[From my father to my mother, Florence McCabe]
January 11, 1945
I went on another mission today --- my last. It is true that it only makes twenty-six for me but it is my last one for all that. You see, it was a very rough mission indeed and it looked for a while like I wasnít coming back from it. I made it o.k. though and all right except that I am stiff and sore all over from fighting with the plane all the way back to England. It seems that the airplane did not want to fly back again, but I made it, at some cost to me. Donít ask for any details because I wonít write them. Possibly you will read about it in the paper, but if not, you will have to wait until I come and then I will tell you
[From my father to my grandfather, Earl L. McCabe, Sr.]
January 16, 1945
I expect Iíd better tell you this story as you are likely to read all or at least part of it in the paper one of these days and you might like to have some advance warning.
It seems that I went on a mission last Wednesday. The target doesnít matter but we flew along for a while. I was flying as one of the command pilots in command of a flight of thirteen planes. Everything went along o.k., barring some bad weather, until we got on the bomb run. I could look ahead and see that there was some flak coming up at the formation ahead of us, but didnít worry much about it, having enough to do with keeping track of how things were going.
We were getting along pretty well and it was just about time for the bombs to drop. I noticed that there were some flak bursts walking along with us just off the left wing tip and I remember thinking to myself, ĒIf that Heinie isnít careful, heís going to hurt somebody with that stuff,Ē when there was a hell of an explosion and the plane gave a violent lurch. I saw the pilot sort of stiffen out and looked at him and saw that he had been hit pretty bad. He slumped down in his seat and I saw that he was unconscious. In the meantime, I had grabbed the controls and was trying to right the plane. We dropped the bombs and I found that I could not control the plane. We were going down and going into a steeper dive and starting into a spin with every minute. Iíll tell you I have been scared before but never as scared as I was just then. It looked like we were going right straight down and that we were going all the way too.
I threw every ounce of weight I could on the controls and finally managed to straighten the plane out but couldnít get it entirely out of the dive. Things were looking pretty black and I was wondering if I could hold the plane long enough for the crew to bail out and if so, who would hold it for me? And then I thought of the pilot who wouldnít be able to jump being unconscious as he was.
Of course it took only a matter of seconds for all this to happen. Then I figured maybe I could get to a lower altitude and then I might be able to hold the plane. By now I could see the left wing tip was badly damaged and one of the engines had been knocked out. Well, this all gave me pause for thought and I decided that maybe I could work a little harder and I did. I finally got the plane turned around and headed toward friendly territory. I thought maybe we could make a crash landing in France but when we got there, it developed that there were heavy clouds under ut and I didnít want to take a chance on letting down through them. Also the pilot was dead, we found, and there was nothing we could do for him and no one else was hurt so it seemed the best thing to keep on going and get back to England.
To make a long story short, we made it. I fought the plane every inch of the way back and we ran into snow storms and ice on the wings and a few other things, as though I didnít have enough trouble as it was. When we got back to the base we found that there was a bad snow storm and visibility was pretty bad. To make things worse, the plane would just barely turn to the right and I didnít dare try to turn it to the left. I finally managed to scrape around and get on the ground with no further damage and I was never so glad to get on solid ground, nor ever will be again, I suspect.
An inspection showed that about eight feet of the left wing-tip had been knocked off, the number one engine had been knocked out and there were more holes in the airplane than in a Swiss Cheese. The pilot had been killed instantly, the medical officer claimed, so no harm would have been done if we had bailed out but of course, I didnít know that at the time.
We found that we got the bombs on the target and destroyed it pretty well so we wonít have to go back there for a while at least. I suppose that this will be written up in the papers, at least the officer in charge of such things was around getting all the details from me and the other crew members the next day. I also suppose Iíll get decorated for my efforts. It was considered quite a feat to bring the airplane back and get the bombs on the target and all, but to tell the truth, then thing that pleases me most is that I got myself back with a whole skin. Although every muscle in my body was sorer than if I had done a hard dayís work in the woods for days after.
I donít know if you should show this letter to the women-folk or not; you can decide as to that. I told Florence I had been on a mission and that it had been a pretty rough one but did not give any details. I wasnít going to give any, either, only I got to thinking than in case the story got into the papers, it might be a good idea for you folks to know a little about it.
Iím hoping to get home before too much longer but I donít know if Iíll make it or not. Iíd kind of like to go on a fishing trip or two next spring, especially as I thought for a while that my days of fishing or anything were all over.
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