June 25, 1944
We departed Shipdham at 09:30 hours and crossed enemy territory, as you might guess, between Dunkirk and Ostend. Turning southwest for 85 miles we were at our IP outside of Amiens. The viability was excellent and we had no German fighter opposition. But the flak was very heavy and accurate at the target. We were at 25,000 feet and there was no way that Bombardier Warga could have seen this extremely small target. Flak was going off all around us, Warga aimed the best he could and released our bombs. Of course when our bombs left our plane, the others dropped on our lead. We were carrying 12 500 pound bombs.
I was looking out of the left bubble window of my navigation compartment as the bombs fell. One of my duties was to wait a few seconds and when I felt the last bomb leave our plane, to reach under my navigation desk with my right hand in order to push a red salvo handle. The purpose of this was to mechanically release any bombs still hung up in the bomb bay that were not let go by their electrically operated shackles. We always took off with the bomb bay doors open. Water could be splashed onto the latches and would soon freeze as we gained altitude being the temperature was always far below zero.
When the bombardier said, "Bombs Away", I did watch the bombs fall. When I had waited the appropriate time, I bent over to push the salvo handle. Just a split second after I had moved my head from the bubble window a flak shell exploded just outside the left front of our plane. A large jagged hunk of metal tore through the window, passed over my head and neck then tore a large ragged hole through my wooden navigation desk, splintering it all to pieces. The extremely cold air came rushing through the hole in the plexiglass (not a scratch was on the metal window frame). This blast of air sucked up my maps and charts, throwing them through the maze of pipes and wires that separated my desk from the pilot and co-pilot's feet then tore them to bits. By the Grace of God, I was spared. Had I moved one second later, my whole head would have been torn from by body. I sat up to survey the damage. When I saw I had nothing left with which to navigate, my desk was destroyed and I had been scared out of 10 years of growth, I became so angry that I guess I went into shock.
The next thing I can remember was looking down at Co-Pilot Palmer crawling through the tunnel at my left foot that connected the navigator and bombardier area to the flight deck. I watched him plug in his oxygen supply, his ear phones and his electric flying suit cord. I wondered what he was doing. About this time Palmer took hold of the clothing on my left leg and shook it, I was sitting down in front of what used to be my desk. He said, "Mac, are you all right?" I responded, "Of course I'm all right. What are you doing down here?" Palmer went on to explain that Peritti, realizing we had been damaged badly, was checking out the crew to see if anyone was injured but that I would not respond even after a number of calls. So Peritti decided he had better send Palmer down to take a look being Bombardier Warga was already back in the nose turret with the doors closed. I have no idea how long it took Pilot Peritti to make this decision nor how long it took Co-Pilot Palmer to disengage all his gear and crawl to my position but I guess it had to have been 6 or 7 minutes. To this day, I have no idea where my mind was during this period of time as I have lost these minutes from my life forever.
We had to give up the lead to our deputy as I had nothing with which to navigate. Three other planes in our squadron were also damaged by flak but fortunately no one was killed and the 44th lost no planes from any of the three squadrons. We landed back at Shipdham about 14:30 hours (2:30 p.m.) after 5 hours of flight time. Yes, our bombs did destroy this Red Cross building. No, we did not hit the NOBALL target. Yes, we did get a poor rating for the day.
This was the only mission that I went on that I was too upset to eat any supper. I want to believe that I was just plain mad at the AA gunners for what they did but I suspect the truth lies elsewhere.