"once the screeching stopped, and that was agonizing, because you figured you’d be blowing up any, any second. And then blissful silence. That was that."
My father, who was born in 1885, he came to Canada in 1905. His first language was Yiddish,in Russia. My mother was born in New York. She was fluent in Yiddish and often at home, they would converse in Yiddish. I grew up with the Yiddish language.
Well, you would be doing, one: you were either a Special Duty Operator, which I was, even though I was trained as a bomb aimer, I was then selected for this particular highly secret job. Because as a Jew, I had a facility with the German language. And that helped us do our job [in electronic countermeasures]. Our job, after takeoff, was to, we carried a heavy, a very powerful jammer, known as a Jostle. This jammer was as powerful as the [signal emitted by the] BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation].
In England, they were listening out to the different frequencies that the Germans would be using to direct their night fighters [aircraft adapted for use at night or in conditions of poor visibility]. And once they got hold of one of these frequencies, they wired our aircraft [to tell us] which frequency to jam. Now the German night fighter took off, he was highly dependent on the night fighter controller on the ground to lead him onto the bomber stream [the timing of each aircraft’s route towards the target]. But once we started jamming with this very powerful Jostle, he couldn’t hear a thing. He had to return to base. There was the Pathfinder force. Went in ahead of the bomber stream and they dropped flares, different coloured flares. You bombed these flares. And then there was a master bomber who flew at a very low height and he would direct the raid, saying, okay, stop bombing the red, go for the green. The red has been fragged pretty well into submission. And that’s how you found your targets. It was previously marked by the Pathfinders.
No, no, you knew what the target was. You got that at briefing. The target is Berlin or Cologne or whatever, and when you got to the target, the Pathfinders had already gone there before and dropped their markers and you bombed the markers.
Coming back was more dangerous than going there because the Germans had already known what the target was and they threw everything they had in the way of fighters to the target area. It was a pretty dicey-do coming home, until you got well out of the target area. And eventually, you got back to your own [aero]drome, landed -not always safely, sometimes you were shot up. Our very first trip, we crashed on landing. Then you had your air crew meal, which consisted of bacon and eggs and that was like, you got that before you took off and after you came back, if you did come back. And that was a big reward because the ration of eggs in England at the time was one shell egg per person per month. And here, we got an egg every time we took off and another one if we lived to come back.
There were times when the Germans sent in intruder aircraft, an intruder was a German fighter. He would get in to these circuits when you were coming in to land, you were a sitting duck, you got shot down, if you were unfortunate enough to have a, a German intruder in your circuit. This happened occasionally at our drome, that happened, you got the order: Scamble! And you scrambled. You doused your landing lights and you took off for other parts and you would land at another drome. The dromes, the runways especially, they were fairly well lit up and they had to be so that you could see where your landing area was.
We got hit over the target, which was Duisburg [Germany]. That was December 4th, 1944. You don’t forget these things very easily. Finally, we got back to our drome, well we crash-landed. Our landing gear would not deploy, so we had to make a wheels-up landing. Luckily, we didn’t have too much gas, so we did not explode, once the screeching stopped, and that was agonizing, because you figured you’d be blowing up any, any second. And then blissful silence. That was that.
And then the, the meat wagons, the ambulances, etcetera gathered up around you but luckily we all came through physically unscathed. Not mentally, I’m afraid, but we were physically unscathed. Mentally, a lot of these things remained with you and I used to get this horrible dream that something threw you into a fright. It could have been anything. But you were going to fall or … This dream built up the fright, built up to a crescendo. And when you felt, if it can keep around for another couple of seconds, it would be killing you, at which time it started to subside. And eventually, I got to know this dream very well and I said, okay, getting more and more frightened and then when it reaches its apex, gradually it’s going to subside and then I’m going to wake up, which I did. But I had this dream for quite a while. You don’t come through unscathed.