A Great Buzz Job
In the Spring of 1943, I was a navigator with the 100th Bombardment Group (later to be known as THE BLOODY HUNDREDTH) which, after six months of intensive combat training, was soon to fly to England as part of VIII Air Force. My squadron of the 100th consisting of nine B-17s, was, at the time, stationed at the Pierre, S.D. Army Air Base and, as one of our final training missions, we were scheduled to fly to Minneapolis, make A bomb run on the old Stone Arch bridge and return to base.
My crew, in our ship, "Torchy" -named after my red-headed wife - was to lead this mission and I decided it might be a good opportunity to "buzz' my boyhood home at 23rd & Taylor Streets, N.E. where my wile was then living with my parents. Buzzing, the act of flying at a very low level over a ground target -usually a flyer's home towns or girl friends house - was definitely a no-no under Air Corps regulations yet it was a practice widely indulged in at the time.
The night prior to the mission I phoned my wife to advise her of my plans and our ETA Minneapolis. She, in turn, informed several friends and neighbors.
At a briefing before our takeoff, I informed the pilots of the other eight aircraft Of our plan and they agreed to stay "upstairs" and circle until our ship rejoined them after our buzz job.
The mission went off as planned and, after our bomb run on the bridge I was able at once to pin-point the location of my house for the pilot. He, an expert flyer with a love for low-level flying, quickly brought Us down to about 100 feet and at that altitude we roared over my home where, gathered in the backyard, stood my wife, parents, and assorted neighbors all looking up and waving.
Instead of immediately regaining altitude once we had passed over the house as I fully expected Us to do, we continued on a northwesterly heading over the intersection of Lowry and Central and on across the Soo Line RR yards. At about this point I became aware that, contrary to our agreement the other eight B-17s had not remained "upstairs" but had decided to get in on the fun and had followed our ship down to the deck. Thus we were a line in echelon of nine four-engined bombers thundering across northeast Minneapolis at about 50 to 100 feet - the noise and vibration level on the ground must have been awesome.
Contacting the pilot via intercom, I urged him to break it off and take us up fast. Just at the moment we began our climb we flashed over the Northern Ordnance plant in Fridley which was then manufacturing armament for the Navy and whose air space was very definitely off-limits for any aircraft. As we climbed in a slow 180-degree turn I looked down to see what seemed like hundreds of people pouring from the office and other plant buildings out onto the parking lots. Visions of a court-martial or other unpleasant things flashed across my mind for I felt certain that surely the incident would be reported and the identity of the aircraft involved become known. It was one thing for a single plane to make a quick lo--level pass but for nine heavy bombers to hold a sustained lo--level flight over a metropolitan area was quite another matter.
Needless to say, we removed ourselves from Minneapolis skies withy great haste and made our way back to Pierre. My wife later told me that there had been quite an "uproar" in the community but, strange to say, no report of this escapade was ever made or, if one was made, it never caught up with those of Us involved. The only damage of whlch I heard was a couple of cracked plate glass windows on Central avenue.
This was about the last bit of "fun and games" indulged in by my squadron. The flak and fighter filled sky of Hitler's Reich did not lend itself! to lax and devil-may-care airmanship. On June 25th !e flew our first combat mission and six months later, after visiting such places as Munster, Stuttgart, and Regensburg, the scorecard for those ninety men who had "bombed" Minneapolis read: Killed in action 38, Prisoners of war 30, Severely wounded 6, Completed their tour of twenty-five missions 16.