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Clement  R.  Holcombe

 

Personal Legacy
CLEMENT R. HOLCOMB
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

12 January 1987

Dear Mr. Lundy:

Your letter of January 7, 1987 brought back memories which I rarely think about anymore. The details in your letter are essentially correct. The mission was to Kassel, Germany and the target was the Tiger Tank Factory. We were hit on the bomb run before dropping the bomb load.

Jones was injured as you stated, in addition, I was hit in the back of the left shoulder rendering my left arm useless. Sgt. Kirkland was also hit but fortunately the flak suit protected him. The right wing fuel tanks were punctured and the inverters on No. 1 and No. 2 were knocked out and couldn't put out normal power. The radio was hit also and I found out later we were transmitting but could not receive. The compass was also not indicating correctly. The No. 4 engine was on fire briefly, but the fire blew out because we lost a few thousand feet in a hurry.

When I finally got the plane straightened out, the group was gone. I got Sgt. Kirkland in Jones' seat to handle the throttles and help me with the rudder pedals since the plane was crabbing due to the uneven power output between No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 and No. 4. We all salvoed the bombs. I tried to get some help from "little friends," but was not able to contact any of the fighters.

Since Jones was hurt pretty badly and we were losing fuel steadily, I was afraid we might have to ditch in the Channel and I knew we might not get Jones out. Westenhiser, the navigator found that strip B-58, in Brussels had very recently been taken from the Germans, so decided to try to land there. With the compass screwed up, we just plain lucked out and found it on the first pass. I followed a B-17 in on the final, but he didn't make it and crashed just short of the runway. There were bomb craters everywhere but enough were filled in to make landing possible.

With Sgt. Kirkland handling the throttles, I got the plane down. Jones and I were taken to the hospital a day or two later (can't remember). I was able to walk around with my left arm in a sling. Hitched a ride back to England on a C-54. We hit bad weather near Dover and stayed overnight at an RAF base. The following day the C-54 dropped us off in front of the tower.

This was our 7th mission. I spent some time in the hospital and subsequently flew 23 more missions before returning to the states. After going on terminal base, as a captain, I returned to school and graduated from USC as an aeronautical engineer. I worked for Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California and Lockheed in Burbank. I accepted a job with Ford Motor Co. and retired from Ford last June after 32 years.

Other than Jones, Raul Garza, who was originally our ball gunner, was the only other one who didn't come back. He went down over Germany while flying a make-up mission.

Mr. Lundy, I realize I have told you far more than you care to know, but then how often can you get anyone to listen to World War II war stories anymore?

Sincerely,

Clement R. Halcomb

P.S. I am enclosing the passenger manifest from Strip B-58 which lists the crew. Would appreciate your sending it back when you have time.
 
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