"I saw the aircraft blow up in the air when I was coming down and I wasn’t sure if everybody else got out or not"
My name is Frank Sonoski. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in November, 1942 at the age of nineteen.
My parents didn't know I had joined up and after training in Canada as a wireless operator in Calgary and then Jarvis for gunnery, I went overseas in January, 1944.
In October it was our first flight, thousand bomber daylight raid over Duisburg, which was quite a sight to see. We get through that fine and no problem. Then on our second trip, which was Essen, Germany, the Ruhr Valley, we were hit over the target and our left inner engine was hit and caught fire, which we were able to put out with the internal extinguisher that's built into the engine. We carried on across the continent, heading for England but the fire kept coming back, but we decided we'd be able to get it back to England rather than bail out over enemy territory. Took the chance, headed for England to Woodbridge which is a crash drome and as we crossed the coast the fire was so bad the pilots asked the navigator if he was sure we were over land and when he said, yes, He said, "Okay, abandon aircraft," 'cause he didn't think he'd be able to get it much further and we all successfully bailed out. I saw the aircraft blow up in the air when I was coming down and I wasn't sure if everybody else got out or not.
After a week survival leave we went back and on our third trip, we ran into some more trouble coming back from the target at Münster, we lost our hydraulic system. That meant we wouldn't have any brakes and all kinds of controls would not be working, so we were told to land at Carnaby, I think it was, the other crash drome. And coming in there in the fog and no hydraulics, we came down too low, the pilot leveled it off a little too soon and we crashed through fields and the aircraft just split in two. Lucky enough it didn't catch fire because we were practically out of fuel. Had we had fuel, it would have probably blown up.
Then on the fourth trip, we'd had to go to another crash drome on the way back, I think it was Woodbridge again, because we had lost our starboard - that's the right - outer engine. So we were told rather than coming back to base to go to land at the crash drome, which we did successfully, no problem landing on the three engines. And we were marked as being the unlucky crew that will not make it to ten trips. But after that fourth trip, everything seemed to go on quite smoothly. We had a few close scrapes during mine-laying and other bombing raids, but nothing of great significance like the first four trips.
So when I completed the thirty trips, that was considered a complete tour, and that was just before the war ended. So they sent me home along with a bunch of other airmen in my category, we were called, screen, otherwise meant that we were finished. Back to Canada, to Moncton, waiting for posting to the Far East. But when [President Harry S.] Truman ordered the atomic bomb dropped, that was the end of the war.