THE FAMOUS BLOODY HUNDREDTH BG
were stunned to receive orders to report to the
Hundredth Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbotts. The infamous “Bloody Hundredth.”
We took the train from Bovington to Diss in East Anglia which
was only a few miles from Thorpe Abbotts. Trucks had been dispatched
to ignominiously deliver us to 100th Bomb Group Headquarters.
None of the usual and familiar “You’ll be sorry” greeted us. We
were assigned quarters. The enlisted men shared a building with
two or three other crews. The officers were quartered in a large
nissen hut with the officers from three other crews. Four empty
cots gaped at us that had been occupied the night before by Lieutenant
Fletcher and his crew who went down that morning on a mission
to Brunswick. At 14:50 the day he went down, a radio message was
received from Bill Fletcher announcing that he couldn’t make it
across the channel and was going to crash land his B- 17 called
“Fletcher’s Castoria.” It was later learned that the landing was
successfully accomplished in a field north east of Spaarndam,
Holland, where he attempted to set the plane on fire. All ten
men were taken prisoners of war.
large wooden tables resembling picnic tables with attached benches
were located down the center of the nissen hut with a large pot-bellied
coal stove between them. On the table was a large chunk of Spam,
about a half loaf of GI unsliced bread and half a quart can of
grapefruit juice - left over from a late night poker game.
The cot arrangement for each crew had two on each side of the
aisle. We were near the back wall which was made of bricks. The
wall looked like a sieve, it had so many holes in it. The pilot
whose bunk was next to mine was Ed McKay. He told me that a few
nights before Fletcher went down, he came in from the officers
club drunk as a hoot owl. He had a tommy gun and told everyone
to hit the deck. He then proceeded to fire a whole clip into the
wall before he stopped.
Word of the shooting got to the Group Commander, Col. John Bennett
who immediately phoned Squadron Commander, Major Bucky Elton and
told him to go down there and take that damn machine gun away
from Fletcher. Bucky told the Colonel if he wanted that gun he’d
have to go down there and get it himself. He said he wasn’t going
near any drunk son-of-a-bitch with a machine gun.
Ed McKay also explained the ceiling art to me. The entire ceiling
was covered with the names of targets that had been bombed by
the “Bloody Hundredth.” Each one had been hand written using the
smoke from lighted candles. Each mission was recorded that way
for the duration.
Each officer had at the head of his bed - a wooden dresser with
about five storage drawers and a large mirror on top of it. A
barracks bag and footlocker was placed at the foot of the bed.
Everyone had a “Just in case” letter, sealed, addressed and stamped
- placed at the corner of the wooden framed mirror. The letter
contained a message to a loved one that in essence stated that
receipt of the letter was an indication that the writer had been
shot down and there was a better than even chance that he would
be a prisoner of the Germans for the duration of the war.
It was the duty of each officer in the nissen hut to see that
the letter was mailed when it was verified the writer had gone
down. The letter would be gone before it could be censored in
A phone was located on a shelf near my bunk. Beside it was a small
blackboard fastened to the wall. Aircraft positions in the formation
were represented by small silhouettes of B- 17s in formation.
They were arranged to diagram the entire group of 21 aircraft
by squadrons. There was enough space in front of each plane’s
silhouette to write a pilot’s name. There was also room on the
blackboard for the names of spares. The spares would take off
and follow the group to fill in for aborts. If not needed by the
time the formation reached the channel, the spares would return.
Since my bed was located nearest the phone, it would be my lot
to answer the phone and take the mission alert and chalk in the
pilot’s names to show the position they would fly on the mission.
speculation was evidenced as to what the target might be. We did
have a character we called “Whirlaway” that moved kind of fast
like the famous race horse of the same name. He would stick his
head in the door just before the crews were officially awakened
and yell “10 five hundreds and 2700 hundred gallons,” and he was
gone. That was bad news and pretty well cinched a deep penetration
into Germany which always gave us cause for considerable concern.
My Squadron Commander Major Bucky Elton pretty well summed up
how he thought things were going around there when I checked in
for duty. He said, “Lieutenant, I don’t want to get to know you.
You probably won’t be around here for very long anyway.” “Well,
Gee Whiz thanks Major Carnegie. That attitude sure as hell ought
to win you some friends and influence a bunch of people.”
I was surprised to find Bob (Rosie) Rosenthal at the 100th BG.
He and his crew were in training at Pyote and Dyersburg when I
was there as a copilot with the (h-issom crew. I asked him if
he knew anything about Allen Grissom and his crew. Rosie told
me that during a recent 48 hour leave in London, he had talked
to a pilot from Grissom’s Group and was told that Grissom was
last seen heading for neutral Switzerland after the first Schweinfurt
Rosie Rosenthal had become quite a legend at the 100th Bomb Group.
On the morning of October 10, 1943 the group briefing was for
Munster, Germany. The main point of impact for the bombing was
to be the center of the city. Bombing missions for the 8th Air
Force usually were strategic in nature and were not intended to
just kill civilians. As a last resort to stop rail transportation
in the Ruhr Valley, it was known that all the rail workers in
the valley were billeted in Munster. A decision was made that
a pursuit and fighter-bomber attack could not effectively stop
up the Ruhr Valley. A good big bomber raid could really mess up
the very efficient rail system by messing up its personnel.
There was some apprehension about purposefiully bombing civilians,
including slave laborers. Some who were preparing to fly their
third successive mission, ‘felt they were living on borrowed time
anyway’ and were so tired and drained emotionally, ‘they could
Twenty planes from Thorpe Abbotts set out that morning. Seven
of them aborted while over the sea or shortly after reaching the
coast of Holland.
The first signs of trouble came after the P-47s turned for home
- nine minutes flying time from Munster and the replacement escort,
delayed by ground fog, failed to show up. When it eventually arrived,
‘the 100th had disappeared from the sky,’ having been overwhelmed
by two hundred plus enemy aircraft, mostly FW-190s, JU-88s, ME-210s
and ME-i lOs. To add to the confusion, a number of ME- 1 lOs,
410s, JU-88s and Dornier 217s, began launching rockets. Of the
thirteen - Hundredth BG planes that had reached the Initial Point
- twelve were lost to flak and enemy fighters.
Only one of the fortresses now remained, Royal Flush, piloted
by Robert Rosenthall, which, although seriously damaged and with
the number one engine knocked out, successfiully bombed the objective
before turning to head for home. The aircraft then became the
object of a series of concentrated fighter attacks. The number
three engine was hit and had to be feathered. The oxygen system
was almost completely destroyed and a rocket went through the
right wing, barely missing the gas tank.
The two waist gunners - Loren Darling and John Shaffer, were shot
up quite badly. The tail gunner was hit in the butt and the top
turret gunner collected a nick between the eyes while he was busy
destroying two enemy fighters, which were seen to burst in flames.
A third was destroyed by the radio operator. After the assaults
had ceased, all moveable equipment was thrown overboard and Rosie
brought his bomber home - alone. All that remained of the Hundredth
after a day’s air battle.
Mood" by Glen Miller
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