B-25 Mitchell medium bomber. Belgium, 1944.Fred Guest
B-25 Mitchell medium bombers forming up over England.Jack H. Davies
Jack H. Davies, Royal Canadian Air Force.Jack H. Davies
Jack Davies on leave.Jack H. Davies
"I used to go duck hunting before the war and when I came back I went duck hunting with my dad and uncle. That was the last time I went. I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I know what the ducks feel like.”"
I was nineteen years old and I knew my army call was coming up. At that time, we were all called up and had to go. And so I got thinking about it and I said, “Gee, I’m only five-foot-seven, how would I make out in the army, man-to-man combat, with a six-foot-six German, I wouldn’t have a chance.” They’d take me off in about one minute flat. So I thought, well what should I do, and I said I’d like to get in the air force. My dad was an automobile mechanic and I thought airplanes were the coming thing, so I’d like to be an aero engine mechanic or something like that. So I went down and volunteered, went down to get enlisted. And they said, “Oh, Jack, we’re full up right now. We can’t take you.” So I said, “Okay” and I went home and I thought, well, and got thinking about it. And I knew a pilot from World War One, and I talked to him a little bit and then I saw this movie Captains of the Clouds , where they were joining up and learning to fly. And I said, “Gee, I’d like to be a pilot.” And so I went down and I tried to get in the ground crew again and they said, “No, we’re still full up.” And I said, “How about the air force?” and he said, “We’ll take you right now.”
The tour was fifty [sorties]. And on my first sortie we took off and now we’re flying in a [combat] box of six [planes] and doing pattern bombings. And we used to bomb for the Canadian Army and the British Army. And so we could pretty well tell where were going to bomb the next day, because they had, the local newspaper or the newspapers had where the army had been in that day and pretty well where they were heading. So we could say, “Well, there’s where we’re going to bomb tomorrow because that’s where they’re heading.” And, so we were usually right, we could tell.
Anyway, so this one night we’re stood down [not conducting flying operations] and the army phoned us up and said, “We don’t need you anymore” – and this would be the evening. So it would be a sigh of relief, we didn’t have to go and we’d head for the pub. On the way down, I’m looking up and here’s these heavy bombers going over. And this is when they were doing the thousand plane raids. And I’m watching them go, they were in a stream, we call it a stream, they were all going in the same direction at approximately the same time. So I see these two planes flying side by side, and they touched wings and they went up and down they went and two big plumes of smoke going up and then I said, “There goes fourteen men.”
So now we’re doing our ops and… we call them ops. But the first one we did, we had to go up through cloud to get above the clouds. And what we would do then, the five planes would just change, go out a bit and up a bit and then that’s [aircraft] “Two” and “Three.” Number Four used to look up the rear end of the leader, he would drop down and the Five and Six would drop down as well and then when we got through the clouds we’d get back in formation again. So pretty near out into the clear and we get the message from the leader, “Oh, fellows, we’re going to scrap it, just go home.” And, so now we all went home individually. And I was Number Five at that time, I think, something like that. So I was the first one back and landed, so we only got half an op for that. But they go by sorties, so I was supposed to do fifty sorties but I got there. We had a few shaky do’s, of course.
One time, for a while, we did six night trips. We used to drop flares so the fighter-bombers could fly down and strafe the Germans. This was the Falaise Gap,* they called it. You might have heard that from some of the boys. The Germans were piled up there trying to get across the river. And this is where the war could have maybe shortened by about three months. They had 200,000 crack German troops waiting to cross the river. And [Field Marshall Bernard] Montgomery wouldn’t attack them. If he’d attacked he could have wiped them out and the war would have been over about three months sooner. So this is the story we had anyway.
I used to go duck hunting before the war and when I came back I went duck hunting with my dad and uncle. That was the last time I went. I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I know what the ducks feel like.” So we had a few shaky do’s of course, but we made it.
*Battle of the Falaise Gap, 12-21 August 1944