350th Sqdn. Crew, as above, joined the 100th on 4 Feb 1945 and were on their 14th or 15th mission. A/C # 44-8613 - MACR #14572, Microfiche #4952
Following from Bernard L. Painter, the sole survivor from this crew in July 1945; We were scheduled to bomb Ruhland, Germany on March 21, 1945. Fifteen (15) minutes before the target we lost #1 engine due to a mechanical failure (supercharger). We were forced to leave the formation and to salvo our bombs. We accomplished this and were rejoining the formation when attacked by several ME 262 Jet Fighter planes. Although our gunners were firing at them constantly, they were able to shoot out #2 engine and set it on fire, foul the controls rendering them useless and scored several hits in the nose section, setting it on fire. I immediately gave the order to abandon ship and went below to aid the men in the nose, but was unable to accomplish this because of the fire and was forced to bail out at approximately 18,000 feet. I opened my chute immediately in an effort to drift toward the Russian lines. I counted five (5) chutes below me and I can presume they were crew members from the rear of the ship who jumped when we were at 22,500 and made a delayed jump. I have had no contact with the crew since that time. I have written all of the next of kin and given them what I could of the above details. I will also try to call on many of them personally. I would appreciate any information you receive concerning the missing men forwarded to me and I will do likewise with any received through other airmen."
PERSONAL DIARY - DONALD A. BECKER, ASN 15400756
350th BOMB SQUADRON - 100th BOMB GROUP
This diary has been slightly edited, Pat is S/Sgt Becker’s wife..(mpf…October 2005)
January 1, 1945...Today was quite a different New Years than ones past--instead of the traditional spare ribs and sauerkraut it was hamburgers at the soldiers club and a colossal hangover from last nights howl at the NCO club-- In the afternoon we signed for our ship--our first ship (sounds good doesn't it?) A brand new beautiful, shining lady numbered 339180-- It was quite a thrill to walk out on the ramp and see her sitting there-quite serene-and to know she's OURS- This is the baby we'll drop bombs all over Hitler's Heaven from-and God willing all come back-
We spent a couple of hours looking her over and checking the equipment and then spent another night drinking and having a time at the NCO Club-
January 2, 1945...Today at 10:30 AM we climbed into our new flying clothes and went out to the ship (NICKNAMED THE "BIG IRON BIRD") and wound up the props and pre-flighted her for a compass swing flight- All was set and we were all aboard ready for take-off- the engines roared with tremendous power-like the scream of some pre- historic animal but yet like music and something dependable and good like an old friend.
We taxied out to the runway and ran the engines up to a screaming crescendo and then the brakes were released and we began to roll-slowly at first then faster and faster as the engines roar increased- I was standing in the waist with Matzdorff watching the ground flash by-I looked towards him-he looked back, smiled and crossed his fingers. A few seconds later we were airborne and the tenseness of an uncertain take-off passed.
Picking up my chute I crawled back past the retracted tail wheel, along the catwalks to the tail-here is where I began to think-"this is mine--my own private little 'two gunned' coffin"-shining metal and plexiglass, newly made and oiled guns-new N-8 optic sight and all the latest improvements in the latest model B-17 tail-but still a compact, cozy little coffin. What amazed me most were the pipes from the engines all the way back for heaters- I spent most of the flight checking the guns, sight, switches, oxygen stations (two in this one) and interphone-and swinging my guns all over the countryside below. The field of fire has been increased from 30 degrees by 30 degrees to 100 degrees by 60 degrees-that's quite a morale booster after seeing the fighters standing off and not being able to fire 'cause the guns wouldn't go any farther.
The rest of the flight was more or less uneventful with "the boss" putting "the bird" thru its paces. Feathering the props etc. (SAYS SHE HANDLES LIKE A P-38). We landed about 5:00 and spent another night at the NCO Club-
January 3, 1945...Our compass swing was amiss so we were to fly it again today but the low ceiling and mist kept our ship on the ground- The day was spent playing cards in the barracks-the night-a few beers at the NCO and then Rabbit and I were on guard at the ship from 2:00 AM til 10-
January 4, 1945..."The bird" was getting a new AUTO-PILOT installed today so no flight-another poker game and more beers...then sack.
January 5, 1945...Today we got our briefing and now we know where we're going- We fly the Airways Route across the top of the states (THRU CLEVELAND, ALBANY-can't remember MORE) to Manchester, New Hampshire Grenier Field-after a day or so of final check we fly the Atlantic to Iceland or someplace then to Stone England (after Scotland) From then on=who knows-.
At night we had the best steak dinner of our lives (MINE ANYHOW) at the NCO & then we proceeded on into the best & biggest drunk yet-
January 6, 1945...Another idle day because of the weather we can't leave-sooo (WENT ICE SKATING AT THE POND) more cards & time on my hands-wrote Pat a letter-swung a deal and got it mailed in spite of the complete restriction- The guys are getting touchy, nervous and disagreeable from the idleness-
Went to the NCO for another night-but it was so crowded that we couldn't even get a place to eat or sit down & get drunk. Played the slot machines for a while & came back to bed.
January 7, 1945...Today the weather was clear & warm for a change and we are all set for a fly-away--Had dinner at the Service Club (HAVEN'T BEEN IN A MESS HALL SINCE I LEFT HOME) Went to the 5:45 movie (HAD TO BE READY TO GO AT 9) We saw Crosby in Here Come the Waves-very good too-gave "Frankie" a good kick where it'll do the most good- Got out of the show at 7:45 & went to the NCO for our last supper here-had turkey with all & came back to the barracks to find out that our whole route is closed in from 300 ft ceiling at Cleveland on down- So more cards then SACKTIME-
January 8, 1945...Clear sky-colder than you can imagine but no fly-another day gone-
January 9-10, 1945...The weather today was clear and cold today again-and after another dull day we were restricted to our barracks at 9:00 P.M.- We had our last meal with the crew at the Mess Hall then out to the ship at 11 while the officers & Radioman briefed in the hangar- We loaded all our personal stuff onto the ship & removed the engine covers, wing & tail covers-pulled the props-all in an excited rush with planes roaring to life all around us in the dark--
The ordinance truck pulled up issued us 45 automatics, knives & ammo-and a lunch apiece on the way- After long hurried preparations we climbed in & the engines were started-(we were 7th to take-off) The engines were run up & after a time our schedule was up & we began to roll down the ramp to the landing strip- Again Matzdorff & I were at the waist windows-this time taking a last look at Lincoln then the engines were given full throttle & the interphone began to buzz with excited chatter--"This is it!" "so long Lincoln!" etc and then we were roaring down the runway gaining speed and at last lifted off the strip as we hit 130 mph. We were gaining altitude in the clear black sky and as I looked down at the winking myriad lights of Lincoln our number four engine began to trail a long column of smoke & sparks. I called Downing on the intercom & told him-after a few long seconds the smoke quit & the lady was on her way- I went back to the tail to spend the night (I'd unpacked my two blankets) and looked around for about half an hour then plugged in my headset & oxygen mask-spread out my blankets & tried to get comfortable as possible- We reached 13,000 feet & I went on oxygen-it got colder & colder and that big jungle kit on the back of my chute plus the interphone wires & oxygen hose didn't make for a comfortable sleeping position so I just made the best of it catching a few winks now and then-freezing and feeling miserable all night- I did sit up long enough to look down on Cleveland about 3:30 A.M. and get a last look at good old Ohio- I covered up my head and the next time I uncovered it was daylight and we were over New York-Albany I think- In a short time we were over Maine--the most snowbound, desolate country I have ever seen-and at about 11:30 we landed on an ice packed runway at Bangor-Dow Field- A few buildings & hangars in about a foot and a half of snow amidst scrub pines- We stopped and parked our plane along with the others (17's & 24's) and began to get organized. A station wagon drove out to our ship & took us to the processing building where we got record checks-issued our heated flying suits and assigned our barracks.
We came up to our barracks and sat down to talk for a while (were to go back to the ship)(20 minutes) but everyone was so exhausted from work & no sleep that we all died off one by one and woke up about 5:00- We had chow, went back to the ship to lock it up & check on the maintenance and then went to the P.X. for a few beers and now I'm writing this from my bunk. Outside the wind is blowing the 10 degree below air around and the northern sky is crisp & clear with a million stars. It seems pretty certain that we're to take off again tomorrow for Goose Bay.
January 11, 1945...I expected to be awakened at 4:00 AM with the rest of them but instead I awoke to the bright sun glistening off the pure white snow-almost blinding in fact- Didn't do much today except put additional covers on the ship to protect the plexiglass- Had a couple of beers at the NCO-went to the movie-saw WINGED VICTORY-(truly G.I. as any I've ever seen). Hit the sack at about 1:O:Clock.
January 12, 1945...The day started at 4:00 AM with the orderly coming in, turning all the lights on and calling all the numbers of ships taking off-I sweated everyone out that started with "91" but ours didn't turn up-All the crews got up & started to dress but 5 min. later the joe came back in & said all flights were canceled- I went back to sleep til about 10 A.M. & then we had to go out to the ship to pre-flight it, run up the engines & test our heated suits. This involved taking all the covers off the ship & replacing them in a violent wet snow storm- Altogether it took about 3 or more hours- The snow storm added another 3 or 4 inches of snow to the already knee deep stuff- We came back to the barracks & cleaned our 45's (detail stripped) washed up & had supper at the P.X. & went to the library, played records, wrote Pat a letter-came back to the barracks & hit the sack- (We finally got "Hig" to drink some beer, about 8 after persuasion, & he got a little tight)
January 14, 1945...After another grounded day in which we worked on the plane in that 10 degree below weather & froze alive-we were awakened at 5:00 A.M. with the news that we should be out to the ship at 5:30. We dressed, packed & ate a hurried chow & got out to the ship-in the icy wind we heated the engines & stripped all the covers off & worked on the lady & finally left the soil of the old U.S. for the last time at 8:33- The ground below was speckled with lakes & a few snow capped mountains and millions of tightly packed pines all covered with light blue skies & a gray haze. We got our last look at the states someplace and crossed the St. Lawrence River at a point where it's 90 miles wide (nearly all ice-bound) and landed here at Goose Bay, Laborador. The place here is a true outpost just like the movies with nothing for miles around (in fact for hundreds of miles) but 6 to 8 feet of snow-BELIEVE IT OR NOT, pine trees & lakes. They have a boat bring in supplies in the summer & fly them in winter. There are a total of 5 women here. We had to cover our ship again-gas it & oil it ourselves & then came to our quarters (OFFICERS BARRACKS)- Today is my first day of overseas Pay- We landed at 12:25 (4:25 Greenwich time) so this is rather a short day even tho it did start at 5 A.M.----I forgot to mention it's 30 below on the ground here-it's brutally cold-takes 30 seconds & your whole body is stiff & burning & aching with cold---
January 15, 1945...Today was the day of the biggest snow I have ever seen in my whole life-one continuous torrent like a rainstorm of big snow flakes-by nightfall it had added another foot & a half to the already overloaded ground.
January 16, 1945...As you already know today called for our digging our ship out of the snow & cleaning off the big drifts on the wings & all (GOT A FEW PIX). We froze for a solid 6 hours in the damned stuff-kids would have been in paradise playing in the cleanest whitest snow of their lives-- That night exhausted as we were you could guess that we would take off & we did-after a few hours of hurried preparations & more freezing we took off at 5:58 A.M.-bound for ICELAND.
January 17, 1945...After an overwater trip we landed at 2:29 at MEEKS FIELD, ICELAND-a cold, windswept, barren land with the cold North Atlantic lashing at the Rocky Shores- The place was without heat & all the buildings were those cylindrical huts-the ground all dirty brown rocks-no trees for 2000 miles.
We were bunked in the old discarded theater-with a few cots & blankets left to scramble over-the horde closed in and made themselves as comfortable as possible- I've seen hogs live in better conditions. After a cold miserable trip-a cold damp miserable bunk--
January 18, 1945...Wrote Pat a letter in the Red Cross hut, freezing- Froze all day huddled in a blanket-tried to sleep with movie hungry G.I.'s all over our bunks when they decided to show a film in our "happy home". They woke us up at 4 AM after a few hours sleep-but after dressing & going to operations we found out that Higgy was sick & we were grounded--nearly all the planes took off-we went to the Boss's barracks to sleep the rest of the night. It was much colder--
January 19-20, 1945...We slept til 5:30 the next day but it gets dark quick here & was night when I woke- Went to chow & played cards til about 3 in the morning-
Slept for an hour & were rudely awakened from a cold, miserable, restless sleep to take-off. More freezing work in that terrific wind & then we finally took off on our last leg of the trip-at 8:30 A.M..---
After an uneventful over water flight we sighted land & green grass-the coast of WALES and landed on the field in the beautiful, quaint Welsh countryside- By the time we landed & unloaded our ship, though, we discovered it was just as cold and the feeling of chilliness was still there- We changed into class A's at the hangar & I got a last look at the good old ship from the back of the truck taking us to Headquarters.
Here we signed away the IRON BIRD and were assigned barracks-ate chow in our mess kits after a long bus ride to the RAF side of camp. Went to a movie & hit the sack in a barracks as cold as all of them with only one tiny little wood stove.
January 21, 1945...We were awakened at 9:00 A.M. & packed for our train trip-left the base at 10:30 by English Bus to the town of Holyhead- Got my first taste of Limey tea & a meat paste sandwich-pardon me while I throw up- Went by train & encountered a variation of English customs, meals and people-at various stops we had time for short trips out in the world-
Arrived at Stone, England after dark & a deep wet snow was falling-got transportation to the base by truck-were billeted & spent another cold night in a modernized but still cold barracks (rooms with 4 men in them)
January 22, 1945...Spent the day processing-were issued a new type overseas gas mask, listened to lectures & saw films on the indoctrination for life in England- Spent uneventful day-wrote Pat a letter
January 23, 1945...Up at 7:30 (NEVER EAT BREAKFAST) reported at formation for detail list-by luck I was missed at 8 & 1 o’clock too-spent day repacking bags. Went to town on Pass-the bus line was crowded as hell but finally made it to Hanley about 7:30-saw all the things I heard about-blacked out city & a heavy fog...the girls lined up & down the streets approaching all the fellows to try and get picked up-- Went to a few "pubs" as I'd heard so much about them-most are quiet, quaint places like you see in movies--serve beer warm instead of cold-whiskey is no more- Heat is in a total absence & I froze & shivered all night-outside & in. Couldn't even enjoy my nice weak, flat beer. Took the bus to New Castle & looked around-caught last bus back to camp at 10:45-sack
January 25, 1945...Was on detail today-shoveling coal on trucks & then unloading back here at the base from 8 to 5. Was brutal backbreaking work. I'm dead tired & stiff & sore. Wrote Pat a letter-ready to hit the sack. (P.S. Worked right beside the prisoners)
January 26-27, 1945...My name came out on the guard roster so I had the day off. Went to the movie at 6:30, played some blackjack & went on duty. Was relieved at 6:00 A.M. came back to the sack & took an hour or so to thaw out & went to sleep. The blackout curtains were never drawn so it still looked dark out at 5:00 P.M. when Herbie woke me up. Ate chow & saw my name on K.P. tomorrow- This is the rottenest goddam slave camp I've ever been in--Wrote Pat a letter-Sack
January 28, 1945...After a relatively easy day on K.P. got off early-changed clothes went to New Castle spent the time drinking at the bar there came back on 10:45 bus--Sack
January 30, 1945...Spent another dull day-didn't sign for a pass so didn't get to town-went to a re-showing of "This is the Army"--hit the sack after a long talk with the boys about times back in the States-sure brought memories.
February 3, 1945...Today we finally left the halls of Stone England by train towards the Eastern coast- By the time we boarded the rattler the news was out that we were headed for the BLOODY HUNDREDTH BOMB GROUP- We arrived in the totally blacked out town of Diss about 8:o'clock at night-and were carted away by truck to the most spread out dispersed flying field I've ever seen-spread over an area of outlying farmland & woods totally 6 miles square.
The place is picturesquely set with farms and fields located right in and on the base-cows & pigs-crops and all.
The base is pretty well situated for camouflage -planes dispersed in wooded areas-everything more or less covered by trees. Most of the roads are concrete (narrow & crude) but still roads.
We pulled into the Sqdn late at night-had chow in a dark, dirty morbid but they call the mess hall-then were hauled 2 miles in the trucks over country lanes to the 350th Bomb Squadron.
After unpacking our bags & heaving them off the trucks we were assigned to quarters- our crew to 16B which turned out to be quite a luxurious little shack with G.I. bunks & a stove. Naturally we were rookies & felt kinda out of place with the guys already in them-so it took time to get warmed up to us.
Right away you could tell the difference between us-they were sullen & morose & didn't talk much--lacked ambition to even interest themselves- But no matter what a man's been thru he's always eager to hear news from the States & find out if anyone's from his town or even part of the country.
I spent a cold restless night deep in thought and not much sleep--thoughts of home and of dear little Pat back home
February 19, 1945...The light was red tonight and our crew no. was up on the call board so we were finally at the big moment-all our training was to come into use tomorrow. The gang was all nervous & quiet and thoughtful---it was hard to imagine what thoughts were passing thru they're minds. It's another one of those unexplainable feelings-of a little fear and regret for all the uncompleted things to do letters to write. It's hard to imagine the feeling of knowing in a few hours you'll be in danger of your life. That you'll indirectly killing thousands of people & they'll be shooting to kill you..and knowing that you might not come back--never to see home again to hear the voice of the one you love-see them or all that's near & dear to you. I went to bed with thousands of thoughts & memories on my mind & had a few hours of troubled uneasy sleep.
February 20, 1945...MISSION NO. 1-NUREMBERG
We were awakened as expected at about 3 A.M. It was a chilly damp morning and the feelings deep down inside matched the air with nervousness & morbid conversations-
We dressed hurriedly & went outside to the waiting trucks which took us along the country roads to the mess hall & a hot breakfast-finished with the meal we again got the trucks to briefing-a tense gathering of fliers in the crowded room-the air was electric- As the briefing officer stepped on the platform silence fell like a curtain & as he pulled the cover off the big wall map the moans & groans went thru the crowd as they saw the flight plan to the target- Briefing lasted about half an hour & we were told the flak & fighter defenses & it was over- We drew our flying clothes & boarded the trucks again this time for our planes-ours was 812- We spent 2 hours cleaning our guns & putting them in & got the ship ready-all the time trying to joke & be cheerful only it didn't work too well. Finally we boarded in the dark & then we were off the ground- Once we'd left the English Channel we were on oxygen and the cold was teriffic (about 40 degrees below)
We hit the French coast & in a few minutes we hit flak over the lines-believe me I was scared- I shrunk up into my flak suit & helmet as much as I could & peeked at the pretty little flak puffs of death- After more time we were over the target & the sky was full of the flak & bursting all around us- I was scared stiff seeing the stuff just a few feet from us-then we were hit & the ship shuddered three times-but no one was hurt & bombs were away- We went into violent maneuvers to get out of the stuff & were on the way home- After more long hours that English Coast looked beautiful---
February 21, 1945...MISSION NO. 2-NUREMBURG
Today found us tired & relieved after going number one & we went out to the ship knowing a little of what to expect-we took off & formed- Again I saw more beautiful, tremendous sized formations of airplanes imaginable- We crossed the channel-sighted France & started in- As we crossed the lines we encountered no flak so the tenseness of anticipation passed unnoticed. After hours of cold we were on the bomb run again & the flak was terrific-all over the sky & right on us too-we were hit again & everyone just about died of heart failure-again the violent tactics & we were on our way home-jubilant-crossing the lines only four bursts were fired-they all seemed to explode right under me & I died again- That's all just 4 bursts & all on our ship-when you can hear them they're on you! Again more long cold tiresome hours & we hit that wonderful England again-we were home!!!
Pass to London 22nd, 23rd &24th Alerted for a mission as soon as we got back-was as tired on return as when I started out so went to bed early.
February 25, 1945...MISSION NO. 3-MUNICH
After two of 'em Munich was next-it more or less followed the same pattern of them all-the same fears & superstitions & then a riddance of them in the midst of the noise & excitement of battle- We flew across France and up over the Bavarian Alps-a beautiful peaceful sight from the air-serene & calm in their beauty far away from the clash & blood of war- We hit the target & encountered moderate flak-raised a terrific mess down below with 12 500 lb bombs & left it a flaming smoking shambles-we could see the column of smoke 15,000 feet high clear from the Rhine River. It was a terrific long cold haul & we were on oxygen 4 1/2 hours- We landed a tired grimy lot-were interrogated after first taking out the guns & cleaning-ate a late supper & fell to sleep exhausted.
February 26, 1945...MISSION NO. 4-BERLIN
Today was the day we'd trained for ever since I wanted to fly-to bomb Hitler's Heaven Berlin. It has the heaviest flak defenses & more fighters than any other target in Germany so it's easy to understand the agonized sounds from the crews on sight of the target at briefing-and everyone including our crew was scared beyond words even before we started-yes we were pretty worried before take-off but still resolved.
After take-off I felt very alone back in my tail position even with a thousand planes behind & all around us-so terribly alone & full of thoughts that this was the last- I can't ever explain the emptiness I felt-
After the longest haul we ever made (up over the Zuider Zee) we neared the target & we were tight & afraid as drumheads-then we were in the middle of it all the sky peppered with flak & smoke-pitching & rolling planes-one right behind us blew up in a cloud of flame & dirty black smoke-a direct hit-we continued on & the suspense was terrible-the flak got nearer & closer & I crawled with an itching body expecting steel to rip thru me any second-then the bomb doors were open & bombs were away!! The flight wheeled into a terrific bank & things were done with that plane that would wreck a P-51-to escape those clutching fingers of flak & then suddenly we were clear & on the long trip home- After what seemed like ages we were out of fighter range & over the North Sea & then more hours & that beautiful coast of England was sighted-we'd made it!! I could have almost kissed the ground our wheels touched-but it was all over & I was so happy I didn't know what to do-we dragged back to our barracks jubilantly--
February 28, 1945...MISSION NO. 5-KASSEL
After the raids past-Kassel looked pretty easy to us & it was-the same old stuff only a cinch. Something new was added tho that was an artillery barrage on those front line sharpshooters as we passed over so no flak was encountered there-tho the alert was sounded both times-
The flak on the target was fairly heavy but very inaccurate & bombs were away without much trouble- We plastered the city with 14 500 pounders the biggest bomb load we've carried yet tho the undercast concealed all we did (BOMBED BY RADAR)
Tho the raid was a milk run it left us just as tired & beat down as any other so that whiskey at the interrogation really came in handy-sack was marvelous!!!
March 1, 1945...Today was a standown & much as we needed the rest they gave us the old purple shaft & made us fly a practice mission--pretty ridiculous isn't it -after five combat missions we've got to practice. I don't have to say that it made me so goddam mad I couldn't even swear-but there's nothing to be done--landed & had chow-came back to the barracks played poker for awhile-hit the sack at about 11:30-
March 3, 1945...MISSION NO.6-BRUNSWICK
The day started at 2:15 A.M. so we awoke with the expectation of another long haul close to the Russian lines. After going thru the usual procedure we were briefed for Brunswick which appeared to be a milk run on the surface with only 90 AA guns & no mention of fighters. We took off at 6:30 & were assigned to the lead sqdn-throwing chaff-6 ships to lead the whole 8th Air Force. We had a bombardier flying with us so Herby sweated us out on the ground-maybe that was the start of our bad luck. We flew the North Sea to approximately the Norwegian border & then into Germany. We encountered no flak so we felt quite safe regardless of our vulnerable position because of a whole group of fighters covering just us--the trip was uneventful to the I.P. & when the terrrific barrage of flak started boxing us in and the fighters disappeared from our cover-our lead ship called out to spread the formation into an echelon making us a dead duck for fighters- We started evasive action and we were on the bomb run-doors open-things were popping & excitement & tenseness reigned- I glanced out to 5 oclock & there were six fighters seemingly riding cover so I didn't pay much attention-they passed as P-51's with belly tanks which are our fighter support. Painter was yelling "call out the flak" so he could go thru with evasive action- I looked to 9:oclock & called some close bursts out & looked back to 5 and our P-51's gave a burst of speed and "exploded" in all directions midst of the jet trails--they were Germany's new jet fighters the ME-262--before I could get my wits about me they were in on us & completely out of my line of fire and one was no more than 15 yards off my tail-I could see the Jerry's face & every detail of the secret ship-I was in a cold sweat paralyzed with shock but swung my guns as far as I could out of reflex action but it was too late- he kicked his rudder & was blazing away at our lead ship at point blank range of 20 yards with all cannons & guns-- I was the only one who saw him so I called out the fighters madly but it was too late-our lead ship (RIGHT ALONGSIDE) burst into flame & blew up before my eyes-suddenly the ships was gone as fast as they came leaving a crowd of muddled dumbfounded fliers burning with the sight of the screaming wreckage plummeting towards the ground- I looked back at 6:oclock & another lady plunged earthward like a rock. We'd been missed by the perfectly planned attack by a bare few feet-the formation routed & scurried for cover in the main group formation-collisions were missed by inches in the mess of blind aircraft. They didn't attack again tho, but our bombs never fell because our lead never toggled his out-we rode on back with the crippled formation of damaged & limping aircraft-dazed & shaking. The attack came at the psychological moment before bombs away when everyone is busy & concentrating on the flak & hiding in flak suits -our formation was spread & protection from gunners was weak & almost nil-the fighters picked P.F.F. (radar) ships with no ball turret & came in on the tail gunners blind spot. That is the closest any airplane has ever been to me & I ever want to see one-especially a deadly jet with 30 mm cannons- Only two ships out of a thousand saw the remarkable attack-one is a pile of wreckage & flesh somewhere in Germany & the other man is writing this- Others on our crew saw the attack as it was ending but I saw it all the way & was helpless. Just a few seconds difference & I could have saved 10 men’s lives-it almost drives me crazy to think about it-but it wasn't mine or anyone else’s so there's no use thinking about it- I really needed my shot of whiskey on landing-only I'm still shaking and I can't erase the picture of that German fighter within arms reach & that plane blowing up right next to us- It was quite a mission to get the air medal on & I think it's deserved too.
March 4, 1945...MISSION NO. 7-ULM
Today started out at 2:15 A.M. again so it left me with about 4 hours sleep between missions-- I don't have to tell you that I was dead & really needed dope of some kind to keep going today- Last night the Jerries came over-bombed Ipswich (few miles away) shot up our field a little & raised hell with the R.A.F. coming back from the night's raid-so we were very much in danger of being ambushed & picked off one by one as we took off. You'd know that it'd have to be today that they'd send us clear into France to form our group-so we straggled across the Channel one by one just plain old duck soup for the fighters-- After yesterday's attack I needn't say that we were on the alert & all ready for them.
About half way across another group was test firing (they're B-24's) & seeing their tracers we thought they were on us in the dark but we hit the coast of France untouched-climbed to altitude & went thru with a perfect milk run--no flak even over the target & no fighters-tho we were nervous & trigger happy every minute of the time in the air. Today was the coldest day of my life & I thought I had frost bitten hands & face-I had my heated suit turned all the way but the air blast in the tail made the terrific cold unbearable--I almost went out of my head but I came out O.K. The weather closed in just after we landed so we made it in the nick of the time-otherwise we might have ended up ditching in the Channel.
Came back to the barracks-no mail so hit the sack--standown is up (blue light) so no mission for tomorrow.
March 5, 1945...Last night the Jerries were at it over here again-we got the alert 8:00 P.M. & all lights went out even tho blackout curtains were up. We all went outside to watch the show-we can see the flak thrown up by the batteries at Lowestaff & Ipswich-heard them & saw the search lights & listened to the bombs & gunfire & the sounds of planes & all hell bursting loose but none came close-Went to sleep about 12:00. Got us this morning to fly practice mission of another long cold session at high altitude-landed about 5:30-Just got in under the weather rain & fog & thick overcast followed us in and 15 minutes after we landed the field was completely closed in. The white light is up tonight (stand by) so I don't know whether we're going to Germany tomorrow or not. Wrote Pat-Sack.
March 7, 1945...ABORTION NO. ONE-DORTMUND
We started off as usual about 3:A.M. & took off with the group-scheduled to fly the slot--old Purple Heart Corner-the ship was having trouble keeping up with the formation so Painter was over boosting them (engines). About the time we hit the Zuider Zee & we had a runaway prop & had to leave the formation & turn back. We struggled along in the soup on the return (weather closed in after we left here) and were lost for awhile but finally made it back on three engines- ate & had a rainy afternoon off.
March 9, 1945...MISSION NO. 8-FRANKFORT
Today started at 2:30-had breakfast (eggs & pancakes)and went to briefing at 3:30- We took off at 6:30 for Frankfort-across the North Sea, Zuider Zee, Holland into Germany. It was a pretty smooth run til we hit the I.P. and were greeted by the most terrific and accurate flak I've ever seen-the shells exploded around us, bare feet away, in batteries instead of singles as usual. It by far passed Berlin! The plane rocked & bounced & rolled for a solid 16 minutes, while the sweat poured off us in buckets despite the 37 degree below cold- We got about 5 holes of considerable size in one burst & finally we were away. We were alerted & watchful for fighters all the way home but none showed- hit the ground almost out of gas at 1:35 P.M. Interrogated, ate chow. The next time I see Frankfort I want to be tourist-- 'cause this one tops 'em all!!!
March 10, 1945...MISSION NO. 9-DORTMUND
We were out to bomb the marshalling yards at Dortmuno-the briefing was about the same as before with a long route & 4 1/2 hours on oxygen. We led the second element of the 95th Bomb Group today as they lost 5 planes on the Frankfort raid.
The trip was mostly uneventful with 10/10 layered clouds beneath us-an ideal cover for fighters-but our support was close so we had none-tho the call was sounded.
We got flak all the way in from the I.P. (200 guns) but it was inaccurate all the way-we turned onto the target & bombs were away-- but ours were hung up-2 500's & 11-100's were still in the bays-they were getting our range & despite all efforts to salvo them they wouldn't come out--so the doors were closed & we scrammed-our troops being so close we couldn't do anything but bring them back--all the weight was a terrific drain on our gas load so we just made it back with a few gallons left. Herby had to put the safety keys back in the bombs while we were still at altitude & almost passed out several times from lack of oxygen (no regulator in the bomb bay) 'cause he was sucking the hose--but outside of turning green & getting weak he got the job down with the aid of Downing & Mac. We landed at our Base instead of France by stretching the gas supply & were interrogated, came back to the barracks & found 30 letters waiting for me- God! was I happy!! Read entranced for over 2 hours & went to bed.
March 14, 1945...MISSION NO. 10-HANOVER
We were briefed for 200 guns at Hanover today-that's half of Berlin's defenses-so we knew we were in for a rough one-- But a visual target makes the flak guns twice as effective because they don't have to use radar aimers (which we jam up by radio)
After a fairly long haul we hit the I.P. and were blasted constantly and accurately for a solid 18 minutes-bounced and blown all over the sky by bursts right under us-- It even surpassed Berlin- I was never so damned scared and tense in my life- I must have aged 10 years from the suspense-the expectancy of the next shot hitting you or your plane-maybe you'll have time out to jump, maybe you'll blow up in flames without a chance-maybe you'll be killed from shrapnel-it's that kind of a rampant mind that makes you flaky.
March 15, 1945...MISSION NO. 11-BERLIN (WITTENBERGE)
Today when the curtain was pulled the lines on the map ran straight to "Big B"-the screams & moans were loud & numerous-the terror of the heavies- But the target was 13 miles north of "B" just missing their 400 guns-but it still remained a terrific fighter menace with the "Defense of the Reich Staffel" up against us---and was a grueling 9 hour flight 5 of which were at 26,000 feet at 50 degrees below zero. Our primary target was obscured by low clouds so we had to go to the secondary Wittenberge which had 8 guns- We were much relieved when the leader radioed to Painter where we were headed--we were on the bomb run when all hell broke loose-we were hit once-my head crashed against the plexiglass & was stunned-we were hit again & again- I died four times. I was without a flak suit or helmet & a dead duck if shrapnel hit me---but then the light but perfectly accurately barrage was over & we were clear--we had ten hits on our ship-ranging from the size of a grapefruit on down-but all were O.K. tho Mac, Painter, Rabbit & I had close calls- When we landed red flares were going off like the 4th of July (WOUNDED ABOARD PLANE-BRING AMBULANCE) as planes limped in--engines out. damaged-- All in all-4 men were killed, 8 wounded---my pal, another tail gunner had his leg blown off and bled to death & other buddies were hit--of all the places we've been-it had to be a place with 8 guns to raise hell-passing Berlin, Frankfort, Munich, Hanover all--now I'm really getting flaky.
March 17, 1945...MISSION NO. 12-RUHLAND
Briefing revealed another long cold haul to a point only 28 miles from the Russian lines-the bomb load was 12 500 lb bombs- After 5 hours on oxygen (including return) at 50 degrees below again-I'm about ready to quit-- The contrails were very heavy & consistent and we were in danger from fighter attacks from the cover of the trails but none were encountered- The primary was again covered by 10/10ths clouds so we hit the last resort target at Plauen-we had flak at the primary & secondary but none on bombs away so it was pretty much of a milkrun- On the return trip we passed over & I got a good look at the place where Belgium was flooded & some of the devastation of ground & air war-it's beyond explanation & words in its total flattening of the country & cities
March 19, 1945...MISSION NO. 13-JENA
We were sweating out old number 13 even before we went to briefing so when it turned out to be only 6 miles from Merseberg the sweat really poured. The Luftwaffe was over here again last night & as before we went to France to form--we formed over Reims & I had about an hours time to look at the famous cathedral city which was almost a shambles but the cathedral was still intact--the raid was cold but uneventful-and the expected 200 fighters of the Luftwaffe didn't show. The flak was out of range and we had no close calls. On the way back we saw the ruins of Cologne and Coblenz and the level battlefield & shell pocked city's ruins stretching for hundreds of miles-it was amazing & kinda sickening too. We got a weather report of a zero ceiling over the Channel & an 8000 feet thick cloud level so the formation peeled off one by one & tried to penetrate it. We were low on gas and let down to a bare few feet above the stormed Channel & still couldn't see anything. We were lost for close to an hour & the gas kept burning faster & faster as the minutes ticked by-that Channel looked awfully cold- We were very close to ditching when the coast of England suddenly loomed up-it never looked so beautiful before and the crew went wild with joy. We landed with a few more gray hairs and only about a cupful of gas for each engine--God! what a relief! Old 13 came off O.K. but someone sure is looking after us!
March 21, 1945...Donald A. Becker was killed in action along with most of the plane's crew.
May 8, 1945...V-E Day (Victory in Europe)
IMPORTANT EVENTS IN S/SGT DONALD BECKER’S AAF SERVICE
GRADUATED GUNNERY SCHOOL (LAS VEGAS, NEV) AUG. 20, 1944
ARRIVED FOR PHASES (SIOUX CITY, IA) OCT. 1, 1944---LEFT DEC. 26
ARRIVED LINCOLN DEC. 27, 1944 RECEIVED B-17 339180 ON JANUARY 1, 1945---LEFT FOR P.O.E. JAN.10-
ARRIVED P.O.E.-DOW FIELD, ME JANUARY 10, 11:20 A.M.-LEFT 8:25 AM JAN. 14------
ARRIVED GOOSE BAY, LABORADOR 12:33, JAN. 14 LEFT 0558 JANUARY 16th 1945-----
ARRIVED MEEKS FIELD, ICELAND-JAN 17th-LEFT JANUARY 20th 1945.
ARRIVED VALLEY WALES-BRITISH ISLES JANUARY 21st
ARRIVED 100th BOMB GROUP-THORP ABBOT FEBRUARY 3-BECAME OPERATIONAL FEBRUARY 19, 1945-----
MADE 1st MISSION-NUREMBURG, GERMANY-FEBRUARY 20, 1945-
FIRST PASS TO LONDON-FEB. 22-24 1945-STAYED STRAND IMPERIAL HOTEL
Letter from War Department:
20 September 1946
Mrs. Edith J. Becker
1026 Arlington Street, S.W.
Canton 6, Ohio
Dear Mrs. Becker:
This is in reply to your letter in which you requested information relative to your son, Sergeant Donald A. Becker.
Your desire for additional details relative to the circumstances surrounding the death of your son is most understandable. Information available in the War Department reveals that Sergeant Becker was a tail gunner on a B-17 (Flying Fortress) bomber which participated in a bombardment mission to Ruhland, Germany on 21 March 1945. During this mission about 9:40 a.m., over Leipzig, Germany, our planes were subjected to hostile aircraft. In the ensuing engagement your son's bomber exploded and crashed after the left wing caught fire. A plan in operation in all theaters overseas provides for occupying forces, special investigating crews and Graves Registration Service to search for wreckage of planes, isolated graves and other information concerning missing personnel. Through the American Graves Registration Service eight Allied Airmen were found buried in the cemetery at Freiberg, Germany. One body was identified but individual identification of your son and the remaining six bodies was impossible. In view of this and the fact that your son and the other crew members were never evacuated through United States Medical Installations, reported as prisoners of war or returned to military control, it has been determined that in accordance with regulations which provide that an individual will be reported dead where there is reasonable conclusive evidence of death, or where circumstances lead to no other logical conclusion, a report was transmitted to the War Department stating that Sergeant Becker had been killed in action on 21 March 1945, the date he was initially reported missing in action.
May I extend to you my deepest sympathy.
Acting The Adjutant General of the Army
Letter from Army Service Forces:
6 June 1947
Mr. Adam Becker
1026 Arlington Street, Southwest
Dear Mr. Becker:
The Quartermaster General is desirous of furnishing you information concerning the attempt to recover the remains of your son, the late Sergeant Donald A. Becker.
It is with deep regret you are advised that an official report of burial for your son has not, at the present time, been received. Information has been obtained, however, which indicates that the remains of the crew members of the plane, in which your son lost his life, were interred in the Cemetery at Freiberg, in the Russian occupied zone of Germany. A radiogram has been dispatched to the American Graves Registration Command requesting that this reported burial be investigated, in the event that searching operations have not been completed in that area, and that this office be furnished all available information pertaining to your son.
You may be assured that no effort is being spared in the attempt to recover the remains of your loved one, and that such effort will continue until every possible resource has been exhausted. When information is received that your son's remains have been recovered and interred in an established United States Military Cemetery, you will be advised without delay.
Please accept my sincere sympathy in your great loss.
Lt. Colonel, QMC
Letter from the Department of the Army:
26 January 1950
Mr. and Mrs. Adam Becker
1026 Arlington Street, Southwest
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Becker:
I am now at liberty to furnish you conclusive information concerning the recovery and identification of the remains of your son, the late Sergeant Donald A. Becker, and his crew members.
Realizing how anxiously you have been waiting to receive this information, I wish to advise you of the pertinent facts of the case, as revealed by the reports received from our overseas Command and Department of the Army records.
Your son was one of nine crew members aboard a B-17G type aircraft, serial number 44-8613, which crashed on 21 March 1945, while on an operational mission to Ruhland, Germany. One member of the crew survived and eight, including your son, lost their lives.
A review of captured German records disclosed that an American bomber crashed near the Donates Cemetery, Freiberg, Germany, and that the remains of the crew members were recovered and buried there. The names of the decedents were not mentioned. During the course of searching operations in this area, our Graves Registration personnel recovered the remains of these decedents from a common grave in the Donates Cemetery. These remains were removed to the United States Military Cemetery Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, where they were subjected to exhaustive investigations, including processing by qualified anthropological and laboratory technicians, in an attempt to determine individual identities. As a result of these investigations, three of these deceased were identified individually as members of your son's crew; however all efforts to determine individual identifications of the other remains were unsuccessful. In view of this, and based on the following facts, these remains were identified as a group, the only recoverable remains of your son and the four members of his crew to be accounted for.
a. These remains were disinterred from the same common grave as those of the above mentioned identified crew members.
b. Teeth found common among the remains compared favorably with Army dental records for two of the unaccounted for crew members of aircraft 44-8613, and clothing found with the remains corresponded with their branch of service.
c. There is no record of any other American deceased having been interred in the Freiberg, Cemetery.
d. Further searching operations conducted in the area by our forces failed to locate any additional remains which could be associated with the crew of aircraft 44-8613.
Under the provisions of Public Law 368, 80th Congress, amending Public Law 383, 79th Congress, all known group burials are returned to the United States for final interment in a National Cemetery designated by The Quartermaster General. It was necessary for the Army to establish a procedure in these cases which would assure equal consideration for all families involved. The method adopted for the disposition of group remains, where individual identification of such remains cannot be determined, is to select a National Cemetery for burial, the geographical location of which will distribute as equitably as possible the burden of travel upon all next of kin concerned. In accordance with this policy, the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky, has been chosen for interment of the remains represented in this group.
You will be informed by telegram when the remains of the group are en route to the United States. Subsequent to arrival, the Superintendent of the National Cemetery will notify you of the exact date and hour the remains will be interred, sufficiently in advance to permit your attendance at the funeral services. In order that you may promptly receive information concerning these final rites, it is essential that notification of any change in your address be immediately forwarded to the Commanding General, New York Port of Embarkation, Attention American Graves Registration Division, 1st Avenue and 58th Street, Brooklyn 20, New York.
Permit me to extend my deepest sympathy in the great loss you have sustained.
Lt. Colonel, QMC
Telegram from Zachary Taylor National Cemetery:
CT.LVA29-849 BOOK NL PD=LOUISVILLE KY 26=
ADAM BECKER=(DLR AND REPORT CHARGES):
1026 ARLINGTON ST SOUTHWEST CANTON OHIO=
=FUNERAL SERVICES FOR THE LATE SGT DONALD A BECKER SCHEDULED FOR ONE PM MAY ELEVENTH=.
PLEASE REPLY BY TELEGRAM COLLECT ADVISING WHETHER YOU WILL ATTEND OR NOT. THERE IS NO AUTHORIZATION FOR PAYMENT FOR TRAVEL AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE TO ATTEND FUNERAL SERVICES IN NATIONAL CEMETERY. FLOWERS DELIVERED TO SUPERINTENDENT SHOULD CONTAIN NAME RANK AND SERIAL NUMBER OF DECEASED. MOTOR TRANSPORTATION AVAILABLE FROM LOUISVILLE TO CEMETERY BY TELEPHONING WABASH 6553 EXTENSION 14=
JOHN J CARR SUPT ZACHARY TAYLOR NATIONAL CEMETERY.=