"He was dead on in my sights, I opened fire and saw my tracers hit the rear gunner and I told the skipper to make a diving turn to try to get rid of him."
They went to the ball bearing factory over Gelsenhirchen [Germany]. We went in in a hail of flak [ground anti-aircraft fire] and got through and dropped our bombs. And we came out of the flak I spotted an ME110 [Messerschmitt Bf 110, a German heavy fighter] coming at us from the port side, about 300 yards away. He open fired with his machine guns and I felt some hits below me. He was dead on in my sights, I opened fire and saw my tracers [bullets with a pyrotechnic charge that lit a target for accurate aim] hit the rear gunner and I told the skipper to make a diving turn to try to get rid of him. But we went under him and he came around the hard right. And he came along side and he opened up with his cannon and he hit the hydraulics. We received no serious damage. I had to tell the skipper what to do for him to dodge the fellow. We zig-zagged and opened up on him and suddenly he went into a dive and he disappeared. I called the skipper and the flight engineer and told him we had taken some hits and he checked for damage. But everything was okay.
Using evasive action, I learned at OTU [Operational Training Unit, training group which helped prepare airmen for missions], we managed to keep the blue one [search lights] away. We did zig-zag and diving turns, but he kept right on our tail and this lasted for six minutes. Finally, I told the skipper to give her all the speed he could get out of her and made a steep climbing turn off the starboard. We put the blue light below and to the port of us to get away from her. They felt shrapnel hit us but we got the hell out of there and headed for a base. Next morning, I went to check her out and the damage was not as bad as we thought. The skipper and I hugged one another and we still don’t know how the hell we got out of that one.
And we went on our second raid to Hamburg [Germany], there were five raids on this city and we ran into a severe ice storm on this one. We could feel the heat at 20,000 feet. We went in and dropped our bombs and were able to climb a little higher. But instead of climbing out of the ice storm, it got worse and we iced up and the plane dropped like a rock and we couldn’t pull out. By the grace of God, the fire below us melted the ice and we managed to pull out and make it home after five hours and 50 minutes.
We went to Nuremburg [Germany] which was protected as I found out and as a mid-upper gunner, I had to be on my toes. An enormous amount of ack-ack [anti-aircraft fire] around and night fighters [aircraft designed specifically for night fighting]. I have a newspaper clipping mentioning me in dispatches.
We went in on schedule with the first wave and boy, it was hot. Tony was kept busy and I kept telling him where to go, so he could dodge the night fighters. We did a good job and got in and dropped our bombs. In turning my turret around, I watched in horror as a [Avro] Lancaster [Allied heavy bomber] took a direct hit of flak and blew up, no survivors. On the way, I saw a JU88 [Junkers Ju 88, German night fighter bomber] trying to position himself to get a shot at us. I worked in between the twin rudders with the moon behind him and he was about 500 feet away. I shouted to the rear gunner to fire, we saw six streams of tracers hit the sucker when we turned away and I led them as they dug in six more streams of tracers hit him and he disappeared. If we only had 50 calibers instead of 30 calibers in our belts, we would have shot him down.
We were going to Milan [Italy] August the 15th, 1943, an 8 hour trip. Took off with a full load of gas and as much bombs as we could carry. To do this, we had to use all the runway available. The skipper and the rest of us were nervous. We watched as 16 got off safely, then came our turn, number 17. We put the brakes on and revved the engines up as far as she could go and released the brakes. She took off down the runway and we cheered as the wheels left the ground and we were on our way. To this day, I’ll never forget that trip.
[On a different sortie to Milan, Italy] I’m not sure if we were eighth or ninth in the lineup. The first three planes took off and all hell broke loose. Number 4, slid off the runway, fully loaded. We sat there scared stiff, waiting for the explosion that would send all 16 aircraft to hell and us with it. We sat and waited but nothing happened, no explosion. Some officers came out to tell us to get the hell away from there. So we got a reprieve from that one and we got out of our flying suits and went to the briefing hut and put them away. We only had one thing on our mind, that was the mess hall. We got our bicycles and we went to the mess hall. We got to the mess where each crew had a bottle of whiskey, on the house. Pouring the first drink was a chore, we were shaking so hard.
We were going to Munich one of Germany’s prized cities. Heavily protected we were attacked with anti-aircraft guns and night fighters. We approached the target and things were really heating up. The flak was so thick, you could nearly walk on it. It was deadly. We could see aircraft hit and explode. Night fighters were all over the place. I told Tony I was going to make it a real rough ride for him and for him to take care of the flak, and I’d look out for the blue lights. Tony did a superb job.
I had my hands full dodging night fighters and the blue radar lights. I asked him to dodge the night fighters and that came in on us. Peter Cowling and Tony jettison the bombs. That made it easier for Tony to do the maneuvers I told him to. He got the hell out of there and headed home. I called up the flight engineer, told him we had some flak holes in the wings and fuselage as well as bullet holes. We checked everything and listened for any offbeat noise from the engine. Everything appeared okay. We were going to be pretty sore from the rough handling. We were going on leave the next day.
And the pilot, Tony Simpson [age 21], navigator Gerald Godseff [age 20], wireless air gunner Len Cohen [age 20], flight engineer Alfred Lower [age 21], bomb timer, Peter Cowling [age 20], mid-upper gunner, Gerald Rozak, age 20, lived to tell the tale, second mid-upper gunner, Clarence Gibb, age 22, rear gunner Doug Story, age 31. Incidentally, they were shot down after 20 some trips.