I arrived at Nuthampstead, England, the location of Eighth Air Force Station 131 in the middle of January 1945. I was the co-pilot on the Jim Womeldurf crew. To be sure, I remember the infamous April, Friday the 13th mission the best. That was the one we now call the RDX disaster. That was the mission where I became a prisoner of war.
I'll get to that story, but first let me tell you about another mission I went on. That was the Schweinfurt raid of February 23,1945. The original target, Eger zechoslovakia was not visible, so we received orders to pick an alternate target. We broke up into individual squadrons and picked our own targets Our Squadron lead plane picked Schweinfurt. That was with ten planes at 12,000 ft. We should have turned off and found another target. We just went right in and caught heavy flak. At first the German gunners were firing too high, but they soon corrected that. We received a direct hit from a German flak gun. A 88 mm shell went through the center of the plane, nicking the left side fuel tank and exploding in front of us. The tank started to leak, but the crude rubber self sealer sealed the leak. Jim and I both had our eyes on that tank when an intercom call came through stating we had wounded in the waist section and he had been given a shot of morphine.
As soon as we got squared away in the cockpit, Jim sent me back to see what was going on. Our radio operator had been hit bad. His leg was hanging by small amount of tissue. I gave him another shot of morphine because he was still in shock and was trying to get up. His name was Sgt. Roland Moon. Sgt. Woods, the waist gunner, was also hit but not seriously. The ball turret gunner went back to his position, as we were over enemy territory. The tail gunner had to stay in the tail section. Jim called me to come help him and I went back up front I was amazed there was no panic, everybody helped the wounded as best they could.
We found an airfield out side of Nancy, France called Ap-47 with a short runway. Jim put us down on edge of runway so we had as much room as possible. Our tail gunner called on the intercom and said our rear landing wheel was half off. It did dig up the runway pretty bad. We had fired red flares, so the medics were right there when we landed. They rushed Sgt. Moon to the hospital and we all visited him the next day. That was the last time we saw Sgt. Moon
Later I read a report by the Squadron lead pilot. He said he had used poor judgment but every thing worked out OK because we had destroyed one third of a ball bearing plant and no one had been wounded. That was wrong, but I can only say what happened to our plane. This is a condensed version of that mission as I remember it. Three of us still stay in touch by e-mail. Each of us have a different version of what happened according to our position in the plane. However, I know without the team work of our entire crew we would never have survived.