1st Lieutenant, John. W. Wilson, Pilot
Lieutenant, John. W. Wilson, Pilot
Wilson News Clipping | War Godparents of Europe
| Lowell Getz Site |
RETURN FROM BREMEN. THE LOW SQUADRON IS
Working for Uncle Sam
Many of the bombs explode within the factory itself, destroying at least half of the buildings. Others fall on the adjoining airfield and aircraft dispersal areas. The time is 1259 hours. Planes of the 91st Bomb Group have been in the air for almost three hours. Thus, ends successfully the day's work "for Uncle Sam." From now on the air crews will be working "for themselves." The primary objective of the crewmen for the rest of this day, 17 April 1943, is to return safely to their home base at Bassingbourn, East Anglia, England. A party awaits the returning officers this evening. Local English girls, the crewmen's dates, are already preparing for a night of dancing and general revelry. In a few hours, trucks, "Passion Wagons", will be heading out to nearby villages to pick up the girls and bring them to the airbase.
For today's mission, VIII Bomber Command launched the largest number of heavy bombers it has sent out. Of the 115 aircraft put into the air earlier this morning, 107 made it to the target, another record. But, it has been a rough mission, even for this period of the air war over Germany. Weather over the target was clear, perfect for bombing, putting the Germans on guard as to the possibility of an attack on Bremen. Further, a Luftwaffe reconnaissance plane spotted the American formation while it was still well out over the North Sea. German fighter control was alerted as to the likely target, as well as heading, speed, altitude, and number of bombers in the Strike Force. A welcoming committee of 150 German fighters awaited the formations as they approached the enemy coast.
This is the 69th combat mission the 91st Group has flown since its first foray over the continent on 7 November 1942.
The Low Squadron
The next 401st Low Squadron plane to go down was "Hellsapoppin." Three or four minutes after the target there was a very hard jolt under the left side of the plane, close in to the fuselage. An anti-aircraft shell had exploded just under "Hellsapoppin." Flak ripped into the left front side of the aircraft, flaking off chunks of metal from the fuselage and throwing them through the interior of the plane. At the same time, three feet of the right wing tip was blown off by a flak burst. A one and one-half foot hole appeared in the nose compartment and all the nose window Plexiglas blew out. There was fire in the left wing and nose compartment. The radio room became engulfed in fire from broken oxygen lines.
The pilot, Lt Wilson, was wounded in the head and the copilot, 1Lt Arthur A. Bushnell, in the right eye, both legs, left arm, and right hand by flying aluminum. In the nose, the bombardier, 1Lt Harold Romm, was hit in the left leg by flak. Earlier, before the target, Lt Romm had been hit in the same leg by a machine gun bullet during an attack by a FW 190.
In the top turret, the flight engineer, T/Sgt Norman L. Thompson, felt the jolt and when he looked out, saw the left wing on fire. He had just seen a fighter off the left wing going after a plane below and was afraid it would come back up at "Hellsapoppin." The enemy fighter was about 15 feet too low for Sgt Thompson to deflect his top turret guns to get off a burst. Since the intercom was shot out, Sgt Thompson was not certain what was happening to the plane. He stepped down from the turret and went into the cockpit. There he saw both pilots with their oxygen masks off and blood pouring out from under their helmets. He assumed both were dead. Sgt Thompson had not heard any firing from the gunners since "Hellsapoppin" had left the target. He figured they either had been killed by the flak and fighters or were too seriously injured to move. From the intensity of the fire, he knew "Hellsapoppin" could explode any second. Sgt Thompson took a final glance at the instruments to ensure the plane was still in level flight. He went back to the bomb bay and opened the doors, which still operated. After checking below and seeing there was no plane under him, Sgt Thompson dropped out.
Almost immediately after Sgt Thompson bailed out, the plane broke in two at the radio room. Four others some how or other managed to escape the aircraft, Lts Bushnell, Barton, and Romm and the radio operator, T/Sgt Howard A. Earney. All were wounded. The rest of the crew remained trapped in the falling aircraft.
"Hellsapoppin" crashed 20 miles south of Bremen. Four planes were left in the Low Squadron.
( Extracts from "Mary Ruth"
Memmories of Mobile...We Still Remember, available for downloading at no charge on
web site: www.maryruth.org written
by Mr Lowell Getz)