Two 50 caliber guns, in an unpressurized cabin that is cold, smells like a latrine with a War War Two B-24 bomber plane filled with other young nervous army airmen. The 15th Army Air Force, the 882nd Bombardment wing and the entire country behind you raising victory gardens, sending daily mail, praying morning, noon and night you all made it home safely after each bomb run.
Dad was stationed in Italy, lived in a tent with a heater and waited to learn if the weather was favorable for a bomb run the next day. Morning briefings on the primary target, secondary missions and reminded what to do if shot down over enemy lines. Being outside the wire…way way outside and in the air dodging highly accurate German 88 anti aircraft guns. The smell of cordite in the air, the plane vibrating from the percussion blasts. Fear of shrapnel always on your mind.
The US Army Air Force issued each member of the B 24 flight crew a survival kit. Filled with a chocolate bar, a map, silk thread, an ampule of morphine, a prayer and some blue seal silver certificate currency. To “buy your way out” and in case the enemy sympathizers questioned the value behind those dead presidents on the green currency you carried. Just in case.
On Memorial Day, and every day I think of how Dad squeezed back in to this very small compartment. On a mission of destruction. To kill or be killed. He wanted to be a pilot but Uncle Sam had all of those fly boys it needed.
Dad was slight, skinny and wirery enough to be the perfect fit back in the tail of a B-24 bomber aircraft.
Removed from the rest of the crew of waist gunners, bombardier, ball turret, radio man, pilot and co pilot. Tied with intercom plane communications but observing radio silence at the P-51 Mustangs, your “little friends” bugged out of the escort, dog fighting to get your closer to your target. As you entered the IP zone, the place where one by one the planes in your squadron, flight group would open the bomb bay doors, having pulled the pins on the variety of bombs to be used in today’s excercise to win the war. Stop the war.
On Memorial Day, I honor guys like my dad, his flight crew, my two brothers that were in the service and all veterans. Dead, alive, maimed. Many gave some. Some gave all. God bless America and the freedoms we have, fought for, preserve as the greatest country on the planet. Was being a tail gunner dangerous? Dad always said the ball turret, under the plane had the worse position. Your landing gear gets shot out, the hydraulics worthless and you can not sometimes put the landing gear down manually. The life expectancy of that ball turret airman had way way lower odds of survival on his life insurance policy.