Mission 5 – December 31, 1943
Even though Herman had flown the day before … Seems that I was no sooner asleep when the lights came on this morning. My aching back … Seven hours yesterday of combat, five on oxygen, and now up and at ‘em again.
The heavy bombers went into occupied France, and the target for Herman’s crew was the airfield at Cognac. They flew near several severe flak barrages. The enemy heavily fortified their airfields and U-boat installations … La Rochelle, Brest, others on the coast.
I guess Bomber Command decided to finish up 1943 in style. At briefing we learned this was to be one of the largest fleet of planes to be sent across in one mission. We were given the target, the routing, the fighter support, the weather, and the complete dope prior to take off. It was to be another long haul, just what length I really did not appreciate until night.
The bombing run … this is the first time I had been on a visual target. There we were 23 ships in bomb formation, spread out for the best concentration. It was a tough go to sit up there and ride through that damn flak. It burst all around. The red flash, the black smoke … “pop”, “boom”, “pop” – can now really understand the expression “flak happy.”
From what I’ve read, I think “flak happy” referred to an airman who may not have shown it but was terrified of the flak. In other words, they weren’t happy at all.
The weather was so bad flying home that they couldn’t see the wing tips of their own plane. Low on gas, they were looking for anywhere to land when suddenly Steve picked up a track of lights that meant a nearby airfield. Smithy landed at Chelveston, an airfield of the 305th Bomb Group, 14 miles from Thurleigh.
Happy New Year, Daddy.