48 Hour Pass To London
At the completion of the debriefing session on the Berlin
mission, the Buffalo Gal’s crew was given a 48 hour pass.
This was welcome relief We had seen over 200 men in our
Bomb Group shot out of the sky during our first five
missions of aerial combat and we were all getting a little
The crew assembled at the Diss train station within an hour,
bags packed and ticket in hand for some anticipated fun and
relaxation in London.
Upon arrival at the train station in London, the enlisted men
headed for the Strand Palace Hotel on the famous Strand,
near Trafalgar Square. The officers went to the Jules Annex
of the Red Cross Club on Jermyn Street.
The Red Cross Club had three floors of dormitories which
were nothing more than large open rooms with a sea of steel
cots. Charlie Hardiman and I dressed in blouse and pinks
and decided to explore the pub situation. We found it
advisable to seek out one of the underground establishments
since it would soon be time for the nightly Nazi bombing.
We located an establishment that had been recommended
and found ourselves a table. The place was crawling with
military and civilians of both sexes. Wartime London was a
melting pot for the armed services of every nationality, and
their uniforms were often picturesque. In the United
Kingdom women were drafted into the services; so most of
the girls and women were in uniform.
A waiter came to our table and asked if we wanted a wine
order. Since we desired something a little stronger than
wine to drink, our answer was negative. The waiter
vanished. A little later, bottles of Scotch whiskey were
being brought to the other tables. We inquired as to how to
go about obtaining a bottle or two of the Scotch. We were
told that when the waiter came to the table earlier inquiring
about a wine order, that was our cue for placing an order
for the Scotch. All the Scotch that was to be consumed
there for the evening then had to be ordered and delivered
from an outside bootlegger or black market operator and
that was it for the evening. Gin or beer was the only
alcoholic beverages available so gin it was.
At about 21:00 hours, a rumbling explosion shook the cellar
room. Dirt and dust dropped from the ceiling and the power
went off. Candles were lighted and the party continued.
Bombs were being dropped by the Nazi bombers on
London. A few minutes after the first bomb blast, a helmeted air raid warden came down the stairs and inquired
if there were any injuries. He got no answer. He then asked
if there were any elderly or infirm in the room. Again no
answer. His next inquiry was if any of the women there
might be pregnant. A burly female voice from the back of
the room said, “Blimey Matey, give us a little time, we just
The pub was a bedlam of revelry. Smoke, loud talk, piano
music, songs of all branches of services, some clean and
some bawdy. The call to drink up was announced as it was
time for the midnight closing. The nightly bombing of the
city was over and everyone departed the scene. Charlie and
I took a cab back to our quarters at the Red Cross Club.
Sleep came easily since we had consumed the best part of
two fifths of gin mixed with grapefruit juice. Ugh!
About 03:00 hours, I was rudely awakened by an explosion
of the highest magnitude and found myself lying on the floor
on top of my A-3 bag. My ears were ringing and breathing
was restricted because the air was full of dirt and dust. The
power was off and visibility was zero. Blackout curtains
made any outside lights invisible. I could not see my hand in
front of my face. Someone finally produced a flash light or
torch, a term the British preferred to use. My bridgework
was loose and water could be heard running in all the commodes as every one of them in the building had been
flushed by the explosion. Believe me, this had been one hell-
of-an-explosion. Cool performers that they traditionally
were, the English made an absolutely unbelievable
announcement later in the day that, “It may be possible the
Germans have finally perfected the dreaded V-2 rocket,
and there is a strong possibility that one of them may
have landed in the heart of London in the early hours of
this morning.” What in the name of hell did they think it
was, a firecracker? The next morning, Hardiman and I
found the hole the thing made. That sucker made a hole a
block wide when it landed about a half mile from where we
That evening found us back in the underground pub where
Chuck and I had been the night before. We made sure to
turn in a wine order this time. That V-2 rocket blast had
assassinated my hang-over and my gin soaked membranes
violently opposed any more gin. It was Scotch or nothing -
so Scotch it was. To awake with a splitting head and a full
load of remorse - was it worth it? Hell, yes! We were soon
at it again. The conviviality of wartime is unimaginable if
one has not actually experienced it. People who had not
seen each other before five minutes ago became comrades.
Complete strangers drank out of the same bottle with no
thought of disease.
This is how we became acquainted with a First Lieutenant
who was lead bombardier for one of the Bomb Groups. We
spent most of that evening listening to a most bizarre and
intriguing tale about an accidental bombing event. Here then
is his account of the 7 September 1943 task force mission
that was sent out against the Evere Airfield on the outskirts
of Brussels, Belgium.
The prime purpose of the mission was to bomb German Air
Force installations, including shops, fuel storage facilities,
ammunition dumps and living areas of the fighter base.. The
airfield was heavily defended by 88 mm flak guns. In
placing the guns, the Germans had left off a few of them on
one side, leaving a weakness in their gun defenses. It had
been decided that the approach route for the mission would
best be unexpected from that direction which was south to
north and forced the route to the target to be directly across
At the Initial Point of Halle, a few miles southwest of
Brussels, the combat wing leader was to fire a green flare
and then turn northeast directly across the heart of the city.
At this signal the groups would break into a bombing
interval of one mile and follow the leader in. Each group
would then release their bombs when their group
bombardier released his. After the bombing, the leader was
to turn left and the following groups would reform into a
defensive formation. As was the rule in all operations over
occupied countries, bomber crews were cautioned against
any bombing of other than specifically designated targets.
Stress was placed on the unfortunate predicament of the
Belgian people under German domination. - that these
people were our friends and could be counted on for
assistance in case our bombers should be shot down or they
should have to make crash landings on Belgian soil.
At the IP, the formation turned to split according to plan,
and the bombers headed directly across the heart of the city.
The bomb bay doors opened and each bombardier was
ready to toggle his bombs out as soon as he saw the bombs
failing from the lead bomber of his formation.
Each lead bombardier of the strike force was busy locking
on to the target with his bomb sight.
The formations were aligned in a column of groups and
moving across the city from south to north. They had
encountered no fighters or flak. The bombardier continued
his story. His group was in the second position. He said he
had identified the target and had completed his bomb sight
adjustments and was prepared for the bomb run on the
airdrome. He watched the city pass slowly beneath his
bombsight window. A very heavy haze hung over the city
The bombardier said he had finished making minute
corrections to the bomb site as he neared the target. All
switches were in the on position and he felt he had a good
run on the aiming point and he felt the plane lift as his
bombs went out. He looked down and saw the arming
vanes spinning away and watched his bombs as they walked
down the path of impact.
His pilot made the left turn off the target run as briefed and
was closing in on the wing lead to reform into a defensive
The Lieutenant said as he was closing the bomb bay doors,
he looked up and saw bombs from other groups hitting
another target and not the one he and his group had
bombed. He said it was kind of like a bad dream when he
realized that he was seeing bombs being dropped by the
other groups on the Evere airfield target.
He said, “As we swung west to return to England, he
would never forget the boiling smoke from the airfield
target. And to the south, and in the middle of the city, a
much smaller column of smoke from his bomb pattern.
The Lieutenant related that he had picked up on a target
which was geometrically similar to the Evere airfield. At
the moment of bomb release, I was sure that it was the real
target. He went on, “I just flat picked up the wrong target
and I dropped 168 - 500 pounders (14 of my groups
aircraft) 3 1/2 miles short of the target.”
The next morning, information reports to the intelligence
section indicated that the Lieutenant’s bombs had fallen on
the Royal Belgian Military Academy that was being used to
house and train the Germans. The information reports
further stated that 1,200 German troops were casualties
from the accidental bombing and across the channel, the
accident was being called a remarkable exhibition of
American precision bombing. An official announcement
covering the bombing was that “Such are the fortunes of
war,” and the incident is now closed.”
Such are the fortunes of war indeed! Some targets were a
piece of cake - others took some luck interlaced with the
bombardiers skill. In his case, “How lucky can you get?”
We went from one pub to the other drinking just about
anything they had available. The English seemed to lean on
a lethal concoction of gin and Guiness. An Oklahoma
Indian P-51 pilot standing between Chuck and me said,
“that stuff is rough as a wood haulers ass, but it’ll sure get
the job done.” He wanted to know what we were doing for
the war effort. We explained that we were over there doing
the same thing he was, trying to kick Hitler’s butt every
chance we got. He told us that Indians were sort of
psychic and could see in the future. He singled out Flannigan, Cox and me and said we would come out of the
war without a scratch, and Hardiman would make it, but he
would get a piece of flak in him before his tour was over.
Later I asked Chuck what he thought about the psychic
Indian’s prediction. His only answer was, “Kiss my ass!”
We ate fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, ogled the
army of prostitutes that thronged Piccadilly. The idea of
buying sex wasn’t my dish of tea. They didn’t starve
however on my account . . .they had plenty of customers.
The Bobbies wisely ignored the “ladies of the night” and let
them carry out their oldest profession. They stood in
doorways and never left. Always the tell-tale glow of a
cigarette let it be known they were there. Their tricks were
done in a standing position. That enabled them to do five in
the same amount of time it took to do one in a hotel room.
After a while we disengaged from riotous living and took to
the historic sights to be seen in the historic old city. We
visited Charing Cross Station, Pall Mall, Leicester Square,
Regent Street, Maiden Lane, Berkley Square, Waterloo
Bridge and the Tower of London. We went to Westminster
Abbey and Parliament.
We toured Hyde Park where soap-box orators abounded.
Most of them, we were told, were polishing up on their
oratory skills preparatory to becoming politicians.
The next day we returned to Thorpe Abbotts to again
become warriors in a shooting war. For a few days we had
had a new lease on life and we rehearsed the good times for
days on end.
We had missed a Squadron Inspection while we were in
London and it was reported not to have been a happy
Third Air Division Commander, General LeMay had pulled
a surprise inspection on the 350th Squadron and the
Squadron Commander” had taken to the woods.”
At the conclusion of the inspection, Louis Hays came
roaring into the Squadron area with a jeep load of armorers
hanging on for dear life. Louis went flying through a mud
puddle and threw up a wall of mud that landed a few feet
from the General. With fine military precision and in
keeping with a GI’s notion that Chain-of-Command means shit rolls down
hill, an executive order went from General
to Commanding Officer, to Executive Officer to Adjutant
to First Sergeant: “Get that man.”
The Bloody Hundredth went back to Berlin the day we
departed for London. Only nine planes from the group
went out this time and all came back. We must have used
up a hell-of-a bunch of their fighters for them on those first
two Berlin’s because no Nazi fighters were seen on this one.
I am absolutely amazed at some of the infinitely small
motivational ideas that Group Command conjures up that
boosts morale. On our return from the March 8 Berlin
mission, a new medical policy had been put into effect and
the returning crews were rewarded with a double-shot of
Scotch rather than the customary single, which has proved
to be one of the best ideas yet. Morale went up like a sky-
March 13 saw more early morning activity around the base
than had been seen in many moons. The reason was because
the rumor was spread around the previous night at the
Commissary that everyone, paddle feet as well as combat
troops, would have two fresh eggs per man for breakfast.
That was enough to drive anyone out of his warm sack.
Reports from a critique at Framlingham indicated that the
100th Bomb Group did right well on the initial Berlin raids.
Distinguished itself in fact.
During the course of the day, Generals Spaatz, Doolittle,
LeMay and Kissner arrived, it was assumed to boost morale
after the terrible Group losses at Berlin. They conducted an
inspection of the base and presented eight decorations
including the Silver Star to Colonel Bennett for “superb
judgment and gallantry” for the Erkner Bearing Factory job
at Berlin on March 8, for which the Group received a
second Presidential Unit Citation.
After the presentations the Generals ‘held court’ at the
Officers Club, chaffing with all comers and answering any
and all questions and proving themselves to be good Joes in
every way. One young Second Lieutenant who had stayed
at the bar a little too long and built up a pretty good
“snoot full” of courage walked up to General Jimmy
Doolittle, squared his shoulders and buried his index finger
about three inches deep in the Generals chest and
announced, “You think we don’ know whachur here for doncha?” Doolittle
explained, “Well son, after the terrible
losses this Group sustained on the initial missions to Berlin,
we wanted to come here and see if there is anything you
need that might make you a little more comfortable and also
to provide equipment and material for your Group to make
things better here.”
The Lieutenant squared his shoulders again and poked that
finger deep in the Generals chest. By this time General
Spaatz was becoming pretty incensed but Doolittle seemed
to be enjoying it. The kid went on, “You think there’s
something wrong with our morale, dontcha? Well let me
tell you something. Nothin’s wrong with our morale, and if
it was, we don’t need a bunch of gahhdam Generals comin’
round here tryiana flxit.”
Some of the kids friends took him in tow and guided him
back to his Nissen hut and the episode was forgotten.
Thirteen new crews arrived today to bring the Group back
up to full strength. The events of the day had been
extremely interesting and revelatory. The Air Force
Command and staff went back to their duties and the story
of the Lieutenant telling off the 8th Air Force Commander
was told and retold until it became somewhat boring.
Events like this take some of the edge off the bloody war.
So much has happened to us all since we got here. We’ve
seen death and destruction. Zeb Kindell was a close friend.
I saw his plane blow up over Dummer Lake in March. Paul
Martin and I went through Primary, Basic and Advanced
training together. We congratulated each other with a big
hug the day we got our wings and bars. It really tore my
heart out when I saw his Fort turn into a bail of fire.
So... .if some kid gets a little juice in him and wants to
defend the integrity of his organization, take his good
conduct medal away from him for a week or so but don’t
put him irons. He might have been over Berlin yesterday.
Like the man says, “Their golden youth blots out the sky,
they let the comets plod. As each one flies to live or die for
country and for God.
Next...Sing These Songs Mightly
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