Thursday, August 27, 2009

Valentine's Day - 1945

This is the continuation of a story written by S/Sgt Chuck Walter, the armor gunner on my cousin Rufus' B-26. He is recalling the last flight of their crew and what happened to them after they were shot down.

The picture on the left is of me, age five or six and Rufus when he was still in the Aviation Cadet program at an airbase near our home in El Monte California.

At age twenty, Charles “Chuck” Walter became a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He would spend most of the war in a B-26 Marauder as an Armor Gunner attached to the 9th Air Force’s 323rd Bomb Group with the 455th Bombardment Squadron.

The Marauder was a fairly new plane to the Air Force. Ordered as a “twin-engine bomber with great emphasis placed on speed, range and operational altitude,” it was manufactured by the Martin Company. 5,157 planes would be used in the war efforts, including one flown by Jimmy Doolittle in North Africa to prove: “It’s just another airplane. Let’s start it up and play with it.”

The 323rd was first assigned to the 8th Air Force, then transferred to the 9th in October of 1943. In July of 1943 the group began attacking marshalling yards, airdromes, industrial plants, military installations and other targets in France, Belgium and Holland. It then undertook numerous attacks on V-weapon sites along the French coast and attacked airfields, and Leeuwarden and Venlo as part of the Allied campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry from 20-25th February 1944.

FEBRUARY 14, 1945

Flight going well until we encountered heavy flak at about 10:00 A.M. Right engine took heavy hit. We feathered the prop and dropped out of the formation, as we couldn’t maintain speed and position. We started back toward our lines, were met with oncoming flak from the ground. The engine caught fire at about 3500 feet. We did evasive action, trying to avoid getting hit. I was in the tail telling Willie, my pilot, where the shell bursts were, and we would turn away. We weren’t hit again but every time we turned to the dead engine side, we would lose altitude until we were at about 1200 feet.
My pilot rang the “bail out” button and the enlisted men bailed out. I was the farthest away in the tail, but was the second man out. My chute opened and I did one or two swings, being fired at on the way down, having bullet holes in my chute to prove it. I landed real hard on my butt, injuring my back. I also sustained burns from the flames that were coming in the waist window as I bailed out.
The gun crew that was shooting at us picked me up. Their crew chief was a little 5’5” fellow, but he had a P38 pistol pointed at me before I could get to my feet. The radioman, Rouser, was picked up by the regular army and was treated okay. Frank Miller, our engineer, was picked up by the townspeople and was beaten quite badly.
The first 24 hours were the worst because we didn’t know if any of the crew had survived. I was put in a jeep-type vehicle and taken by a private in the German Army to a gathering point. Our planes, fighters, were circling overhead; and every time my captor saw a plane, he would stop and run for the ditch, leaving me in the car. I was sure glad that our fighters didn’t see us. We finally arrived at the outpost where I was thrown in an upstairs bedroom in an old farmhouse, scared to death.
During the next twenty-four hours, planes bombed close enough that as I lay on the floor, I could see the plaster crack above me. The next day we made the outpost where I was joined by my engineer and radioman. While we were there, an ambulance arrived. In it were my pilot, Lt. Rufus Wilson, my co-pilot, 2nd Lt. John Weinstein, and my bombardier, 2nd Lt. James Rudig. Lt Wilson had a broken neck, dying three days later. The co-pilot, Weinstein, had broken bones, but Bombardier Rudig was not injured very much. The three officers had gone down and crash-landed with the plane. The hydraulic system had been shot out, and the doors of the plane would not open. The plane was on fire when it landed and was damaged quite badly.
There was a lot of screaming coming from within the plane when it landed. The rescuers thought that the enlisted men had not gotten out of the plane and were trapped inside by the flames. There may have been some of the enemy on the ground and the plane landed on or trapped them.
The interrogators took our money, anything else they wanted, and one dog tag. We were marched to the next place by one guard—an old soldier in the regular army. As we marched, we met forced laborers from different countries. They told us (sign language) that we would be killed.
We arrived in one town and went to the railroad station. While we were there, a group of townspeople gathered and started yelling. A crowd surrounded us, and we were afraid they were going to hang us. We walked out of the town with our soldier guard following behind. We finally arrived in Wetzler where they took all of our Air Force clothing and issued us plain U.S. Army clothing. Each of us got a long winter coat. We were then sent to Frankfurt on the Main to be questioned.
I was placed in a very small room and asked all kinds of questions about the U.S. Air Force. If we refused to answer questions put to us, the heat was turned up with each refusal. We were told that they didn’t need our answers—they were just trying to verify the information they had. They knew everything. They told me where we were based, the type of plane we flew, the
name of our commanding officer. Since they were getting no answers, they finally gave up and shipped us to Wuerzburg to a camp where we stayed for some time. Wuerzburg was a camp by a small town that held a 20MM gun barrel factory.
Our camp, located on top of a hill, was divided into two parts. One section was for POWs and the other was for the German Army troops. They thought it was a safe location for them, but the British low-level bombers could pinpoint their section and bombed the German part of the camp without touching our section. Every morning, weather permitting, our 26s would come in and bomb their factories. All of the townspeople would race up the hill to our camp for protection.
It was while we were in this camp that we first saw their jet fighters. We saw one of our planes attacked and shot down by their jets. Only three of the crew parachuted.
We arrived in Nuremberg and walked by the station and on to camp. At one time while we were there, the city was under siege for an entire day. The British Air Force took over where the Americans left off and bombed the city the entire night. The next morning there were a lot of new members in our POW camp—mostly British.
At times the British were firebombing. During those raids the Germans would attack the British planes in their night fighters. A direct hit on the incendiary-laden British planes lighted the skies for miles around.
Our Army was now moving in for the kill, so the Germans began moving us out of there to keep our troops from releasing us. There were many thousands of us on the road. The Americans were first in ranks. The British were next. I don’t recall how the remaining POW’s were lined up.
We walked seventeen days, arriving at Moosburg. During the march, we were kept alive by the Red Cross rations that were passed out to us—one package per three prisoners. The food didn’t always serve the whole formation. The captors did feed us at times, but the rations were very poor. But we were hungry so the bugs in the bean soup went unnoticed.
En route we would pass through small towns. If we spent the night, there was a ring of soldiers with guard dogs stationed around us. In the morning the dogs would get us out of hiding. I was the cook, my engineer was the fireman and the radioman was the thief. That radioman could steal an egg from under an old hen without her ever realizing it was gone. We slept in a barn one night and explored and found the farmer had hidden some wheat behind and under the hay. When we left, we had our socks and pockets full of grain. We traded for a coffee grinder and ground our wheat—almost like Cream of Wheat.
We slept one night in a shed of pine boughs. We discovered that the boughs covered ice and the “ice house” was a storage place for the farmer’s potatoes. I spent the night with a stick spearing potatoes. We had all we could carry when we left the next day.
One day while on march, we were going under a train trestle and some P47s dive-bombed it and strafed it while we were under it. Some of our POWs were killed but the planes had cameras synchronized with their guns. When they returned to base and studied the films, they discovered that they were attacking some POWs. From that point on, while we were on the march, we were put to bed every night and awakened every morning by a P51. He would fly beside us on a road fill, wave and smile and give us the ol’ “Thumbs Up”. Each time we stopped to rest, we marked our campsite with a ground sign, “POW”, made of toilet paper. We finally reached Moosburg, staying there some time before we were liberated.
On April 29th 1945 General George Patton overran our camp, releasing us. Our first act was to look for something to cat. We went down the road to a farmhouse, confiscated some tame rabbits and on the way back to camp, picked up some chickens—really traded for them. We took the chickens but left the rabbits in their place.
We were flown out of Germany, then taken by train to Reims, France, on May 8th 1945, the very day the Germans were signing their surrender. We were taken to Camp Lucky Strike near Le Harve, France. After four weeks we boarded the ship, Monticello, for our journey back to the States. The time at Lucky Strike was spent sleeping, eating and getting our strength back.

Memories of War: “I’ll Bring Her In”

This blog entry is about my cousin, Rufus Wilson, 1/LT, United States Army Air Force. The text was written by S/Sgt. Charles H. Walter, U.S. Army Air Corp, 9th Air Force, 323rd Bomb Group 455th Bombardier Squadron. I will conclude the story tomorrow with part two. See the entry on Monday, May 25, 2009 for some background.

Coming back from a mission, we were waiting to land but did not know our nose wheel would not come down. After discovering our problem, we talked to our Commanding Officer and decided that the crew would stay with the plane. We circled until our ship was the last plane aloft. We tried to lower the nose wheel but after opening the hatch, we found the hydraulic line was ruptured and was spewing fluid all over and inside the cockpit. The windows were covered and the pilot could not see out.
Pilot “Willie” opened the side window and “flew her in.” While in the air, the crew decided to go to the rear of the plane to keep the weight far back to help keep the nose of the ship off the ground as long as possible. We would be landing at 130 miles per hour.
I was sitting with my butt behind the bulkhead - my radioman between my legs. We had hardly touched down when he freed himself and jumped out of the waist window. The last I saw of him he was rolling down the runway. I thought he would surely be killed. He survived with not even a broken bone. We landed with a full bomb load. I had to go back and deactivate the bombs before we landed. We continued down the runway to the end and nosed it in.
All of this was being watched and recorded by Associated Press. The crew was later interviewed and the following appeared in the Stars & Stripes.
“Sergeant Walter had very little to say about his recent narrow escape when a crippled bomber came back to the base with the bomb bays still loaded. The bombs had not been released because of the danger to Allied soldiers near the bomb target. Sergeant Walter enclosed the following clipping from the Stars & Stripes the newspaper for men overseas; which gives an account of the perilous flight: ‘Don’t worry. I’ll bring her in all right,’ Lieutenant Rufus Wilson, 23 year-old Marauder pilot from Corsicana, Tex., radioed the control tower as his plane, its nose shell shot away, circled the field with a full crew and full bomb load.
“Colonel Wilson R. Wood, of Chico, Tex., group commander, approved the crew’s decision to stay aboard and suggested that the explosives be left aboard to hold the tail down. Wilson brought the plane down on its two main wheels and for two- thirds the length of the runway he kept both the tail and nose off the ground. Unable to apply the brakes because of the danger of the ship nosing over, Wilson rode the screeching Marauder off the end of the runway. The nose dipped and propeller hit turf but the plane didn’t tip over.
“Crew members included Lieutenant James Rudig, South Bend, Ind., bombardier; Staff Sergeant Frank Miller, Atlantic City, N. J., engineer; Sergeant Charles Walter, Knoxville, Iowa, tail gunner; Lieutenant Louis Carrington, Houston, Tex., co-pilot, and Sergeant Martin Terrell, Little Rock, Ark., radio operator.”

December 26th
Going to briefing early the 26th. Weather clear and cold. We had already flown 3 missions in 3 days and this would be our second of the day. In the briefing room, we were informed of our second mission of the day. They informed us the target would be heavily defended with 99 guns. There were 52 ships - 3 boxes of 18. Our flight failed to release our bombs on the first run so made a second pass. Lt. Fox and crew were flying Mission Belle on her 149 mission. He was flying on our left wing when the plane was hit by flak and exploded, going down. No survivors.
Lt. Fox was a very good friend of mine. We were also hit and thrown out of control and out of formation, but my pilot regained control. We returned to formation and dropped our load on target., On our way back to the base, I roamed the plane and picked up two handfuls of flak. Luckily, no one was hit. After landing, I counted the flak holes for a total of 129. For this mission my pilot, Lt. Wilson, received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the 323rd Group received the Group Citation.

On his copy of his pilot’s “Flying Cross” memorandum, Chuck wrote: “At this time of this award, Lt. Wilson was missing in action. His plane had been shot down in a raid. His crew were taken prisoners. Lt. Wilson sustained fatal injuries in this crash and died three days later. The crew remained prisoners until the end of the war. Lt. Wilson’s body was returned home in 1950.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Fly In A Coffee Cup

What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Italian throws the cup and walks away in a fit of rage.

The Frenchman takes out the fly and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Russian drinks the coffee with the fly, as it was included at no extra charge.

The Israeli sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, buys himself a new cup of coffee, uses the extra money to invent a device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian blames Israel for the fly falling into his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee, but uses the money to purchase explosives, and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, the Chinese and the Russian are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he should give away his cup of coffee to the Palestinian.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's Wrong WIth Us?

What has happened to our country? Why do we have a president who is unqualified? His resumé includes instructing in the socialist tactic (community organizer, a la Saul Alinsky). His socialist backing goes back at least to 1996, when he received the endorsement of the Chicago branch of the Democratic Socialists of America [which describes itself as the largest socialist organization in the United States and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International] for an Illinois state senate seat.

Why do we have a president who is a racist? Obama -- along with such notables as Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright -- helped organize the October 1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC, which featuredNation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Said Obama in the immediate aftermath of the March:

"What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society…. Historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldn't care less about the profound problems African-Americans are facing."

In this century, we are experiencing a sequence of human behavior which not only affects nations, but churches, businesses and other long term entities where founding generations pass on, replaced by those who are unaware of the sacrifices of their progenitors.

A certain zeal and a willingness to sacrifice one's self for a movement or activity characterizes the founders. They are replaced by those who saw from a safe place the formation of the institution; then come those who have only heard about the fight. They develop a certain apathy about it, they are in turn succeeded by a generation whose main characteristic is some sense of entitlement. We are seeing a generation coming up whose whole world view is characterized by "me first". All you have to do is read about what goes on on the college campus. You can see how dissenters from the "new norms" are treated with rudeness and even violence.

Thank God there are men and women who have not been deceived. They are the remnant which will restore the Republic.

Alexis de Tocqueville accurately described the dilemma which now faces our beloved Nation, "The Christian nations of our age seem to me to present a most alarming spectacle; the impulse which is bearing them along is so strong that it cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so rapid that it cannot be guided: their fate is in their hands; yet a little while and it may be no longer."

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Must Read, honest!

If you have a minute left in your day, take time to read my friend's commentary and send it on to folks who love this Nation.

It is important that people understand what's happening. I am not one to go off half cocked, I am methodical and thorough. I believe the Alan Caruba has put our situation down in an understandable way. Please read it as a favor to me.