Bomblets: Facts From The Air War Over Germany

From Serenade to the Big Bird by Bert Stiles (4 stars), killed in action, 26 November 1944.

On watching Focke Wulf 190 fighters getting into attack formation:

Every time they have time to queue up and come slow-rolling through, plenty of people get killed. The most hopeless feeling in the world is when you just have to sit there and wait for it, knowing you are either going to be dead in a couple of seconds, or you’re still going to be one of the lucky ones, one of the breathing ones who came through it.

From the time I got in the cadets, lack of sleep was a problem. In England, it is a disease.

We flew four missions in five days. I got fifteen hours of sleep in those five days.

Living through flak day after day is straight luck, not much more.

A lieutenant from flight operations drives up in a jeep to give the pilots the last bit of information they need to make the bomb run. Bert Stiles says to him:

“Candy?” I held out my hand.
“Didn’t your mother ever feed you?”
“We won’t go without our candy.”
He passed over nine candy bars and nine packages of Doublemint.
“Take it cool.” He was off for the next plane.

There was a sky full of flak out at two o’clock, around another combat wing. We were turning. I looked back and saw a tail and some chunks trickling down.

“Two Forts,” Mock said (the tail gunner). “One Goddamn plane just cut the other in half.”

Two Forts out of our group. Mid-air collision.

We were on the bomb run.

They were shooting white flak, heavy stuff, big red flashes like fighters blowing up.

In the wing ahead of us a Fort powdered. (That is took a direct hit and blew up). A chunk of it slipped down onto the wing of another. The Tokyo tanks blew. (Extra fuel tanks installed on the leading edge of the wing). Half a Fort plunged down into the element below. They all went down in a sickening blown-up red mass.

I don’t know if there is an accurate estimate but many American bombers went down because they were hit by pieces of another bomber or hit by another bomber making evasive maneuvers on a bomb run which they were not supposed to do precisely because they could easily ram another bomber. I would not be surprised if there was at least one bomber lost on every other mission because it was hit by a piece of another bomber which was hit by German flak.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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