Richard C. "Bud" Brown
I am the son of S/Sgt. Richard C. "Bud" Brown, Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner with the 705th Sqdn. of the 446th Bomb Group. In the winter of 1944/1945 my father flew 13 missions with the same crew before being shot down and forced to bail out, landing in the Rhine River on March 24th, 1945 during the Remagen Bridge offensive.
The last mission was a supply drop and was considered by some to have been every bit as dangerous as the famous but ill-fated Ploesti mission due to the inability of the Liberators to use their machine guns to defend themselves against intense enemy fire. At the extremely low level required for a supply drop and with the heavy concentration of Allied troops on the ground mission #13 was most unlucky for my father indeed.
Easy prey for small arms fire and 20 mm cannonfire this was one 'milk run' that was not so easy. When the order to bail out was given my father said that he was standing between the Pilot, 2d Lt. Dale Beasley and Copilot 2d Lt. Tom Campbell. Straining at the controls in a desperate attempt to gain enough altitude for the crew to escape the burning ship, Lt. Beasley then yelled for everyone to get out. In the ensuing mayhem my father remembered traversing the narrow catwalk and hurling himself out of the open bomb bay doors, hitting his foot hard on the way out (He was never made a member of the Caterpillar Club although we still do have a piece of the chute and I later bought him a Purple Heart for his foot from a military memorabilia dealer.). With far less than the required height to safely parachute he had little time to think, pulled the ripcord almost immediately and with the Rhine coming up fast remembers nothing more than a hard tug and a big splash. Only three men were to survive from a crew of eight that day (The Armorer and Bombardier lived to fly another day as their skills were not needed on a supply drop.).
My father landed in the Rhine, S/Sgt. Thaddeus "Tag" Nanna landed on one side of the river and Sgt. John "Red" Heslin landed on the other. Ultimately, Captain Beasley gave his life so that my father might keep his and give me mine. For that I am forever grateful and proud to have been born as a direct result of such an epic struggle and such heroic sacrifice. S/Sgt. Richard Brown went on to fly as waist gunner with another crew but he never saw Red Heslin or Tag Nanna again and always wondered whatever became of his crewmates.
Although my father rarely ever talked about his war experiences my brother and I were always fascinated with any anecdotes we were able to get out of him. For instance on one mission my father said they were actually sent to bomb Birchstergarten and kill Hitler in his "Eagle's Nest". As it happened the formation was given a different I.P. enroute due to Intelligence reports that the Fuhrer was not present at the time. It was recollections like that that kept us coming back for more and so as the story goes he started out as a shipfitter at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, MA where the aircraft carrier "Lexington" was built. He then gave up his Deferment with the shipyard and volunteered for the Army Air Corp in April of 1943 hoping to become a pilot himself. Washed out due to dexterity problems he maintained that it was because he was left handed and and that the aircraft controls were primarily designed for right handed manipulation. He did manage to get up in a trainer on one or two occasions but I believe the real reason he never received the coveted wings was that he was erroneously considered a draftee by the AAF. It seems that in his good nature and naivety he had consented to help a harried recruiter with his quota and let himself be counted as having been drafted much to his later chagrin as he most certainly ended up suffering the consequences of that less than desirable status. Nice guys finish last but then again had he become a pilot who knows how different his fate might have been.
After basic training in Buffalo, N.Y. he sailed aboard the converted troopship "Aquitania" unescorted and relying solely upon speed in those U-Boat infested waters. They stopped in Reykjavik, Iceland for supplies and continued on to England, arriving during the fall of 1944 where he was stationed at the Earl of Flixton's estate in Bungay. It was there that he fondly remembered the cockiness of the British Lancaster pilots who would land permission or not, roll right on up to the mess hall, park their aircraft and saunter inside for a bite with a casual "Hi Yank!". Apparently formation flying was considered nothing short of perilous and coming out of the clouds with another B-24 sitting on top of them was not uncommon so much so that in one instance he recalled that upon later inspection tire marks were found on top of thier wings.
Everyone had bicycles in those days. On the base it was the most convenient form of transportation and he remembered with some spiteful trepidation the uneasy relations that existed even among Allies as the bicycles were eventually destroyed rather than relinquished to the perceived arrogant expectations and apparent dismay of the local English population. Also, after having been shot down over Wesel, Germany the following spring he missed his ride and ended up having to stay in Belgium for a couple extra weeks due to a softball game he was so preoccupied with no less. That same week back home, the local paper actually printed an article about him with news of his exploits and promotion unaware of the fact that he was considered M.I.A. at the time. When he finally did manage to make it aboard an airplane returning to England he found himself surrounded by newly released and jubilant Army Air Corps POWs but not before receiving two bottles of the finest wine from a generous M.P. who swore that they had been liberated from the private wine cellar of none other than Heinrich Himmler himself. What a souvenir that was and don't I wish I had those today!
After VE Day the now seasoned Vet was sent back to the States to learn the ropes aboard the B-29 Superforts destined for the Pacific Theater. During the long flight home and seemingly alone in the vastness of the open skies, somewhere over the Canadian Maritimes he also told us of a particularly fateful discussion among the crew as to the necessity of requesting permission to change altitude when out of the blue shot a commercial airliner directly beneath them. What an inglorious end that might have been! He then remembered training aboard the Superfortresses in Sioux Falls, SD when they dropped the big one. Delirious with joy and relief the men went nuts destroying an old farmer's Tin Lizzy in an outburst of emotion that was probably lost on the local population. He did however recall the fact that everyone later chipped in to replace the demolished vehicle and so I guess that even in war boys will be boys!