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Frederick  A.  DuBose

 

Personal Legacy

FROM BELFAST TO SHIPDAM
By Fred DuBose

When we finished pre-combat training near Belfast, in North Ireland, we were transported to our new assignment in a converted B-24. The conversion was made by removing all of the turrets and guns from the B-24. In the nose the turret was removed leaving a bubble sitting where the turret had been. The
bomb bay was sealed and racks were installed to hold baggage. Seats were to be found anywhere you could find open space on the floor in the rear compartment. We loaded our gear and ourselves through the rear hatch that was provided in the tail section underneath the aircraft fuselage.

The rear of the B-24 was prone to drop down on a tail skid when the plane was too heavily loaded in the tail section. Normally a ground crew member would place an ammunition box under the skid to hold the rear end up high enough for a person to enter the rear hatch. No one had remembered to do
this on the B-24 we were loading. After about a half dozen men and their gear were aboard the rear of the plane, Joe Morris ducked under the rear of the plane to make his entry. At that instant the tail section gave way. When I heard him shout I went to the hatch to see what had happened. Joe was
lying on the ground clutching his back. Tex Lawrence and others helped pull him from under the airplane and made him comfortable, then summoned an ambulance. We waited until the ambulance came to transport Joe to the hospital, then we boarded the airplane. There were about twenty five men aboard the B-24 so we had to distribute ourselves as best we could to balance the load to keep the plane from being tail heavy on take-off and in flight. Some of us ended up in the radio compartment just back of the pilot's compartment. That was pretty crowded but we stayed there until after take-off. Some five or six of us were sent to the navigator's compartment in the nose after take-off to help balance the load.

The chin structure that normally supported the nose turret had been retained and the glass bubble was open to entry. It wasn't a very comfortable spot just forward of the nose wheel door. There was just room to lie down. I did just that and soon went to sleep. I came back to consciousness with a start!
Something had me by the shoe heel and wind was blowing at my back. The nose wheel was partly down having caught on the nose wheel cover door that was pinning my shoe heel to the wall. In normal operation the nose wheel door opened when the landing gear handle was moved to the gear down position. It first moved inward to clear the doorframe, then it moved toward the side of the aircraft to make way for the lowering of the nose wheel. The door was about half open when it encountered my heel. The stanchion that connected to the axle of the nose wheel lodged on the partially opened door so that only the tire was outside the aircraft.

As in the movies my mind created a flash back and I remembered a time when I was undergoing training at Blythe CA. We had been given a classroom break and were outside observing B-24's making landings. One approached the runway slightly nose high as it should have. The pilot sat the plane down on the main gear with the nose wheel just off the ground. A beautiful landing was in progress until he backed off on engine power and the nose wheel came into contact with the runway. The nose of the aircraft kept on going down until it contacted the pavement. When the B-24 finally came to rest about four feet of the nose section was ground off by the friction of the paved runway, that four feet was the same section that I was now resting on in reality. No one in the nose section could get past the nose wheel, or me, to inform the pilot.

The people in the nose compartment were getting awfully excited about this. Just then, as if on cue, the Flight Engineer came down the passage to check the nose wheel locking mechanism. When he saw my plight he immediately backed out and found a place to plug in his head set and microphone. He informed the pilot of the situation. The pilot immediately started to pull the aircraft up for another approach. The landing gear was retracted, the nose wheel rose back to its proper position. I immediately assumed the upright position as far from the door as possible so the nose wheel could go down and lock properly.

The pilot landed without any further hitches. The plane must have been pretty well balanced or he would have told us to get out of the nose section. I don't recall that I have ever been in a B-24 that landed with even one person in the front lower section of the aircraft. We did it just this one time.

After we unloaded our gear from the airplane we went to the operations building. We were at the home of the 446th Bomb Group (H) near Bungay and south of Norwich. One of the operations clerks ventured to say that we might have been sent as replacement for two crews lost in a collusion while
attempting to form up to go on a bombing mission. I do not remember whether we spent the night, but do remember that we were loaded on a six by six and trucked to another assignment. This was to the
west of Norwich at a place called Shipdam, the home of the 44th Bomb Group (H). Here we were assigned to the 506th Bomb Squadron that had been almost wiped out. "Joe Morris returned after spending a short time in the hospital and was present and accounted for on our fist mission, April 22, 1944 to Hamm, Germany Marshalling yards." But that's another story!

(Fred DuBose, radio op and one of the three survivors of our crew passed away Dec. 15, 1993. Joe Morris normally flew Ball Turret position but on 29 of June 1944 on the last mission, he flew tail turret. Joe Gorski was on assignment to London to assist Bebe Danials with an Armed Forces Radio Show,
so Morris flew the tail gun position. Joe Morris died July 4, 1988,) {note added by Walter "Bud" Lawrence. Fred DuBose, Joe Morris & I were the only survivors of Gerald Westcott's crew when shot down over Magdeburg Germany. (29, June 1944)}


Walter 'Bud' & Letha Lawrence
wlawrence3@cox.net
(for Lawrence/Pemberton Reunion) use:
lawpemb@cox.net
 
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