On previous missions I had experienced fighter attacks from every conceivable direction, but generally from the front. This mission, however, was different. I remember the navigator informing the crew that we were to pick up P-47 escort in this area. Looking out to my right at about the 7 oclock position, the left side of the aircraft, I observed a horde of fighter aircraft sweeping into a turn to approach us from the rear. At least 60 or more of them. At first I thought they were the P-47 fighter escort. Then I identified them as FW-190s, with a few ME-109s. They were stacked so as to be able to fire upon us all at the same time. It was then I informed the crew, Enemy fighters are attacking at 6 oclock level. There are dozens of them. Theyre coming in fast. I began to fire at them in short bursts, alternating my guns so that I was able to keep up a constant fire. There, one exploded right in front of me. There goes another one, I cant miss. Wow! Theyre coming right at me, I yelled into the intercom. Right waist to tail, a voice called to me, Where are they? Coming low now at 5 oclock, I quickly answered, Some are level flying between us, get on them. Theyre FW-190s. A lot of chatter over the intercom continued, and you could here all the gunners firing
Then from all that noise from the attack, there was momentary silence. The German fighters had passed through and now were regrouping for a second attack. I could see them off in the distance, and I scanned the skies hoping to see some of our friendly escort, but could not see them if they were there. On the first pass I saw Destinys Child go down. I also saw one or two others go down. I had been quite busy with returning the enemys fire with my own. Fighters had been exploding or falling apart all around me
Just as we dropped our bombs, another wave of enemy fighters hit us. I was firing at two FW-190s as they appeared slightly below and to my left, and they were gone in a matter of seconds. I guess I hadnt hit them, at least seriously. Up front, the cockpit lit up like a Christmas tree from German magnesium tracers. The plane shuddered. We had been hit, and hit hard. All the intercoms were gone. Lt. Hultin worked feverishly as the rudders and ailerons responded sluggishly to his efforts to control the aircraft. Captain Martin switched to auto-pilot, and that aided in controlling the plane. The number 3 and 4 engines were on fire
The pilot gave the order to abandon the aircraft.
|Around 10 oclock, with all POWs outside, we heard tanks coming up the road that passed the camp. Then we saw them; dozens of tanks began to pass by, their top hatches open, and soldiers sitting on them and throwing dead chickens over the fence at us, all the while waving and shouting, You are free, you are free. After they all had passed, a jeep, followed by two trucks, came up the road to the camp gates. A British officer jumped out, followed by his troops, and flung the gates open. We were ecstatic, crying, yelling, and hollering at them. The fences on both sides of the road were overburdened by the weight of the men climbing on them. Never had I experienced such a glorious day. Good God, I am free, free at last. Other vehicles drove up the road, and the men in them ran up to the gates and inside of the camp, grabbing POWs and handing them cigarettes and candy bars. The laughter and yelling seemed like it would never stop. We soon learned that this was the famous Desert Rats division of the British Army. In a while things settled down, and the officer in charge stood up in his jeep that had now been driven inside the camp and announced: Good morning to all you fine men. You have been liberated by the British Army, and believe me, we are happy to be here with you on this memorable day. We knew you were here and fought the war around you. An American attachment will arrive by tomorrow and the processing of your return to your own military forces will begin. In the meantime, you are advised to stay within the camp boundaries; this is for your own safety. If you feel you must leave the camp for any reason, do not venture far. Again to you all, languish in your new found freedom. God bless you. With that, a roar went up from the POWs, and many of them pressed forward to shake the officers hand. The celebration lasted all day.|