The following is one of several such letters written by 2nd Lt. Edwin Oaks Caldwell, who was from Louisville, KY., and a member of the crew of 1st Lt. Bruce Evans, my father. I have typed it exactly as Oaks wrote it. The photos were taken by my father, as noted in the letter. One month later, on Feb. 6th, they were both KIA, along with the entire crew, on the way back to base from a raid on Chemnitz.
Dr. Karen Garner
January 7, 1945
A V-mail has already been mailed, so here's the air mail - a quickie - which will go into a bit more detail. It's late though and I'm tired and I'm writing in a straight chair. I'll start at the beginning.
We briefed at 4:30 Friday morning (5 Jan.) for a mission which wasn't too bad to look at. Little flak, not a real deep penetration, possibly the Luftwaffe, but a good size task force going in, and we were to be well covered by P51's and P38's. But as usual, this English weather was predicted to gum up the works. Over our own radio beam here at the field where we always assemble there was 20 some thousand feet of clouds. So we were routed down Southwest of London where the weather was supposedly better. But it wasn't. We were to assemble at 18,000 but even at 24,000 we were in and out of thunder clouds and heavy con trails. For 3 hours we used maximum power settings trying to find our Group and then keeping up once we got into formation. Then a climb across France to 28,000 feet, a long bomb run, and a screwed-up withdrawal because of bad timing. By this time we had less than 100 gals. per engine (enough for 1.5 hrs. flight) so Bruce asked for a heading to the nearest emergency field. Quickly I figured when the Bomber stream would pass adjacent to the field I was given at navigation briefing. I figured when we would leave Germany and at the ground speed, I figured we were making good, and told Bruce to turn to a heading of 218° at 1503. By golly it turned out to be on the button and we came right over it. We landed and found little or nothing there. Finally an Air Corps 1st Lt. came out in a jeep and told us they had no gas and it would have to be hauled in some 40 miles from a larger town farther back. By this time several other ships had landed. It was now about 4:30 P.M. and getting cold and dark. We had gotten up at 3 A.M. and eaten breakfast at 3:30 - nothing else to eat since then. By 5:30 we were loaded on to some French army trucks and driven to a temporary mess tent where they had prepared K rations for us. Nothing ever tasted better to me. Then they hauled us through a French town about the size of Sheperdsville (KY) which was 2/3 demolished from bombing and artillery fire to a 38 room chateau where an Engineering Btn. (rather company B of the Btn.) lived. Joe and I stayed in the same room with 3 Sgts. who turned things inside out for us. They found us cots and divided up their blankets. I wish Dad would write a letter of thanks to the boy whose address I'll enclose and mention the other 2 also, please. We ate out of their mess kits, also.
We were told we could probably get gas the next morning but none ever came. So we spent most of the time looking around. Bruce had his camera and we took pictures of Nazi planes, shelled buildings, a wall with a painted swastika, and snapped the crew as we sat on a wrecked German tank. We got all our candy and gum together and gave it to all the kids we could find in town. They looked up with grateful eyes, bowed, and said "Merci, M'Silver (sic)". The day was cold but we were well clothed and found things pretty interesting. At 4 P.M., we saw we were going to get no gas that day so went back again to impose on the engineers. Sgt. Battson had told me that their company C.O. was from KY. So Saturday evening I went down to his room in the Chateau to meet Capt. Davis. After 5 mins. I found him to be Howard Davis, Jr. He knows Don Lail and i/2 of my fraternity Bros., Lillian, etc. we had a good B.session. This morning, Osborn, who just volunteered to fly this mission because his crew wasn't scheduled, and I went to mass at the cathedral in town. for a small town it was a beautiful Church. We couldn't understand anything said, but found it interesting. Ate lunch again with the engineers and at 2 P.M. got gas. I routed us up to Calais and across to Dover and we returned to Base in fine shape. So, mission #19 lasted 3 days. This can hardly be legible. I can't even read it, but maybe you will get an idea. An Oak Leaf Cluster to my Air Medal is enclosed. Please drop a line to Sgt. Paul Battson 37383986, Co. B 843 Engr. Aviation Bn., A.P.O. 126, New York and mention Sgt. Brock and Sgt. Wortin, Thank you. All my love, Oaks
Some of the crew in France
2nd Lt. Oaks Caldwell, Bombardier (left) and 1st Lt. Bruce Evans, Pilot (right) in France.
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