Odell Myers, Pilot
438 Squadron, 319th Medium Bombardment Grouip
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2nd Lt. Odell Myers
"Aproaching the harbor ... altitude, 250 feet." Maj. Jones' voice droned our mission strategy over the intercom. "Climbing to 3000 feet.... Leveling off. IP coming up. Take us in, Mick."
"Roger," answered Lt. Mikolasy, the bombardier-navigator.
"Check in. Turret? OK. Tail? OK. Belly? OK. Drop those suckers, Mick, so we can hit the deck and get out of here!"
Jones, the 438th squadron commander leading this mission on the harbor at Bizerte, Tunisia, was our most experienced combat veteran, having flown with Doolittle's Raiders on their surprise attack on Tokyo. This was his fifth mission, our fourth. He did not believe in lingering over the target. Nor did we.
The German defenses of Bizerte harbor in Tunisia, a key point in their buildup of forces in North Africa, made our previous missions seem easy. As we reached the altitude for the bombing run, the open door in the belly of the plane gave me a bird's-eye view of what was happening on the ground: strategically located along our path from the initial point to the docks were several flak batteries- some containing 88mm guns and all of them in action!
At one battery a little to the right of our flight path, the crew was scurrying around, swinging the gun to our azimuth and elevation and firing! As the smoky tracks of shells were arching upward, I was trying, futilely since my gun had no front sight, to use the tracers in my ammunition to hit that battery. Since I had no training in aerial gunnery, I was wondering just what 1, a silver-winged pilot, was doing in the belly of a B26B Marauder on a dangerous bombing mission against a heavily defended target. Somehow Maj. Jones' reason, I don't want you to get behind the rest of us on missions, was unconvincing.
Simultaneously with the exploding shells, our plane shuddered, hesitated momentarily as though it had flown into something viscous, almost solid. The tail section filled with smoke and the smell of cordite. My urgent attempt to contact Maj. Jones on the intercom failed. Swiftly, I strapped on a chest chute and started forward through the bomb bay, noting with relief that all of the bombs had been dropped. Then, through the open bomb-bay doors, the ground looked close enough to touch. So I returned to the tail section where Herwig and Hillman - good men from my regular crew who, like me, had been assigned temporarily to Jones's crew for this mission -were waiting and gave them the bad news: toolate to get to the cockpit ... too low to bail out ... can't tell whether or not anyone is in control ... plane's in a flat turn to the right ... we're going down....
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