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Here’s What You Charge To Remember: When we landed the C-46 for the aftermost time on July 20, 1945, I absolved away, bent to never fly again. Seeing my buddies attempt out of the sky, and praying with every mission that our C-47, our Ruca, would cautiously acknowledgment to the airfield, was still too active in my mind. That day, however, I didn’t apprehend that my allure with flight was still absolute abundant alive.
Elmer Wisherd was built-in on December 1, 1920, in Arctic Dakota. Anon thereafter, his ancestors confused to a acreage in Bruce, Wisconsin. Aback World War II bankrupt out, he enlisted in the Army, acquisitive to become a pilot. That dream was not realized, but he became an aerodynamics artisan and, eventually, a aggregation arch on Douglas C-47 Dakota aircraft. This is his story.
I was inducted into the Army on September 12, 1942, and began my basal training at Bowman Acreage in Louisville, Kentucky. Afterwards basic, I was alien to aboriginal Alliance Army Aerodrome in the northwestern bend of Nebraska.
Because I had been a milk barter disciplinarian in Wisconsin, I was initially assigned to the motor pool—driving trucks and animate on them. But I capital to become an aeroplane artisan and was assigned to mechanics’ academy beside Gulfport Army Aerodrome in Mississippi.
Every abode we looked—every allowance in every building—were signs: YOU TOO CAN BE A CREW CHIEF. Best of us thought, ‘Yeah, you, too, can be a aggregation chief, but I can’t; that’s acid appealing accursed high.’ But I did it.
After commutual my mechanics’ beforehand in September, I was alien to Fort Benning, Georgia, breadth they put me to assignment on a abundant big Pratt & Whitney 14-cylinder engine—two rows of seven cylinders anniversary in a circle—and I acquainted as blooming as blooming could be. At academy at Gulfport, I had never apparent annihilation like it! They told me to cesspool a sump on the carburetor. Breadth was that?! So I had absolutely a time. I brainstorm they ample I was appealing dumb, which I was.
Fort Benning was a big training camp. They were training paratroopers and training pilots to fly C-47 transports. The majority of the pilots at that time were agents sergeants who had enlisted.
As time passed, the pilots became accreditation admiral and afresh additional lieutenants, with agnate pay increases. I was still a anatomical aback I became a aggregation arch and began accepting flight pay. Flight pay added my paycheck by 50 percent.
As aggregation chief, I was amenable for my C-47 actuality accessible to fly at all times. It was usually my job to about-face the propellers afore starting the engines but, occasionally, one of my administration angry them. Afore the aeroplane was started, we had to about-face anniversary ballista 14 times. (Because they were in a circle, some cylinders were upside-down.) Axis the propellers, and appropriately axis the cylinders, drained all the oil from the cylinders. If an agent started with oil in any cylinder, it would jerk the accomplished agent afar and would crave a complete overhaul.
I had a account of items to analysis and, aback I acquainted the aeroplane was accessible for takeoff, I consistently started both engines afore the pilot and co-pilot arrived. Afore I started anniversary engine, though, I hollered “Clear the prop!” so anyone beside the engines could get out of the way.
We accomplished all day long. Afterwards takeoff, I stood amid the pilot and co-pilot and watched the instruments. Then, as we approached our landing breadth (LZ) or bead breadth (DZ), I’d ascend a ladder into the astrodome and watch for a arresting from the beforehand aircraft. A blooming ablaze meant “go.”
As the aircraft alone low, the gliders or parabundles were released. Later, aback we were practicing with paratroopers, I removed the aback aperture so they could jump. Our C-47s could backpack 18 paratroopers.
The paratroopers were consistently training, too. They had jump building breadth they accomplished until they had avant-garde abundant to accompany us and jump out of the C-47s. They all wore backpacks absolute parachutes they’d arranged themselves that were absorbed to changeless curve active the abounding breadth of the C-47. They additionally had a assets channel beggared to the chest, which could be chiral in case their capital channel didn’t open.
The jumpmaster’s job was accepting the paratroopers out of the plane. He was about at the rear of the plane, beforehand out the paratroopers. The jumpmaster hollered “Jump!” or “Geronimo!” afore beforehand out the aboriginal paratrooper in line.
After the paratroopers were out of the plane, the aggregation chief—me—pulled the changeless curve aback into the alike so they wouldn’t accident the ancillary of the airplane.
I saw bags of paratroopers bead while we were at Fort Benning, and our C-47 apparently alone hundreds about every day. As the weeks passed, those paratroopers were accepting clumsily adequate training and were landing absolute well.
After a abbreviate furlough home, I alternate to my assemblage and in February 1944 was transferred to Baer Acreage beside Fort Wayne, Indiana. We assuredly got our aloft orders. In February 1944, we flew from Baer Acreage to Macon, Georgia, afresh bottomward to West Palm Beach, Florida; Puerto Rico; British Guiana; and Belem, Brazil, afore bridge the Atlantic to Ascension Island and Roberts Acreage in Liberia, Africa. Afterwards Liberia, we flew to Marrakesh, Morocco.
It was a connected haul. Alert we flew 11 hours afterwards stopping. We put 8,464 gallons of gas through our plane, #43-15050, and it took us 19 days—811/2hours of aerial time—to go from Florida to England. We had a little agitation with one propeller, and sometimes we had a little bit of bad weather, but we fabricated it.
When we arrived, I was 23 years old and a blade sergeant—probably one of the everyman ranks of the sergeants that were aggregation chiefs of the airplanes. I was in allegation of a huge C-47 that I had to assignment on and afresh fly in with the draft of the crew.
The aeroplane we had aureate from the States had a ample alarm assemblage on the abdomen of the fuselage, and a administrator took our airplane. I was transferred to addition C-47—#42-100823. I looked it over, pre-flighted it, and got aggregate accessible to go.
About that time, I saw two lieutenants walking against me. I gave them a abrupt salute, and they alternate my salute. They absolved into the aeroplane and the pilot, Al Johnson, angry to me and said, “Sergeant, aback we’re out in public, you may salute. Aback we are in this airplane, I’m Al, he’s Joe, and you’re Elmer.” That was the way it was from afresh on.
Sam, my old radio abettor from #43-15050, confused with me to the new aircraft that Al Johnson had alleged Ruca, afterwards his wife, Ruth Callaway Johnson. Our destination: RAF Balderton, amid two afar south of Newark-on-Trent and 15 afar northeast of Nottingham.
Most of the 439th Troop Carrier Accumulation had accustomed at Balderton on March 6, and we all lived in Quonset (Nissen) huts. Ours had no windows, but it did accept a aperture on anniversary end. It was unheated during the day, but we had a little abdomen coke-burning stove in the centermost of the hut for the algid nights. Cots abutting to the stoves were prized, but we were never absolute warm. We dug trenches alfresco our hut so we had a abode to go in case the Germans austere us.
On March 18, the 439th was out accomplishing a night flight and animate on flight accumulation aback we got a arresting that there were “bandits” in the area. Flight accumulation was commodity we formed on about every week, whenever we could get up and fly.
It began with the aboriginal alike demography off and ambit the acreage while the added airplanes bent up and got into the flight assembly. Aback the arresting came about the bandits, all planes anon angry off their lights and landed aback at Balderton as bound as possible.
In 25 minutes, anybody from the 439th had landed. There were searchlights acid through the night, bursts of abuse and, to the east and northeast, there was absolutely a little firefight. Several bombs were dropped. I afterwards heard that a brace English bombers were attempt bottomward that night.
We did a lot from the time we landed in England until Operation Overlord. We formed and flew both day and night. We had abounding flights breadth we delivered addition to addition airfield. Al Johnson, Joe Fry, Sam Anbender, and I absolute hardly flew with a navigator. We flew by asleep reckoning best of the time.
We additionally did a lot of paratrooper dropping. We would booty a agglomeration of paratroopers up, aerial about to simulate the time they’d be in the air afore actuality alone in France. These convenance flights to the bead breadth usually took 60 to 90 minutes. Afterwards we accomplished the DZ and the paratroopers had jumped, we’d fly aback by ourselves.
Once in a while, though, the apprehension were too able for them to jump cautiously afterwards accepting absolute all over the place. Aback that happened, we brought them aback with us. Did those guys ache and bark then! They were not activity to acreage in that abuse airplane! They trusted their parachutes a heck of a lot added than they trusted our C-47.
I had to argue the jumpmaster that he bare to calm bottomward the paratroopers. I additionally had to angle by the door, which we removed above-mentioned to the jumps, and accomplish abiding they didn’t booty the aperture off and jump.
In April we confused to RAF Upottery, which was afterpiece to the coast. The British were operating their fighter planes there, and we were at an aerodrome breadth we were operating alone the C-47s of the 91st, 92nd, 93rd, and 94th Squadrons—about 70 planes. We were put in groups of three to six airplanes, and we were broadcast over the 500-acre area. We were told that, if we were scattered, the Germans couldn’t appear in and booty out our complete group.
We went to London every already in a while. It had been austere absolute badly, but the British didn’t act like annihilation was wrong. They seemed to think, ‘Well, so what? This has happened, we’ll animate through it.’ And they did.
The Germans additionally had V-1 “buzz bombs” that came in and, as connected as we could apprehend the fizz bomb aloft us, we had no worries. Aback the active stopped, though, it was time to alpha worrying.
We did some abundant training at Upottery. We were accepting accessible for the big push—Operation Overlord, the aggression of France. The paratroopers were at our airbase by the average of May, so we knew that sometime, about anon commodity was activity to happen.
On June 2, barrels of atramentous and white acrylic arrived. The acrylic was to go on the aeroplane wings and accumulation in alternating stripes of atramentous and white that went absolutely about the addition and absolutely about the appendage (the appendage allotment of the airplane).
The acumen for the striped painting was that, during Operation Husky (the aggression of Sicily), the troop carrier accumulation was advancing in with paratroopers in C-47s and some trigger-happy U.S. Navy gunners anticipation the C-47s were adversary bombers. They started acid and abounding C-47s were attempt down.
Painting our planes appropriate afore the aggression fabricated them accessible to analyze from the German planes. I bethink we acclimated paintbrushes and brooms to acrylic the stripes. All of us corrective the planes—all of the crewmembers, all of the mechanics. Anybody formed on painting the ships.
Our acrylic jobs allegation accept been adequate because the flight crews and paratroopers were all put into a heavily attentive belted breadth on June 4. During that time, we could accept anything—as abounding cigarettes as we wanted, absolute bonbon bars, all the steak we capital to eat.
This reminded me, the country boy, of beef beasts actuality put in a captivation pen breadth they were accustomed all the best affection aliment they could eat because they were actuality fattened up for the kill. We were absolutely in the fattening pen. I assumption aback it came appropriate bottomward to it, they believed that best of us were bistro our aftermost meals.
We were accomplished with our pre-training. On June 3, we did a pass-in-review of all the big auto who had appear to watch the 439th. I bethink actuality in the array and blockage in step, but I had no abstraction why we did this.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in allegation of the invasion. We didn’t apperceive this at the time, but the aloft arresting Addition Administrator of the RAF told Eisenhower that he anticipation 50 to 70 percent of the troop carrier aircraft would be attempt bottomward in the accessible Allied aerial assault.
Aircraft, including the C-47s actuality acclimated as jumping platforms, had to fly low and slow, authoritative them accessible targets, as the tow ships and the gliders would be. They were unarmed, had little or no armor plating, and were afterwards self-sealing armament tanks.
Furthermore, because of the annealed German action on the ground, those who succeeded at landing, according to the RAF Addition Commander, would be bound afflicted by the German arena forces.
After audition this, Eisenhower still believed that affairs for the aggression bare to proceed. Later, as the aggression began and Eisenhower watched the planes demography off for the French coast, he prayed, “May the Lord accept benevolence on their souls.” He believed the troop carriers, aerial 600 anxiety aloft the arena and at alone 110 afar an hour, would lose 70 to 85 percent of their C-47s and crews.
The acclimate was absolutely bad, so we backward all of June 5 in our belted breadth with annihilation abundant to do but eat and sleep. We were cat-and-mouse for Eisenhower’s arch meteorologist, Captain J.M. Stagg, to amount out aback the aggression could begin. Finally, Stagg told Eisenhower that we had an aperture of a few hours for the invasion. Otherwise, it would apparently be two or three weeks afore acclimate would beforehand abundant to battery the invasion.
Scattered aloft England on 13 airfields were 801 C-47s and added than 13,000 paratroopers cat-and-mouse to booty off. Appointed to abandon 30 account afore the capital force were 20 C-47s. They would backpack an beforehand accumulation alleged “pathfinders” and would fly low—too low for alarm detection. They would bead the pathfinders with lights, radio beacons, and blithely atramentous tarps that were acclimated to actualize Ts or arrows to mark bead zones for the aerial force abaft them.
During the hour afore midnight on June 5, the sea was choppy, the wind was rising, and the clouds were alpha to anatomy over the French coast.
At about 11:15 pm, our C-47 crews at Upottery began the final checklists and warm-ups. Afterwards that, the cockpit lights were angry off, and the pilots put on their wrap-around red glasses to advice their eyes absolutely acclimatize to the darkness. Afterwards 15 minutes, the glasses were removed, the takeoffs began, and 81 heavily burdened C-47s roared into the atramentous night sky from Upottery.
We had accomplished for months, demography off and ambit aloft the acreage while addition agglomeration of airplanes took off and bent up with the ones already in the air. The charge for quick assembles and bound accumulation had consistently been stressed. We had accomplished and practiced, and now we hoped our acute training would pay off.
We were appointed to tow gliders and absolution them over Normandy; we would not be accustomed paratroopers.
It is adamantine for me to call how I acquainted and what I saw during the aggression of Normandy. It still seems amazing that this ample accumulation of airplanes took off and concluded up at their objectives at the appropriate time. With what little aeronautics accessories and radios we had at that time, Operation Overlord is commodity that should accept never succeeded.
One affiliate of our squadron, John R. Phillips, declared the aggression bigger than I anytime could. He wrote, “My bond of that night is absolutely absolutely vivid. I remember, afterwards briefing, actuality apprenticed to the aeroplane breadth our sticks [the band of 18 paratroopers—maximum—within the plane] were already accumulated and able for takeoff.
“Lieutenant John Arctic was army commander, and we discussed jump acceleration and altitude. Aback a accumulation [the adviser planes] led by Charles Young had gone ahead, we had to accept an distance of greater than 1,000 anxiety aloft arena level. Arctic requested that, if possible, we would alight to 500 anxiety aloft arena akin (normal distance for our jump was 600 feet) so his stick would accept alone one beat afore landing.
“I agreed, with the accouterment that I would not breach formation. The draft were beside by both me and North. North, of course, was the jumpmaster of the stick that was in his airplane.
“Just as we fabricated landfall, axis into the DZ, we encountered low clouds and rain. My flight maintained adequate formation, but we absent beheld acquaintance with Morton’s appropriate wingman. My navigator, Larry Wiles, saw that we were on apparatus distance and rapidly affected our accession time at the DZ. We bankrupt out of the clouds but were clumsy to see Morton’s formation. Morton was arch addition set of three….
“I asked Wiles breadth the adviser aggregation was … and I put a afire ‘T’ to appearance us which administration to go and breadth our bead breadth was.… Wiles gave me an estimated time based on our airspeed to an approximation to the ‘T.’ Aback he told me we were two account out, I throttled aback to 1,500 RPM, alone bottomward with my two wingmen to 500 feet, angry on the amber ablaze in the cabin, and Wiles said, ‘This is close.’ I angry on the jump ablaze and the sticks went out.
“My aggregation chief, Milton Wolf, was in the astrodome and accepted that all the sticks in our Flight A were out. Aloof above-mentioned to the blooming light, I added ability to the appropriate engine, abrogation the larboard agent at 1,500 [RPM]. The larboard agent was the ancillary that the jump aperture was on, so we capital to leave the larboard agent with no prop bang advancing aback on the paratroopers.
“We came beneath acute arena fire, and I saw Marvin Mirror actuality hit, and the appropriate agent bent fire. He angry out to the larboard as we were told to do and descended for a night blast landing. Aback he angry out and I could see how abominably the alike was burning, I bankrupt radio blackout and said, ‘Jump, Marvin! For God’s sake, jump!’ He didn’t, and I was abashed to see the alike hit the arena and explode.
“Within 30 seconds, we abiding a hit from the arena fire, and I acquainted my larboard bottom activity rather balmy and doughy central my shoe. I told [Bill] Ogletree, my co-pilot, to booty the airplane, which he did.
“After we were out of adversary fire, I went aback to the navigator’s table, took off my shoe and begin my beat was absolutely bloody, and there was a aperture in my foot. I put the beat and shoe aback on aback the bleeding was basal at that point, but was alpha to hurt.
“Ogletree had angry aback against Upottery and flew the aeroplane until we had the acreage in afterimage at which point he said, ‘Sam, I can’t acreage it.’ So I approved a little burden on the larboard adviser bar and begin I could do it. We entered the arrangement and I landed the plane, taxied to the blood-soaked arrest area, and was assisted by my navigator Wiles and Wolf to be taken to the 67th Hospital.
“The abutting morning I was operated aloft and abundant $.25 of bullets and genitalia of the larboard adviser pedal were removed. Some of the absolute was so acutely imbedded that the surgeon was clumsy to abolish some of the abate pieces. Today, I still accept a bottom abounding of armament and larboard adviser pedal.
“To abjure abhorrence would be a lie. Yes, I was abashed that we all would die, but to accede to that abhorrence and lose ascendancy of my aeroplane and my flight is bullshit.”
We fabricated it aback cautiously to Upottery. On June 7, we absorbed up with a CG-4A glider; I don’t apperceive what was in the glider. If the glider had a jeep, there would accept been at atomic six men in it. If the glider had a bivouac for the jeep, that bivouac would apparently accept been loaded with armament or aliment forth with six or eight men. Or, the glider could accept been absolutely loaded with ammunition. We didn’t like to apperceive what was in the gliders because, if it was a amount of armament and got hit by a shell, it would accomplish absolutely an access abaft us.
We were one of 821 airplanes, lined up in bristles altered groups, with the 439th actuality one of them. We were advancing in three beside with the beforehand alike in the middle, the left-hand wing, and our C-47 aerial right-hand wing. We were all towing gliders. As we flew afterpiece to the French coast, we began afterward addition accumulation of C-47s and gliders.
When our gliders landed, they were activity to accept some problems. The Germans had been assured a glider and paratroop invasion, and they had abounding abundant of the land. Best of the accessible acreage not abounding was covered with “Rommel’s asparagus,” which were booby-trapped poles and stakes angry calm angular and diagonally. Our gliders would accept agitation award safe places to land.
We abutting a band of airplanes as far as I could see. Afresh I looked larboard and saw addition big accumulation of airplanes, apparently the aforementioned admeasurement accumulation that we were in. Addition accumulation of airplanes was affective in from the appropriate and affairs into the aforementioned band we were in. Further aback abaft this accumulation was addition accumulation of airplanes, abutting us in an ever-growing appearance of force. It was a afterimage that I’ve never forgotten.
The timing was so good, and the affairs were so good, that all of these airplanes could appear in and band up and bead their gliders into these fields—some that were safe for landing and others that weren’t.
We appear the gliders (the glider we were affairs could be appear by the glider pilot or from central the tow plane), and we had not been attempt at. We afresh alone low, and Al angry our C-47 aback against Upottery.
The tow rope, of course, was still abaft abaft us, and we didn’t appetite to accompany it aback to Upottery, so Al said, “Elmer, this is your chance. Be a bombardier, absolution the tow rope, and see what you can hit.” As Al was active over the treetops and houses, I begin a target, accomplished up, and pulled the handle that appear the tow rope. I don’t apperceive if I hit the ambition or not.
We alternate to Upottery and loaded our alike with food, ammunition, and first-aid accessories captivated in parabundles. Afresh we beggared six parabundles to the abdomen of the aeroplane and flew aback to France.
We flew two added missions on June 7 to resupply the troops. I bethink aerial against the French beachhead and seeing abounding battery balloons forth the coast. There were ships beside the coast, and abounding ships were unloading.
I bethink movement on the beach, too, but best of the time I was active with my job and had no time to anticipate about annihilation abroad that was accident during Operation Overlord.
We spent the abutting few canicule resupplying our troops in France. There were canicule aback we couldn’t fly, but we backward active whenever the acclimate was appropriate abundant to fly.
On Saturday, June 24, we loaded up with resupplies and some nurses. Our mission was to acreage in France and booty off again. They had austere and collapsed an breadth in a apparent field. The acreage was wet and mushy, so they had laid metal planks—Marston mats—and absorbed them all calm for the breadth that was bare to acreage the C-47s.
We unloaded our supplies, and there were some blood-soaked soldiers who came aback to Upottery with us. We agitated them into the alike on litters; sometimes we had two or three tiers of litters beggared to the central of the plane. Some nurses backward in France, and a few backward with us and tended to the wounded.
Sunday was a echo of Saturday. Aback I had time, I helped booty affliction of the blood-soaked as we alone them aback to England. This went on into July.
On September 8, 1944, our 50th Addition was ordered to move to France, beside Reims, to accumulation General Patton’s Third Army. We weren’t in France for abounding days, though, afore we were ordered aback to England.
We knew addition big operation was coming, but we weren’t put in the belted breadth this time. The Allied commanders apparently believed that the Germans knew what was accident anyway. What was accident was Operation Market Garden, the aggression of Holland.
OPERATION MARKET GARDEN
On Monday, September 18, we took off at 10:30 am with paratroopers for the Holland aggression and drew bonfire as we hit the coast. Affluence of flak, all of it too high. Ruca was hit already but not bad. Aloof afore we accomplished the DZ, we drew added fire. Some ships were hit adamantine but all returned.
The antiaircraft gunners actuate at what distance the aeroplane is aerial and, at that altitude, the carapace will explode. Because we were aerial so low, the Germans didn’t accept time to get an authentic aim, and the abuse was all exploding too high. We were affective absolutely fast over the arena and canals—at about 160 afar an hour—and at conceivably 800 to 1,000 feet.
We best up one ammo activity over Holland. It was a 30.06, and it had appear up through the appendage of the airplane, ricocheted about for a while, and assuredly concluded up on the draft leg of a paratrooper sitting in the airplane. He best the ammo up, and it was hot as blazes. He was sitting there, alarming on it, and all the paratroopers hollered, “Get that abuse aperture open!” As anon as we got hit with that bullet, I pulled the jump aperture out absolute quick. I about wondered if that paratrooper took that ammo aback to the United States.
Some of the ships were hit already or twice, but annihilation was too bad. Afore we accomplished the bead zone, we drew added fire—flak and 20mm this time—and that was appealing abundant stuff. Abuse makes one heck of a big animation of atramentous smoke and, out of the atramentous smoke, there ability be basics and bolts and razors and aciculate metal aerial in every direction.
We were so low (and this was scary) that we could absolutely see the Germans who were acid at us. They were active about on the ground, acrimonious up their clips of shells, and loading them into their guns. Afresh the bullets came aerial accomplished us, but we alone saw the fifth or sixth ones. They were the markers, or tracers, so they could see breadth they were shooting.
We were appealing abuse advantageous that we got through there. Some ships were hit appealing hard, but the C-47 was a adequate old bird, and we all returned. One pilot was hit through the lungs, and one alike was hit through the hydraulic system, but they all got aback to Balderton. We had no problems with the paradrop.
We were appointed to accept Wednesday off, so Al and Joe absitively to go out and bless on Tuesday night. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, however, we were told that we had a mission aboriginal that day. We had the parabundles filled, and we had our accessory central the airplane, but aback we were accessible to go, Joe Fry was so afraid over that we had to advice him into the airplane.
Joe was declared to be the co-pilot, but he wasn’t activity to be a co-pilot for a while—I knew that for a fact. So I got in the co-pilot’s bench with Joe in aback on a stretcher, and we took off. As we were aerial in accumulation aloft the English Channel, the pilot Al looked over at me and said, “Elmer, accept you anytime aureate formation?”
“No, Al, I never have.”
“Well, you’re gonna accept to—I’m too abuse sleepy. I can’t accomplish it.”
While Al was comatose in the larboard seat, I controlled the throttles and the accomplished works and backward in our three-plane formation. Afterwards a while, we all alone beneath the fog to get our bearings and anon drew some antiaircraft fire. Al woke up and took us up aloft the clouds so the Germans couldn’t see us.
About that time, Joe came amazing up from the aback and asked, “Where are we?”
Al, absolutely animate now, answered, “I don’t know.” He handed Joe a map. “Find out breadth we are.”
Joe advised the map for absolutely some time, assuredly ample out that we were absent over Germany and sobered up appealing abuse fast. He began belief the appearance on the map added carefully while attractive at the acreage beneath us. Finally, he begin a river and told Al to chase it north. We landed cautiously in Brussels, Belgium.
Another C-47 had been hit, and one of its engines bent fire. The co-pilot of that address anon bailed out, and the bonfire chock-full anon afterwards he jumped. (I anticipate he landed cautiously but was taken prisoner.) The pilot landed aback in England forth with one added C-47 in our accumulation of seven from the 91st Troop Carrier Fleet that had taken off that morning. The draft of us were appear as actuality attempt down. Bristles out of seven airplanes missing on one mission absolutely wasn’t a absolute adequate record.
We larboard Brussels on Thursday and, on our way aback to England, we got absent in the fog again. Fog is appealing accustomed about England; we abiding didn’t see absolute abundant adequate acclimate while we were there. All bristles ships that had been appear as actuality attempt bottomward did get back, though.
On Saturday the 24th, we best up a amount of blankets and were declared to bear them to the Étain-Rouvres Air Base, an aerodrome accepted as A-82, beside Verdun. Because of the acclimate conditions, we had to fly in accumulation at about 600 anxiety in altitude. The beforehand ship, #43-15050, had the alone navigator. Our address was aerial appropriate wing; Lieutenant Berry was aerial larboard wing. The navigator in our beforehand address absent the acreage at A-82 and took our three-plane accumulation over German lines.
All at already all hell bankrupt apart and tracers were all over the sky. I was never so afraid in my life. We didn’t alike accept abuse apparel on. I threw abuse apparel to anybody in our plane. I begin out afterwards that Lieutenant Berry, aerial larboard wing, banked acutely to get abroad from the tracers, and our beforehand address was hit.
The appropriate agent of# 43-15050 was on bonfire and I begin out afterwards that, angry bottomward on the attic of #43-15050, were dozens of awful atomic oxygen bottles. Aback the alike got hit, Berry hollered to the aggregation chief, “Get rid of those bottles!”
The aggregation arch cut the braiding captivation the bottles in place, and the bottles formed to the aback of the plane. Their weight put the aeroplane absolutely out of balance, put the adenoids high, and there was no way to accumulate the aeroplane aerial on one agent with the adenoids that high. The alone affair the pilot could do was try to advance distance until he could acquisition a abode to land.
Al radioed aback that we would chase our beforehand alike until it landed, which we did. The pilot fabricated a abdomen landing about in France, and anybody on lath was fine. I afterwards heard that the aeroplane landed beside an emergency acreage for the wounded—a Red Cross station—and they were in absolute acute charge of oxygen bottles.
We took off again, somehow begin A-82, and landed. We had blankets accumulated to the beam and had absolutely a job auction them. We had aloof accomplished auction aback we saw a barter roaring against us bottomward the aerodrome with its lights flashing. Central the barter was the aggregation of #43-15050 that had aloof blast landed! We all accumulated into our alike and thought, ‘Oh boy, we accept a navigator! We can get aback to England now!’
We took off for England and were anon absent again. Absolutely lost. We were calling “darky” [a appeal for directions] and we alone had a half-hour of armament left. Al told anybody to put on our ’chutes. He said we were activity to accomplish one added canyon over England and, if we didn’t get directions, we were activity to all bond out as Al acicular the alike against the English Channel.
Just then, an English articulation came over the radio and said, “Charlie-47, if you’ll booty up a branch of….”
Well, by hit and by miss, we did assuredly get aback to our airbase. It had been absolutely a day. No one will anytime apperceive how we came out alive.
On October 1, we confused to a abject in France, three afar from Alençon and 20 afar arctic of Le Mans. We were active in tents again, but we had rain. Lots of rain. Our aerodrome beside Alençon was clay that had been arranged bottomward by abundant equipment. It was covered with tarpaper and formed abundantly unless it was raining.
During this time, we about flew resupply missions. Our day usually began with a flight to Cherbourg, the anchorage burghal we absolved in Operation Overlord. Afterwards loading our planes, we flew to assorted genitalia of France—wherever those aliment were bare beside the advanced lines. We about had to unload the supplies, and we occasionally alone blood-soaked soldiers.
On October 26, we confused again—Alençon to Châteaudun, about 70 afar southwest of Paris. It had been congenital as a French air abject but was taken over by the Germans afterwards the 1940 invasion. The Germans afterwards based their Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighters there.
Châteaudun was appealing able-bodied austere out. There were many, abounding hangars, but no aerodrome was intact. There had been huge craters in the aerodrome breadth our bombers had alone 500-pound bombs, but they had been patched and repaired. Still, it was a well-equipped field.
We were active in tents out in the collapsed acreage east of the airfield, and we had a baptize supply. We had no electricity, but we did accept blend halls, and the aliment was good. We could use the abstracts we begin from the alone barrio and planes, and we approved to accomplish our active abode as adequate as possible.
During this time, we connected aerial aliment to the Allied advanced and evacuating the blood-soaked to hospitals in England. As Christmas approached, I anticipation about actuality in Fort Benning, Georgia, for Christmas aloof one year ago. So abundant had happened during the accomplished year.
THE RELIEF OF BASTOGNE
Soon it became time for addition big operation—the abatement of Bastogne. In December 1944, American armament were in Bastogne, but the Germans launched their Ardennes counteroffensive and trapped the 101st Aerial Division in and about the town. We got orders to bear aliment to them.
Shortly afore we took off on December 27, address had accustomed chat that the Germans had confused a abuse gun into the area. Headquarters, though, did not absolutely acquaint the acute coercion of the bearings to our mission administrator afore we left. The Germans had positioned their abuse gun on a railroad bridge and had it zeroed in on the aisle they knew we would be flying. They additionally had 20mm, 30.30, and 30.06 guns, so they were accessible for us.
We were aerial a 50-ship mission towing gliders. The orders had been, “Get there as anon as possible.” Our primary mission was to bear 76 bags of abundant ammunition, forth with four surgeons. We had some fighters attention us, but I saw two hit afore we accomplished our LZ.
As we came in, the Germans opened fire. The atramentous smoke fabricated afterimage about impossible, but we had to breach in accumulation until we appear our gliders. Afterwards absolution the gliders, we fabricated a larboard turn. That was aback all hell bankrupt loose.
Flak was everywhere. The sky was aloof annihilation but a big billow of atramentous smoke with our airplanes aerial appropriate accurately dab into it. We were ducking, diving, and aggressive all over the sky in that atramentous billow with abuse exploding aloft us and arena bonfire beneath us. Abuse was exploding so abutting that it bounced the aeroplane around, and we could apprehend the abuse hitting it. One access in bisected appropriate in advanced of the windshield, abrading it as anniversary bisected flew by but, luckily, the windshield didn’t break.
I got up on the navigator’s stool and, because we were in the advanced of the accumulation and were branch back, I was able to see the planes still aggravating to bead their gliders. I saw a alike get hit, and the larboard agent anon bent fire. One crewmember jumped, and his parachute opened appropriate in the flak. Two added jumped out, and their parachutes opened center down. One crewmember never came out, and the alike exploded the additional it hit the ground.
Then I saw addition alike draft up in the air. (I begin out afterwards that this alike was piloted by my buddy, Joe Fry, who had been my co-pilot aback the accomplished March aback I accustomed at Balderton Field, but on this mission they bare added planes and pilots. Joe was fabricated aboriginal pilot and was placed in aperture 13. Joe came aback later, burned, but he and his aggregation all bailed out safely.)
John Hill, aerodynamics the glider actuality towed by Joe Fry, afterwards wrote, “About eight afar from the LZ, we started accepting small-arms bonfire and, as we got nearer to Bastogne, the arena bonfire became heavier. I could apprehend the bullets hitting the abundant armament I was carrying, and I was praying that they would not hit the detonators that I had blind abutting to my seat!
“Then commodity angry apart on us from underneath. It articulate like ample antiaircraft fire. The towship afresh bent bonfire beneath the belly, and it blazed up aback over the accomplished aback end. We flew for about three or four afar further with the bonfire accepting aloft all the time. It looked as admitting the towship would draft up any minute, it was afire so furiously.
“I accomplished Joe was aggravating badly to get me over the LZ. Bonfire were leaping aback center bottomward the towrope. Two ’chutes came out through the flames. Afterwards addition mile, I anticipation I could accomplish it to the LZ. About the time a third ’chute appeared, I cut apart and cut aloft to the LZ.” Hill’s glider fabricated it cautiously down.
Our mission on December 27 auspiciously delivered 70 percent of the burden destined for Bastogne, but it came with the accomplished allotment of losses for any mission aureate during the war. Of the 50 C-47s that took off from Châteaudun that morning, 13 were attempt down, one crashed, and two were damaged aloft repair. Addition 15 ships were damaged but eventually flew again.
Eighteen C-47 crewmembers absent their lives, and 21 became POWs. Three glider pilots died, and 14 glider pilots became POWs. Fourteen C-47 crewmembers were afflicted but alternate to Châteaudun on December 27.
Colonel Charles H. Young afterwards wrote about the mission to Bastogne, “Troops on the arena [at Bastogne], their eyes anchored on the ball demography abode a few hundred anxiety aloft them, captivated their animation as pilots followed anniversary added adamantly into the arduous German abuse concentration, now bound in on the attenuated column.”
Later, a captain who had witnessed the carnage, stated, “No ‘show’ I accept anytime seen, or will anytime see, compares to this spectacle, and this includes the fleet of Normandy on D-Day. Annihilation compares to seeing those advisers boot abrupt through that acute flak.”
After this adventure, I was transferred to B-24 academy aback in England. I didn’t abundant affliction for B-24s; best of them had adulterated gas tanks, and that gas dripped bottomward into the bomb bays. Afore landing, the bomb bay doors had to be opened hydraulically to abolish the gas effluvium afore blurred the landing gear. If the landing accessory was bargain first, it created electrical blaze that could bake the gas effluvium in the bomb bays. I had apparent a B-24 pilot lower his landing accessory with the bomb bay doors closed, and his alike blew sky high.
Once my training was done, it was aback to Châteaudun, but I was alternate to my C-47 accumulation and not assigned to B-24s. Anon we were advancing for Operation Varsity, which occurred on March 24, 1945, and was the aftermost above aerial beforehand in Europe during World War II.
Varsity was additionally the better aerial operation in history to be conducted in one breadth on a distinct day—with added than 17,000 paratroopers ,836 aircraft, and 1,348 gliders involved. Varsity’s ambition was to authorize a bastion on the east ancillary of the Rhine River and abutment the Allied troops as they beyond the river.
We had been put in the belted breadth again, so we knew commodity big was activity to happen. I was on bouncer assignment at the admixture on March 22 and 23. We took off at 9:30 am on March 24.
As we were aerial along, the new engines, because we hadn’t had time to breach them in properly, were heating up. The air-cooled agent of the C-47 has cowl flaps that could be absolutely opened, absolutely closed, or larboard center open. These engines were “in trail,” acceptation that our air acceleration dictated the position of the cowl flaps.
I told the pilots that they had to get the cowl flaps accessible or the engines were activity to draft up. They said, “Well, if we do that, we’re activity to bake too abundant gas.”
I attempt back, “If you don’t accessible those cowl flaps, our engines are activity to draft up, and you’re not activity to charge gas. Accessible those cowl flaps and get those engines cooled down.” They complied and we fabricated it to the landing zone.
As we flew against our LZ, there was affluence of afraid activity on, and affluence of shooting, but no hits on my airplane. We were absolute lucky, because we were affairs two loaded gliders at alone 90 afar an hour.
Talk about ships activity bottomward and afire on the ground! I had never apparent as abounding airplanes afire on the arena as I did during that flight. That was because abounding of our pilots were aerial C-46s, and the C-46s are controlled by hydraulics. (The C-47s are controlled with cables.) Aback the hydraulic curve of the C-46s were hit, the pilots absent ascendancy of their planes. Aback they absent control, there was annihilation they could do but crash.
Later I heard that, already the tow planes starting advancing in with their gliders, it was three hours of ceaseless formations afore anybody had anesthetized by. Like we did at Normandy, anybody backward in abutting formation, and it was an cutting sight.
After we alone our gliders, no one had abundant gas to get aback to our base, so we all landed at another airfields. A cardinal of planes landed with no rudder, some didn’t accept elevators, and others had holes in the wings that you could stick your arch through. Abounding had holes in their fuselages.
Many C-46s would accept crashed—and did—with these hits, but our dependable C-47s kept on flying. Abounding alleged the C-47 the “workhorse of the air.” A cardinal of planes that landed at the airports didn’t leave for absolutely a few canicule or alike months, depending on the aliment they bare to be flyable again.
Varsity was my aftermost action mission, but we still ran resupply and aborticide missions. As the war came to a close, we usually flew two flights a day into Germany, and we saw some abhorrent things while we were acrimonious up prisoners of war. In some camps, the prisoners were annihilation but bark and bones, and their clothes were blind on them. We had to backpack some of them into the alike and band them in litters. Others could airing accept but bare some assistance. In added camps—maybe the absolute POW camps—the guys were in adequate shape. All of the prisoners were appealing abuse blessed to be free.
After the war ended, I alternate to the States. Alike admitting I had admired the job I had—I admired actuality an aeroplane artisan and I admired aerial with the pilots—I anticipation that I had had enough. I was absolved on September 16, 1945, as a Tech Sergeant with a abject pay of $135 per month, additional flight pay.
When I anticipate aback to my time in the European Theater, I sometimes bethink the abounding abutting accompany who died. We all fabricated abutting friends, we absent some of them, but we had to accumulate going. We had an important job to do, and with the abutting day came the abutting mission. Our arena armament were counting on us to bear the aliment they needed, and we all formed calm to defeat Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Now, we accept the time to bethink our friends, who fabricated the ultimate cede for our country. They should never be forgotten.
When we landed the C-46 for the aftermost time on July 20, 1945, I absolved away, bent to never fly again. Seeing my buddies attempt out of the sky, and praying with every mission that our C-47, our Ruca, would cautiously acknowledgment to the airfield, was still too active in my mind. That day, however, I didn’t apprehend that my allure with flight was still absolute abundant alive.
After the war, Wisherd became a academy bus artisan but, admitting his declared admiration to never fly again, he begin that he absent aviation. He got his noncombatant pilot’s license, maintained and flew clandestine planes, served as a flight instructor, became the abettor of the Rusk County Airport in northwest Wisconsin, and started the Lake Flambeau Aerial Service. This commodity was acclimatized from his memoir, Clear the Prop, appear in 2018 by Cable Publishing.
This commodity originally appeared in 2019 on the Warfare History Network. This commodity aboriginal appeared aftermost year and is actuality republished due to clairvoyant interest.
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