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Veterans Stories

1995 - Veterans Stories from the 489th Bomb Group Newsletter

Veteran Charles Freudenthal was Group Bombardier with the 489th Bomb Group and he has edited, published and distributed his newsletter to veterans of the 489th Bomb Group six times a year since 1976.

The following stories have been taken from the Newsletter by kind permission of Charles Freudenthal. Some of the stories have also been published in his book ‘A History of the 489th Bomb Group’. Webmaster will continue to add stories….so, remember to login again !

From the Newsletter – February 1995:

“…..the NCOs of Crew 16 of the 844th (Boyd Morse, Pilot), and NCOs of Crew 17 (Floyd Harville, Pilot) shared a hut in Halesworth. In 1990 I received a letter from Al Mather, a gunner on crew 17, and am taking the liberty of sending you excerpts of said letter. Our crew finished our missions on September 11th (1944). Three of the gunners, Wise, Peterson and Mitchell, were shipped back to the States five days later. I was removed from my hut on September 20th when a new crew moved in. I spent about three weeks billeted in a tent in the 844th area until I was blissfully returned to the States. In any event, Charlie, if you recall, in Halesworth I got up in church at the 1992 reunion and acknowledged that I had stolen some wood. The following excerpt will verify…..” (Mickey Baskin) – (The following excerpt is from Al Mather to Mickey) “What a pleasant surprise to see your name and address in the October newsletter. For some unknown reason, I have thought of you several times in the past couple of months as I peruse my copy of ‘A History of the 489th Bomb Group’. Also, an entry in my diary for August 22nd 1944 brings back memories as it reads; ‘Played a little poker today, and lost two pounds. The crew went on a 48 hour pass, but Kader and I didn’t go. Baskin stole some coal and wood tonight, then we raided the mess hall and had some bacon and onion sandwiches.’ Do you remember? …..” (Al Mather)

From the Newsletter – February 1995:

AND BACK IN 1945 –

(Feb) “Stalag Luft IV – 500 men left in B compound were moved over here. Five in our room – makes 26 men now. 1500-2000 French, Turks, Poles, Serbs, etc. Came into B compound around noon. Big group of English came in after lock-up.” (Art Cressler diary)
(3 Feb) Lincoln, Neb – Colonel Napier relieved of command of the 489th
(5 Feb) Lt Colonel Robert E Kolliner assumed command of the group.
(6 Feb) Stalag Luft IV – “Started marching today – 1 food parcel and 1/3rd loaf of bread.” (Art Cressler diary)
(10 Feb) All pilots go on TDY to Maxwell Field for B-29 transition.
(14 Feb) “Marched 42-45 kilometers and then slept outdoors in the rain. Nice St Valentine’s Day remembrance.” (Art Cressler diary)
(12 Mar) “Arrive at Dambeck, got 2/3 loaf of bread for 6 days. Supposed to leave here by train.” (Art Cressler diary)
(19 Mar) “2/5 loaf of bread, and marched out of Dambeck.” (Art Cressler diary)

From the Newsletter – April 1995:


Wendover, 1 April. The ground echelon, numbering 1293, departed Wendover in four troop train, headed for Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts. There were 1243 ENs, 48 officers, one warrant officer, and one civilian, Red Cross Field Representative Howard Taylor.
Air echelon orders were cut on 10 April for 70 crews to go to Herington, Kansas, where control passed from the 15th Wing to the 21st Wing.

“Left dear old Wendover on the 12th, carrying Capt. Tabor, our Ops officer as our passenger. The ball turret gunner left a few weeks earlier to travel across by boat. We flew a loose formation along the airway and landed at Kearney, Nebraska, to spend the night. My navigator, Hubert Hodges, and I went into town, but it was too small and too dull to have any fun…..” (Frank Skrzynski Skeldon diary)

12 April – “Welcome to Waller in-Tropical-Enchanting Trinidad. Moonlight spilling thru palm trees…The fragrance of orchids filling the air… rhythmic melodious voices..graceful olive skinned maidens…Parrots and macaws chattering in the branches overhead…A romantic paradise WAS Trinidad…For your Trinidad, as you will find it, turn to the following three pages…Alas, war changeth – FILL OUT YOUR FORM 1: PILOTS REPORT TO OPERATIONS: OFFICERS IN FLYING CLOTHES WILL NOT BE ADMITTED TO MESS: ALL TRANSIT CREWS ARE CONFINED TO THE POST.”

13 April – Adjacent to Field, Foraleza, Brazil. “Boots are authorized, but DO NOT wear trouser legs inside boot tops.” TIES are worn after 1700 local time. Van Dyke beards and other unusual methods of wearing beards are not authorized.”

April 23 – “Left States today from Florida to Porto Rico – To Trinidad – Opened Secret Orders: what a disappointment…. (Rudy Hoerr)

24 April – Waller Field, Trinidad (Carl Hillstrom diary) “Had a quick breakfast and went to bed – briefed on trip to Belem this afternoon. Can’t leave the base – field of temporary structures – clean quarters – fair food – no Club, just a small bar. Not much to do here.”
25 April – Belem, Brazil. “Off at 0310 – landed at Belem 0945 – Went to PX after getting quarters and bought gaucho boots, $8.00 a pair …. (Carl Hillstrom diary)
27 April – Still in Brazil, we leave tonight for Africa – getting ship all checked over for the long hop. Stole prop from another ship. Col Napier says you will solve your own problems. I hope it wasn’t his plane! (Carl Hillstrom diary)

From the Newsletter – June 1995:

“…. This is a sequel to the incident described on page 153 in ‘A History of the 489th’….As stated in that tale, we made a hairy short field take-off and proceeded to Orleans without further navigating problems and off-loaded our cargo of Vienna sausages, sugar, and other strategic materials. I seem to remember that a P-47 had flown under the Eiffel Tower, and I felt that I should survey the structure to see if that feat could be duplicated with a B-24.
“We circled around the city for a while as I surveyed the arch under the tower to see if it was big enough to fly under. I was still looking the place over when a P-47 flew in very close, just ahead of number 2 engine and about 6 feet under our plane. He made a very definite point at his guns and again pointed west. I got the message. He didn’t want us flying around the city, so we headed back to England. PS I believe, after watching the TV pictures of Paris, that we could have flown under it.” (Wilmer Plate)

25 June 1944 (VILLACOUBLAY) – Radio Operator John Foster’s diary
“…and again it was one of those afternoon raids. It started off bad, with one plane not being able to get off the runway. It kept right on going, and plane parts were scattered all over. The plane caught fire, but 8 crew members managed to get out. The heat started the bomb load off, and they blew up all the rest of the day. We took off right after it happened, and on the same runway. We had no more than passed over the wreckage when a bomb exploded, making Capt. Elliot veer way to the left.
“The next bad thing was the bombing itself. I was never so scared in all my life. We went through hell for fifteen minutes and I can’t see to this day how we managed to get through. When our formation hit the bomb run I was just waiting for the burst of flak that would blow our plane to bits. A hundred guns were firing at us, and I had resigned myself to getting it over Paris.
“At the IP I got down on the catwalk and opened the doors. I heard over the intercom that there was a hell of a lot of flak ahead but that we would probably miss it. In just a vew minutes the navigator (Rubin Kaplan) blared out ‘Pull her up Pappy. Pull her up, Pappy!’ ….Blackburn, in the ship ahead of us was going down on fire, and we were headed right into him. COVER GIRL jerked up, and the flaming B-24 slid underneath us. At briefing I later learned the radioman was seen plunging from the plane on fire… This bomb run was terrible. We must stay on course, and, thusly, offer the best target possible to the flak batteries. Although it’s merely a matter of minutes, every one of them seems like hours, and there you are – a clay pigeon.
“Smitty yelled, ‘Bombs Away!’ This is one time I didn’t hesitate closing the bomb bay doors. At the end of the bomb run there were only two ships still remaining in the formation. The rest took off like wild geese, avoiding the damn flak. A woof woof hit right under the bomb bay and ripped out our hydraulic system. The bomb bay was immediately flooded with fluid, and there our troubles began. Number one engine started to smoke, so Captain Elliot feathered the prop. Marvin (Glassman) reported he had been hit, and all this time we were straggling from the formation. Someone yelled the oxygen was out and for us to check our regulators. It was impossible to keep up with the outfit on three engines, so the co-pilot (Doug Strong) called for fighter protection, and I started shooting green flares.
“As we passed back over the IP, Captain Titus’s PF got a burst and was aflame from nose to tail. Several chutes were seen and the fellows floated directly into Paris. The P-51s and P-38s sure looked fine, and they helped us all the way to the loveable Channel. Someone went back and bandaged Marvin, and by that time we were over the field. This was the fifth time we had come back on three engines, but we didn’t know if we had any brakes. The fellows in the waist had chutes rigged up in case we didn’t, and Pappy brought her in perfect. When we got out of that ship we had more people around than we could do with. The plane had over a hundred holes in it, and it was a miracle that more than one person didn’t get hit. The heated suit cords on Bruner’s suit were cut, and rivets had been knocked into Pappy’s lap. The hit on the bomb bay door made a rip a foot long. It was impossible to fix her on the field, and it was necessary to take COVER GIRL to the sub-depot.
“Another B-24 coming in under the same conditions as ours, crashed short of the runway and killed eight of the crew……That was the most nerve-wracking mission yet, and Captain Elliott and Smitty are in the hospital with Marvin…Going to rest camp, hot dog! It was hard getting to sleep at night. Our last mission in the GIRL .” (John Foster diary)

20 June 1944 (NO-BALL SITES) Ray Blanchard’s diary
“Knocked out two missions today. MANISTEE took another beating on #12 mission (2nd). Landed at Metfield because radio compass shot out, a ceiling of 300 feet, and #1 engine hit and burned some. Ray ‘Pete’ Snell, my navigator, hit with flak and badly shaken. Whole crew is somewhat shaken. Leave MANISTEE at Metfield and come home in GI Truck. Captain Madson and crew chute out over France. Montgomery lost on 2nd mission. Bodine crash lands but okay.
“21 June – slept late, fatigued and shaken. Drove to Metfield in jeep to bring back MANISTEE but it is too damaged to be flown. Their sub-depot takes over. Our land troops have Germans trapped on tip of Cherbourg peninsula. Captain Madson and crew and Captain Taber lost yesterday. Eighth AF lost 47 bombers yesterday, and seven fighters.” (Ray Blanchard diary)

29 June 1944 (OSCHERSLEBEN) Bombardier John Strauss’ Diary
“Mission #1. Halesworth, England, to Oschersleben, Germany. All went well until near enemy coast, and #3 prop was running away when manifold pressure was increased. Couldn’t keep up. Turned after passing Zuider Zee and 10 miles N. Of Zwolle, Holland, and lost control twice. Met few flak bursts on the way out – no fighters. Jettisoned bombs live in North Sea to give crew idea of what it looked like, and celebrate 4th of July. Received sortie credit after coming back on three engines – feathered #3….” (John Strauss)

From the Newsletter – October 1995:

Orville Curtis recalls ‘Operation Truckin’….’
“We left Halesworth the morning of August 29th and flew to Beaulieu, a British base in the south of England, to get a cargo deck installed in the bomb bay so that we could carry supplies to France. I was co-pilot with Lou Confer.
“There had been a scare on the base that saboteurs were around, so crew members had to take turns standing watch inside the airplane while the airport provided sentries outside. I don’t think I would have known that a person was a saboteur, and might have shot myself in the confusion. It was interesting being challenged many times going back to barracks.
“We were to take off in daylight, as we had to get to Orleans, France, and back, before dark. We had finished our take-off check list but had to wait for tower clearance, so we opened the cowl flaps to keep the engine cool. When we were finally cleared to go, I hadn’t put the cowl flaps in trail for take-off until we had started down the runway. I almost earned an Iron Cross!
“The trip over and back was a sight-seeing one, as we flew at 500ft one way and 1500ft the other. Our flight plan took us over the Falaise-Argentan Gap where the Allied armies had trapped the Germans during the breakout from the invasion beachhead just a few days before. One could see very plainly the still-burning tanks, trucks, horse drawn guns, dead horses, and, yes, even men. I had never realized how much Germany depended on horse power for their war machine. After dropping bombs from ‘way up there’ it was a rude awakening to see this destruction and death.
“We located the field without trouble, and landed. We must have been on one of the early days of the operation, as the ground people were not well organized. All they had were small dump trucks, and five or six French civilians did the unloading. I’m not a cigarette smoker and I’d taken my two-pack allotment with me and gave them to the French workers, who were very appreciative.
“After we were unloaded we started the engines, getting ready to taxi, but had to wait for another B-24 to come into the parking area before we could move out. The B-24 taxiing toward us was close to the edge of a filled bomb crater. The edge gave way, and the #4 and #3 props hit the stones. Sparks flew, and the plane went deeper into the crater. I remember saying to myself that some co-pilot was going to get chewed out for that. Once the side gave way there was no stopping the plane from going into the crater, which had been filled with gravel but not packed down. We had to shut the engines down as there wasn’t any way for us to get past the other B-24, so we got a chance to be tourists and look around while the ground crew tried to pull the stranded plane out of the hole. They didn’t have any regular airport handling equipment, and had to make do with a chain hooked to a bulldozer, which wasn’t gentle on the plane. It had to be pulled out of the way and left off the field. I don’t remember its name or number; I just ‘felt’ for the crew. While we were wandering, we got to see a shed that had several ‘collectors items’ that had been booby-trapped. One could see the trip-wire between the ‘goodies’. I think there was a pistol, a helmet, and some other things. We looked from a safe distance.
“Things were more organized on our next trip. As soon as we were parked and the engines were off, a GI 18 wheeler backed in, a half dozen Frenchmen climbed aboard and the bomb bay was emptied in no time. It was just like the movie of the Berlin airlift. One of the local entrepreneurs came by, selling or trading Paris souvenirs – post cards, small Eiffel towers, and other tourist gifts. American cigarettes were the best currency.
“We made several more trips, and I don’t think we were ever on the ground for more than ten minutes. These were my most pleasurable ‘raids’ to France. It was a good feeling to know that we were helping to build and not destroy.” (Orville Curtis)

From the Newsletter – December 1995:

“Wednesday, 25th October, 1944, was the date of the last mission I flew as co-pilot with the 489th. The primary target was an oil refinery in the Ruhr valley, but due to a series of missed communications, we had to attack the secondary – the marshalling yards at Munster.
“The bomb run was pretty good, with little flak until a misdirected trip over Osnabruck gave us a few thrills. So, we missed the target. It wasn’t for the lack of trying! Thus far there was nothing unusual, except for the crew I was flying with. I had been assigned to go as an experienced pilot with a newly assigned pilot and crew on their first mission; my 22nd. I don’t remember the pilot’s name, because not too long afterwards I was reassigned to the 448th Group to finish my tour.
“As far as I could tell, the new pilot was in control, and seemed knowledgeable. We started up and taxied out. We must have been delayed a while waiting for takeoff, but finally off we went down the runway. Picking up speed after what seemed to be a longer time than usual, the pilot smoothed her up into the air. Gear up! Milk the flaps up! Damn, we were not gaining altitude! The plane was mushing along the top of the trees! Quick reaction! The engine cowl flaps were wide open and we were stalling! How I knew it was the cowl flaps I can’t recall, but I quickly toggled them shut and the plane immediately picked up speed and got the lift it needed to proceed normally.
“Nothing was said during the flight about the near crash on takeoff. On our return, and with the plane parked on the hardstand, I went over to congratulate the pilot on the successful completion of his first mission. To my surprise, he began to congratulate me on the quick thinking that saved the plane from a meeting with the trees at the end of the runway. He went on to say that he was ging to put me in for a commendation. My quick thinking began to operate once again. Commendation? I’ll probably get a reprimand! Why were the flaps open on takeoff in the first place? The pre-takeoff check included closing them. How could we have missed doing it? I think it was because of the takeoff wait, and the possibility of overheating, that either the pilot or I opened them to cool off the engines; then, having completed the checklist, forgot to close them on the runway.
“I wouldn’t bother to do that, I told him, ‘I’m just glad I got them closed in time.’ ‘Me too,’ he said, ‘quick thinking on your part!’ I thanked him, and that was the end of it. It was enough that he thought I was a good co-pilot, though I have often wondered what would have happened if he had put me in for a commendation. I can’t remember his name, and I’m sure he has forgotten mine, but I bet he remembers that takeoff! To be, or not to be a hero? (Tom McQuoid)

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