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

"Three other B-26s from our Group were shot down on this mission. Our top turret gunner broke his ankle when he landed in his parachute and was not able to fly any more. Actually I was the first to bail out and the only one of the crew to land on the base. I jumped out of the waist gun window and it was a good feeling when the parachute opened. I landed right by the W.A.A.C. (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) barracks area which was surrounded by a high chain link fence and was off limits to male personnel. Some of my buddies accused me of trying to guide my parachute and land inside the compound, but that wasn’t so .I was just happy to get back to earth anywhere it put me down. No one jumped for sport in those days and mine was the first jump that many observers had ever witnessed, so I was quite a celebrity for a few days and a new member of the Caterpillar Club. (The Caterpillar Club is what every one becomes a member of when they save their life by use of a parachute. There are no roster of members, no club officers, or dues, or meetings. It is named for the worms that made the silk from which the ‘chutes were made prior to the advent of Nylon).

Although we continued to hammer the Noballs we began to bomb a variety of other targets too. We bombed railway marshalling yards, airfields, and enemy gun batteries during March and April.

The stress from combat was beginning to affect many of us in the Marauder crews. The fact that you were flying in an aircraft fueled with 960 gallons of highly volatile fuel and loaded with two tons of highly explosive TNT while being shot at with heavy artillery is a very stressful feeling. Each German 88-millimeter gun batteries had six guns and each gun could fire 15 to 20 shells per minute. On some missions the shrapnel from the flak barrages would hit only a few of our planes, while on other missions all of the aircraft would receive flak damage. An enemy fighter posed a great threat to you, but you could try to defend your plane when attacked. There was nothing you could do to counteract the flak when making a bomb run on the target. The flak was very demoralizing. We B-26 gunners only had to fire at enemy fighters on rare occasions. Our fighter escort usually kept the German fighters at bay. One of the things that mattered the most to us was the fact that we did not have a combat tour of a certain number of missions to fly as did those airmen flying in the B-17s and B-24s or in the medium bombers of the Mediterranean area. The Marauder was a rugged aircraft and would take a lot punishment from the German flak batteries but if you flew combat long enough you would be killed, wounded, or shot down and taken prisoner by the enemy.

In May we began taking out the bridges over the Seine River. Many of these bridges had parts of a city at each end, so we were required to bomb going up or down river at a right angle to the bridge to save the lives of French civilians. It was much more difficult to destroy a bridge when bombing in this manner. During the same time that the Seine river bridges were being bombed operations were also being taken against gun emplacements and other targets in the Pas de Calais area of France.

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