Friday, December 2, 2011

"What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" -- Part 1

In response to a question about where our father was stationed during WW2 from my younger brother, I did some more examination of his "flight diary."  My father kept a small notepad in which he recorded very basic information about the bombing missions he flew as a flight engineer and top turret gunner of a B-17 assigned to the 731st Bombardment Squadron, 452nd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, from November 24, 1944 through May 6, 1945.  They were based at Deopham Green Air Base (link).  He flew a total of 29 missions, 27 of them were combat and 2 were humanitarian.  The targets were throughout Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, etc.) and France (German enclaves along Atlantic Coast).  The two humanitarian missions were in early May 1945, delivering food to Amsterdam.  He called them "chow hound" missions.  His plane and crew left England on June 29, 1945, and flew back to the USA via the Azores.  They were in the midst of transitioning to B-29s at Sioux Falls Army Air Base, South Dakota, when the Pacific War ended.

In the back of the notepad, my father had drawn his B-17:

The Square L was the tail symbol of the 752nd group

To give you a little better perspective of his in-flight duties, I can highly recommend the movie The Memphis Belle.  My father told me one time that, like the crew of the Memphis Belle, he had to crank down the landing gear by hand.  

One of the two planes in which he flew (the "Sweet Sue") was shot up on a bombing mission against Darmstadt on December 24.  They were extremely low on fuel and had to make an emergency landing at Laon, France, where they spent Christmas before being flown back to their base on December 27.

I will probably be posting more as I do a better examination of his flight diary and compare it to the history of the squadron and group.

And for those who are interested, is making their WW2 records available free of charge until midnight on December 7.  link 


David Morfitt said...

Interesting. I look forward to more about your father's experiences. Thanks.



J Womack, Esq. said...

I have a copy of my great-uncle's wartime flight record. He flew 70 combat missions in a B-24, primarily North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

He left the Army Air Corps but was recalled for Korea. I would like to find details of his service in that war, but have not located them yet.

Amazing stuff these men did.