Voices of the WW2 Veterans

Fighter pilots, crew chiefs, bombardiers, and factory workers: All had tales to tell.

A B-17 crew in England finishes its last mission. (USAF)
Air & Space Magazine

Charles E. Gallagher
95th Bomb Group, European theater. B-17 engineer/ gunner

(Inspecting a damaged B-17 (Source: USAF))

People don’t realize the fortitude and the conscientiousness and the necessity of the ground crews. We’d bring an airplane back. One time we came back a little worse than usual. I started counting the holes from the nose to the trailing edge of the wing. We had 189 holes and that airplane was flying within two or three days.

We had flown a “war weary”— a dog—on a practice mission. It burned 50 gallons of fuel an hour, more than anything we’d ever flown. The next mission was a “maximum effort.” That meant every [airplane] that could go went. We went to the briefing. Looked up, and there was that dog we’d been flying. I looked at the pilot. We looked at the navigator. We knew where we were going—northern Norway, almost all the way up the North Sea. We knew it would run out of fuel before it got back. And 15 minutes is the maximum you’d survive in the North Sea.

After the briefing we went out to get the airplane ready to go. And the crew chief came in. He remembered I was the engineer. He said, “You coming back?” I said, “No.” He said, “That’s what I thought.”

He said “Come here, I want to show you something.” He dropped the flap on the wing, looked up in there and saw some fuel lines. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a screwdriver, and disabled the hose. Then he said, “Oh. Got to ground the airplane. It’ll take me six hours to change that hose.”

He could have just [let us fly], gotten rid of that dog, and never worried about it again. But he knew we wouldn’t get back. (Source: LOC)


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