Wars are not humorous or funny. Wars are fought between nations who are trying to impose their will upon others. But, as in all wars, they are fought by human beings who, in the course of events, can do or say things which were deadly serious at the time. Upon later reflection we see that what happens in war can be seen as very humorous.
Vo ist mine milch (Where is my milk)?
Les Davis of Tucson, AZ told me this short story. Les, I hope I recall it correctly.
Enroute to be a part of the 15th Air Force, Les's crew stopped at an airfield in the US where they had German POW's as waiters in the mess hall. There was one POW for every 2 tables (8 to a table). Both the pilot (1Lt Aufderheide) and copilot (2Lt Mannbeck) for his plane were of German descent and spoke German fluently. The pilot asked for another glass of milk and didn't like the short glass poured for him by the waiter. In his best Berlin dialect, he raked the POW over the coals. Needless to say, the POW snapped to. At the next meal, they had 3 waiters just for their table. Talk about service! It did not go unnoticed by people at the senior officer's table. Les was approached after dinner by a man in civilian clothes telling him to report to HQ. There 2 FBI agents questioned him about his flight crew. Seems there was a rumor of an English-speaking German flight crew on base to smuggle out key POW's. All this fuss over a glass of milk!
No chute, but he didn't lose the Axe
The following copy of a newspaper article was submitted by Aaron Weiss:
Flier Dangling From Bomber Pulls Self Back In With One Hand
A LIBERATOR BASE, May 19 (AP) -- Without a parachute, Lt. Edward M. Gibbens, of Mountain Home, Idaho, hung precariously by one hand in the open belly of a bomber high over the (English) Channel for almost five minutes, then pulled himself back to safety.
Gibbens, bombardier on the (B-24) Liberator 'Sweating It Out' fell out on the way home from a recent raid, after "chopping" bombs off the damaged racks with an axe.
The bomber ran into terrific flak over a French airfield, and was shot up so badly that the bombs wouldn't go down. It had 87 flak holes in the framework, all four engines were damaged, and the hydraulic system was shout out, meaning no brakes and an inevitable explosion in the even of a crash-landing.
While the pilot, Lt. Robert T. Hall, of Waynetown, Ind., struggled to keep the plane up, Gibbens shed his parachute, took the crash axe and squeezed into the narrow catwalk to knock the bombs loose. The first one burst the bomb bay doors open wide.
Bracing himself against a 100-mile gale (wind), Gibbens hacked the rest free one by one. As the last one (bomb) came free, Gibbens' slipped on the catwalk, slippery with hydraulic fluid. He grabbed the bomb rack with one hand, holding the axe in the other. One slip of his fingers meant he'd go hurtling thousands of feet to death in the Channel.
Slowly he pulled himself back up where he could regain his footing. Realizing he'd accomplished the feat with one hand, Gibbens' first words were ......."And I didn't lose the axe."
A blind navigator
Dick Gelvin (Lead Navigator with the 700th) sent me this email. (June 6, 2001 - D-Day + 57 Years):
Just occurred to me that 57 years ago today I participated in the Invasion of Europe on my very first combat mission! Had my flak helmet pulled down so for over my face, I couldn't see much however!
Gilbert Shawn (Pilot with the 703rd) sent in the following account of his being shot down 12 April 1944 and how he evaded:
"I was flying a mission which was recalled on April 12, 1944 going to Zwickau, Germany. We were intercepted by a bunch of the Luftwaffe as we turned to head back. We were badly hit; two engines out, fire in the waist, etc when I signaled bailout. I finally left [the plane] at 5,000 feet, landing in Belgium near Perwez. I was immediately signaled by a man and told to follow him. Unfortunately, I broke my leg in landing. Mr. George Flabat secured a bicycle and pushed me a long way into the woods. He was in a hurry to get going as this was about 1:30 in the afternoon. He asked me (in French) 'What is your name?'...it seems he wanted recognition to aid me, to find me and continue this rescue."
"Well, I gave him my name and rank. This was NO! NO! I understood...and he pointed at me and said 'Vouse President Roosevelt'. He asked me again and I repeated my name and rank. It took me a minute to realize I was to be 'President Roosevelt' by code. It was arranged that he would call out the name when he felt it was safe which would be sometime that night. He left and I was alone until about 3:00 AM that night when I heard the echoing call 'President Roosevelt...President Roosevelt'. I hurriedly answered and they came and I was rescued."
Note: Gilbert mentioned that the Belgium underground hid him and other downed flyers for 6 months until they could be turned over to Allied Forces. Thanks to their [Belgium] bravery and sacrifice, he and others made it home after the war.
Designated Driver Needed
The following event was told by Gunner S/Sgt Garland L. Brown of the 700th to his son, Danny Brown.
"On a mission early in the war, before they had fighter escorts to Germany and back, they lost an engine going into Germany and lost another engine coming out. They could not stay with the formation and had to drop back. For 20 minutes they were in combat with German fighters … trying to bring them down.
They were calling for help. American fighters came to their rescue and got the Germans fighters off them. The plane had a lot of battle damage and was leaking fuel. With only two engines, the pilot asked the crew what they wanted to do. They could bail out and risk enemy capture or try to make it across the English Channel. They all agreed to try for home.
They were well aware of a B-24s reputation for water landings. They made the English coast. The B-24 was too low to bail out. They slid the plane into the first open field. They all got out without any serious injuries. Dad said the plane broke in 3 pieces. He had actually walked out of the tail section. The crew made it to a local pub where they waited for someone from the base to pick them up. I am sure they needed a designated driver by the time they were picked up."