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Group History

View from the Tail

 

by Bruce E. Alshouse

 

  100th BG Photo Archives

After the 24 September 1943 combat mission was canceled, we were told we were going on an afternoon practice mission to drop practice bombs over the North Sea. We did not even have guns to put in our ships. We took off thinking we were going for a nice joy ride. We were flying in a formation with about eighty other fortresses.

 

Most of us were in the radio room relaxing when two enemy fighters jumped us. There we were over the North Sea with no guns. Their first pass at us put two cannon shells in one of our engines and it flamed up. We were afraid the gasoline was going to blow up.

 

The bombardier, Ted Don, opened the bomb door and the pilot, John Gossage, told us to bail out. We were in dive at 250 mph when we started jumping. I was the last one to jump and was about 1,000 feet above the water when I went out. Just as soon as I pulled the rip cord and my chute opened, I hit the water. I inflated my life preserver but it didn't work. The waves were about fifteen feet high and my chute was dragging me across the sea. I had a hard time getting our of my harness, but finally got out. I had to struggle to keep afloat, I went under several times.

 

Then  I saw two small boats go by me in the direction of the way the plane had been going. I gave up all hope of being saved. Then I saw another boat in the distance, coming in my direction. It stopped so I didn't think they has seen me. After a while it came on and picked me up.

 

I was pulled on board and then I passed out. The next thing I knew I was having my feet rubbed vigorously by two English seaman, but I couldn't feel my toes. After and hour of rubbing, my feet came to life again. Then they gave me some brandy to warm me up. It just went down and came right up again with all the salt water I had swallowed. I asked how many of our crew were found and they told me they picked up five of us alive,  two dead and that they couldn't find the other three.

 

After the torpedo boat completed its night mission, looking for trouble along the Dutch coast (as if we hadn't seen enough already), we put into port around noon on Saturday, 25 September 1943.

 

The five of us, who are still alive, feel pretty good but we are being sent to a rest home for abut ten days. We leave tomorrow. Our own navigator didn't come with us because he was sick. The substitute navigator, J. Ward Dalton, was killed. We are all going to fly again if we stay together, otherwise we don't want to fly.

 

Don't ever razz me about my big mouth because that is what saved me. The British crew couldn't see me, but one just happened to hear me shout. The English sailors are swell people. Don't ever let anyone tell you different, I owe my life to them.

 

I now have two raids to my credit. I am kind of anxious to get a crack at some of the Jerries for killing four of my best buddies. I am going to try and get a Jerry for each one of them.

 

This is no military secret so you might let some of the people back home know that this is no basketball game over here. Don't forget to say a prayer for the British sailors, I do it every night.

 

(Written to a friend a few days after the incident)