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Walter  T.  Holmes

 

Personal Legacy
MAJOR TOM HOLMES
World War II Report

Continue and read The Legacy Portion
IN HIS OWN WORDS

The Shreveport Times 1943 or 1944
By Monica Liles, Journal Staff Reporter

Forty fragments of a German 20-mm shell accompany Major Tom Holmes wherever he goes. He doesn't carry them around with him to show people what happened to him during 15 months of combat flying overseas; they are embedded in the right side of his head and probably will be thereto remind the 24-year-old major of World War II the rest of his life.

Major Holmes, a former Barksdale man, is in Shreveport with his wife, the former Marguerite Poole of this city, visiting her sister, Mrs. V. G. Aldridge. Tall, blond and quietly self-confident, the B-24 pilot is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Holmes, Sr., of Denton, Texas.

A double row of ribbons extends across his blouse, signifying valor on numerous occasions. Among the medals they represent is one most coveted by British airmen - the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

It was awarded to Major Holmes for his action in 1942 in the raid that left him the 40 souvenirs of German ack-ack. At the time he received it, only one other American had been awarded the British DFC.

King Supposed to Present Medal. "The king was supposed to give it to me," he confessed, "but we got our wires crossed somehow and he didn't. I was a little disappointed. When a British flyer gets the DFC, he discards his other decorations and wears it alone - that's how much they think of it.

But about the mission for which the award was made. The young American had just arrived overseas. It was his third bombing mission and he was piloting the "Flying Eightball." The target was a French airfield.

"Six B24s got separated from the group, mine among them," he tells the tale. "We were jumped by German fighters. One B-24 was knocked out of formation; then the 'Flying Eightball' got it. A 20-mm shell whizzed between my head and the copilot. It exploded and knocked both of us unconscious.

"When I came to, the ship was upside down and diving almost straight to the earth. The No. 2 engine was knocked out. The top gunner was injured; the copilot was still out; I was bleeding from hundreds of places on my right side."

Major Holmes, dazed, injured somehow righted the ship and limped back to England, bleeding profusely all the way and getting weaker by the minute.

Ten Days in Hospital. He spent ten days in a hospital then started flying again. The copilot was unconscious for several days.

The numerous missions he flew over northwest Germany before transferring to the Middle East, the young Texan describes as "extremely vicious."

"Flak always was heavy and an hour and a half to two hours of attacks from German fighters was routine. I don't see yet how we survived those raids.

"After they were over and we were heading home again, the men would invariably start singing silly little songs and planning their social activities for the night ahead."

The worst raid Major Holmes went on (and he is a Ploesti veteran) was over Kiel May 14, 1943. Outnumbered four to one, the American planes thrust back assault after assault.

"Those German planes kept coming at us, two and three and four at a time, from all directions. Our right side was knocked out, the bomb bay torn off, about one hundred and fifty holes blown in the 'Flying Eightball,' three in the crew injured. But somehow we fought through it . . . I don't know how."

Boarded with "Killer" Kane. July 1 saw the major (a captain then) off for north Africa, where his group "boarded" for several months at the same field with Shreveport's hero, Colonel John R. (Killer) Kane.

He participated in that first raid over Naples and went on numerous other raids over Sicily and Italy. On the morning of the invasion of Sicily, July 10, he was flying on a mission to Catania.

"I got a bird's-eye view of the whole invasion," he said. "Down below there were smoke and fire, hundreds of ships, navy planes whirling over the blue Mediterranean . . . and it all looked oddly quiet and peaceful to me. I don't understand it; I know there was some fighting, but it looked so quiet down there from where we were."

Then came Ploesti - flaming, death-ridden, historical Ploesti.

Major Holmes told the story of the memorable raid over the invaluable oil fields of Romania in his quiet, unhurried Texan drawl, pausing every now and then to revisualize the gripping events.

"The men weren't prepared for what we got," he drawled, "and it's just as well, because it might have been hard to get them to go if they had known what to expect.

Took off at Daybreak. "We took off at daybreak, circled the field and headed out over the Mediterranean. When we reached the oil fields - we were an hour late - we could see the smoke and flames from some targets that already had been bombed.

"Then all of a sudden haystacks and houses below us started falling apart and the ack-ack guns camouflaged in them started pouring it on us."

Major Holmes was leading his flight to bomb a target south of the town. They were coming in at 100 feet when the guns opened up on them and then: "We really got down to earth! I tore through a sunflower patch like a mowing machine, picked up a bunch of cornstalks, and whizzed through some treetops like they weren't even there."

"We were flying so low and so fast that we went right out from under about 20 German fighters that dived on us. And they were going down so low that a number of them crashed into the earth, unable to pull out of the dive. We didn't fire a shot at them."

The clean-cut Texan stopped, smiled apologetically at his pretty little wife who was with him and continued: "On the way in we saw one of our planes that had crashed in a little field after finishing its bombing. One of the men was dragging the wounded out all by himself and had already laid three of them out in the field."

"We zoomed about 15 feet over his head. He stopped in his single-handed job, saluted and waved us on towards our target. It sort of got on us, gave us more courage, I guess."

He described the split-second picture he saw as they hit the target. "Over on our left, the wing of a B-24 was on fire. It burned with the bluest-white blaze I've ever seen and was four or five feet across. Another one had its right engine on fire. At the same time, a ship with its bomb bay on fire turned straight up in the air. Three members of the crew bailed out and their chutes opened beneath them. They were the only ones to get out; the ship nose-dived over, crashed and burst into flames."

Once past the target, more trouble of a different sort was encountered. Straight into the path of Holmes' flight flew another group of B-24s, fresh from their target. The groups collided.

"There were airplanes criss-crossing in the sky for 20 miles," he grinned. "We finally got together again and headed for home."

Incredibly, Holmes' ship - battle scarred from many previous missions - flew through the Ploesti raid without receiving a single bullet hole!

Worry over the gasoline supply haunted the homeward flight. Holmes dropped out of the group and came in slowly to save gasoline. They threw out everything that could be dispensed with and finally winged into the home field with 25 minutes of gasoline left.

Home on 20-day leave, Major Holmes looks back through his 15 months of overseas service, and concludes: "I never thought a human being would have to live through such hell - and I don't see how it was humanly possible to do it."

In addition to the British DFC, he has been awarded the American Distinguished Flying Cross with an oakleaf cluster, the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

A graduate of North Texas Teachers' College, Major Holmes joined the air corps two days before he was graduated, trained in California and was stationed at Barksdale Field from February to August, 1942, prior to going overseas. It was then that he met his wife. He will report to California next month for reassignment.

His commanding officer in North Africa was Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor simultaneously with Colonel Kane.


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IN HIS OWN WORDS
Spokane, WA 99203
6 December 1942 The Legacy of,Tom Holmes]

Discussion of Raid on Abbeville-Drucat Airdrome, Abbeville, France
This was our third raid. We had been in England less than two months, becoming operational on Nov. 6, 1942. Most pilots in the squadron were promoted to first lieutenants on Oct. 6. Our first raid was on Nov. 7 and two days later we made our second raid, on the submarine pens at St. Nazaire, on the west coast of France. It was here that we encountered our first antiaircraft fire (flak). It was similar to lightning; as long as you can see it, it's harmless.

Now we get to the third raid in which I participated. We were briefed at 7 a.m. leaving the field two hours later. Our group put up 18 planes. The 68th led the raid on Abbeville/Drucat Airdrome. The 66th and 67th squadrons received orders to turn back and did so. We did not receive the orders and proceeded on, accurately dropping 111 bombs on the target and jettisoning 20 others over the target.
About the time we crossed the coast of France, opposite the white Cliffs of Dover, we ran into trouble. We were attacked by 30 Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes. These were the yellow-nose fighters, the Herman Goering Group, one of Germany's most seasoned groups. They flew in two to three at a time from dead ahead. To increase out firepower, our six B-24 bombers were in a very tight formation, as we had been instructed.

We had three 50-caliber guns on the nose, fired by the navigator and bombardier, but only one could fire dead ahead. We also had twin 50s in the top turret, our most effective firepower ahead, as long as the target (or bandit) was above the nose of the plane. The first flight was led by Capt. Tommy Cramer, number 800, with Lieutenant Holmes in number 813 on the left wing and number 786, Lieutenant James Dubard, on the right wing.

Early in the encounter, Lieutenant Dubard's plane was hit, knocking out number three and four engines. Then engine number two lost power and the ship pulled off to the right and lost altitude. Once separated from the rest, many of the German fighters withdrew and concentrated on the crippled plane. All guns on Dubard's plane were seen to be firing and three enemy fighters were downed.
Rather than bail out, the crew stayed on their guns and were still firing when the plane hit the water. Only one engine was running when the plane hit and exploded. This was the first loss in the 68th squadron. Lieutenant Dubard was from Marked Tree, Arkansas. All on board were awarded the Silver Star. This crew, in their vain attempt to return their aircraft to friendly territory, achieved a notable victory and displayed outstanding courage and spirit, to their ultimate destruction.

I was unaware that most of this was happening, although I did see the plane leave the formation. We held a very tight and steady formation, about 15 to 30 feet apart, as we felt we could be more effective this way, concentrating our firepower I noticed an FW 190 some 200-300 yards out at 11 o'clock high firing directly at our plane. We were looking directly down his gun barrels and I thought to myself, "He is going to hit us." At that time three 20-mm cannon shells hit us at once.

There was a loud bang, yellow smoke and a flash filled the cockpit. The shell exploded about a foot over my head and I was knocked unconscious for a period of time. My copilot, Lt. Robert Ager, was also knocked out and shell fragments struck the legs of the top gunner, Sergeant DeBerry. The first shell hit our number two engine just to my left, causing it to lose power. The third shell exploded into the oxygen bottles just aft of the main cabin.

There was no way to know how long I was unconscious; however, when I came to, I looked up and saw the water. Realizing we were upside down, I righted the plane and began to look for more fighters. There were none, because we were by then halfway across the English Channel and the FWs had returned to France, probably because of British fighters, although the only planes I saw were four of my own squadron just crossing the coastline some 10-15 miles ahead.

I was told by the rest of the crew that although our plane had been barrel rolling to the left and diving steeply, the crew were staying on the guns, though some told me later they were unable to bail out because of centrifugal force. We were out of control and really in the Lord's hands for some six to eight minutes - time enough to fall 6,000 feet. There was a lot of damage in the cockpit - broken instruments, radios and material hanging from the top of the cockpit. The hole in the top was causing a lot of wind and noise.

Lieutenant Ager, the copilot, was slumped down and still unconscious. The bombardier, Lieutenant Kiecker, came up from the nose with our emergency kit and gave him a shot of morphine. He offered me one, but since I was now conscious and felt I could fly us home. I refused it. Had I taken the shot we would never have got back; the morphine would have knocked me out again.

The side of my head was stinging and I was uneasy about removing my leather helmet. I really thought the side of my head might come off, so I kept the helmet on and flew for an hour and a half back home. When we arrived at Shipdham, our home base, visibility was about one third of a mile with fog and light rain. Our navigator, Lt. Bob Stine, led us directly to the base. We fired a red flare, a symbol of wounded aboard, made a very tight landing pattern, rolled into the first available dispersal site on the taxiway. We were met by the ambulance but had to wait several minutes while they tried to remove the 180-pound unconscious copilot from the plane.

Because my infantry helmet had kept falling over my eyes, I had pulled it off just a couple of minutes before the shell hit. Had I left it on I probably would not have been so badly wounded. As it was, I had bled a lot from the numerous scalp wounds and others across my hands and arms, was weak, and had quite a headache. Three weeks later I was flying again and eventually made over 30 other missions.
For this raid, I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, British DEC and the French Croix de Guerre. The greatest reward was from God as He got us all home. Had He not awakened me a priceless ten-man crew would have perished along with an expensive B-24 bomber: the Victory Ship. This bomber, on its 50th mission a year later, was finally shot down.

Though some were later wounded, though none seriously, every member of this crew lived throughout the war. After a recuperation period of ten months, Lieutenant Ager, the copilot, returned to duty, only to be shot down on his third mission.

I was scared numerous times later, but when I looked down a fighter's gun barrels, I tried to move someplace else in a hurry. We were hit many times later but never again was I hit personally.
War is truly Hell and it is such a shame that our youngest and best are always involved. Many others like Lieutenant Dubard and his crew paid the supreme price, which makes our freedom so costly. We owe them our eternal gratitude.


*******************************************************

Lt. Col. Tom Holmes, written July 1991 - Jasper, Texas [for legacy]

The Kiel Raid took place May 14, 1943, and turned out to be the worst raid I ever made. Before it began, little did I realize how rough it would really be.

Recently, while recuperating in Beaumont's St. Elizabeth hospital from my second major surgery in four months, I looked out my hospital window overlooking the lawn and I could see Old Glory proudly waving in the spring breeze and, just beneath, our beautiful Texas flag. It is always with pride that I observe our flag. To see these flags waving there over the Land of the Free tells me it was worth all the effort back in May 1943, when we made the big raid on Kiel in Northern Germany.

I had been in England approximately seven months and was a captain in the 68th Squadron, 44th Heavy Bomb Group, flying B-24-D Liberators in daylight raids over Germany and France. This raid was one of two Presidential Citation raids. The other was the Ploesti raid over the Rumanian oil fields which was made at treetop level and one in which we had some awfully heavy loses, about the same ratio as the Kiel raid.

Awakened about 3 a.m. this particular morning, dressing in cold barracks, we put on winter flying clothes because at high altitude temperatures can be somewhere around 45-65 degrees below zero. No heaters were used in the aircraft because heat would fog the windshield and we could not see enemy fighters as clearly. After breakfast we went to the briefing room to get details on the raid we would make this day. Everything we needed to know including bomber formations, who was flying and in what positions, we wrote on rice paper. In case we should be captured we could eat this critical information so that the enemy would find no evidence of our plans or of how many aircraft was involved. Our group put up 21 airplanes that day, our squadron furnishing six. There were five to six other groups, both B- 17s and B-24s making this raid

We were to bomb the shipping yard and harbor in Kiel. I had no idea we would lose seven of 21 planes, including our new squadron commander of six weeks, Major Jim O'Brien. Jimmy was going along this day to check out his copilot Mack Howell, who would be a first pilot from then on. Mack was one of two of the smallest men in the outfit, men we nicknamed "dusty butts" because they had to sit on extra pillows to get up to the height of the controls.

We took off about 7:30 a.m. The leader began to circle the field to allow all of us to get into the air and join the formation before starting across the English Channel. This was routine. Many times we had to go through clouds and it was pretty rough. Frequently we would circle and join on top of the clouds. We started across the North Sea, staying well off the coast of Holland and off the coast of Germany to avoid anti-aircraft guns.

We flew well off the coast, past Helligoland, an island off the northern cost of Germany where we turned inland to go straight to the initial point. At this point the bombardier takes control and guides the plane to the bomb release point, one of the most dangerous parts of the mission since the plane has to go straight and level, directly toward the target, thus giving the anti-aircraft guns an easier target.
This day we carried some new magnesium bombs, also called incendiaries (large clusters banded together in small individual packets). Our ordnance people thought these bombs would drop several hundred feet in a package, then break, and scatter, so they would thoroughly cover the target area. Though that proved not to be the case, they thought the extremely hot magnesium bombs would cause a great many things to burn. (More about that later.)

Shortly after we turned in over the coast, we began to pick up fire from the German anti-aircraft guns, some of the best in the world. The 88MM guns were very effective. Though we were flying at 28,000 feet, which helped a lot, those shells can easily come to that height and explode on contact. Frequently they would explode on a pre-set time in order to scatter a lot of shrapnel into the sky which might bring down some planes.

It took about an hour and 45 minutes from the coast of England to the coast of Germany and then towards the initial point. All eyes strained to catch a glimpse of German fighters that we knew would jump us anytime after we crossed inland. German fighters scarcely ever surprised us since we could always see them 20-30 miles away. We would see the sun shining on their canopies or something bright that would always give them away.

This time we were jumped by 125-130 German fighters (my estimate). Once we got to the initial point, we made a left turn toward the target: the ships and harbor at Kiel. Just as we started to open our bomb bay doors, we were hit from the ground by a big artillery shell and there was a loud explosion in the bomb bay, and we were unable to drop the bombs. The doors were pretty well blown off the belly of the airplane. We couldn't drop the bombs and we couldn't get rid of them, yet they did not burn. All of the hydraulic system was blown out, which disabled the brakes, flaps, and other controls dependent on the system. We'll never know why the magnesium bombs did not burn us up. It had to be the intervention of the Good Lord.

We started in to the target in formation with our other friends in order to protect each other from the German fighters. But a group of B-17s somehow got about 4,000 feet above us at approximately 32,000 feet As we were on our bomb run I looked off to the left of the wing about 200 feet, and saw a whole string of thousand pound bombs sailing down past us, dropping from the B-17s above.

This was pretty scary, but fortunately they didn't hit us. We were just glad they were headed toward the target. When we got to the point of release, instead of our bombs dropping a few hundred feet and exploding, they came out like a basket of leaves and scattered the minute they came out of the bomb bay. We were flying a step-down trail formation and there was absolutely nothing to do but jump them because we didn't want to run into them and set our plane on fire from our own bombs. Fortunately I had room to hop over them.

Some of our planes were not that fortunate and ran into them. Some of the bombs lodged in the engines and other places but did not go off or ignite; this was all that saved those planes.

After releasing the bombs we made a left turn to head back toward the ocean. We were a long way inland and had a bitter struggle with the German fighters as well as anti-aircraft shells that continuously harassed us as we withdrew.

About that time there was a loud explosion on the right side of the cockpit and I thought my copilot, Willie Weant, one of our better copilots, was hit, but when I looked at him he gave me a big OK sign with his index finger and thumb, and a broad smile spread past his oxygen mask.

Some fragments did get past him and hit the radio operator right in the middle of his forehead. There was a lot of bleeding and it looked like the boy was dying. I was awfully worried about him. Later I found the wounds were superficial and real shallow. Outside of being covered with blood he was all right

After taking evasive action, we retreated to the coastline. One fighter came in so close and so straight at us I couldn't see how we could avoid running into him. Occasionally the fighter pilots would be shot and come in out of control, taking one or two bombers with them. But this fighter was coming directly at us from just slightly above and a little to our left. At the very last moment it looked as if there was no way to avoid a head-on collision and I ducked my head to get set for the collision which, miraculously, never took place.

In a split second we were back on the job, grateful we had avoided the head-on crash. We fought these fighters for almost 45 minutes until we got back out to sea. By this time, they had diminished somewhat and we got back on our course back to England.

Phil Phillips, an old friend of mine then and now, was flying the Lemon Drop on my right wing and we noticed a B-24 with two engines smoking rather badly. We figured he needed a little protection to get home, so we latched onto him and flew in number three position. Phil flew in number two on his right wing and we escorted him back to England. He was from another group and we never did learn just who he was, but we flew with him all the way back.

We got in a little too close to the coast of Holland and picked up seven German fighter planes. Out of the seven, two were FW 190s, a single radial engine fighter plane, much like our P-47s. They were armed with 20 mm. cannons. When the leader of the two FWs made a pass at our three planes, one of our gunners nailed him. As he went down in flames his wingman quit and went back home.

That left us with five Me 210s, twin-engine German Messerchmitts. As we were returning across the North Sea, the three of us were harassed by these fighters. As our tail guns were inoperable and our tail gunner wounded, though not seriously, we stayed at his position. One of the twin engine fighters saw our tail guns weren't working and tried to make a run at us from the rear. Sgt. George Green, our tail gunner, told me about it on the intercom. I told him to call out the range and as soon as the Me 210 got close enough, I pulled the plane up into a steady climb, thus giving the top guns a shot and maybe we could get him.

He called out 1,000 yards, 900, 800,700, and when he called 600 yards, we figured he would start firing pretty soon, so I put the plane into a gentle climb at about a 25-degree angle. Sergeant Metza, our engineer and top gunner, was turned around, waiting. He fired two short bursts and the second one set the German's right engine on fire and he crashed in the sea. That left us with four Me 210s to fight, giving us a running battle all the way across the North Sea. Between the three of us we finally were able to shoot down three more German planes, making a total of five of the seven German bandits.
We were still harassed by the fifth plane, but he seemed uneasy about coming too close and would sit off at long range and lob shells at us. Though he was ineffective we still were unable to shoot him down. He stayed with us until we were within sight of the English Coast. Fearing British fighter planes, he took off from whence he came, somewhere in Holland.

In the meantime, Major O'Brien and Mack Howell were knocked out somewhere in the intensive fighting from the target area back to the coastline. I was leading the second element that day and, although they were flying in the number three position on my left wing, I was so busy I never really realized when they went down. It was much later that I learned they had bailed out. They lost two engines on one side and were surrounded by enemy planes. O'Brien, the last one out, just barely cleared the plane when it exploded and his face was badly burned and his eyebrows singed when he dived through the fire in the bomb bay. All the crew had to jump through the burning bomb bay, but I think they all made it safely down except little Mack Howell. I feel sure he was dead when he hit the ground.

(The crew, including O'Brien would spend two years in German Prisoner of War Camps. Because of malnutrition O'Brien lost all his teeth and a lot of weight. He died in his sleep at his Pittsburgh, Pa. home July 25, 2001.)

Once the last German fighter broke away, I asked our bombardier what he could do to get rid of our bomb load. He got a pry bar and went back to the bomb bay where everything was in a shambles, but he was able pry the bombs out and get rid of our load before we got back to land.

Once we released the bombs we began to worry about the landing. With our hydraulic system gone, nothing happened when we attempted to lower our gear. We had a backup cable system, so the flight engineer was able to wind the main gear and the nose gear down, but the left main wheel would not lock. It had a strut on it and a yellow indicator on the strut would show when it was locked. Initially, it was not locked.

We worried with this gear for some 40-45 minutes before finally getting it to lock. We were kicking this gear in and out with the rudder trying to make the weight of the wheel pop it in and make the strut lock.
Our worries were not over because we found three of the men were wounded, though not seriously. Our usual procedure was to bail out the crew over the field letting the pilot and copilot take the disabled bomber up to the wash about 20-25 miles northeast of our base and head it out to sea. They would then bail out and the British fighters would shoot the bomber down to keep it from flying across the channel or getting into the hands of the enemy.

Since we had three wounded men we decided to make an attempt to land at our home field. Because of the failure of the hydraulic system, we had no flaps and no flap backup. We attempted to come in real low and I was going to try and land in a plowed field just before the end of our runway. Not accustomed to this procedure, I overshot a little and landed on the runway near the end and we landed fairly hot because we had no flaps to slow us down.

I tried to zigzag the plane all the way down the 6,000-foot runway but unfortunately there was not much wind, and when we got to the end of the runway, we were still doing about 40 miles per hour. There was a taxi way on my right and directly in front about 150 yards out was a rural road and deep ditch. I knew if we went straight ahead into that ditch we would probably break up and burn. Getting out of a burning B-24 is no easy job, especially if it has crashed. So I did the only thing that occurred to me -- put full power on number one and number two engines on the left side and turned it to the right We made a smoking, screaming turn to the right and with the help of the Good Lord, we were able to head the plane up the taxi way, off the end of the runway.

We later discovered 13 strands of a 16-strand rudder cable had been severed and all the time we had been kicking the rudder hard to get the gear down and locked and down the runway we were fishtailing back and forth trying to slow down, we never realized only three strands were holding. This was just another sort of miraculous happening.
We were so grateful and so relieved after making the turn onto the taxiway that I reached down (we were still doing 20 miles per hour) and hit the master switches and killed all four engines. Once our engines began to die, I realized I had no brakes and no way to steer and we were heading toward a parked B-24 over on the first dispersal on the left. Watching us land were ground crewman standing around and others sitting on the parked B-24 and in nearby jeeps and I stuck my head out of the pilot's side and yelled a warning that they should all run as we were coming through with no control. Again, the Lord was with us because the main gear, the one that was not locked, held up and survived the severe right turn, but we also ran off the perimeter to the left and when we hit the soft dirt, it immediately spun the plane around, stopping us just 15-20 feet short of the other bomber, almost in perfect formation position with wings overlapping.

We had cursed the ever-present mud at Shipdham. It had caused us much distress. In this case, however, "It is an ill wind that blows no good." This day the mud was a lifesaver. I truly believe it saved our lives and two B-24s, ours and the one we were about hit and maybe many other men on the ground.
We were so relieved to get stopped, we got out, and I immediately kissed the ground. I was so glad to get back. The wounded men were taken to the hospital by ambulance and the rest of us were loaded into a truck, to be taken to debriefing where we would try to summarize the raid's results.

The damage to the airplane was severe. We had taken one 88 mm. into the bomb bay, a second one had hit the left rudder on the tail, pretty well stripping it off at the hinges. We also counted twenty-seven 20-mm. cannon hits, direct into the plane, but none were vital and none set us afire. We had numerous flak holes and several strings of bullets from fighter planes laced the plane.

There were several hundred holes in this old V-Victory, our airplane that day. We had been extremely fortunate to get back at all. It had been a long day - seven and a half-hours - five and half hours engaged in battle.

Now you can see why I sum this raid up as probably the worst I ever made.
 
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