"The worst day our outfit had was 1 January, 1945. We had no warning whatever."
Ours was the furthest airfield up at all times because we were a reconnaissance airfield. We had a squadron of [Blackburn] Bluebirds [touring light aircraft] who had no armament on them, just cameras. They took pictures of the whole front at all times, brought them back and we had big multi-printers connected with our unit. They took them in; the cameras in there, developed them, blew the pictures up and took them up to the front so that the army always knew what was up ahead of them. It didn’t matter if it was a post in the ground, it showed. That was that Bluebird squadron we had, there was 32 aircraft in it and they never stopped flying.
So you know how much fuel they used and we had to supply that. Some of our hauls were up to 200 miles for fuel because the Americans put a fuel line across the continent from the coast of France; and wherever the end of that line was is where we got our fuel. Our fighters used 150 octane gas, which nobody in this country, of course, knows anything about, but I had my face washed many times with it. I lost my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows, everything. But that’s behind me.
We were close to the [Bergen-] Belsen concentration camp in Germany. And to haul fuel was 68 miles further around the camp, but there was a road going through it. So a guy got after our CO [commanding officer] to let us go through there, and cut this time off in hauling fuel. I had 30 trucks again hauling fuel, all in jerry cans [steel fuel containers] by the way. No bulk. Everything was in jerry cans.
When we went through Belsen Camp, why, the army had taken it over already; and I have some pictures of that place and they’re horrendous. I saw people four feet high around the whole fence of that compound, dead. Hundreds of them. After the army had taken over that area, they got the German prisoners, with a semi-trailer, to load them all and they dug great big pits for them, 500 in a pit. That’s the second worst thing that I saw.
The worst day our outfit had was 1 January, 1945. We had no warning whatever, and we were just across the Rhine River from Germany, that’s where our station was in Eindhoven, in Holland. Our wireless operator understood there was something happening; and he notified our CO, who was living uptown in Eindhoven. So none of the pilots got back to our planes. The only pilots that we had in the air were ones that had taken off at 6:00 that morning to cover the front. It was on their way back that they run into these German fighters over our airfield. The German fighters pretty well had done their job on our airfield and were ready to leave, but since we’d experienced this, why, our wireless operator was able to notify all the existing airfields behind us; and their aircraft, their fighters were up in the air waiting for them.
So out of 300 aircraft, there was 350 aircraft in this raid and they come in at treetop height. I’ve got my book here, it’s called Bodenplatte [Operation Baseplate: German attempt to gain air superiority during the Battle of the Bulge], the name of it, it means "at treetop height." So all the other aircraft fighters were waiting in the air for it, all American stations, the RAF, the RCAF; and out of the 350, there was only 50 got back to Germany. We lost most of ours on the ground, no pilots were in them. The fields were muddier in Eindhoven. We couldn’t park the planes on the bare ground; we had to park them in two rows on the runway with the front wheels on the runway, so they were not sitting in mud, so they could take off. We had two complete rows, a full half mile long, wing tip to wing tip and they just annihilated everything. There was nothing left. We lost 92 aircraft on the ground; and we lost 44 men. I was very, very fortunate. Maybe it helped that I read my bible every evening a little bit. I did.