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Group History

A History of the Valesh Crew - Page 2


A History of the "Big Frank" Valesh Crew - Page 2

by John R. "Dick" Johnson


100th BG Photo Archives

Mission No 10 came on Christmas Eve, 1943, and it looked like a Christmas present when they pulled back the curtain and the target was on the French coast. We were to bomb a ski shaped building that was associated with the so called V-1's or buzz bombs. Frank Gregory flew with us as bombardier that day and we liked what we saw. We flew the Boeing built B-17G, s/n 4231412 (“Mason and Dixon”) and the bomb bay was pretty well filled with 300# G.P. bombs.

The mission went pretty much as briefed and was a milk run except for the relatively light flak which was accurate as we were only at 11,700'. We missed the target which wasn't too unusual and we had bomb door trouble again which seemed to be the rule lately. They closed OK but the limit switch apparently failed. This caused the motor to overheat, setting fire to gasoline leaking from a fuel transfer pump. Flames were streaking from the bomb bay completely engulfing the ball turret causing Louis Black to announce in no uncertain terms that he was abandoning the turret. Fire extinguishers would put the fire out for a moment but it would rekindle as soon as you stopped. John Mytko finally pulled the appropriate fuse allowing the motor to cool and the fire to be extinguished. Then the bomb doors flopped open and we couldn't even crank them closed so we landed with them open. We were a bit shaken.

Mission No. 11 started out bad and got worse. The date was 30 December 1943 and the target was Ludwigshafen. We were flying the Lockheed built B-17G, serial No. 4239867. The bomb load was 10 - 500# G.P. bombs. We were assigned the No. 2 position, 2nd element, low squadron and the 100th was the low group in the wing. Not the best place to be when touring Germany!

Take off was at 0831 and at 0942 our element leader aborted so we assumed the lead and an aircraft from the 95th B.G. joined our element. At 1035 the lead PFF aircraft aborted. We were supposed to have fighter escort during the penetration with Spit's at 1100, P-47's at 1128 and P-51's over the target at 1230. None ever showed.

Bombs were away at 1234 and the flak was big, black, heavy and accurate. No results were observed as we were over a 10/10 undercast.

Enroute home the P-47's did show up more or less as briefed and I'm afraid we went to sleep as the Hun came out of the sun. I noted we were "under constant fighter attack -- FW 190's and Bf 109's" from 1325 to 1400. How accurate that log entry was I don't know but it was the only log entry for the period. I recall one B-17 going down with flames streaming from the left life raft storage area but other than that I was rather busy. I do recall the P-47's were still chasing their tails way above us.

We had a large number of machine gun bullets holes in the aircraft but the main damage was a large hole in the leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer that was apparently caused by a 20mm cannon shell. The stabilizer was flopping up and down causing the aircraft to vibrate rather badly so as soon as we hit the enemy coast out we slowed to minimum air speed to ease the vibration. Even then it took the effort of both Valesh and Booth to hold the aircraft steady. I gave Frank a course for the closest point in England and all eyes were peeled for anything resembling an airfield. Someone spotted a field and we landed at 1600 hours at Lympe.

It was a grass RAF fighter base and the C.O. later thanked us for landing on the edge of the field rather than the center as the B-17 did dig some rather deep ruts in the soft turf. After ascertaining there were no wounded aboard, the next inquiry from the RAF was, "Did you get the bloke what done it?" The gunners were taken to the sergeant's mess and the officers to the officer's mess where we were given a stiff drink of whiskey and a call placed to the 100th.

It was quite a place. The mess was some lord's home and the airfield his private golf course, all leased to the RAF for the duration. We were given a tour of the house which included the master suite complete with a "secret" staircase leading to the outside in order that the lord's female guests could come and go without being seen by the servants. The master bath had a huge sunken, black marble tub and the commode had a wicker seat and arm rests. The mess officer offered to loan us 5 pounds as he "knew our intelligence types didn't let us carry money on operations." We gratefully accepted, figuring we would need it in the bar that evening. Then he decided we were not properly dressed for dinner so a hunt was made for suitable clothes. As the RAF could wear civies off duty, I ended up with a brown tweed jacket and green ascot tie to go with my O.D. shirt and trousers and G.I. brogans. I know we tied on one that evening but they refused to accept our money and the fiver was returned intact to the mess officer in the morning.

Frank and John were assigned to one room for the night and Zet and I to the one next door. Just as he and I were getting into bed there was a knock on the door and a little WAAF popped in to inquire as to "what hour we wished to be knocked up in the morning." We were a bit excited for a moment but quickly realized she meant awakened so we told her the same hour as the other Yanks. At the appointed hour she pops in. says, "Good morning sirs, it's 6:00 A.M., here's your tay." Then she grabs our shoes and takes off. We were finished with breakfast before she showed up with our shoes, apologizing for not having any brown boot polish but having done the best she could. Now mine were G.I. brogans that I used only for flying but she had them looking good.

After breakfast we went out to the aircraft to get our gear preparatory to returning to Thorpe Abbotts. For some reason I was late and when I got there the rest of the crew was conducting a guided tour of the aircraft for any of the RAF personnel who were interested. They were going in the rear door and out the nose hatch and Zet was sitting in the nose handing our 3 or 4 linked .50 caliber cartridges to any who wanted them. I heard several of the RAF people refer to the 50's as "bloody cannon." I was looking over the battle damage when I noticed a yellowish liquid dripping out of the machine gun bullet holes in the belly area between the nose hatch and the flight deck. A couple of RAF aircraftsmen noticed it about the same time and remarked, "They must have gotten a hydraulic line." I knew there were no hydraulic lines in the area nor had we had braking problems on landing so I stuck my head in the nose hatch to check the source. Apparently one of the "tourist" had accidentally knocked the flight deck pee can down to the catwalk and the now melted contents were running out. When I pulled my head out to explain, one of the two aircraftsmen had just put his hand out to catch a few drops. He sniffed it, tasted it, and remarked, "No. it's not hydraulic fluid." I just walked away.

We had to take a train to Manston in order to catch the promised flight back to Thorpe Abbotts as Lympe was not suitable for large aircraft. How we paid the fare I do not know. There was no plane when we got to Manston and a call to Thorpe Abbotts revealed they had no intention of sending one. However, there was a B-17 from the 94th B.G. there, sent to pick up one of their crews who had crash landed in the area. They gave us as ride to Bury St. Edmunds. Upon arrival we again called Thorpe Abbotts and after a two hour wait, they finally sent a truck for us.

My 12th mission came on 4 January 1944 and the target was Kiel. We flew the Douglas built B-17F, s/n 423281 (Bob Hughes "Nine Little Yanks and a Jerk") and we drew the #3 position, 2nd element, high squadron.

The run out over the North Sea was pretty much as briefed and about the only thing I noted as going wrong was the left gun of the top turret was inoperative.

We bombed blind at 1219 hours from 26,500' (-44C°), turned off the target, and by 1230 hours the wing was pretty well reformed. My log noted the flak wasn't too bad but at 1300 hours the No. 2 engine lost its oil, either from mechanical failure or flak damage, and the propeller ran away. It refused to feather and John Booth's diary says the tachometer indicated 2,500 to 3,500 rpm all the way back to England.

Zet (Maurice Zetlan) went back to the radio room but I had to stay in the nose to get us home by the shortest route. We were alone as Frank (Frank Valesh) had reduced the I.A.S. to 140 mph in an attempt to reduce the rpm's on the damaged engine. That damned propeller howled like a banshee all the way back to England but somehow the shaft held.

We landed at Leconfield at 1515 hours. Booth's diary said we had 90 gallons of gas when we landed while Carbone's said we had 30 gallons. Either way it was a bit close.

Rocket installations near St. Omer, France, was the target for mission No. 13 on 21 January 1944, and we were flying 867. The bomb load was 12 - 500# G.P. bombs and we were flying in the No. 2 position, 2nd element, high squadron in the 100 "B" Group.

This was a short haul for which I was grateful as both my flux gate compass and free air temperature gauge were out. We found the I.P. ok but could not locate the target even though we made two runs at it. Finally gave up and went home. Some aircraft salvoed their bombs into the English Channel and others, like us, put the pins back and brought them home.

Both my log and John Booth's diary note that the flak as being very heavy and accurate.

Mission No. 14 came on 24 January 1944 and the target was Frankfurt. We were flying 867 in the No.3 position off the group leader who this day was Bob Hughes with Magee Fuller as command pilot. This was another of those deals where you take off in the dark, climb through the muck, and look for the group in the vicinity of Splasher 6.

Zetlan had asked off the crew for personal reasons and this day was flying with A.O. "Four Mile" Drummond while Frank Gregory was flying with us. Shortly after take off we could see an airplane going up in flames on the ground right below us. When the formation was completed, Arch (Lt. A.O. Drummond) wasn't there and we had our suspicions but it wasn't until later that we learned the details. Arch had to dive right after take off to avoid a B-24 and was unable to keep from hitting the ground. Zet was thrown through the nose, apparently breaking his neck and killing him instantly. The rest of the crew survived.

We were recalled shortly before reaching the target and bombed a power plant as a target of opportunity. It was supposedly near Zukunft but cannot verify this as my log for this mission was not returned to me.

It was a slow go home as we were bucking a very strong head wind. For reasons I will never understand the lead aircraft took us directly over an airfield near Ostend. I called Frank and he called the leader. All he got for his pains was a call to shut up by Magee Fuller. We were sitting ducks at 12,000' and a ground speed of about 95 knots courtesy of that head wind. I actually saw the guns go off on the ground (There were four distinct flashes) and a few seconds later there was one hellava jolt. I can still hear Paul Carbone calling on the interphone to say "Roy's gone!" The aircraft nosed up sharply and Frank, fearing a stall and a spin, gave the order to standby to bail out. However, he snapped on the AFCE (automatic pilot) and found he had elevator control by these means. This enabled him to bring the bird back under control and he told us to stick around.

There was no rudder control at all and the elevators answered only to the AFCE. Only the ailerons answered to the stick. Once things were under control Frank called "Mayday" on the emergency channel and two P-47's were right there. I plotted the shortest route to the English coast and Eastchurch was the first airfield we saw. The air sea rescue pilots kept urging us to jump but once they saw we were committed to land they buzzed the field to keep it clear for us. Frank offered us the chance to jump but all hands elected to stay with the aircraft. We did, however, take the precaution of assuming ditching stations during the actual landing. It proved to be an unnecessary precaution as Frank and John combined to grease that thing in.

I cannot remember how we got back to Thorpe Abbotts but we probably had to take the train. We also probably had hangovers as the RAF at Eastchurch were generous with their whisky. By the time we did get back the lead crew had been sent on a 7 day flak leave and we were kept twiddling our thumbs. Just before they were due back we were sent on a similar leave. This kept us apart for almost two weeks which was probably good thinking on the part of the brass as it just may have prevented bloodshed. I guess I have never fully forgiven them in my heart and I'm still sore that Valesh and Booth did not get a medal for bringing that airplane home.

Some interesting sidelights to this story are some of the tales told us by the "trained observers" flying behind us. One said he say Roy's guns go by and Roy's arms were still hanging on to them. Another said he saw Roy's body go by, cut in half at the waist. A few months later we got a postcard from Roy saying he was a POW, but doing ok. He and I still correspond.

In John Booth's diary he notes that he cornered Magee Fuller at the bar when we returned to Thorpe Abbotts and chewed on him for 30 minutes. John admitted he was drunk and that the next day he couldn't even remember doing it.

867 was repaired and flew again, having a long career with the 100th and was returned to the states after VE day. The crew that inherited it from us named her the "Boeing Belle". In talking with members of that crew as well as members of our crew, we have agreed the name "Hang the Expense" was never painted on the aircraft.

Mission No. 15 came on 20 February 1944 and the target was Stettin, Poland. We flew the Douglas built B-17G, s/n 4237936 ("The All American Girl") and were assigned the No. 3 position, 3rd element, high squadron, composite group, which I believe was the 390th B.G. "B" Group. Our bomb load was 10 - 500# G.P. bombs. Take off was at 0805 hours. Art Dehn flew as our bombardier -- we were not impressed.

At 0911 hours I noted my free air temperature gauge was out -- so what else is new. For one reason or another, the group leader was flying very slow and we were having to 'ess' to maintain a safe indicated airspeed.

No friendly fighters were briefed but the Luftwaffe provided plenty of escort. Paul Carbone's diary states he saw every type of fighter in the Luftwaffe and my log bears this out.

Bombs were dropped into the center of Stettin at 1404 hours but we could not see the results. I did note moderate flak and that 4 Bf 110's were in attendance.

At 1424 hours, I noted one B-17 from our formation heading for Sweden but I did not note the serial number. The trip home was a long ride with both oxygen and fuel running low. We landed at 1715 hours and Paul Carbone's diary noted we had about 60 gallons of fuel remaining.

No. 16 was my last mission as Navigator. The date was 21 February 1944, the target was Brunswick, Germany, and we were assigned to the low squadron of the 100th B.G. "A" Group. Once again we were flying 936 and our bomb load was 10 - 500# G.P. bombs.

The mission went pretty much as briefed except we could not identify the primary target and we bombed an enemy airfield as a target of opportunity. Some good hits were observed. There were quite a few Kraut fighters around but our formation was good and our fighter escort was there so no trouble was encountered along those lines.

Our orders for the 482nd B.G, for pathfinder training were dated 22 February 1944 and we made the move on 25 February 1944, Valesh (Lt. Frank E. Valesh), Booth (Lt. John E. Booth), Johnson (Lt. John R. "Dick" Johnson), Dehn (Lt. Arthur E. Dehn), Mytko (T/Sgt John Mytko) and Jordan (T/Sgt Ernest M. Jordan) made the trip. We had mixed emotions about going but by now the entire crew was so flak happy I believe we would have done most anything to get off operations for a while.

We were assigned to the 413th B.S. and John Booth noted in his diary that the base had a very dull club and we had very cold sacks.

Flying as Mickey operator hat its good moments but I wasn't too fond of being cooped up in the radio room with no way to see out. Also, the flak sounded like hail on a tin roof back there while up in the nose all I could hear was propeller noise.

On 28 February 1944 we were assigned a new, radar equipped, Lockheed built, B-17G, s/n 4297560. This a/c had both the name and the red headed girl painted on the nose but there was no number painted after "Hang the Expense."

On 19 March 1944 we were assigned to the 423th B.S., 96th B.G. at Snetterton Heath.

No 17 took place on 23 March 1944 and it was our first mission as part of the PFF. We were alerted at 8:30 P.M. for 10:00 P.M. briefing and we took off for Thorpe Abbotts at 11:30 P.M. where we enjoyed about one hours sleep before being aroused at 3:00 A.M. for 4:00 A.M. briefing.

The target was Brunswick and the Kraut fighters were out in force. Our wing was OK but others were hit hard. We crossed the top of the Ruhr Valley and the flak was thick. John Booth noted in his diary that he saw four (4) B-17's blow up.

Al Franklin (Lt. Albert N. Franklin from the 100th Lucius G. Lacy crew) was assigned to the crew as dead reckoning navigator on 7 April 1944. This was a good lick as up until then the DR navigator had been assigned to the PFF aircraft on a mission to mission basis from the group you were leading that day. While they were normally good navigators, they just weren't part of the crew and sometimes the coordination between him and the Mickey operator was not the best.

We were more than pleased to get Al as he was damned good. Not too sure how Al felt about it.

Mission No. 18 was on 12 April 1944 with Leipzig as the target and we were assigned to fly with the 100th B.G. No record of which a/c but it was probably 560. Most everything was fouled up. Up at 0330 hours for breakfast and briefing and then a two hour delay while the route was changed. Finally off at 0900 hours with the visibility very bad. The Mickey was out before we left England at 13,000'. Ten minutes after crossing the enemy coast we were recalled with instructions to bomb targets of opportunity.

We did make a run on Ostend but could not identify anything positively enough to drop and ended up bringing the bombs home.

Berlin was the target for mission No. 19 on 18 April 1944. We flew with the 95th B.G. and were probably flying 560. At least we got to sleep in as take off was at 1000 hours. The Mickey set was barely operable and visibility over the continent was very bad. We toured Germany and ended up bombing Brandenburg. About this time I was really fed up with the poor performance of our Mickey equipment but it was all we had and the maintenance people were working around the clock in an effort to keep them operable.

Mission No. 20 was on 29 April 1944 and the target was Berlin. We were flying 560 and were assigned along with another PFF aircraft to lead the 385th B.G. A Major Masters was assigned as command pilot and that man couldn't make a decision whether to go to the bathroom or not let alone a decision re the formation. John Booth's diary was a bit more succinct regarding the man.

Neither Mickey set was operating properly so the Mickey operators were unable to give position reports to the DR navigators. In fact the only thing I positively identified all day was Dummer Lake. We were over a solid overcast and got lost. This meant we were out of the bomber stream and without fighter cover. About 100 to 150 Krauts hit us and the losses were heavy. As the fighters got set for their second pass, Frank Valesh asked the command pilot if he wanted to turn into them. When Masters hesitated Frank turned into them on his own. The pilots following us said that probably saved the formation from total extermination. John Booth was manning a nose gun and noted in his diary that he counted eighteen (18) B-17's going down.

I was coming down with something and was so damned sick by the end of the mission I didn't care if I got back or not. Had a temperature of 103°F when we landed which earned me a one day stay in the hospital with what they said was flu.

Mission No. 21 was on 12 May 1944 and the target was an oil refinery near Brux, Czechoslovakia. We were flying in 560 as deputy lead for the 100th B.G. with Randy Chadwick as pilot and Rosenthal (Major Robert Rosenthal) as command pilot. Valesh was grounded at the time with a burst eardrum that had become infected. Take off was at 0818 hours.

The Mickey set was working perfectly but was used for navigational purposes only as the visibility was excellent.

The flak in the target area was light but accurate with one aircraft taking a direct hit. Bombs were away at 1405 hours and good hits were observed.

The trip home was uneventful. We could see Switzerland and it looked good but the engines were running sweetly and the fighter escort was good. Landing was at approximately 1700 hours.

Early in the morning of 19 May 1944 we were sent to Thorpe Abbotts in 560 to lead the 100th on a mission to Berlin. We arrived in the area around 0230 hours but when we called for landing lights, the tower refused saying intruders had been reported in the area. We stooged around a bit keeping all guns manned but saw nothing. Finally the tower agreed to turn on the runway lights for runway ZZ but not the approach lights. Frank was dismayed when he realized this was a short runway as while we had only a light load of fuel, we did have a full load of G.P. bombs plus the usual smoke markers carried by PFF aircraft. It seems they were doing maintenance on the main runway and would not be through for several hours. Frank was on final approach when someone on the ground "helped" by firing a flare which burst immediately in front of the aircraft destroying the night vision of both Valesh and Booth. The flare and the fact that runway ZZ was down hill combined to make us land long and Frank let her roll figuring a tracked vehicle could pull us back on the runway if necessary. Either he forgot about the road back there or didn't know about it but either way, we hit it.

The aircraft was totaled but there was no fire. The first man to reach us didn't ask about anyone being hurt but only if there were bombs aboard. When we told him yes he took off like a striped ass ape and as far as I know, hasn't been seen since. At the rate he was going he may still be walking back. The bombs were not fused.

Three men were hospitalized, Broyles, (S/Sgt Herchel H. Broyles), Carbone and Franklin. Al Franklin was pretty much treated and released. Paul Carbone had a rather nasty cut over his right eye. Bud Broyles back was hurt and while he did finish his tour, he was returned to the states on a stretcher and has a bad back to this day.

This was the second aircraft Frank Valesh cracked up.

Mission No. 22 was on 2 June 1944 and the target was in the Pas de Calais area of France. This was pre D-Day activity and I guess we were doing our best to convince the Krauts the invasion was to be in the Pas de Calais area. Anyway, it sure was nice to get a short milk run. We flew with the 95th B.G.

Mission No. 23 came on 4 June 1944 and once again the target was in the Pas de Calais area. Once again we flew with the 95th B.G. By now we were bombing the French coast area by Mickey if the target was obscured as the intelligence types assured us all the civilians had been evacuated.

Mission No. 24 came on the next day, 5 June 1944, and we flew with the 100th B.G. It was another of those nice, short hauls to the coast of France. The primary target was obscured so we picked a substantial concrete structure as a target of opportunity. The intelligence types told us it was a flak tower/ air raid shelter and was strictly for the use of the Kraut military. We were carrying armor piercing bombs made from rejected sixteen (16) inch naval shells so maybe we did some damage.

By now Art Dehn had been assigned as our regular bombardier and we were not happy. Art was a nice guy but he was not a lead bombardier. Maybe he was scared but that was no excuse as the rest of us weren't scared, we were petrified.

Mission No. 26 came on 6 June 1944, D-Day at last. We flew with the 452nd B.G. and spent all night in briefing -- no sleep at all. For the only time in my experience we had to give a password to get to the aircraft. It was "Pearl Harbor" and when I finally did get to the aircraft, one of the gunners stuck a Thompson sub-machine gun in my belly and said, "Halt, Lt. Johnson, who goes there." He made me give the password too.

We were flying the Lockheed built, radar equipped, B-17G s/n 4297696, and had a Captain McClachlin Hatch as command pilot. Takeoff was at 0300 hours and assembly was slow in the dark. We were over a complete undercast but I could see the channel on the scope of my Mickey set and could scarcely believe it as there were so many ships down there you could hardly see the water. One disconcerting thing was that at our altitude, the shells from the big battleships offshore were passing over us enroute to the target. We could not see the coast so it was planned to bomb blind but it was 0728½ hours when we reached the bomb release point and the troops at that location were scheduled to go ashore at 0725 hours. We closed the doors and brought the bombs home.

An interesting sidelight to the mission was that we had to make all right turns over France as our anti-aircraft gunners had been briefed that any aircraft making a left turn was considered hostile.

Mission No. 26 didn't come until 18 June 1944. Things were in a bit of a mess as we had moved our PFF operations to the 95th B.G. on 10 June 1944. We were assigned to the 335th Squadron. John Booth noted in his diary that our quarters were dark, crowded and dirty but the club was great.

We flew with the 100th B.G. but I have no record of which aircraft we had. Harry Crosby notes in his book that we led the task force on this mission and that he flew with us.

The target was a refinery in the Hannover - Misburg area. The primary was obscured by clouds so we picked a canal lock as a target of opportunity as we had been told that any target dealing with any form of transportation was a good target. The trouble is that Dehn missed it, as usual. Once again we suggested he be replaced but to no avail.

Mission No. 27 was on 21 June 1944. The primary target was the BMW engine works northeast of Berlin at a place called Basdorf as I recall but I cannot find such a place on any of the two maps in my possession. We were probably flying 696 again and we were leading a twelve (12) plane formation of the 390th B.G. There was no command pilot on board. The bomb run was made from northeast to the southwest and we were briefed to continue the run and bomb the center of Berlin visually or by radar if the primary target was obscured.

Clouds covered the target on the first run so we opted to make a 360³ and try again. The target was plainly visible on the second run and Al Franklin kept pointing it out to Dehn but Dehn kept whining that he couldn't see it. After several of us suggested to Al that he shoot Dehn and take over the bomb sight, Dehn not only found the target, he shacked it.

The flak was heavy and accurate on that second run, knocking out the #1 engine, which was feathered and rendering the #3 blower inoperative. How Valesh and Booth held that thing up there for the entire bomb run I'll never know. We made a diving turn to the northwest off the target and our 12 plane formation seemed to be all by itself but about that time the "sweeper" squadron of P-38's showed up and escorted us to the enemy coast out. We loved those P-38's.

About twenty-five (25) miles off the English coast the #3 engine quit altogether and we staggered home on two (2) engines, landing at Seething. We had no brakes and after Frank finally got her stopped, we found we had practically no gasoline. John Booth also found that his parachute had stopped a one inch (1") piece of flak. I honestly believe that Dehn would not have survived that day had he missed the target.

Mission No. 28 came on 8 July 1944 and we were after "Tactical Targets in France." We flew with the 100th B.G. with Colonel John M. Bennett, Jr., as command pilot and we were told we were the only PFF aircraft operating with the 3rd Bomb Division. The aircraft was probably the Lockheed built B-17G, serial No. 4297564, as it was the only PFF aircraft dispatched from the 95th B.G. on that date. I know we were leading the 3rd Bomb Division and I believe we were leading the entire 8th Air Force.

The primary target was obscured so we selected a railroad "Y" as a target of opportunity with each of the three squadrons to bomb a different switch. Col. Bennett was calling "choo - choo" like mad on the radio and someone said he got a medal for leadership that day.

Records indicate the other two squadrons hit their targets but, as usual, Dehn missed his. Later Col. Bennett said he'd see what he could do about getting us a replacement but nothing came of it.

11 July 1944 saw us flying mission No. 29 with the center of the city of Munich as the target. Another of those long hauls. We flew deputy lead with the 100th B.G. with Buck Mason (Captain Floyd H. Mason) as command pilot and we were probably flying 696. We'd flown over to Thorpe Abbotts the night before and the only place they had for us to sleep was a chair in the officers club.

As usual the flak around Munich was thick enough to walk on. The Mickey in the lead aircraft would not function in the bomb mode so we took the lead during the bomb run as my set was working "fairly well." I bombed a very strong return but scope pictures later revealed it was not the center of the town. We never did learn what it was. Switzerland looked good on the way home but the engines purred and we made it without incident.

Mission No. 30 came on 18 July 1944 and the target was a small refinery at Hamminstedt, Denmark. We were flying with the 100th B.G. and were in aircraft 555. We were briefed to bomb by radar if we couldn't see the target which surprised us as we normally were not allowed to bomb blind in occupied countries. If we could not identify the target on radar, were to continue south and bomb Kiel by radar. The target was covered by clouds but was readily identifiable on radar so a blind run was made. There were three (3) groups involved and the smoke markers from each lead aircraft were close together but we never did learn if we hit anything. There were no fighters, friend or foe.

My 31st mission came the following day on 19 July 1944 with Schweinfurt as the target. This was scheduled to be our last mission and we were not enthusiastic about the assigned target. We were flying with the 100th B.G. and we drew the one and only Sammy Barr as command pilot. We were probably flying either 555 or 696. Much to our surprise things went smoothly. It was a visual mission so my only job was to provide fixes upon request. The flak wasn't too bad, our formation good, and the fighter escort efficient. It was my 23rd birthday and I couldn't think of a nicer present.

The weather was good as we crossed the English Channel coming home, so I switched off the Mickey, stored the honey bucket, and just sat there feeling numb. I heard the bomb doors open. I opened the door to the bomb bay and there was Frank Valesh sitting astride the catwalk, peering down intently. He had gathered all the pee cans he could find and was trying to "bomb" the vessels in the Thames Estuary several thousand feet below. He wasn't even close and didn't seem to care for my suggestion that he let Dehn use the bomb sight.

After interrogation the remainder of the original crew (several gunners had finished up and gone home) plus Al Franklin gathered to unwind. Then John Booth remembered two quarts of Old Overholt 100 proof rye whisky he had saved from our original thirteen (13) cases "just in case this day every arrived." Needless to say we got drunk.