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Samuel M. Findley "Tex", Engineer/Tail Gunner, 323rd BG, 453rd BS

Samuel M. Findley (Tex)
Engineer/Tail Gunner
323rd BG, 453rd BS


Soon all leaves were frozen and everyone pitched in to pack all of our support equipment for rail and water shipment to some overseas destination. The flight crews were sent on a train to Baer Field, Ft. Wayne, IN to take delivery of new airplanes from the Martin factory at Omaha, NE and fly them where ordered.

BAER FIELD

We anticipated that we would only be at Baer Field for a few days, but we ran into a snag and remained here almost two months. The self-sealing fuel tanks were leaking and repairs had to be made. Life was not too bad while we were there. We had no duties. Ft. Wayne was a nice city with a General Electric plant employing thousands of young girls and we had a liberal leave policy for the local area.

Our aircraft was the B-26C models and was armed with 11 caliber 50 machine guns. It had a wing span a few feet longer than the ones in which we flew in training but it still had the highest wing loading of any bomber in the U.S. inventory. Each square foot of wing surface had to lift more than 50 pounds when the airplane was fully loaded. It was theorized that because of our speed we would come in so low and fast that we could strike a target and be gone before the enemy could react.

U.S. Army ground forces had landed in North Africa and we began to speculate that we may not be fighting Japs after all----maybe we would be fighting Germans or Italians. We would not be long in finding out, because our aircraft had been repaired and we were ready to deploy overseas.

DEPLOYMENT

On April 7 1943 (almost one full year after my enlistment) we received orders to proceed to Hunter Field in Savanna, GA and then to West Palm Beach, FL. So we kissed the girls at Ft. Wayne goodbye, boarded our new planes and departed. The top turret gunner, the bombardier, and myself were taken off of the B-26 at West Palm and taken to Miami, FL where we spent the night. The pilot, radio operator, a navigator and the crew chief remained as crew for the B-26. I was aroused at 4:00 AM on the morning of April 9 and taken to the Miami Airport. There I was given sealed orders that were not to be opened until I was out of the continental limits of the country. We boarded a C-47 cargo plane and took off. After departing the U.S. I opened my orders and discovered that I was on my way to England. After a six- hour flight we landed in Puerto Rico where we refueled and immediately took off for Georgetown, British Guiana in South America. This leg of our trip was about 1000 miles and also took six hours flying time. The next morning we took off on an 11- hour flight to Belem, Brazil and crossed the equator in route. We also flew over the French penal colony named "Devil’s Island". We stayed at Belem for a few days and then departed for Natal Brazil. On this flight the weather was nice and the civilian pilot of the airplane let me fly it for an hour which was a real thrill for me. (The pilot was flying on contract for the Air Transport Command). One night I boarded a C-87 transport airplane and flew across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop and landed at Dakar in French West Africa. The C-87 was a four engine B-24 Liberator Bomber that had been converted into a cargo plane. The range of our B-26 Marauder was not great enough to fly across the ocean non-stop so they were flown to an air strip on Ascension Island out near the middle of the ocean where they were refueled and then flown on to Africa.

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