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Sep 29

Air war, World War II week by week

The air war a big part of the Telegram-Tribune front page as well as the continuing battle in Stalingrad on May 19, 1942.

Bomber crews were taking the fight to German targets. Britain and Germany had learned from bitter experience that bombers little better than big explosive targets for a well-trained group of fighter squadrons. The technology to escort bombers deep into enemy territory was still in development and American bomber crews would now pay for that shortcoming.
British crews flew at night and area bombed swaths of cities; defenses were less developed for night attack earlier in the war.
American generals advocated targeting war factories with precision bombing in an attempt to choke military production. Ball bearings, oil, aircraft factories were all on the target list.
The German Luftwaffe was forced to divert resources from attack on the Russian front to defense of the homeland and military production.
Frostbite, fatigue, mental breakdown, flying accidents, bad weather were all hazards in addition to fighter planes and flak. What seemed remarkable to the reporter would become everyday heroism for the crews of the 8th Air Force. Only submarine crews had a higher mortality rate during the war. One in five would be killed in addition to those wounded or shot down to become prisoners of war. This mission only went as far as the Netherlands. Missions deep into Germany would be more harrowing.

There were four stories on the front page of the Telegram-Tribune about the air war Sept. 19, 1942.

Saga of Heroism
Award Bomber Crew For Combat Flight

By Leo S. Disher

SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND, Sept. 19, (UP)—Hero awards will be made soon to a United States Army Air Force crew which landed their Flying Fortress at this air base after one of the most remarkable combat flights ever made.
The big bomber went to bomb the Rotterdam docks Sept. 7. It met and fought off 15 German fighter planes. When it landed here, six exhausted men climbed out of a plane that looked liked a sieve, carrying one dead man and three who had been wounded.

Two Motors Gone

Two of the plane’s four motors were out of action, The inter-communication system and the brakes were wrecked. The oil system was useless and the tail was almost shot off. In all, the Boeing had about 2,000 holes in it, five of them the size of a small wash tub. There were holes through windows, wings, fuselage, and propeller blades.
“It was a miracle,” said Pilot Capt. A.B. Hughes, 27-year-old West Pointer of Center, Tex. the pilot.
With him in the plane were Lt. B.J. Stone, Pontiac, Mich., co-pilot; Lt. M.E. Mansell, Houston, Tex., navigator; Lt. K.K. Beahan, Houston, Bombardier; Sgt. Gilbert C. Goar, Clarksville, Tex., waist gunner; Sgt. Vincent Tommey, New Philadelphia, O., waist gunner; Sgt. B.W. Kemble, Carbondale, Pa., Top turret gunner; Sgt. Jerry Johnson, Milwaukee, Wis., tail gunner, Sgt. Julius Kleiman, the Bronx, N.Y.., ball turret gunner, and Sgt. Jack Falantic, Bangor, Me., radio operator.
Kleiman was killed.
Hughes, Stone, Mansell, Behan, Goar and Johnson already have been decorated for previous acts of heroism.

Bombed Target

Beaman had put his bombs on his target over Rotterdam when German fighters swept in to the attack. One of the first bullets almost crippled the oil system. Other explosive bullets shattered the generator and put the top turret temporarily out of action. One motor raced out of control.
Other German planes came in and helped to ring the Fortress their cannon and machine guns blazing.
“They would peel off, sweep in and rake us and then go,” Hughes said.
Bullets blasted through the ball turret, the little ball at the bottom of the plane.
“I heard Kleman cry out over the telephone, ‘I’m hit; they’ve hit me,” said Hughes.

Guns Got Hot

“Then Tommey was hit in the arm and thrown back on the floor. He began creeping toward his gun again. Goar stopped him and began manning all the guns he could reach. Mansell took a gun, in the tail spot Johnson’s guns were getting hot.
“A bullet came dead center for Johnson’s forehead. It smashed through the glass but veered off and ripped away his goggles. He kept firing.
“A cannon shell crashed through the length of the plane. It grazed Kemble, hit the floor of the cockpit by me and exploded with a pop like a cannon cracker.”
Fragments ripped through the cockpit and scratched Beaman’s knee. The cockpit filled with smoke. Hughes and Stone tossed the controls back and forth between them as the blind spots in the smoke-filled cockpit shifted, and thus were able to juggle the plane and spoil the German’s aim.

Lasted 15 Minutes

It lasted for 15 minutes until the plane had reached the middle of the English Channel and the Germans had used all the ammunition.
The Fortress wobbled on while those who could tended the wounded.
Beahman, a former medical student, probably saved the lives of three wounded men. The blood, which at first flowed from their wounds, started to spurt when the plane changed altitude. Tommey lost one fourth of all his blood.
Hughes called back to Goar, the plane’s engineer, and asked if he could suggest anything to help the motors. He saw blood smeared on Goar’s face.
“Are you wounded?” he asked.
“A couple of my toes are blown off,” Goar said, “but I got one of those sons of ———.”
He did not confess for some time that he had been hit repeatedly while he was manning his guns. Not only had the toes been blown off but bullets had ripped through the flesh of both arms and one leg.
At least four German planes, probably more were shot down.

In Paso Robles more than 200 workmen were busy constructing a U.S. Marine Bomber Base at Estrella. The million-dollar project included two 7,000-foot runways. Condemnation proceedings were started earlier in the month to accelerate the process. Ranch owners affected include Lillie Tuley, George Mathew, Otto Kuehl, William Radloff, A.M. Boyer, Tillie Schleckler John Moore and the Padian estate.

Four men were killed in two plane crashes in Santa Barbara.

A Paso Robles man, Lt. William R. Gunther, was missing after his heavy bomber made a crash landing in San Francisco Bay near the federal penitentiary at Alcatraz Island.
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WARBIRDS FANS Today — Sept. 29, 2012 at the Paso Robles Airport, Warbirds Over Paso, admission is $20, active duty military and under 12 free. Gates open at 8am. For more information www.ewarbirds.org/airshow
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