398th Bomb Group

Crossing The Atlantic

Phil Swan
Pilot, 603rd Squadron

While celebrating the New Year's of 1945, sitting in Gander Field in Newfoundland, waiting seven days for satisfactory winds to cross the Atlantic enroute to Prestwick, Scotland, the Winsor Coleman crew practiced a ditching procedure daily.  The crew was made up of Coleman, first pilot; Phil Swan, co-pilot; Ed O'Hotnicky, navigator; John Roby, flight engineer; Gene Warren, armorer; John Menig, radio operator; Richard Anderson, waist gunner; John Alderson, tail gunner; Robert Hush, ball turret gunner.
The winds finally turned easterly, and we took-off in the dark, heading for a non-stop flight to Prestwick.  Several hours after take-off, we noticed that the fuel instruments showed that the fuel consumption was being used at an unusal rate.  We kept transferring fuel between tanks, and we wondered about the cause.  When we finally had some daylight, looking out on the starboard side of the plane, we saw the fuel cap over the No. 3 engine flapping in the wind, and the gasoline was siphoning out the fill opening.  Someone had not tightened the cap back at Gander.
Of course, we became very alarmed, as we figured that we could not reach Scotland.  We really thought we might have to ditch.  John Menig, our radio operator was on the alert in case of being forced to ditch in the Atlantic.  We figured that the RAF should have sea-rescue operations off the Irish shore.  Finally our navigator located an RAF base in Northern Ireland near the coast, and fortunately we did make it to this short runway field.  The RAF personnel were delighted to see some Yanks, and especially to share our Red Cross sandwiches, as they had not seen white bread for a very long time.  We were introduced that evening to Guiness Stout, of which our crew agreed that the taste was awful.
The next morning, going out to the plane, we saw the plane covered with snow, so we all got up on the wings and swept off the snow.  Using full flaps and full throttle, we took-off with not much runway to spare and flew on to Prestwick.
After this experience we all understood what the expression, "Coming in on a wing and a prayer" meant, as our prayers were answered on this trans-continental flight.

Veteran: Phil Swan
Co-Pilot, 603rd Squadron
Date of Personal History: February 2004
Author: Phil Swan
Submitted to 398th Web Pages by: Phil Swan

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