Story from Bernard Patrick Brandon

8th Army Air Corp, 446 BG 705th Squadron

"When flying missions, going over a target, it was my job to open the bomb bays. I had to jump down into the bomb bay carrying a screwdriver in case any bombs got hung up in the bay. I would have to trigger it with the screwdriver to drop it, and that was pretty ticklish, because I was 30,000 feet up without any parachute. There wasn't a lot of room for a mistake. It was a very narrow passage to get through to the bomb bay. Let me tell you, I held on. I always watched them loading the bombs to make sure they were loaded properly.I had to do oxygen checks in the plane every five minutes while on a mission. The youngest crewmember was our mechanic and gunner. He was fairly nervous and was constantly swinging the turret, shooting or to check for fighters, and he would often catch the oxygen tube without knowing it. He would pass out, and every time he didn't check in I'd look up and find him passed out. I'd hook up his air again, and he would come back. The oxygen check was important.I flew thirty-three missions over and , but on the thirty-third mission by the time we got back our field was socked in so we couldn't land there. They were giving us a different field to go to and try to land, but there was no field open where we could land. We ran out of fuel. Our pilot climbed to 7,000 feet, aiming the plane for the Channel so as not to crash on any homes. We were anxious, as it would be the first jump for any of us. We bailed out. One crewmember couldn't jump and had to be thrown out of the plane. When my chute opened my shoe was jerked off my foot, and I landed in the muddiest field in . I dragged my parachute out to the nearest road and started walking. A civilian car passed me without stopping. An Army jeep finally came along looking for me. I was the last one to be picked up. The plane didn't crash in the Channel but ended up landing on a field , flying empty, never hitting a soul.

...They sent us back home on a liberty ship by way of the northern route. While on the boat (April, 1945), I heard that President Roosevelt had died. We hit four days of storms, and those ships heaved like corks; the waves came over the decks. The flyers were so sick they wanted to die. We carried about one thousand German prisoners on board. Because my name began with B, and I was the ranking non-com on the boat as a Tech Sergeant, they put me in charge of making up all the American guard details for the German prisoners going to the These guards had been through the North African Campaign, Italian Campaign and the Normandy Campaign, and they put a 19 or 20 year-old fly boy in charge. I told the lieutenant that these guys had much more experience than I had, but he said not to worry, as they were so happy to be going home they would do anything I wanted. And that was the truth. I've always said that the flyers didn't win the war. They helped, but it was the foot soldiers who did.

...I was shipped out to St. Louis where I became a radio Instructor. That was a joke, because I became a Navigational Instructor, and I didn't know my ear from my elbow. I talked a good game- I could read a book, so that helped, but I wasn't experienced. When I was flying over Europe , I actually only used the radio four or five times. We kept radio silence, except for sending an SOS. Otherwise, the enemy could take a fix on us and follow us in."

excerpted from: Those Who Served/ Those Who Waited - WWII stories from Veterens and Home Front by Delores Beal Stephens, Heritage Book, Inc