Monday, May 28, 2012

On a Wing and a Prayer ...

Yesterday, I published a tribute to my father's service in World War II.  Immediately I noticed a technical error and called the post up to correct.  Somehow, and I don't know how, I lost everything that I had spent a good part of the last two days researching and writing.

I have decided not to attempt to rewrite what was lost -- I got the eerie sixth sense that my late father really didn't want his "story" published.

And so, without too much elaboration but just enough to satisfy curiosity, here are a series of pictures in almost silent salute of a member of the Greatest Generation who, my brother and I learned upon reading his diaries last year, had more than one close call during World War II, and chose never to talk about it upon his return home to Mississippi.

As a crew chief, Dad survived the ditching of the B17-E Alabama Exterminator II on June 27, 1942, in Greenland. His plane, along with two others, Our Gal Sal (also called My Gal Sal) and the Sooner II, suffered similar fates that day.  They were part of the first wave of Operation Bolero, a top secret drive to move heavy bombers over to Europe.

It was believed that the planes got "lost" in bad weather shortly after take off from Maine, but others have suggested that it was a German submarine jamming radio signals that made it difficult for the planes to find their landing strips.

All three ditched and, miraculously, all the crew members survived, although the men of My (Our) Gal Sal had to endure 10 days in the cold and ice while the Coast Guard and Navy figured out how to rescue them.

The crew of the Sooner, which landed in a fjord, barely escaped a collective icy death when they realized that their raft was still tethered to the plane, which was sinking like a stone because the bomb doors had been jammed opened by the handle of a jettisoned duffel bag.

The fourth photo, showing Inuits gathered around his disabled plane, was taken by my Dad. The caption in his photo album read: "Forced landing at Egedesmindes, Greenland, 100 miles (from) Arctic Circle, June 27, 1942, 6 a.m. Picked up next morning by Navy in a PBY.  Eskimos in background."

The planes were carrying the top secret Norden bombsight.  All three crews were under strict orders to remove the revolutionary devices to keep them from falling into enemy hands.


The last photo was one that I stumbled upon while Googling Sarasota, FL, where he was stationed for training soon after he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941.  Besides learning how to be a crew chief for the Boeing Flying Fortress, he and his buddies were tasked with clearing land for what would become MacDill Air Field

The Saratoga photo had no identifications, but once I showed it to my brother and uncle, they agreed that that is my father on the far left.

The deciding vote was cast, when my husband, who had no idea I had found this photo, walked up from behind me, looked over my shoulder as I was studying the image on my laptop and said, "Hey, where'd you get that picture of your Dad?"

(Note: the first photograph is for illustration purposes only, although more than one website asserts that that particular plane was the one that ditched in Greeland that fateful June morning. On closer look, the tail numbers do not match. I've learned in my travels that B-17 nicknames may be duplicative, but that tail numbers -- well, they're gospel.)

1 comment:

  1. Earlier today, I "corrected" the problem with the print. It was fine. Now, I checked it again, and it's back to be INIVISIBLE. This is bizarro world for me.