to know. Felt silly arguing with a Major, but I knew darn well I was right. Ended up with my log being used as Group Log and I had to fill out flash route, etc., for Wing. Hmmmm….I yam honored. Not sure whether or not we were given credit for this. Hard to tell. Hope so, though.
Jan 6 Bulge
Jan 21 Heilbronn
1 By Mary Beth (Cline) Sanders, © 2019. To his family and childhood friends, he was known as “Pete”, a nickname given him by his older sister just hours after his birth. To the rest of the world, civilian and military alike, he was called “Walt”.
2 1LT Samuel T. Gibson, pilot.
3 He did indeed buy the full length Russian Squirrel coat; it is still with his family.
6 SGT Raymond F. Tomlinson, nose turret gunner, was killed instantly by a piece of flak the size of a peach pit that freakishly entered the back of his neck between his steel helmet and the top edge of his flak suit.
7 CPT Charles S. “Sam” Evans, pilot, and 1LT Frederick A. Johnson, co-pilot; LT Cline was the navigator on the Evans Crew.
8 Willie was Cline’s sister-in-law. The romance between Willie and Elwyn did not survive the war.
9 “Meteo” refers to meteorology.
10 1LT George Adkins, bombardier on the Evans Crew.
11 1LT John T. Tracy, pilot.
12 1LT James Neal “Buzz” Busby, navigator.
13 2LT Robert T. “Jake” Couch, Jr., co-pilot, KIA on 22 April 1944 over England while returning from a mission over Hamm, Germany.
14 “Dunnerwetter” means “thunderstorm” in Pennsylvania Dutch (German).
15 He evidently entered the wrong day. July 12 was the Munich mission; the 458th flew no missions on July 14.
16 The aircraft was lost on 11 July 1944 on a mission to Munich when it flew into a cloud bank over the English Channel shortly after takeoff. It was never seen or heard from again. The entire crew was eventually declared KIA.
17 1LT John J. Jones and crew. In fact, when returning from that mission, the flak-damaged aircraft fell out of formation, descended beneath the undercast, and plunged into the North Sea off the Dutch-Belgian border. Jones and three crew members survived as POWs; five other crew members were KIA.
18 MAJ Elmer M. Mottern, Squadron Navigator.
19 CPT Richard D. Harland, Squadron Bombardier.
20 1LT Thomas E. Hancock’s aircraft. Only Hancock and CPT John E. Chamberlain, Command Pilot, survived – both as POWs.
21 CPT Robert W. Morford was a lead pilot in the 755th BS who either volunteered or was sent to pick up the Evans Crew after they landed on the emergency strip at Woodbridge.
22 Compass bearing.
24 Roke Manor is located in south central England, near the coast.
25 TSGT Leon Charles Huggard, gunner/radio operator on the Evans Crew.
26 MAJ Valin R. Woodward, Operations Officer.
27 1LT Charles W. Bullard, Squadron Bombardier.
28 2LT Raymond H. Frones was the bombardier on McArdle’s crew in the 755th BS.
29 CPT Wayne L. Spurgeon, originally a bombardier on another crew. In December 1944 Spurgeon was appointed Assistant Squadron Bombardier.
31 Grammatical style of “Popeye the Sailor”, a cartoon character.