"Some of the experiences there in the convoy work was pretty sad stuff during the night, where submarines would come up and pick off a few ships. And there was not much we could do about it"
I was posted to a Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron - Number 10 - out of Gander, Newfoundland, where we were flying the very long range B-24s [bomber aircraft] convoy escort and anti-submarine work. It was long patrols. Some of the experiences there in the convoy work was pretty sad stuff during the night, where submarines would come up and pick off a few ships. And there was not much we could do about it. The navy patrol boats were down doing the work. We just kind of had to sit back and watch it all happen.
The mornings were a little ghastly, especially in the wintertime. The Carley floats [liferafts] and whatnot, the debris resulting from the torpedoing, poor blokes were down there on the, covered with ice and it was just very sad. But if it was a night patrol, you’d usually, you went down to the briefing or the ops station and there was a kitchen down there and you usually had a meal before you took off and that, or a bit before you went into the briefing. The “met men” were there, meteorological fellows, the boffins [expert in the field]. And they gave us their prognostication of what was out there, in the way of weather, what we were liable to encounter. But teletypes were banging away with information coming in from Halifax. We worked very close with the navy and they were giving us a lot of information on what we were going to cover, the number of the convoy, its direction and where it was and the whole bit. And the other briefings were what we were supposed to encounter in the way of communications, whether it was radio silence or who we could contact and when.
And we went out to the aircraft and piled in and each of us had our, our little duties today to start off with. Our engineer went down and started the APU [auxiliary power unit] to get things fired up inside. We had walked through the engines and they would get them started up and we’d get all buttoned up and off we would go. From there on, it was a pretty boring sort of a thing, you know, hour after hour. The patrols were usually about 14, 14.5 hours. The PLE, or the, what they called the “crude limit of exhaustion,” was about 15 hours plus a few minutes. That is with the extent of your fuel. The aircraft we were in, we, we carried an extra 300 gallon fuel tank in the bomb bay in the starboard forward part of the bomb bay. And that gave us the very long range, or what they called the VLR, that we could get out and reach out into that area where the Admiral Doenitz [German naval leader] boys in the submarines, they didn’t have the happy time that they used to call in that area that the aircraft couldn’t reach.
And we were diverted to the Azores for a while, flew out of there for a few weeks and had a few adventures down there with the Portuguese people. All very pleasant and on our way back to Newfoundland, we blew an engine about 400 or 500 miles from the coast and the closest one to a landing field was Torbay , just outside of St. John’s. Anyway, we left the aircraft there and were transported back home to Gander in a DC-3. And when we got back, everybody was saying, “Well, hey, what happened? Where is the aircraft?” And we said, “We sold it to the Portuguese air force. “ And there was some wag, put up a little later on, there was for sale signs on most of the aircraft on the line for a while, until that got stopped.