Flight Engineer & Top Gunner
446 bomber group, 8th Air Force
Stationed near Norwich England
705th Squadron, Pilot George Linko “Battle Dragon”
Damon Cox grew up on a small farm west of Excello, Missouri. His father Walter Cox worked at the coal mine and was a World War I veteran. Damon showed a mechanical aptitude and after graduating from Macon High School, trained as a diesel mechanic. Then the war broke out, and one day a letter came for him saying that his friends and neighbors had selected him to serve his country in the US Army. The induction station assigned him to the Army Air Corps.
He reported for basic training in Tampa, Florida. Then for advanced training, he went to Chicago where his group stayed at the Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue, a very fancy place in his experience, and did morning exercises at the park on Lake Michigan. Training continued in Detroit and moved on to Laredo, Texas for gunnery school. Finally he took a train to Salt Lake where his crew was formed under Lt. George Linko. As a crew they traveled to Boise, Idaho for overseas crew training and then to Topeka for a new B-24.
They flew to Tampa and picked up a load of mail for Europe and flew the long southern route from Tampa to the island of Trinidad and on to Natal, Brazil; Dakar, Senegal; French Morocco, circling around neutral Spain and Portugal to their destination at Bungay, England.
In Bungay, a new plane outfitted for combat was on the flight line and ready for their first mission. It was the “Battle Dragon.” The first mission was June 5 over Calais in preparation for the invasion. Early on June 6, the second mission delivered bombs over enemy territory in Normandy. Altogether, the crew accomplished 30 bombing missions, including multiple missions over Munich and Berlin. A couple of times when the Battle Dragon was shot up and needed repair, they used another plane for a mission, because, weather permitting, they went over the Channel about every day. There was a week in July they got R and R to Liverpool, but it was a short week. After 30 missions, most of the crew had finished their tour. However, about August 10, 1944, Damon was asked to report for a 31st mission to be flight engineer for a crew that had had trouble.
The new crew lacked experience. They didn’t know what they were doing and had turned back from two previous missions because their flight engineer said the engines were leaking oil. In fact, Damon told them, all B-24 engines leaked oil. When the pilot complained about the oil leak, Damon advised him to continue. He had seen a lot worse cases make it there and back. They did continue and delivered a bomb load over Normandy in support of the Caen breakout. In the process, the plane was badly shot up and the hydraulic system failed. Damon had to crawl out over the cat walk and manually crank the bomb bay doors to make the drop, then crank them back up while dangling out over the open sky. One crewman was wounded, but they had finally completed their mission.
After 31 missions, Damon was awarded the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroic actions. He is characteristically very modest about these matters saying that what he did just did his job. He did what had to be done at the time.
Damon then came home on the SS Aquitania, the sister ship of the Lusitania and Mauritania, Cunard luxury liners. He worked training other airmen through the end of the war. After the war ended, he married Lucille Guffey and had four children. They made a home in Moberly, Missouri where they still live.