THE BOOK STIRRED A MEMORY

I just finished reading a book written by A WWII bomber pilot, Eugene Fletcher.   Its title is, The Lucky Bastards’ Club. In it the author tells of the 8th Air Force undertaking a mission from England. They were to bomb the Germans I was facing over in France.

The Allies idea was to bomb the German position and give us a chance to break through their lines at St. Lo, France. I was there. Here’s what happened.

 

France

July 25, 1944

As a T/4 (Technician, Fourth Grade), my duty was to accompany a Navy Officer along Omaha Beach and determine how soon each of the landing vessels offloading there would be ready to leave. I was to forward that information to be radioed to the Task Force Command on a nearby ship.

One day, I was eating my K Ration (boxed, dried food we added water to.) dinner next to a hedgerow when I heard the sound of many airplanes approaching.  I looked up and what a view it was!

Low-flying B-17s covered the sky. These four-engine heavy bombers wore a blue circle with a white star on the side. They were approaching from across the English Channel and heading directly toward where I was standing!

As soon as the lead bomber passed overhead, German anti-aircraft guns opened up. They shot down a few planes.  At one point, I saw five or six aircraft hit and their crews bailing out.  One plane lost a wing and slid sideways down through the air. No one bailed out that time.

Some of the last pilots were unable to see their target due to smoke from burning aircraft and previous bombs.  Planes began dropping their bombs on US!  I dove into a nearby ditch and pulled my helmet “down over my entire body, including my feet!” (At least that’s what I tried to do!)

St. Lo, after the bombing.

St. Lo, after the bombing.

Bombs landed so close that at one time, a blast tossed me into the air and I fell back into the ditch. The bombing went on, and on. Finally, it ended and I came up from the ditch, unhurt.

My hedgerow was gone. The entire countryside was empty of grass and trees. A few trunks stood, shattered.  Bomb craters made the countryside look like a brown moonscape.

Many American soldiers and officers died there.  I am lucky to be alive.

Le (Mar. ‘13) adds, “I later learned there were three thousand planes, all focusing on a certain point to drop their bombs.”

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