PLANES I FLEW IN
(AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM)
In my journal I tried to record the important highlights of what took place on my combat missions: target, bomb load, enemy action, results (if I knew them), my own personal reaction at the time, and even the name of some of the pilots I flew with.
When we switched from B 24's to B 1 7's our original crew was combined with another lead crew (Rex). Bernie, our copilot, and I, were replaced by Rex's copilot and bombardier. That's when I began to fly with many different pilots as a spare navigator or bombardier. I neglected to put down the names of all the pilots I flew with. Looking back with hindsight I've often regretted this omission.
Using the information given to me by Robin (486th web master), after one of his many trips to the archives, I was able to get the names of almost all of the pilots I flew with. The next thing I was curious about was the plane I flew in. Checking them against the "flimsies" that Robin had printed on our website -- I discovered it also recorded the serial numbers of the planes. At first, I didn't pay too much attention to this added information -- until recently.
While "surfing" our 486th's website I discovered that a couple of men in our Group, Art May and Charlie Macgill, had researched the records and created a listing of the planes assigned to our Group -- both B 24's and B 1 7's. And out of curiosity I decided to check up on some of the planes I flew in. This listing also included other interesting information. Such as: the names of some of them that were painted as nose art, the date of its first and last combat mission, the total number of combat missions it flew on, and the fate of each plane (“shot down" -- "transferred to the 2nd Div.", etc.).
Now, the fun began. What follows, is the result:
Model PLANE’S SER. NO. OR NAME
May 8, 1944 (my first combat mission and the second one for the Group).
This is the breakdown of our original crew formed back in the States: Our pilot was Fred Towne, from Memphis, Tennessee (the best). Bernie Fishel, our copilot, was from Brooklyn, N.Y. Joe Gallagher, our navigator, was from Philadelphia, Penn. Our flight engineer, Orville Riddle, and was also the top turret gunner. . Don Hurt was our radioman. Vern Enger was our tail gunner. Charles Swift ("Swifty") was our ball turret gunner. Emil Landi and Dave King were our waist gunners. And I was the bombardier. We thought we were, "the best damn crew in the world".
After completing our, "preparation for combat" (referred to as, "The Phases"), at Davis-Monthan Field, (outside of Tucson, Arizona) we were assigned a brand new B 24 -- flying it to England in March 1 944. We never gave our plane a name, as some crews did. But referred to it as, "Old 639" (the last three digits of the serial number). And we soon became attached to it.
Today's mission was only the second one for our Group. The 833rd had a stand down yesterday and led the Group today. Our target was an airfield outside of Brussels, Belgium and it was our "baptism by fire". No losses today. Now, we had an idea of what