Personal Accounts

Anglo-American Relations 1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM

How a relatively small island like the U.K. could have accommodated the overwhelming hordes of outsiders so gracefully in WW II is beyond my understanding. And we have even continued to be "best friends" ever since. There were, of course, points of disagreement and friction, but they were worked out, as friends do, amicably, with good grace and humor.

One well worn quip concerned the Briton's reply to the American who asked, "What do you British think of us Americans?" The answer, "Well, you're overpaid, over-confident, over-sexed, and over here." Americans enjoyed that one as much as the British did.

"Lend-lease" was an apt title for a logical exchange of overages and shortages. The British had brussel sprouts, Scotch, fog, land, communications, military intelligence, transport, rescue services, bicycles, and fresh food, for example. We had manpower, production facilities, raw materials, bourbon, shipping, and (much to British disgust) peanut butter and Spam. So both sides provided what they could for the war effort. Both had goodwill, and shared it generously.

Our British neighbors welcomed us into their homes, but their tightly rationed food supplies made dinner invitations embarrassing to our friendly hosts. So the American policy from on high was that when we received an invitation to share a meal with our neighbors, we would take along food from our messes, as hostess gifts.

by Brig. General H.W. Bowman
401st B.G.(H) Commanding Officer

A Trip on the "Paris Express" 11/29/1944 12:00:00 AM

I was invited to be radio operator on a flight to Paris. It did not take me very long to accept the invitation. Others on the crew were: "Jumbo" White, Ralph Dempsey, Rufe Causey, Harold Kuenning, Bill Dolan, Russ Newman, John Studeny, Cloyd Sellers and Mac McDevitt. There was one passenger aboard, Harold Bowman.

There had been a number of rumors concerning Colonel Bowman's call to Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe. After we took off and I was settled in the radio operator's seat, Colonel Bowman came into the room and sat on the floor next to me. I offered him my seat, but he refused saying that I had a job to do and should be in the seat. We had a very interesting chat on the way to France. I asked him if he thought that he would be transferred. He answered that he hoped to talk General Spaatz into allowing him to stay with the 40lst. I wished him good luck and said that we all hoped he could stay with us.

by Captain G.I. Blumenthal
Communications Officer

A Crew Gets Together 1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM

I came to Great Falls, Montana from the class of 43-D Pilots. I was assigned as a co-pilot to a Lt. Stann, who was on vacation at that time. Major Brown took me up for a check ride. It was a beautiful night; you could almost touch the stars. After the usual procedures, Major Brown proceeded to show me how to do a "chandel" in a B-17. What a thrill! It wasn't long before he introduced me to a pilot who was floating around Great Falls with no crew. His name was Bill Riegler. We were assigned to the 613th Squadron and sent to Cutbank. Our navigator was a big Swede by the name of Einer Anderson. He was built like a brick - you know what, and I would have hated to have skated against him in a hockey game. Andy, Bill and I were joined by a hotshot bombardier who outranked us. He had seen action in the Pacific, and was rumored to have sunk a Jap ship without a bombsight. We were quite awed by this burly Texan who acted like a typical Army Sergeant. His name was Durward W. Fesmire. We just called him "Fes". That's how we got together at Great Falls.

by 2nd Lt. Tom R. Cushman
613th Bomb Squadron, Co-pilot

A View from the Top Turret (Oral History) 8/19/2004 12:00:00 AM

My name is Beattie B Dickson and my crew position was Engineer, Top Turret Gunner.
War can often turn even the most beautiful day very deadly in the blink of an eye. Case in point, on March 18th, 1945 we were flying a mission to Berlin. The day was clear and the sky was almost cloudless. Being in the Top Turret gave you the best view of the formation. In the Top Turret you could not see the ground but you had the best view of everything else. In fact I think it was the best position on the plane. One of the things I liked to do was to swing the turret around and look out the back at the contrails streaming out behind the formation. On this mission to Berlin I was doing that when I happened to see the wing tip disappear from one of the planes in our group. I then saw other indications that the group was taking hits. I said what’s going on here? There were no German planes to be seen and the other gunners were not reporting any incoming fighters either. By this time in the war I knew what flack looked like and the damage that was taking place to our group had to be coming from enemy fighters. So where were they? At this point I figured out that they had to be hiding in the same contrails that I had been enjoying moments before. So I turned the turret around and sure enough back behind the group were two German Jet fighters firing big anti tank guns at the group. I gave them a short burst and they knew the game was up so they hit the go button and off they went in a flash. From that day on I never let myself lose concentration like that again, however I can still see those majestic contrails in my mind.

by Beattie B. Dickson
Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

The Radio Operator's Mission 8/20/2004 12:00:00 AM

My Name is Harold M Mauldin and my crew position was Radioman.
My primary role was to send and receive messages via Morse code. On the day of a mission we went to special briefings where we received the code for the day. Depending on the days mission, which could last up to 13 hours depending on how deep the target was, we had to listen for incoming message traffic the whole time. As I think back on it, I know that even in the heat of battle I was able to block out all the outside commotion as I concentrated on receiving messages and keeping the message log. I some how, like other radiomen, had the ability to just block out all the noise and focus on my job. Even to this day I sometimes wake up hearing dot-dash signals in my ears. I think this is due in part to the stress of battle and the long hours of concentration required in the radioman’s job. Each mission was different with most being filled with hours of mainly dealing with the cold and listening to music which often turned into short periods of intense message traffic and the associated sounds and feel of battle all around. It was like that on most missions, going from near boredom to fighting for your life in a mater of seconds.

by Harold M. Mauldin (Oral History)
Radio Operator