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John  E.  Butler

 

Personal Legacy
JOHN "JACK" E. BUTLER
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

4931 Reamer
Houston, Texas 77074

June 26, 1984

Dear Will:

Thanks for your prompt attention to sending me your History of the 67 and the photos. I particularly appreciate the extra effort you wen to to get copies of the two photos from your souvenir albums. I was astounded to find those photographs. It helps me to convince my grandkids of two things:

1. I was young once
2. I really was there on D-Day.

Your report of the 27 original crews of the 44th BG (page 347) and your list of the 67th squadron original combat officers and enlisted men (pp. 348-350) is incredible. It ought to be printed in the 2nd AD Journal in its entirety. Those guys who were there first will always be heroes in my mind.

I am enclosing a copy of a letter I wrote to the 2 AD Journal, December 1980. It has some bearing on the lists you published!

Sincerely,

Jack Butler

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JACK BUTLER
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

Article taken from the Austin American-Statesman, Saturday, June 5, 2004.

Harrowing minutes, still vivid after 60 years

On June 6, 1944, I had a wonderful view of the historic events unfolding below. I was one of more than 40,000 men headed for Normandy aboard more than 4,000 four-engine bombers in the air that day. I was a 22-year-old navigator on a B-24 on my fourth of 30 bombing missions over Europe. My unit's mission: Bomb the beaches at Caen, France.

All these 60 years, I have carried the mental picture of thousands of heavy bombers lumbering out of the English fog, and in a neat line, 65 miles long, dropping our bombs in Normandy at precisely 6:30 that morning. Our troops were going to wade ashore very shortly thereafter.

For us, that meant June 6 started at 1:00 a.m. - an early breakfast and early briefing. We couldn't be late. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had already postponed the invasion for a day because of weather. On June 6, nothing had changed - if anything, the weather had gotten worse. But further delay might have tipped off the Germans, so we went.

We climbed out of the fog with no collisions and managed to get all of our bombers where they belonged and headed for Normandy. Finding the target was duck soup, but arranging for all those bombers to arrive at exactly the same time so we could all drop our bombs at precisely 6:30 a.m., was another matter. But we all made it and gathered on time at the appointed place.

Now, the problems began. Two of our bombs did not release. The pilot sent the bombardier and me to investigate. In order to get from the nose compartment - where the bombardier and navigator sat - to the bomb bay, you had to crawl through a small tunnel that went under the pilot's compartment and the engineer's deck. I went first. When I poked my head out of the tunnel, I saw a sight of nightmares.

Two bombs were hung up in the bomb bay and the bomb bay doors were still open. One bomb was facing upward at a 30 to 45-degree angle, and the arming propeller was spinning like mad. I did not know whether the bomb was designed to explode when the propeller stopped or whether the propeller merely prepared the bomb to explode on contact. Our radioman, whose job it was to open the bomb bay doors, was on the edge of panic. After trying everything he could to jettison the bombs, he was now kicking at the nose of this one.

My initial reaction was a mix of gut-wrenching fear and anger. I wanted to kick his butt right out of the bomb bay. (Later, I would realize that he deserved a medal for what he had been trying to do all alone). My second reaction was to wonder whether I could bail out before the bombs exploded.

But before I could do anything, I had to extricate myself form the tunnel. By the time I got out, I was beginning to think about the rest of the guys who didn't know what was going on. I stood up, grabbed the radioman by his parachute harness and yanked him away form the bomb. By now, the bombardier knew what to do about the spinning arming propeller, went to work and was able to put safety wires on the bombs.

No way were we going to land in England with two live bombs. We had three choices: bail out in the English Channel, jiggle the loose bombs until they dropped and fell into France, or raise the loose bomb and hope to secure it. Being both the closest and the biggest, I drew the jiggling job. The bombs weighed 250 pounds each, but I was getting a tremendous shot of adrenaline.

I recall that we jettisoned the bombs as soon as we safetied them, but the radioman says the bombs were still on board when we got back to our base in Shipdham. Who knows? Who cares? Obviously, the bombs did not blow up in the aircraft.

I will never forget those hung-up bombs. How long is eternity? Has it been these 60 years since D-Day; or was it those few minutes we struggled with those bombs?

Naturally, I am delighted that I managed to hang around for the last 60 years and maybe some of those years were beneficial.

Maybe that 22-year-old American soldier in Iraq could benefit from my experience flying over Germany in 1944, but I doubt it. Why? Because that 22-year-old soldier in Iraq is basically the same as the 22-year-old flyer over Germany in 1944. We both had the ability to ignore good advice. Thank God most of us survived anyway.
 
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