Letter to Mr. Ron Leigh of 52 Grosvenor Way, Horwich BL6 8DJ England
1112 E. Eckman
South Bend, IN
August 5, 1996
We did have, as I recall, and Armament Officer who had the nick-name of “Bolt Stud” and his Spaniel dog was called “Sear – Spring,” I suppose you could say they looked alike. (They did) He was older and returned to the States earlier and wanted to take the dog home. So he trained Sear – Spring to lie in his barracks bag and not make a sound no matter what. I do not know if Sear – Spring arrived safely or not.
As to the Regensburg Shuttle Raid I would suggest that you check your library for any writings by Bernie Lay. This author wrote an article or two for the Saturday Evening Post and Readers Digest. I recall one was entitled, “I saw Regensburg Destroyed.’ He flew with the 351st in Piccadilly Lily and Murphy was the pilot. It was from his article that the movie Twelve O’ Clock High was drawn. They flew in plane 42-5864 EP-A and John Hermann was the Crew Chief.
With reference to the ball turret incident, the Base was having an inspection by, I believe, General Partridge. The planes from the mission were in, and there were possibly 100 or more men in and around the 5 dispersal points and the tower next door. The ball turret made two revolutions hitting the gunner, catching M/Sgt Piccard’s ship on fire and stitching the Tower twice. No one else was hurt but M/Sgt Lemmons had the back of his sheep skin jacket creased and Sgt. Picard had a bullet hit the heel of his shoe.
In the tower all but the General “hit the deck” on the first pass and he shouted, “What the hell is going on here,” just as pass number two went through. The story is he joined those on the floor.
Our fire department was called to douse the planes burning next to the tower but they were reluctant to get too close and stayed at the far end of the hose. While-upon their fearless leader, “Shivering John” grabbed the hose and started up the ladder against the wing. Unfortunately he went up too fast and the ladder was too straight. As his weight neared the top the ladder straightened and then tipped dumping “Shivering John’ on the tarmac and breaking his shoulder.
“Shivering John” was so called because he wore his long handled underwear all summer long. He said it was because he was from Tennessee, but others thought his shivers were brought on by cheap booze.
We were now ready for Phase II. Lt. Colonel Rosenthal, in full regalia for the general inspection was hoisted upon the trailing edge. Rosie called for the fire hose and just as he reached for the nozzle the helpful firemen back at the other end of the 200 foot hose turned on the foam. Rosie looked like a Santa Claus who had fallen out of his sleigh. Some how he got down and with foam still dripping from the wings we brought up our tow bars and the Cletrac tractor. I then drove it into the middle of the field where we let the fire take it’s course.
Later I thought we should have cleared the area and let it burn out at the dispersal point, but it was very close to the Tower had it blown.
September 15, 1996
Called away from my desk and delayed in picking up with your letter – nothing serious.
As I recall there were approximately 216 odd shell casings on the ground. The debacle was caused by not clearing the guns and then when the one gun began firing, the young man backed or crawled out of the turret and with only one gun firing it spun and killed him. Colonel Utley, our Ground Executive Officer was thankful there were no other casualties, however it seems several farm animals paid the ultimate price,
The “Boeing Belle” completed 130 – 135 missions. On January 24th 1944 it crash landed at Eastchurch following a raid on Frankfurt. I have enclosed a copy of pictures that appeared in most papers in the United States and we thought it would have to be salvaged. The plane was flown by Frank Valesh of Hang the Expense fame. Consequently we received another plane and it was assigned the same call code EP-E. When 42-39867 was returned it was renamed the Boeing Belle but kept the same code EP-E which should not have happened – but it did. The replacement plane was 42-31767 and named “Our Gal Sal” by Bob Shoens. It too completed 130 – 135 missions prior to returning to the U.S.
In response to your inquiry our “She – Has – Ta”, plane 42-107007 EP-B was lost on July 29, 1944 on the raid to Merseburg. The machine gun incident occurred following the mission to Munich on July 11, 1944. The man killed was Homer Parish.