On February 14, 1945, we had bombed our target and
were on our way home. I was flying co-pilot on the low left lead
airplane (353rd squadron of the 301st group of the 15th Air Force).
I was looking at the "Tail End Charley" plane in the lead
squadron (419th squadron), which wasn't too far ahead of and above
us, when it took a direct hit in the waist. I had been taking pictures
of the flack, so I hurried up and took a picture of the plane as
it dropped down--probably 20 to 30 seconds after the hit.
||Picture taken by 1st Lt. Dwight Olson seconds
after the aircraft was hit by enemy fire
The plane--#46259--dropped down below us, and the pilot or co-pilot
called for anyone who could give him a report on his damages. He
said he had no communication with the crew, so he couldn't even
tell them to bail out! I told him of the damage and warned him to
stay with the plane, because our intelligence had told us we would
be killed if we bailed out in this area! Lt. Butts flew the plane
(about 400 miles, as I recollect) back to Italy and landed it at
Foggia Main Airstrip.
I later found that the tail gunner (this was his first raid) was
Bob Chandler, and he shed some light on what happened. After they
were hit, he was unconscious from lack of oxygen until they were
over the Adriatic Sea. When he came to, he crawled forward and found
the hole in the waist and asked the guys who were huddled near the
radio room to give him a hand across the hole. The other fellows
were afraid of being sucked out, so he went back and put his parachute
on and then managed to get across the hole on his own. He saw Robert
Koch, the waist gunner (his first mission, also) who had been killed
in the attack, lying forward of the hole.
Nine of the ten men survived. Even the other waist gunner--who was
only six or more feet away from the gunner who was killed--survived
without getting hurt.
Pictures taken by AF--
Hole in the waist
of the plane
The nine survivors