2nd Lt. Tony Pecyk was a copilot on the David W. Wood crew. The following diary was submitted by his daughter, Doris MacLean on March 28, 2002.
24 Nov 1944
Today we had our first taste of flying in England. It was rather cloudy but they seemed to think it ok for flying.
We got off to a bad start. The squadron yanked us out of class and told us we ere going to fly. What a mess it was – everybody running around groping in the dark like a person who just lost his sight. Our enlisted men and the officers, including myself, were befuddled and annoyed because we weren’t orientated to their SOP (Standard Operational Procedures).
The predicament we were in amused me – 10 men hurrying and scurrying – instructor pilot, Geller, raising hell because our gunners didn’t have their guns in their respective receivers – Geller giving instructions to Wood – intermittently shouting other orders to some one else. In the meantime the boys started their taxiing – airplanes going by to signify to us we had better step on it since we didn’t have our engines started. It all was a rather mixed-up affair – no smooth running crew.
We finally got off the ground – yup, last one – and joined our formation at 11,000 ft over the North Sea. We had no. 6 position, second element of lead squadron.
Coming home the field was socked in (the clouds rolled in and cut our visibility to 1 mile and our ceiling to 500 ft) so we went out to sea and came down through a break in the clouds. We got under the overcast and started for home. Wow, what weather – what mental strain. Visibility poor – flying formation about 200 feet off the ground – no safety margin to speak of and about 36 planes trying to get into the field at once.
It it weren’t for the British system of marking their fields, I doubt very much if a third of the airplanes would have gotten home. Radar was the biggest aid in finding our field and the lighting of the field itself. It’s their Mark II set-up. The flares they use to mark the beginning of the runway certainly help a great deal in spotting the fields – the outer circle, funnel, red lights and runway lights helped considerably too.
After we landed, Wood and I breathed a little easier. Of course, we laughed about it when we were through with our (first) practice mission in England.
Engines cut- we all gathered our gear – equipment – loaded a truck to take us to our briefing room. From there we went to chow – supper.
Late that night, Geller, who is in the same Nissen hut that I’m in, said we didn’t do too badly for the first time. That sounded good to me.
That night I went to bed about 1 o-clock. Next mission I believe we’ll function more smoothly – I hope.
Nov 25, 1944
Got to class late this morning. No sooner was I settled then we were informed that a practice mission was scheduled. Our briefing at 1030 – enlisted men to be at their ships at 1230 – after chow.
The officers briefing – check presence – take seats and wait for – Intelligence, Communication, Weather and C.O. to give their respective reports. The navigators go to their special briefing and the bombardiers too.
Today our crew had a mark of efficiency. They all knew approximately what to do and that helps tremendously. Of course there are a number of kinks, which will be straightened out in the near future. Anyhow, we started on time and took off on time – that’s important.
No, we didn’t have an instructor but we did have an idea what S.O.P. was, and we had a lot more time to get ready – pre-flight our ship.
Our position was No. 2, low element, low squadron, low group – commonly known as "coffin corner" (purple heart corner?)
We took off with a decent ceiling but soon had to go on instruments. It took us about 20 minutes to break through the overcast. After we got above the clouds – 10,000 ft – we tried to locate our squadron. The navigator seemed to have the wrong nuncker(?) beacon, which caused us to be late in joining the formation. Geller, who was in element lead, welcomed us as we joined the squadron. I appreciated his humor.
Wood remarked to me about Peters – saying he could just picture Peters gloating because we were late. He (Peters) can be very annoying at times.
Wood’s formation flying was good – mine wasn’t too good. Toward the end I seemed to over correct which caused me to fly loose.
For the first time in my flying career, I encountered ice on the window. It isn’t too good a feeling – not knowing where the other planes are flying. We came through OK but it was another trying experience. It’s too bad our present heating systems aren’t satisfactory. The systems seem to require too much maintenance – lets hope they design a better heating system. Gad, how I admire the early pioneers of the Air Force! What they went through!
Because of an overcast we again went out to sea so we could come back to the field in formation. It certainly looked very gray and dreary. I believe our visibility was down to one mile again. The ceiling seemed to be lower. I wouldn’t be afraid to wager that we were flying about 20 feet above tree tops – what a nice fine we would get if we were in the States. The navigator did a nice job of getting us home – or should I say Radar did. Anyhow, the flares were visible although the runway wasn’t. The flared are fired every minute or so and they are a very good checkpoint when we’re flying the pattern.
Back on the ground we all began to feel more at ease. I remarked that we could "s2weat" Air Corps vernacular – each landing out. We all seemed to agree. If this continues we will accept poor visibility as a matter of course. I’m glad we encountered such unfriendly weather because its invaluable experience.
There is one thing I forgot to mention. That is, during our flights we began to see our various duties becoming more important. And what added precautions we can take when we have adverse flying conditions – as an example – when we’re flying low we have the engineer call our aid speed to us when it gets below 140 indicated without flaps and 130 with flaps. The reason for that is because if the pilot overtakes the lead the natural tendency is to cut throttles and slow the ship – the ship might be slowed to a point where it may lose altitude between the plane and highest obstruction on our way to the field. I myself suggested it because I like a safety margin a little better than we have. One crash is enough for me.
The truck came to our ship to take us and our equipment to the locker rooms. The way a fellow gets hungry doing nothing is beyond me.
After supper, I tried to get some boys to play handball. Had a little trouble but finally recruited Victor Karp, an old college friend of mine to play. He admitted his lack of skill but showed such sincere desire to learn that it made me want to teach him all I know – and that isn’t much.
We played and he demonstrated his inability to plat, but showed improvement all the time. A little time and he’ll be able to trounce me.
It was 8 P.M. and when we got back to our quarters, Hank Sees, from Canton, Ohio had the Ohio State-Michigan football game on. What a thriller it turned out to be. State won the game 18-14, with the Big Ten Championship thrown in.
I was in the sack by 11 P.M.
26 November 1944
Today nothing unusual happened in regard to our constant training. We went to ground school and took exams. The exams did a fairly good job of revealing our weak points. It’s surprising how much a person forgets over a period of time. Oh well, a review of some phase of my training won’t hurt me.
Sunday – the day of the Sabbath. It really doesn’t seem like one to the majority of us. We all accept it as another day – the reason for that is rather obvious – don’t you think so?
I have something to look forward to – today. The officer’s club is throwing a dance. This dance occurs bi-monthly. From the talks that float around here I’m in for a new experience.
The girls, who come to the dance, are supposed to be gross characters – crude in manner, very un-scrupulous and immoral. Of course I’m taking these tales with a grain of salt because thru my experience I’m inclined to believe half of what I hear and then I must see it for myself.
Good old Vic, he loaned me a pair of pinks so I could go to the dance. I post order requires all officers to don their class AA uniforms. Since I had my pinks in the cleaners I was unable to go. Here is hoping I can repay Vic –
I got to the dance and assumed my usually cautious manner of choosing my partners when I’m not acquainted with the situation. You know – the type that stalks and observes every one on the floor and then ventures out to his prospective partner. Anyhow, it took me sometime to get started (Usually it doesn’t take ma as long) and if you knew what material I had you would sympathize with me –
My reaction to the girls was unfavorable. It wasn’t unfavorable to their character but to their appearance. I tried to keep an open mine – always rationalizing that Great Britain has been at war for the last six years, and that the girls who grew up in that time didn’t have the opportunity to be at their best – they lacked glamour, clothes, and poise. These apparent factors add or take away a great deal of charm from the girls – believe me.
Although I made several excuses for their lack of appeal, it took some real urging on my part to get started. After I did get enough courage to start dancing with an English lassie I enjoyed myself more than I expected.
Leslie was the first girl I met. She was tall and slender. Leslie wouldn’t be classified beautiful or ugly, but she had a face, which was attractive – her legs weren’t bad either. Her curves weren’t prominent. I would say she was flat chested – Shrewsbury introduced here to me.
One thing I can say about Leslie was that her manner of speech was very fascinating. It captured my interest immediately. Her tone was a sweet, mellow and resonant one, which caused me to listen more attentively.
Leslie’s manner of speech reminded me of a very charming nurse I met in the Salt Lake City. No doubt, the influence of the nurse was there too.
Joyce came into the picture very shortly. She wasn’t much to look at, but she could certainly "cut a run." Since I enjoy dancing a good bit you can rest assured I got to know her.
The other English girl I met was one named Riches – I forgot the first name. She gave me trouble – she wouldn’t dance the American way nor would she teach me the British style of dancing. Frankly, I didn’t believe she was much of a dance – period.
Fay Boyd – a nurse from the states attracted me. She was someone’s date but that didn’t stop me from knowing her. We danced a few together – the American way – close and cheek-to-cheek – the way I like to dance.
After I though I knew here - two dances to be exact, I asked her for her telephone and address. She gave it to me. I then asked her who was the lucky one. – her date. She wouldn’t tell me, but claimed I’d know him as soon as I saw him. To this, I denied because of my recent arrival to this field. Fay then tried to sell me the idea I had better not date her. For the life of me I couldn’t figure the reason for her about face on my dating her.
I soon found out when I escorted her back to her date – it was the colonel himself – just like me too. Fay then gave me the look – see what I mean – No – I didn’t lost out entirely – she said "OK" later on in the evening.
The girl I enjoyed dancing mostly with was a Red Cross girl named Betty Hardman – a marvelous dancer. It was a pleasure to be with her. She in my opinion was the essence of American femininity – poise, clothes, looks, and popularity – to darn popular if you ask me.
Another fine point of Betty was that she knew what kind of perfume to use to obtain a certain affect. The perfume she used was a subtle one. You know – the one that makes a girl more magnetic and alluring due to its captivating fragrance – wow –listen t me. Anyhow, I’ve decided to know Betty a little more than I do. It’ll take time – noticing the number of boys chasing her – I mean pursuing.
After the dance everyone escorted their respective girls to their trucks. The nite was a typical English one – cold, damp, foggy and drizzling. Not very romantic – is it?
I’ll always remember this scene – five trucks in convoy standing by to pick up their passengers – the black dreary nite – people, under the influence of drink, milling around the trucks – talking – hugging – kissing – loud voices her and there – a seductive tone – the M.P.s routing men out trucks – a few cuss words – a mumbled voice propositioning – a girl replaying "I’m not that kind of a girl" the row of trucks driving away into the nite – then the slow gradual dispersion of the remaining crowd.
When I returned to my nissen hut I told the boys about my reaction to the dance and the voice, which I recognized as belonging to one of the boys in our hut, to which a girl replied, " I’m not that kind of a girl." We all got a good laugh.
Lights went out about 12 o’clock.
4 December ‘44
Didn’t do much of anything today, but sat and watched Chamberlain and Geller’s crew pack to go home. They finished their tour of duty.
It made me envious and glad to see them pack. Envious – because of the meaning it implies, home, New York, bright lights, wine, women and songs. What a time they’ll have celebrating their victorious return to the states.
Glad – because it’s a great morale booster to see crews go home in tack – especially when one is just commencing his tour of duty.
Today was a red-letter day for the boys who completed their tour. This morning, instead of their usual reluctance of getting out of bed they were up and early packing, clearing the field, and making a general mess in the hut.
One doesn’t realize how trash and property accumulates over a period of time. They did collect a bit and started to get rid of it, while they were packing.
Karp, Chamberlain, Geller, Malloy, Dock, Hacker, Boule, Shrewsbury – they all began to give articles away. They all were generous too – "Here Pecyk – here is something for you – thanks – Can you use this? – sure- How about this – OK" It went on all morning.
Karp was extra generous to me because we knew each other in the states. Chamberlain, Boule, and the others were generous too. Bring in the state of mind they were in, one can readily understand their generosity.
Their packing wouldn’t be complete if Hacker and Dork didn’t have a friendly tussle. Karp & Geller were at each other as usual. Karp saying something then Geller would add his two cents causing Karp to become riled. They are always at each other’s throat like cat and dog – of course this friendly discourse is forgotten quickly. All one big happy family.
Early this evening, after chow, Wood and I went to the officer’s club. Where we had a drink – a free one – celebrating the promotion of seven officers – two lieutenants, to colonels, two majors, one captain, two first lieutenants.
Wood commented to the fact it was the first time he saw me take a drink. My answer was "One couldn’t resist the temptation – free drinks and all the brass involved. It certainly was an occasion. Yes?" We both laughed.
I congratulated Lt.Col Utely and told him that he’ll need the promotion and the money, which goes with it for the crap games. He agreed with me – because of his lack of luck in the game.
Lt. Col Barr was well pleased to have his promotion. I believe he’s the most popular man at this shindig.
6 December’ 44
We were rudely awakened by "Irish" who awaked us for missions – practice or otherwise. He must take great delight in awakening the officers – the stinker, especially when it’s a practice mission.
Some of us were awake at the turn of the doorknob. We seemed sorta eager, but if you practiced as much as we did you would be too. Anyhow, Irish is his noisy manner said, "Wood" – we were all ears. Scheipers, Wood and I got up on our elbows and poked our heads from underneath the covers and answered, "Yhea – briefing at 0730m take off at 0920 – practice mission – What? Practice – the dirty bastards – they’re nuts etc. That’s all you could hear. Amid the bitching, Irish left the hut.
You should hear the groaning and moaning that goes on when we’re awakened for a practice mission. You can bet your sweet life I’m one of the loudest & staunchest bitchers.
At briefing, we were told that we’re going to bomb Caen. Just then you could pick out the new crews who were going thru their training – including us. They all sat up and listened attentively. The veterans – one mission or more sat back and took it as a matter of fact.
After briefing – the usual procedure – equipment – pre-flight – take off and then assembly over bunker 28.
It was our first trip over the English Channel. Looking out the window you could see ships, which were sunk during the invasion near the French coast. Over Caen, our target- you could see thousands of bomb craters. What a hell on earth must have existed during the actual bombing. Caen and other towns near by were wiped out. It sure makes one appreciate the air cops when you see such devastating bombing.
Our flight wasn’t too good. We seemed to be racing home. We were about 30 miles faster than we were supposed to indicate. It isn’t good.
Incidentally, the weather was ideal for a bombing mission, but when we came to our home field – Thorpe Abbot, the weather socked in again. Wow – one wonders why there aren’t more accidents then there actually are.
The visibility was down to one mile, ceiling about 300 ft – everybody straining to see their formation. The leader finds the field and then makes a right hand turn and started to maneuver for a peel off. About two minutes later we fly smack into another formation, which was returning from an actual combat mission. You should have seen the mad scramble that occurred. Everyone doing his utmost to get out of each other’s way.
Our reaction probably was typical of everyone in our formation and the other one. Out of nowhere this formation appeared. What to do was the question? But you didn’t have much time to think, and what you do must be right – no second tries. Our leader made the first move. We tried to follow, but to no avail – everybody was for himself. Airplanes – diving, climbing, turning, skidding to the right and left. Over the interphone – B17s – above us, in front, behind, to the left, to the right – just then it reminded me of the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" but it was airplanes and not cannons. Don’t delude yourself they’re both as deadly.
It was close – mighty close. You can rest assured the people who were at the controls were busy as bees.
On the ground, we all had a comment to make about our experience. We then all smiled about it.
After supper Walter Bailey, a lead crew pilot who is in the same nissen hut, and I played a game of handball. Bailey certainly can play an excellent game. I consider myself a fair player, but compared to him, - putting it bluntly – I stink. He just wailed the daylights out of me. His game is a hard and fast one. The kind I really enjoy. The next time it won’t be so lopsided – I hope.
Went to bed about midnite.
10 December ‘44
The day of the Sabbath – didn’t do much but loafed and got ready for our bi-monthly shindig – dance.
It was a drunken brawl. A few of the boys got out of hand and had themselves denied the privileges of the club for the month of December. One of the captains met a few fists – he deserved it.
The dance was one, which proved to be more entertaining in more ways than one – fights, dances and women. The fight was short – darn it.
Dances – wow – there was one couple who did some very suggestive ones. The girl could really wiggle and had something to wiggle. Her partner, under the weather, did justice to her wiggling. We all gathered around and watched them. They were darn good.
Before the dance was over one of the officers had to carry a girl out. She drank too much and caused a commotion. It was a sight to see girl screaming, kicking with two boys virtually dragging her out.
During one of the dances a girl remarked to me that she was a business woman. At first I couldn’t make out what she was trying to tell me. Then I saw the light. Her statement took me aback for a short while, but it didn’t bother me too much since the boys forewarned me about such doings. As soon as I began to register I though I would have a little fun. The conversation went something like this while we were dancing –
"Who’s your date? – I don’t have one – Where are you from? Scotland – Oh a Scottish lassie and a good dancer. What do you do? Who are you doing home with? I’m a business women and expensive too" I paused to ponder over what she said. "Yhea – how much? Very expensive – Well how much? 10 pounds ($40) – Listen you make me laugh. I never paid for it and never intend to. You should pay me. Another thing, we came here to England to save your ass – not to buy it." We closed the conversation then.
I enjoyed the dance immensely because Betty was there, my American Red Cross friend. She certainly can dance. Although I had a little trouble keeping her during a dance, we did manager to dance a few. That was due to my persistence of cutting in at every opportunity that arose. Correct – I made sure they did come about – friends. I remarked to Betty that I better stop braking in as frequently as I’ve been. She told me not to stop because she enjoyed dancing with me – she was being nice to me. Just like a women, anyhow, she didn’t have to tell me twice.
During the course of the evening Betty told me that she was being transferred to France. What a blow – just when I was progressing so well. Damn my luck – anyway. Then I told here it was a helluva note to transfer just when I was beginning to enjoy the E.T.O. because of her proximity. In her sweet manner she repaid the compliment to me – I wasn’t fishing either. At the close of the evening we bid each other good bye –
Going home with the crowd I saw the same farewell, but it was a bit rough – women and men propositioning a bit more. There was one truck, which I’m not afraid to wager had more men than women. It’s original trip consisted of women only.
In the barracks we all sat around and "chewed the fat" until midnite.
Dec 11, 1944
Another practice mission – it seems that is all we do.
12 December 1944
It was our number I. The first of our 35 that we need to complete our tour.
Our day started at 0500. We all seemed to be in pretty good spirits – breakfasted and went to briefing. There we got the "poop" –
At the door each one of us checked into the attendance man. When briefing time came the officer in charge called role. Then the S-e, officer was introduced, he gave us the first glimpse of our mission today. As he arose to pull the curtain from the wall map, you could feel the anxiety of the pilots, copilots, navigators, and bombardiers permeating the atmosphere – this is all occurring at the officers briefing. Just before he yanked the curtain acute silence accompanied the anxiety. This was due to the speculation of going to Mercersburg. The most feared target in the E.T.O. because of its intense flak and fighter support. There at Meresburg the air corps usually loses 40 or more bombers – usually more. The irony of it is that they haven’t had too much success of knocking it out. This causes them to return to it. Anyhow, when the boys saw it wasn’t Merseburg you could feel the tense anxiety vanish.
Our target was Darmstadt – marshalling yards. The S-2 captain orientated and told us the reason for our target for today – to tie up German transportation to the front lines because of our push in Europe. It was well presented.
Metro – weather man, gave us the weather we were to encounter during our mission.
Communication – gave us the radio codes and etc.
Then Colonel Jeffries gave us the poop and stressed the important factors to watch for and to be doubly cautious about them.
After briefing we dressed for the occasion, and I mean dressed – a pair of long woolen underwear, a uniform, an electric heating suite, a heavy cloth jacket and pants, one pair of socks, heavy leathered flying boot. With all this paraphernalia no doubt you’re wondering how we moved about. Its remarkable how we do. Now I know how a little boy feels when he has all his winter clothing on. From no on I’m in full sympathy with them.
We then hopped a truck and went to our plane. The enlisted men were already there, and were busy checking their equipment. After the pre-flight we taxied and took off. Over bunker 28 we assembled then headed for the continent.
It all seemed as though we were on a practice mission. Except over the I.P. I began to have thoughts about flak and fighters. Believe me – I really had some too. Over the target we saw a few burst of flak. After it was all done, I said to myself, "It wasn’t bad and it was a mike run."
You can rest assured that the weather at out field was unfavorable. We had to do an instrument let down. Had a few close calls, but finally made the field after due anxious moments.
The visibility was 1500 yards. When its measured in yards you can readily say the weather is bad.
Incidentally when we landed we had 100 gallons of gas in our tanks – to little for any safety.
The only ill affect of the mission was my butt. Sitting for 7 hours and 15 minutes bought rather an uncomfortable feeling – kina sore, like riding a horse for the first time.
After chow – Bailey and I played a few games of handball. He whipped me something awful. We went to bed about midnite again.
18 December 1944
Today we were awakened at 0500 again. It certainly was cold. The long woolens we wear do make one forget the coldness in short order.
At breakfast, we were served fresh eggs – It’s a treat to have fresh eggs instead of the powdered ones.
Briefing – we went thru the same routine – attendance, orientation, weather, communication, etc. The same anxiety was felt just as the S-2 officer revealed the target.
The Meresburg target must have profound affect on the boys. It must be a rough target. All I can say is that ignorance is blissful. No doubt I’m in for a surprise.
Marshalling yards are taking priority at the present time. It’s because we’re working in conjunction with the ground forces in France. A person begins to be more enthused about his work when his results are evident, and have a direct bearing on the war in France.
The yards, which I’m referring to, are the ones in the Ruhr Valley. In close proximity to the battle zone. Our target for today was Munz – secondary Colbelez – target of opportunity anyone of military value.
The take off and assembly was all right, but the formation was weak. W e were spread out and lagged. This was due to adverse weather conditions. Between "con" trails and clouds we had our hands full.
Over the target the weather was at its worse. The "contrails give us an odd perspective – correction it destroyed our perspective to our lead ships.
For the first time we encountered vertigo – a peculiar sensation. Is the darndest feeling you can experience. You think you’re in a bank and actually you’re flying straight and level and vice versa.