254: LOW LEVEL FLIGHT ACROSS THE RHINE AT WESEL
This was one of those missions for which you had good cause to be scared beforehand. At the early morning briefing we were told what we had to do and what we were sure to expect. The foremost apprehension was the sure knowledge that we would be flying at very low altitude over German army units thus being subject to small arms fire. Next was the fact that we were to be in no position to defend ourtselves. All of our machine guns except for the top turret ones were removed. The explanation was understandable: fear that our gunners might fire on our own troops, those who we were to be dropping the supplies to. Our purpose was simple: deliver cargo. As the byproduct of this activity we were told to expect losses of undetermined number.
Fred Jacobs of my crew was killed. For this day he flew with Lt. Lofgren's crew. Just the night before, Jake was horsing around with me, sort of acting out a comic strip character in Terry and the Pirates. Little did we know or anticipate what tomorrow was to bring. Some of my crew members saw what happened and said that Jake was one of those who bailed out of Lofgren's plane, based on where they knew his position to be. They said that he didn't even have a chute on. We never wore our parachutes anyway - they were chest packs and you wouldn't be able to move about and do your work while wearing one. They were kept nearby and ready to be snapped on quickly as the need arose.
We may not of had our machine guns but we carried our .45's. After the drop and our turnaround, our armament gunner was seen firing his .45 through the open ball turret at German soldiers.
Crossing the Rhine was one of the pivotal actions in bringing the war to a conclusion and a price was paid. Most of the crews and aircraft made it back but others didn't. Misfortune of war. Like all of the others, our aircraft came back with plenty of small arms holes but no injuries. I can add one thing more: I hope that never again should aircrews in low slow flying aircraft have to fly over enemy army infantry units.
Reprinted from the Beach Bell Echo, July, 2000 issue