C. E. Wilson Story – 21 Missions on a B-17
From Camden News – Camden, Arkansas – Friday April 9th, 1993
Part of Charlie Wilson’s past flashed before his eyes Thursday – twice. Then it landed and parked right in front of him. The B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine -O – Nine made two passes over the Camden Municipal Airport before rolling up to the crowd and VFW color guard on hand to greet it at the terminal.
Wilson and the crowd had to exercise a little patience. Thanks to bad weather in Hattiesburg, Miss., “hurry up and wait” was the order of the day. Due in about 3 p.m. the “Nine-O – Nine” was about two hours late. Spectators young and old had been sitting at the controls and aiming it’s 50-caliber machine guns for about 45 minutes when the B-17’s traveling companion, the B-24 Liberator “All American,” came in.
Camden was the first of three stops in Arkansas for the two World War II bombers. The planes were scheduled to leave at 2 p.m. today for stops in Hot Springs and Fort Smith as part of a nationwide tour of about 125 cities. The “Nine -O – Nine” flew 140 combat missions out of England. That included 18 trips to Berlin. Wilson made three raids on Berlin out of England as a Tail Gunner on “Boss Lady.” It was one of the ships in the 8th Air Force’s 350thSquadron, 100th Bomb Group – the “Bloody Hundredth.”
His fourth raid on Berlin ended about 31,500 feet up some 100 miles south of the city when a German fighter shot “Boss Lady” down. “We were on out way over,” he said. “we still had our bombs on.” The fighter made a head-on attack so Wilson, in the tail, never saw it.
“There was a small door in the side of the plane near my position where I was supposed to bail out,” he said. “I looked at it and decided me and my parachute couldn’t fit through it.” He went forward and jumped out the main hatch along with four more crew members. The other four men in the crew, whose positions were in the front of the plane. Didn’t survive. “The only guy up forward who survived was the co-pilot, “ Wilson said. “I imagine the pilot told him to jump while he held the plane steady.” That was in September 1944 – four months after the crew had flown to England to begin combat duty. It was the 21st raid for the 19 year old – his third after recovering from wounds he suffered on the 18th mission when his plane was hit by ground fire. The five crew member spent the next nine mouths as prisoners of war. They were freed by British ground forces in April 1945.
Wilson returned to Camden and a career in the U.S. Postal Service. He is retired now and is the only known surviving member of his crew