Dear Bob,

Received your letter this morning, and am going to answer P.D.Q. In your first letter, the one I mislayed, you asked all about my past in the army. Well to begin with:-

The last time I saw you was in dear old Santa Ana, Calif. From there, as you already know, I went to Tulare, Chico, and finally graduated at Stockton. From there I went to Hobbs, New Mexico, where I flunked out of transition school for B-17's. I was to go to a P-51 school, when there became a shortage of co-pilots in B-17's, and I was sent as a replacement. I was sent to Pyote, Texas where on 21 May 1944, I was assigned to Flight A Combat Crew #3937, which to me turned out to be one of the best crews in combat. Yes, we started out with 10 men and in a few short exciting months we had dwindled to 6 men.

To give you some idea what happened in these exciting months, come with me as we leave Pyote for combat. On 22 May 1944 you board a train for Kearney, Neb. where you as an important link in crew 3937, will pick up a new, shiny B-17 and fly it to Europe. You're excited all the way to Kearney you can't sleep. Then finally you are at the field. Row on row of shiny new 17's are lined up at the east side of the field. One of these ships is yours. It seems hours before you find out. Then your crew number is called out, and you get your ship. That night at 2400 o'clock you taxi out on the runway and take off for the East coast. On the trip over that night, we ran thru 2 thunderstorms which makes us glad to land at our P.O.E. base. We are layed up 5 days for electrical repairs. (Damage done during the thunderstorms.) Then on June 7, 1944, one day after "D-Day" we left for Labrador [Goose Bay ?]. After a couple days at this base, we received clearance, and at 9 o'clock at night we took off across the ocean. It was a wonderful trip, and after a short (it seemed) ride we landed at Valley, Wales. There we were sent to school for two weeks, and finally assigned to 379th. Bombardment Group, 525th. Sqd. From then on things happened fast.

Our group is located at Kimbolton, 60 miles N/W of London. Three days after we arrived at A.P.O. 557 (our field) we are awakened at one o'clock in the morning, and are told to get ready for our first mission. Well this is it. This is what you've been trained for. This will tell if you really know what you're doing, or just think you now. You poke your head out of your barrack. It's a warm, foggy night. Black as the ace of spades. You and the rest of the crew ride up to the briefing room in an open GI truck. At last, you'll find where the first mission you've ever flown is to be located. The map is unveiled, and the C.O. points out "Munich". Everyone whistles. After briefing, you pick up your guns, parachutes, flak suits and escape kits, and ride out to your assigned ship. You have been given, on your first trip, a battle-weary 17. This ship, "Wish Bone", has 90 missions to its credit already. Soon the engines, all over the field, come to life. You taxi out to your position and wait for the all clear signal. There it is ! You gun the engines, and after taking up all the runway, you're in the air. Germany here we come. The mile and the hours drift along slowly. You've been on oxygen for 4 hours. The altimeter shows 27,000 ft. Your collar on your flying suit is frozen stiff from sweat. It's 60 degrees below zero and you're sitting there sweating up a storm. To the right of you is a burst of flak. It looks like someone threw a bottle of ink against the clouds and the bottle broke. You keep thinking that the "jerrys" couldn't hit a barn door 10 feet away from them. Oh well! This at least makes you feel better. The clouds start to close in on us. The signal comes "Open 'Bomb Bay' doors." The clouds are getting thick. You're still in formation, but you can't see a thing. Suddenly a break in the clouds allow you to look out. Above us, 50 feet away, a 17 has his bomb doors open. You look up at six 500 lb. bombs. You "cut" all four engines at once. Things happen fast. Your plane slows down, the bombadier yells "Bombs away", and the ship above drops his bombs also. They miss you by scant inches. You seem to have a million butterflies in your stomach. You and the pilot (Plane Commander) are the only ones who see this little episode. You head back toward home. Things are dull for the rest of the journey. Later at the field you laugh about this trip.

Each mission has its own thrills, scares, cold feet, hungry spells, etc. After our first mission the others come fast and furious. You will always remember such names as Peenemunde, Munster, Ludwigshafen, Stralsund, St.Lo, Hanover, Schweinfurt, Merseberg - where fighters shot down 30 out of your 36 ship formation, Rouen - where your two wing men blew up over the target, and Cologne - where you were shot down. Yes, the names and come and go before your mind's eye like an old movie or a dream. But you'll never forget that 25th. day of October in 1944 when you finally got hit (your ship, that is).

We had been hit before, but nothing serious. This Sunday our target was Cologne -the heart of the Ruhr valley. When you take off -in your new ship- you have a feeling of impending danger. You've always had this feeling but today it seems more real. The Commander changes seats with you on this trip and it's lucky for you that he did, for he got the flak that had your name on it. You're at 28,000 feet when a burst of flak hits your #4 engine. As you reach for your feathering button, another shell explodes in the cockpit. It kills your engineer outright and badly wounds your Commander. Then before you can recover, another burst knocks out your #2 main gas tanks. The ship is flooded by gasoline, but it doesn't catch fire. This all happens at "bombs away" and took only 25 seconds more or less. Another burst hits your control wires. You don't know this until sometime later. Your ship drops out of formation and you're going down into enemy territory. You and you alone are responsible for your crew now. You order everything that's not fastened down to be thrown overboard. This includes guns, ammunition, spare radio parts, flak suits, etc. Two engines gone, gasoline leaking like the dickens, and your altitude at 14,000 feet and dropping all the time. Finally we saw an emergency landing field in Belgium. We were now at 2000 feet and holding our altitude fair. After landing, we find out that the British had chased the Germans from this field 3 days before our landing. The front lines were 30 miles away. You then find out that you had flown back with your control wires shot away in different sections. No wonder the ship flew bad. After 7 days you finally get flown back to your base in another ship. You fly two more missions and after a brief rest you leave for the good old U.S.A. via ship. Yes, your combat tour is over and you're on your way home without a scratch. One crew member in the hospital and two who will never come home. You lay on deck and watch the sea gulls slowly disappear, thinking about London, Brussels, your crew members, home and your gal. You suddenly realize that you flew 35 missions in 71 days besides spending 7 days in Belgium, and the best part of it is you'll be home for Christmas. Things sure can happen fast in a few months. The only things you have to show for it is a piece of paper, the Air Medal awarded three times and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Yes, a few pieces of metal but oh what memories.

Well, Bob, there's my story you asked for and got stuck with. Ha! Ha! I got married the 3rd. week I was home and after spending a few more months in Texas, our field closed down and I was released from duty. We came home, and after working at the [Aberdeen] Proving Grounds, I was layed off and took another job with a fire insurance company as an inspector. Which brings me up to the present time.

Your pal,