|AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, England - Sergeant Lyman R. Huffman, 19, B-17 Flying Fortress engineer-gunner from Denison, TX, and his crew are not sure whether changing planes before taking off on a bombing mission to Germany brings good luck or bad. They only know that when a mechanical flaw in their assigned Fort forced a last-minute transfer to another, they brought her back to this Eighth Air Force base from an attack on rail yards in Oranienburg, Germany, riddled with over 500 flak holes -- but with only one crew member slightly wounded.
After take-off, the crew's trip was almost without incident until they started down the bomb run. Flak explosions rocked their plane, but they were untouched until a few seconds from the bomb release when one burst of enemy steel tore a three foot hole in their left wing, hurled the big bomber almost vertically up on its right wing and threw them out of formation.
Pilot and copilot righted their aircraft and swung back into formation in time to drop their bombs on the target with the rest of the group. Almost at that instant, SGT Huffman heard the crack of another flak burst and the sound of shrapnel hitting the fuselage like the rattle of Midwestern hail on a tin roof.
Everything happened at once. One steel fragment smashed through the top turret, leaving SGT Huffman uninjured, holding a piece of the gun sight in his hand. Another fragment zipped through the copilot's window just in front of his face and tore out through the skin of the plane a fraction of an inch behind the pilot's head.
The ball gunner felt a sudden sharp stab of pain in his arm -- and later found nine holes in his turret. The tail gunner's oxygen system was wrecked.
After they had climbed back into formation and the excitement had died down, the crew investigated the damage.
Miraculously, all four engines still droned on. The bomb bays, which had sustained the major portion of hits, were a mass of jagged holes. One tires was shot flat. The oxygen system was partially gone. Fluid poured from a severed hydraulic line, making the brakes useless.
They stuck with their formation and when back over their home base, came in for an emergency landing. With a flat tire and no brakes, they hit the runway. The pilot let his plane roll as far as possible to lessen its speed and then neatly wheeled off the concrete where the soft ground brought them to a stop.
Counting the holes in the Fort, SGT Huffman and his crewmates gave up when they reached a total of 460 in the bomb bays alone. The control surfaces and fuselage were punctured with scores of holes.
Crew 9388 arrived at Sudbury in February, 1945. For the rest of the story, read Lyman R. Huffman's war diary.
|Name||Rank||Position||First Mission||Last Mission||Status|
|William G. Robinson||Pilot||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Edward C. Willems||Copilot||03/10/45||04/21/45||WIA. Returned ZOI|
|Roger Henry||Navigator||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Lyman R. Huffman||FE/Top||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Kirby L. Vann||RO||03/10/45||04/21/45||WIA. Returned ZOI|
|Charles F. Pike||Gunner||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Alfred A. Mottola||Gunner||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Edward N. Raber||Gunner||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|Elvin W. Reynolds||Gunner||03/10/45||04/21/45||Returned ZOI|
|168||03/18/45||08:30||The Worry Bird||DN||43-37973||B17G|
|170||03/21/45||05:35||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|171||03/22/45||05:30||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|172||03/24/45||07:05||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|173||03/24/45||06:15||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|174||03/28/45||07:15||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|175||03/30/45||07:10||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|177||04/03/45||06:35||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|179||04/05/45||08:35||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|180||04/07/45||08:55||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|181||04/08/45||08:55||Pursuit of Happiness||TH||43-37931||B17G|
|Created 12/10/01||Modified 12/23/16|
Copyright © 1998-2016 486th Bomb Group Association.