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The View From The Ground

By Simon Z. Aman (Zamansky)
Volume 34, Winter 2003, No. 3
Cindy Goodman, Editor

I was the Communication Chief of the 349th Squadron of the group from August 1943 to September 1945. My job was to make sure that Radio Equipment, Compasses, and all wiring connection to all parts (including all headsets, mikes, and aerials) were in good working condition at the time of takeoff.

Everyone in my group knew the importance of our function and there wasn’t one that didn’t do his duty whatever it might be. Our work and testing took most of us into all night work. Putting up antennas in the dark became just a routine job to us.

A skeleton crew always stood by at take off in case of emergencies, but I would be the first to answer any complaint. On particularly rough missions I would get call on compasses that didn’t work or wires broken or accidentally stepped on and having the certain members of the crew ask that the plane be taken out of the line on the perimeter. I knew how frightened many of these men were, both officers and gunners. To many I gave my usual encouragement talk, knowing that it might be a fatal trip. Many a plane I departed holding back tears.

We were always anxious to hear the sound of our planes coming back, wondering how many we would see come back or what mixed happiness and sorrow would we feel? Seeing new crews come and the joy on their faces without knowing what was ahead was sobering for us.

I always looked forward to new aircraft coming in because they had to be changed from U.S. standards to combat standards right away and we men never failed in our job to see them, perhaps in two days or less, ready to go out to fight the enemy.

Working at night and sometimes during the day became regular routine and many times we had to work on a plane being patched up from battle. The engineers, the armament men and all connected with the planes of the 349th did a great job.

Even though the night time communication men had mostly leftovers to eat, we did not begrudge the better chow from the airmen. After all, there was no comparison on our duties.

In July 1943 I was told that our planes would be going stateside and that they would have to be put back from combat status to U.S. status. That meant that everything had to be in great working condition and no friction tape on any wiring.

In the middle of this, the other men of the radio group transferred out because of the point system (I was one short). The order on the planes remained in tact and one week later I received 14 new, green men.

I decided to hold school to acquaint the men with the B17 and its radio, wiring, and other parts that we were responsible for. Getting very long pieces of wire to replace tape wire called for midnight runs to a nearby English aircraft junk yard. We had 2 months to complete our assignment and we did it and passed the examination on all of our aircraft. We were given as a reward a letter of praise and a 2 day furlough to London.

It was a joyous time for us and we returned to the 100th feeling happy about returning to the U.S.A. When we arrived at our barracks we were told by another airman to ride out to our planes right away.

We were stricken to see that all of our planes had been cut apart and were being turned over to the English as junk as per an agreement with the English Government.

I was informed that I was being shipped back for discharge and the other men were going into the occupation forces of Europe.

Simon Z. Aman (Zamansky)