Incident Between Missions 1 and 2
April 23, 1944
|There were four mess halls at Shipdham Air
Base, home for the 44th Bomb Group. A combat officers and enlisted
mens mess and non-combat officers and enlisted mens mess. No combat mission
was flown on April 23rd as we had ground training exercises.
That evening we went to supper, I along with other combat officers ate
at our "Combat Officers Mess." We had not been back in the squadron
area long before I began to feel faint. I was the first to become sick
so I got a lot of attention. Medics were called in as I was violently
ill. They rushed me to the base hospital and I was one of the first to
be admitted. I can remember being placed on a hospital bed and at least
three or four doctors and orderlies helping me. I could not hold my head
up to vomit and I was running off on both ends. The special attention
did not last long as the hospital quickly filled to overflow capacity.
Dozens of flying officers began to arrive and soon there was no place
to put them except on the floor. They were all as sick as myself and complete
bedlam and pandemonium broke loose. Needless to say, there was a "mess"
everywhere. I did not know it at the time but we had contracted Ptomaine
poisoning from a certain pie served for dessert.
A new patient was carried in and placed on the floor next to me. I looked and could not believe my eyes. The victim was none other than our Group Commander, Colonel John H. Gibson. I know it sounds strange to anyone who has not experienced it but in war time respect for rank and authority is absolute. I could not imagine the hospital staff placing Colonel Gibson on the floor while I, a junior officer, lay on a bed. I spoke up and requested they put him on the bed and let me go on the floor. Colonel Gibson would have no part of it, he said to me, "You were here first and you stay on the bed". Fortunately I got well enough to vacate my bed as I was first in and first out. I got a case of the "GI's" two other times during the war and in each case, I was first to become sick and first to recover but neither of these illnesses was as severe as this ptomaine poisoning.
As a result of so many combat officers being stricken and the severity of the illness, the missions of the 24th and 25th were scrubbed. The group did fly to Germany on April 26th and I flew my second mission to Chalons-Sur-Marne on the afternoon of the 27th.
Forty years after this event, I was talking to General Gibson and his wife, Ruth. The occasion was the "44th Heritage Memorial Group Reunion" in May 1984 at Dayton, Ohio. I told the General and Mrs. Gibson my version of the event and when I came to the part where the then Colonel Gibson would not let me give him the bed she said, "It sounds just like John". I was also surprised to find out that General Gibson is only 12 years older than myself. I was 21 years old in April 1944 which means Colonel Gibson was only 33. All these years since the war I had imagined him to be much older because at the time in 1944, Colonel Gibson was in my minds eye like "The All Mighty."