398th Bomb Group

Blood Was Running From The Cockpit

Howard F. Baker
Navigator, O’Neal Crew
600th Squadron

Howard F. Baer, navigator on the Ira O’Neal crew, died in 1993, but not before he had recorded his version of those dramatic moments high in the skies over Berlin on May 19, 1944.

We were flying in the No. 2 position of the lead “slot” element, off the wing of deputy leader Bill Markley.  As we approached the target, direct flak burst in the nose hit us. I was struck in the forehead and the concussion opened a big hole in the nose. I was not stunned, but I was bleeding.

Almost simultaneously, the plane lurched to the right and seconds later bombs from a plane above us fell through the cockpit, top turret and radio room.  The plane started into a spin and the bail out alarm bell sounded. I looked up and saw blood running down from the cockpit.

Then O’Neal came down and said the co-pilot (Roger Comer) had been hit and that the bombardier (Merritt Deull) and I should get out now.  I pulled myself up from the navigator’s seat. Then Merritt motioned me to rub my face as I was getting frostbite.  I went out the hole in the nose,  and after I jumped and pulled the ripcord I wondered why I was sitting so low in harness. It had been my practice to unsnap the parachute harness while navigating, then I realized that the leg straps were unbuckled.  I never saw Merritt or Ira alive again.

I landed within 400 yards of George Graham and started towards him. A German took several pistol shots in my direction so I stopped.  One of the Germans approached me and said in very good English, “For you the war is over."  An hour later I saw the rest of the crew. They were in a cart. All eight were dead.

Printed in Flak News Volume 10, Number 2, Page(s) 7, April 1995

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