S/Sgt. Leon R. Kershaw's Diary
Ball Turret Gunner, 601st Squadron
We left Lincoln [Nebraska] by plane on the morning of October the 11th. Arrived at Grenier Field, New Hampshire at about 2:30 pm of the 11th. Left Grenier on the 12th at about 10:30 am.
Arrived at Gander Field, Newfoundland, at about 3 pm on the 12th. We left Gander on Friday the 13th of October. We came very close to becoming members of the other world. We landed at Valley 7 Wales at 5:30 pm GCT on the 14th of October.
We then went to Stone, England. From there we went to Royston England, to Nuthampstead Field and the 398th bomb Group.
We made buck sergeant on the 24th of October. We became operational on the 30th of October.
We shot skeet in the afternoon. Went into Royston and had a bit of fun. Ted got a whale of a buzz on. Got back and were alerted to fly.
November 2, 1944 - Mission #1 - Mersberg, Germany
We had no. 1 today. It was to be Mersberg. It was rough as hell. We were in Flak for 30 minutes and got fighters right in the worst flak. They were insane. Lost 3 planes. Bassingbourn lost 13. Got a hole in our right Tokyo & Ted had one about a foot from his rear.
We got 16 holes in our ship. My mask froze to walk around and I nearly passed out.
We carried 18 250lb G.P.’s
8hr 30”; 4 hrs. O2
November 4, 1944 - Mission #2 - Hamburg, Germany That night we had the 100 mission party. It was really nice. We had steak, ice cream, cake and beer. Also, our squad’s officers served us. November 5, 1944 - Mission #3 - Frankfurt, Germany We carried 6-1,000 lb G.P.’s. At night, I saw a good show put on by the second division. November 7, 1944 We were after 155 mm battery. Patton moved in right after we were thru. We plastered the target. I made a plexiglass frame for my honey’s picture today. It’s really beautiful; the picture I mean. I’m really in love with Marge an awful lot. Went to town this night. Played darts and had a few drinks. Went and had dinner in the Green Plunge then went to the Bull Hotel. Then came back to the base. A Buzz Bomb just went over. It was so low that we thought it was going to hit in the field next to our hut. We saw the flame of its jet. Lost Marj’s picture today. Had it in my heated suit and left it in. I pray that I get it back. November 16, 1944 November 23, 1944 November 24, 1944 November 25, 1944 Been sitting around all day. Expect to leave for France in 3 or 4 days. That’s all for now. Got packages yesterday.
It was a milk run. Target was Hamburg. Little flak no fighters. 7 hrs. We carried 10-500lb G.P.’s.
We flew our 3rd mission today. It was another milk run. The target was Frankfurt. We went in over Belgium & France. The formation was so bad that the Gerry’s must have thought it was on purpose. Nearly ran out of gas. When we landed we didn’t have enough gas to start one engine.
6 hrs. 30 min.
Flew practice mission. It was to be over France. They were going to send friendly flat at 18,000 ft and 4 mi to the left. We were to fly at 22,000. But thank God the thing was called back before we hit the channel.
Target—Metz. The front lines.
We carried 8-1,000lb semi-armor piercing bombs.
We lost an engine due to a runaway turbo.
8 hr. 4hr. O2
We went to school again today. Had more code. We didn’t fly because of poor weather. After that I went over to Link Trainer and had an hour of instrument and blind flying. Been laying around all the rest of the day.
We got our 48’s today. We went to London. Didn’t do much the first night. Went and got a swell house to stay in. Went to Piccadilly. Saw the commandos. One said that we could go home with her for 7 pounds or 28 bucks. Saw “History was made at Night.” with Chas Boyer. Found a place at 11:30 where we could get steaks. Were they good.
Played around slept till 10:30 had breakfast went downtown. Went to Nic’s and had steaks for dinner. Went to the Regent Palace and got tickets for Noel Coward’s “Blythe Spirit” at the Royal Duchess Theater. Cost me 13+6 which is about $2.70 for a front row seat. It was par excellent.
Got up went to Nic’s & had steak as a combination Breakfast & Dinner. Went and saw “A Song To Remember” which was a wonderful show. They played Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes & his Polonaise. Saw “Arsenic & Old Lace” which was darned good. Came back on the 5’oclock train to Royston.
It was to Stuttgart. We were up for 9&1/2 hrs. No flak to speak of.
We carried 27,00 gal of gas & 26-500lb G.P’s & 4-500lb incendiaries.
That night we had the 100 mission party. It was really nice. We had steak, ice cream, cake and beer. Also, our squad’s officers served us.
November 5, 1944 - Mission #3 - Frankfurt, Germany We carried 6-1,000 lb G.P.’s. At night, I saw a good show put on by the second division. November 7, 1944
We carried 6-1,000 lb G.P.’s.
At night, I saw a good show put on by the second division.
November 7, 1944
We were after 155 mm battery. Patton moved in right after we were thru. We plastered the target.
I made a plexiglass frame for my honey’s picture today. It’s really beautiful; the picture I mean. I’m really in love with Marge an awful lot.
Went to town this night. Played darts and had a few drinks. Went and had dinner in the Green Plunge then went to the Bull Hotel. Then came back to the base.
A Buzz Bomb just went over. It was so low that we thought it was going to hit in the field next to our hut. We saw the flame of its jet.
Lost Marj’s picture today. Had it in my heated suit and left it in. I pray that I get it back.
November 16, 1944
November 23, 1944
November 24, 1944
November 25, 1944
Been sitting around all day. Expect to leave for France in 3 or 4 days. That’s all for now.
Got packages yesterday.
Another 9&1/2 hr mission, not much flak. The stuff at Koblenz was accurate as hell. We didn’t have any airspeed, so we had to pace our wing man for the bomb run.
We had 2700 gal of gas & 12- 500lb G.P.’s
Some time early in the morning a buzz bomb hit on the field. It landed about 100 yards from the bomb dump. I was tossed out of bed even though it hit about half a mile or so from us. If it had hit the bomb dump we’d have probably been hurt very seriously.
December 18, 1944 - Mission #7 - Cologne, Germany
We got up to go to Cologne. Full gas as load & 12-500lb G.P.’s.
We got within 4 min of the I.P. We were at 29,500 and the clouds were at least 2,000 feet higher and we couldn’t get any higher in so short a time so we had to come back.
Mitzi’s baby is so darn cute. You talk to it for hours in English and it won’t crack a smile but say something in German and it just laughs all over the place.
That’s all for now.
December 29, 1944 - Mission #8 - Bingen, Germany
We went to Bingen Germany to bomb marshalling yards. We were gone 7 hrs 35 min. The flak was accurate as hell. They put 3 thru the wings. One clipped the top spar. We got 9 holes.
Thought it was my last mission. It scared hell out of me. We carried 18-250lb G.P. bombs full gas load. Flew the left waist.
5 bombs hung up and were going to take them back when 2 bursts of flak hit in the bomb bay and shook them out.
January 10, 1945 - Mission #9 – Cologne, Germany
#9--7 hr 20 min
We went to Cologne. We had to drive for 2 & ½ hrs in a truck in driving snow to pick up a Gee H ship. We got up and it was 72 degrees below F. at 28,000 ft. We plastered the airfield really nice. A few more Krauts bit the dust, I hope. Hope we hit one-eyed Willy Schmidt. We carried 38 - 100 pounder G.P.’s. That’s all for now.
March 22, 1945 - Mission #18 – Essen Area, Germany
Essen Area #18 - Troop concentrate
Alt 23,000 ft. hrs and 15 min. 56 flak holes were counted.
34 100lb frags; 2-500 iB’s
Had an unexploded 88 go through our Tokyo, also noz-feeder shot out. No. 2 engine knocked out. Rough as hell. BT
March 28, 1945 - Mission #21 – Berlin, Germany
8 hrs 30 min flying time. 4 days mission time. Easy mission.
Went down in Brussels because we were low on gas. Stayed 4 days.
April 10, 1945 - Mission #25 – Oranienburg, Germany
9 hrs 5 min
4 ½ hrs O-2
6 iB and 6-500lb G.P.’s
Jet fighters hit us. Put a hole in the tail of one ship big enough for a man to walk thru. Buck got one Me 262.
The bombardier had 11 missions tacked on him because he missed the target. Made 3-360’s perfect visual. My heated suit went out and I froze my feet.
April 21, 1945 - Mission #30 – Munich, Germany
10 hrs 35 min. 5 hrs O-2
We carried 45’s for protection in case of bail-out in enemy territory.
Total combat flying time: 248 hrs 8 min.
Total O-2 time: 116 hrs 15 min
Total G.P. bombs dropped: 116, 800 lbs or 58.4 tons
Total iB’s dropped: 23,000 lbs or 11.5 tons incendiaries
Total Semi-AP: 8,000 lbs = 4 tons.
Total Frags dropped—3,800 lbs or 1.9 tons
Total Dropped: 151,600 lbs = 75.8 tons
Following were members of the Hosman crew:
- Captain Richard S. Hosman, Pilot
- 2nd. Lt. Roland D. Mundhenke, Co-Pilot
- 1st. Lt. Walter P. James, Jr., Bombardier
- 1st. Lt. Donald J. Coffee, Jr., Navigator
- T/Sgt. Floyd R. Aaron, Engineer / Top Turret (KIA April 13, 1945)
- T/Sgt. Jerauld N. "Jerry" Clements, Radio Operator
- S/Sgt. Leon R. Kershaw, Ball Turret Gunner
- Sgt. William H. "Web" Brown, Waist Gunner
- Sgt. Frederick W. Hinze, Waist Gunner
- S/Sgt. Theodore P. "Ted" Blank, Tail Gunner
One of the B-17's the crew flew in was named "Jolten Jose".
Brad W. Kershaw, son of Leon R. Kershaw, Ball Turret Gunner provided the following: "Dad passed away in 2004, but he was reunited with Dick Hosman, the captain of the crew, and another crew member or two at a reunion a year or two before he passed away. He had lost contact with the men in his crew and they were all really glad to have the opportunity to see one another."
- Hosman's Crew - 601st Squadron - Training, probably 1944
- "Schweinfurt Was Hardly a Target of Opportunity" by Richard Hosman, Pilot 601st Squadron
- S/Sgt. Leon Ralph Kershaw was the Ball Turret Gunner for the Richard S. Hosman 601st crew.
- The above electronic diary transcription was provided by Leon R. Kershaw's son, Brad.
- This transcription is a reproduction of the original. Spelling and punctuation changes have been made to improve readability. In some circumstances, material may not have been transcribed or was rewritten.
- Clarification of acronyms or special words or guesses of certain words are shown in brackets [ ].