It was dark as I sat in my bombardier's seat in the nose of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. I could see the little blue burst of flame coming out the exhaust ports of the plane ahead of us on the taxi line. I had sweat running down my face. I wasn't sure if it was from taking off in the dark or from the fact we were making our first run to Tokyo, going to hit the Nakajima A/C Factory. Our first mission was a wash with number 3 engine burning up when we were barely out of sight of the base. Suddenly it was our turn. Captain Burns hit the gas and the girl roared to life, shaking and screaming her was down the runway. I grabbed onto my seat as I watched the end of the runway come closer and closer. Just before we ran out of asphalt, the girl lifted into the air. "Breath easy mate," Burns said to me, "I've got this." I could see the moon reflecting off other planes ahead of us, slowly gaining altitude due to their heavy loads.
It felt like forever before the sun came up. Lieutenant Jones didn't help anything by losing our position an hour after takeoff, but he made up for it and we joined the formation and slid into the middle slot of the middle formation. Flight Officer Scoggins kept fiddling with the engine controls, trying to squeeze a little more power and fuel efficiency out of the engines. Iwo rose up out of the ocean like the black lump of volcanic rock she is and pointed its angry cone towards the sky. Suddenly out of nowhere a Jap plane whizzed in towards us. I grabbed my turret controls and fired a burst but must have missed. I could see little flashes of light coming from it, like it has flashing movie bulbs attached to it. PING PING PING. Then the plane was gone. Like a flash. It all happened so quick.
"Captain, I'm getting a funny reading from number 4 engine's oil gauge," Scoggins said deadpan. "I'm not sure if it hit us or not but I'm going to keep an eye on it. If it turn out to be something, I'm not sure if we will be able to control that engine."
"Roger that." We droned on. After that surprise, I kept a sharper lookout for Jap planes. All the planes flying in formation was a sight to behold. I could not help but be amazed at what our country was able to do when we put our mind to it. These Japs would pay for that knife in the back attack at Pearl Harbor. Somehow thinking of this and watching for the coast come into view caused me to relax. I wasn't nervous and I could concentrate on the mission. I began to go back over the briefing in my mind. I might not be lead bomber but I at least wanted to make sure our bombs were close.
The coast of Japan came into view. I had never seen it before. It looked like a beautiful place laying out below us. Then I saw it, a Zeke came climbing up at us from 10:30 level. I took control of the upper turret and Fire Control Officer Freeman had the lower. We both fired at the Zeke and missed. He sprayed the underside of the plane, bullet holes formed right over Jone's head. Taggart, our radio man, said he saw some sparks from like ricochets or something in the bomb bay. I began to sweat again.
Then there it was, Tokyo. No flack yet. The guys who had been in Europe kept talking about flack and fighters. They said Jerry wouldn't shoot flack if fighters were in the air. I looked out the nose of the plane. I felt like a sitting duck, strapped in this stupid chair, the very front man. You could tell the idiot who made the bombardier sit here had never done this job.
"BANDITS!" all at once over the intercom. I didn't even catch who said it. Suddenly I saw them. Five different Georges and they were all coming at me, here on the nose of the plane. I could see three coming in from 10:30, one high, one level, and one low. Then I saw one coming strait at me from 12 oclock. "Man look at that one at 1:30," Satterfield, our co-pilot said. SITTING DUCK, ran through my mind. FOCUS, FOCUS.
"I'll take the one at 12," I said pulling on the controls for the front top turret.
"I'm going for 10:30 low," Freeman said, "Connor you take that other one at 10:30 low with the aft turret."
We all blazed away. I could see hits on the George I was firing at and Freeman said he was hitting his. Still on they came like madmen. Suddenly I could hear glass cracking and wind whistling. Bullet holes appeared above me. I heard a thump. I looked and Jones had fell in the aisle, blood pouring from his throat. Sparks and a hiss behind me. "S--t," Satterfield scream brushing off sparks, "my control panel has been hit and the ailerons are not responding."
"They don't respond to me either," Burns said.
"Guys," Scoggins said, "I've been hit. Took one in the leg. Doesn't look so bad. I've bad news the oil pressure in 4 is dangerously low and the RPMs are a little faster than the other engines."
"Ok," Burns said. Look the other planes have their bomb bay doors open. Lets drop our load and we will sort it out on the way home. I have no desire to jump out over Japan." Roger came from around the plane.
"Bombardier," Burns said trying to sound professional, "you have the plane."
"Yes sir," I said turning over my bomb sight and flipping the button to open the doors. I didn't hear a sound. I pushed the button to open the doors again and nothing occurred. "Cap the doors are not opening."
"Ok. I am going to pull the switch to manually open the doors. We have to get rid of these bombs if we are going to have a chance of making it home." I bent back over the sight. I found the factory but a small black puff of cotton came into my view. Flack. Great. Our first real mission and we get the whole shooting match thrown at us! I sat up and turned to tell Burns and Satterfield about the flack and saw Taggart tending to Scoggins' leg and I thought I saw a small flash through the porthole that looks into the bomb bay...
"HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT," Flight Officer Stewart of B-29 Team Yankee shouted over the intercom. "Chattanooga Choo Choo must have taken a flack burst in the bomb bay! It just disintegrated in mid-air! Those poor bas---ds were only on their second run."
Great narrative - lost a few B17s to the bomb bay full of bombs getting a flak hit or iirc a FW190 in vertical climb in Queen of the Skies.
- Last edited Sun Dec 3, 2017 7:22 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Dec 3, 2017 7:21 pm
How in the world did **that** happen?
At the altitude that B-17s flew on bomb raids over Germany, not even a Bf-109 was going to be "standing on its tail" in a vertical climb to take a shot at any bomber. Just NOT possible. The Boeings were too fast, and the air too thin up there at 9 - 10km. The fighters could only hope to wallow up that high, form up and hopefully DIVE in on the formations. They had no hope to climb into a fight or a firing position at that altitude.
And even in the highly unlikely event a fighter *could* get to that kind of a firing position, he would be travelling SO SLOW that a belly gunner would be able to shred his plane as he hung there like a fat grape.